Tag Archives: Italian Prisoners of War

The Footprints Project

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war

Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project is a community project supported by Australians in five states and Italian families in nine countries.****

Background

What started out as a personal journey to read about the Italian POW Camp outside of Home Hill has resulted in a comprehensive, diverse and rich collection of stories, letters, photographs, testimonies, artefacts, music, newspaper articles spanning 79 years: the battles on the Libyan/Egyptian border December 1940 to the present.

Over the past four years, I have heard these words many times over, “but you have it wrong, there were no Italian prisoners of war in Queensland”.

And this became a focal point for the research: to record this chapter in Queensland’s history before it was completely forgotten.

But like ripples in a pond,  Queensland’s history of Italian POWs expanded across and was part of a greater history and so the project extended and expanded: to other Australia states and to Italian families in nine countries across the world.

 

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What makes this research unique and diverse?

Perspective.

Contributions have come from far and wide:  farmers, farmers’ wives, farming children, the town kids, families of Australian Army interpreters, children of Italians who were prisoners of war, Italians who were prisoners of war, the local nurse, the mother of an ex-POW, government policy.

What does the research encompass?

Website: italianprisonersofwar.com

Facebook Page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia

Music Book: Notations for songs and dance music by Ciccio Cipolla.

Farm Diary: daily notations regarding farm life during war time including information on Italian POWs and Land Army Girls.

Discussion about our Queensland research at conference in Catania Sicily May 2019 on prisoner of war experiences.

Memories in Concrete: Giuseppe Miraglia from Enna Sicily and Adriano Zagonara from Bagnara di Romagna Ravenna.

Donations to the Australian War Memorial of two artefacts made by Gympie Italian prisoners of war

Two publications: Walking in their Boots and Costanzo Melino: Son of Anzano (in collaboration with Rosa Melino)

Journey of two Italian families from Italy to visit Queensland and ‘walk in the footsteps of their fathers’: Q1 Stanthorpe and Q6 Home Hill

POW Kit Bags: Adriano Zagonara and Sebastiano Di Campli

The Colour Magenta

Handbooks: L’Amico del Prigioniero, Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of War, Piccolo Guido per gli Italiani in Australia

Voices from the Past: five testimonials from Italian soldiers who worked on Queensland farms.

Letters written by Italian prisoners of war to family in Italy, to their Queensland farmers and to the children of farmers, written by mother of an Italian POW to a Queensland nurse, written by the Italians to their interpreter, Queensland farmer to Italian.

Photographs of Italian soldiers in full dress uniform, Italian soldiers in Libya during training, Italians as POWs with their Queensland families, Italians on their Wedding Day and with their families, Italians in POW camps in India.

Handmade items: embroideries, wooden objects, cellophane belt, silver rings, paintings, cane baskets, metal items, chess sets, theatre programs.

Contributions by nine Italian families whose fathers and family returned to Australia as ‘new Australians’.

Identification of five buildings used as prisoner of war accommodation.

Publication of three guides for Italian families to assist in their search for information about their fathers and grandfathers.

Collaboration with numerous Italian and Australian families; local museums and family history associations; journalists; translators; collectors of historic postal items; local libraries.

Did you know?

The website operates as a ‘virtual’ museum and library.

The website has a wide reaching readership to 118 countries!

170 articles have been written for the website.

My Wish List

In the beginning:

I had one wish, to find one Queensland family who remembered the Italians working and living on their farm. Thank you Althea Kleidon, you were the beginning with your photos and memories of Tony and Jimmy.

My adjusted wish list, to find three photographs of Italian POWs on Queensland farms. Then came Rosemary Watt and Pam Phillips with their collection of photos, a signature in concrete and a gift worked in metal.

….

Now:

To have the three Finding Nonno guides translated into Italian.

If I win Gold Lotto, to have Walking in their Boots translated into Italian.

 

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****What does the future hold… After four years of research, two and half years of weekly (and at times bi-weekly) website articles, two publications, thousands of emails, visits, interviews, cataloguing etc …

I plan to go at a slightly slower pace.  I will continue to work offline and in the background answering questions, assisting families and adding to this historical collection.

I will however republish articles in a chronological order starting with the soldiers and their battles. And I will slot in new articles and add new information along the way. Hopefully this will convey ‘the journey’ of the Italian soldiers from capture through to repatriation.

Join the journey and follow the footprints of the Italian prisoners of war.

 

 

 

Hay Camp: March 1943

Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp

26 – 29 March 1943

A day in the life of an Italian prisoner of war at Hay PW & I Camp

The details of daily routine are from March 1943. The photographs are used for illustrative purposes and are from November 1942, September 1943, January 1944.

Kitchen

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. COOKS AND STAFF AT WORK IN ONE OF THE KITCHENS OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46915 PRIVATE (PTE) VALTER VINCENZI (1); 46922 PTE GIUSEPPE VEZZIANO (2); 45236 PTE ANGELO CRETI (3); 45070 PTE ENRICO BRUNELLI (4); 46117 SGT PIETRO MAESTA (5); 45180 PTE GINO CALDARELLI (6); 46847 PTE ORAZIO TRICCOLI (7); 46897 PTE FRANCESCO TIRALOSI (8); 45390 PTE CARLO DEL VAI (9); 46512 PTE DOMENICO PANICO (10); 46569 PTE ANTONIO RAGAZZINI (11) 45632 PTE MASSIMO FACCHINI (12); 46585 PTE ALFONSO RONCA (13); 45092 PTE FLORINDO BUSSETTI (14). (AWM Image 063362 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Daily Routine

Day Starts 6 am

Breakfast 6.30 am

Medical Consultation 7am

Roll Call 7.30 am

Depart for Work 8 am

Inspection by Camp Leader 9.30am

Lunch 12.15pm

Depart for Work 1.15 pm

Medical Consultation 5pm

Roll Call 5pm

Dinner 6pm

Lights Out 10.15pm

Hospital

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. THE MEDICAL OFFICER AND STAFF OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP OUTSIDE THE CAMP HOSPITAL. PICTURED, LEFT TO RIGHT: 49775 LIEUTENANT (DR) FRANCO FREDA; 48274 PRIVATE (PTE) SANTE PRATICO; 46430 PTE SANTE PROVENZANO; 46010 PTE FRANCO LUPPINO; 45478 PTE MARINO DE LUCA; 46931 PTE GIOVANNI VALENZA; 45205 PTE ALBERTO CIATTAGLIA; 46169 PTE SANTO MOSCHELLA. (AWM Image 63361 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Sleeping Quarters

The barracks are made of timber planks with a tin roof and window panes.  Electric lights are installed. For ventilation and to protect the insides from dust storms and flies, metal screens are installed between the top of the walls and the roof.

Barracks

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-14. THE 16TH AUSTRALIAN GARRISON BATTALION AT THE PRISONER OF WAR (POW) CAMP. A VIEW OF THE MEN’S LINES. ALMOST ALL THE BUILDINGS IN THE CAMP ARE BUILT OF TIMBER, WHICH, UNDER THE HOT CLIMATIC CONDITIONS, ARE OILED ON THE OUTSIDE. THIS SERVES IN THE ABSENCE OF PAINT. (AWM Image 063207 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Between the barracks there are flower and vegetable gardens.  Some men breed rabbits. Some men keep pets such as birds.

Vegetable gardens and chess

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-15. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR RELAX AT A GAME OF CHESS OUTSIDE THEIR HUT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063354 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

In Camp 7, the Italians have built grass huts/pavilions to protect them against the sun.

Grass Hut 2

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR SHELTERING FROM THE HOT SUN UNDER ONE OF THE MANY GRASS THATCHED ROTUNDAS WHICH THEY HAVE BUILT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063359 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Each dormitory contains 28 berths. The bedding includes a mattress resting on  metal mesh and 4 blankets. Each dormitory has 12 windows and 2 doors.

Dormitories

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. LIVING QUARTERS OF THE ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063356 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Every man has a shelving for his belongings. The dormitories are swept daily, and once a week the dormitory is emptied and cleaned with soap.

Scrubbign out of huts

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-15. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP, WITH THEIR BEDS OUT IN THE OPEN IN PREPARATION FOR THE WEEKLY SCRUBBING OUT OF THEIR HUT. PICTURED, LEFT TO RIGHT: 46720 PRIVATE (PTE) SALVATORE SQUASI; 45236 PTE ANGELO CRETI; UNIDENTIFIED (NOT LOOKING AT CAMERA); 47970 PTE RENATO CORTESI; 46180 PTE VITTORIO MELI; 48255 PTE EDUARDO PIZZI; 45642 ANTONIO FURNARI; 46348 PTE RAFFAELE ORIGLIA; 46980 PTE SALVATORE VALENTINO; 46353 PTE GASTONE PETRONI; 46426 PTE EDMONDO PICCIONI; 48526 PTE DOMENICO LANDADIO; 46864 SERGEANT MAJOR FRANCESCO TUPPY. (AWM Image 063353 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Mess and Kitchen

Each camp has 4 refectories with long tables and benches. The non-commissioned officers of Camp 7 have a special refectory. All refectories are heated in winter.

Mess

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR HAVING A MEAL IN THEIR MESS AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46137 SALVATORE MARRA (1); 46825 OTELLO SILVESTRI (2); 45752 ANTONIO GRAMMATICO (3); 47852 EDUARDO ADORNI (4); 45142 FRANCESCO CUPPARI (5). (AWM Image 063370 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Each camp has two kitchens, each consisting of a large stove room, a macaroni room, a bread room, a food room, a meat room, a vegetable room and a fridge.

Soyer Boilers Kitchen

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-13/14. BATTERY OF COOKERS OUTSIDE THE KITCHENS OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 062927 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Ablutions and Laundry

Each camp has a booth containing 6 hot showers and 16 hot and cold water taps, a booth containing 30 cold showers, and two booths each containing 26 cold water faucets. In hot shower booths, hot water flows all day long.

Laundry 1

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. GENERAL VIEW OF THE LAUNDRY AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP SHOWING THE ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT WORK. THE LAUNDRY IS EQUIPPED WITH AND ELECTRIC WASHING MACHINE, COPPER, ELECTRIC IRON AND SEVERAL ADDITIONAL COPPERS ARE USED OUT IN THE OPEN. (AWM Image 063501 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Each camp has a laundry booth containing 4 boilers, 14 sinks and 26 hot and cold water faucets, as well as 1 ironing chamber.

Laundry

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP WORKING IN THE CAMP LAUNDRY. LINEN AND UNIFORMS FROM THE CAMP HOSPITAL ARE LAUNDERED HERE. ALL LINEN, ET CETERA, IN THIS ROOM IS DRYING ON THE RACKS AFTER BEING STARCHED. (AWM Image 063500 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Activities and Canteen

Camp 7 has an empty barrack used as a music room, a school barrack, an administrative barrack and a barracks of handicrafts. Camp 8 has a chapel, a barrack half canteen administration, and a barrack half recreation half manual work.

Chapel

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. 45005 LIEUTENANT PADRE I. VIRGILIO IACOBELLI AN ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, AT THE ALTAR IN THE CHAPEL OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE CRAFT WORK IN THE CHAPEL WAS DONE BY THE PRISONERS. PLAYING THE ORGAN IS 45192 SERGEANT MAJOR VINCENZO CAMMARATA. (AWM Image 063360 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Each camp has a barrack reserved for the canteen. There are no bars in these camps.

Canteen

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR PURCHASING GOODS AT THE CANTEEN IN NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46429 PRIVATE (PTE) FERDINANDO PUGGIONI (1); 46642 PTE ROBERTO ROSSETTI (2); 48444 PTE FLAVIO CERRI (3); 45743 PTE FALIERO GAMBI (4); 46161 PTE ALFREDO MUSACCHIA (5). (AWM Image 063363 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The school of Camp 7 is installed in an empty barrack. The teaching is done by the priest prisoner of war and deals with elementary matters. The class includes 15 students. Camp 8 school is in one of the refectories. There is no regular class, only that NCOs themselves study elementary matters.

The camps have almost no reading books. Each camp has a theater with stage installed in one of the refectories. An outdoor stage is under construction at Camp 7. Theatrical performances and concerts are organized from time to time. Camp 7 has an orchestra of 10 musicians and Camp 8 has one of 8 musicians. The instruments were bought with the profits of the canteens.

Orchestra

HAY, AUSTRALIA, 1943-09-09. GROUP OF ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR INTERNED AT NO.6. P.O.W. GROUP, WHO HAVE FORMED THEMSELVES INTO THE CAMP ORHESTRA. (AWM Image 030142/02)

Each camp has a large sports field. Practical sports are mainly football, basketball and boxing. Camp 7 has a game of balls and 5 tennis courts.

3905879

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR ENJOYING A GAME OF TENNIS ON THEIR COURT AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063364 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Work

Camp 7 has at its disposal a barracks for handicrafts divided into four compartments – hairdressers, tailors, shoemakers and carpenters.

Bootmakers

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-20. N77562 SERGEANT L. MULHOLLAND (1) NON COMMISSIONED OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP BOOTMAKERS SHOP AND HIS ITALIAN ASSISTANTS WORKING IN THE UNIT SHOP. (AWM Image 063536 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

A model farm and dairy of 120 cows provides milk to all the camps.

Carpentry.Dairy

Hay, NSW. November 1942. Two Italian prisoners of war (POWs) construct the roof of the dairy which is being erected at the camp. The bricks were made by other prisoners in the camp’s brickyard. Rough timber was also cut and transported by the prisoners. (AWM Image 150903 Photographer Harry Turner)

Dairy

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR MILKING COWS AT THE DAIRY FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE MILK FROM THE CAMP’S DAIRY IS FOR LOCAL AND HOSPITAL (14TH AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL) CONSUMPTION. (AWM Image 063412 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The construction by the irrigation canal system of a total length of 90 km has allowed the introduction of the cultivation of many species of vegetables.

Irrigation

Hay, NSW. November 1942. An irrigation canal constructed by Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from a nearby camp. (AWM Image 150892 Photographer Harry Turner)

A poultry farm for 2000 chickens has been constructed.

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. THE POULTRY YARDS AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063384 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. THE POULTRY YARDS AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063380 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Bricks for construction work at the camps are made by Italian prisoners of war.

Brick Making

HAY, NSW. 1944-01-13/14. 45161 SERGEANT MARIO CAPORASO, AN ITALIAN PRISONER OF WAR, WHEELING A BARROW LOAD OF BRICKS FROM THE MOULDING SECTION TO THE DRYING ROOM AT THE BRICK MAKING PLANT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 062935 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

A Chance Find

And a journey of discovery begins…

I received an email from Giulia Musini recently. Giulia wrote,

“Today I found this fabric napkin embroidered from a soldier prisoner in India. This little historical treasure was in an op shop in Western Australia. I was hoping to find the family of Antonio Fracasso, the soldier that embroidered this. Maybe through your page I can reach some experts or people related to Bangalore prisoners.”

Fracasso. Embroidery A XIX EF

Embroidery by Antonio Fracasso

(Photo courtesy of Giulia Musini)

Giulia had visited a second-hand charity shop in Witchcliffe Western Australia. “I was digging in the op shop and I saw the Savoia flag and the Italian writing … it was so touching I couldn’t leave it there forgotten in a pile of other stuff,” Giulia wrote.

After a little digging and emails to and fro, Antonio’s story emerges.

There were two Italian prisoners of war named Antonio Fracasso. Both were from Lecce region in Italy and both had spent time in prisoner of war camps in India.  One Antonio worked on farms in New South Wales while Giulia’s Antonio worked on farms in Western Australia. The first piece of the puzzle emerged.

The next part of the puzzle was how did Antonio’s embroidery end up in an op shop at Witchcliffe!

Captured at Bardia on 6th January 1941, 24 year old Antonio Fracasso was sent to India until his arrival in Melbourne onboard Mount Vernon 27th April 1944. The date on the embroidery, June 1941, indicates that his time in prisoner of war camps in Egypt was brief.

From Melbourne, Antonio was sent to Murchison Victoria for processing before being sent to Marrinup Western Australia on 14th June 1944.

Antonio Fracasso’s Service and Casualty Form highlights that he worked on farms in the district of W11 Prisoner of War Control Centre (PWCC) Kellerberrin (29th July 1944 to 8th December 1944) and W8 Margaret River (21st January 1945 to 14th November 1945).

And here is another piece of the puzzle, the proximity of Witchcliffe to Margaret River: 7 – 8 kms.  We know from other farming families, that the Italians gifted hand-crafted objects to members of the farming families as a gesture of gratitude.  Probably, 73 years ago, Antonio gave this napkin/handkerchief to his W8 Margaret River farming family.  Subsequent generations of the family did not realise the historical importance of the embroidery and its connection to the family and along with other linen, donated it to charity.

The significance of Giulia’s chance find is more poignant as Antonio Fracasso was never to return home to Italy.  Antonio died on 20th December 1945 while swimming in a dam on a farm at Corrigin.

Fracasso nla.news-page000003772085-nla.news-article44836696-L3-411333eda8c04fd18bd70e831559d833-0001

“DROWNED IN DAM.” The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954) 26 December 1945: 7. Web. 1 Jun 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article44836696&gt;.

Giulia is now trying to locate a family member of Antonio.  A stumbling block is the places recorded as his residence in Italy: Canaleuco Lecce and Casalano Lecce.  Unable to find either places on a map, Casarano Lecce might be the town.  Giulia has already made contact with the shire office of Casarano and surprisingly her email reached a gentleman named… Antonio Fracasso.

Giulia is hopeful she will find her Antonio’s family as she says, “I wish to bring this piece of Antonio home. We are moving there soon in Puglia, so close to where he was born. I feel he can finally, some how, go back home.”

Antonio’s embroidery was meant to be ‘rescued’ by Giulia. Her passion for history, Antonio’s story and Giulia’s return to Italy and the region of Antonio’s birth means that this chance find couldn’t be in safer hands.

Further information….

  1. A missing piece in the puzzle is what was Antonio doing on a farm at Corrigin, when his record has his last known whereabouts as Marrinup POW Camp. While there was no prisoner of war control centre at Corrigin, there were centres at W17 Kondinin and W15 Yearlering. It is likely that the farm of Mr WJ Keays was in one of these centres, where Antonio was transferred to work but he died before his record card could be updated.
  2. The newspaper article has Antonio’s surname as Saldato. Soldato = soldier. Someone only had half the story or was misinformed.
  3. Antonio Fracasso rests in The Ossario at Murchison Victoria.
  4. Givgno 1941 A XIX EF = Anno 29 Era Fascista. The Fascist Calendar began on 29 October 1922 and is written with Roman numerals.
  5. eta piu bella; giorni piu tristi = most beautiful age;  most sad days

Finding Nonno

The history behind nonno’s stories

Robert Perna from Detroit Michigan writes, “Many years ago my grandfather told me about his time as a POW from Italy. He surrendered in North Africa and was first shipped to Iraq. Then he was shipped to Australia and worked on a cattle farm. He told me it would take weeks to walk the fence and repair it. He said the owner owned a territory. 

I’m looking for any way to find out who he lived with. He passed many years ago, but his memory of his time there was always very clear. He did end up going back to Italy because that’s where his family was.”

And so the journey begins for a grandson to meld a grandfather’s stories with historical fact.

Using the guide Finding Nonno, Robert found with ease his grandfather’s Australian records which confirmed a few details: his nonno Arcangelo was captured in North Africa: Amba Alagi on 5.5.1941; he was sent to India (not Iraq); he was shipped to Australia: onboard the SS Uruguay in 1943 which docked at Sydney; and he was assigned to farm work: in the N11 Prisoner of War Control Centre Glen Innes.

Robert recounts the details of Arcangelo’s conscription and war service, “My grandfather went to Rome to go pay the taxes on his property. While there, they recruited him off the streets* and sent him to Africa. He could not say goodbye to his family.

From there he was sent to Northern Africa where he was in charge of a platoon. They found out they were being attacked at dawn. So they hunkered into a hill waiting for the African army to attack. Once they ran out of bullets, everyone surrendered, so no one would get killed.” 

The piecing of history continues giving credence to Arcangelo’s memories of the day he was captured 5th May 1941:

1 May 1941 Viceroy of Italian East Africa Duke of Aosta and 7,000 troops were trapped at Amba Alagi, Abyssinia by Indian 5th Indivision to the north and South African 1st Brigade in the south.

3 May 1941 Allied and Italian troops engaged in heavy fighting at Amba Alagi, Abyssinia.

4 May 1941 29th Brigade of the Indian 5th Division launched another attack at Amba Alagi, Abyssinia, capturing 3 hills between 0415 and 0730 hours.

5 May 1941 3/2nd Punjab Battalion advanced toward the Italian stronghold at Amba Alagi, Abyssinia at 0415 hours. They were pinned down by 12 Italian machine guns for the most of the day. The attack was called off at dusk.

British Pathe footage captured the Italians after the surrender of Amba Alagi. Another detail from this battle comes from Craig Douglas at Regio Esercito History Group in Brisbane: “When the Italian troops surrendered at Amba Alagi, the British commander allowed them to surrender with the full honours of war. In tribute to their tenacious defence right to the end.”

The battle for Amba Alagi, the last Italian stronghold in Eritrea. Italians who surrendered Fort Toselli seen marching down the road from the fort. c. June 1941

(AWM Image 007945, Photographer: Unknown British Official Photographer)

From Amba Alagi, Arcangelo would have been sent to POW camps in Egypt to be processed and assigned a M/E number: 289564 [Middle East].  From Suez he would have been transported to India.

Critical Past footage gives a window into the past; the arrival of Italian prisoners of war in Bombay India.

The next stage of Arcangelo’s journey is his arrival in Australia which was reported in the newspapers.  Two ships from India arrived together in Sydney 4th October 1943 with 507 Italian POWs on each ship (one medical officer, 5 medical other ranks and 501 other ranks: MV Brazil and SS Uruguay.

ITALIANS FOR FARMS” Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954) 10 October 1943: 5. Web. 22 Jun 2019 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59187793

1000 Italian War Prisoners Arrive” Kalgoorlie Miner (WA : 1895 – 1950) 7 October 1943: 4. Web. 22 Jun 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95630892&gt;

 

Arcangelo Perna’s arrival is documented on the Nominal Rolls Cowra 12 (c) POW Camp arrival from overseas 5th October 1943. He is assigned his Australian POW number : PWI 55833. Notice that his rank is Corporal though his other documents have his rank as Italian and Private; somethings are lost in translation.

Nominal Rolls of Italian Prisoners of War to Cowra

(NAA: SP196/1, 12 PART 2, 1943-1944 Sydney)

Within two months of his arrival in Australia, Arcangelo is assigned to farm work N11 C.C. Glen Innes.

Robert has a clear memory of his nonno’s recollections of Australia, “ He told me he worked on a cattle farm there. First thing he had to do was mend the fence with the owner. So they packed up the cart and took off. It took over 3 weeks to walk the fence. After that he worked there for a few years. Once it was time to go, the owner begged him to come back and live there. My grandfather said no, he had a farm in Italy. He never said anything bad about being there in Australia. He said they were a nice family who treated him wonderfully.”

Arcangelo’s Service and Casualty Form provides the details of his time between leaving the Glen Innes farm and his repatriation.  A documented four day stay in the Glen Innes hospital and his transfer from the farm to Murchison suggests ongoing medical concerns.  Those Italian who were medically unfit were sent to Murchison. And it is while Arcangelo was at Murchison, official group photos of the Italians were taken. 

A search of the Australian War Memorial collection did not turn up a match for Arcangelo. And Arcangelo’s photo could have been missed because, not all photographs taken of the POWs include the names of the men in the photos.

With this information and a chance at finding his nonno, Robert set to looking through all the group photos taken at Murchison March 1945. And there he was: seated second from the right.

A special moment for Robert: he had found Nonno in Australia.

Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D2 No. 13 POW Group.

(AWM Image 030229/13, Photographer: Stewart, Ronald Leslie)

Arcangelo was repatriated on Chitral  from Sydney on 24th September 1946. These early repatriations were for special consideration, medical or compassionate reasons. This was one of the early repatriation ships which boarded 300 POWs in Sydney and another 2900 in Fremantle Western Australia. The majority of Italian POWs held at Northam Camp WA were repatriated on Chitral.

 Robert continues, “When he came home, my grandmother wasn’t even home when he got there! One of my aunts were born while he was away. Plus, my dad was born about 9 months after he came home.”

These memories [of my nonno] have been a part of my life since he’s told me the story. It has been told hundreds of times. Now I have proof, pictures and info to back up my story,” Robert reflects.

No title” The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954) 24 September 1946: 3 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Web. 22 Jun 2019 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article231583722&gt;

*This is not the first time I have heard about this method of recruitment. A group of young men from the Lecce region, told a similar story to their Queensland family in Gayndah.

Longevity and Letter Writing

life and lifelong connections

Dedicated to Ferdinando Pancisi

I would like to introduce you to 101 year old Ferdinando Pancisi. Ferdinando (Ferdy) has lived a full life; in more ways than one. Life events saw him journey from his home in Italy to Libya to Egypt to India to Australia and then home to Italy. Like the majority of Italian prisoners of war sent to Australia, they were absent from Italy for seven years.

Ferdy settled in the village of Civitella di Romagna with his wife Anna; both work in their small convenience shop. With age comes wisdom, and his sage insights were shared in 2017, when he was interviewed .

Longevity also relates to the duration of a special friendship between Ferdy and his Boonah family: The Dwyers. A bachelor, Pat Dwyer applied for prisoner of war workers and Ferdy was sent to his Fassifern farm. Ferdy left the farm on 2nd February 1946 and Pat Dwyer wrote to him soon after. And so began a correspondence that has continued through the decades. Ferdy’s response to Pat’s first letter is typed below…

(Letter courtesy of Tim Dwyer)

Ferdy’s first letter to Pat Dwyer was written on 11th February 1946. From the records it is known that Pauly and Peter were on the farm of Pat’s brother Jack and Nicola and Cosmo were on the farm of Mr TM McGrath.

Ferdy and Pat shared their family news throughout the decades. Pat’s wife Joie took on the role of letter writing after Pat died and then son Tim has taken on this role in recent years.

For over 73 years Ferdy and the Dwyer family have sent letters, cards and photos back and forth across the decades and across the miles. I would think that their situation might be unique.

Seventy three years is a long time: a special connection between farmer and Italian POW; a tangible link between two men from different walks of life; a personal history of war and friendship; a heartwarming story of Ferdy and the Dwyer family; a connection that goes beyond the backdrop of war.

a unique friendship in many ways

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sebastiano from Ortona a Mare Chieti

With a handful of photos, Paolo Zulli is looking for information regarding his uncle, Sebastiano Di Campli, prisoner of war in Australia. Sebastiano was sent to work on farm/farms in the N13 Moss Vale district in New South Wales from 10.4.44 to 30.3.45. The government records indicate that some 110 Italian prisoners of war worked on farms in this area from March 1944 to November 1945.

Italian prisoners of war assigned to farm work, were issued with a ‘Bag, kit universal’ which was supposed to be withdrawn when rural workers returned to camp.  Not so for Sebastiano whose bag is still coloured with the red used to dye clothing and other items issued to prisoners of war and internees. Sebastiano’s kit bag still bears his Australian prisoner of war number: 57181.

Di Campli (2)

Kit Bag: Sebastiano Di Campli

(photo courtesy of Paolo Zilli)

Sebastiano’s photos tell more of his journey as a soldier and prisoner of war. Sebastiano was serving with the 44 Regiment Artiglieri Division Marmarica when he was captured on 3rd January 1941. A group photo taken in Libya was one of the treasured mementoes which returned to Italy with him.

Di Campli (1)

Libya: Sebastiano Di Campli and friends

(photo courtesy of Paolo Zilli)

From their capture at Bardia, Sebastiano and a friend Nicola Costantino (also from Ortona a Mare), were together when they were processed at Geneifa Egypt. How is this known: Sebastiano’s M/E prisoner of war number is 71770 while Nicola’s M/E number is 71768. Special bonds of friendship are confirmed by a family story that Nicola saved Sebastiano’s life in Libya.

From Egypt they were both sent to camps in India. On the reverse of Nicola’s photo is inscribed: 26.4.1942 Ricordo di Costantino Nicola. In 1943, they arrived in Australia, within two months of each other, then Nicola was sent to South Australia while Sebastiano stayed in New South Wales.

India: Sebastiano Di Campli and Nicola Costantino

(photo courtesy of Paolo Zilli)

Two months before being sent to Moss Vale and farm work, Sebastiano Di Campli was captured by the lens of Geoffrey McInnes at Cowra POW Camp on 6th February 1944.  He is standing third from the right and was immediately recognised by his nephew Paolo.

AWM 3899063

 Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57040 G. Angelozzi; 57413 G. Palladinetti; 57422 D. Pasquini; 57168 D. Del Romano; 57181 S. Di Campli; 57277 R. Iacobucci; 57448 V. Pizzica. Front row: 57235 L. Fresco; 57195 M. Di Prato; 57224 G. Flacco; 57420 A. Paolucci; 49872 P. Morelli. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

(AWM Image 030173/16, Photographer: McInnes, Geoffrey)

Glimpses of information about N13 Prisoner of War Control Centre Moss Vale can be found in the newspapers of the day. An article in the Picton Post on 11 May 1944 mentioned, “Sixty four prisoners of war employed on farms in Moss Vale district are said to be rendering excellent service.” Another article mentions Mr C McInnes owner of New South Wale’s largest piggery- “The Yedman”, which had 1400 pigs. The piggery was run by Mr McInnes, one employee and two prisoners of war and there was concern as to how to staff his piggery with the Italians being recalled in November 1945.

A reporter for the Sun newspaper visited five Italian prisoners of war at a farmhouse in the Moss Vale district. This is their story: N13 Moss Vale Antonio, Mario, Giuseppe, Pietro and Domenico

Another article mentions the strong affinity between a Moss Vale farmer and his family and ‘the men in their prisoner garb’, as well as the ongoing communication between farmer and an Italian post-war: An Italian Ex-P.O.W. Who Died from Grief

Along with his photos and kit bag, Sebastiano returned to Italy with a holy card for Maria S.S. della Libera. The picture of Holy Mary was kept with him while in Libya, Egypt, India and Australia, a source of comfort and a tangible and personal link to his home in Ortona a Mare Chieti.

Di Campli (4)

Holy Card belonging to Sebastiano Di Campli

(photo courtesy of Paolo Zilli)

Paolo knows that his wish to find Sebastiano’s farming families in and around Moss Vale is unlikely to happen, but he would at least like to know a little more about this district and primary industries in those times.

 

Military Court Held in Home Hill

Not sure how this was kept quiet in Home Hill!

On 2nd and 3rd October 1944, a military court was convened at the Home Hill Court House to try Private Bartolomeo Fiorentino, Private Luigi Tesoro and Private Sante Testa on the charge with a breach of the National Security (Prisoner of War) Regulations, that is to say:  Army Act Section 9 (2)  ‘committing a military offence, that is to say, disobeying a lawful command given by his superior officer.’

In attendance were:

Major E Mullins – President

Capt RN Shannon and Capt RJ Hatch – Members

Capt AD Barnard – Waiting Member

Capt KR Townley – Judge Advocate

Capt NH Wallman – Prosecutor

Lieut KG Wybrow – Defence

Sgt Samuel Casella – Interpreter

Witnesses:

Sgt Concetta Zappala Interpreter Q6 PWCH Home Hill

Lieut Reginald James Hamilton 2/i/c Q6 PWC Hostel Home Hill

Outcome:

Sante Testa and Luigi Tesoro to undergo detention for one hundred and twenty (120) days.

Bartolomeo Fiorentino was found not guilty.

Reading between the lines:

Tesoro, Testa and Fiorentino had on 3.6.44 been awarded 4 days detention for disobeying a lawful command and failure to appear at parade. Tesoro and Testa on or around 28-29.7.44 were awarded 7 days for disobeying a lawful command.  During this second period of detention, it was claimed that they were approached by Zappala as Interpreter and Hamilton as office in charge to return to which.  The contentious point was whether they were ordered to return to work without pay. Testa and Tesoro wanted to clarify whether they would be paid if they returned to work.  Hamilton said that whether they were paid was not his concern, his concern was the order to return to work, which they refused to do. There was conflicting information as to what Hamilton said, what Zappala interpreted and said and what Testa and Tesoro said. Regardless, the judge ruled that regardless of whether they were to be paid or not, they had disobeyed a lawful command which is a military offence.

What happened then:

Fiorentino was transferred to Gaythorne then Cowra.  While at Cowra he was awarded 14 days detention for refusing to work.  He was then transferred to Murchison.

Fiorentino

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: 47595 A. Manzo; 45685 B. Fiorentino; 48416 B. Criscuolo; 63457 E. Savarino; Unidentified; 63927 G. Chiavozzi. Front row: Unidentified; 57724 P. Di Battista; 45924 G. Giuffreda; 64066 A. Del Pozzo; 47757 A. Terribile. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. Photo documentation suggests that names are listed, back row, front row, left to right. (AWM 030229/14 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

Tesoro and Testa were transferred to Gaythorne then Hay for 120 days detention.  While at Hay, they were both given 3 days No. 1 Diet for giving a letter w/o permission to a POW.  They were then transferred to Muchison.

Testa Tesoro

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: 47848 F. Arancio; 57724 S. Di Battista; 56639 S. Gabriele; 46885 S. Testa; 48694 L. Testa; 49700 S. Mascaro. Front row: 47836 G. Quaranta; 48287 G. Picardi; 46838 L. Tesoro; 45479 S. Deledda; 48026 S. Dinardo. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. Photo documentation suggests that names are listed, back row, front row, left to right. (AWM 030230/02 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)