Category Archives: Western Australia Italian POWs

What a journey!

Today I introduce you to Pasquale Landolfi from Frattaminore Napoli. Pasquale was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk 21.1.1941.

From 13.10.41 and his arrival on the Queen Mary into Sydney NSW until his departure on 28.6.1949 from Sydney NSW on the SS Surriento Pasquale travels through five states of Australia.

Tracing his journey Pasquale went from NEW SOUTH WALES: Sydney to Cowra Camp to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp. He transited through SOUTH AUSTRALIA on his way to WESTERN AUSTRALIA: No 8 Labour Detachment Karrakatta and Marrinup Camp.

Pasquale then crossed Australia again and returned to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and then NEW SOUTH WALES: Hay Camp.

The next stage of his journey took him to QUEENSLAND: Gaythorne Camp and Home Hill* Hostel. After escaping from the Home Hill Hostel, he briefly ‘visited’ Bowen until his arrest and return the Home Hill Hostel.

He returned to Gaythorne Camp before a return to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and the Dandenong after he escaped from a Murchison working party. Upon capture he was sent to NEW SOUTH WALES: Holdsworthy Military Barracks for detention.

Three Italian prisoners of war boarded the SS Surriento in Sydney on 28.6.49: Pasquale Landolfi, Giacomo Tagliaferri and Isidoro Cammaroto. The ship sailed from Sydney to Brisbane QLD before departing for Italy.

The newspaper article below records this unusual situation of a passenger liner carrying three prisoners of war and two political deportees.

Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), Thursday 30 June 1949, page 8

1949 ‘Line­­r Has Unwelcome Quintette’, Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), 30 June, p. 8. (CITY FINAL), viewed 20 Jul 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212190014

*Home Hill is 97 km south of Townsville. Bowen is 104 km south of Home Hill and 84 km north of Whitsundays.

Dedication to All

Monsignor Giovanni Panico’s work was essential to both Australian and Italian families.  As Australasia’s Apostolic Delegate he coordinated requests to find Australian soldiers held in prisoner of war camps in Italy and south east Asia. He also was the intermediary to help to locate Italian soldiers held in Australia’s prisoner of war camps as well as sending messages to families in Italy.

From the Prisoner of War Bureau at North Sydney, Dr Panico, the Delegation secretaries, six women and one man were employed to liaise between families and prisoners of war to locate missing Australian, New Zealand and Italian troops.

From “Il Cardinale Panico e la sua terra”- Congedo editore – Galatina 1995.

In November 1935, Dr Panico was appointed as the new Apostolic Delegate for Australasia.  He came with a wealth of experience from his previous postings to Bavaria, Prague, Czechoslovakia. He was reported to be an authority on canon law and could speak all the modern languages.

With Italy’s declaration of war on France and Britain in June 1940, it was made clear that Dr Panico was a citizen of the Vatican and that he held a Vatican passport. On the 20th June 1940, Dr Panico made wartime radio history with a broadcast directly with the Vatican radio station.  In this inaugural broadcast, Dr Panico received from Vatican City Radio the names of 26 member of the A.I.F. (Australian troops) with messages for their families.  He asked Australian families looking for information about sons or husbands, missing in action, to advise of the location eg Libya, Greece, Crete. This service was offered to Australians regardless of religion.

Dr Panico worked tirelessly throughout the war years.

Australia’s Attorney General and Foreign Minister HV Evatt wrote to the Holy See on 1st June 1946:

To His Holiness

Great gratitude from myself and Government for patient, untiring and invaluable assistance given throughout the war by Mons. Panico in noble work or relieving the lot of prisoners of war and anxieties of their relatives specially in connection with Australian prisoners of war in Japanese and German hands.

The workload of this service increased dramatically.  June 1940 saw the arrests and internment of Australian resident Italians in internment camps with families in Italy looking for information on their Australian relatives.  In May 1941, the first Italian prisoners of war from Egypt arrived and the service was extended to assist Italian POWs to send messages home to Italy as well as receiving messages from Italy for the whereabouts of ‘missing’ Italian troops.

By April 1944, it was reported that over 300,000 messages had been received.  The service expanded to a one-hour broadcast six days a week.  The transmissions included lists of prisoners of war and messages from them for their families in New Zealand and Australia.  For Italian prisoners of war held in Australian camps, Dr Panico would arrange requests from Australia via air or surface mail of telegram.

Visitation to prisoners of war and internees was also an important role played by Dr Panico.  He made journeys across Australia to report on the conditions in camps and to offer spiritual solace.  He distributed thousands of books, purchased musical instruments and donated money on behalf of the Vatican to the camps.

Distribution of Books at Yanco Camp December 1942.

From “Il Cardinale Panico e la sua terra”- Congedo editore – Galatina 1995.

Once Italian prisoners of war were placed on farms, Dr Panico visited farms to speak with farmers and the Italians. He was impressed by his experiences: “After such an intimate experience of the conditions of the prisoners and internees in Australia, it is highly commendatory to hear the Apostolic Delegate say that in no country could these men and women be treated better than they have been and are being treated in Australia.” He was concerned about ensuring that Italian prisoners of war had opportunities to attend mass once a week.  To this end, Dr Panico disclosed, in secret, to the Vatican, that he was granted by the Australian government, 1600 litres of oil [fuel] per month to allow the transport of prisoners to Mass or for parish priests to visit the prisoners. As part of his ministry, a special mass and celebration in Gympie Queensland for the district’s prisoners of war was organised by Dr Panico.

In May 1944, Dr Panico reported to the Vatican on his visits to farms. The following was conveyed, “Egli rimase veramente commosso dell’accoglienza a lui fatta anche da proprietari non cattolici, e della maniera con cui essi trattavano i prigionieri. Con molta soddisfazione vide che in alcune case coloniche i prigionieri erano considerati come membri della famiglia, dormendo nella stessa casa dei proprietari, prendendo insieme ad essi il cibo e ricreandosi insieme dopo il lavoro. Il Delegato Apostolico intese con non minor soddisfazione, gli elogi che i proprietari delle fattorie facevano dei prigionieri, i quali, salvo pochissime eccezioni, hanno contribuito e contribuiscono non solo a mantenere alta la tradizione dei lavoratori italiani, ma anche a distruggere molti pregiudizi che i protestanti d’Australia avevano verso il cattolicesimo. Inoltre, l’affezione dimostrata dagli stessi prigionieri verso i bambini delle famiglie presso le quali lavorano, ha portato qualche volta a scene tenerissime.” (Collectanea Archivi Vaticani 52)

Spiritual welfare for prisoners of war was a priority for Dr Panico which he administered in many ways. Dr Panico visited Italian prisoners of war in POW camp and Australian military hospitals. He gave the Last Rites to Cesare Sottocorno at the 113 Australian General Hospital Concord Sydney and ensured that a gravestone was erected on his grave. Dr Panico provided the photo at the left and details of Cesare’s death which was then sent to Cesare’s family via the Vatican.  The following photo shows his visit to the infirmary at Cowra Prisoner of War Camp.

Grave of Cesare Sottocorno (photo courtesy of Cesare Sottocorno)

L’Amico del Prigioniero was published by Dr Panico in May 1943, another example of his care and concern for the prisoners. In the preface he wrote, “L’intento del libro è già chiaramente delineato nel itiolo con ciuamammo chiarmarlo.” This liturgical work was taken home to Italy by many of the prisoners of war.

From “Il Cardinale Panico e la sua terra”- Congedo editore – Galatina 1995.

Newspaper articles attest to Dr Panico’s farewell to the Italian prisoners of war.  In an unofficial capacity he was at a Sydney wharf to farewell Italian prisoners of war on the repatriation ship Moreton Bay in July 1946.  In November 1946, he was at a Fremantle wharf to say goodbye to those men boarding the SS Katoomba. The photograph records his conversation with one SS Katoomba prisoner of war.

A group photo of Dr Panico onboard an unnamed repatriation ship in 1946 reinforces his dedication to the welfare of the Italian prisoners of war.

From “Il Cardinale Panico e la sua terra”- Congedo editore – Galatina 1995.

Dr Panico’s work did not finish with the end of war or once Italian prisoners of war were repatriated. He set up the Relief Committee, the Relief to Italy from Australia, which arranged for 50 tons of clothing to be sent to Europe.

In October 1948, after 13 years’ service in Australia, Dr Panico was appointed papal nuncio to Peru.

A special thank you to Rocco Severino De Micheli who has shared the photos of Dr Panico included in this article. Rocco relates that one of Dr Panico’s important and lasting legacies is the Ospedale Cardinale Giovanni Panico de Tricase (Lecce).

Statue of Giovanni Panico in Tricase (Lecce) (photo courtesy of Rocco Severino de Micheli)

War Prize

The Italian motorship Remo was in Fremantle harbour on 10th June 1940, the day of Mussolini’s declaration of war.

The ship was seized on 11th June 1940 under international rules. The 229 passengers were a diverse mix of nationalities: Italians, Hungarians, Poles, Greeks, Bulgarians Jugoslavs, Estonians and Finns. Italian women and children together with those of other nationalities were transferred to Melbourne.  The Italian men were interned together with merchant seaman onboard.

Remo was loaded with cargo for several Australia ports including new machinery for a factory in Newcastle and technical equipment for Postmaster’s General Department. The ship was awarded to the Crown as Allied prize after the matter was heard in the Prize Court. By early July 1940, the Australian flag was flown from the Remo.

1940 ‘Australian Defence: Parachute Patrol: Britain’s Food Supply:’, Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895 – 1954), 4 July, p. 25., viewed 04 Jun 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92396089

The crew of the Remo presented an interesting situation for Australian authorities. Were they prisoners of war or internees? In the first instant they were processed on 11.6.40 as ‘internees’. Officers were transferred to Fremantle Prison while the crew were transferred to an internment camp on Rottnest Island.  On 24 and 25th September 1940, officers and crew were transferred to Harvey Internment Camp.

The internment camp in Harvey where up to 1,000 Italians were detained during WWII. (Source: Harvey Historical Society)

In transit to Victoria, officers and crew were then sent from Harvey Camp 2nd April 1942 to Parkeston Transit Internment Camp.  This camp was situated 2 km north-east of Kalgoorlie on the Trans Australian railway line. It is recorded that the camp had accommodation for 20 internees in small cells.

The next stage of the journey was from Parkeston WA to Murchison Camp Victoria. One document records that these ‘internees’ were reassigned as ‘prisoners of war’ on 15th April 1942 as they departed for Murchison Camp. Other documents give the date 22nd June 1942 as the date of reassignment to POW.

The men arrived in Murchison on 18th April 1942.  The officers and their batmen from the Remo were sent to an officers’ camp at Myrtleford and the crew joined Italian soldiers at Murchison and other work placements in Victoria and Tasmania.

Cosmo Valente was an oiler on the Danish tanker Anglo Maersk when it docked in Fremantle Harbour. He was 60 years old when he was ‘arrested’ on 25.6.40 and sent to Rottnest Island Internment Camp.  As a lone Italian on the Anglo Maersk, he travelled with the group from the Remo.

The Remo was renamed the Reynella. It was used to transport foodstuffs and war materials from Australia to Great Britain. Some of the items on a 1940 run were jams, canned fruits, flour, wheat, tallow, hides and lead. In February 1949, the Reynella was no longer suitable for Australian services and the Federal Government offered the ship for sale to the Italian government for £1,875,000.

(1949).  Passenger-cargo ship Reynella anchored in Newcastle Harbour, New South Wales, 12 November 1949

By November 1949, newspapers report the ship had been sold to an Italian company and had returned to its original name Remo.

four photos… four countries

Italy…Libya…India…Australia

Giovanni Cavoli’s journey can be traced through his small collection of black and white photos.

[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]

From Venagrande [Ascoli Piceno] his military service was undertaken in Bologna with Giovanni serving with the 6th Reggimento Bersaglieri.

The photo taken in Libya shows his desert accommodation. Giovanni is in the back row centre. If you look closely, you will see a wine flagon and the words ‘Il Duce’ written with stones.

[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]

This identity photo taken in India, found its way to Australia and into his Australia file.

He departed India for Australia in February 1944.

Giovanni Cavoli in India

[NAA:K1174]

Dressed in his magenta dyed Australian uniform, Giovanni is photographed at Mr H Crawford’s Tambellup farm in Western Australia. At the time of his return to Italy, he had not seen his family for almost 8 years.

[Photo courtesy of Diana Cavoli]

In May 1949, Giovanni, his wife Rosa and their two children arrived in Fremantle Western Australia on the Ugolino Vivaldi. Sponsored by his war time employer Mr H Crawford, he returned to Tambellup. In time the family settled in Katanning.

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)

Dr Georges Morel

Georges Morel was a Swiss Doctor of Economics who was appointed to Australia as the officially accredited representative of the International Committee for the Red Cross, Geneva in February 1941.

Dr Georges Morel [1941 ‘HAS KEY TO CAMPS OF INTERNEES’, The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 1 March, p. 2. (LAST RACE ALL DETAILS), viewed 07 Feb 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231204582]

He was responsible for visiting internees and prisoners of war held in camps in Australia and to ensure that the conditions of the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war were upheld.

With an understanding of ten languages, Dr Morel was free to enter any camp at will, reside in a camp if so desired and leave without permission. Internees and prisoners of war were at liberty to speak freely with Dr Morel and communicate any complaints.

His comprehensive reports were shared with the Australian Government via the Minister of State for External Affairs. All reports were written in French, the language of the ICRC.

Copies of Dr Morel’s reports are archived in the National Archives of Australia and three files covering the period 1942-1944 are available for viewing: search terms to use – Red Cross Dr Morel.

In May 1944 on a visit to Western Australia, he was reported as saying, “My main task is to visit the camps whether the POWs are Germans or Italians…in addition I must keep in permanent touch with Australian Government departments, the Army and various branches of the Red Cross. However the first task is to see that the convention is being strictly applied and from my observations elsewhere [in Australia]I can say quite frankly that the conditions in Australian camps are very good. The treatment, food and clothing are in fact, excellent. Australian officers and guards have tried to help in many minor matters as well as in more important subjects, and I have received 100 per cent co-operation at Army Headquarters, Melbourne and from the Government.

Naturally there are complaints at every camp and these are quite minor matters. The complains have been rectified. Australia actually applies the International convention very generously in regard to POWs and internees, and in all my reports to the International Red Cross Committee I have stressed that conditions in Australia are good.” [1944 ‘VISIT TO P.O.W. CAMPS’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 19 May, p. 6. , viewed 07 Feb 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44809894%5D

Hand in hand with the written reports are the photographic records of Dr Morel’s visits. These photos can be found at : Archives of the ICRC . You will need to register as a user but this process is easy.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle-Galles du sud, camp de Cowra. Camp A, Série B. Groupe 24 avec le délégué CICR. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp A, serie B. Group 24 with the ICRC delegate.

Cowra Camp A September 1942 Dr Morel seated centre with officials of the camp including Padre Lenti (ICRC V-P-HIST-01881-02)

Dr Morel died in October 1945 and his wife Eugenia continued his work temporarily until the arrival of Dr Pierre Descoeudres in May 1946.

It is with thanks to the Red Cross and the work of their delegates like Dr Morel that there is a comprehensive and neutral record of the internee and prisoner of war camps in Australia.

Milestone, Miracles and Magic

Today it is 4 years since I launched this website/blog. It is an important milestone.

With 207 posts and 12 pages, Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Australia is the most comprehensive documentation of this chapter in Australia’s history.

We are an international research project with Australians and Italians in 14 countries contributing a diverse range of items, insights and memories. We have built a community where information is share freely. We are unique because of the diversity of perspectives portrayed.

There are moments of sadness; moments of elation and moments of quiet reflection.

It is important that we try to place ourselves in the boots of the soldier and prisoner of war and walk through this history.

Four years ago, I had no knowledge of website building and blogging. Four years ago, I did not think that “Google Translate” would become my best friend. Four years ago I did not know the history of Bardia or Matapan nor did I know the geographic location of many of the regional Australian farming communities in this history.

Nino Amante from Catania accidentally found a photo of his father on the internet and wrote to me about the “Miracolo di Internet”.

I also believe that your individual passionate searches for your father or grandfather’s ‘lost years’ is part of this ‘magic‘.

Families cannot always find specific personal information about and connections to Australia families for their father or grandfathers. But in the sharing of information, there is the possibility to reconstruct the journey for your loved ones.

My family wonder when I will stop!

My answer is ‘I don’t know’.

Regardless of when I run out of energy, this website serves as a ‘virtual’ museum: a museum which can add items to its collection at any time.

I patiently await the next donation to this museum.

Ciao

Joanne

NB New donations coming soon: Geneifa Eggito and Yol India

Italian Prisoner-of-War Photos of a Moora District Family

Moora Mystery… thank you to Kyra Burns at the Norther Valleys News for publishing this article in the February 2021 Issue

Isidoro Del Piccolo worked on a Moora District farm together with Giuseppe another POW. Isidoro was given three photos from the farming family to take home to Italy with him; souvenirs of his time in Australia. Now 75 years later, his son-in-law Ermanno Scrazzolo hopes that someone in the district might recognise the people in the photos.

During WW 2 approximately 125 Italian prisoners of war worked and lived on Moora district farms.  Due to a chronic shortage of Australian farming labourers, a system was developed to place low risk Italian prisoners of war on farms. This scheme was called: Prisoner of War Control Centre: Without Guards. 

A Prisoner of War Control Centre (PWCC) was a shop, hall or commercial property located in a town like Moora, which was set up as offices to administer the Italian POWs in the district within a radius of 50 miles. There were seven AMF staff including a captain, truck driver and interpreter who liaised with farmers and the Italian workers.  The Moora PWCC operated from April 1945 to May 1946.

Ermanno Scrazzolo in Italy is searching for his father-in-law’s Moora farming family. Isidoro Del Piccolo was sent to a Moora district farm on 29.5.45 and departed the district on 8.5.46.

Isidoro was from the Friuli region north east of Venice and registered his occupation as a mechanic (radio). He was 31 years old, had been captured in Sidi el Barrani, Libya in December 1940 and spent 4 years in a British POW Camp in Yol, India before arriving in Australia.

Giuseppe from Bari, Unknown, Isidoro Del Piccolo (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)

Reverse of Isidoro Del Piccolo’s Photo (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)

Scrazzolo provides some background information which he hopes will help find Isidoro’s farming family:  I have some 90 letters that he [Isidoro] wrote home during his prisoner time which have been saved and about 30 of them have a Marrinup camp stamp. In one of the letters he says that he is in a farm far away from any town. In the farm there are four persons besides himself and the other POW, a barber from Bari. Isidoro only says that he made himself useful to the farmer especially in electrical things as he was very capable with anything electrical. The farmer gave Isidoro a foto of himself with the two Italians assigned to assist him. The back of the foto is signed by the farmer.” Giuseppe was known as Joseph and possibly Isidore was also given an Aussie name.

A second photo shows Giuseppe and Isidoro with two ladies.  The reverse of the photo identifies them as Barbara and Beryl.  Hopefully, someone will recognise the ladies. Quite possibly the young girl Beryl might still live in the district and have memories of the family’s Italian workers.  The word “Invernina” is also noted on the reverse and Scrazzolo wonders if this was the name of the farm.

Giuseppe, Barbara, Beryl, Isidoro (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)

A common memory for this history is the red coloured clothes the Italians wore.  Australian Army disposal uniforms were dyed a burgundy colour and issued to the Italian POWs. When away from the farm or in transit, the POWs wore these red uniforms. Another memory is the canteen truck from the PWCC which visited the farms on a regular basis and items from the canteen could be purchased by the Italians. Some children remember that the Italians would buy chocolate; a war time luxury and share it with them. Mail was also delivered via the canteen truck. All mail was censored, so any letters Isidoro wrote would be collected by the canteen truck and sent to Marrinup POW Camp for censoring.  The Italians in Western Australia could only register Marrinup Camp as their address.

Scrazzolo contacted researcher Joanne Tapiolas to assist him to reconnect with Isidoro’s Australian farming family and to get a glimpse of farming life during WW 2. He would also like to tell the Aussie family a little about Isidoro’s life after he returned to Italy and the memories of Australia he shared.

Tapiolas who is based in Townsville Queensland assists Australian and Italian families to understand the personal connections and memories of this vibrant and diverse WW2 history.Tapiolas says, “The aim of the ‘Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project’ is to document this history.  Photos like Isidoro’s are precious memories of the time prisoners of war worked on Australian farms.  These photos and letters have been kept safe for over 75 years and with the assistance of the internet, Italian families are now trying to piece together the journey of their father or grandfather as a soldier and prisoner of war.” The project’s research can be accessed at italianprisonersofwar.com. 

If you can help Scrazzolo with information about the people in the photos, please contact Tapiolas at: joannetappy@gmail.com

Welcome… Benvenuto

Welcome to Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War a comprehensive archive of documents, artefacts, testaments, photographs and research relating to this compelling chapter in Australian history. This is a community history involving Australian and Italian families from fourteen countries who have shared their stories so that this history is not forgotten.

Sneath Murray Bridge

Over 18000 Italian Prisoners of War came to Australia from 1941 – 1945. Captured in theatres of war in North Africa, East Africa and Europe, they were transported to Australia  via staging camps in Egypt, Palestine and India.

There is much written about internment in Cowra, Murchison and Hay the main Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in New South Wales and Victoria, but only snippets of information are recorded about  Italian prisoners of war in other states.

This research features Italian prisoners of war and their farming families in Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Articles cut across a range of topics: the battles in Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece; the movement of prisoners from the place of capture to prisoner of war camps in Egypt and Palestine; interment in the camps of India; transport to Australia; repatriation from Australia and arrival in Naples.  

The stories and memories of Italian and Australian farming families gives this history a voice.  The diversity of photos and relics shared personalises what would otherwise be a very black and white official report.

The articles featured on the project’s website brings colour and personality to this almost forgotten chapter in Australia’s history.

The Italian prisoners of war were more than just a POW.  They were fathers, brothers, sons and husbands from across Italy and from diverse backgrounds and occupations.

Follow their journey…. Walking in their Boots

Nonno Ermano Nicoletti’s Journey

(Photos and documents from: AWM, Red Cross, NAA, Trove, Alessandra Nicoletti, Nambucca Guardian: Ute Schulenberg, David Akers)

 

The Footprints Project

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war

Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project is a community project supported by Australians in six states and Italian families in fourteen countries.****

Background

What started out as a personal journey to read about the Italian POW Camp outside of Home Hill has resulted in a comprehensive, diverse and rich collection of stories, letters, photographs, testimonies, artefacts, music, newspaper articles spanning 79 years: the battles on the Libyan/Egyptian border December 1940 to the present.

Over the past four years, I have heard these words many times over, “but you have it wrong, there were no Italian prisoners of war in Queensland”.

And this became a focal point for the research: to record this chapter in Queensland’s history before it was completely forgotten.

But like ripples in a pond,  Queensland’s history of Italian POWs expanded across and was part of a greater history and so the project extended and expanded: to other Australia states and to Italian families in fourteen countries across the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What makes this research unique and diverse?

Perspective.

Contributions have come from far and wide:  farmers, farmers’ wives, farming children, the town kids, families of Australian Army interpreters, children of Italians who were prisoners of war, Italians who were prisoners of war, the local nurse, the mother of an ex-POW, government policy.

What does the research encompass?

Website: italianprisonersofwar.com

Facebook Page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia

Music Book: Notations for songs and dance music by Ciccio Cipolla.

Farm Diary: daily notations regarding farm life during war time including information on Italian POWs and Land Army Girls.

Discussion about our Queensland research at conference in Catania Sicily May 2019 on prisoner of war experiences.

Memories in Concrete: Giuseppe Miraglia from Enna Sicily and Adriano Zagonara from Bagnara di Romagna Ravenna.

Donations to the Australian War Memorial of two artefacts made by Gympie Italian prisoners of war

Two publications: Walking in their Boots and Costanzo Melino: Son of Anzano (in collaboration with Rosa Melino)

Journey of three Italian families from Italy to visit Queensland and ‘walk in the footsteps of their fathers’: Q1 Stanthorpe and Q6 Home Hill

POW Kit Bags: Adriano Zagonara and Sebastiano Di Campli

The Colour Magenta

Handbooks: L’Amico del Prigioniero, Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War, Piccolo Guido per gli Italiani in Australia

Voices from the Past: five testimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on Queensland farms.

Letters written by Italian prisoners of war to family in Italy, to their Queensland farmers and to the children of farmers, written by mother of an Italian POW to a Queensland nurse, written by the Italians to their interpreter, Queensland farmer to Italian.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their Queensland families, Italians on their Wedding Day and with their families, Italians in POW camps in India.

Handmade items: embroideries, wooden objects, cellophane belt, silver rings, paintings, cane baskets, metal items, chess sets, theatre programs.

Contributions by ten Italian families whose fathers and family returned to Australia as ‘new Australians’.

Identification of five buildings used as prisoner of war accommodation.

Publication of three guides for Italian families to assist in their search for information about their fathers and grandfathers.

Collaboration with numerous Italian and Australian families; local museums and family history associations; journalists; translators; collectors of historic postal items; local libraries.

Did you know?

The website operates as a ‘virtual’ museum and library.

The website has a wide reaching readership to 118 countries!

Over 185 articles have been written for the website.

My Wish List

In the beginning:

I had one wish, to find one Queensland family who remembered the Italians working and living on their farm. Thank you Althea Kleidon, you were the beginning with your photos and memories of Tony and Jimmy.

My adjusted wish list, to find three photographs of Italian POWs on Queensland farms. Then came Rosemary Watt and Pam Phillips with their collection of photos, a signature in concrete and a gift worked in metal.

….

Now:

To have the three Finding Nonno guides translated into Italian.

If I win Gold Lotto, to have Walking in their Boots translated into Italian.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

****What does the future hold… After five and a half years of research, over 185 website articles, two publications, thousands of emails, visits, interviews, cataloguing etc …

I plan to go at a slightly slower pace.  I will continue to work offline and in the background answering questions, assisting families and adding to this historical collection.

I have published articles in a chronological order starting with the soldiers and their battles. And I will slot in new articles and add new information along the way. Hopefully this will convey ‘the journey’ of the Italian soldiers from capture through to repatriation and for some Italians, a return to Australia.

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war.