Tag Archives: Prigionieri di guerra italian in Myrtleford

Going for a Walk

On the 7th September 1946, at approximately 2200 hours, sixteen Italian officers from Myrtleford Prisoner of War Camp escaped.

The escape was executed by cutting away part of the wire encirclement. 

Two years before, two planned escapes were foiled.  On 22nd September 1944, Rolando Secondo and Allesandro Palamidessi were found ‘fully dressed’ after lights out. Then on the 28th September 1944, Cesare Scoccia and Laerte Crivellini were also found ‘fully dresses’ after lights out.

The Argus newspaper reported the 1946 escape on Monday 9th September 1946:

“Most of the escapees are typically Italian in appearance. Vicchi, however, is an exception. Aged 34, he is 5ft 9in weights 10st 7lb and has red hair. Gualtieri should be easily noticed among a crowd, as he stands 6ft 5 in in his socks and is of slim build. The manner of dress is not known. Some of the men may be wearing burgundy prison clothes; others are believed to be wearing sports clothes or uniform.  Only one of the escapees speaks good English. He is Walter Sabiano [Fabiano], who stands 6ft and has blue eyes and fair hair.” (1946 ‘SIXTEEN ITALIANS ESCAPE AT WHOROULY’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 9 September, p. 20. , viewed 26 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22331454)

The reason for the 1946 escape was that the Italian officers were ‘going for a walk’. The authorities were concerned that the men might be heading for the Victoria/NSW border and military and civil police joined in the search for the men.

Walter Fabiano and Giuseppe Zappia were found 78 km from Myrtleford at Tallangatta on the 9th September 1946. They said that they had walked the entire distance.

Vinicio Sigon, Giovanni Vicchi, Alberto Vissani and Eriodante Domizioli were ‘captured’ at Buffalo Creek 16 km from camp on 11th September 1946.

Scipione Bobbio and Rolando Secondo were located at Moyhu 40km away from camp on the 11th September 1946.

Giovanni Battaglia, Gualtiero Gualtieri, Salvatore Scaffidi and Bonaventura Matera were located on the 11th September 1946 at Bobinawarrah, 28 kms from camp.

The last four Italians were captured at Wodonga, 65 km from camp: Cesare Soccia, Giorgio Cerio, Laerte Crivellini and Allessandro Palamidessi.

Six of the Italian officers who escaped on 7.9.46 are in the photo below.

Myrtleford, Australia. 5 November 1943. Group of Italian officer prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 5 POW Camp. Back row, left to right: Gualtiero Gualtieri; Ortali; Giunta; Laerte Crivellini; Cesare Scoccia; Allessandro Palimedessi; Mercurio.                        Front row: Giovanni Vicchi; De Gianni; E. Zingone; Benso; Eriodante Domizioli.        (AWM Image 030153/06 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

The men represented the navy, army and airforce and had varied backgrounds:

AIRFORCE

Lieutenant Eriodante Domizioli a student from Macerata; captured 14.9.41 Marmarica and served with the airforce.

Lieutenant Laerte Crivellini a pilot officer from Senigallia Ancoma; captured 14.9.41 South Sollum.

2nd Lieutenant Alessandra Palamidessi a student from Pisa; captured 14.9.41 Sidi Omar and served with the airforce.

NAVY

Lieutenant Giorgio Cerio an engineer from La Maddalena; captured 25.6.41 Beach North Libya.

ARMY

2nd Lieutenant Vinicio Sigon an army officer with the Alpine Troops from Gorizia; captured 30.12.40 Neviza Greece.

2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Vicchi a lawyer from Faenza; captured 20.1.41 Kala Albania.

2nd Lieutenant Alberto Vissani an accountant (attorney) from Macerata; captured 22.1.46 Hani Balaban Greece.

2nd Lieutenant Giuseppe Zappia an electrician from Lecce; captured 11.3.41 Albania

2nd Lieutenant Cesare Scoccia a doctor from Fornova Taro Parma; captured 4.3.41 Klisura Albania.

2nd Lieutenant Giovanni Battaglia a teacher from Palermo; captured 11.12.40 Buq Buq.

2nd Lieutenant Salvatore Scaffidi an agricultural expert/student from Reggio Campi Rione Reggio Calabria, captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Rolando Secondo an expert electrician from Catania; captured 21.1.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Walter Fabiano an accountancy student from Genova; captured 22.4.41 Dintorni Tobruk serving as a Bersalieri sniper.

2nd Lieutenant Scipione Bobbio a student from Napoli; captured 16.5.41 Tobruk.

2nd Lieutenant Gualtiero Gualtieri a chemist from Firenze; captured 6.2.41 Agedabia.

2nd Lieutenant Bonaventura Matera a student, clerk from Napoli; captured 7.2.41 Agedabia.

Going for a walk unescorted

Interestingly, is part of a document relating to Compound B No. 5 PW Camp Myrtleford.

It is specifically an agreement form between Italian officers and their Camp Commandant which outlines the rules for freedom of movement without an escort, outside of the camp.

B Compound  No 5 PW Camp Myrtleford

Dichiaro che il comandante il mio camp d’internamento mi ha spiegato che, suboratamente al suo consenso, potro avere liberta di movimento, dietro parola d’onore, durante le ora stabilita dal Comandante, sia per uscire ed entrare il mio camp, sia per passegiate, senza scorta, entro la distanza di miglia 3 da tale campo d’internamento.

Prometto e m’impegno sul mio onore di ufficiale che, fino alla revoca dei summenzionati privilegi da parte del Commandante il Campo, oppure fino a specifica revoca di questa promessa ed impegno da parte mia. (Nel ultimo caso, sette (7) giorni prima della data della revoca, prometto che avvertiro per iscritto al Comandante del Campo della mia intenzione di revocare l’impregno)

  • Non tentero di fuggire o di prepare una fuga per me or per qualsiasi altre persone,
  •  non faro acquisti tranne presso lo spaccio del mio camp d’internamente e non ricevero ne daro qualsiasi articolo ad alcuno
  • Non entrero ne mi avvicinero a qualsiasi zona militare o stabilimento della forza armate, locale di divertimento fuori del mio campo d’internamento, osteria edificio pubblico o privato, veicolo pubblico o private ne entrero la zona abitata de una citta o commune. (NAA: A7919, C104007)

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      

Farmacista militare

An army has its medical and surgical unit, so it makes sense that it also has a pharmacy unit. This article honours those chemists who found themselves in the Chemist Reserve Unit in Libya. I would like to know further about these units and their operation as information remains elusive.

These chemists arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 13th October 1941 and they departed on the Oranje 29th March 1943 as part of a mutual exchange arrangement with Italy.

They weren’t in Australia long enough to have their photos taken at the officers’ camp at Myrtleford and they returned to Italy before the Allies offence Operation Husky into Sicily in July 1943.

NB This list is not necessarily complete

Nicola Ferorelli from Molfetta [Bardia]

Giuseppe Allegri from Cassine (Alessandria) [Tobruk]

Mario Cassone from Alba (Cuneo) [Tobruk]

Mario Andreotti from Sorrento (Napoli) [Bardia]

Luigi Caione from Palena (Chieti) [Sidi el Barrani]

Rocco Giliberti from Avellino [Tobruk]

Romolo Lamberti from Roma [Bardia]

Valentino Mari from Torino [Agedabia]

Luigi Mutini from Mercatello (Pesaro) [Bardia]

Giorgio Polidori from Montemarciano (Ancona) [Halem Nibeua M.E. (9.12.1940)]

Celestino Riccardelli from Caserta (Napoli) [Agedabia]

Giuseppe Buono from Boscotrecase (Napoli) [Tobruk]

Vincenzo Troili from Genova [Bardia]

Raffaele Chiarelli from Torino [Agedabia]

Clerio Garrone from San Giorgio Canavese (Aosta) [Bardia]

Rocco Lo Faro from Favazzina (Reggio Calabria) [Tobruk]

Renzo Conti from Firenze [Bardia]

Attilio Tulimiero from Avellino [Tobruk]

Uniform Regulations

Article 12 of the PW Convention, inter-alia, reads:-

“Clothing, underwear and footwear shall be supplied to prisoners of war by the detaining Power. The regular replacement and repair of such articles shall be assured.  Workers shall also receive working kit wherever the nature of the work requires it.”

What the records tell us

All prisoners of war were allowed to wear their badges of rank and insignia on their uniforms.

Clothing items, except for pyjamas, could not be purchased from the Canteen.

Clothing Issue

1 hat (a)1 hair brush
1 overcoat (a)1 shaving brush
2 coats, medical detachment (a)1 toothbrush
2 pairs of trousers, medical detachment (a)2 pairs of short cotton underwear (b)
1 pullover, labour detachment (a)1 comb
1 pair of trousers, labour detachment (a)2 pairs of woollen and cotton underwear (c)
1 pair of shorts (a) (b)1 jersey pullover (c)
1 pair of shoes1 safety razor with blade (d)
1 pair of laces2 flannel shirts
1 pair of braces2 cotton singlets (b)
2 pairs of woollen socks2 wool and cotton singlets (c)
2 towels3 cotton handkerchiefs
  • (a) Dyed burgundy
  • (b) Summer
  • (c) Winter
  • (d)One new blade a week in exchange for old blade

N.C.O.s and other prisoners of war

This group received a free issue of clothing and necessaries.

All articles were replaced free of charge when necessary.  Facilities were provided for repairs to shoes and clothing and prisoners of war employed as bootmakers, tailors, cobblers.

Prisoner of War Officers

Officers and men of equivalent rank must provide their own items and paid for at their expense. The clothing was manufactured in Australia and issued by authorities. Replacement officer uniforms were made after measurements were taken.  Completed uniforms were made in a venetian grey material, and cost approx. £5 each. The exception was for Japanese officers who were supplied with magenta dyed Australian Military Forces uniforms only but were allowed to wear any national uniforms they had in their possession.

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Camp 5 B. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Camp 5B Myrtleford June 1943 ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-33A

Merchant Seamen Prisoners of War

Both officers and other ranks merchant seamen were provided with clothing and other items free of charge. Merchant Seamen officers and other ranks did not receive a payment as did other prisoner of war. When arrested, they had been in the employment of shipping companies. There was no agreement with the Italian government to provide a stipend (payment) for merchant seamen.

For this group, the seven first articles on the above list were replaced by a peaked cap, an overcoat, a vest and a pair of trousers suitable for merchant marines.  The material used was a dark green cloth.  The two flannel shirts were grey and had two collars each.  A blue tie was also issued.

What do the photos from Myrtleford Camp tell us

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

Non regulation overcoat possibly made from government issue blanket (centre)

Group Number 27 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-27

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Groupe numéro 23. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. Group number 23.

Non regulation fleecy winter vests Group Number 23 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-32

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp.

Handmade plaited belt?

February 1945 Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-19A

Guerre 1939-1945. Myrtleford. Prisonniers de guerre italiens.

Regardless of being a prisoner of war, the officers wore their uniforms with pride

Myrtleford Camp ICRC V-P-HIST-03290-36A

Myrtleford Photo Album

Do you recognize your nonno in one of the photos?

My Dreams are Getting Better all the Time

The photos are from the Archives of the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Photos of Myrtleford Camp are also available for viewing at http://www.awm.gov.au