Settimio Ceppitelli was with the 201 Reggimento Artiglierei Division 23 MARZO when he was captured 11th December 1940 near Bardia.
Crociani and Batistelli record in The Italian Blackshirt 1935-1945, “Blackshirt divisions at Sidi Barrani in December 1940; 3 Gennairo (disbanded on 10 December) was destroyed, while remnants of the ‘28 Ottobre’ withdrew to Sollum and those of the ‘23 Marzo’ to Bardia, where both were mauled and disbanded on 5 January 1941.”
A glimpse into Italian artillery soldiers can be gleaned by photos held in the Australian War Memorial. Italian troops were equipped with modern guns yet at the same time they used old German guns made in 1916 together with 149 mm calibre guns introduced into the Italian army in 1910.
1st March 1941 NEAR BARDIA. THESE ARE THE MOST MODERN GUNS USED BY THE ITALIANS AND PROBABLY AS GOOD OR BETTER THAN ANY OTHER SIMILAR GUN IN USE IN THE CAMPAIGN. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).
5th January 1941 NEAR BARDIA – AN ITALIAN GUN USED IN THE DEFENCE OF BARDIA. CAPTAIN HOWARD (HISTORICAL RECORDS) INSPECTS THE WEAPON WITH R. MASLYN WILLIAMS. THE ITALIANS HAD A CURIOUS ASSORTMENT OF ANCIENT & MODERN WEAPONS – THIS BEING AN OLD GERMAN GUN MADE IN 1916. (NEGATIVE BY F. HURLEY).
13th December 1940 SIDI BARRANI – AMONG THE THOUSANDS OF TONS OF STORES & ARMAMENTS ABANDONED BY THE ITALIANS WAS THIS GREAT NAVAL GUN IN THE COURTYARD OF THE BARRACKS AT BARRANI. (AWM Image 004439, PHOTOGRAPHED BY F. HURLEY).
Transferred to India, Settimio embroidered Santa Lucia. Noticeable are his initials C. and S. stitched into the work and the colours of the Italian flag at the top and bottom of the pillars.
Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind. Santa Lucia appears to have been a popular saint as she was embroidered or painted by several Italian prisoners of war in Bangalore India as is shown in the photo below.
Immagine Santa Lucia (photo courtesy of Bruno Ceppitelli)
Objects of Art crafted by Italian prisoners of war at Bangalore India
Settimio’s other embroidery is of the Madonna del Prigioniero. It bears a striking resemblence to the statue of the Madonna del Prigioniero in Bangalore Camp Group 1.
Madonna del Prigioniero Bangalore Camp Group 1, India
The Madonna is standing on the world with a snake at her feet, her head is adorned with a crown, an Italian prisoner kneels at her side praying and wearing beige clothing with a black stripe, two vases of flowers sit upon the pedestal.
Madonna del Prigioniero India 1942 (photo courtesy of Bruno Ceppitelli)
Settimio arrived in Australia on 26th April 1944 onboard the Mariposa. Tranferred from Melbourne to Cowra Camp New South Wales by train, Settimio was to spend the next 2 years and 8 months at Cowra Camp.
Settimio’s nephew Bruno provides the following details: As an assistant to an officer, Settimio remained in Cowra Camp. He returned home to Italy with a handmade banjo; he had learnt to play music by ear.
Possibly Lieut. Mario Conti from the 233 Legion CCNN Division 23 MARZO, who was also on the Mariposa, was the officer Settimio was assigned to.
No doubt Settimio prayed in the Cowra Chapel with the beautifully painted altar panels and sat in the audience of the June 1946 performance of L’Antenato [The Ancestor] a Commedia in 3 Atti by Carlo Veneziani.
Settimio returned to Italy on the Alcantara and to farming in his hometown of Soccorso Magione Perugia. His embroideries from India are now framed, a memory of those tumultuous and ‘lost’ years when young men spent their youth as prisoners of war.
Settimio Ceppitelli with his wife, Soccorso Magione Perugia
(photo courtesy of Bruno Ceppitelli)