Tag Archives: Italian Prisoners of War Victoria

Another Del Bo!

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.

Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D2 Compound, No. 13 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 61970 N. Bruni; 48039 P. De Carlo; Unidentified; 49913 Q. Spognetta; 48016 R. Del Bo. Front row: Unidentified; 57177 G. De Vita; 57536 P. Rizzelli; 48145 P. Landolfi; 46993 H. Zirafi; 48153 M. Lo Cantore. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.  (AWM Image 030230/04 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

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. “

Portrait of a Lady by Del Bo

(photo courtesy of Jennifer Ellis)

Luck… Chance…Fortuna

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(Photo from Fortuna Villa Facebook Page)

For the 30 Italian prisoners of war who were sent to work at “Fortuna” Bendigo, they might have thought that this work placement was an illusion; a bizarre turn of events; a lucky transfer; a little paradise after Murchison POW Camp.

“Fortuna” is a Victorian 40 room mansion with opulent decor and furnishings in Bendigo Victoria dating back to the 1870s.

What did the Italians think of ‘Fortuna’s’ Roman Bath and Pompeii Fountain?

fortuna-bendigo-2

During WW2, ‘Fortuna’ was home to the Cartographic Coy (Royal Australian Survey Corps) responsible for war time mapping: “The Emergency Mapping Programme was initially for strategic mapping at scale four-miles-to-one-inch (‘four-mile maps’) covering a coastal strip 200 miles (300 km) inland from Townsville to Port Augusta and 100 miles (200 km) inland from Albany to Geraldton and key strategic areas in Tasmania and around Darwin and ‘one-mile’ maps of populated places. Map production was from existing State Lands Departments information and conducted jointly between State and Commonwealth agencies and Survey Corps units. The programme expanded to include more of Australia, New Guinea, New Britain and New Ireland and although many maps were of a preliminary standard only, providing general coverage critical at the time. ” https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Royal_Australian_Survey_Corps

On 22 January 1946, approval was given for 30 Italian prisoners of war to be sent to “Fortuna”.

Cartographic Coy Fortuna Bendigo

1/1/14 Headquarters Unit Adjutant General 6 (a) Prisoners of War, Adjutant General 12 (AG. 13) January to May 1946 AWM Digitised Collection: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1360591

I am yet to find further information about the type of work the Italian POWs did, or in what buildings they resided, but generally speaking POWs sent to Australian army sites were involved in rehabilitation of the site, storage of equipment and general maintenance.

Can you help?

Are you a Bendigo resident or a family member of the Survey Corps? Can you add any information or reference to the Italian prisoners of war at “Fortuna”?

Does your father or grandfather have the words: ‘Fortuna’ or Bendigo or Cartographic Coy on the Service and Casualty Form?

More information about “Fortuna”:

https://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2015/07/07/4269010.htm

https://oldestatesforsale.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/fortuna-to-be-sold-in-army-surplus-sale/

https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1775

(Photos from https://oldestatesforsale.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/fortuna-to-be-sold-in-army-surplus-sale/)

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

FOUND: Gastone Petroni and Salvatore Valentino are another two Italians who were sent to V26 Mornington. Vincenzo Andreucci worked at borth V26 Mornington and v27 Bellarine.

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.

FOUND: Antonio Trinchini was assigned to PWCH Lonsdale 20.9.45 and then has V27 Bellarine 14.10.45 on his form. Did the hostel site change or was there a name change?

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.