Expect the unexpected
The Australian War Memorial has an extensive collection of photos featuring Italian prisoners of war. They show the men at work in camp workshops, in the fields and at sport. There are also group photos which the Italians were allowed to purchase to send home to families. But there are some complications with searches which I include below.
Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in C Compound, No. 13 POW Group. Shown here are: 65915 F. Pieri; 65987 C. Rossi; 65209 G. Baffa; 65710 V. La Rocca; 65370 F. Carone; 65230 E. Baruzzi; 65197 A. Armeni; 65237 F. Battisti; 65300 L. Bruno; 65602 G. Furioli; 65398 S. Cavillin; 65864 A. Pacini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030231/14 Photographer: Ronald Leslie Stewart)
Sometimes you get Lucky
I was searching the Murchison group photos for random photos of silver rings. Silver rings are another story but as I was looking through the photos I found a face I knew. What are the chances! This photo did not list the names of the men. But I was sure I knew him. I had been introduced to Liborio Bonadonna in 2017 by his grandson Liborio Mauro. And I was pretty sure the man seated at the far right was Nonno Liborio.
Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D2 Compound, No. 13 POW Group. (AWM Image 030229/10 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)
I have been introduced to a number of Italian prisoners of war over the last three years and I know that sometimes, one man will appear in two or three photos, taken on the same day. And I know several of the men below. Another story.
Description 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: 64837 A. Porcaro; 49904 S. Russo; 57220 G. Fino; Unidentified; 45531 V. Di Pietro; 61074 G. De Luca. Front row: 45685 B. Fiorentino; Unidentified; 46171 G. Massaro (holding a piano accordion); 46603 V. Massaro; 55168 L. Buonadonne. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. Photo documentation suggests that names are listed, back row, front row, left to right. (AWM 020229/02 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 45513 Francesco Del Viscio; 46331 Ermanno Nicoletti; 45852 Italo Gramiccia; 46320 Natale Nunziati; 46207 Valerio Mezzani 45498 Giovanni Di Pinto; 45496 Giuseppe Di Pilla; 46199 Agostino Marazzi; 46511 Alfonso Patrizi and 48922 Sergio Galazzi. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030143/26 Photographer Lewecki)
I am not sure how many photos Alessandra looked at, but she then found Nonno Ermanno is this photo. He is seated to the left of the man with the piano accordian. He is holding a guitar. And at that stage in her search, she did not know he performed in operas and plays in the camp.
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. A large group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. Some of the men are holding musical instruments. (AWM Image 030145/33 Photographer Lewecki)
Serendipity… Chance… Fluke…Fate
Many times in this research, things happen randomly. I often tell people “your nonno tapped you on the shoulder and helped you with your search” or ” your nonno made you find this research” as so many outcomes have been totally random. Unfortunately for some families, their questions are still left unanswered.
There is also a randomness in which army documents are archived. Why do WA Italian prisoners of war have a comprehensive and additional folio of documents while Queensland Italian POWs do not? Often, we have to be satisfied that one knows more now than they did when a particular search began.
Some of the Hurdles
You can search by name or by prisoner of war number but sometimes the names are mispelt or numbers incorrect by a digit.
As well, while the Hay PW Camp photos give the names for the men in the group photos, the position of men is not known.
Additionally, many of the group photos are without names. So if you are looking for someone, and their name does not come up with a search, you might have to check every photo. To reduce the number of photos to search, do a check of the dates on the Service Card with the dates of the group photos.
Unfortunately, Italian prisoners of war coming to Australia in 1944 and 1945 missed the group photo sessions in Hay and Cowra, so unless they spent time in Murchison in 1945, there might not be a photographic record for them.
Cowra Group Photos 16th September 1943 and 6th February 1944
Hay Group Photos 9th September 1943.
Murchison Group Photos 2nd May 1944 and 2nd and 4th March 1945.
Marrinup Group Photos 29th July 1944.