Antonio Ciancio, a chauffeur from San Giovanni a Teduccio Napoli was one of many thousands of Italian prisoners of war to reside in Hay Prisoner of War Camp.
Having arrived in May 1941, a nominal roll places him in Camp 7 Hay [11th November 1942]. There were three camps at Hay: Camp 6, Camp 7 and Camp 8. Each camp was built to house 1000.
The camps were designed in an octagonal layout and were separate from each other. The history of Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp began in July 1940, when the Australian War Cabinet agreed to build two camps at Hay to accommodate 1000 persons per camp. Camps 7 and 8 were filled with internees sent to Australia from Great Britain. On 2nd November 1940, Camp 6 opened with Italian civilian internees.
Italian prisoners of war from Egypt arrive in Hay 28th May 1941. Antonio Ciancio was in this group. They were accommodated in Camp 7 and Camp 8. The next major development was the commencement of the River Farm in April 1942. I have used a 1962 aerial photo to highlight the positions of the camps and River Farm. If you look at Hay NSW on google maps and choose satellite view you will see an octagonal outline for Camp 6 and the extent of the River Farm.
Rough Location of Camps and River Farm Hay New South Wales
In August 1942, the newspapers reported that Hay Prisoner of War and Interments Camps had become a “model of what such a camp should be like in all countries.” In particular the produce from the farm/s were praised for its ‘experimental area of cotton which yields over 900 lb to the acre, the prison has 308 acres of vegetable, 20 acres of poultry, 16 for pigs, and 740 for mixed stock and crop farming.’
Dr Georges Morel reported in March 1943 that the Italian prisoners of war worked inside and outside the camp. Work outside the camps in addition to agriculture, consisted of building roads, erecting water pumping plants and fences, construction irrigation channels and sewerage works.
Prisoners of war were encouraged to be engaged in work parties. Dr Morel recorded that for Camp 7, 94 men worked inside the camp and 320 men worked outside the camp and for Camp 8 87 worked inside the camp and 470 worked outside the camp. The total number in residence for Camp 7 was 651 and for Camp 8 646.
1942 ‘War Prisoners Grow Cabbages’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 3 November, p. 6. , viewed 02 Jun 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132815787
It was reported that the Italians at Hay Camps in three months had grown 193,500 lbs of vegetables on 1000 acres of virgin soil. The men had also gained a stone in weight since arriving in Australia [during 1941].
Antonio was transferred to Cowra Camp on 13th August 1943. The placement of Italian prisoners of war on farms was gaining momentum in New South Wales and Queensland. The movement of Italians from Hay to Cowra was based on geography and the need to have men available for easy transfer into districts north of Cowra.
Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49305 E. Alunni; 46486 F. Palladino; 48249 G. Olivares; 46433 G. Polise; 49690 A. Rea; 45169 C. Catuogno. Front row: 49310 A. Argento; 49566 A. Di Pala; 49670 G. Joime [Ioime]; 45256 A. Ciancio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030148/10 Photographer Michael Lewicki)
Antonio was sent to a farm in the Coonabarabran district of New South Wales on 31.10.43. A newspaper report positively describes the Italian workforce. They were performing remarkable work, conduct was excellent, manners were most impressive, most were learning English very quickly and with guidance they were operating agricultural machinery.
By the time Antonio boarded the Alcantara to return to Italy on 23rd December 1946, he had spent 5 years and seven months in Australia.
His home city of Naples had been heavily bombed during 1944.
Naples Harbour 1944 (Imperial War Memorial)
Antonio would have been able to see San Giovanni a Teduccio on the journey into Naples harbour: a bittersweet moment.