Tag Archives: Oranje Hospital Ship

Nonno’s Blanket

Salvatore Di Noia has sent me photo of a grey blanket with light grey stripes. This blanket is his nonno’s blanket from his prisoner of war days in Australia.

Nonno’s Blanket (courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)

Salvatore Targiani departed Australia on the Oranje, a medical ship, on the 27th March 1943.  The Oranje was the first repatriation of Italian prisoners of war, under special arrangements. Salvatore worked in the 17th Hygiene Unit in Bardia.  His skills as a medical orderly is most likely the reason for his early repatriation.

In Australia, the Italian prisoners of war were issued with 4 blankets for their bedding.  An extra blanket was issued in winter.

The topic of blankets is interesting.

Italians at Sandy Creek Transit Camp in South Australia complained about the quality of the blankets they had been issued. It was claimed that the blankets were made India and were of poor quality.  They requested that these blankets were substituted for Australian made blankets which were of a better quality.

On 27th September 1946, a newspaper reported that the Italians being repatriated on the Chitral from Western Australia, had been given army blankets at Northam Camp but they were to return them to the Australian guards upon arrival in Naples. I see a logistical problem in this directive.  There were up to 3000 Italians repatriated on ships: 4 blankets x 3000 men = 12,000 blankets.  Was it possible that the Australia guards could count every blanket?

 Pasquale Landolfi and Vincenzo Di Pietro from the Home Hill Hostel in north Queensland used their army blankets for suits.  They were found 110 south of Home Hill outside the town of Bowen.  They were dressed in grey suits made from blankets.  There were five Italian tailors at the Home Hill Hostel.

Italian officers in Myrtleford Camp in Victoria made coats from blankets. The photo below shows a rather stylish yet practical coat.  Myrtleford is in the alpine country of northern Victoria: winters have maximum temperature 12 degrees C and minimum temperature 3 degrees C.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 27. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 27.

1-6-43 Myrtleford Officers Camp (ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27)

Domenico Modugno’s souvenirs from Australia were blankets. Domenico was sent to Tasmania for farm work and then was sent to V25 Hume Hostel to await repatriation.  His daughter Lucrezia recalls, “From captivity, my father brought home grey-black blankets date 1945 which we used as children in the cold winters.”

A report on a group of Italians from Liverpool Camp mentions that the men were taking home items such as soap, cotton and wool goods purchased from the canteen.  These items were in short supply in Italy. Wool army blankets would have been an appropriate and practical item to ‘souvenir’.

The men boarding the Moreton Bay repatriation ship in 1946 found many ways to strap their blankets to luggage or to make a swag to hang from shoulder to waist.

4-8-46 Repatriation of Italian prisoners of war on the Moreton Bay      

Ricordo della mia prigionia Australia

Ian Szafranek has shared two beautiful embroideries sewn by his grandfather Giuseppe Spagnolo while he was in Australia.  Giuseppe arrived in Australia on the Queen Elizabeth 15th October 1941 and departed on the Oranje (a hospital ship) on the 29th March 1943.

The initials within the red heart V G in the Arcangelo work represents Giuseppe’s love for his wife Vita. It was sewn in Cowra 1942.

Arcangelo 1942 (photo courtesy of Ian Szafranek)

Giuseppe  completed Santa Lucia in 1943. Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and her name means light.

These embroideries are poignant and personal reminders of a Giuseppe Spagnolo and treasured keepsakes for his family.

Santa Lucia 1943 (photo courtesy of Ian Szafranek)

Read more about Giuseppe Spagnolo as told by his grandson Ian:

The Incredible Life of Giuseppe Spagnolo

Repatriation to Italy 1943

Salvatore Targiani’s journey as a prisoner of war is unusual.

He arrived in Sydney Australia on the Queen Elizabeth 15th October 1941 and departed from Sydney 29th March 1943.

When Salvatore was captured at Bardia, he had been serving with the 17th Hygiene Unit for 18 months.

This information is key to Salvatore’s arrival and repatriation.

When the Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney, a newspaper reported:

“Some of the prisoners were ill and they were carried in stretchers to military ambulances and taken to hospital”.

Salvatore’s experience as an orderly/health worker in Libya no doubt continued to be utilised in the camp hospitals in Egypt, on the Queen Elizabeth to Australia and on the repatriation ship.

Although Salvatore did not talk about his war years and he did not work in the health industry after the war, his grandson Salvatore Di Noia agrees with these thoughts about his nonno. Medical orderlies were classed as ‘protected personnel’.****

Salvatore Targiani

(photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)

The Oranje left Sydney on 29th March 1943. Salvatore was on this ship, which arrived in Suez Egypt 18th April 1943.

Oranje had first arrived in Sydney March 1941.  It was converted to a hospital ship and during the war made 41 voyages from Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East transporting Australian and New Zealand wounded. She was the largest hospital ship operating from Australia.

She was painted white with a green band around her hull. Three red crosses were painted on each side of the ship as well, red crosses were painted on her funnels.

21 August 1941 The Dutch hospital ship Oranje off the Western Australian coast in 1941, shortly after the completion of its conversion as a hospital ship. The red crosses and green stripes on the white hull were meant to be a conspicuous reminder to enemy vessels of its non-combatant role. The ship evacuated wounded Australian soldiers from the Middle East. (AWM 302809)

In 1943, the Italian prisoners on Oranje were part of a Mutual Repatriation Scheme.

This was a mutual exchange arrangement between Great Britain and Italy. At Suez, this group of wounded, sick and protected personnel was handed over to a British Escort. The group were then taken by train to Alexandria then ship to Smyrna Turkey.

Archived documents provide the following informing regarding the number of Italian prisoners of war on this transport:

Protected Personnel: 92 officers and 455 other ranks = 547

Medical Cases: 38 officers and 37 other ranks = 75

Total number repatriated: 622

The following items were noted regarding the voyage:

Concerned Italian prisoners of war were concentrated at Cowra before embarkation.

Funds are provided from Ship’s Imprest Account to enable Italians to make canteen purchases.

NSW Division of Australian Red Cross Society provided Red Cross stores for use on the journey.

Arrangements were made for free issue of cigarettes and/or tobacco to Italian prisoners of war other ranks at the same scale as camp issue.

One Chaplin (RC) was included with the escort to administer to the prisoners of war.

The Apostolic Delegate was permitted to inspect the prisoners of war after embarkation.

(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)

In June 1941, the Netherlands government officially handed over to the Australian and New Zealand governments, the ocean liner Oranje, for the duration of the war. It was fully equipped as a hospital ship and shown here is the interior of one of the wards showing rows of neatly made beds. (AWM 008035)

The following photos are from the 8th May 1943 exchange at Izmir [Smyrna].

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. La “Città di Tunisi”.

Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-14A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. Grands blessés italiens sur le ponton qui les transportera jusqu’au “Gradisca”.

Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-15A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. Des italiens sont déposés sur le ponton qui les amènera au bateau “Gradisca”.

Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03229-34A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. Personnel protégé britannique en direction du “Tierea”, bateau britannique à l’arrière plan.

Exchange of Prisoners of War 8.5.43 Izmir (ICRC VP-HIST-03230-05A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. Personnel protégé.

Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 10A)

Guerre 1939-1945. Izmir. Echange italo-britannique de prisonniers de guerre grands malades et blessés à l’aide de deux hôpitaux-navires. Grands blessés italiens sur le ponton qui les transportera jusqu’au “Gradisca”.

Exchange of Prisoners of War Izmir 8.5.43 (ICRC VP-HIST-03230 13A)

****

(NAA: A7711, VOLUME 1)

There were three Mutual Repatriation exchanges from Smyrna in 1943: 14-19th April 1943; c. 5-8th May 1943 and 2-3 June 1943. The April exchange is part of a facebook post for the ICRC: https://www.facebook.com/ICRCArchives/ One Day in History 19th April 1943.