Tag Archives: Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp

Stefano Lucantoni: In his spare time

Marco Lucantoni from Napoli has a special collection of items belonging to his father Stefano Lucantoni.  As a prisoner of war in Australia, Stefano kept himself occupied in several ways.

Lucantoni Libya.jpeg

He had a lot on his mind: his family. His wife Egle was pregnant when he had last seen her in 1939.  His son was seven years old before father and son met.

A special thank you to Marco and his brothers for sharing Stefano’s treasured keepsakes.  Relics like these give credence to the historical accounts. They tell the personal history of Italian prisoners of war in Australia.

CHESS

Stefano took home with him a beautiful chess set made in Cowra. Featuring the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the image was a reminder of Stefano’s arrival in and departure from Sydney: 1941 and 1946.

Lucantoni (8)

PLAYS

In Cowra on the 28th June 1946, a group of Italians staged L’Antenato a Commedia in 3 Alli. Stefano played the part of Egidio.

The carefully designed and produced programme highlights the efforts the men made for their production. The play was written by Guerrino Mazzoni, the sets created by Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci. Montaggio by Stefano Lucantoni, Renato bianchi, Felice di Sabatino, Luigi Proietti, Armano Mazzoni and Cesare Di Domenico.  Performers were Bruno Pantani, Guerrino Mazzoni, Carlo Vannucci, Tarcisio Silva, Bruno Dell Amico, Guigi Giambelli, Renato Bazzani, Marcello Falfotti, Alvise Faggiotto, Stefano Lucantoni. Suggestore was Giuseppe Carrari.

They were men from all walks of life: electrical engineer, butcher, clerk, mechanic, plumber, butcher, decorator, policeman, farmer, blacksmith, carpenter.

Lucantoni (2)

Lucantoni (3)

EDUCATION and LANGUAGE CLASSES

Lucantoni (1)

It was considered imperative that POWs occupied their leisure time usefully and the policy was to provide opportunities for POWs to further their studies.  Libraries in the camps were established and canteen profits used to purchase additional text books relevant to courses undertaken. Books from overseas were allowed in the areas of banking and financial, medical, scientific, art, economics, music, agriculture, religion, trade and commerce as well as periodicals of a general literary nature. Grammatica – Italiana – Inglese is Stefano’s exercise book from these language classes and shows his meticulous notes.

Lucantoni (9)

The book, Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War was specifically published and given to Italian POWs being allocated to farm work under the Prisoner of War Control Centre: Without Guard scheme.  Some of the sections were: Tools, Machinery, Farm Produce, Animals, Hygiene and Medical, Family, House and Conjugation of Verbs.

Lucantoni (6)

Stefano’s third book, Piccola Guida per Gli Italiani in Australia was written by Padre Ugo Modotti December 1944.  He worked closely with the Italian migrant community in Melbourne from 1938 to 1946.  He wrote this booklet for the Italian migrants.

On 9 March 1945, the Directorate of Prisoners of War was aware of this booklet and on 31 March 1945 approval was granted to distribute Picolla Guidi per Gli Italiani to the Italian prisoners of war in Australia.

By 1945, there was a relaxation in how the Italian POWs were viewed.  While they were still POWs, they were not considered a high security risk.  It was also a time when the Italians were thinking about life in Australia after the war and requesting permission through their farmers to stay in Australia and not be repatriated.

A guide for Italian migrants to Australia, this book gave the Italian POWs information to prepare for the time when they would return to Australia as migrants and free men.

METAL WORK

A story of love and a story of imprisonment.

The ring shows the intials E and S entwined and signifies the love of Stefano and his wife Egle.  Made in silver and another metal, the silver was obtained from Australian coins eg florins and shillings. Although it was forbidden for POWs to have Australian currency in their possession, necessity and ingenuity always find a way around the rules.

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The emblem is carefully crafted with the words: Ricordo Campo 12 A Cowra and entwined initials POW. It was the badge for the chess set.

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LETTER WRITING

Lucantoni (5)

This card was printed and distributed for Natale 1944. A bucolic Australia landscape of sheep, gum trees and space.  Despite processes in place for prisoners of war to send postcards for Notification of Capture and Transfer of Prisoner, Stefano’s wife believed him dead and asked the Red Cross to try to locate some information about him.

In September 1941, Egle received a letter from the Red Cross telling her that her husband was a prisoner of war in Australia. Instructions were given to send mail to: Posta per prigionieri di Guerra, Australia.

Any wonder why mail was lost and months and sometimes years passed before mail was received.  The image on this postcard was very foreign to Stefano’s family, but its arrival conveyed love and hope.

Lucantoni Stefano and Egle

Stefano and Egle: Happier Times

A special thank you to Marco Lucantoni for the photographs used in this article.

The Cowra Fountains

The Cowra Fountain

(ICRC V-P-HIST-01881-01 New South Wales, camp of Cowra. Fountain.Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle-Galles du sud, camp de Cowra. Fontaine. )

Two Cowra Italian POW fountains have been uncovered and partially reconstructed. The larger of the two was used as a backdrop to the group photos. These group photos were taken of the Italian prisoners of war in September 1943 and February 1944. Some Italian families are fortunate to have seen their father or grandfather, posing with other Italian prisoners of war for a photo, in front of this fountain.

An archaeological assessment of the Cowra Camp reports, “ In contrast, are the remains of formal gardens established by the Italian POW are extant within the area of the Italian Compound A. They illustrate the transfer of cultural actives by the Italian prisoners into their new enforced environment. The construction of fountains using methods, possibly ethnic origin, is of exceptional research interest and reflects the prisoner’s expressions of their homeland and culture.” : Archaeological Assessment for the site of Prisoner of War Camp 12 Cowra, NSW. October 2003, Dr JL Tracey and Dr MM Tracey.

During the excavations a panel with A XXI EF was discovered, this dates the fountain to the twenty first year (Anno XXI) of the Fascist Era (Era Fascista): October 29 1942 to October 28 1943.

Fountain Inscription XXI EF(Cowra Guardian September 17 2014, Cowra-Italy Friendship Association resolves to support museum push)

Views of the Italian section at Cowra POW Camp (https://shortysrvadventures.com/2017/07/29/days-100-101-chilling-in-cowra/)

By 2014, archaeological work had uncovered the remnant of the fountains, and the smaller of the two fountains has been reconstructed. Two men responsible for the unearthing of the collapsed fountains and subsequent partial reconstructions were George Ridley and Richard Bell.

Richard Bell and George Ridley

(Cowra Guardian September 17 2014, Cowra-Italy Friendship Association resolves to support museum push)

Reconstruction of the smaller fountain (Lyn W April 2016 Tripadvisor)

Fragments of concrete are important reminders of a history which is relevant and important for thousands of Italian families. They link the past with the present; they give a context to photos or memories.

There are also almost invisible links to this history. The photo below is testament to this: Amante, Guarnaci, La Iacona were all sent to Gympie Queensland for farm work and they are all from Sicily; Vizzini and Giarratano are from Villarosa (Enna); Bloise, Armentano and Amoroso are from Mormanno (Cosenza); Foringo and Gordini are also from the province of Cosenza.

Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57037 A. Amante; 57273 G. Guarnaccia; 57288 G. La Iacona; 57252 S. Giambusso; 57051 C. Avola; 46957 S. Vizzini; 57257 G. Giarratano. Front row: 57268 M. Gordini; 57070 L. Bloisi; 57046 R. Armentano; 57038 S. Amoroso; 57226 D. Foringo. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030173/15 Photographer: McInnes, Geoffrey)

Notice also the the difference in the gardens between the first photo and the 1944 photos of the fountain. The shrubs have grown and are neatly trimmed. The 1944 photo below is taken at a slightly different angle, which highlights two gardens.

Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Shown here are: 49777 Father F. Lenti, Military Chaplian; 57147 A. Cerrutti; 49593 A. Poggi; 57534 G. Quintiliani; 49557 A. Mercurio; 49439 G. Carrari; 45953 G. Lo Russo; 57431 F. Pelliconi; 57122 N. Chiaranta; 57521 A. Vezzola; 57289 R. La Notte; 57136 P. D’Autilia; 48214 F. Mainardi; 57102 F. Caraccio; 45006 B. Arbasi; 57432 G. Pennacchio; 45739 M. Gatti; 57118 N. Cerreto; 46466 A. Piermattei; 57528 F. De Scisciolo; 49621 L. Piervirgili; 57196 P. Di Siena; 57227 F. Fornari; 57171 V. De Lucia; 57318 M. Lullo; 57278 C. Iacolari; 57339 G. Manda; 46264 N. Monteleone; 57355 S. Martella; 57293 C. La Rosa; 45169 C. Catuogno; 57435 T. Peruzzini; 57277 R. Iacobucci; 57402 G. Napolitano. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030175/04 Photographer McInnes, Geoffrey)

Camp Food: November 1941

A common memory that Queenslanders have about their Italian prisoners of war focuses on food: a dislike for pumpkin, considered in Italy to be livestock food; a love of watermelon; dislike for bread and butter pudding; relishing bacon and eggs; a yearning for spaghetti; learning how to twirl spaghetti with a fork and spoon; the copper full of spaghetti; hand made spaghetti; rabbit stew. Doug Wilson, once the Italians left his parents’ farm at Lagoon Pocket, refused to eat spaghetti and to this day does not eat pasta.  He ate ‘far too much spaghetti’ during those war years.

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Fullerton Pumpkin Crop 1947 Glasshouse Mountains

(photo courtesy of Yvonne Derrington[Fullerton])

Jim Fullerton from Glasshouse Mountains sent this photo to Paolo Santoro in 1947. It explains a little about the Italians’ views on what was put on the Aussie dinner plate.  Paolo replied in his letter of 25th December 1947, “I told them some good story you know, about the pumpkins, you had a good crop, but you know I don’t like to [too] much to eat them.”

The diet of the Italian was very different from the good old Aussie meat and 3 veg.  Theirs was a diet of little meat, pulses, pasta, rice and vegetables of the season.

This difference is explained in an extract from We Never Forgot Domenico. Thea Beswick [Robinson] recalls:

“There was one young man, Domenico, who understood a little English so he became the spokesperson for the men.  The first hurdle was the food.  Copious
amounts of meat, eggs and milk, potatoes and pumpkin were served.
Domenico approached Dad and said the men were sick, ‘Too much meat.
We need pasta.” Of course pasta and rice were not available during war
time so Mum had to come up with a more varied meal plan.  I think a
few of the chooks may have ended up in a pot and an effort was made to
catch fish from the river.”

The menu below is from November 1941 for Cowra Prisoner of War Camp.  The camp appears to have been provisioned according to those for Australia armed forces as the diet is overloaded with meat and mashed potatoes.  The daily ration for 100 men for Tuesday was 150 lbs beef, 95 lbs potatoes, 40 lbs cabbage…

The camp cooks were Italians and I am sure they would have been scratching their heads as to how to use the daily rations. The cooks would have been grateful for such generous supplies and so set to, to utilise all produce provided.  With five meals on offer a day, the POWs would have felt that they spent most of their day eating. After meagre rations as soldiers in Libya, the abundance of food must have seemed like ‘food heaven’. No longer were they eating one month old bread scraps and tinned bully beef.

This menu also makes sense of something Nino Cipolla said about his dad Ciccio Cipolla who spent time in both Hay and Cowra Camps.  Nino said, “When I saw the photo of my father which was taken at Cowra Camp, this was the heaviest he weighed in his life!”  And no wonder, after having to eat 1 lb of potatoes a day.

A newspaper report from November 1942, supports Nino’s observation, “Italian prisoners-of-war in camps in south NSW have gained on an average nearly a stone in weight since they reached Australia.” (Western Mail, 12 November 1942 page 8).  Another reason for the weight gain would have been the sedentary life and idleness associated with life in a POW camp.

However by July 1943, weekly provisions for 100 men show a considerable change away from meat, potatoes and cabbage as it now included rice, spaghetti, split peas, prunes, puree tomatoes, vinegar, oil, an increase in bread rations, a decrease in meat rations. By this time, Italian prisoners of war at Cowra Camp had 140 acres under cultivation, growing primarily crops for their own use.

Menu for Cowra Camp 10th November to 16th November 1941

Cowra Menu 1941

Cowra 1941 – A Snapshot

Cowra is probably the most recognised Prisoner of War and Internment Camp due the memory and history of the  Japanese outbreak in 5th August 1944.

For many Italian families who find the word Cowra on the Service Card of their relative, it is also a name they remember from the stories their fathers and grandfathers told them.

A little of Cowra’s establishment and history….

The first prisoners of war to be accommodated at Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp arrived in camp on 14th October 1941. While the camp has been established in June 1941, facilities had to be put in place before the first intake’s arrival.

On 11th and 12th November 1941, an independent international delegate visited the Cowra Camp to inspect the conditions and make his report.  This report offers a unique snapshot into Cowra Camp life and the Italian prisoners of war residing there.

Cowra Camp was divided into four groups: Camp A, Camp B, Camp C and Camp D.  Only Camp C and Camp D were in operation in November 1941.

The group of Italian prisoners of war consisted of 964 – Army, 367- Navy, 1 – Airforce, 453 Health Personnel (medics, doctors, orderlies), 3 – priests = 1788.

Daily routine

Cowra November 1941 Daily Routine

With the camp still in its construction phase, barracks with galvanised sheeting and windows had been constructed for the following purposes: dining room, detention block, ablutions, toilets, laundry, administration, kitchens, infirmary  and canteen.

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Cowra November 1941 Camp C: Ablutions

Until barracks were constructed for dormitories, the Italians lived in tents. The tents sat atop  a base of wooden planks with impermeable canvas separating the mattress and floor and also used for sides and roof. A mattress and three covers were provided for each man.  The tents slept six men and they were swept daily and three times a week cleaned with soap.

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Cowra November 1941 Camp D: Tents

Camp Leaders were assigned for Camp C and Camp D. Camp C: Sgt Major Ugo Porta (Medical), Sgt Major Alfonso Angeli (Combatant).  Camp D: Sgt Major Giovanni Fimiani (Combatant). The two camps were separated by a barbed wire fence and contact between camps was not allowed. Each tent had a tent leader and each group of 28 tents had a company leader assigned.

There were four refectories for each camp, with each refectory set up for 250 men.  They were furnished with long tables and bench seats.

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Cowra November 1941 Camp D: Dining Hall

The canteen was well provisioned with items available for purchase such as food, treats, chocolate, condensed milk, jams.  The men were issued with coupons to use at the canteen.

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Cowra November 1941 Camp C: Canteen

The Italian prisoners of war were offered work outside the camp eg building roads, irrigation and collecting wood or inside the camp eg as butchers, barbers, tailors, cooks.

The men also kept busy building a chapel, altar and making musical instruments such as guitars, violins, tambourines and cymbals. A school barracks had been built but classes were yet to be set up, but would offer a range of courses.

V-P-HIST-01882-34 Section D Orchestra.JPG

Cowra November 1941 Camp D: Orchestra

Both camps had a sports ground where football and handball was played.  New sport and gym equipment consisted of footballs, basket balls, medicine balls.  Camp C established a marionette theatre while Camp D set up an orchestra with 12 musicians.

V-P-HIST-01882-26 Handball.JPG

Cowra November 1941: The Play of Handball

Rapport between the garrison soldiers and officers was reported to be cordial, treatment of the Italian prisoners of war excellent.  In general, the Italians did not know English, but Australian military interpreters are attached to each camp.  Each morning at inspection, Camp Leaders present their requests to the Commandant of each camp.

A number of requests made by the Italian POWs were noted: purchase of harmonium for church services, books to start a library, daily newspapers, gramophone and records eg lessons in Italian/English, purchase of indoor games eg cards, chess, checkers,  transfer of money relinquished in Egypt to Australian accounts.

Objections were made regarding the burgundy colour of their clothes.

Most importantly, the Italian prisoners of war expressed their concerns for their families as they wait anxiously for news from Italy. 

 

Cowra Chess Set

Artefacts made by Italian Prisoners of War are rare. While there are many memories of the gifts made by the POWs such as rings, engravings and wooden objects, there are few items still in existence.

So an email from David Stahel in Brisbane was very exciting. David owns a boxed chess set made by Italian POWs in Cowra.  It is not only beautiful but it is special because of the story behind the board.

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Badge on Chess Set

( from the photographic collection of David Stahel)

The Italian prisoners of war were making chess sets in 1944, when Geoffrey McInnes captured them on film.  And quite possibly David’s chess set was one such set made by the Italian POWs. The photo below shows five Italian POWs working on a lathe built from salvaged timber and metal to produce chess pieces. The sets were sold for 35/- to Army Amenities Section.

Cowra Chess AWM 4134226

(AWM Image 064356 Photo by McInnes, Geoffrey Cowra, NSW. 1944-02-07)

David’s chess sets adds detail to the history of the chess sets being made by Italian POWs at Cowra.  “My father had a chess board that he told me he bought from an Italian POW for some packs of cigarettes.  I grew up with this board and learnt to play draught and chess on it with my father… the painted watercolour scene (unsigned) is very reminiscent of the Italian countryside.  The workmanship of the board and pieces are of a very high standard. Inside is quilted with a satin like fabric. Pawns, rooks, bishops, kings, queens, draught have been turned on a lathe which the knights are carved from a turned base… My father was a lieutenant in the artillery, specifically in the anti aircraft arena,” writes David Stahel.

Boxed Chess Set

( from the photographic collection of David Stahel)

The concept of Italian POWs selling boxed chess sets for 35/- raises a few questions.  POWs were not allowed to have in their possession Australian currency, so what happened to the proceeds of sales.  Quite possibly funds were deposited into the canteen fund.  Profits from the canteen were used by POWs to purchase books for the camp library. Prisoners of war were allowed access to books and music to further their studies and libraries were established in camps. Additionally, access to books and music was a way for POWs to usefully occupy their leisure time.

A Portrait by Gulminelli

Brothers Marino and Mario Casadei arrived from India into Melbourne Australia on the General William Mitchell 13th February 1945.

Marino and Mario Casadei in a prisoner of war camp India (photo courtesy of Matteo Casadio)

The group of 2076 Italian prisoners of war on the General William Mitchell were the last group to be transported from India to Australia. The men were sent in all directions for farm work; as far away as Queensland and Western Australia.

From the group, 875 were sent to Cowra Camp. An unknown number did not go to farms but remained at Cowra Camp. Among the Cowra group were Marino and Mario Casadei, agriculturalists from Ravenna and Carlo Gulminelli, a clerk from Mezzano [ Ravenna].

About ten years ago Graham Apthorpe from Cowra sent the photo below of Carlo in his artist’s workspace at Cowra Camp to Matteo Casadio.

Carlo Gulminelli painted a portrait of Matteo’s grandfather Marino Casadei in September 1946. Marino’s portrait is sitting on the table, second from the left.  Marino took home his portrait: an original by Gulminelli.

Carlo Gulminelli Cowra 1946 (photo courtesy of Matteo Casadio)

Matteo explains that the family name is Casadio but the surname was registered as CASADEI for Mario and Marino in the Australian records.

Portrait of Marino Casadei painted by Gulminelli (photo courtesy of Matteo Casadio)

Marino’s grandson Matteo has recently made contact with Carlo’s son. Carlo Gulminelli continued to paint in Italy all his life. Carlo Gulminelli has become an important painter, his paintings are well rated and appreciated in artistic circles. Please clink on the following line for more information about Carlo Gulminelli : Patrimimonio Culturale dell’Emilia Romagna

BUT questions remain:

Who are the other men that Carlo painted?

Does your family have a portrait painted by Gulminelli?

“IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE” – The Aussie Journey

Evandro Dell’Amico’s passion for this history is obvious. He has published two books relating to his father: Bruno Dell’Amico’s time as a soldier and prisoner of war.

Scheda descrittiva “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE” – The Aussie Journey

Ne “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE – The Aussie Journey”, prima edizione 2017 e seconda edizione nel 2018, con il logo del Consiglio  Regionale della Toscana ed altri Enti Pubblici ed Associazioni private, l’autore, Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21/5/1952, descrive

(photo courtesy of Evando Dell’Amico)

il lungo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia del padre Bruno.

Carrista dell’Esercito Italiano, nella seconda campagna d’Africa, il 7 febbraio 1941, viene ferito nella battaglia di Beda Fomm nei pressi di Agedabia in Cirenaica (LIBIA).

Fatto prigioniero degli Inglesi, resta in Egitto sino al dicembre 1941 e da qui viene trasferito in  Australia, ove, come PIW n.49833, resterà, prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales sino all’imbarco il 23 dicembre 1946 a Sydney, sulla nave della Regia Marina Inglese “Alcantara”.

Avendo scoperto, alla morte del padre Bruno, una “valigia dei ricordi” ove erano state raccolte foto e lettere del periodo bellico e della prigionia nel secondo conflitto mondiale, dopo la pubblicazione del primo libro “L’uomo tornato da lontano” e dopo contatti con la Presidente dell’Associzione di Amicizia Cowra-Italia, Maria Baron Bell ed il Vice Presidente della Cowra Breakout Association, Harvey Nicholson, Evandro Dell’Amico decide di tornare sulle orme del padre, 70 anni dopo la prigionia subita in Australia.

Nel frattempo avviene, prima, la pubblicazione, da parte di un giornalista australiano, John Madden, di una foto di una famiglia australiana con cui Bruno aveva fatto amicizia, durante i lavori agricoli prestati in una fattoria e poi, il successivo ritrovamento dell’unico superstite della famiglia, Eris Hackett.

In pochi mesi viene organizzata un viaggio in direzione Cowra ed una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia tra i popoli,  con il sostegno della Regione Toscana, la Provincia di Massa Carrara, il Comune di Carrara, di Massa e varie associazioni private.

Un’esperienza intensissima, con partenza da Milano il 2 agosto 2016, soggiorno a Cowra per partecipare a commemorazioni e manifestazioni, con scambio di doni e ritorno a Milano il 10/8. Successivamente, nello stesso mese, vengono recati i doni del Sindaco di Cowra Bill West e delle Associazioni di amicizia sopra ricordate, a Firenze, al Presidente della Toscana Enrico Rossi ed al Sindaco di Carrara, Angelo Zubbani ed al Sindaco di Massa, Alessandro Volpi.

Il libro “Il Viaggio Australe” è stato presentato pubblicamente a Carrara l’11/5/2018, dall’autore e dal prof. Giancarlo Tassinari, medico, docente dell’Università di Verona che era stato protagonista della “missione australe” nel 2016. La presentazione si è potuta avvalere di uno short fotografico realizzato dai due compagni di viaggio.

Il libro è stato oggetto di premi speciali / segnalazioni da parte di prestigiose giurie in Premi Letterari Europei, il “San Domenichino”  e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo“, a Massa e “Thesaurus- Città della Rosa” ad  Aulla.

Massa, 22 febbraio 2021                                                   Evandro Dell’Amico

L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO

“L’uomo Tornato Da Lontano” is Evandro Dell’Amico’s tribute to his father Bruno Dell’Amico: soldier, prisoner of war, film maker and advocate for the rights of workers. Evandro shares a little about his book and his father…

Evandro Dell’Amico has only recently learnt that his father Bruno performed in a play in June 1946 in the prisoner of war Camp Cowra, New South Wales. A precious memory from the past and a reminder that it is never too late to learn something new about your parents.

Scheda descrittiva sintetica dei libri “L’uomo tornato da lontano” di Evandro Dell’Amico

(Photo courtesy of Evandro Dell’Amico)

I libri di memorie familiari sul padre Bruno, scritti da Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21 maggio 1952, prendono l’avvio nel 2013. Gli studi e la raccolta di materiale documentale e fotografico, affluiscono in una tesi laurea in lettere, discussa all’Università di Pisa, in data 7 luglio 2014. In parallelo a questa ricerca universitaria, gli eredi di Bruno Dell’Amico (Carrara, 1920-1998), Evandro e Lia, hanno realizzato un progetto culturale di digitalizzazione delle oltre trenta pellicole realizzate dal padre tra gli anni ’60-80. I risultati di questo progetto vengono presentati a Firenze, in data 7 aprile 2016, presso la sede del Consiglio Regionale della Toscana.

Nel giugno 2016 viene pubblicata la prima edizione de  “L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO

The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)

 “L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO

The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)

L’opera pubblica foto e documenti sulla vita del padre BRUNO DELL’AMICO che, nel dopoguerra, fu segretario del sindacato dei metalmeccanici FIOM CGIL, uomo politico di fede socialista, assessore al Comune di Carrara dal 1956 al 1970, sindacalista dei lavoratori ospedalieri di Carrara, Presidente dell’Associazione Diabetici di Carrara, sino alla morte, avvenuta il 1°maggio 1998. Nella sua veste di cineasta ha prodotto oltre trenta documentari girati prevalentemente nella provincia di Massa Carrara.

La prima parte del libro racconta la vita militare, l’addestramento da pilota carrista in Italia e la successiva partenza, nella 1^ campagna nell’Africa Settentrionale del 1940 e la 2^ del 1941. A seguito della disfatta della X Armata dell’Esercito Italiano, (comandata dal generale Giovanni Tellera, caduto sul campo), il 7 febbraio 1941, nella battaglia di Beda Fomm, presso Agedabia. in Libia, Bruno viene ferito e catturato dagli Inglesi. Dopo una breve prigionia in Egitto,  il P.I.W. N. 49833 viene traferito  in AUSTRALIA Sosterà  prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp (New South Wales), 5 mesi a Canowindra e 10 mesi a Taree, tra il dicembre 1941 al dicembre 1946.

I flashback riportano all’attualità vissuta dal narrante, con ritorno su luoghi ove avvennero proiezioni di film di Bruno Dell’Amico

La quarta parte , “Il ritorno da lontano”, riprende la storia della prigionia in Australia ed avviene la “chiusura del cerchio”, ovvero attraverso i contatti del figlio Evandro con Associazione di Amicizia italo australiana, avviene la risoluzione di un “mistero”..che trova la sua conclusione nel secondo libro “Il viaggio australe” (ove viene pubblicato il  corposo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia e viene descritta una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia, ovvero  il viaggio di ritorno del figlio, 70 anni dopo, sulle orme del padre, nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales e dintorni).

L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO” è stato presentato :

-il 7 aprile 2016 , a Firenze, presso il Consiglio Regionale Toscano, assieme al “Progetto Cineteca”

-nel Luglio 2016, a Carrara,  durante la Festa Provinciale CGIL di Massa Carrara;

 -il 5 Agosto 2016 ,in occasione della missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia in AUSTRALIA, con il patrocinio di Regione Toscana, Comune di Carrara, Massa ed il sostegno di ANPI e CGIL MS, nella città di COWRA (New South Wales) ove nel 1941 era stato aperto un grande campo di concentramento. Lì, ed in altre zone dell’Australia, Bruno, assieme a migliaia di militari Italiani fu imprigionato o sottoposto a lavori agricoli in fattorie.

Il libro ha ricevuto  premi speciali dalla giuria anche in Concorsi Letterari Europei

come il “San Domenichino e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo”, edizione 2017. Massa, 19 febbraio 2021                                                                   Evandro Dell’Amico

Attori e Artisti

A series of remarkable events has contributed to a greater understanding of the staging of a play at Cowra Camp June 1946.

Background

A special thank you to the following people and their contributions:

Hugh Cullimore: Assistant Curator- Art Section, Australian War Memorial Canberra, for his knowledge of Cowra artists Carlo Vannucci and Eliseo Pieraccini;

Francesca Maffietti: from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) granddaughter of  Ippolito Moscatelli for the photos of the Cowra Chapel;

Marco Lucantoni: from Napoli, son of Stefano Lucantoni for a program from the play ‘L’Antenato’ staged at Cowra 28th June 1946.

The Play

In Cowra POW Camp on the 28th June 1946, a group of Italian prisoners of war staged L’Antenato [The Ancestor] a Commedia in 3 Atti by Carlo Veneziani. This play was first staged in Genoa 1922 and in 1936 a film based on the play was produced. Click to read the script for the play.

The carefully designed and produced program highlights the efforts the men made for their production. If the quality of the program is a reflection on the efforts of the men in staging this play, then this production must have been excellent.

The play was directed by Guerrino Mazzoni, the sets created by Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci. Construction and equipment were by Stefano Lucantoni, Renato Bianchi, Felice di Sabatino, Luigi Proietti, Armano Mazzoni and Cesare Di Domenico. Program design (screenwriter) was by Giuseppe Carrari.

 Performers were Bruno Pantani, Guerrino Mazzoni, Carlo Vannucci, Tarcisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico*, Luigi Giambelli, Renato Bazzani, Marcello Molfotti, Alvise Faggiotto, Stefano Lucantoni.

The Actors

The roles were played as follows:

Il Barone di MONTESPANTO Bruno Pantani

L’ingegnere Guiscardo MONTESPANTO  Guerrino Mazzoni

La Signora LEUCI Carlo Vannucci

VANNETTA figlia della signora Leuci  Tarcisio Silva

GERMANA fidanzata di Guiscardo Bruno Dell Amico

FANNY nipote di Egidio Luigi Giambelli

Il Cavalier BERGANDI Renato Bazzani

SAMUELE GANGA l’usuraio Marcello Molfotti

Il domestico ASCANIO Alvise Faggiotto

Il custode EGIDIO Stefano Lucantoni

Reflections

Marco Lucantoni shared this program with me in October 2018, but its true value was not realised until the pieces of this historical puzzle were patched together.

Marco remembers, “My father [Stefano] often told me about his friend, this great artist who was Carlo Vannucci, creator of the Viareggio carnival floats.”  

Carlo Vannuci, Tascisio Silva, Bruno Dell’Amico and Luigi Giambelli played the female roles. Males playing the females is a recipe for a highly comedic and hilariously funny performance.

These men came from all walks of life; some were single, others were married; their ages ranged from 25 to 34 years; and two brothers were part of the group.

The historical context of the play’s performance is that the majority of Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm work by February 1946 with a promise of ‘going home soon’. Italian prisoners of war from Queensland and New South Wales were brought into the camps at Cowra, Hay and Liverpool to await repatriation.

L’Antenato was performed in June 1946; a little reprieve from the boredom and angst associated with the wait to return home. It would be 7 months for most of the Italian prisoners of war before they landed at Naples.

Fourteen of the seventeen men sailed on the Alcantara, departing Sydney on 23.12.46. Renato Bazzani left Sydney on the Moreton Bay on 30.7.46 while Lugi Proietti and Luigi Giambelli departed on the Ormonde from Sydney on the 31.12.46.

A quiet reflection from the great bard Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts…

The Italians were sons, fathers, husbands, soldiers, prisoners of war, international travellers, letter writers, multi-linguists, diary keepers, actors, artists and eventually ‘FREE’.  

The Cast and Crew

I include the details of the cast and crew in the hope that their families will find this article and this personal connection to the past.

Marcello Molfotti 1912 Mechanic Quesa Lucea (Quiesa [Lucca]) [Navy]

Stefano Lucantoni 1914 Plumber from Roma

Eliseo Pieraccini 1914 Clerk from Viareggio (Lucca)

Renato Bazzani 1915 Milano Policeman

Tarcisio Silva 1916 Clerk from Milano

Renato Bianchi 1917 Carpenter from Milano

Guerrino Mazzoni 1917 Clerk from Bologna (brother to Armano)

Alvise Faggiotto 1917 Verona Farmer

Cesare Di Domenico 1917 Farmer from Capistrello (Aquila)

Luigi Proietti 1919 Butcher Roma

Giuseppe Carrari1919 Clerk from Piombino (Livorno)

Felice di Sabatino 1919 Blacksmith Roma

Bruno Pantani 1919 Butcher from Roma

Luigi Giambelli 1920 Mechanic Milano

Bruno Dell’Amico* 1920 ELETTROTECNICO Carrara

Carlo Vannucci 1920 Decorator from Viareggio (Lucca)

Armano Mazzoni  1921 Clerk Bologna (brother to Guerrino)

*Bruno Dell’Amico: soldato, prigioniero di guerra, sindacalista e politico socialista, cineaste. Bruno’s son Evandro has written 3 books about his father: L’Uomo Tornato da Lontano, Il Viaggio Australe, L’Artigiano dell’Immagine and 1 book about his uncle Evandro who was a prisoner of war in Germany: In Mio Nome, Mai Piu

Two Artists and a Cowra Chapel

Eliseo Pieraccini and Carlo Vannucci are names on the lists of Italian prisoners of war sent to Australia during WW 2.  Individually, they were just a number and a name; their details were recorded and notated on multiple Australian Military Forces forms.

But there are invisible threads that connect the two men.  They were both from Viareggio (Lucca) a seaside town on the Tuscan coast.  They arrived in Australia from India onboard the Mariposa. Their only placement in Australia was Cowra: 27.4.44 until repatriation onboard the Alcantara 23.12.46. They both left a lasting legacy.

Vannucci’s occupation is recorded as ‘decorator’ and Pieraccini’s occupation is ‘clerk’. They are names that remain forever connected to this history and Cowra, because during their time in Cowra, they painted ‘renaissance’ style Altar Panels for Cowra Camp 12 (C).

Cowra Altar Compound 12 (C) c. 1946  (photo courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)

The coloured photo of the chapel at Camp 12(C) was one of three photos Ippolito Moscatelli took home to Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano)  with him; souvenirs of life as a prisoner of war in Australia. At first glance, granddaughter Francesca  Maffietti thought this was a chapel in Italy.  Her grandparents made pilgrimages to many chapels in Italy, taking photos along the way. At first glance this chapel could be mistaken for an Italian chapel; the decorations are undoubtedly Italian in style.  Eliseo and Carlo through their art, brought a little of Italy to Cowra.

The wooden floor, corrugated iron roof, exposed beams and gaps between walls and roof: this is the chapel in 1946. The altar is painted in a fashion to appear like marble. The details are beautiful: the motif of the Holy Ghost represented as a dove above the crucifix, the cross on the front of the altar, the paintings of Mary and Jesus, the backdrop painted in burgundy, whites and shades of black. In contrast is the November 1941 chapel for Cowra Camp 12 (C). It consisted of an outdoor altar. Quite possibly this original altar eventually found a home inside a hut and bit by bit, decorative paintings were added as were religious items.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle Galles du Sud, camp de Cowra No 12, section C. Autel en plein air. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, camp 12, section C. Outdoors altar.

Outside Altar Cowra Camp 12 C 12.11.41 (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00217)

The Altar panels of Mary and Jesus are stored at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery. Details about the panels can be found at: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/6550175/council-seeks-heritage-listing-for-italian-pow-art-works/

The Virgin Mary painted by Eliseo Pieraccini (left) and Jesus painted by Carlo Vannucci (right) (photos from The Cowra Guardian December 24 2019, Council Seeks Heritage Listing for Italian POW Art Works)

Carlo Vannucci

In addition to this little know history is the close connection between Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge and Carlo Vannucci. Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator at the Australian War Memorial provides the following information:“Sergeant Robert Dunlop Burge (N386934) was in charge of the Engineering section at Cowra prisoner of war camp from 15 May 1942 to 29 April 1947. During his service as a guard, Sergeant Burge formed friendships with several of the prisoners, including Italian artist Carlo Vannucci. Vannucci had been captured in Libya and transported by the US Navy to Australia, where he was interned in Cowra. Sergeant Burge organised paints and canvas from old flour bags for Vannucci and other artists in the camp. Sergeant Burge’s wife, Jenny Catherine Burge, regularly travelled on the train to visit her husband serving at the camp. Vannucci painted [a] portrait of Jenny for Sergeant Burge, as a gift.” And the same initial descriptor with this quote: “Sometime later on a routine workshop inspection Vannucci took me by surprise with a gift of a framed painting which he had signed” Burge said in 1975, in an article published in the local paper at the time, as reported by the ‘Cowra Guardian’, 5 June 2014. “It was an impression from memory of a sea view in his home town Viareggio, an Italian well known seaside resort…The painting was an expression of Vannucci’s thanks.”

Colleen Hill, daughter of Sergeant Burge visited Carlo in Italy in 2014 as reported: https://www.cowraguardian.com.au/story/2332256/a-new-generation-of-friendship/

Carlo Vannucci on return to Italy continued his artistic passion with his involvement in the Carvevale di Viareggio: https://2017.gonews.it/2015/09/30/viareggio-carnevale-morto-carlo-vannucci-decano-dei-carristi/  The facebook group: Carnevale di Viareggio highlights a number of Carlo’s works. 

“La vacca capitolina” di Carlo Vannucci (Carro di prima categoria)terzo premio al CarnevalediViareggio 1979

Eliseo Pieraccini

In the Relic Collection of the Australian War Memorial, there is a sculpture that is attributed to Eliseo Pieraccini.  Hugh Cullimore Art Curator provides the following information: The two [photos] titled CR25408 are of the Pieraccini work we have, with scant details on its creation. I note its strong Art Deco appearance, a style that was sliding out of fashion by the time of the War.

Statue made by Eliseo Pieraccini (AWM CR25408)

What works of art did your father bring home from Italy?

Did they create an item in wood or metal?

Do you have a painting or sketch made by your nonno?

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― 
Pablo Picasso

A special thank you to Francesca Maffetti, granddaughter of Ippolito Moscatelli and Hugh Cullimore, Art Curator Australian War Memorial for their contributions to this article.

POST SCRIPT: The history of the Cowra Camp is complicated.  It consisted of 4 compounds: A, B, C and D each capable of accommodating 1000 people. It housed prisoners of war: Italian, Japanese, Korea and Formosan; and internees: Italian, Indonesian and Javanese.  Which group lived in which compound changed during the years of its operation : 1941-1946.

In 1942 Compound D was named: Special Camp 12 (D) for Italian prisoner of war Dysentery Carriers [amoebic and bacillary carriers].

Cowra Camp also housed children. Indonesian families were interned at Cowra in September 1943.

By 1944 Compound D housed Japanese Officers, Formosans and Koreans.

Such was the complexity of the prisoner of war and internment camps in Australia.