On 21st December 1943, Camp Commandant Major William Cummins ratified version 3 of Camp Rules for Hay PW Camp No. 6. While the rules relate to Hay Camp 6 only, it is probable that similar Camp Rules applied to other camps. At the least, it is a guide to the rules the Italian POWs at Camp 7 and 8 had to abide by.
No 7 and No 8 Camps Hay in New South Wales were the first camps to accommodate Italian prisoners of war in Australia in May 1941.
These rules and regulations were necessary for the “proper management of the Camp and for the enforcement of discipline in the Camp.” The rules covered daily routines such as roll calls, general routine, sick parades, smoking, safety razors, complaints and can be found in the link below. Some rules were very specific eg four folds in each blanket, no smoking on parade or roll call or in mess huts, bedding to be thoroughly aired, weekly scrubbing of hut floors. The photo below was taken 3 1/2 weeks after the new Camps Rules were enforced.
Do those blankets have four folds?
15. (3) is worth a mention: Every care shall be taken to salvage the following materials which shall be placed in the receptables and at the places set out hereunder: bottles, bags, cases, carboard, tins and fat were to be placed outside kitchen.
We think of recycling and salvage as a ‘modern’ pursuit, but in times of war, every waste item was a precious commodity.
Looking through the Service and Casualty Cards of the men in the photo reflects the many camps and hostels that these Italians were transferred to and lived in; a history in itself.
Q6 HOME HILL HOSTEL, LAVERTON HOSTEL (Salt Harvesting), V26 MORNINTON HOSTEL, V22 ROWVILLE, MOOROOK WOOD CAMP, No. 3 LABOUR DETATCHENT COOK, YANCO, V22 OAKLEIGH, MARRINUP
Giovanni Marzullo from San Giorgio del Sannio (Benevento) arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary, 27.5.41. He was one of the first group of 2000 Italian prisoners of war transported directly from Egypt to Australia.
The group photo below lists the names of the men. The names do not correspond with their position in the photo. Giovanni was quickly identified by his grandson Daniele; he is in the back row, first on the right. Giovanni is 34 years old.
Daniele Marzullo from Rovereto says, “When I was a child, I always played with the tank made by my nonno during his imprisonment.”
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 46181 Giuseppe Musto; 45685 Bartolomeo Fiorentino; 46799 Angelo Scoppettuolo; 46188 Giovanni Marzullo; 47941 Donato Cendonze; 45519 Giuseppe Dello Buono; 45174 Andrea Cavalieri; 45290 Carmine Cogliano; 45363 Pasquale Cappello and 47996 Mario Cioccolini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030143/10, Photographer Lewecki)
Giovanni was assigned to Camp 8 Hay. In March 1943, Camp 8 has listed under a heading: other barracks: a chapel, a barracks used for canteen in one half and administration in the other half, and a barracks used for recreation and manual work.
Engaging the prisoners of war in activities within the camps was a way of keeping them busy. Schools were set up; classes were taught; men had an opportunity to complete the Italian schooling curriculum; learn English; undertake tuition in a trades course.
The men worked with wood or metal, worked on a lathe to make chess pieces, turned silver Australian coins into rings; made belts from the cellophane from cigarette packets.
Giovanni worked in wood and crafted a tank. The level of skill in the carving of words on the bottom of the tank and the details of the tank reflects his occupation: carpenter.
Carro Armato di Hai, Marzullo-Giovanni(photo courtesy of Daniele Marzullo)
In contrast is a tank made by Rosario Morello. Rosario was a baker and his tank reflects that his passion was not working with wood.
Carro Armato made by Rosario Morello(photo courtesy of Esme Colley (nee Townsend))
Icons of war were common themes used by Italian prisoners of war. A statue at Camp 8 Hay features another much larger tank.
Camp 8 Hay March 1943: Italian Prisoner of War Doctor standing beside a tank made by Italian prisoners of war . (ICRC: V-P-HIST-01881-05)
What wood or metal items did your father bring home from Australia?
A day in the life of an Italian prisoner of war at Hay PW & I Camp
The details of daily routine are from March 1943. The photographs are used for illustrative purposes and are from November 1942, September 1943, January 1944.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. COOKS AND STAFF AT WORK IN ONE OF THE KITCHENS OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46915 PRIVATE (PTE) VALTER VINCENZI (1); 46922 PTE GIUSEPPE VEZZIANO (2); 45236 PTE ANGELO CRETI (3); 45070 PTE ENRICO BRUNELLI (4); 46117 SGT PIETRO MAESTA (5); 45180 PTE GINO CALDARELLI (6); 46847 PTE ORAZIO TRICCOLI (7); 46897 PTE FRANCESCO TIRALOSI (8); 45390 PTE CARLO DEL VAI (9); 46512 PTE DOMENICO PANICO (10); 46569 PTE ANTONIO RAGAZZINI (11) 45632 PTE MASSIMO FACCHINI (12); 46585 PTE ALFONSO RONCA (13); 45092 PTE FLORINDO BUSSETTI (14). (AWM Image 063362 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Day Starts 6 am
Breakfast 6.30 am
Medical Consultation 7am
Roll Call 7.30 am
Depart for Work 8 am
Inspection by Camp Leader 9.30am
Depart for Work 1.15 pm
Medical Consultation 5pm
Roll Call 5pm
Lights Out 10.15pm
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. THE MEDICAL OFFICER AND STAFF OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP OUTSIDE THE CAMP HOSPITAL. PICTURED, LEFT TO RIGHT: 49775 LIEUTENANT (DR) FRANCO FREDA; 48274 PRIVATE (PTE) SANTE PRATICO; 46430 PTE SANTE PROVENZANO; 46010 PTE FRANCO LUPPINO; 45478 PTE MARINO DE LUCA; 46931 PTE GIOVANNI VALENZA; 45205 PTE ALBERTO CIATTAGLIA; 46169 PTE SANTO MOSCHELLA. (AWM Image 63361 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The barracks are made of timber planks with a tin roof and window panes. Electric lights are installed. For ventilation and to protect the insides from dust storms and flies, metal screens are installed between the top of the walls and the roof.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-14. THE 16TH AUSTRALIAN GARRISON BATTALION AT THE PRISONER OF WAR (POW) CAMP. A VIEW OF THE MEN’S LINES. ALMOST ALL THE BUILDINGS IN THE CAMP ARE BUILT OF TIMBER, WHICH, UNDER THE HOT CLIMATIC CONDITIONS, ARE OILED ON THE OUTSIDE. THIS SERVES IN THE ABSENCE OF PAINT. (AWM Image 063207 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Between the barracks there are flower and vegetable gardens. Some men breed rabbits. Some men keep pets such as birds.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-15. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR RELAX AT A GAME OF CHESS OUTSIDE THEIR HUT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063354 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
In Camp 7, the Italians have built grass huts/pavilions to protect them against the sun.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR SHELTERING FROM THE HOT SUN UNDER ONE OF THE MANY GRASS THATCHED ROTUNDAS WHICH THEY HAVE BUILT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063359 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Each dormitory contains 28 berths. The bedding includes a mattress resting on metal mesh and 4 blankets. Each dormitory has 12 windows and 2 doors.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. LIVING QUARTERS OF THE ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063356 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Every man has a shelving for his belongings. The dormitories are swept daily, and once a week the dormitory is emptied and cleaned with soap.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-15. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP, WITH THEIR BEDS OUT IN THE OPEN IN PREPARATION FOR THE WEEKLY SCRUBBING OUT OF THEIR HUT. PICTURED, LEFT TO RIGHT: 46720 PRIVATE (PTE) SALVATORE SQUASI; 45236 PTE ANGELO CRETI; UNIDENTIFIED (NOT LOOKING AT CAMERA); 47970 PTE RENATO CORTESI; 46180 PTE VITTORIO MELI; 48255 PTE EDUARDO PIZZI; 45642 ANTONIO FURNARI; 46348 PTE RAFFAELE ORIGLIA; 46980 PTE SALVATORE VALENTINO; 46353 PTE GASTONE PETRONI; 46426 PTE EDMONDO PICCIONI; 48526 PTE DOMENICO LANDADIO; 46864 SERGEANT MAJOR FRANCESCO TUPPY. (AWM Image 063353 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Mess and Kitchen
Each camp has 4 refectories with long tables and benches. The non-commissioned officers of Camp 7 have a special refectory. All refectories are heated in winter.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR HAVING A MEAL IN THEIR MESS AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46137 SALVATORE MARRA (1); 46825 OTELLO SILVESTRI (2); 45752 ANTONIO GRAMMATICO (3); 47852 EDUARDO ADORNI (4); 45142 FRANCESCO CUPPARI (5). (AWM Image 063370 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Each camp has two kitchens, each consisting of a large stove room, a macaroni room, a bread room, a food room, a meat room, a vegetable room and a fridge.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-13/14. BATTERY OF COOKERS OUTSIDE THE KITCHENS OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 062927 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Ablutions and Laundry
Each camp has a booth containing 6 hot showers and 16 hot and cold water taps, a booth containing 30 cold showers, and two booths each containing 26 cold water faucets. In hot shower booths, hot water flows all day long.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. GENERAL VIEW OF THE LAUNDRY AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP SHOWING THE ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT WORK. THE LAUNDRY IS EQUIPPED WITH AND ELECTRIC WASHING MACHINE, COPPER, ELECTRIC IRON AND SEVERAL ADDITIONAL COPPERS ARE USED OUT IN THE OPEN. (AWM Image 063501 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Each camp has a laundry booth containing 4 boilers, 14 sinks and 26 hot and cold water faucets, as well as 1 ironing chamber.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP WORKING IN THE CAMP LAUNDRY. LINEN AND UNIFORMS FROM THE CAMP HOSPITAL ARE LAUNDERED HERE. ALL LINEN, ET CETERA, IN THIS ROOM IS DRYING ON THE RACKS AFTER BEING STARCHED. (AWM Image 063500 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Activities and Canteen
Camp 7 has an empty barrack used as a music room, a school barrack, an administrative barrack and a barracks of handicrafts. Camp 8 has a chapel, a barrack half canteen administration, and a barrack half recreation half manual work.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. 45005 LIEUTENANT PADRE I. VIRGILIO IACOBELLI AN ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, AT THE ALTAR IN THE CHAPEL OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE CRAFT WORK IN THE CHAPEL WAS DONE BY THE PRISONERS. PLAYING THE ORGAN IS 45192 SERGEANT MAJOR VINCENZO CAMMARATA. (AWM Image 063360 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Each camp has a barrack reserved for the canteen. There are no bars in these camps.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR PURCHASING GOODS AT THE CANTEEN IN NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. PICTURED ARE: 46429 PRIVATE (PTE) FERDINANDO PUGGIONI (1); 46642 PTE ROBERTO ROSSETTI (2); 48444 PTE FLAVIO CERRI (3); 45743 PTE FALIERO GAMBI (4); 46161 PTE ALFREDO MUSACCHIA (5). (AWM Image 063363 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The school of Camp 7 is installed in an empty barrack. The teaching is done by the priest prisoner of war and deals with elementary matters. The class includes 15 students. Camp 8 school is in one of the refectories. There is no regular class, only that NCOs themselves study elementary matters.
The camps have almost no reading books. Each camp has a theater with stage installed in one of the refectories. An outdoor stage is under construction at Camp 7. Theatrical performances and concerts are organized from time to time. Camp 7 has an orchestra of 10 musicians and Camp 8 has one of 8 musicians. The instruments were bought with the profits of the canteens.
HAY, AUSTRALIA, 1943-09-09. GROUP OF ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR INTERNED AT NO.6. P.O.W. GROUP, WHO HAVE FORMED THEMSELVES INTO THE CAMP ORHESTRA. (AWM Image 030142/02)
Each camp has a large sports field. Practical sports are mainly football, basketball and boxing. Camp 7 has a game of balls and 5 tennis courts.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR ENJOYING A GAME OF TENNIS ON THEIR COURT AT NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063364 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Camp 7 has at its disposal a barracks for handicrafts divided into four compartments – hairdressers, tailors, shoemakers and carpenters.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-20. N77562 SERGEANT L. MULHOLLAND (1) NON COMMISSIONED OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR (POW) DETENTION CAMP BOOTMAKERS SHOP AND HIS ITALIAN ASSISTANTS WORKING IN THE UNIT SHOP. (AWM Image 063536 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
A model farm and dairy of 120 cows provides milk to all the camps.
Hay, NSW. November 1942. Two Italian prisoners of war (POWs) construct the roof of the dairy which is being erected at the camp. The bricks were made by other prisoners in the camp’s brickyard. Rough timber was also cut and transported by the prisoners. (AWM Image 150903 Photographer Harry Turner)
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR MILKING COWS AT THE DAIRY FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE MILK FROM THE CAMP’S DAIRY IS FOR LOCAL AND HOSPITAL (14TH AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL) CONSUMPTION. (AWM Image 063412 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The construction by the irrigation canal system of a total length of 90 km has allowed the introduction of the cultivation of many species of vegetables.
Hay, NSW. November 1942. An irrigation canal constructed by Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from a nearby camp. (AWM Image 150892 Photographer Harry Turner)
A poultry farm for 2000 chickens has been constructed.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. THE POULTRY YARDS AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063384 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. THE POULTRY YARDS AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063380 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Bricks for construction work at the camps are made by Italian prisoners of war.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-13/14. 45161 SERGEANT MARIO CAPORASO, AN ITALIAN PRISONER OF WAR, WHEELING A BARROW LOAD OF BRICKS FROM THE MOULDING SECTION TO THE DRYING ROOM AT THE BRICK MAKING PLANT AT THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 062935 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
The ‘camps’ in Australia were not static. Over a period of seven years, the status of residents: civilian internee or prisoner of war; and their nationalities changed.
Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp was built in July 1940 at the location of the Hay Racecourse, Show Grounds and Recreation Reserve. The first residents were Italian and German internees from Britain who arrived in September 1940.
Initially planned for 2 compounds each accommodating 1000, this was extended to 3 compounds: Camp 6, Camp 7 and Camp 8. In March 1943, Camp 6 residents were Japanese internees, Camp 7 residents were Italian POWs and Camp 8 residents were also Italian POWs. There were three labour detatchments drawn from Camp 7 and Camp 8: Yanco (NSW), Toogimie (NSW) and Cook (SA). Yanco was a vegetable production project, Toobimie (and later Riley’s Bend) was a firewood procurement satellite camp with Cook being a railways re-sleeping project and firewood production.
The internees began departure from Hay PW & I Camp on 25th May 1941 to make way for the Italian prisoners of war who had arrived on the Queen Mary into Sydney on 27th May. The article below from 29th May 1941 discusses this change in Hay Camp residents.
On 20th July 1942, the Hay Camp was described as a “Model Prisoner of War Camp” where, “The men have made their own roads, erected their own pumping plants and fences, and laid down their own irrigation channels and sewerage. They have made theirown bricks, and built a modern dairy.”
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. ITALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR MILKING COWS AT THE DAIRY FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE MILK FROM THE CAMP’S DAIRY IS FOR LOCAL AND HOSPITAL (14TH AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL) CONSUMPTION. (AWM Image 063412 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
In time, Italian POWs were replaced by Japanese POWs. Some 2000 Japanese POWs left Hay 1st March 1946 to make way for the return of the Italians POWs. Italian POWs were being withdrawn from farm service and brought back into camps.
Queensland Italian prisoners of war from all centres excluding Q8 Kingaroy left Gaythorne PW & I Camp for Hay on 18th and 25th March 1946.
Hay PW & I Camp closed on 28th October 1946. The Italian POWs were then transferred to Cowra PW & I Camp in preparation for repatriation. In Novemeber 1946, a comprehensive article was written by A.J.T. Hay Prisoner of War Camp Some Reflections
Giovanni Marzullo arrived in Australia on the Queen Mary 27th May 1941 and was repatriated on the Otranto 10th January 1947. He arrived into Sydney and departed from Sydney and in those five and a half years his travel in Australia was limited to Hay and Cowra Prisoner of War Camps.
Giovanni was in the group of the first 2006 prisoners of war to Hay Camp 28th May 1941. He was part of a small group of 200 who remained at Hay Hostel – a sub-camp/hostel and agricultural project- until 27th December 1946. Hay Camps 7 and 8 had been vacated on 28th October 1946.
So a little history about Hay Camp, Giovanni’s Australian home …
In a July 1941 report, two months after the arrival of the Italian prisoners of war at Hay, there were no Australian army interpreters on site. “There are no interpreters in this Camp and not one of the P.O.W.s can speak English… The need for interpreters was obvious from every angle of administration, discipline, medical, dental, control of working parties, etc. This lack of interpreters places a great strain on the effective administration and is one that calls for immediate adjustment.” In quick response to this report,two sergeant interpreters had been dispatched to Hay, but “the appointees are not Italians”.
There were other shortcomings:
“No pay is being made available to P.O.Ws though the bulk of them are actively engaged on road work, ditching and agriculture as well as camp administration work in connection with the running of the camp. In the absence of any pay for men the personnel have been unable to purchase tobacco, which at the moment seems to be the main hardship, and the supply of which would, no doubt, bevery helpful in the maintenance of discipline. Following a recent visit by the Apostolic Delegate, a cheque for £200 was received from him for the purchase of tobacco for the P.O.Ws. We also learnt that £66 had been donated by the late Civilian internees for the same purpose. Tobacco has now been ordered.”
“There was no reading matter for the P.O.W., but the Apostolic Delegate is arranging to supply several cases of books for their use. As books are not allowed to pass between the Compounds, the C.O. arranged with the donor to supply duplicates for each Compound.”
“ A large recreation hut is established and is controlled by the S.Army [Salvation Army]. This had a small stage, various games, and a three-quarter Billiard table was presented during our visit by the Local Welfare Committee. The C.O. realised the unsuitability of the hut (owing to height) for cinema which is desirable for the entertainment of the Garrison, and is making arrangements for increasing the height.”
Michael Lewicki, photographer, captured Giovanni on camera 9th September 1943. He is standing first on the right. The scheme to place Italians on farms had begun in June 1943. By September 1943, farmers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were being recruited to sign up to employ Italian workers. It was at this time that group photos of Italians were taken, like the one below.
Hay, NSW. 9 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 6 POW Group. In this group are known to be: 46181 Giuseppe Musto; 45685 Bartolomeo Fiorentino; 46799 Angelo Scoppettuolo; 46188 Giovanni Marzullo; 47941 Donato Cendonze; 45519 Giuseppe Dello Buono; 45174 Andrea Cavalieri; 45290 Carmine Cogliano; 45363 Pasquale Cappello and 47996 Mario Cioccolini. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030143/10 Photographer Michael Lewicki)
In November 1943 the Red Cross Delegate visited Hay Camps. There were 485 Italians in Camp 7 and 483 Italians in Camp 8. At that stage, “the camps did not have any organised schools which is mainly due to numerous arrivals and departures. However, many prisoners of war are studying privately or in small groups. For the purchase of the necessary books, they generally address themselves to the Red Cross Delegate. These purchases are made at the expense of the interested parties.”
On the 24th December 1943, Giovanni wrote on the inside of his Collins Italian-English Dictionary his details. The stamp on the inside cover of the dictionary is interesting: ‘Approved for Transmission’ . All books had to approved and in the light of the above information, Giovanni paid for his dictionary. Without organised schools, the learning of English was left up to the individual.
Giovanni Marzullo’s Italian-English Dictionary (photo courtesy of Daniele Marzullo)
Building and construction of facilities for Hay POW Camp was an ongoing process. Perhaps Giovanni’s skills as a carpenter were required and the reason for him spending almost all his time in Australia at Hay Camp.
In 1942, there is mention of ‘skilled Italian prisoner of war tradesmen’ building poultry runs, a piggery and a dairy. In 1944, tradesmen were needed to construct farm buildings at Hay Camp. Giovanni was transferred to the Hay Hostel: an agricultural project near the town of Hay on 30th August 1944. He remained at the Hay Hostel until 27th December 1946.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-17. FARM BUILDINGS IN THE COURSE OF CONSTRUCTION AT THE FARM OF THE 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. (AWM Image 063390 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
On the 9th January 1947, Giovanni boarded the Otranto in Sydney for Naples. His record card is stamped 10th January 1947: Repatriated. The event was reported in the newspaper:
“SOME ITALIAN P.sO. W. SORRY TO LEAVE
The 448 Italians who sailed in the Otranto yesterday were the last to leave New South Wales, apart from escapees who are still at large. They will be disembarked at Naples.
The prisoners appeared well fed and healthy. All of them carried suit cases with blankets strapped neatly to the sides, with bulging kit bags and other luggage. Many had musical instruments. Some of the prisoners said they were sorry to leave Australia and hope some day to return. The ship will pick up 3,000 more prisoners at Melbourne…
The run to Naples will take 27 days, then the Otranto after the troops have disembarked, will proceed to London…” (1947 ‘GUARD WITH ITALIANS ON OTRANTO’, The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales (Taree, NSW : 1898 – 1954), 18 January, p. 2. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172278675)
Arthur Delves was a passenger on the Otranto and wrote to his parents about his voyage:
“ Very rough one day crossing the Australian Bight. The last point of vantage is Cape Lewis [Leeuwin] and that is closely watched as Aussie. fades from view. Ten days brought us to Columbia [Colombo] but did not stay, only delivered and received the mail. The day’s travel is put out on the notice board every morning, “Speed seventeen, sometimes eighteen knots an hour, distance travelled, time and date for the previous day, 380, sometimes 400 miles. Suez Canal is near and we go through at night, so will miss seeing one of the outstanding sights… the Pyramids. On one side of the sea is the River Nile and on the other the Jordan… I am a good sailor and finished one of my letters through the rough part of the trip in the Mediterranean. We were to have landed at Athens in the morning, but on arrival the signals were up that it was too rough to come into the pier. We landed our big army of soldiers [Italian prisoners of war] all right and the gangway was clear by 9 am…” (1947 ‘A TRIP TO THE OLD COUNTRY’, The Northern Champion (Taree, NSW : 1913 – 1954), 31 May, p. 6. , viewed 15 Mar 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162166470)
Giovanni had arrived in Italy. His short journey home from Naples to San Giorgio Del Sannio (Benevento) must have felt like one of his longest journeys.
The Australian War Memorial has a comprehensive collection of photos of Hay Prisoner of War Camp. I acknowledge photos in this article as being from the AWM Collection.
The inspiration for this article began with a photo of the Cowra Chapel. After some research, I realised that this topic was much more complex. Prayers, Priests and Chapels begins with the patron saints of villages and is a journey of the Italian soldier and prisoners of war through their faith.
There might have been exceptions but it was reported that all Italian prisoners of war were Catholic. Evidence of their religious faith starts with the prayer cards they were given of the patron saint of their village. These prayer cards were taken with them to the battlefields, to the prisoner of war camps, to Australia and then finally returned with the men to Italy.
Domenico Feruilli’s Prayer Card (photo courtesy of Rossana Ferulli)
In Libya Roman Catholic Churches were built by the Italians before the outbreak of war. Did the Italian soldiers get an opportunity to visit these churches and pray? Did they light a candle for their safety in battle? Or maybe they made the sign of the cross as they passed by these churches on the way to battle?
Biagio di Ferdinando wrote, “During my travels from Tobruck to Bengasi, after Derna and Barce there were many beautiful villas, towns, schools, churches, all new.” (Odyssey by Biagio di Ferdinando)
1st March 1941 BENGHAZI. EXTERIOR OF THE CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED NAME OF JESUS. SMALL BOMBS HAVE FALLEN IN THE COURTYARD BEFORE THE CATHEDRAL AND THE BLAST FROM HEAVY GERMAN BOMBS HAS SHATTERED MOST OF THE WINDOWS. (AWM Image 006539, Photographer Hurley, James Francis (Frank)
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. It was a prayer book distributed to Italian prisoners of war.
It included Preghiera Del Prigioniero as well as part of a prayer for the prisoners by Pope Pius XII. For many, this would have been their only book but it was a book to give the men spiritual guidance and comfort.
Libro di Preghiere(photo courtesy of Daniel Reginato)
In India, the men were given materials to paint and sew with. The men drew inspiration from their faith. Filippo Granatelli’s ‘Last Supper’ is one example.
Filippo Granatelli 16.11.42 (photo courtesy of Veniero Granatelli)
Many of the embroideries are religious in nature: the patron saint of a village, Jesus, The Sacred Heart, Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Giuseppe Polito: Rappresenta la Madonna degli Angeli, protettrice di Sacco (SA) il suo paese. (photo courtesy of Silvio Masullo)
Carved Wooden Statue of Madonna made by Isidoro Del Piccolo in Yol Camp India (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)
The Italians brought a little of Italy to the chapels in the British camps in India with elaborate decorations: paintings, statues, frescos and altars.
Camp No 23 Bangalore Altar (ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-16A)
Worthy of note are the details of Our Lady of the Prisoner. The hat, the shirt with a black diamond patch, the shorts with the black strip; items which identified the men as prisoners of war have been meticuoulsy represented.
Our Lady of the Prisoner Bangalore Group I 12.12.1941(ICRC V-P-HIST=03474-05A)
Bangalore Camp 2 View of the Altar in the Chapel (ICRC V-P-HIST-03474-20A)
Australia: In the Camps
The first group of Italian prisoners of war arrived at Hay Camp New South Wales in May 1941. A 1943 report and a 1944 photo records information about how the spiritual needs of the Italians were catered for at Hay Camps 7 and 8:
The prisoners of war of these two camps are all Catholics. Camp 8 has a chapel adorned with a beautiful altar carved in wood and having a harmonium. The chapel of Camp 7 is located in one of the refectories; it also has a beautiful sculpted altar and a harmonium. Each camp has a prisoner of war priest who provides regular worship.
Camp priest, Virgilio Iacobelli featured below arrived in Australia on 27th May 1941 with the first group of Italian prisoners of war. He served at both Hay and Cowra camps.
HAY, NSW. 1944-01-16. 45005 LIEUTENANT PADRE I. VIRGILIO IACOBELLI AN ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, AT THE ALTAR IN THE CHAPEL OF NO. 7 COMPOUND, 16TH GARRISON BATTALION PRISONER OF WAR DETENTION CAMP. ALL THE CRAFT WORK IN THE CHAPEL WAS DONE BY THE PRISONERS. PLAYING THE ORGAN IS 45192 SERGEANT MAJOR VINCENZO COMMARATA. (AWM Image 063360, Photographer McInnes, Geoffrey)
To make way for new arrivals of Italian prisoners of war to Australia, Italians were transferred from the established camps at Hay to the tented camps of Cowra. Cowra Prisoner of War Camps for the Italians were under construction. In November 1941, photos and reports record the temporary chapel and arrangements for church services:
Each section has a large tent serving as a chapel, containing a pretty altar built for prisoners. The sacred candles, bread and wine are provided once a week by the local priest of Cowra. Religious duties are carried out by three prisoner of war priests. Recently, Cowra had a visit from the Archbishop of Sydney, representing the Apostolic Delegate in Australia.
Cowra Camp No 12 Section D Altar under Construction 12.11.41(ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00216)
Giuseppe Raimondi from Amaroni (Catanzaro) served as priest at Cowra Special Camp 12 D before being sent to Victoria: V28 Attwoods, Myrtleford Camp, Puckapunyal and V22 Rowville. Raimondi was called as a witness to an inquiry into Captain JM Waterson and the fatal shooting of Rodolfo Bartoli at V22 Rowville.
Cowra Camp No 12 Section D The Chapel 12.11.41(ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00215)
Cowra Camp A Altar in the Dining room 3.9.42 (ICRC V_P-HIST-E-00218)
Faustino Lenti from Milano had been a Missionary Father in India and served at Cowra Camps. Lenti was a charismatic and colourful character and by April 1944, it was reported: It is alleged that he controls a ‘basher gang’ composed of PoW… and that he employs a personal bodyguard for his protection. The latest information about him is that he fears an attempt will be made on his life. (NAA: SP196/2 443/1/5280)
Reports were conflicting.
Cowra Prisoner of War Camp Information Board(photo courtesy of David Ackers)
The Apostolic Delegate for Australia, Monseigneur Giovanni Panicio published ‘L’Amico del Prigioniero’ in1943. It is a prayer book written in Latin and Italian containing the service of the mass, important prayers, Catholic Calendar of Holy Days from 1943 to 1951 and hymns.
Having the book written in Italian and Latin is significant. Mass was said in Latin until the Second Vatican 1965. This book ensured that the Italian prisoners of war had a prayer book in Italian. This gesture was a significant show of concern for the spiritual welfare of the Italian prisoners of war in Australia.
Ermanno Nicoletti carved a piece of wood and turned it into a profile of his mother, while praying. Granddaughter Alessandra contemplates, “News of prisoners of war were scarce and at some point my grandmother almost lost faith that her son was still alive.” On the other side of the world in Australia, Ermanno ‘knew’ that his mother was praying for him and carved his thoughts in wood.
Wood Carving by Ermanno Nicoletti (photo courtesy of Alessandra Nicoletti)
Australia: Life on the farm
By the middle of 1943, the first Italian prisoners of war were sent to farm placements in the Hamilton district of Victoria and Coonabarabran district of New South Wales. This trial was successful and was implemented throughout Australia: Prisoner of War Control Centres: Without Guards [PWCC]. In the Notice to Employers of Prisoners-of-War given to the farmers as part of the employment contract there is this statement:
5. You will be required to see that the following rules are obeyed:-
(a) P.W. must not leave your property except-
(i) to attend religious services, for which special arrangements will be made by the Military Authorities; (NAA: D2380)
There are many memories of the Italians attending local churches. All manner of transport was used to get the men to church; bikes, horse and sulky, truck, car, on foot. It was remembered the Italians would go to church with the Catholic family on the neighbouring farm, as the host family were not Catholic. Children of the time remember the Italians walking to church in their ‘red pyjamas’ a reference to the burgundy coloured uniform the men wore. Some Australians remember with shame that the Italian POWs had to stand at the back or sides of the church and had to leave the mass before its conclusion. Others recall the beautiful singing voices of the Italians during mass.
Italians in the Boonah district of Queensland attended a Mission Church because they learned that the pastor, Dr Dwyer spoke Italian. The Italians would enjoy conversations with Dr Dwyer after service. Members of the congregation knew this was against the ‘rules’ and wondered if they would get arrested for their compassion. Father Steele from Beaudesert Queensland, assisted and nominated Paul Raffa with his application process to return to Australia. It was Father Steele who welcomed Raffa when he disembarked from the ‘Napoli’ at Brisbane in May 1949.
In June 1944, a special event was reported in the Gympie news: His Excellency the Apostolic Delegate, Most Rev. John Panico, has recently been visiting prisoners of war employed in various centres on the North Coast of Queensland. At Gympie he met a large number of them at St. Patrick’s Church, where he celebrated Mass. At 10 o’clock his Excellency addressed the people, speaking in Italian to the prisoners of war and tendering them excellent advice. The services of these men are greatly valued by their employers because of their good habits and their knowledge of rural industries. (1944 ‘Of General Interest’, Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), 7 June, p. 4. , viewed 12 Jan 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172213489)
However this event drew the ire of Smith’s Weekly whose headline was: Fascist “Guard of Honor” and made mention of ‘dago prisoners of war’.
Also criticized was a decision by Commonwealth Authorities to give a petrol allowance [petrol was rationed in Australia during WW 2] to farmers to take Italian prisoners to church. The question was asked as to ‘why such benevolent treatment was accorded “these dagoes”.’
A kindly gentleman, Cyril Blacket of Pinery South Australia met an Italian prisoner of war at his local church. With good intentions, Cyril tried to communicate with the Italian farm worker, via the Pidgin English for Italian Prisoners of Warbooklet the Italian had, but with little success. Blacket applied to the Department of Army for a copy of the booklet, only to be warned: PW are not allowed to fraternise with members of the public, PW Camp Order No. 13 Sec 68 (c). (NAA: D2380)
1946 Cowra Camp
In 1946, the Italian prisoners of war were withdrawn from farm placements and brought into the camps to await repatriation. It was during this time that two altar panels for the chapel were painted by Cowra Italian POWs.
Cowra Chapel 1946(courtesy of Francesca Maffietti)
Back to Italy
Ippolito Moscatelli from Ospitaletto di Cormano (Milano) returned to Italy with photos of the Cowra Chapel. It is with special thanks to his granddaughter Francesca Maffietti that there is a record of the Cowra Chapel in 1946.
The altar panels survived. However they deserve a more detailed article.
How many other copies of this photo returned to Italy?
Have you seen this photo in your nonno’s collection?
Maybe you thought this photo was of a church in Italy?
Life as a soldier and as a prisoner of war was difficult. Some Italians were absent from their families for ten years. Those years saw the men always on the move. Life was a continual cycle of change.
One aspect of the men’s lives that did no change was their religious faith.