Tag Archives: No. 1 (Indian) Prisoners of War Cage

No. 1 Indian Prisoners of War Cage

Where was the No. 1 Indian Prisoners of War Cage?

Alessandro Rizzi was captured at Asmara, Eritrea on the 1st April 1941.

He is processed at No. 1 Indian Prisoner of War Cage.

Q: Where was this camp?

A: No. 1 Indian Prisoner of War Cage (Decamere)

It is with thanks to Fabrizio Chiaramonte and his facebook group [ documenti dei prigionieri di guerra italiani WWII] that we have an answer.

Decamere is in Eritrea, south south east of Asmara. It is now known as DEKEMAHARE. The card has the Italian soldier captured at Adi Quala 14.6.42 and arrived at No. 1 Indian POW Decamere C. on 16.6.42 via FS Adi Ugri. He was then sent to Fort Baldiserra (Asmara) before departing for South Africa from Massawa.

Just as those Italians captured in Libya were sent to POW camps in British territories of Egypt and Palestine, it seems that those Italians captured in Ethiopia and Eritrea were sent to camps in the closest British territory: Sudan or onward to South Africa.


The answer may lie in this extract from Moore and  Fedorowich:

In the Sudan a similar system of twelve semi-permanent camps was built to accommodate a population which had grown to 79,000 POWs by July 1941. The camps were divided into three administrative regions located along the Nile valley between Khartoum and Atbara, in the Red Sea hills near Port Sudan and in Eritrea outside the port of Massawa. Once at the Sudanese and Eritrean coasts, the POWs were transported to India, Kenya and South Africa when shipping could be found.2 [Moore B., Fedorowich K. (2002) Italian POWs in Africa, 1940–3. In: The British Empire and its Italian Prisoners of War, 1940–1947. Studies in Military and Strategic History. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230512146_4%5D

Can you add information about the No. 1 Indian Prisoners of War Cage or the Italian prisoner of war camps in the Sudan?


The first few months of 1941 saw the British authorities establish the pattern for accommodating their Italian prisoners across the Empire. The immense numbers captured in Italian East Africa were eventually despatched by rail and by sea to camps in Kenya. As had been the case in Libya and Egypt, it was deemed urgent for strategic reasons to evacuate the prisoners from Abyssinia as soon as possible. However, the transfer of prisoners to Kenya was far from easy. Logistical problems combined with the now familiar delays due to a shortage of shipping prevented British military authorities from sending large numbers to Kenya after the completion in April 1941 of the first stage of operations in Italian East Africa. Nevertheless, the delay proved to be a small blessing for it allowed time for the Kenyan authorities to build twelve permanent camps that would house 50,000 European captives. [{Moore B., Fedorowich K. (2002) Italian POWs in Africa, 1940–3. In: The British Empire and its Italian Prisoners of War, 1940–1947. Studies in Military and Strategic History. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230512146_4%5D

Map of Prisoner of War Camp in Kenya


Captured… Eritrea and Abyssinia

Was your nonno or papa captured in Eritrea or Abyssinia?

Do you have any place names for prisoner of war camps in East Africa?

By mid-April 1941 there were 41,000 Italian and colonial troop prisoners in the Sudan.

After capture, where did these men go?

Here are some of the temporary ‘cages’ and camps mentioned:

Asmara Autopark

Below is an extract from Adolfo Orofino. Memories of Africa. The imprisonment in India. Tribute to dad by Gian Carlo Orofino.

In Adolfo Orofino’s diary there is the sequence of camps prior to the transfer of prisoners to India after the defeat at Cheren that ended the AOI.

First days after Asmara’s autopark defeat 3 4 April 1941 where the disbanded soldiers voluntarily arrived after an English proclaim that threatened death to those who didn’t surrender.

Cheren April 5, 1941

Agordat April 6, 1941

Cassala Sudanese border by train until April 9

Adurman Karthoum suburb 40 days [Ondurman or South Khartoum]

North Karthoum 22 May 1941

Here the prisoners were photographed and assigned freshman number

May 23 by train in Port Sudan arriving May 24, 1941

Steamboat Egra heading to Bombay in 8 days of navigation

May 31th 1941 arrival at port of Bombay

June 2, 1941 disembarked from the ship and by train to Bhopal.

Arriving in Bhopal June 4, 1941 then 2 months after capture.


Giosino Fino mentions a temporary prisoner of war camp at Maiceo. He was captured at Amba Alagi: https://www.idiariraccontano.org/autore/fino-giosino/

No. 1 Indian Prisoner of War Cage

Otumlo Hanger Massawa

There are several references to a temporary camp for Italian prisoners of war inside the Otumlo Hanger at Massawa including the photo below.



There were two camps at Khatoum: Ondurman (Kartoum South) and Khartoum North. They housed Italians who had been captured in Eritrea and Abyssinia.

Ondurman (Khartoum South)

This camp was situated 300 metres from the River Nile. 

In April 1941, this camp housed 182 officers and 73 non-commissioned officers and soldiers.

There were three well-constructed brick barracks which housed officers.  Ten officers were housed per room (3.5m x 6.5m). The officers were awaiting transfer. The non-commissioned officers and soldiers were accommodated in well-established 15 tents.

Three meals are prepared each day consisting of meat, bread, rice, vegetables and pasta.  There is a daily ration of 18 ounces of bread and 4 ounces of meat.

The prisoners of war arrived at camp without adequate clothing and there was difficulty in provisioning clothing.

There were six showers but the flow of water was weak.

As this is a transit camp, there were only about 50 Italian books in the camp library.

The soldiers received an allowance of 50 piastres per week. This represents one third of the pay when food is provided and the other two-thirds is remitted to the family under the responsibility of the Italian government.

Khartoum North

In April 1941 this camp housed 165 officers and 42 soldiers.

Generals Tessitore and Bergonzi together with Admiral Bonetti and their aides were accommodated in three pretty villas which bordered the River Nile. The Generals are being treated with the honours deserved of their rank and despite the conditions of their long and arduous journey, they have few complaints.  

The other men are housed in eleven spacious, well-constructed and appealing buildings.

The general impression is that the conditions were good. It was predicted that about 40,000 prisoners would be settled in eight camps in the Sudan, with the majority of the camps accommodation local colonial troops who are accustomed to the climate.

Camp 337 The Sudan

Camp 337 was situated some kilometres from Camp 329, in the same dry arid desert region in a valley surrounded by stony mountains. The climate is excessively hot and the air is dry. The nights are fresh. There is no malaria or yellow fever in this part of the Sudan.

This camp can house several thousand prisoners.  In April 1942, it housed 2500 Italian prisoners of war and 605 civilian Eritreans.

There are three distinct sections (cages) exactly the same. There are 72 tents in each section. Each tent accommodates 10 men. The facilities consist of kitchens, ablutions, washing facilities.  These are clean. 

The food is monotonous but sufficient for good health. Each man receives 500 grams of bread a day.

There are 300 Italian books, equipment for ping pong and football games, musical instruments for an orchestra.

Water is generally scare in this area and each section has a water outlet which is opened twice a day for one hour. The water is drinkable but slightly saline. The latrines are kept clean.  There is a special latrine reserved for dysentery cases.

Wadi Medani

Captain Kenneth Hulbert from the Royal Army Medical Corps remembers from 1941, cages consisting of big, barbed wire enclosures with tented, huts, latrines and cookhouses.  This camp was for Eritreans and Abyssinians who served with the Italian army.

Fort Baldiserra Eritrea

Documenti dei prigionieri di guerra is a facebook group hosted by Fabrizio Chiaramonte. Fabrizio is sharing a number of record cards from Fort Baldissera.

On a post November 15 2021, Fabrizio lists a number of prisoner of war sites in Africa.