Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57063 A. Belsito; 57300 G. Lettera; 57314 A. Limongi; 57317 G. Lucente; 57478 D. Ruggiano; 57363 L. Mastrota; 57120 A. Chiaradia. Front row: 57473 G. Rocco; 45281 M. Coiro; 57386 V. Messuto; 48003 G. Di Fazio; 57208 G. Farina. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Francesco Chiaradia was showing his friend photos and information he had uncovered for his grandfather Antonio Chiaradia and friends Lorenzo and Domenico. His friend was amazed, in the photo is also his great uncle Giovacchino Luciente: an ‘accidental’ connection.
Then another coincidence emerged.
In February 2017, I interviewed Joyce Dickenson in Kingarory Queensland. Joyce was newly married to Dudley Dickenson when they employed two Italian prisoners of war in 1944: Giuseppe Lettera and Giovacchino Luciente who are both in the photo above.
Identity Card for Giovacchino Luciente (NAA: J3119 98)
Joyce remembered: “they were young men, ordinary men with no will to fight or to be the enemy. They were terribly homesick and would look forward to receiving letters which came on canteen day once a week on a Monday… They slept in a room at the corner of two verandas of a Queenslander [typical house style]…. they were scared of frogs. The veranda was unsealed and the frogs would get in. The men would stuff rags into the corrugations of the roof to try to keep the frogs out. They would catch the frogs and take them away but two days later they would be back…Dud [Dudley] set up a ping pong [tabletennis] table for them. I suppose to give them something to do… They weren’t allowed alcohol but they used the oranges to make liquor, making a still out of a 4 gallon kerosene tin. I don’t think they had much success with the alcohol, so I don’t count the still as a breach in the rules… they weren’t with us long, but it seemed like a long time. It was long enough for them to become part of our family and for me to have fond memories of those times.”
Identity Card for Giuseppe Lettera (NAA: J3118 91)
A special thank you to Joyce and her daughter Robyn for sharing these memories and being part of this historical journey.