Category Archives: Western Australia Italian POWs

Language Lessons

It is March 1944 and Jack Stewart of Rocky Glen Muradup employs two Italian prisoners of war: Gino and Giuseppe (Joe).  There is no doubt that language would be an obstacle for both farmer and worker.

It is interesting how authorities in Western Australia approached the language barrier.

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War had been prepared and distributed by Department of Army across Australia, but HQ Western Command prepared a separate language booklet with specific industry related sentences. A great deal of effort had gone into this booklet with sections such as: rabbit extermination, shearing, cement work, work around the house.  It also contained vocabulary lists: English – Italian; Italian English.

W4 Prisoner of War Control Centre Kojonup issued a language booklet prepared by HQ Western Command.  (photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

It is obvious that this booklet was to assist the farmers to communicate instructions to the Italians. The phonetic pronunciation in Italian is provided.

Garizzo language 1 (3)

Instructions for Shearing including Marking and Dipping and Potato Growing

(photo courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Giuseppe Garizzo (Joe) had an interest in learning English.  Using a dictionary, Joe would teach himself English by reading the newspapers.  In December 1944, Jack Stewart purchased a  Grammatica Encidlopedia for Joe. The receipt for the book was one Joe’s treasured possessions from that time.

Garizzo Language Book Receipt

Receipt from Foreign Library and Book Shop Melbourne

(photo courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Possibly, Jack Stewart read an advertisement like the one below from a Perth newspaper, wrote a letter requesting a booklist for Italian and then purchased Grammatica Enciclopedia.

1944 Advertisement

1944 ‘Advertising’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 3 December, p. 7. , viewed 22 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59326615

 

Where is Popanyinning?

A farm in the wheat growing district of Popanyinning WA was home to Enrico Riga for two years from March 1944 to March 1946.

Enrico Riga working on a farm in WA (photo courtesy of Maria Riga)

From Lamon Belluno, Enrico was captured on 5th April 1941 in Addis Abeda, Abyssinia before being sent to prisoner of war camps in India.

Enrico arrived in Fremantle Western Australia on the Ruys.  This was the only ship to disembark Italian prisoners of war on the west coast of Australia. The ship boarded 2028 Italian prisoners of war in Bombay destined for Fremantle and Melbourne. 

The town of Popanyinning was originally given the name: “Popaning”; the local Aboriginal Noongar word for waterhole.  It was built alongside the Great Southern Railway line, servicing the wheat and sheep farmers in the district.

The photo of Enrico captures the landscape, the vegetation of this part of Australia as well as the work he did while living with a farming family.

Enrico was repatriated on the Chitral on 30th September 1946.

1946 ‘2500 ITALIAN P.O.W. LEAVE ON MONDAY ‘, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 27 September, p. 10. (HOME EDITION), viewed 13 Aug 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78267376

Popanyinning is referred to as “Hard to Say, Nice to Stay”. 

I hope that this is how Enrico might have remembered his time in the district: it was a funny word to pronounce but it was a good place to live and work.

Welcome Sign for Popanyinning

(photo courtesy of Gordon Stewart)

POW Camp Order No. 13

February 1944

  • Prisoner of War Camp Order No.13 is published and circulated
  • Mariposa transports 1014 Italian prisoners of war from India to Melbourne
  • Ruys transports 2028 Italian prisoners of war from India: a group disembarks at Fremantle and the the remainder disembark at Melbourne.
  • Italian prisoners of war in Australia total 11051 plus a group of merchant seamen from Remo and Romolo who were first processed as internees and then reassigned as prisoners of war.  In 1941, 4947 had been sent directly from Middle East to Sydney. During 1943 and 1944 transports brought Italian POWs from India.

I have been blessed with much luck while researching Italian Prisoners of War.

I might be researching a topic or a PWCC or a specific POW and one statement or one document will lead me to another and then another and then another.

105

(National Archives of Australia)

The booklet ‘ Prisoners of War Camp Order No. 13’ is one such find. Dated 18th February 1944  it contains eight parts:

  1. Preliminary
  2. Prisoners of War Camps
  3. Maintenance of Discipline
  4. Health and Hygiene
  5. Communication by and with Prisoners of War
  6. Privileges of Prisoners of War
  7. Prisoners of War Awaiting Trial
  8. Unguarded Prisoners

The previous Prisoners of War Camp Orders No. 1 to 12 were repealed upon publication of No. 13.  These orders are of a general nature, as they are the guidelines for the operation of all prisoner of war camps in Australia.

However, more comprehensive and detailed explanations of the operations of prisoner of war and internment camps in Australia can be found with the links below:

The ‘History of Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees 1939 – 1951‘ is an invaluable document regarding this period of history as is the section Employment of Enemy PW and Internees.

I have also compiled a list of Further Reading  with links to information for India, UK, Zonderwater South Africa, Egypt  and Australian states.

 

No 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA

This post is an update on the information already published about the Italian prisoners of war who did maintenance work on the Trans Australia Railway Line in South Australia and Western Australia.

A young Australian, Arthur Henry Patrick had been a guard at Cowra Camp before he was detached to No. 3 Labour Detachment.  Several photos and two gifts from the Italians were donated to the Australia War Memorial in Canberra.  His photos are invaluable because they allow Italian families ‘to see’ the camps their loved ones lived in and catch a glimpse of the vastness of the Australian landscape beyond the camp. Patrick’s photos illustrate Camp 1 which is referred to as Camp No. 1 The Plains SA.

Camp No 1 was one of six camps along the Trans Australian Railway line.  It was 515 miles from Port Pirie and situated between the railway stations of Watson and Fisher.  The map below illustrates its situation.

From NAA: B300, 8247 Part 2 Employment of prisoners of war

The table below gives a further geographic location of being 54 miles from the township of Cook.

Location of camp and subcamps for No.3 Labour Detachment Cook

2nd June 1942 Secret Report

From NAA: B300, 8247 Part 2 Employment of prisoners of war

The three photos following are labelled: View of the barracks that housed Italian prisonersof war (POWs) inside the barbed wire compound at Camp No 1, The Plains, SA.

The last photo provides the faces of the Australian servicemen who were detached to Camp No. 1.  The group consists of 15 men and three dogs.

Unfortunately, individual Italian prisoner of war records do not give the camp number they were attached to. 

For more of this history: https://italianprisonersofwar.com/2019/09/19/italian-pows-on-the-nullabor-plain/

1943 Group portrait of servicemen stationed at Prisoner of War (POW) Camp No 1, The Plains, SA. NX148826 Private Arthur Henry Patrick (seated front row, right) is holding a dog as are two other unidentified men in the group. The servicemen were detached to No. 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA.

Regulations for Photographs of Prisoners of War

The following information is from the Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees (NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1 History: Report on the Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees at Army Headquarters, Melbourne, 1939-1951: Volume 1 [pp1-279] and Volume 2 [pp280-476] [includes matters relating to internees, prisoners of war, war crimes, Prisoners of War Information Bureau in Australia and a report on the Cowra Breakout escape attempt by Japanese Prisoners of War in August 1944])

This document provides the regulations regarding the policy on PHOTOGRAPHS relating to prisoners of war. 

Following the regulations I have included photos and additional information relating to this history.

12. PW Regulations gave authority to Camp Commandants to arrange the photographing of PW for Identification and record purposes, Reg. 11 (2). These photographs were forwarded to the Prisoners of War Information Bureau for inclusion with other basic records.

13. Provision was also made to prohibit PW from having in their possessions any photographic apparatus, vide Camp Order No. 13, para 15 (a). Strict compliance with this order was demanded at all times.

14. The International Red Cross delegate was authorised to take photographs in PW Camps under the same conditions as applicable to internment camps, vide Chapter 20.  Approval was also given for representatives of the Department of Information to visit camps for the purpose of taking photographs for record purposes only and subject in each case to Command approval.  Press reporters and other photographers were not allowed to enter camps as published stories and pictures could quite easily create wrong impressions and cause unfortunate repercussions.

15. Group photographs of German and Italian PW held in camps, labour detachments or Hostels, and photographs of general camp interest in German and Italian camps, could be taken subject to the conditions hereunder, but group photographs of PW allocated through Control Centres for employment in rural industry were NOT permitted:

(a) Groups were to comprise not less than 10 PW

(b) PW were permitted to purchase two copies of photographs in which they appeared and two copies of photographs of general camp interest, for despatch to relatives

(c) All such photographs were to be taken by Army Photographers who visited camps for the purpose of taking other photographs for historical and record purposes.

(d) Prints were supplied at a cost of 1/6d. each

(e) Items of general camp interest photographed were to include only sports teams, gardens, chapels and theatres

(f) PW being photographed were to be properly dressed (in their national uniforms if possible) except that sports teams could be photographed in their sporting attire

(g) No camp security fencing or other security arrangements were to appear in photographs

16. As PW employed in rural industry had opportunity to have photographs of themselves taken at will, care was taken to ensure that permission was not granted under para 38 (1C) of Camp Order No. 13 for the despatch by them of photographs showing them in the company of women in Australia.

12. Photographs for Identification Purposes

The celluloid negatives for Western Australian Italian prisoners of war are archived in the Sydney branch of the National Archives.  Due to the fragility of and concern for the ongoing preservation for these negatives, a number of photographs have been developed.  They are part of the K1174 series of records.  If you father or grandfather was sent to work in Western Australia, check to see if his identification photograph has survived.

Aurelio CANESE PWI48413 NAA: K1174 Canese, Aurelio

13. PW prohibited to have photographic apparatus

Ermanno Nicoletti was a keen photographer.  His property statement indicates that a roll of film was taken from him upon arrival in Australia. According to the regulations, this roll should have been returned to him upon departure from Australia.

There is a case in India of an Italian prisoner of war constructing an illicit camera: Lido Saltamartini took 2000 photographs with this camera.

Do any families have stories about illicit cameras made in Australia?

Ermanno Nicoletti (NAA: MP1103/2 Nicoletti, Ermanno)

14. The International Red Cross delegate was authorised to take photographs in PW Camps

The archival records from the ICRC are invaluable in helping us ‘see’ this history 75+ years later.  Below is a photo taken at the Morgan Wood Hostel in South Australia.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Hostel Morgan. Camp de prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Italian Prisoners of War: Morgan Hostel SA July 1944 ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-22A

15. Group photographs of German and Italian PW held in camps, labour detachments or Hostels, and photographs of general camp interest in German and Italian camps, could be taken subject to the conditions hereunder, but group photographs of PW allocated through Control Centres for employment in rural industry were NOT permitted:

Q4 was the prisoner of war control centre at Gayndah in Queensland. The below photo was taken in the Gayndah district. It captures seven Italian prisoners of war with local ladies and children. There is no record of who took the photo.  Giovanni Cioffi is standing on the left and Marco Liscio is standing second from the right. They both worked on the farm of R.J. Mayfield north of Gayndah Queensland.

Group of Italian prisoners of war and local families Gayndah Queensland c. 1944-45 (photo courtesy of Liscio and Cioffi families)

15 (a) Groups were to comprise not less than 10 PW

Generally speaking, group photos consisted of 10 or more Italian prisoners of war.  There are photos of less than 10 Italians, most likely taken in the camps where officers and their batmen resided.

Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D2 Compound, No. 13 POW Group. (AWM Image 030230/01 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

Murchison, Australia. 4 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D1 Compound, No. 13 POW Group. (AWM Image 030237/03 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

15 (b) PW were permitted to purchase two copies of photographs in which they appeared and two copies of photographs of general camp interest, for despatch to relatives

Massimo Gatti is the gentleman with the big smile on his face seated second from the left.  Massimo is one of many Italians who appeared to have taken advantage of the ‘two copies of photographs in which they appeared’ rule.  Massimo Gatti is in not one but five Cowra photos: Sept 1943 and February 1944. Technically, he could buy 10 photos of himself with different groups of friends.

Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49515 A. Rosmini; 46586 C. Robbone; 46064 M. Matteini; 45737 B. Gambutti; 46297 O. Novi; 49535 P. Miglietta. Front row: 46096 A. Matteini; 45739 M. Gatti; 45006 B. Arbasi 45740 L. Guarnieri. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM 030149/16 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

15 (e) Items of general camp interest photographed were to include only sports teams, gardens, chapels and theatres

You will notice the model of the colosseum in the centre of the photo and the plinth with an Italian tank just at the right side of the photo. Anecdotal accounts of vegetable garden beds constructed between the barracks are verified by photographs of Hay Camp.  You will notice the care taken to wire off vegetables from rabbits and construct edging around the garden beds and statues. The first residents of Hay Camp were Italian internees. The internees departed for Murchison in May 1941 and the first group of Italian prisoners of war to arrive in Australia ‘marched in’ late May 1941. By the time this photograph was taken, Hay Camp is well established.

Hay, NSW. 1944-01-16 The craftmanship of the Italian Prisoners of War is illustrated by this garden at the 16th Garrison Battalion Prisoner of War Detention Camp. Note the model of the Coliseum in the foreground. (AWM Image 063365 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

15 (f) PW being photographed were to be properly dressed (in their national uniforms if possible) except that sports teams could be photographed in their sporting attire

How did the Italians procure sports shirts, shin guards and socks? Possibly they were provided by the YMCA, a group instrumental in providing sporting, music and craft equipment for the Italian prisoners of war.

Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in C Compound, No. 13 POW Group. Shown here are: 65915 F. Pieri; 65987 C. Rossi; 65209 G. Baffa; 65710 V. La Rocca; 65370 F. Carone; 65230 E. Baruzzi; 65197 A. Armeni; 65237 F. Battisti; 65300 L. Bruno; 65602 G. Furioli; 65398 S. Cavillin; 65864 A. Pacini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030231/14 Photographer Stewart, Ronald Leslie)

15 (g) No camp security fencing or other security arrangements were to appear in photographs

Obviously the photographer of this photo was not aware of this regulation! Or possibly, because the photo was taken in November 1945, concerns over the photographing of security installations had been relaxed.

Liverpool, NSW 1945-11-23. Prisoner of War and Internment Camp. NX167806 Private L. Patchett on Guard in a searchlight equipped sentry tower. (AWM Image 123756 Photographer L. Cpl. E. McQuillan)

16. As PW employed in rural industry had opportunity to have photographs of themselves taken at will, care was taken to ensure that permission was not granted under para 38 (1C) of Camp Order No. 13 for the despatch by them of photographs showing them in the company of women in Australia.

The regulation was clear, ‘no fraternization with women’.  Farming families however did take photographs of the Italian prisoners of war with family members.  The Italians were photographed with family groups for Christmas, Boxing Day picnic at the beach, with grandma, grandpa and children of all ages.  Many farming families had the attitude: ‘no harm done’.

Ruby Robinson standing and Olive Munro (nee Robinson) seated with three men from the province of Lecce:  Antonio Colomba, Antonio Alfarano (Alfarno) and Giuseppe Vergine Robinson Family Orchard via Gayndah (photo courtesy of Avis Hildreth)

Pidgin English for Italians

July 1943

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War

There are many references to the Italian-English language booklet that the Italian prisoners of war were issued with.

Laurie Dwyer from Aratula via Boonah remembers Paul bringing out his book and asking Laurie to help him with learning English: “Paul used the dictionary to try to improve his English but decided that English was stupid.  There were a lot of problems with miscommunication. Paul would wait for me to return home from school and then get out the yellow book they had for English.  Pronunciation was mainly the problem. Paper and pepper sounded the same. He also had difficulty with tree and the.  They had trouble with slang like ‘give it a burl’. One morning dad and the Italians were doing some fencing.  It was time to go home for lunch so dad told them to leave the crowbar there.  The word leave was a problem and they thought dad wanted them to carry it away with them.  Dad would have raised his voice and they thought that he was angry with them.  Paul told the interpreter the next day, ‘boss got mad, I got mad’.  He thought that he would be taken away.  Things were sorted. Another time, the Fordson tractor wouldn’t start so dad went to get the draught horses.  The horses wouldn’t get into the yards and dad would have blown off steam and whatever he said, or it might have been the way he said it, Paul and Peter thought they had done something wrong.  They had a great deal of respect for dad and they didn’t want to get into trouble.  So the next time the interpreter came to the farm, they asked to find out ‘what they did wrong’.  They would explain what had happened and the interpreter would explain what had happened.” (Don’t Run Away)

Dorcas Grimmet in “We Remember: The Italian Prisoners of War 1944/45” a publication about the Italian POWs on farms in the Kingaroy district includes a page from an Italian and English Book for Italian POWs.

And we know that language classes were held in camps like Cowra and Hay.

Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War was specifically published  and given to Italian POWs being allocated to farm work under the Prisoner of War Control Centre : Without Guard scheme.  Some of the sections were: Tools, Machinery, Farm Produce, Animals, Hygiene and Medical, Family, House and Conjugation of Verbs.

Breach of Discipline

Service and Casualty Forms for the Italian Prisoners of War make great reading.  I have given up counting how many forms I have read since I started this research in August 2015 but there is so much information that can be gleaned from these forms.

And several thousand forms later I can give you an insight into the nature of the breaches in discipline and the punishments meted out.

Some make sense eg fine 1/- for fastening ground sheet to bed, while others seem harsh eg. 28 days detention for stealing a bunch of grapes.

And some, make me laugh eg stealing lettuce plants… maybe this Italian  just wanted a few plants to add to his private garden outside his barracks;  and what about the bravado of the Italian who was smoking on parade.

But military discipline was essential and indiscretions punished.

Ferrante

(NAA: MP1103/1 for DF)

For some Italian POWs, their breach in discipline resulted in formal investigations. The three incidents below are from Western Australia.  Queensland POWs were much more meek and mild!

The following statement is made by a POW placed at the same farm as a Raffaele.  The farmer also ran a boarding house:  This family have always treated us with great courtesy and consideration but this rascal [Raffaele] for a long time has done nothing else but to annoy all the women who have stayed in this place… On another occasion [name redacted] and I were near our room when [ name redacted] came to us and asked the whereabouts of Raffaele. We told her we did not know as we never see him at night time as he goes away and returns after midnight. [ Name redacted] not taking any notice of us then stepped into [Raffaele’s] room and sat down and wrote a letter and left it on the table after leaving.  On [Raffaele’s] return from his walk he read the letter did not even stop to finish meal went away and did not return until after midnight.  If I had to tell all that [Raffaele] has done it would make a romantic novel. 11 October 1944.

An incident in the Northam area of Western Australia saw the award of 28 days detention: Conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline in that he behaved in an unsolicited manner by endeavouring to show Mrs C obscene magazine photos and by giving her a box upon which obscene drawings had been made.

Another incident reports reads as follows: At 17.30 hours the prisoner came to me and asked if he would feed the calf, to which I answered yes.  He then asked me in his Pidgeon English if I would ? him the milk, I went through the house to the backdoor whist the Prisoner went around the side.  When I arrived and opened the door he approached me with both his arms open and said “Oh, Missus.” plus other Italian phases which I did not understand.  I could see the man was very excited and I slamed the door in his face… My husband had been away all day …During the lunch hour the Prisoner remained what I considered an unnecessary time in the kitchen after having had his meal, during which time he kept muttering to me in Italian, none of which i could understand. It appeared strange to me that this man should remain behind whilst the other Prisoner after having his meal went straight to his camp.  No charges were laid on this matter and the POW was transferred to another farm.

Without a doubt, prisoner of war files make great and interesting reading.

Following are some of the ‘run of the mill’ type breaches in discipline and subsequent punishments:

14 days: stealing

2 days: stealing lettuce plants

5/- fine: failure to appear on parade

1/- fine: late to work

168 hours detention: wilful damage to CWG property

14 days detention: possession of prohibited article

21 days detention: taking employer’s car without permission

14 days detention – 3 days No 1 diet: refusing to work, inciting other POWs to slow up work

7 days detention: boots worn beyond repair

6 days fatigues: conduct to the prejudice of good order and disciplien

3/- fine – offence against good order and discipline

14 days detention: making unfound complaints about working

7 days detention: attempting to steal 1/2 lbs butter

14 days detention: removed 1 dz bananas from supply depot

1/- fine: failure to appear at inspection parade

28 days detention: communicating by signs with a person outside the complex, making a threatening gesture to officials.

72 hours detention: proceeding beyond boundary of place of employment

1/- fine: wasting water

3 days detention: pretending sickness to avoid work

7 days detention: attempting to evade censorship

168 hours detention: smoking on parade

7 days detention: failed to stand by kit during inspection

5/- fine: being in possession of government property

Admonished: carrying letters between compounds

28 days detention: failed to answer Roll Call

28 days detention: escaped from Hostel

28 days detention: unduly familiar with a female

3 days detention: breach of National Security Regulations

14 days detention: disobedience, violence

5 days detention: offensive behaviour

14 days detention: did adopt threatening attitude

In their spare time…

What isn’t written into the records is how the Italian prisoners of war kept themselves occupied during their many hours of idleness.  It just wasn’t the hours spent on board the transport ships to India and Australia that needed filling, but also the Sundays on farms and the days and nights in Cowra, Hay and Murchison.

Snippets of information from newspapers, oral histories and letters, when combined with images from photos deliver an insight into the pastimes of our Italian POWs.

CARDS and BOARD GAMES My nonno taught me how to play card games.  I have always thought that this is how he wiled away his spare hours during the ‘slack’ in the cane cutting communities of north Queensland during the 1920s and 1930s.  Briscola and scopa are two Italian card games which no doubt the Italian POWs played while in Australia.  A newspaper photographer captured two Italians playing cards onboard the train taking them to Hay.  A pack of cards is portable and cheap.

Mention is made in a newspaper article of an ‘improvised draughts board’ carried by an Italian POW when he landed in Sydney. The draught pieces had been cut from broom handles. Official photos taken at Hay and Cowra, had Italian POWs playing chess and making chess sets (from lathes constructed by the POWs).

Italian POWs Playing Cards

(The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842-1954) Thursday 16th October 1941, page 10)

EDUCATION and LANGUAGE CLASSES Costanzo Melino wrote that whilst in India, he attended Italian and English classes.  Having minimal formal education in Italy, he seized opportunities to undertake classes in Italian and English. It was considered imperative that POWs occupied their leisure time usefully and the policy was to provide opportunities for POWs to further their studies.  Libraries in the camps were established and canteen profits used to purchase additional text books relevant to courses undertaken. Books from overseas were allowed in the areas of banking and financial, medical, scientific, art, economics, music, agriculture, religion, trade and commerce as well as periodicals of a general literary nature.

METAL WORK CLASSES Rosemary Watt (Bury) is caretaker of a carved artefact made in Cowra by Angelo Capone.  Most like mass produced in a mould, the Italians then finished the carving with adornments of their choosing.  Interestingly, the Australia War Memorial has a similar arefact in their collection and one is left to ponder “how many other carved arefacts are their in homes in Australia and Italy?”

LEATHER WORK  Australian children recall the shoes and sandals made by their Italian POWs.  The leather would be produced from hides and crafted into practical items such as coin pouches, belts and footwear.  In POW group photos taken at Cowra, Hay and Murchison, many Italians can be seen wearing sandals, which were certainly not standard issue.

EMBROIDERY The origins of the elegant sewing prowess of Italian POWs is hard to locate.  Personal memories are that the Italian POWs had learnt the skill in India and embroideries completed by Italian POWs in India can be found from time to time on EBay. Two beautifully embroidered works are keepsakes of Colleen Lindley (a gift from Domenico Petruzzi to her mother Ruby Robinson of Gayndah) and Ian Harsant (a gift from Francesco Pintabona to the Harsant family of Boonah). An interesting interpretation of the word ’embroidery’ is offered by Alan Fitzgerald in his book ‘The Italian Farming Soldiers’. Used in letters written by Italian POWs,  the word ’embroidery’ was code  for ‘fascist propaganda’.

ART and MUSIC and PLAYS Musical performances and stage plays were performed in the camps.  The wigs of theatre as illustrated below were captured on film at Cowra.
V-P-HIST-01882-02.JPG

Cowra 12D 2 7.43 Wigs of Theatre V-P-HIST-01882-02

(International Committee for the Red Cross)

Instruments and art supplies were provided to Italian prisoners of war. The photo below shows a wall of the barracks at Hay which had been decorated as well as the musical instruments acquired for use by the Italians.  Furthermore, Queenslanders remember the mandolins, guitars and banjos that were played on the farms and Nino Cipolla has the music for songs his father Francesco notated while in Q6 Home Hill and Cowra PW & I Camp.

Hay.Art.Music

HAY, AUSTRALIA, 1943-09-09. GROUP OF ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR INTERNED AT NO.6. P.O.W. GROUP, WHO HAVE FORMED THEMSELVES INTO THE CAMP ORHESTRA.

(Australian War Memorial Image 030142/02)

Cowra Council have an interpretive display on a number of themes at various points around the precinct.  The Italians is once such display and under the title Members of the Family, the following is recorded: “Their great love of music, food and art endeared them to the community.  They formed bands and produced musical events which would attract local people to sit outside the camp and listen to their beautiful singing”.

FOOTBALL, TENNIS and BOXING

It is not surprising that just as football is a passion for Italians today, it was also a passion back in the 1940’s.  Group photos of Italian prisoners of war were taken in 1944, among them photos of the Football Teams.

Murchison.Football Team

MURCHISON, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. 1944-05-20. SOCCER TEAM OF ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR OF NO. 13A COMPOUND, MURCHISON PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

(Australian War Memorial: Image 066766)

Hay.Football

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Soccer teams from No. 15 Prisoner of War (POW) Camp lined up on the ground before commencement of play. All Italians, some have recently transferred from Hay. The match was played in temperatures over 109 degrees F.

(Australian War Memorial: Image 063921 Geoffrey McInnes)

Official photos in the Australian War Memorial collection also show the Italians playing tennis at Hay and boxing competitions at Cowra.

GARDENS and STATUES and FOUNTAINS  One would be hard put to find a piazza in Italy that doesn’t have a statue or fountain. Group photos taken at Cowra have the Italians seated in front of this prominent fountain.

V-P-HIST-01881-01.JPGo

Guerre 1939-1945 Nouvelle – Galls du Sud. Camp du Cowra Fontaine.

(International Red Cross V-P-HIST-01881-01)

Reflecting their history and culture, the Italians keenly constructed statues like the replica Colosseum  at Hay and just to the right of the photo is a tank atop a plinth. Italian POWs grew their own vegetables as is evident by the photo below. Between the barracks at Hay, gardens were dug and crops grown.   Ham Kelly told his grandson that the Italian POWs at Q6 Home Hill Hostel grew the most amazing vegetables outside their barracks.

Hay.Gardens.Statues

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF THE ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR IS ILLUSTRATED BY THIS GARDEN AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. NOTE THE MODEL OF THE COLISEUM IN THE FOREGROUND.

(Australian War Memorial Image 063365)

LETTER and JOURNAL WRITING

For the Italian POWs, there were two main regulations regarding the sending of mail:

Prisoners were not to send letters other than through official channels.

Prisoners were allowed to send two letters or two postcards or one letter and one postcard every week on approved Service of Prisoners of War Notelopes and postcards.

Unfortunately, postal services to and from Italy were unreliable. Italians became despondent at not receiving mail from family.  In a letter written by Giuliano Pecchioli, he writes on 12/1/45 that he was in receipt of his sister’s letter dated 3/6/1943.  Communication with family was difficult.  Before Christmas, POWs were given cards with Australian scenes to send home to Italy. Below is a page of a booklet of scenes produced for Christmas 1941.

Card 1941 Xmas

Di sotto la “cartolina” dell’YMCA distribuita per il Natale del 1941

(From the collection of Enrico Dalla Morra)

A number of journals survive, written by Italian soliders and prisoners of war.  For some Italians, it was a way of recording the events of the lives, over which they had little control.  From Tobruk to Clare  is the story of Luigi Bortolotti as recorded in his diary. The “Libbretta” of “Corporal Cofrancesco Umberto” is the basis for “Umberto’s War” . Recorded are details of his journey as a soldier and prisoner of war which took him to Australia.  Another journal “Diario di Guerra” by Francesco D’Urbano was found in  the sands of north Africa by an Australia soldier.  In time, the soldier asked the assistance of CO.AS.IT to trace D’Urbano.  Laura Mecca researched the Italian archives and found that he had spent time in India before returning to Italy.  A copy of the diary was presented to his wife.

CRAFT

While this photo is of Italian POWs in an Egyptian camp, it illustrates the type of craft work POWs engaged in and similar projects would have been undertaken in Australian camps.

NZ Italian Prisoners of War Craft Work

Italian prisoners of war with items of their carved handiwork at Helwan POW Camp, Egypt. One prisoner shown chiselling portrait features of a roundel. Taken 1940-1943 by an official photographer.

John Oxley Library from the collection of New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs Image DA-00736-F

Italian POWs on the Nullarbor Plain

No. 3 P.O.W. Labour Detachment on Trans-Australian Railways

Parnell Robert Fliker

Sub Camp 6: Nurina

(photo by Robert Parnell, Flickr)

A special thank you to Malcolm Davis who brought to my attention information relating the Italian prisoners of war on the Nullarbor; the No. 3 Labour Detachment and providing me with links to information on this group of Italian P.O.W.s. Information from this article has been summarised from the file NAA: B300, 8247 Part 2 Employment of prisoners of war [ Trans Australian…]  in conjunction with information from SA Heritage Survey and photographs are from Robert Parnell.

Grazie mille to Malcolm Davis for this  rare photo of one of the POW camp sites across the Nullarbor. The photo was taken from the cab [cabin] of a loco [locomotive] in the 1950s.

Cook early 1950s

The establishment of No. 3 P.O.W. Labour Detachment was approved in March 42. The first group of Italian POWs arrived at HQ Cook on 8.4.42 and the last group departed from HQ Cook c. 15.10.43. The POW workforce was drawn from Hay PW Camp.

No 3 Labour Detachment Cook SA List of Names

Purpose:

“It is intended to employ the P’s O.W. laying sleepers and ballast on the Watson-Rawlinna Section (Approx 320 miles) of the Trans Australian Railways, and for this purpose six work camps will be established at intervals along the permanent way.  At each work camp there will be 2 N.C.O’s. and up to 16 guards, 20 railways workers in charge of a Head Ganger, and 50 to 60 Italian P’s.O.W., making a total strength at each camp of approximately 100.” Cook was established as the headquarters: HQ Cook with three subcamps in WA and three subcamps in SA.

13.3.42 Approval is given for the formation of No 3 P.O.W. Labour Detachment with Italian POWs drawn from Hay PW Camp NSW

300 POWs = 270 workers, 8 medical orderlies, 8 sanitary orderlies, 14 cooks

Allocation to 6 camps = 45 workers, 2 cooks, 1 medical orderly, 1 sanitary orderly = 49 POWs

5.4.42 Italian prisoners of war leave Hay PW Camp

8.4.42 Italian prisoners of war arrive at HQ Cook Camp for dispersal to six camps (not at stations) over 277 miles established along the railway line

Map

13.5.42 Concern over the scale of rations for AMF staff and POWs is raised.  Scale of rations was the same as that of Italian internees at Loveday.  It was considered inadequate considering the nature of work the POWs were undertaking.

16.5.42 Nine POWs arrive at Camp 13B Murchison: refusal to work (Giuseppe Copia, Emilio di Lallo, Vincenzo di Pietro, Luigi Di Micco, Stanislao Granata, Alfredo Mattera, Luigi Rossi, Antonio Renella, Cristoforo Toscano)

19.5.42 Antonio Renella. Stanislao Granata, Alfredo Mattera, Luigi Rossi and Cristoforo Toscano write  letters to Camp Commandant at Camp 13B  Murchison regarding their treatment. After refusing to work on the basis that they were not obliged under the International Convention [Geneva] to undertake work of a war nature, they endured 7 days of bread and water, were not allowed to take their personal possessions with them to detention, had tobacco, cigarettes, foodstuffs, letters and money confiscated, were threatened with bullet shots, rifles and bayonets in a menacing manner, were abused, insulted, being hit by AMF Captain, while in detention the water for personal hygiene was that that had been used to wash plates and utensils in the Australian camp.

1.6.42  Scale of rations for AMF staff and POWs is adjusted.

food June 42.jpg

2.6.42 Inspection Report submitted by Inspector POW and Internment Camps

From the report: “Nine men refused to work on the grounds that they would be assisting military operations, and that their families in Italy, and they themselves, on return after the war, would be subjected to retaliatory action.  They have been removed….”

“It is understood that the railway authorities are satisfied with the work being done by P.O.W., which they estimate at 60% to 70% of that performed by civilian fettlers.”

“Books and indoor games are available in all camps.  There is a radio set in each camp which is available to guard, P.O.W. and fettlers alike… Soccer balls are being obtained. On Sundays P.O.W. are permitted, under escort to hunt rabbits in the desert.  Provided proper precautions are observed, there would not appear to be any objection to this practice, which affords exercise and entertainment, and provides an appreciated addition to the rations.”

“Small railway tents and bunks are provided for guards and P.O.W. those seen were clean and in good order.  5 blankets per man are now available and will probably be needed during the winter months.”

“Guards, fettlers and P.O.W. share the same mess room [provided by the Railways]. In one case, a hessian partition had been erected.  Proper solid partitions should be erected in every camp.”

“Apart from the lack of accommodation, the Canteen Service appears to be adequate, under the circumstances.  The Canteen Sergeant, or his representative, travels by the weekly ration train, which enables him to spend a short time in each camp, during which he hands over bulk supplies to the Sergeant in charge and collects cash and tokens from him.  Actual sales are conducted by the Sergeant in each camp.”

“A ganger interviewed assured me that any sabotage to the line was impossible… I am by no means confident that he is right.”

“At one camp, a man became unintentionally lost in the desert after rabbitting.  After a search of several hours had proved unsuccessful, he found his way back to camp.  On the following night, two men escaped from the same compound and, after wandering around all night, returned to camp of their own volition.  It would not be impossible for a man to be lost in the desert and die of thirst.”

“It was suggested that any clergymen who might come to Cook from time to time, might be invited to visit the camps.  Nothing further seems practicable, except that I was informed in one camp that the P.O.W enjoyed listening to broadcasts of church services.”

“There is far too great a tendency to rely on the desert as providing all the security necessary.

5.6.42 Military Court of Inquiry begins for the purpose of “inquiring into and reporting on (a) the general administration of No 3 P W Labour Detachment (b) allegations regarding the intoxication of OC Detachment in the presence of members of the guard, P W and civilians; and (c) allegations that OC Detachment has used violence on a prisoner of war.” The above POW complaints were not under investigation.  Witnesses were AMF staff and Railway employees.  Captain Naughton was exonerated on all charges.

June 1942 There are 299 POWs attached to No. 3 Cook Labour Detachment

18.9.42 35 additional POWs arrive at Cook.  Fly menace and rabbit problem is raised.

31.1.43 PW numbers: 297 with 22 unfit and 12 others awaiting transfer to Hay.

12.2.43 Directive: one work camp to be vacated for accommodation of alien labour.

2.3.43 Camp 1 to shifts to 507 mile.

16.2.43 Imperative that Pw not be permitted contact with alien workers

25.2.43 Camp 6 (802 mile) closed.

11.3.43 28 Italian POWs are recommended on medical grounds to be returned to Hay.

18.3.45 Four Italian POWs are returned to Hay

March 43 Report-Camp 6 is closed and POWs distributed amongst remaining camps

18.3.43 24 Italian POW depart Cook for Hay

18.3.43 4 Italian POWs depart for Hay

Cook Numbers

15.4.43 45 Italian POWs are returned to Hay

May 43 200 POWs attached to Cook

15.5.43 Commonwealth Railways request to retain 4 subcamps.

20.5.43 Intention to vacate two more camps by 15.6.43 leaving 130 POWs working on the project.

26.5.43 Agreement made that the POW labour force would be replaced with men employed by the Civil Aliens Corps (in the majority, these men were released from internment and allocated to work for the Civil Aliens Corps)

15.6.43 Partial evacuation of 3 camps and 130 POWs; 44 returned to Hay; 42 returned to Hay

21.6.43 Camp 5 at 752 miles and Camp 4 at 682 miles are vacated.

21.6.43 44 Italian POWs leave Cook for Hay

23-24.6.43 44 Aliens arrive to replace POWs

24.6.43 42 Italian POWs leave Cook for Hay

1-3.7.43 52 Aliens arrived to replace POWs

15.8.43 Camp 3 vacated 56 POWs to Hay

16.8.43 Camp 2 vacated 56 POWs moved to Cook. Total strength at Cook = 4 AMF officers and 52 ORs; 56 PW

20.9. 43 Evacuation of Cook HQ is postponed

  1. 15.10.43 53 Italian POWs leave Cook for Adelaide

Geographic Location of Sub Camps and

Numbers of AMF Staff and POWs

June 42

Location of camp and subcamps for No.3 Labour Detachment Cook

2nd June 1942 Secret Report

Section of Trans Australia Railway along which the No.3 Labour Detachment Operated

Place names in bold correspond with place names on the map

WA

Rawlinna; Wilban; Haig; Nurina; LoonganaMundrabilla; Forrest

Reid; Deakin

WA-SA Border

SA

Hughes; Denman; Koonalda Block Point; Cook; Thomiar;

Fisher; O’Malley Block Point; Watson

Cook Plan

  Plan of Cook and POW HQ

Parnell Flicker.jpg

Sub Camp 6: Nurina

(photo by Robert Parnell, Flickr)

A first…

Sometimes, the little details get missed.

I have seen a letter dated XXII, a plaque for a Cowra fountain dated XXI but for the first time I have seen a date for the fascist calendar used on a REPORT ON PRISONER OF WAR: XIX.

Rocco Cariglia was with Maritime Command Tobruk when he was captured in Libya on 5th January 1941.  On 22nd October 1941, nine days after arriving in Australia, he signed and dated his Report on Prisoner of War.

Is this unusual? 

I doubt that the Australian army clerk processing the form or Lieutenant McCarthy who signed the form noticed these few strokes of the pencil/pen.

And if they did, did they realise the statement Rocco was making.

Rocco Cariglia from Gargamico [Foggia]

From Cowra Camp Rocco was transferred to Murchison Camp in Victoria before being transferred to Western Australia. He departed Australia on the Chitral in September 1946.

This discovery is a reminder that the prisoner of war forms are filled with little bits of information which helps create ‘the bigger picture’.