Salt havesting at Laverton during WW2 is a history lesson in itself.
Allied Works Council – Italian Ex-Internees – Italian Prisoners of War – Laverton Hostel
Salt Harvesting 1943
In February 1943, there was a real concern that the salt harvest would not be possible unless labour was found.
MEN NEEDED FOR SALT HARVESTING
GEELONG. — The salt harvest began here today, but the manpower shortage is so acute that the District National Service Officer (Mr J. H. Hamlyn) is awaiting final instruction to make a special call-up in Class 4 for men from less essential industry to help in the harvest. At least 100 men are required locally and 60 at Laverton. Where Cheetham Salt Co. has extensive settling pans.
The manpower position at Laverton is even more difficult than at Geelong where a start was made with about 25 men.The work must be done against time, as a break in the weather may cause the loss of a harvest essential for munitions*, as well as a food commodity. The loss of the harvest would also hold up the industry in the winter, when the company’s factories are usually operated at capacity.
To permit a start today It was necessary to close the factories and transfer employees to the harvesting. Manpower authorities believed they would obtain the release of a number of men from district military camps and others from less essential industry, but these have not yet been obtained. Outside staffs of district municipalities are assisting but It may be necessary. In addition to a special call-up, to engage a number of volunteers who formerly harvested In this district, on a part-time basis. This will not be altogether satisfactory as the work requires skill and Is more difficult, than that which the volunteers have previously done.
Hardly any manpower is available for the Laverton harvest.
1943 ‘MEN NEEDED FOR SALT HARVESTING’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 8 February, p. 3. , viewed 05 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245965857
Ex-Internees Harvest Salt 1943
A labour force of Italians was sent to Laverton to alleviated the labour shortage. This group of Italians had been interned. Three of these Italians were from Halifax and Macknade North Queensland. They had been arrested in 1942, processed at Gaythorne Internment Camp and sent to Cowra for internment. In February 1943, they were released to AWC (Allied Works Council) Victoria.
A release from internment, did not necessarily guarantee a return to their home and families. For Giuseppe, Giovanni and Paolo they were then sent to work harvesting salt at Cheetham. The AWC Salt Works Camp broke up on 14th May 1943.
Ex-Internees Harvest Salt 1944
A workforce of Italian ex-Internees was again utilised for the 1944 salt harvest. The Italians were dissatisfied and adopted a ‘go slow’ campaign. The article explains the situation:
1944 ‘ITALIANS AT SALT WORKS’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 8 February, p. 4. , viewed 03 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206786756
This workforce of Italian ex-internees was replaced by Italian prisoners of war.
Italian Prisoners of War Harvest Salt 1944
A number of entries in the War Diary for L.H.Q. Melbourne for 4.3.44, discuss the use of Italian prisoners of war to harvest salt. On 17.3.44 59 Italian prisoners of war were transferred to Laverton (Temporary) Hostel: C.S.W. Laverton. The salt harvest finished in June and 60 Italian POWs were transferred to Murchison PW Camp.
(AWM Adjutant General 6 (a) Prisoners of War Adjutant General 13. March – May 44)
Italian Prisoners of War Harvest Salt 1945
Italian prisoners of war are were again employed to harvest salt, this time during the 1945 season. The Cheetham Salt Works had purchased a mechanical harvester. The 1944 Italian prisoners of war had worked at 50% capacity. The Salt Works hoped that the Italian prisoners of war together with a harvester would ensure that salt would be harvested in 2 months. The 1945 harvest took 3 1/2 months: Italian prisoners of war worked on the salt harvest from February 45 to 1.7.45.
AWM Adjutant General 6 (a) Prisoners of War Adjutant General 13. January – March 45
1945 ‘RACE TO GET IN SALT HARVEST’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 21 February, p. 5. , viewed 03 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245343563
The Laverton (Temporary) Hostel which provided accommodation for the Italians was located at Werribee as the article below indicates. Francesco Fuda was assigned to Laverton Hostel on 27.2.45.
1945 ‘ITALIAN PRISONER ESCAPES’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 March, p. 4. , viewed 03 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1095687
*I am interested to know about the use of salt in munitions. Can anyone help?