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