On the 7th September 1946, at approximately 2200 hours, sixteen Italian officers from Myrtleford Prisoner of War Camp escaped.
The escape was executed by cutting away part of the wire encirclement.
Two years before, two planned escapes were foiled. On 22nd September 1944, Rolando Secondo and Allesandro Palamidessi were found ‘fully dressed’ after lights out. Then on the 28th September 1944, Cesare Scoccia and Laerte Crivellini were also found ‘fully dresses’ after lights out.
The Argus newspaper reported the 1946 escape on Monday 9th September 1946:
“Most of the escapees are typically Italian in appearance. Vicchi, however, is an exception. Aged 34, he is 5ft 9in weights 10st 7lb and has red hair. Gualtieri should be easily noticed among a crowd, as he stands 6ft 5 in in his socks and is of slim build. The manner of dress is not known. Some of the men may be wearing burgundy prison clothes; others are believed to be wearing sports clothes or uniform. Only one of the escapees speaks good English. He is Walter Sabiano [Fabiano], who stands 6ft and has blue eyes and fair hair.” (1946 ‘SIXTEEN ITALIANS ESCAPE AT WHOROULY’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 September, p. 20. , viewed 26 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22331454)
The reason for the 1946 escape was that the Italian officers were ‘going for a walk’. The authorities were concerned that the men might be heading for the Victoria/NSW border and military and civil police joined in the search for the men.
Walter Fabiano and Giuseppe Zappia were found 78 km from Myrtleford at Tallangatta on the 9th September 1946. They said that they had walked the entire distance.
Vinicio Sigon, Giovanni Vicchi, Alberto Vissani and Eriodante Domizioli were ‘captured’ at Buffalo Creek 16 km from camp on 11th September 1946.
Scipione Bobbio and Rolando Secondo were located at Moyhu 40km away from camp on the 11th September 1946.
Giovanni Battaglia, Gualtiero Gualtieri, Salvatore Scaffidi and Bonaventura Matera were located on the 11th September 1946 at Bobinawarrah, 28 kms from camp.
The last four Italians were captured at Wodonga, 65 km from camp: Cesare Soccia, Giorgio Cerio, Laerte Crivellini and Allessandro Palamidessi.
Six of the Italian officers who escaped on 7.9.46 are in the photo below.
Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Gualtiero Gualtieri; Ortali; Giunta; Laerte Crivellini; Cesare Scoccia; Allessandro Palimedessi; Mercurio. Front row: Giovanni Vicchi; De Gianni; E. Zingone; Benso; Eriodante Domizioli. (AWM Image 030153/06 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The men represented the navy, army and airforce and had varied backgrounds:
Lieutenant Eriodante Domizioli a student from Macerata; captured 14.9.41 Marmarica and served with the airforce.
Lieutenant Laerte Crivellini a pilot officer from Senigallia Ancoma; captured 14.9.41 South Sollum.
2nd Lieutenant Alessandra Palamidessi a student from Pisa; captured 14.9.41 Sidi Omar and served with the airforce.
Lieutenant Giorgio Cerio an engineer from La Maddalena; captured 25.6.41 Beach North Libya.
2nd Lieutenant Vinicio Sigon an army officer with the Alpine Troops from Gorizia; captured 30.12.40 Neviza Greece.
2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Vicchi a lawyer from Faenza; captured 20.1.41 Kala Albania.
2nd Lieutenant Alberto Vissani an accountant (attorney) from Macerata; captured 22.1.46 Hani Balaban Greece.
2nd Lieutenant Giuseppe Zappia an electrician from Lecce; captured 11.3.41 Albania
2nd Lieutenant Cesare Scoccia a doctor from Fornova Taro Parma; captured 4.3.41 Klisura Albania.
2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Battaglia a teacher from Palermo; captured 11.12.40 Buq Buq.
2nd Lieutenant Salvatore Scaffidi an agricultural expert/student from Reggio Campi Rione Reggio Calabria, captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.
2nd Lieutenant Rolando Secondo an expert electrician from Catania; captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.
2nd Lieutenant Walter Fabiano an accountancy student from Genova; captured 22.4.41 Dintorni Tobruk serving as a Bersalieri sniper.
2nd Lieutenant Scipione Bobbio a student from Napoli; captured 16.5.41 Tobruk.
2nd Lieutenant Gualtiero Gualtieri a chemist from Firenze; captured 6.2.41 Agedabia.
2nd Lieutenant Bonaventura Matera a student, clerk from Napoli; captured 7.2.41 Agedabia.
Going for a walk unescorted
Interestingly, is part of a document relating to Compound B No. 5 PW Camp Myrtleford.
It is specifically an agreement form between Italian officers and their Camp Commandant which outlines the rules for freedom of movement without an escort, outside of the camp.
B Compound No 5 PW Camp Myrtleford
Dichiaro che il comandante il mio camp d’internamento mi ha spiegato che, suboratamente al suo consenso, potro avere liberta di movimento, dietro parola d’onore, durante le ora stabilita dal Comandante, sia per uscire ed entrare il mio camp, sia per passegiate, senza scorta, entro la distanza di miglia 3 da tale campo d’internamento.
Prometto e m’impegno sul mio onore di ufficiale che, fino alla revoca dei summenzionati privilegi da parte del Commandante il Campo, oppure fino a specifica revoca di questa promessa ed impegno da parte mia. (Nel ultimo caso, sette (7) giorni prima della data della revoca, prometto che avvertiro per iscritto al Comandante del Campo della mia intenzione di revocare l’impregno)
- Non tentero di fuggire o di prepare una fuga per me or per qualsiasi altre persone,
- non faro acquisti tranne presso lo spaccio del mio camp d’internamente e non ricevero ne daro qualsiasi articolo ad alcuno
- Non entrero ne mi avvicinero a qualsiasi zona militare o stabilimento della forza armate, locale di divertimento fuori del mio campo d’internamento, osteria edificio pubblico o privato, veicolo pubblico o private ne entrero la zona abitata de una citta o commune. (NAA: A7919, C104007)