Tag Archives: Italian Prisoners of War India

Miracoli di Internet!

 

My research into Italian prisoners of war in Queensland has a number of public faces: the book Walking in their Boots, the website: italianprisonersofwar.com and the facebook page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia

It was through the facebook page that I received notification from Nino Amante in Italy. On 23rd March 2018, Nino wrote, “Sono il figlio di Angelo Amante, il più alto nella foto.”  Nino had not only found a photo of his father on the facebook page but he then found the website’s article, A Day in the life of …  and comments about his father’s time working on a farm ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian via Gympie 72 years ago.

This was an accident. Nino had been searching the internet for an article about his son, named for his grandfather, Angelo Amante, and instead found his father. Nino was overwhelmed.

I believe that things happen for a reason.  I do not know the chances of bringing together the son of an Italian prisoner of war and the son of a Goomboorian farmer. But a google search and a phone call* has brought together the two sides to this history.

Nino Amante’s words and contact has brought this story ‘full circle’. “E’ stata per me una grande emozione avere delle informazioni da aggiungere a quelle raccotle dall sua viva voce, quando mi parlava del period della sua prigionia,” Nino reflects.  Nino not only has knowledge about his father’s time on this farm, but he has a connection to Jim and John Buchanan who were young boys at the time and who have fond memories of Angelo.

More importantly, Angelo’s story before and after ‘Redslopes’ emerges.  At 19 years old, Angelo Amante began his military training, first in Turin and then in Bolzano.  He was a member of the 7th Reggimento Bersaglieri(marksmen).  He was then transferred to Taranto and in 1941, he left Italy by ship for Libya.  He was lucky to survive the journey to Libya, as many soldiers died after the fleet was bombed by the British.

Angelo Amante (1)

Angelo Amante: 19 years old

(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)

Angelo was captured at Gialo, a Libyan oasis town on 25th November 1941. Gialo was taken by British and Punjabi troops on 24th November 1941, but a small group of Italian soldiers continued fighting in the north east  El Libba sector.  After four hours of combat, two Italian had been killed and 27 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner.

Possibly the photo  below of a relaxed Angelo was taken at Benghasi, his first experience of Libya. Like many of his generation, Angelo spent ‘his youth’ in foreign and difficult circumstances. He returned home to Italy when he was 25 years old. Nino explains, “Sei dei suoi anni piubelli trascorsi fra guerra e prigionia.”

Angelo Amante (3)

Angelo Amante in Libya 1941

(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)

Angelo’s journey is like many of his peers.  Italy to the battle field to Egypt to India to Australia to Italy.  Angelo arrived in Melbourne Australia 29th December 1943. The next day he was in the Cowra PW & I Camp.  His time there is recorded in a group photo Cowra 6th February 1944. Ten days later, Angelo was sent to Gaythorne Queensland 16th February 1944.

A Amante standing first left

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. (Australian War Memorial Image 030173/15)

Before Nino’s internet search, he had one photo and the stories about his father’s time in Australia, but he did not know dates or places.  Nino says, “Sapevo che mio padre era stato in Australia, ma in quale parte di Australia? Che era vissuto in una fattoria, ma quale fattoria?”  But his time in Australia was always remembered with fondness, a place to which Angelo wanted to return.  In 1956, Angelo made preparations to emigrate to Australia with his wife and family. During a medical visit, it was discovered he had a small heart problem and his dreams of going to Australia ended. But his family kept safe a small photo of three men and two boys, knowing that it was an important part of Angelo’s memories of Australia.

Angelo Amante (2)

Angelo Amante , Salvatore Scicchitani (Schichitano), Vincenzo Cannavo with John and Jim Buchanan at Redslopes Goomboorian via Gympie

(courtesy of Nino Amante)

For over seven decades, this photo  did not have a context.  Nino knew that the photo was from his father’s time on a farm, but he did not know where in Australia this farm was located. Angelo told his family a story about chilli plants he had grown on this farm and now he knows it was Jim, a little boy who tasted the chilli with severe repercussions.  Angelo told his family about a trip to the city, to undergo a medical visit at the hospital and the wonder of seeing so many kangaroos on the way.

Jim’s memories and Angelo’s stories to his family are being slotted together. Nino writes that his father arrived in Australia from POW camps in India with very poor health. Angelo had contracted malaria and Nino remembers the story of  an old lady on the farm who realised the seriousness of his condition and encouraged him to eat and the need for him to regain his strength.    Jim knows exactly who this lady was, his Aunty Mag [Margaret], who was the matron (supervisor) for the Land Army girls on the farm.  Angelo’s visit to the Gympie Hospital is recorded in the farm diary: August 21 1944 – Angelo going to hospital.   And the stories travel back and forth between Italy and Australia and across the decades.

Upon Angelo’s return to Italy, he made his way home to Fiumefreddo di Sicilia and his widowed mother.  Angelo married in 1953 and moved to Mascali, his wife’s home town.  He continued to work the land and raised his family: Nino and Giuseppina.  In 1984, Angelo passed away at the age of 63.

Angelo Amante (4)

Angelo Amante

(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)

The sharing of stories and memories, the answering of questions and the ‘Miracoli di Internet!’ is like finding those missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle and finally being able to put them in place.

*In September 2017, I telephoned Jim Buchanan in Gympie.  I had been told that he was the person to speak to about some of the Italian prisoners of war in the Gympie district.  Jim’s words to me were, “I think you will be surprised with what I have to tell you.  I don’t think you will have found another one like this.” And surprised I was!

Jim’s father Neil Buchanan had kept a farm diary for ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian. Peppered through the entries from 7th March 1944 to 1st January 1946 are references not only about farm life, but also to the Italian prisoners of war at ‘Redslopes’. This diary offers a very unique and firsthand account about the employment of Italian prisoners of war.

On 24th March 2018, I telephoned Jim again.  I told Jim that I had some extraordinary news for him. Angelo’s son had sent me an email.  It took a few minutes for the news to sink in. Jim is rarely lost for words. I said to Jim, I wonder if Angelo took any photos home to Italy with him.  Nonplussed, Jim felt that this is not probable as very few photos were taken in those days.   Like Nino Amante, this journey for the Buchanan family is emotional and remarkable.

A Father’s Love

Liborio Bonadonna was a private in the Italian Army, serving with the 231 Legion Militia when he was captured at Buq Buq on 11th December 1940. The Battle of Sidi Barrani was the opening battle of Operation Compass and 38,300 Italians were captured at Sidi Barrani and Buq Buq from 10 – 11 December 1940.

Bonadonna, Liborio

Liborio Bonadonna

(NAA: A7919 C101539 Buonadonna, Librio)

A young farmer from Gela Caltanissetta, Liborio was living in Tripoli along with his wife and his parents when he joined Mussolini’s war.  His father, desperate for his son’s safety, fell prey to unscrupulous agents who, for a sum of money, promised the repatriation of their family members who were prisoners of war.

In a letter sent to Liborio, his father Carmelo Bonadonna wrote on 21st December 1943:

Dear son, here it was said that prisoners who are sons of farmers, were to be repatriated on the payment of six thousand lire, and I, for the great affection I bear you, was one of the first to pay; in fact they asked us for one of your letters in order to have your address.  Up to the present, we have seen nothing.  Imagine, dear son, how happy we all in the family were for just then I did not know what I could do for the love of you.

Liborio had spent almost three years in camps in India and would not arrive in Italy for another three years. The actions of his father however highlight how anxious the family were to ensure a safe and early return of Liborio.

From Cowra, Liborio was assigned to work on farms at N8 PWCC Orange and N24 PWCC Lismore. Suffering on-going health issues, he was sent to local and military hospitals and was eventually transferred to Murchison for consideration for early repatriation on the basis of medical grounds.

Such was his health,  he was on the list to embark on the Andes which left Australia on 3rd August 1945. Unfortunately, on 16th July 1945 he was sent to 28 Australian Camp Hospital at Tatura which was part of the Murchison POW complex.  He missed early repatriation and was to stay in hospital for two and a half months.

Liborio 28 ACH

28th Australian Camp Hospital Tatura

(AWM Image 052452)

The irony of his situation was that while he was approved for early medical repatriation he was too unwell to travel.  His medical condition had deemed him ‘medically’ unfit to work and gave him priority for repatriation on medical grounds. During 1946, several transports for special circumstance cases, left Australia for Naples but Liborio was overlooked.

While he considered himself to be well enough to travel, he was identified as having need for specialist medical attention during the voyage to Italy. He could only be repatriated once as specially fitted out ship became available.

On 10th September 1946, in a letter to the Camp C.O. he presented his case:

Just at the time when the repatriation of the sick was to take place I was in the Waranga military hospital whence I was discharged early in September…

The present repatriation lists from which I have been exclude because repatriation is to be effect by ordinary means (i.e. in ships not especially adapted for transport of the sick) include nearly all the sick who, like me, were then considered as needing attention during the voyage.

Today I will to inform you that, notwithstanding a year’s stay in camp without any special treatment, my condition is such as to enable me to stand the possible discomforts of the trip home; I therefore request to be reinscribed on the above mentioned list, taking upon myself the full and complete responsibility in the event of any possible deterioration of my health.

My family live in Tripolitania and it is my urgent wish to rejoin it in the shortest possible time.  To the above I can only add the prayer that you will kindly consider my request.

The Empire Clyde* returned Liborio to Italy. It was a Royal Navy Hospital Ship which departed Sydney for Naples on 12th December 1946. There were 226 Italian prisoners of war on board who had embarked at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

But Liborio’s return to his family in Tripoli was further delayed. Once he arrived in Naples, he required an operation.  Fighting bureaucracy, he tried to gain permission several times to reach Libya and his wife and parents.

Liborio’s grandson, Liborio Mauro says that “He told her [my grandmother] if I’m not able to join you, I would like to go back in Australia. After 3 times, he finally joined my grandmother in Libya where my father Carmelo was born in Tripoli in 1949.

Tracing Liborio’s journey as a prisoner of war has not been an easy on. His grandson  explains that his records have his name spelt incorrectly: BUONADONNA instead of BONADONNA, LIBRIO instead of LIBORIO.

But passion and determination on the part of grandson Liborio has ensured that Liborio Bonadonna’s story is told and his records and photographs of his time as a prisoner of war in Australia are with the family.

Liborio Mauro says, “All my family are happy and my father is crying for happiness. My grandfather was the most important person in my family.  He was a true gentleman, well-educated and everyone fell in love with him.  He was a strong and simple man.”

*The Empire Clyde was a British Navy war prize from the Abyssinian campaign. It was formerly an Italian passenger liner Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci-07

 

Liborio and Liborio - Copy

Liborio Bonadonna with his family c 1979, grandson Liborio Mauro on his grandfather’s lap

(photograph from the collection of Liborio Mauro)

 

 

 

 

Wide Variety of Uniforms

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Photos are from the Australian War Memorial Collection taken at Cowra and Murchison 1944-1945

On 16th August 1941, the second transport of Italian prisoners of war arrived in Sydney on board the Queen Mary.  What caught the attention of the press was the odd assortment of clothing that the Italians wore.  There were 817 Italian prisoners of war consisting of 405 officers and 412 ordinary ranks.  German prisoners of war also arrived into Australia on this transport.

Italians Down Under is a newsreel film taken in 1941. Watch this clip as Italian prisoners of war alight from a Sydney ferry onto the wharf and then step onto trains.

Italian POW Rossi Pith Helmet

Italo Rossi M/E 68057 Photo taken in India

 

BIG BATCH OF ITALIAN WAR PRISONERS HERE

WIDE VARIETY OF UNIFORMS

from Sun (Sydney, NSW: 1910-1954), Saturday 16 August 1941, page 3

Clad in an amazing variety of uniforms and headgear, a big batch of Italian prisoners of war – officers, N.C.O.’s and other ranks – has arrived in Sydney.

The party presented a remarkable contrast to that which arrived a few months ago.

Many to-day were in high spirits, and their demeanour indicated that they were not at all reluctant to ‘take up residence’ on Australian soil.

Several laughed and joked as they boarded the train that was to take them to their internment camp. Two defiantly gave the Fascist salute.

All of the first party to land were officers and among them were several airmen and one wearing dark blue naval uniform.

Sartorial honours went to a tall Italian who walked nonchalantly along the wharf clad in a sweeping dark blue cloak with scarlet lining and frogs.

An Alpini wore a slouch Tyrolean hat with a long feather and a grey well-cut uniform with thick woollen socks.

QM August 1941 Italian POWs

Headgear ranged from orthodox military caps to pith helmets and from blue woollen berets to improvised black felt skull caps.  Some retained traces of smartness in high-fronted peak caps of the Nazi types.

Taste in knee boots inclined towards the exotic in some instances. One officer wore gaiter-like coverings on his legs of a beige tint.

Knickers and Sandshoes

At the other end of the scale was an Italian in plain grey knickerbockers with white sandshoes.  Two wore dark eyeshades.

Mufflers ran the gamut of the colour range contrasting strangely with battered pith helmets and war-stained uniforms.

Many of the prisoners grinned cheerfully at cameramen but one was camera-shy.

He walked the full distance from the disembarkation point to the waiting train with a cardboard carton draped around his head and shoulders.

On the wharf was a high pile of luggage.  The Italians had come well prepared for their stay in Australia.  Several portmanteau and tarpaulin sheets covering them were camouflaged.

The rangers carried blankets and tin panikins.  A number were only youngsters.

QM August 1941 Italian POW

Several carried improvised draught boards and two started a game with pieces cut from a broom handle.

Medical Precautions

Exhaustive precautions to guard against the prisoners bringing dysentery to Australia were taken before the ship arrived.  Medical officers went aboard and carefully examined the medical history of every prisoner.

Elaborate arrangements had been made to have the men quarantined if this had been found necessary.

The Army Director-General of Hygiene made a special trip to Sydney to study the health situation before the prisoners landed.  Arrangements were made for the prisoners to be given meals on the train and they were accompanied by their own medical officers, as well as by Australian army medical men.

Panniers of medical stores were taken on the train to guard against illness on the journey.

Half a dozen of the prisoners who were ill were taken direct from the wharf to an ambulance and then to hospital.

Italian POW Hospital Queen Mary 1941

The photo below was taken in summer at Cowra. It shows the men some two and half years later and the odd assortment of clothing they wore.  Footwear consisted of sandals (possibly hand made), boots and high boots.  Clothing varied with tee shirts, buttoned shirts and safari suit tops of various colours being part of the Italians’ wardrobes.

Ippolito 3917517

Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49115 C. Trentino; 49354 G. Ippolito; 49592 A. Poggi; 49107 G. Zunino; 48833 R. Bartoli; 49212 R. Papini; 48863 S. De Micco. Front row: 48939 A. Leto; 49172 A. Mandrini; 57531 B. Protano; 49923 F. Carlone; 45196 A. Ciofani. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

(Australia War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes, Image 030173/11)

India: Camp at Yol

Yol Prisoner of War Camp was situated at the base of the Himalaya Mountains.  It housed Italian prisoners of war in four camps: Group V – YOL: Camps 25 to 28. It had its own currency.

V-P-HIST-03471-01.JPG

Yol Italian Prisoner of War Landscape Group V

Details of the camps are in the following article: Yol: Once a haven for prisoners of war

Lido Saltamartini was a resident of Yol Camp.  He made a camera and took photos of the camp which are featured in his book: 10,000 in Himalaya 1941-1947

Further information on Yol can be read at:

La storia dei diecimila soldati italiani prigionieri in India(take the time to read the comments at the bottom of the article)

and in Angela Giannitrapani’s book: Quando Cadra La Neve a Yol:

Cosa può mai spingere due uomini anziani a lasciare l’Italia per raggiungere un villaggio remoto alle falde dell’Himalaya? “Quando cadrà la neve a Yol”, nell’eco di una predizione, lo rivela. Racconta del viaggio che porta sulle orme che gli stessi protagonisti lasciarono cinquant’anni prima e che ora, ultra settantenni, ripercorrono. È un viaggio del tutto differente da quello del passato quando, prigionieri degli inglesi durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale, attraversarono quasi tutta l’India da sud a nord per raggiungere il campo di prigionia al quale erano stati destinati. Ora lo fanno da uomini liberi, ma devono ancora affrontare conti in sospeso e incontrare fantasmi sepolti nella memoria.

Quando Cadra La Neve a yol

As a tribute to the Italian prisoners who had been held captive at Yol, is this beautiful memorial:

Yol Monument 2Yol Monument

Yol Memorial to Italian Prisoners of War

(photos from Twitter: hpatil@himan127)

 

A list of Italian Prisoners of War who were sent to Yol can be found in an article by Giovanni Marizza: ALCUNI PRIGIONIERI ITALIANI IN INDIA

Further articles by Marizza: 2a Parte and 3a Parte

Money and Tokens

How many Prisoner of War money and Internment Camp tokens made their way back to Italy?

Upon entry into Australia, all money in the possession of Italian prisoners of war was to be ‘handed over’ to authorities.  Property statements were maintained indicating money on hand.  This statement was a receipt.

There are memories of the Italians having Australian coins with which they made rings for themselves and for their farm families. Black market trading in ‘canteen goods’ for Australian money is also inferred.  However, Italian prisoners of war caught with Australian currency were given 7 days detention for having money in their possession.

Property Statement.jpg

Property Statement for Antonio Arici

(NAA: MP1102/Arici, Antonio)

Many Italian prisoners of war managed to ‘hide’ money.  Alex Miles from Mooloo via Gympie has lost the Italian bank note he was given by one of the Italians.  It showed the she wolf with Romulus and Remus.

Veniero Granatelli has shared his father’s POW money.  His father, Filippo Granatelli managed to keep a bank note used in the Bhopal Prisoner of War Camp India, which is shown below.

Granatelli India

Bhopal Prisoner of War Currency

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

Very excitingly, are the coins that Filippo Granatelli kept hidden.  They are Internment Camp tokens.  These tokens were used as payment at the Army Canteen and their production and destruction was strictly controlled. A little of the history of these tokens is included below.

Granatelli Tokens

Internment Camp Tokens Australia

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)

An indication of how valuable these coins are today is the price for a set of tokens.   Considered a rare and unique collection, a set can be purchased for $7,950. An uncirculated threepence sells for $250.00 and a penny token $299.00.

Tokens

Set of Internment Tokens

(Photo from: http://www.macquariemint.com/wwii-internment-camp-token-set-vf-unc#product.info.description)

The reasons for their introduction are as follows:

a) to prevent bribery of guards

b) to prevent escaping prisoners and internees from having in possession any money which will facilitate their remaining at large

c) to prevent the use of prisoners’ and internees’ money for subversive purposes.

A Department of  the Treasury letter 9th February 1948 summarises the production and post war holdings of these tokens:

5/- 34643 produced, 33903 held

2/- 91720 produced, 84428 held

1/- 18000 produced, 169771 held

3d. – 224000 produced, 182022 held

1d. -144630 produced,  104161 held

How many Internment Camp tokens made their way back to Italy?

Prigionieri in India

The history of Italian prisoners of war in India is a grey’ area for me.  I do not read Italian, and many of the books and articles written about this history is in Italian.

But this history is part of the journey of the Italians prisoners of war who arrived in Australia from 1943 – 1945 and so with my friend ‘Google translate‘ I try to read about this period of imprisonment.

The following extract is by: Edmondo Mazzinghi Testimonial Yol-La mia avventura

Take the time to open the link as there are many drawings of the camps, the tents and the barracks.

The following extract makes sense of a common breach in discipline for Italian POWs in Australia: fastening ground sheet to bed. This was something that the Italians did in India camps, which allowed them a little privacy…

I separé. 
Alcuni nella nostra baracca, come nelle altre, dispongono pezzi di stoffa sui lati della propria branda, come a formare dei separé. Sentiamo la necessità di raccoglierci nei nostri pensieri, di isolarci, per quanto possibile, anche dagli amici, di non vedere nessuno. Vengono così distesi dei fili di ferro, corde o regoli di legno, in modo da appenderci quella stoffa che riusciamo a racimolare, per lo più lenzuola logore e messe in modo da formare una piccola stanzetta che comprende la branda, la sedia e il bureau. Ci isoliamo pur consapevoli di fare cosa sgradita anche ai compagni di sventura e lì dentro al separé non rimane che leggere, dormire, pensare od osservare il tetto di eternit che ci sovrasta.
Ma anche questi separé, col passare del tempo, non riescono a metterci la tranquillità sperata, anzi è sufficiente che qualcuno faccia un movimento o un suono che subito ne nascono litigi o risse.
La pioggia cade con monotona insistenza, le gocce d’acqua picchiano incessanti sulle lastre ondulate di eternit che coprono le nostre baracche dove da quattro anni abbiamo la nostra dimora. Ci troviamo nel bel mezzo della stagione delle grandi piogge, che per tre mesi continui dell’anno cadono sull’immensa catena dell’Himalaya.
Sono le quattro del mattino, non riesco a riprendere sonno. Sta per sorgere un altro dei tanti giorni della prigionia; quanti ne sono trascorsi, non ricordo; certamente tanti, ma quanti ancora ne dovranno passare ? Sono nella stanzetta di legno, nel separé con i miei amici Russo, Menichini, Garetti, Radoccia, Marcheselli, tutti tenenti dello stesso reggimento: un pugliese, un napoletano, un piemontese, un abruzzese e un emiliano. Io il “toscanino”.
Anche oggi abbiamo avuto una lunga discussione animata sulla pronuncia di una parola; poi con l’aiuto di altri amici toscani e di un piccolo dizionario, apparso chissà come, ho avuto ragione. Quasi me ne dispiace, è già accaduto altre volte. Ma questi toscani !
Il “vecio” il piemontese, si rigira sul letto e dà un colpo di tosse, forse anche lui non dormirà. Povero vecio, è stato tutto il giorno a studiare quelle sue equazioni differenziali.
Lamenti quasi umani lacerano l’aria e s’infiltrano attraverso le pareti di tavole nella baracca. Sono sciacalli che scendono dalla montagna e oltrepassato il doppio reticolato, corrono veloci verso i depositi di rifiuti delle cucine dove trovano da mangiare. Poveri animali, anche loro lottano per sopravvivere. Forse la nostra presenza e i nostri avanzi del magro pasto serviranno a qualcosa.
Dodicimila siamo rinchiusi in questi campi, senza sapere quanto ancora dovremo starci. Povera mamma, mi hai lasciato, non hai resistito alla mia lunga assenza; però sapevi che ero prigioniero e che ero salvo. Ma perché volli scriverti fra le righe, in modo da evitare la censura, che io stavo come a S. Matteo a Pisa ? cioè un carcere ? Volli che tu sapessi che io stavo male, al contrario di quanto vi si faceva credere. I prigionieri inglesi in Italia si sapeva che venivano trattati bene, ma noi no, eravamo diventati dei numeri, solo numeri da conta. Per me fu uno sfogo, per te forse quella notizia fu il colpo di grazia e così quando ritornerò non ti rivedrò più.
Piango nel caldo umido della notte che invade la baracca; piano piano, non voglio che mi sentano i miei compagni. Un forte rovescio d’acqua e un altro ancora e di continuo s’infrangono sul tetto e il rumore diventa assordante. Oh ! Posso piangere senza trattenermi: sudo e piango con la pioggia e l’incubo finisce; m’addormento.
Un lento e dolce squillo di tromba ci sveglia. Non è la tromba irruenta e bersagliera della sveglia italiana. E’ una tromba che sembra dispiaciuta di svegliare, ma che però ordina di tornare alla realtà. Che notte è stata anche questa. Lunga notte di tormento.
– Ohé ! sveglia, facciam press – ci voglion contare ancora ! –
– Uh ! che bellezz ! ma quando finirà sta storia. E piove e ‘un la smette più ! –
– Guarda tuscanin, anch’io ci ho la muffa sulle scarpe ! –
Russo, il più anziano di noi, con l’asciugamano sulle spalle e il sapone in mano apre la porta e esce per andare a lavarsi, quando è investito da uno che corre urlando parole incomprensibili; poi mentre si allontana fra la pioggia si capisce meglio:…

V-P-HIST-03469-34.JPG

Group II Italian Prisoner of War Camp India

(ICRC V-P-HIST-03469-34)

In India

Tripepi 10 - Copy

Clothing Inventory for Italian POWs in India

(NAA: A7919 C98988 Tripepi, Domenico)

Information about the prisoner of war camps in India is difficult to find.  The British oversaw the operations of these camp sites, many of which had been used during the Boer War.

Italian Prisoners of War in India is a guide for ordering a copy of the record relating to Italians who spent time in POW camps in India.

It is thanks to a number of Italian families that we can see and read about some of the experiences of Italian prisoners of war who were then transferred to Australia.

Adriano Zagonara, Andriano Zagonara and a group of Italian POWs in India

(photos courtesy of Paola Zagonara)

Paola Zagonara remembers the stories her father Adriano Zagonara told her about working and living in India:

Paola Zagonara wrote,  “Mio padre raccontava che erano nel campo di Bangalore,e che dovevano costruire I binari della ferrovia, che pativano la fame perche’il rancio era solo una scodella di riso integrale al giorno, e che era una festa quando riuscivano a catturare un serpente:lo arrostivano e se lo mangiavano sul posto, cosi’assumevano proteine della carne,e si mantenevano in salute.Me lo raccontava quando eravamo a tavola ed io non volevo mangiare, ma allora ero piccola e non capivo molto….un caro saluto!”

 

 

Ferdinando Pancisi and Reference from POW Doctor in India

(photos courtesy of  Tammy Morris and Nicola Cianti)

Ferdinando Pancisi remembers:

[I was in India for ] 2 years. I was working in the camp hospital. The doctor there wrote a letter of reference for me, here is the paper…He (the doctor) said that when you go back to Italy and you want to work in a hospital, give this letter to the doctors and they’ll surely give you a job.

He (the doctor) said that when you go back to Italy and you want to work in a hospital, give this letter to the doctors and they’ll surely give you a job. I was fine, I didn’t want for anything. I was doing a lot, male nurse, pharmacist, I did most things, because the doctor would just visit and leave!

[The doctor was a prisoner] Yes, the whole camp was run by prisoners. We made a hospital there just for the prisoners…

The 2nd World War was over in Italy but Japan was still going. In fact, our ship which transferred us to Australia was escorted by British destroyer ships.

(Interview with Ferdinando Pancisi 21 October 2107: Interviewers: Tammy Morris and Nicola Cianti)

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Salvatore Morello : Memories of India

(photos courtesy of Luigi Tommasi)

Salvatore Morello and Pietro Pepe were in India together and than transferred to work on a Boonah district farm.

They came to Australia on the Mariposa. Three ships came to Melbourne from India at that time. There were a total of 4056 Italians on the ships. Mariposa, SS Mount Vernon and Vernon Castle arrived in Melbourne 26.4.44. On board were 8 officers and 4048 ORs From Melbourne, the Italian POWs were put on trains and taken to Cowra for processing.

Sacred Heart of Maria was embroidered by Salvatore while in India.  The words 1942 and India are sewn into the banner held by the angels.

Foto Luigi Iacopini AUS__001 (2) - Copy

Luigi Iacopini with a group of Italian prisoners of war in a camp in India

(photo courtesy of Raffaele Iacopini)

life was monotonous and over time many of the men felt they were forgotten and became more desperate.  Health was the most serious worry.  At the camp, at Ramgarh many succumbed to beriberi and typhoid fever, ‘at an alarming rate’. The camp turned into a sea of mud and was filled with mosquitoes when the rains started.  Several hundred Italians died while interned during the war in India, some from natural causes but the majority from illnesses caught while in confinement.  For prisoners of war of all different nationalities, the war was characterised by a long, testing time of waiting in camps, longing for letters and hoping that their own news was getting through.  (Khan, Yasmin, The Rah at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War)

Vincenzo Piciaccia from Pescara del Tronto (Ascoli Piceno) was captured 4th January a914 at Bardia.  From Egypt he was transported to India. The photo below is of a young 23 year old Vincenzo at Bangalore 1943.  He was transported to Australia and arrived in Melbourne 26th April 1944 onboard Mariposa.

Piciacchia Bangalore 1943

Vincenzo Piciaccia Bangalore India 1943

(photo courtesy of Leo Piciaccia)

Filippo Granatelli from Sant’ Elpidio (Ascoli Piceno) was captured at Asmara 6th May 1941.  He did not arrive in Australia until 13th February 1945. The group of Italians  onboard the General William Mitchell departed from India and were the last group of Italian POWs to arrive in Australia. Despite searches, Filippo managed to keep hidden a relic from his time in India, a One Anna note from Prisoner of War Camp Bhopal.

Granatelli India

One Anna from Bhopal

(photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)