Category Archives: Western Australia Italian POWs

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 thirteen 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.

List of Articles July 2020

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 thirteen 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 twelve countries across the world.

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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 two 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!

187 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.

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****What does the future hold… After four and a half years of research, over 150 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.

Friendship down the generations

Alessandra Garizzo stumbled across the article on Marrinup Prisoner of War Camp Western Australia; and was amazed to see her father’s Prisoner of War Identity Card.  I had a number of identity cards to choose from for this article but I was drawn to Giuseppe Garizzo for two reasons: he was tall – 6 ft and he was from Venice.  There is a  generalisation that all Italian POWs were short peasant farmers from the south of Italy, and I wanted to counter this myth as not only was Giuseppe tall, he was also from the north of Italy.  The second reason is a little closer to home for me: my nonna and nonno migrated to Australia for a small village, Palse near Pordenone north of Venice.

Garizzo Identity Card 1

(NAA: K1174 Garizzo, Giuseppe)

However, there is another reason, which is less tangible, for I sometimes think decisions are made for me; that maybe Alessandra’s father touched me on the shoulder and in that moment I chose his card.  Now Alessandra via ‘The Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War’ project has new background knowledge of her father’s time in Australia: Marrinup, the repatriation voyage on Chitral,  details of the Battle of Bardia, photos and stories from the camps on India.

Garizzo 1

Gino* and Giuseppe Garizzo with Graeme Stewart at Rocky Glen 1944-45

(photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

Alessandra grew up with her father’s stories of  Jack Stewart and his family on Rocky Glen via Muradup.  Four precious photos of Giuseppe’s time at Rocky Glen are kept close and in Alessandra’s mobile gallery.  The connection between the Stewart and Garizzo families is a story that spans over seven decades with Stewart family members visiting Giuseppe Garizzo in Venice several times.

Garizzo 2

Giuseppe Garizzo and Gino  with Graeme Stewart at Rocky Glen 1944-45

(photos courtesy of Alessandra Garizzo)

In September 2014, Alessandra journeyed to Australia and Muradup to visit Graeme Stewart and his childhood friend Max Evans.  Both men shared memories of ‘Joe’ [Giuseppe’s Aussie name]. The local newspaper captured this special connection and history in: War friendships endure

Garizzo Reunion - Copy

Sandra Garizzo with Max Evans and Graeme Stewart.

Picture: Marcus Whisson d426086

Jack Stewart’s grandson David Carlin has written about the special relationships between the two families and Joe’s prisoner of war journey in The Bronzista of Muradup   The article is a beautiful and poignant tribute to the special friendship of Jack Stewart and Giuseppe Garizzo.

* There were two men named Gino who arrived in Western Australia on board Ruys** and were sent to W4 Kojonup on 11.3.44, the same journey as Giuseppe Garizzo.  Gino Appetito [PWI59376] was from Rome [5′ 6″]  and Gino Lucchini [PWI 59103] was from Verona [5′ 9″].

**Ruys was the only transport which disembarked Italian prisoners of war at Fremantle, before sailing to Melbourne and disembarking the remainder of Italians.

 

the best and finest time was at Marrinup…

A resident of Marrinup POW Camp, Heins Doehmen, wrote to a Western Australian newspaper in 1947.

While Heins is German, not Italian, I found his letter very interesting and sobering and therefore a worthy inclusion. His record states that he is Catholic and his occupation is – Theology student. Heins was fighting in infantry when he was captured at Sollum 16th May 1941.

To the Editor.

Sir,- I take the liberty of writing you this letter, even if it is in bad English; but I am doing so in order not to lose connection with the land where I lived such a long time as a P.O.W.  I spent almost three years of six in Western Australia, the other time being in Victoria and South Australia.  But the best and finest time was at Marrinup.  Working there as swampers, wood cutters, or somewhat else, we did it mostly with great pleasure.

Today it is forbidden to me to think of the flesh-pots [pot of flesh or meat] of Australia, only to save my stomach and protect it from the convulsions of “hunger laughter.” My stomach is always-contra.  Shortly after my repatriation I weighted 200lb. Now it has been set back to 140lb.  It is no good to be burdened with too much fat, says the order of the day.  The bread, made of Indian corn, looks like cake, but is much better to digest by chickens than by men.  We are housed here in ruins, as you know well by pictures and magazines.  Morality is the same as your reporters have shown in your paper.  The children are mostly fond of debris, playing hide-and-seek or pirates in mysterious corners of empty cellars.  In the streets you hear all the day the click-click of the wooden shoes of our girls.  Leather shoes are going out of fashion.  But our women grow sadder day by day, providing a deplorable sight with their trouble about food, clothing and housekeeping.  Where is the future, and what will the time to come bring to us? Perhaps life, perhaps a castle in the air only, perhaps a burying-ground.

I am living with my old paretns and my sister in two small rooms, the last of our fine house, giving thanks to God that I didn’t see the last winter in Germany and praying for mild weather the next time.  Above all, I thank you and your folks for the fine time I have had in Australia. Never will I forget it.

Now I ask you to find out a person for me to correspond with, not only with the object of obtaining an acquaintance in the paradise called Australia, but also to have a connection with the outer workd and to learn good English. On the other side, I will give promptly a report of my country.  I am aged 30, and work as a clerk in a labour office.  Before the war I was a student of philospohy and mathematics.-

Yours, etc.,

HEINS DOEHMEN

22a, M-Gladbach/Rhl, Benderstr.

(1947 ‘German P.O.W. writes letter of Thanks’, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), 16 October, p. 11. , viewed 22 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52180042)

Heins Doehmen 41162

Murchison, Australia. 30 December 1942. Group of German prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 13 POW Group. Known to be are: 41944 Lance Corporal (L Cpl) Richard Wiedmann of Ludwigshafen am Rhein; 41061 Corporal (Cpl) Emil Baade of Ludwigshafen am Rhein; 41620 L Cpl Otto Niedhammer of Heidelberg; 41119 L Cpl Richard Brinkmann of Heidelberg; 41069 L Cpl Hans Naring of Unterkoettenich ueber Dueren, Rheinland; 41533 L Cpl Karl Lohoff of Sinsheim am Elsenz, Baden; 41618 Cpl Eugen Niederberger of Mannheim; 41162 Cpl Heinrich Doehmen of Gladbach, Rheinland; 41270 Cpl Emil Guenther of Altrip am Rhein; 41905 Cpl Josef Vieren of Witten, Ruhr. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 30178/07 Photographer Colin Thomas Halmarick)

While it is unknow which man in the photo is Heins (Heinrich), what is known is that he is 5′ 9′ tall, weighted 157 lbs [1941] and has blond and blue eyes.  He was 26 years old when the photo was taken at Murchsion POW Camp in Victoria.  BUT in the group are 4 men 6′ plus tall, and only one man was shorter than Heins.

I wonder if Heins found a penfriend?

POW Camp 16 Marrinup

LG Hoey wrote an article June 1947 about the Marrinup Prisoner of War Camp Western Australia.  The equipment from the site was being sold at action which prompted the journalist to reflect upon the camp’s history.

Marrinup Camp was home to both Italian and German prisoners of war.  The Italians were sent to work on farms and the Germans remained at camp undertaking firewood cutting and collection in the local area.

Marrinup 2

Marrinup: Plan of PW Camp No. 16

(NAA: K121430/32/4)

LG Hoey writes about both the German and Italian prisoners of war:

During the day the camp presented an animated and colourful scene.  Trucks were continually arriving and departing with Italian prisoners, carrying the sick from the rural districts for medical attention at the camp and transporting further supplies of labour as replacements. Outside the R.A.P. a long line of men in burgundy would be awaiting the doctor’s ministrations; it was estimated that 10 per cent of these were genuinely sick.  Malingering was not unknown amongst the descendants of Caesar’s legionaries.

In spite of superficial differences between their respective cultures there was a strong fraternal bond between the two groups of Axis prisoners.  Often at night a German could be seen teaching his language to an Italian, shouting out lists of verbs and nouns through the dividing wire.  On one occasion, as punishment for some offence, the Italians were refused permission to attend the A.M.F pictures [movies]. The Germans immediately staged an impromptu concern for them from their side of the barbed wire.

Marrinup Italian

Marrinup, Australia. 29 July 1944. Two Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at Marrinup POW Camp. 48742 Domenico Chiono (left), and 59046 Giuseppe Andretta. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030213/06) Both are Lieutenants and Doctors.

On Saturday afternoons during the winter months soccer [football] matches were often played between the Germans and Italians at the siding. Before each match, the indispensable centre forward on the German side, who was also an habitual escapee, was required to give his parole [word] that he would not try to escape whilst outside the camp confines.

With Latin dash, the Italians would execute some remarkable feats during the game, obviously performing to the ‘house’, whilst their opponents, a heavier type in many ways, would fight back efficiently and stolidly.  Amongst the spectators, the Italians on the one side would dance with every move of the game, shouting and jostling, whilst the Germans opposite would permit an occasional “Wonderbar!” to pass their lips.

After the match the crowds of prisoners would swarm back to camp through the bush, and at its entrance the guards would discover them waiting.  At a work, the Germans would fall in and march to attention past the administrative buildings and the Italians would bring up the rear, cigarettes in mouths, an untidy, talkative rabble.

What memories have these men back in their wrecked homelands? Do the Italians remember the oft-cursed road, the darling of the C.O.? And the Germans, have they forgotten the lovely garden which they created at the drabness which is Marrinup siding: the vases hewn from stone and the terraces, the stream and the rustic bridge, the stone gate posts inscribed P.O.W.G.?

German POWs

Marrinup, Australia. 29 July 1944. Group of German prisoners of war (POWs) interned at Marrinup POW Camp. Back row, left to right: 35197 Walter Harms (Cook); 35185 Alfred Madaus (Sailor); 35268 Richard Pitscheneder (Cook); 35194 Walter Koniarsky (Seaman); 35321 Karl Vetter (Steward); 88021 Heinrich Peters (Engineer). Front row: 41632 Alwin Opitz (Miner); 42297 Hans (Johann) Meier (Gardener); 42179 Hans Ziegler (Baker); 42253 Friedrich Lindel (Coal Miner); 41817 Werner Schwarz (Student). Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030213/36)

Many of the German prisoners of war had come from England as internees particularly those from captured ships. Some came to Australia onboard the infamous Dunera which also transported English resident England German Jews to Australia.

 

Where is my adored son?

From Tunisia, Salvatore Magaddino at 28 years old was an experienced world traveller: born Castellamore del Golfo Sicily, home address Tindja Tunisia, capture Amba Alagi Ethiopia, internment in India POW camps 1941-1945, travel to Melbourne Australia 1945, transfer to Western Australia and farm work in the Moora district 1945-1946, escape from Northam POW Camp Western Australia 17th  June 1946.

Magaddino 5

His feisty mother wrote to the commanding Officer of Marrinup POW Camp expressing grave concerns for her son:

Tindja Tunis

November 28 1946

“Gentlemen, – Once more I return to beg of you a favour.  It is six months since I have had news of my son Salvatore Magaddino.  I would like to know if he is still in Australia or if he has returned to Italy. Please give me some news about him because I am in a state of mortal anxiety.  Dear sirs, for the love of heaven let me know what has happened to my adored son as soon as possible.  Here is the latest address for my son: Magaddino, Salvatore: No 67655 Camp 16 P.O.W. Camp Marrinup, W.A.

I beg you to excuse me for for disturbing you and I thank you in anticipation of your kindness.  In hopes of an answer from you, receive by deepest regret. Mrs Margharita Magaddino c/o Pietro Magaddino, Maison Moltisanti, Tindja, Tunis. 

1947 ‘MISSING SON.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 21 February, p. 7. (SECOND EDITION.), viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46264224

AND SALVATORE LISTENED TO HIS MOTHER

“THIS IS ME”

Identifying himself with a photograph published in “The West Australian” last Friday, Salvatore Magaddino, one of 13 Italian prisoners of war at large from internment camps in Western Australia, walked into Western Command headquarters yesterday and surrendered himself.  he said he had read the published letter written by his mother in Tunis, Italy, to the army authorities and he had decided to return to her although he was anxious to remain in Australia.  Magaddino reported to Lieut. David Compton shortly after 11 o’clock.  He carried a copy of the newspaper in which his description was given and in halting English said: “This is me.” …

1947 ‘NEWS AND NOTES.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 25 February, p. 7. (SECOND EDITION.), viewed 12 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46265423

 

 

Parcels to Italy

World War 2 affected Australians directly in many ways.  We had rationing of essentials such as petrol, food items and clothing. There were numerous attacks on our shores: Darwin, Townsville and Mossman. Children of the time remember air raids, air raid shelters and drills, reduced school hours or doing lessons by correspondence.

For Italians living in invaded and bombed areas of Italy, life was one of deprivation. Food shortages, roads and railways destroyed, rumble littered streets, disappearance of residential areas  and displacement of people.

Young Boy in Naples July 1944 Lt Wayne Miller

A young boy, dressed in tattered clothes and bearing a poignant smile, in war-torn Naples Italy July 1944. Photo by Lt Wayne Miller

A Western Australian farmer who had employed Italian POWs wrote to the Western Mail, encouraging other Australians to send parcels to their Italian POW families and explaining  their circumstances.

Helping former P.O.W. farm workers

… I have been sending frequent parcels to an Italian P.O.W. who worked for us…

Many farmers in this State were appreciative of the help given by prisoners of war during a period when labour was scare and I am sure that if they knew the tragedy of these men’s lives on their return to Italy many farmers would gladly send assistance to them now.

Most of the parcels take as long as six months to reach Italy and the quickest delivery of all those that I have sent was just over three months.  Two parcels I posted in April reached Naples at the end of October. Our G.P.O. informed me that there are three groups of parcels, namely food, toilet articles and clothing and these goods must not be mixed.  Clothing must we secondhand or if new duty must be paid by the receiver in Italy.  Toilet articles can include soap, shaving gear, toothbrushes etc and food which seems to be the most appreciated is spaghetti in tins, vermicelli, baked beans, milk and jam, dipping, dried fruits, tinned cheese and tinned meat.  Clothing is very badly needed as the winter is commencing in Italy and clothing of all kinds is very scarce.

Girl Holding Toddler Italy. Naples 1944 Lt Wayne Miller

Girl holding a toddler, Naples, Italy 1944. Photo by Lt Wayne Miller

My P.O.W.s family had not seen toilet soap for five years until they received my parcel and they had not had an egg for three years. Incidentally they consider themselves among the more fortunate Italians despite the fact that they often receive only one meal a day.

The weights of parcels can be 3, 7 or 11 lb. each including the wrappings. I pack mine in light cartons and sew them up in unbleached calico and so far they have arrived in good condition. The 7lb. parcel seems to be the best size.

APPRECIATIVE.

(Western Mail (Perth, WA: 1885-1954), Thursday 27 November 1947, page 67)

Refugees, Italy 1946 UNICEF Romagnoli

In 1946, in Italy, children carry rocks from a war destroyed building to help rebuild their town. UNICEF/Romagnoli

The Burgundy Parade

LG Hoey, a journalist wrote a series of informative articles about the Italian prisoners of war in Western Australia. On 12 January 1947, he wrote: Anthony in Adversity and included the photo below of one Italian eating dinner with two little girls.

WA POWs

1947 ‘The Burgundy Parade’, Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), 12 January, p. 10. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE SUNDAY TIMES), viewed 05 Jun 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59470264

Anthony in Adversity captures the essence of this history providing stories of Italians and their farm experiences. Click on the link to read about some of these men:

  • the artist who was grief stricken as his hands became coarse and rough with farm work;
  • the hairdresser whose farm work was disrupted because the women of the district become his customers;
  • the tailor who made a suit for his farmer and yet the farmer still complained;
  • the farmer who was going to return his POWs until he found out one was a chef and one a dressmaker;
  • the Italian who was left in charge of the farm when the farmer went on holidays and disasters struck.

And then there is the story about Anthony: Antonio [Tony] was obsessed with washing, or so his boss said, and on many occasions the farmer had threatened to give Tony the “sack” [terminate his employment].

When the journalist asked Tony about his capture, Tony replied, “It was in Abyssinia.  One day I felt very happy, so I went to the river and do some washing. I wash a little, then a voice say, ‘come’.  I look around and 2 very big Indiani there with a knife.  I say, ‘I come’, and I come.”

LG Hoey capably sums up this history: when Australian farmers and Italian prisoners of war were thrown together into new and strange situations and learnt to adapt.

NB The Burgundy Parade is in reference to the burgundy coloured uniforms that the Italian prisoners of war were given to wear in Australia.  The official colour was magenta but these red uniforms were loathed by the Italians for obvious reasons.

Stranger in a Strange Land

The complexity of  the war time policy of interment in Australia is mirrored by the backgrounds of  the Italian men, woman and child who have been laid to rest in The Ossario.

The list below informs visitors to The Ossario of the Italians buried in the complex. Lists are important but their purpose is limited. Feeling that every Italian laid to rest deserves more than their name on a list, I have delved into each person’s story. What I found while researching these names is  that there is a history lesson in the details.  I have learnt more about the complexity of war.

Tunnel vision, saw me focus on the five Italian prisoners of war who died in Queensland.  The Ossario however is the final resting place for 130 Italians: 128 men, one woman and one baby. Furthermore, one Italian prisoner of war drowned and his body was never recovered; therefore there is no public acknowledgement of this man’s death.

The Ossario List of Italians

Italians Buried at Murchison

(photo courtesy of Alex Miles)

From the names on the list, I have learnt about  Italians, residents of the British Isles, who were interned and sent to Australia on the infamous Dunera.  I have read about the Remo and RomoloItalian passenger ships in Australian waters when Italy declared war and scuttling of the Romolo in the Coral Sea. Italian internees were also sent to Australia from Palestine and New Guinea.

Details of Italian Internees who died in Australia 1941-1946 provides a little of the history for each internee resting at The Ossario.

Details of Italian Prisoners of War who died in Australia 1942-1946 provides a little of the background for each prisoner of war resting at The Ossario.

Three Italians whose freedom was taken from them and died in Australia deserve a specific mention:

MR Librio is Mario Roberto infant son of  Andrea and Giuseppina Librio. His parents were interned in Palestine and they arrived in Australia onboard Queen Elizabeth 23rd August 1941. His life was short: he was born 4th May 1942 and died 12th May 1942.

Librio Family

Mario Roberto Librio’s Family

Tatura, Australia. 10 March 1945. Group of Italian internees at No. 3 Camp, Tatura Internment Group. Back row, left to right: 20091 Andrea Librio; 20092 Giuseppina Librio; 20094 Concetta Librio; 20093 Giuseppe Librio. Front Row: 20095 Umberto Librio; 20096 Maria Librio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM 030247/03 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

Cafiero Veneri was an Italian soldier captured at Sidi el Barrani on 11th December 1940.  He arrived in Australia from India on the Mariposa 26th April 1944. He was the son of Aldreo Veneri and Maria Fabbri from Porto Fuori Ravenna.  He was 32 years old when he drowned at Mornington on 23rd December 1945; caught in an undertow at Point Nepean, his body was never recovered.

Attilio Zanier was an Italian soldier captured at Asmara on 28th April 1941.  He arrived in Australia from India on the Mariposa 5th February 1944. He was 42 years old when he was gored by a bull on a farm in the W12 PWCC Narembeen district.  His death notice was advertised in The West Australian, a tribute from the Hall family:

Zanier (Attilio) – Accidentally killed on Frimley Farm Narembeen, on September 3 1944.  Attilio Zanier (prisoner of war). A stranger in a strange land. Husband of Erminia de Comun, fond father of Alcide of Ravascletto Udine Italia. Deeply regretted by the Hall family. (1944 ‘Family Notices’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 5 September, p. 1. , viewed 25 Feb 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44976920)

There has been an overwhelming generalisation that there were many POWs who committed suicide especially during 1946 when the men were desperate to return home to Italy. The nature and/or cause of death for the 95 Italian prisoners of war is illustrated in the graph below.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Deaths 95 updated

 

PS The main focus of my research has been Italian prisoners of war in Queensland. Their history is one small part of the bigger picture.  War is complicated and complex as were the groups of men, women and children who were interned in prisoner of war camps in Australia: Italian and German prisoners of war in other Australian states; Australian residents who were German, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, Polish, Japanese, Spanish … who were interned; German and Italians who were resident in United Kingdom and interned in Australia; Italian families who were living in Palestine and interned in Australia;  and Italian and Austrian merchant seaman who were interned in Australia.

 

 

 

 

Why send us back to Italy?

On 20th June 1946, The Western Australian Premier’s Department forwarded to The Prime Minister’s Department a letter penned by an Italian prisoner of war.

To His excellence Governor General of W.A. Perth

Immigation Department Perth

West Australian Redactor Perth

League of the returned soldiers Perth

Clarification.

I am writing on behalf of the Italian P.O.W. whom think of having done their duty working on farms.

When the Italian Government became co-belligerent (we were in the time in India) a number of I.P.O.W. had been sent to Australia for agricultural work in order to collaborate with their work to warlike effort of the United Nations.

Before our departure from India, the English Government formally promised us that after the cessation of hostility we would be allowed to settle in Australia.  Now after about 30 months during which the Commonwealth of Australia have been employing us in useful way, and just now hen he should take some interest in us, it abandons us.

From letters previously published in the papers we must believe that we have been useful on the farms and plus nearly all hte farmers remained quite satisfied and many of them express wish to employ the I.P.O.W. again as ex P.O.W.

We make appeal to the well known rectitude and honest of the Australian people and we ask their co-operation in our case.

As we have done our duty was P.O.W. we are ready to do it as civil.

It is obvious that not all the I.P.O.W. intend to remain in Australia.  Well, why don’t give a chance to those who wish to stay.

We know that Australia is in need of population then, why is the Commonwealth of Australia going to send us back to Italy against our will?  The Australian Government says that according to the Geneva conventions we should be sent back.  What is a convention when millions of people are starving.

We have kept our promise doing our best.

Can the English Government say the same.

(signed) I/P.O.W.

Sir, Knowing your kind heart and rectitude of mind, we hope in your help.

Yours truly

I.P.O.W.

(NAA: A434, 1950/3/15531)

But I want to stay….

escape 1947 16

The Italian prisoners of war were removed from farms at the end of 1945 into the beginning of 1946. They were told that they would be going home soon… but as the months dragged by, the number of escapes increased.  The above extract from a Victoria  Police Special Circular No. 7 shows some of the men who wanted to stay in Australia.

Interestingly, one proactive Italian POW in New South Wales on 19th November 1946, had submitted his ‘Application for Permit to Enter Australia’ together with his ‘Medical Examination Report’ which had been completed by an Army Medical Officer. There is no doubt that this man wanted to stay in Australia.

For the question: present occupation, he has written P.O.W.

With no faith in the system, he escaped on 24th November 1946.  He remained ‘at large’ until September 1952 by which time he was well established, well respected and allowed to remain in Australia.