Jennifer Ellis stumbled across a portrait of a lady and so began her journey to understand the history behind the portrait and painter…
Jennifer writes, “It was purchased in a second hand shop in Smythesdale Victoria for the sum of two dollars. It’s not framed . On canvas . On back is branded 1943 on the canvas. In red writing it has Riccardo del.bo Parma Italy. The front is signed like the picture in [your Del Bo] article and dated 1946. Pow . The detail is beautiful.”
Signature of Riccardo Del Bo 1944 and 1946
(photos courtesy of Janette Ratcliffe (Jones) and Jennifer Ellis)
It is with thanks to Janette Ratcliffe (Jones) that we know a little about Del Bo and his time on the Jones farm at Severnlea via Stanthorpe. Riccardo Del Bo was from the Parma region in Italy and had been captured in Greece on 24th January 1941. He arrived in Australian on ‘Queen Mary’ 13th October 1941 and was sent to Cowra PW & I Camp until his transfer to Stanthorpe via Gaythorne PW & I Camp in Mid October 1943.
On 7th February 1945 he was transferred to Murchison PW & I Camp in Victoria until his repatriation to Italy on the ‘Otranto’ on 10th January 1947.
It would appear that Jennifer’s ‘Del Bo’ was painted while he was in Murchison PW & I Camp. The answers to the questions: who is the lady in the painting? how did the painting get from a prisoner of war camp to a second hand shop? what is this painting’s story? Did Del Bo continue painting? will probably never be known. Shortly after Del Bo’s arrival at Murchison, he was photographed: he is the last man standing on the right.
Jennifer’s keen eye and interest in the history of her second hand bargain, means that another small part of the history of Italian prisoners of war in Australia has been pieced together.
Jennifer reflects, ” I am also happy that I have found some history of this picture. The man I purchased it from can’t remember where he got it from as its been hidden away… When I told him about the history he was amazed. He is an antique/junk seller, and when I mentioned the pow under the signature he was surprised that he missed it. As I said it’s still probably only worth two dollars- but worth more in the history of it. I don’t think it has ever been framed. I’d say perhaps he [Del Bo] made it as a gift for someone and they kept it in a draw rolled up. It would be great to see if he continued his art. “
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Elliot
Vito Eliseo has a passion for local history and undertakes research trying to reconstruct the stories of all those from his village who died during WW II. Vito believes that is important to make these stories known to future generations. He is concerned that in Italy there are still children who do not know what happened to their parents.
One of the Italian prisoners of war who died in Australia during WW2 was Martino D’Aniello, a relative of Vito.
Vito explains, “Unfortunately no one is left of Martino’s immediate family, there were 2 brothers and a sister… I could not find any grandchildren.” Vito has written, In memoria di Martino D’Aniello which you can read at the end of this article.
Martino, a waiter from Serre (Salerno), was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk, Libya on the 22nd January 1941. He was 24 years old when he died at the Waranga Hospital [28 Camp Hospital], Murchison Camp Victoria on 3rd December 1944.
This is the sadness of war; regardless of where a soldier died: Libya, Egypt, India or Australia; regardless of whether the man died in battle, in a field hospital or in a prisoner of war hospital; the death of a young man is a tragedy.
List of Italians laid to rest at The Ossario (Photo courtesy of Alex Miles)
The government records offered up a little information about Martino’s death. Martino died 3 days after being sent to hospital for “Acute Nephritis” and then he was buried at the Murchison Cemetery on 5th December 1944. In 1961, his remains were exhumed and he was re-interred at The Ossario* Murchison on 6th September 1961 and his name is on a bronze plaque at its entrance.
There is some comfort in knowing where Martino now ‘rests in peace’. There is no comfort though knowing that your loved one died on the other side of the world without family and friends.
A series of extraordinary and unconnected circumstances, has brought to light an invaluable insight into the funeral of Martino. Martino’s funeral was photographed by a representative from the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-10)
On the 5th December 1944, under an Australian summer’s sky; surrounded by Cypress pines and eucalyptus, Martino’s compatriots stand solemnly at his graveside. He was far from home, but Martino was not alone.
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-11)
Australian soldiers from the Murchison Camp together with Italian prisoners of war respectfully farewelled Martino. Vito reflects, “it is a consolation for his family to know that Martino did not die alone, he had the comfort of his companions and the generous people near him who considered him a guest and not a prisoner.”
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-13)
Grave of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944with temporary marker front right(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-12)
As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.
Martino D’Aniello nasce a Serre il 13 ottobre 1920 da Valentino e Michelina Mennella, un ragazzo come tanti altri, frequenta la scuola fino alla V elementare, e come tutti i suoi coetanei viene chiamato alla visita di leva il 6 giugno 1939, ed essendo di sana e robusta costituzione, per di più patentato, viene arruolato per poi essere chiamato alle armi il 1 febbraio 1940.
Viene assegnato al 1° Reggimento Fanteria G.a.F. (Guardia alla Frontiera) del XX° C.A. in Napoli, dopo la vestizione ed il necessario addestramento il giorno 8 marzo si imbarca per arrivare a Tripoli il giorno 11 marzo 1940.
Assegnato al XXXV° Settore di copertura, già dal successivo 11 giugno, viene a trovarsi in “territorio in stato di guerra”, la successiva assegnazione al 6° Autogruppo di Manovra lo condurrà a Tobruk, ed è su tale città che si stà concentrando l’attenzione degli inglesi per l’importanza strategica del suo porto.
La città cinta d’assedio dovette capitolare e fu occupata il 21 gennaio 1941, con la conseguente cattura di tutti i militari italiani che vi si trovavano, ed è in tale data che inizia l’odissea di Martino, con la sua tragica conclusione.
Gli inglesi a seguito delle positive vicende belliche in nord-Africa si ritrovarono a gestire alcune centinaia di migliaia di prigionieri che dovettero inevitabilmente smistare lontano dalle zone di guerra, e Martino, in questa moltitudine, si ritrovò prima a Ceylon e poi a Bombay in India, da qui ancora un altro trasferimento, a bordo del piroscafo Mount Vernon, che lo vede sbarcare il 26 aprile 1944 nel porto di Melbourne in Australia.
In Australia viene internato nel campo prigionieri di guerra di Murchison nel distretto di Vittoria, dove ai prigionieri è permesso anche di andare a lavorare fuori presso terzi, cosa che, dal 27 giugno 1944, inizia a fare anche Martino andando a lavorare presso mr. Kyneton, un allevatore di ovini, questo lavoro durerà poco, fino al 2 settembre, perché si ammala di una grave forma di nefrite, e rientra al campo.
Per l’aggravarsi delle condizioni il 30 novembre viene ricoverato nell’ospedale di Waranga, però il male è incurabile e muore il giorno 3 dicembre 1944 ed il giorno 5 dicembre viene sepolto nel cimitero della città di Murchison, poco dopo i compagni di prigionia provvidero a costruire una tomba più dignitosa che non il mucchio di terra che si vede nella foto.
Purtroppo le sue traversie ancora non erano finite, infatti il settore del cimitero dove era sepolto negli anni 50 subisce un allagamento, e questo episodio fece si che un italiano, che viveva nelle vicinanze, desse inizio ad una colletta tra i tanti italiani emigrati e con i fondi raccolti fu costruito un MEMORIALE, ove nel 1961 furono trasferiti i resti mortali di tutti i prigionieri italiani deceduti durante la prigionia.
Ogni anno il tale MEMORIALE, la domenica prossima all’ 11 novembre vi viene tenuta una cerimonia di commemorazione.
MURCHISON, AUSTRALIA. 1943-01. PANORAMIC VIEW OF CAMPS OF NO. 13 PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (JOIN UP WITH NOS. 28523 – 28533.)
Murchison, Australia. 5 March 1945. 740 Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from C Compound, No. 13 POW Group are engaged daily in picking tomatoes on the properties in the Shepparton district. This photograph shows the men leaving the compound to embuss on trucks for transport to the tomato gardens. (AWM 030239/10 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)
The above photograph shows the men dressed in jackets, trousers and overcoats which were Australian army surplus uniforms dyed burgundy. Work details away from the camp required the men to wear these uniforms.
In total, there are 150 men in Camp 13 c. The group comprises of Italian: 93 army, 10 sailors, 11 protected personnel, 14 merchant sailors. There are also 21 Finnish merchant sailors and 1 Romanian merchant sailor.
All prisoners of war have the right to wear their insignia of rank.
The camp commandant is Sergeant-Major Ernani De Cesare.
The 3 officers comprise of 2 doctors and 1 priest. The average age of the men in camp is 30 years.
The camps have flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Each camp has a beautiful memorial to the dead, made by the prisoners themselves.
Murchison, Australia. 28 February 1945. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) working in the ornamental gardens at Headquarters, No. 13 POW Group. Pictured, left to right: 47574 G. Marrone; 61484 V. Marrone; 47720 A. Simone; 45751 N. Gullaci; 7235 G. Rapetti. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030227/13 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)
MURCHISON, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. 1944-05-22. MONUMENT BUILT BY ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR IN THEIR COMPOUND (13C) AT THE MURCHISON PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 066762)
The camp has a barracks for workshops: tailors, barbers and shoe makers. Some prisoners are taking care of the cement construction and gravestone engraving for the tombs of the dead comrades.
MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR EMPLOYED IN THE TINSMITHS SHOP AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061127 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Recreation and Sport
The camp has a library of 800 volumes. This camp houses 21 Finnish merchant sailors who would like to have books in English added to the library.
A barrack for recreation was constructed. It is a place for the orchestra and the stage plus seating for 500 people. Theatrical productions are presented from time to time. The camp has a small orchestra.
The cinema sessions are organised regularly via a small projector from the German camp. This camp would like to buy a small projector like the model from Camp 13B.
The sports field is big and is in the interior of the camp. The sport played mostly is football. The camp also has a tennis court.
MURCHISON, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. 1944-05-22. AN ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR SOCCER FOOTBALL TEAM OF THE 13C COMPOUND, MURCHISON PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 066755)
Apart from the ordinary chores necessitated by the normal upkeep of the camp, prisoner soldiers may be required to perform certain work outside the camp. This work is obligatory and is ordered by the camp commander.
MURCHISON, AUSTRALIA. 1943-01. PRISONERS OF WAR ENGAGED ON CONSTRUCTION WORK IN THE CAMP OF NO. 13 PRISONER OF WAR GROUP IN WHICH THEY ARE INTERNED. GERMAN AND ITALIAN PRISONERS, CAPTURED IN THE WESTERN DESERT, AS WELL AS CIVILIAN INTERNEES, ARE HOUSED IN THE CAMPS. (AWM Image 028598)
On the other hand, the suboffices, the protected personnel and the prisoners belonging to the merchant navy are not bound to the work. For the latter the work is voluntary. Officers may be called for supervisory work, but may also be available for another paid job. The officers are not bound to any work.
The working day is 8 hours. Two small breaks of 15 minutes each; one break for the morning tea and the afternoon tea. Lunch break is provided as well. Sunday is a day of rest.
Murchison, Australia. 5 March 1945. 740 Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from C Compound, No. 13 POW Group are engaged daily in picking tomatoes on the properties in the Shepparton district. This photograph shows the men leaving the compound and are checked out by an Australian Military Forces (AMF) officer and handed over to supervisors (right) in parties of twenty. (AWM Image 030239/08 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)
For movements of any importance, trucks are made available to the workers. prisoners in the Murchison Group’s camps carry out following work: gardening, logging, carpentry, cement-making, road building, camp improvement and unloading.
MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR CUTTING FIREWOOD ON A SAWBENCH AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. (AWM Image 061117 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The group has a large vegetable garden with an area of 120 acres where all the work is done by the prisoners.
Each camp has tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and hairdressers.
Apart from this work many prisoners of war take care of personal work: fashioning of cabinets, chairs, tables, wood carvings, painting, drawing, weaving, making various wooden articles and children’s toys.
With the exception of ordinary chores eg cleaning barracks and ablution blocks, all other work prisoners of war receive a remuneration which is established as follows:
Unqualified work – 7.5 pence per day
Work qualified – 1 shilling 3 pence a day
Supervision work – 10 pence a day, when the team includes only unskilled workers.
Qualified supervision work – 1 shilling 6 pence a day, when the team includes one or more skilled workers.
Murchison, Australia. 5 March 1945. View of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in C Compound, No. 13 POW Group, picking tomatoes on a property in the Shepparton district where 740 Italian POWs work daily. An Australian Military Officer is seen, middle background, on a visit to the pickers to ensure maintenance of output. (AWM Image 032039/11 Photogrpaher Ronald Leslie Stewart)