Salvatore Targiani’s journey as a prisoner of war is unusual.
He arrived in Sydney Australia on the Queen Elizabeth 15th October 1941 and departed from Sydney 29th March 1943.
When Salvatore was captured at Bardia, he had been serving with the 17th Hygiene Unit for 18 months.
This information is key to Salvatore’s arrival and repatriation.
When the Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney, a newspaper reported:
“Some of the prisoners were ill and they were carried in stretchers to military ambulances and taken to hospital”.
Salvatore’s experience as an orderly/health worker in Libya no doubt continued to be utilised in the camp hospitals in Egypt, on the Queen Elizabeth to Australia and on the repatriation ship.
Although Salvatore did not talk about his war years and he did not work in the health industry after the war, his grandson Salvatore Di Noia agrees with these thoughts about his nonno. Medical orderlies were classed as ‘protected personnel’.****
(photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)
The Oranje left Sydney on 29th March 1943. Salvatore was on this ship, which arrived in Suez Egypt 18th April 1943.
Oranje had first arrived in Sydney March 1941. It was converted to a hospital ship and during the war made 41 voyages from Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East transporting Australian and New Zealand wounded. She was the largest hospital ship operating from Australia.
She was painted white with a green band around her hull. Three red crosses were painted on each side of the ship as well, red crosses were painted on her funnels.
21 August 1941 The Dutch hospital ship Oranje off the Western Australian coast in 1941, shortly after the completion of its conversion as a hospital ship. The red crosses and green stripes on the white hull were meant to be a conspicuous reminder to enemy vessels of its non-combatant role. The ship evacuated wounded Australian soldiers from the Middle East. (AWM 302809)
In 1943, the Italian prisoners on Oranje were part of a Mutual Repatriation Scheme.
This was a mutual exchange arrangement between Great Britain and Italy. At Suez, this group of wounded, sick and protected personnel was handed over to a British Escort. The group were then taken by train to Alexandria then ship to Smyrna Turkey.
Archived documents provide the following informing regarding the number of Italian prisoners of war on this transport:
Protected Personnel: 92 officers and 455 other ranks = 547
Medical Cases: 38 officers and 37 other ranks = 75
Total number repatriated: 622
The following items were noted regarding the voyage:
Concerned Italian prisoners of war were concentrated at Cowra before embarkation.
Funds are provided from Ship’s Imprest Account to enable Italians to make canteen purchases.
NSW Division of Australian Red Cross Society provided Red Cross stores for use on the journey.
Arrangements were made for free issue of cigarettes and/or tobacco to Italian prisoners of war other ranks at the same scale as camp issue.
One Chaplin (RC) was included with the escort to administer to the prisoners of war.
The Apostolic Delegate was permitted to inspect the prisoners of war after embarkation.
(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)
In June 1941, the Netherlands government officially handed over to the Australian and New Zealand governments, the ocean liner Oranje, for the duration of the war. It was fully equipped as a hospital ship and shown here is the interior of one of the wards showing rows of neatly made beds. (AWM 008035)
The following photos are from the 8th May 1943 exchange at Izmir [Smyrna].
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-14A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-15A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03229-34A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-05A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 10A)
Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 13A)
(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)
There were three Mutual Repatriation exchanges from Smyrna in 1943: 14-19th April 1943; c. 5-8th May 1943 and 2-3 June 1943. The April exchange is part of a facebook post for the ICRC: https://www.facebook.com/ICRCArchives/ One Day in History 19th April 1943.