Tag Archives: Italian Prisoners of War Eritrea

Captured… Eritrea and Abyssinia

Was your nonno or papa captured in Eritrea or Abyssinia?

Do you have any place names for prisoner of war camps in East Africa?

By mid-April 1941 there were 41,000 Italian and colonial troop prisoners in the Sudan.

After capture, where did these men go?

Here are some of the temporary ‘cages’ and camps mentioned:

Asmara Autopark

Below is an extract from Adolfo Orofino. Memories of Africa. The imprisonment in India. Tribute to dad by Gian Carlo Orofino.

In Adolfo Orofino’s diary there is the sequence of camps prior to the transfer of prisoners to India after the defeat at Cheren that ended the AOI.

First days after Asmara’s autopark defeat 3 4 April 1941 where the disbanded soldiers voluntarily arrived after an English proclaim that threatened death to those who didn’t surrender.

Cheren April 5, 1941

Agordat April 6, 1941

Cassala Sudanese border by train until April 9

Adurman Karthoum suburb 40 days [Ondurman or South Khartoum]

North Karthoum 22 May 1941

Here the prisoners were photographed and assigned freshman number

May 23 by train in Port Sudan arriving May 24, 1941

Steamboat Egra heading to Bombay in 8 days of navigation

May 31th 1941 arrival at port of Bombay

June 2, 1941 disembarked from the ship and by train to Bhopal.

Arriving in Bhopal June 4, 1941 then 2 months after capture.


Giosino Fino mentions a temporary prisoner of war camp at Maiceo. He was captured at Amba Alagi: https://www.idiariraccontano.org/autore/fino-giosino/

No. 1 Indian Prisoner of War Cage

Otumlo Hanger Massawa

There are several references to a temporary camp for Italian prisoners of war inside the Otumlo Hanger at Massawa including the photo below.



There were two camps at Khatoum: Ondurman (Kartoum South) and Khartoum North. They housed Italians who had been captured in Eritrea and Abyssinia.

Ondurman (Khartoum South)

This camp was situated 300 metres from the River Nile. 

In April 1941, this camp housed 182 officers and 73 non-commissioned officers and soldiers.

There were three well-constructed brick barracks which housed officers.  Ten officers were housed per room (3.5m x 6.5m). The officers were awaiting transfer. The non-commissioned officers and soldiers were accommodated in well-established 15 tents.

Three meals are prepared each day consisting of meat, bread, rice, vegetables and pasta.  There is a daily ration of 18 ounces of bread and 4 ounces of meat.

The prisoners of war arrived at camp without adequate clothing and there was difficulty in provisioning clothing.

There were six showers but the flow of water was weak.

As this is a transit camp, there were only about 50 Italian books in the camp library.

The soldiers received an allowance of 50 piastres per week. This represents one third of the pay when food is provided and the other two-thirds is remitted to the family under the responsibility of the Italian government.

Khartoum North

In April 1941 this camp housed 165 officers and 42 soldiers.

Generals Tessitore and Bergonzi together with Admiral Bonetti and their aides were accommodated in three pretty villas which bordered the River Nile. The Generals are being treated with the honours deserved of their rank and despite the conditions of their long and arduous journey, they have few complaints.  

The other men are housed in eleven spacious, well-constructed and appealing buildings.

The general impression is that the conditions were good. It was predicted that about 40,000 prisoners would be settled in eight camps in the Sudan, with the majority of the camps accommodation local colonial troops who are accustomed to the climate.

Camp 337 The Sudan

Camp 337 was situated some kilometres from Camp 329, in the same dry arid desert region in a valley surrounded by stony mountains. The climate is excessively hot and the air is dry. The nights are fresh. There is no malaria or yellow fever in this part of the Sudan.

This camp can house several thousand prisoners.  In April 1942, it housed 2500 Italian prisoners of war and 605 civilian Eritreans.

There are three distinct sections (cages) exactly the same. There are 72 tents in each section. Each tent accommodates 10 men. The facilities consist of kitchens, ablutions, washing facilities.  These are clean. 

The food is monotonous but sufficient for good health. Each man receives 500 grams of bread a day.

There are 300 Italian books, equipment for ping pong and football games, musical instruments for an orchestra.

Water is generally scare in this area and each section has a water outlet which is opened twice a day for one hour. The water is drinkable but slightly saline. The latrines are kept clean.  There is a special latrine reserved for dysentery cases.

Wadi Medani

Captain Kenneth Hulbert from the Royal Army Medical Corps remembers from 1941, cages consisting of big, barbed wire enclosures with tented, huts, latrines and cookhouses.  This camp was for Eritreans and Abyssinians who served with the Italian army.

Fort Baldiserra Eritrea

Documenti dei prigionieri di guerra is a facebook group hosted by Fabrizio Chiaramonte. Fabrizio is sharing a number of record cards from Fort Baldissera.

On a post November 15 2021, Fabrizio lists a number of prisoner of war sites in Africa.

Young men full of hope and dreams..

By the time Filippo Granatelli arrived in Australia in February 1945, he had already served 6 years in the Italian army, had been captured in Asmara  Eritrea on 6th May 1941 and spent close to 4 years in POW camps in India.

Granatelli Asmara 28 December 1939 lower left - Copy

Filippo (standing front row left and friends) December 28 1939

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

On  20.2.45, an Australian War Diary communicates, “350 Italians to SA for onward movement to WA.”  The date is significant: it was Filippo’s 30th birthday.  He had arrived in Melbourne on 13.2.45. This was his first birthday in Australia.

The die is cast,  Filippo Granatelli is to travel from Melbourne Victoria to Western Australia via South Australia. He was one of 155 Italian prisoners of war who arrived in Western Australia on 24.2.45.

In Western Australia he is sent to the Karrakatta Hostel, the Bunbury Hostel (State Forestry  firewood cutting and Department of Agriculture, hay harvesting, potato digging) before working on a farm in the Moora district (W25).

Movement Orders for PWIX GWM 20.2.45

from AWM52 1/1/14 Headquarters Units January to April 1945


But what of the young men like Filippo who fought Mussolini’s war in Eritrea?

Filippo kept a small number of photos from this time which gives us an insight into these young men and a very special thank you to his son Veniero for sharing these photos.

Granatelli right in helmet - Copy

Filippo Granatelli seated right 

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

Granatelli Dicembre 1939 first on right - Copy

Asmara December 1939 Filippo Granatelli seated right 

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)


Young men enjoying their adventure

1st photo: Filippo right and 2nd photo Filippo standing Cappadocia July 1937

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

Cappadocia was one of the training camps for Filippo during his compulsory military service.  The above photo and the certificate below, reminders of  22 year old Filippo’s youth.

War and imprisonment were to shape many young men’s futures.

Cappadocia 1937

Diploma for Filippo Granatelli 4.8.37 Cappadocia

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)


Watch this film on Eritrea : Eritrea’s Last Stand