Tag Archives: Italian prisoners of war at Portsea Hostel

Felice compleanno

Jean

Felice compleanno con i migliori auguri.

Gordon

2 Aprile 1946

POW Jewelry Box (1)

Vic Adamthwaite grew up knowing the meaning of these words and the history behind them.  On 18th October 1945, Vic’s dad Frederic ‘Gordon’ Adamthwaite was sent to the Portsea POW Hostel and put in charge of a group of Italian prisoners of war.

Vic contacted me for some assistance and/or background information about the Portsea Italian prisoners of war and he shared his memories of this box :  “At the end of the war and prior to the return of the Italian prisoners of war to Europe to rebuild their homeland, some of them scrounged materials to construct a jewellery box and present it to my father Frederick (Fred) Gordon Adamthwaite. 

POW Jewellery Box Adamthwaite

He was a Staff Sergeant in charge of the POW Hostel  and treated his POW’s with dignity, respect and compassion. He reasoned that for them the war was over and that being away from their families in a war torn Europe not knowing their fate was difficult.

The box was presented to my father in appreciation of his kind treatment toward them; to be given to my mother on the occasion of her birthday.

The box was constructed with materials taken from bed frames, furniture etc, varnish scraped from same, heated and reused. The box was fashioned using rudimentary tools and with great artisan skills.

The box is constructed to look like a row of books with larger books on their side above and below the row of books.

It has a hidden catch which needs 5 steps to open.”

POW Jewelry Box (3)

Intricate Design to ‘unlock’ the Jewellery Box

Photos are courtesy of Vic Adamthwaite Bendigo Victoria

When Vic sent me these photos, I was lost for words.  This was history in a box; a gift from an Italian soldier to an Australian soldier; a prisoner to the ‘jailer’; but more importantly a thank you gift from one gentleman to another.

The box is beautiful and meaningful.  This history is a living, breathing history. As Australian and Italian families continue to find objects and photos relating to this POW history and search for answers, a greater understanding of this chapter in Australia’s wartime history is revealed.

Ricorda Cafiero

On 8th August 1945, Cafiero Veneri was sent to V26 Mornington Hostel [aka Fort Nepean and Portsea] to undertake maintenance and rehabilitation of the army facilities on Mornington Peninsula. His time there was short: 4 1/2 months.

On 23rd December 1945, Cafiero drowned while swimming off the Mornington Peninsula.  His body was never recovered.  Other Italian prisoners of war who died in Australia are laid to rest at The Ossario Murchison Victoria and they are remembered each year with an official service and ceremony on or around 11th November.

Other than a small newspaper article and the army records, there is no memory of Cafiero Veneri.  His body was never recovered and any memory of him disappeared with the passing of those Australian and Italian soldiers who knew him:

Caught by undertow at Point Nepean while bathing early yesterday afternoon, Dafiero [Cafiero] Veneri, Italian P.O.W. interned at the local camp was carried out to sea.  Attempts to rescue him were made by several eyewitnesses without success.

1945 ‘NEWS IN BRIEF’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 24 December, p. 3. , viewed 08 Jul 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205653216

From Porto Fuori (Ravenna) Cafiero Veneri was born on 25th August 1913 . His parents were Maria Fabbri and Alfredo Veneri.  He served with the Fanteria [Infantry] 250 Legione CC NN and was captured on the Egyptian/Libyan border at Sidi el Barrani 11th December 1940. Sent to POW camps in India, he arrived in Melbourne Australia 26th April 1944 on the Mariposa. He spent almost 8 months at Murchison POW Camp before being sent to V18 King Lake Hostel. The 150 Italians at this hostel were involved in forestry work and woodcutting.  V18 Hostel closed in July 1945 and Cafiero Veneri was then sent to V26 Mornington Hostel.

There is nothing more poignant than a signature. A recorded memory of Cafiero Veneri.

Veneri Cafiero Signature

RICORDA CAFIERO VENERI

 

 

Barbed Wire Clearance in Victoria

A special thank you to Vic Adamthwaite: Vic contacted me for information about the Portsea POW Hostel. His father Frederic ‘Gordon’ Adamthwaite had served in New Guinea and on 18.10.45 he was assigned to Portsea POW Hostel and put in charge of a group of Italian prisoners of war.

What information was there about this Portsea POW Hostel? And so another search begins….

PORTSEA POW Hostel

The first glimpse of this hostel is found in the War Diaries held in the Australian War Memorial:

WAR DIARY SECRET

LHG Melbourne 1 Aug 45

  1. Memo to Vic L of C Area referring to their memo 129728 of 19 Jul 45, and approving of the establishment of a PWC Hostel at Mornington Peninsula, to accommodate 100 Italian PW.
  2. Memo to Vic L of C Area referring to their memo 129728 of 19 Jul 45, and approving of the establishment of a PWC Hostel at Bellarine Peninsula area, to accommodate 100 Italian PW.

1/1/14 Headquarters Unit Adjutant General 6 (a) Prisoners of War, Adjutant General 12 (AG. 13) August – December 1945 AWM Digitised Collection: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1360591

Portsea is on the Mornington Penisula so now there were two documents verifying this hostel.

The second glimpse of this hostel was found in the newspapers:

Barbed Wire Portsea

RUSTED AND USELESS for salvage, hundreds of miles of barbed wire entanglements on Melbourne’s beaches are now being removed and buried on the beaches by Italian prisoners of war.  The entanglements were erected round the coast from Pt. Nepean to the shores of Westernport Bay when Australia was threatened with invasion by the Japanese.

1945 ‘BARBED WERE CLEARED FROM BEACHES’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 14 November, p. 1. , viewed 25 Jun 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245658636

The photo above was taken at Back Beach Rye. A second photo shows one Italian prisoners of war digging a hole to bury the barbed wire in the sand.

The third glimpse was found in a book: Coastal Guide to Nature and History: Port Phillip Bay written by Graham Patterson.

From a paragraph about Point Nepean: “During World War 2, Italian prisoners of war were put to work weaving mats of grass and reeds to prevent erosion of sand dunes.”

The fourth glimpse came from: Mornington Peninsula Shire Thematic History July 2013 by Graeme Butler and Associates:

“At Point Nepean, some 75 Italian POWs were housed from August 1945 to December 1946 at the Mornington Peninsula Hostel, also called Happy Valley, near Cheviot Barracks. Australian troops who served at Nepean at the time told how the hostel was a ‘miserable place, infested by flies and mosquitoes, unsewered and damp’.  The prisoners were typically employed by the army, planting grass at Cheviot and surrounding areas, covering sand dunes with mats woven from grass and reeds to combat erosion.”

The fifth glimpse came from the record of Bruno Anceschi:Anceschi Bruno Mornington

Referred to as V26 Mornington, Bruno spent time ‘at the beach’ from March to December 1946.

Aniello Amico’s Record reports that he spent time at both the V26 Mornington Hostel and V27 Bellarine Hostel.  Next step was to discover the location of the hostel at Bellarine Peninsula and what type of work the Italians were engaged in.

Mornington and Bellarine Amico Aniello

LONSDALE POW Hostel

The first glimpse comes from a newspaper article and subsequent letters to the editor:

“Destroyed Tea Tree

TODAY I received a complaint from Point Lonsdale that much of the tea tree along the cliff overlooking the ocean has been destroyed quite senselessly to make room for a P.O.W. camp which was engaged “in disposing of barbed-wire entanglements. My correspondent points out that much of the clearing was unnecessary, for it included a wide area round the camp.”

1945 ‘IN TOWN AND OUT’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 22 December, p. 4. , viewed 25 Jun 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245947833

A Point Lonsdale Ratepayer agreed with the sentiments of the article and the wanton destruction of tea trees, while a Lonsdale Local supported the clearing of tea trees by Italian prisoners of war and suggested that they make fire breaks while they were there, as the area was a fire hazard.

The second glimpse came from Victorian Heritage Database Report POINT LONSDALE MARITIME AND DEFENCE PRECINCT :

At the height of the war, there were fifteen camp buildings at Point Lonsdale. Towards the end of the war, some of the structures accommodated Italian Prisoners of War. 

The third glimpse comes from Margaret Bruin’s ABC article: The guiding lights into Port Philip Bay.  Scroll through the photos of the Port Lonsdale Lighthouse to a black and white photo of an Italian prisoner of war, arms crossed with the lighthouse and buildings in the background.

The fourth glimpse comes from Angelo Amore’s record card:

Angelo Amore PWCH Lonsdale

Angelo spent from Sept 1945 to March 1946 at PWCH Lonsdale (Prisoner of War Control Hostel): ‘a summer at the beach’.

Records can be confusing especially when different place names are used for the same prisoner of war site.

What is deduced is that one group of Italian prisoners of war worked at places across the Bellarine Peninsula and were accommodated at Point Londsdale Army Camp. The other group worked at places across the Mornington Peninsula and were accommodated at Portsea Camp at Point Nepean.

CAN YOU HELP

If you are a local from these areas, and know this history, please make contact and add to this prisoner of war history or assist with corrections of information.

If your father or grandfather has the words Lonsdale, Portsea, Bellarine or Mornington on their Service and Casualty Form, please make contact so that a list of names of Italian prisoners of war at these hostels can be compiled.