Tag Archives: Paolo Reginato

To Palestine…

Every day there is new history to be learnt. What was the status quo regarding Italian prisoners of war in December 1940 and January 1941? Probably, strategic planning and availability of sites would have determined the flow of prisoners.  Which groups of Italian prisoners of war were sent to Egypt and which group of prisoners went to Palestine?

Sidi el Barrani Italian prisoners of war were sent to Palestine and ‘some’ Bardia Italians joined them.  With 38,300 Italian captured at Sidi el Barrani and thousands of allied army forces marshalling in Egypt, for the continued assault westward through Libya, these first prisoners were sent to Palestine. [Palestine was a Protectorate of the British Government: British Mandate of Palestine] Latrun Prisoner of War camp was constructed in three days.

Paolo Reginato records in his libretto some details of his time from Sidi el Barrani to Latrun Palestine:

I was taken prisoner [11 December 1940] with almost the entire division.  For 4 days we stayed in the desert (four days to remember), on the 15th [December] we left in column towards Marsa Matruh and on the 16th we left for Alexandria, here we stayed until 21st day when I was transported to the port and I was embarked.  On the Egiziano Ethiopia ship we left for Palestine and on the 24th we arrived in Haifa where we also passed ‘il bel giorno di Natale’. On the 30th we left and arrived in Latrum [Latrun] to a great concentration camp where we remained until 14th June 1941.

Australian war photographer Damien Peter Parer and Frank Hurley captured the events described by Paolo Reginato through the lens of  their cameras and newspaper articles recount the movements of Italian POWs:

Column of Italian Soldiers: Sidi el Barrani


Arrival at Alexandria Egypt


31st December 1940 Alexandria, Egypt. Italian prisoners being put ashore from an RAN destroyer.(AWM Image 005002/05 Photographer Damien Peter Parer)

Arrival at Haifa Palestine

The featured photo also records the arrival of Italian Prisoners of War to Haifa including the injured:[ 20th December 1940 HAIFA – A BRITISH CORPORAL AND A PRISONER ASSIST A SLIGHTLY DISABLED PRISONER TO THE TRAIN. (AWM Image 004607 NEGATIVE BY D. PARER)].

20 December first meal in Haifa


Haifa to Latrun via Yesodot

Italian POWs, captured by the British in North Africa, arrive at Wadi Sarar [name of train station] in Palestine near Yesodot. Latrun is 14 km east of Wadi Sara [Wady Sarar] train station.  Alighted from trains, the Italian prisoners of war were fed.  They were then assembled and from the photographic records, it appears that they walked to Latrun.  Injured POWs were loaded in ambulances.


Contrary to popular belief, winter in Palestine can be quite cold; both Italians and British are wrapped in their winter coats. Wady Sarar  Dec 21, 1940. [Library of Congress Matson Collection: Eric and Edith Matson]

12 Wady Sarar

21st December 1940 Men Eating on Ground Wady Sarar [Library of Congress Matson Collection: Eric and Edith Matson]

15 Wady Sarar

21st December 1940 Men Gathered in a Field Wady Sarar [Library of Congress Matson Collection: Eric and Edith Matson]

To Latrun Palestine

Information about the Prisoner of War camp at Latrun is scare.  Without Paolo Reginato’s mention of Latrum [Latrun], it is doubtful the location of this camp would be known. [Notice the absence of town name in the articles below.]  In 1940, Latrun was used for 3 months as a training camp for Polish soldiers. It is better known for a series of battles between  Israel Defense Forces and the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948.

Haifa 1

1940 ‘ITALIAN PRISONERS.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 26 December, p. 5. , viewed 24 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47299778


1940 ‘Drawing In On Bardia’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 23 December, p. 1. , viewed 24 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248827242

Christmas Mass In Jerusalem 1940

The distance between Latrun and Jerusalem is 35 km.

Xmas Mass

1941 ‘Italian Prisoners Hear Christmas Mass in Jerusalem.’, Catholic Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1932 – 1942), 17 April, p. 13. , viewed 24 Aug 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article146369616

Repatriation: Alcantara

Today’s article is with thanks to Rocco Martino in New York.  Twelve weeks ago, he offered to pay for a copy of the Alcantara Nominal Rolls of Italian Prisoners of War.

There were over 20 ships which transported Italian prisoners of war from Australia to Italy but not all lists have been digitalized by the National Archives of Australia.  The four main transport ships were Alcantara, Ormonde, Otranto and Orontes, sailing the end of 1946/ beginning of 1947.

After I published the article about the Ormonde  titled: Sailing Home,  Rocco made his generous offer.  Thank you most sincerely Rocco on behalf of the 3321 Italian families whose fathers and grandfathers were on this ship.

The Alcantara departed Sydney on 23rd December 1946.  Official military documentation records that there were 3321 Italian prisoners onboard: 77 officers and 3244 ORs.

The group of Italians were transported in six train from Cowra to Sydney where they embarked the Alcantara from Pyrmont Wharf.  The event was reported in the newspapers and no doubt the Italians would have seen the humour and irony in the situation where the Italians ‘munched hard-boiled eggs, tarts and sandwiches’ while the ‘guards went without food‘. Upon arrival in Sydney, the Italians were given a mug of tea and fruit.

1946 Dec 23 The Telegraph

The Telegraph, Prisoners Eat: Guards Starve, 23 December 1946.

The Italians were allowed up to 90 lbs of  personal possessions and the photo below show all manner of baggage.  Some Italians had used their cash funds to buy up essential items like soap, toothpaste, clothing for their family, boots and canned food, as they already knew these items were in short supply in Italy.  “Most of the Italians wore camp made felt slippers and carried one or two pairs of new boots.  One in every twenty had a musical instrument, a violin, mandolin, guitar or accordion.”  

1946 Dec Daily Advertiser

Daily Advertiser, Back to Italy, 25 December 1946

The departure of the ship was held up waiting for the crew (Australian guards who no doubt went in search of food).  Scheduled for a 4 pm departure, the Alcantara sailed at 6.30pm. In the article below, you can see one of the Italians enjoying his sandwich and cup of tea.

Nicola Auciello is pictured on the bottom right.  He had reason to smile as he was engaged to an Australian girl. Nicola’s fiancee Muriel travelled to Italy at the end of 1947 and married Nicola in Bari in April 1948.  They returned to Australia in December 1948 taking up residence on a sheep property at Wee Waa.

Each of the 3321 Italians would have their own special story.  One Italian, showed the newspaper reporter a picture of his 11 year old son, who had never seen. Other Italians commented that they wanted to return to Australia and they were not looking forward to seeing ‘how bad’ the situation was in Italy.

Alcantara Four Italians

The Sun, Italian POW’s Leave for Home, 23 December 1946

The Alcantara according to Domenico Masciulli’s testimony, arrived into Naples on 22nd January 1947.

Take the time to read through the lists of Italians.  You will find men from your village or town; and men who were born in USA, Brazil, Argentina, France, Libya, Switzerland and Scotland.

This is an invaluable document and while looking through the names in the lists, it is difficult not to feel a definite sense of certainty: these men: brothers, fathers, grandfathers and sons were finally going home.

Many a name on the list is familiar to me; I have had contact with their families or spoken with their Australian farming families. I have seen their life through photos: after they returned home, on their wedding day, with their children. And you have been introduced to them through the articles on this website:  Domenico Petruzzi, Domenico Masciulli, Francesco (Ciccio) Cipolla, Stefano Lucantoni, Angelo Amante, Angelo Valiante, Adriano Zagonara, Salvatore Morello, Vincenzo Pace, Fortunato Gobbi, Luigi Iacopini, Paolo Reginato, Ferdinando Pancisi, Giuseppe Mangini, Costanzo Melino, Antonio Lumia, Domenico Tiberi.

Alcantara Troop ship 1942


(Martin Harrison, Medals Research Site, http://martinharisonsmedalresearch.weebly.com/gray-leslie-frank)

You can view the lists of Italian Prisoners of War two ways.

1. 1946 Alcantara Rolls

2.  Go to http://www.naa.gov.au  and search [Nominal rolls of Italian Prisoners of War at Cowra POW camp, for transfer from Australia to Naples, Italy per ALCANTARA] [Box 9]

NAA: SP196/1, 10 PART 15

Preghiere del Prigioniero

In 1941, the Apostolic Delegate for Egypt and Palestine had ‘Libro di Preghiere’ published in Palestine, with the permission of G.H.Q. Middle East.

A special thank you to Daniel Reginato who shared his father’s copy of this book.

REginato 14

Paolo Reginato

(photo courtesy of Daniel Reginato)

Paolo Reginato kept notes in the section ‘I Miei Ricordi’. Paolo recorded his movements and also wrote the names and addresses of contacts in Australia and for other Italian POWs he met. It seems likely that the book was given to Italian prisoners of war soon after capture for it includes “Prayer of the Prisoner

Preghiera Del Prigioniero

Signore Iddio, che mia madre mi insegnò a chiamare con il dolce nome di Padre perchè mi sei veramente tale, mi hai creato, mi hai conservato la vita fra tanti pericolic, dall’alto dei cieli ascolta pietoso la mia preghiera.

Sono un povero Tuo figlio, lontano dalla patria mia e dalla mia casa: per aver compiuto il mio dovere di soldato, soffro ora questa prigionia e questa forzaia lontananza dale persone che Tu mi hai dato a conforto ed a sostegno della mia vita.

Vengo fiducioso a Te, perchè chi di noi è padre misura degnamente, l’affetto che Tu hai per le Tue creature.

Come affrontando la morte nell’ora dura dell battaglia Tu mi difendesti benigno, come anche nel dolore delle aspre ferrite e nelle sofferenze che mi accompagnarono mi rendesti forte, cosi ora, o Padre mio, continua a begliare su di me; stendi la Tua Provvidente Misericordia ed il tuo Amore sulla mia vita, affinchè io possa ritornare sano e salvo al focolare domestico.

Reggimi l’animo, dà forza costante al mio spirit: veglia sui miei cari lontano.

Sento che a sera dai nostril genitori, dale nostre spose, dai nostril figli, dale nostre fidanzate salgono a Te, o Signore, calde preghiera per noi, e le nostre e le loro preghiera si confondono dolcemente nel tuo Cuore ed in Te ci consoliamo fiduciosi.

Accetta, o Signore, il mio affetto di figlio devote: voglio osservare la Tua  santa Legge, voglio adempiere il mio dovere di buon Cristiano, govlio dimostrarmi sempre Fedele all disciplina del soldato. Per I meriti del Tuo Divin Figliuolo Gesù Cristo esaudiscimi, o Signore.

O Vergine Santissima, veramente Regina nei tanti nostril Santuari, proteggimi sempre: deh, fa che io possa presto, in union ai miei cari lontano, sciogliere il voto ed il cantico della mia riconoscenza.

Cosi sia.

Pope Pius XII’s words to Italians at war are included in the forward of the prayer book: “Nostra intenzione è questa… che si ottengano I celesti conforti della grazia agli esuli, ai profughi, ai disperse, ai prigionieri, a tutti coloro insomma che soffrono e piangono per le calamità del presente conflitto.”

The complete speech:Pope Pius XII 27.10.1940

Reginato 16 - Copy

Index for Prayer Book

(photo courtesy of Daniel Reginato)

It will be interesting to know if any other Italian families have a copy of this prayer book.

the words of an Italian soldier

Paolo Reginato was a soldier with the 202 Regg. Artiglieria Division XXVIII Ottobre when he was captured at Sidi el Barrani 11 December 1940.

A special thank you to Daniel Reginato and his family for sharing the details of his father’s libretto.  Paolo’s record of his days as a soldier and a prisoner of war is adding a personal perspective to this history; written at the time his comments are brief but poignant.

libretanono1Libretto di Paolo Reginato

(photo courtesy of Daniel Reginato)

Paolo writes: On 8th December (in the afternoon) we suffered a heavy naval bombardment and on the 9th we were attached by a strong artillery fire throughout the day, the same afternoon when the fire ceased the order came to retreat to Sidi el Barrani. Our subcommander takes a bottle of anise and makes us all dring, one by one with his own hands on his knees around him, at night we follow the retreat and on the morning of 10th we are located 10 km from Sidi el Barrani where we went again. We attacked with batteries and armed cars throughout the day, at night the fight continued until day 11, at hour 9 I was taken prisoner with almost the entire divison.

Newsreel: Fall of Sidi Barrani

From Second World War Official Histories, Volume 1 – to Benghazi (AWM):

Sidi El Barrani from Chapter Six Victory at Barrani AWM

Naval ships were to shell the Maktila positions on the night before the attack, [8] air support was to be given by No. 202 Group which included three squadrons and one flight of fighters, three squadrons and two flights of day bombers and three squadrons of night bombers… [9th] Frightened, dazed or desperate Italians erupted from tents and slit trenches, some to surrender supinely, others to leap gallantly into battle, hurling frenades or blasing machine guns in futile belavour of the impregnable intruders… On the morning of the 10th the 4th Armoured Brigade was lying on an arrowhead between Sidi Barrani and Buq Buq, facing on the west a series of Italian camps…the 7th Hussars attacked the enemy’s posts but they were too strong to take withouth costly losses and by early afternoon the main strength of the brigade had been sent eastwards… 6th Royal Tanks and the 2nd Royal Tanks attacking…  the 16th Brigade had attacked at dawn on the 10th..Advancing over open country in a dense dust storm it was met by effective artillery fire and was held… Finally a concerted attack late in the afternoon broke the enemy’s reisatance and by 4.40 Sidi Barrani had fallen.



Long columns of dejected prisoners in drab oive-green and khaki streamed eastwards.  In the whole battle 38,300 prisoners, 237 guns and 73 tanks were captured. Four generals were taken: Gallina of the Group of Libyan Divisions,  Chario of the 1st Libyan Divison,  Piscatori of the 2nd Libyan,  Merzari of the 4th Blackshirt.

Sidi el Barrani Italian dispositions

Sidi El Barrani