Every document, relic and memory relating to this history is special. Each item is invaluable.
A special thank you to Giuseppe Lutro’s family for sharing another ‘missing piece to our historical puzzle’.
Giuseppe was from Albidoni Cosenza and is seated third left in the photo below.
Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49640 Luigi La Favia; 47004 Luciano Zanon; 47915 Giovanni Bronzi; 49591 Pietro Perazzi; 49913 Quinto Spognetta; 49663 Carmine Ialongo; 48679 Angelo Tergorelli. Front row: 49858 Lorenzo Laurenti; 45570 Cesare De Angelis; 48160 Giuseppe Lutro; 46813 Pietro Salerno; 46889 Mario Paolocci. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030171/11 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
His Service and Casualty Card record his repatriation date: 31st December 1946 “Ormonde” but with thanks to Giuseppe we also know his arrival date in Naples Italy: 27th January 1947.
Giuseppe kept his arrival card Nave “Ormonde” 27-1.47. This card also confirms that part of the process upon arrival in Naples was to report to the Accommodation Centre in Naples (San Martino).
Recognition of Landing 27-1-1947 (photo courtesy of Nicola Lutro)
Logistically, I have always wondered how the Italian prisoners of war were processed upon arrival in Naples. How did the Australian guard unit convey to the Italians the next stage of the process? The Ormonde landed 2231 Italians.
Now I know. With thanks to Giuseppe Lutro, I now know that the Italian military officials had printed cards, to be distributed to each man as he disembarked. The card provided information for the next stage of the journey: to report to the Accommodation Centre.
This was most likely the first official document written in Italian the men had read in seven years. Finally, they were almost home.
The Ormonde departed from Sydney on 31st December 1946. The official army records record that 2231 Italian prisoners of war were on the boat: 52 officers and 2179 ordinary ranks. A group of 1992 Italian POWs came from the Liverpool Prisoner of War & Internment Camp in Sydney, as the above form highlights.
If your father or grandfather was repatriated to Italy on the Ormonde then you will find this file very interesting as it contains a list of the Italians on this ship:
[Repatriation of Italian Prisoners of War per Ormonde 24.12.1946] [0.5cm; box 9] Series numberSP196/1 Control Symbol 10 PART 16
The file can be found at the National Archives of Australia Find : Search the Collection and click on Go to Record Search. Enter the words repatriation Ormonde and you will be taken to the file.
I will explain a little about these National Archives files. The two personal files for every Italian prisoner of war in Australia, are available, free of charge. Other files like the file for the Ormonde is free to view because someone has paid for a copy. When this happens, the file is then available free to everyone. There are files for other repatriation ships eg Alcantara, Otranto, Chitral. You can view them if you visit the National Archives of Australia in Sydney. Or you can pay for a copy of the file and help other Italian families.
The newspaper photo below holds a clue to the journey of the Italian prisoners of war. The men boarded at Pyrmont Wharf in Sydney. Captain Morgan mentions Di Biasi, a former Fiat mechanic in the article below. The man mentioned is Benvenuto De Biasi, born in Belluno and resident of Genoa. Is the man’s surname Di Biasi or De Biasi? The newspaper article states Di Biasi and his record has De Biasi.
The Ormonde docked at Fremantle in Western Australia and boarded 20 more Italians. Worthy of note was that there were Italian Lieutenants onboard.
These newspaper articles are available from Australia’s archived newspaper website: Trove . This is another excellent resource. There are ways to ‘refine’ your search eg decade, years. If you search Italian prisoners of war, this title is too general. It would be difficult to navigate if you do not know English. I know I would have difficulty searching databases in Italian.
My research has been about finding the pieces of the puzzle and putting them all together. Documents, photos, newspaper articles, stories and memories are very important in recording this history in a context: footprints of Italian prisoner of war from the battlefields of Africa to Palestine to Egypt to India to Australia and return to Italy.
And another clue emerges: what pier did the Italians leave Melbourne from: Station Pier. Quite possibly it was also the place where the Italians arrived into Melbourne Australia in 1943 – 1945.
Baldo Valeri was with an infantry division when he was transferred from Italy to Libya. He is seated in the front row, first right with his friends.
His time in battle was short; he was captured on the second day of the Battle of Bardia 4th January 1941.
When he arrived in Australia in May1941 he had been in the army for 40 months.
Libya: Baldo Valeri seated front row right (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)
Fortune was his. It is documented that 40,000 Italians were captured at Bardia. Like winning the lottery, Baldo was lucky to be directed to board the Queen Mary on 6th May 1941 for Australia. Only 2,016 Italian prisoners of war were on this voyage: the first group of Italians to be sent directly to Australia.
From Sydney Harbour he boarded a train for a journey to Hay Camp.
Then Yanco Camp became Baldo’s home for two and a half years. Yanco Camp was home to 700-800 Italians growing vegetables, tending to a dairy herd and piggery as well as producing supplies of vegetable seeds for the Commonwealth Government.
Eight hundred men need feeding. The supply of meat per 100 men per week was recorded as: 300 pounds beef, (136kg) 255 pounds mouton, (116kg) and 35 pounds sausages, (16 kg). A quick calculation equates to 1088 kg beef and 928 kg mouton for 800 men per week. The photo below taken at Yanco Camp illustrates that butchers were important to the operation of the camps.
It seems reasonable to assume that Baldo, a butcher, worked in the meat room at Yanco Camp.
Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Two Italian prisoner of war (POWs) butchers cutting up the day’s meat ration in the butchers shop of No. 15 POW Camp. (AWM Image 063945 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 46978 Baldo Valeri; 46655 Guido Rosato; 46688 Pasquale Montepara; 45351 Nicola Catalano; 46891 Ernesto Tamburino; 47902 Raffaele Blasioli; 45248 Donato Cipriani. Front row: 45585 Luigi Di Cioccio; 46271 Andrea Moscatelli; 48096 Emilio Grisanti; 45719 Antonio Fafone; 45043 Pellegrino Acquaviva. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.
The Yanco kitchen was situated within the barracks used as a dining room. The kitchen had a large oven and cookers, four rooms for provisions, a cold room and a bakery where four bakers baked bread daily for the men.
The photo of the kitchen at Yanco below, highlights the industry of the men. It must have been a sense of relief for bakers, cooks, pastry chefs and butchers to work in their field of experience.
Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoner of war (POWs) cooks at No. 15 POW Camp preparing a meal in one of the camp kitchens. (AWM Image 063915 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Baldo was also accommodated at Cowra and Liverpool Camps. Upon his return to Naples on the Ormonde 27th January 1947, Baldo had been a prisoner of war for six years.
Baldo’s son Geremia writes about his father’s life after return to Italy, “La sua vita è stata difficile,ma una volta tornato in Italia ,ha dedicato tutte le sue energie sul lavoro, per il benessere di noi figli.
Le uniche cose che lui ha riportato dalla prigionia, sono una ciotola di alluminio,dove mangiava,un piccolo vocabolario inglese-italiano, e un pezzo di stoffa bordoeux, che usavamo come coperta. Mi raccontava sempre un episodio, dove lui cercava di sottrarre qualche patata dal magazzino, perché aveva fame. Il vigilante del campo se ne accorse e locolpi con il calcio del fucile. Lui avrebbe voluto tornare in Australia per lavorare, ma non trovò nessuno che gli facesse l’atto di richiamo.”
Baldo Valeri outside his shop in Vittorito (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)
Baldo and Cesira celebrating 50 years of marriage with their son Geremia (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)