A gardener from Tursi in the province of Matera, Salvatore Targiani was in Australia for less than two years. He arrived in Sydney on the Queen Elizabeth on 15th October 1941 and departed from Sydney on the 29th March 1943.
His grandson Salvatore Di Noia has shared with us a wool embroidered portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Portrait of Sacred Heart of Jesus
(photo courtesy of Salvatore Di Noia)
This is our ‘virtual’ museum’s first embroidered item sewn with the word Australia. Before Salvatore sent me this photo, it appeared that embroidery was only done in the camps of India. Every day, I learn something new about this history.
Salvatore has not only embroidered the words Benedico questa famiglia a me lontana: Ricordo della prigionia in Australia but he has also embroidered his Middle East prisoner of war number: 69876.
Queen Elizabeth disembarked 948 Italian prisoners of war on 15th October 1941. There were 25 Italian officers among the group.
The National Advocate (Bathurst NSW) reported the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth:
NERVOUS OF PLANE
WAR – WEARY ITALIAN PRISONERS
Another Batch in Sydney
War weary Italian prisoners thrust their heads nervously out of their train windows after they had been landed at Sydney when they heard a Brisbane-Sydney air liner overhead.
Ragged ill shod and with sullen eyes, they looked even more dejected and wretched than earlier arrivals who had also been rounded up by the AIF in Libya.
Some still wore their field grey uniforms. Others not so fortunate wore drill overalls and others still less fortunate were dressed in old trousers and odd coats or jackets.
Some stepped out boldly in their march from ferry to train in hobnail boots on which still lingered the dirt and grime of the Libyan desert.
Some wore sandshoes or sandals while others shuffled along in makeshift footwear.
Their headgear was also of a wide ranger, including sun helmets, caps, berets, and pieces of blanket fashioned into queer shapes.
Apparently to help pass the time on the voyage to Australia an artist had decorated his sun helmet with drawings of ancient Athens, the Acropolis, a woman’s face and two hearts.
Goatee beards were popular. One soldier sported an excellent moustache of 1900 vintage.
There was a small number of German prisoners all of whom were officers. They were well dressed and contrasted sharply with the Italians. [1941 ‘NERVOUS OF PLANE’, National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), 15 October, p. 1. , viewed 19 Apr 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160507243%5D
My research into Italian prisoners of war in Queensland has a number of public faces: the book Walking in their Boots, the website: italianprisonersofwar.com and the facebook page: Prigionieri di guerra Italiani in Australia
It was through the facebook page that I received notification from Nino Amante in Italy. On 23rd March 2018, Nino wrote, “Sono il figlio di Angelo Amante, il più alto nella foto.” Nino had not only found a photo of his father on the facebook page but he then found the website’s article, A Day in the life of … and comments about his father’s time working on a farm ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian via Gympie 72 years ago.
This was an accident. Nino had been searching the internet for an article about his son, named for his grandfather, Angelo Amante, and instead found his father. Nino was overwhelmed.
I believe that things happen for a reason. I do not know the chances of bringing together the son of an Italian prisoner of war and the son of a Goomboorian farmer. But a google search and a phone call* has brought together the two sides to this history.
Nino Amante’s words and contact has brought this story ‘full circle’. “E’ stata per me una grande emozione avere delle informazioni da aggiungere a quelle raccotle dall sua viva voce, quando mi parlava del period della sua prigionia,” Nino reflects. Nino not only has knowledge about his father’s time on this farm, but he has a connection to Jim and John Buchanan who were young boys at the time and who have fond memories of Angelo.
More importantly, Angelo’s story before and after ‘Redslopes’ emerges. At 19 years old, Angelo Amante began his military training, first in Turin and then in Bolzano. He was a member of the 7th Reggimento Bersaglieri(marksmen). He was then transferred to Taranto and in 1941, he left Italy by ship for Libya. He was lucky to survive the journey to Libya, as many soldiers died after the fleet was bombed by the British.
Angelo Amante: 19 years old
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
Angelo was captured at Gialo, a Libyan oasis town on 25th November 1941. Gialo was taken by British and Punjabi troops on 24th November 1941, but a small group of Italian soldiers continued fighting in the north east El Libba sector. After four hours of combat, two Italian had been killed and 27 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner.
Possibly the photo below of a relaxed Angelo was taken at Benghasi, his first experience of Libya. Like many of his generation, Angelo spent ‘his youth’ in foreign and difficult circumstances. He returned home to Italy when he was 25 years old. Nino explains, “Sei dei suoi anni piubelli trascorsi fra guerra e prigionia.”
Angelo Amante in Libya 1941
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
Angelo’s journey is like many of his peers. Italy to the battle field to Egypt to India to Australia to Italy. Angelo arrived in Melbourne Australia 29th December 1943. The next day he was in the Cowra PW & I Camp. His time there is recorded in a group photo Cowra 6th February 1944. Ten days later, Angelo was sent to Gaythorne Queensland 16th February 1944.
Cowra, NSW. 6 February 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 57037 A. Amante; 57273 G. Guarnaccia; 57288 G. La Iacona; 57252 S. Giambusso; 57051 C. Avola; 46957 S. Vizzini; 57257 G. Giarratano. Front row: 57268 M. Gordini; 57070 L. Bloisi; 57046 R. Armentano; 57038 S. Amoroso; 57226 D. Foringo. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (Australian War Memorial Image 030173/15)
Before Nino’s internet search, he had one photo and the stories about his father’s time in Australia, but he did not know dates or places. Nino says, “Sapevo che mio padre era stato in Australia, ma in quale parte di Australia? Che era vissuto in una fattoria, ma quale fattoria?” But his time in Australia was always remembered with fondness, a place to which Angelo wanted to return. In 1956, Angelo made preparations to emigrate to Australia with his wife and family. During a medical visit, it was discovered he had a small heart problem and his dreams of going to Australia ended. But his family kept safe a small photo of three men and two boys, knowing that it was an important part of Angelo’s memories of Australia.
Angelo Amante , Salvatore Scicchitani (Schichitano), Vincenzo Cannavo with John and Jim Buchanan at Redslopes Goomboorian via Gympie
(courtesy of Nino Amante)
For over seven decades, this photo did not have a context. Nino knew that the photo was from his father’s time on a farm, but he did not know where in Australia this farm was located. Angelo told his family a story about chilli plants he had grown on this farm and now he knows it was Jim, a little boy who tasted the chilli with severe repercussions. Angelo told his family about a trip to the city, to undergo a medical visit at the hospital and the wonder of seeing so many kangaroos on the way.
Jim’s memories and Angelo’s stories to his family are being slotted together. Nino writes that his father arrived in Australia from POW camps in India with very poor health. Angelo had contracted malaria and Nino remembers the story of an old lady on the farm who realised the seriousness of his condition and encouraged him to eat and the need for him to regain his strength. Jim knows exactly who this lady was, his Aunty Mag [Margaret], who was the matron (supervisor) for the Land Army girls on the farm. Angelo’s visit to the Gympie Hospital is recorded in the farm diary: August 21 1944 – Angelo going to hospital. And the stories travel back and forth between Italy and Australia and across the decades.
Upon Angelo’s return to Italy, he made his way home to Fiumefreddo di Sicilia and his widowed mother. Angelo married in 1953 and moved to Mascali, his wife’s home town. He continued to work the land and raised his family: Nino and Giuseppina. In 1984, Angelo passed away at the age of 63.
(photo courtesy of Nino Amante)
The sharing of stories and memories, the answering of questions and the ‘Miracoli di Internet!’ is like finding those missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle and finally being able to put them in place.
*In September 2017, I telephoned Jim Buchanan in Gympie. I had been told that he was the person to speak to about some of the Italian prisoners of war in the Gympie district. Jim’s words to me were, “I think you will be surprised with what I have to tell you. I don’t think you will have found another one like this.” And surprised I was!
Jim’s father Neil Buchanan had kept a farm diary for ‘Redslopes’ at Goomboorian. Peppered through the entries from 7th March 1944 to 1st January 1946 are references not only about farm life, but also to the Italian prisoners of war at ‘Redslopes’. This diary offers a very unique and firsthand account about the employment of Italian prisoners of war.
On 24th March 2018, I telephoned Jim again. I told Jim that I had some extraordinary news for him. Angelo’s son had sent me an email. It took a few minutes for the news to sink in. Jim is rarely lost for words. I said to Jim, I wonder if Angelo took any photos home to Italy with him. Nonplussed, Jim felt that this is not probable as very few photos were taken in those days. Like Nino Amante, this journey for the Buchanan family is emotional and remarkable.
In a beautiful tribute to his nonno, Damiano Lumia recorded the voice of Antonino Lumia telling his story as a soldier and a prisoner of war.
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: 46032 Raffaele Lomonaco; 46627 Giuseppe Restivo; 46007 Antonio Lumia (front row second left); 45586 Isidoro De Blasi; 46206 Gaetano Mineo; 45360 Giuseppe Cannata; 45103 Leonardo Barbera; 45997 Pietro Lomonte; 46221 Antonio Rondi and 47999 Leonardo Ciaccio. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.
(Australian War Memorial Lewecki Image 030143/33)
Antonino’s journey begins in Sicily and listening to his voice, we follow in his footsteps from his home town of Bompensiere to Toburk and Benghazi, then Australia. Finally, Antonino takes us back to Italy and his family.
Antonino Lumia begins his story with,
“My dear grandson, I had a lot of trouble. When they called us…”
and ends with…
“I saw your grandmother. I came down. I came home. I rushed to your father. Here is my story, dear grandson. The sufferings were severe, dear grandson”.
Damiano’s video Antonino Lumia POW in Australia 1941-1946 combines images of Bompensiere with photographs and documents from Australian War Memorial and National Archives of Australia to take the viewer on an intimate journey through time.
Antonino’s memories are told with humour and melancholy. English subtitles combined with Antonino’s voice, makes this accessible for those who only speak English. More importantly for those Queenslanders who have memories of ‘their’ Italian POW, it brings back to life their voices: the timbre and musicality of the Italian language.
“Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War in Queensland” has always been about connectivity between people, with the past, between Italians and Australians, with memories and history.
I am honoured and humbled that Damiano Lumia’s video has become part of this project for the oral histories of Italian prisoners of war are paramount to adding depth and perspective to this project.
Another aspect of the project has been to connect people with information. Research has provided Damiano with details about Antonino’s time in Queensland. Antonino Lumia was assigned to Q3 PWCC Gympie along with Giovanni Adamo. They were employed by Mr R – Mr Kevin John Rodney of North Deep Creek from 14 March 1944 to 4 January 1946. Miss Gloria, mentioned by Antonino is Miss Gloria Davis from Auchenflower. Mr R and Miss Gloria were married in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane on 6th May 1944.
Antonino remembers with clarity when he first met Miss Gloria. “The farmer was back. You could hear the horn of his car in the distance. His wife was with him. I had planted very beautiful flowers near the hut. I mad a bouquet of flowers. When they arrived near us… I offered flowers to his wife. He introduced us to his wife: Miss Gloria. They went home. For us the work continued. The next morning Madame served us the meal. A very nice woman. Every morning I brought wood to this woman for cooking”, speaks Antonino.
Antonino Lumia’s testimony is not only a voice from the past but also an important window into the past. Click on the above link and take a walk with Antonino through history.
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: 46007 ANTONIO LUMIA (1); 45824 BRUNO GALLIZZI (2); 46734 ALMO STAGNARO (3); 48355 GIUSEPPE ARRIGONI; (4); 45087 ANTONIO BACCIGALUPO (5); 46620 MICHELE RIZZO (6); 46626 EMILIO RUOCCO (7); 46635 FRANCO RONDELLI (8); 45900 ALESSANDRO IANNOTTA (9).
(Australian War Memorial, Geoffrey McInnes Image 063371)
Liborio Bonadonna was a private in the Italian Army, serving with the 231 Legion Militia when he was captured at Buq Buq on 11th December 1940. The Battle of Sidi Barrani was the opening battle of Operation Compass and 38,300 Italians were captured at Sidi Barrani and Buq Buq from 10 – 11 December 1940.
(NAA: A7919 C101539 Buonadonna, Librio)
A young farmer from Gela Caltanissetta, Liborio was living in Tripoli along with his wife and his parents when he joined Mussolini’s war. His father, desperate for his son’s safety, fell prey to unscrupulous agents who, for a sum of money, promised the repatriation of their family members who were prisoners of war.
In a letter sent to Liborio, his father Carmelo Bonadonna wrote on 21st December 1943:
Dear son, here it was said that prisoners who are sons of farmers, were to be repatriated on the payment of six thousand lire, and I, for the great affection I bear you, was one of the first to pay; in fact they asked us for one of your letters in order to have your address. Up to the present, we have seen nothing. Imagine, dear son, how happy we all in the family were for just then I did not know what I could do for the love of you.
Liborio had spent almost three years in camps in India and would not arrive in Italy for another three years. The actions of his father however highlight how anxious the family were to ensure a safe and early return of Liborio.
From Cowra, Liborio was assigned to work on farms at N8 PWCC Orange and N24 PWCC Lismore. Suffering on-going health issues, he was sent to local and military hospitals and was eventually transferred to Murchison for consideration for early repatriation on the basis of medical grounds.
Such was his health, he was on the list to embark on the Andes which left Australia on 3rd August 1945. Unfortunately, on 16th July 1945 he was sent to 28 Australian Camp Hospital at Tatura which was part of the Murchison POW complex. He missed early repatriation and was to stay in hospital for two and a half months.
28th Australian Camp Hospital Tatura
(AWM Image 052452)
The irony of his situation was that while he was approved for early medical repatriation he was too unwell to travel. His medical condition had deemed him ‘medically’ unfit to work and gave him priority for repatriation on medical grounds. During 1946, several transports for special circumstance cases, left Australia for Naples but Liborio was overlooked.
While he considered himself to be well enough to travel, he was identified as having need for specialist medical attention during the voyage to Italy. He could only be repatriated once as specially fitted out ship became available.
On 10th September 1946, in a letter to the Camp C.O. he presented his case:
Just at the time when the repatriation of the sick was to take place I was in the Waranga military hospital whence I was discharged early in September…
The present repatriation lists from which I have been exclude because repatriation is to be effect by ordinary means (i.e. in ships not especially adapted for transport of the sick) include nearly all the sick who, like me, were then considered as needing attention during the voyage.
Today I will to inform you that, notwithstanding a year’s stay in camp without any special treatment, my condition is such as to enable me to stand the possible discomforts of the trip home; I therefore request to be reinscribed on the above mentioned list, taking upon myself the full and complete responsibility in the event of any possible deterioration of my health.
My family live in Tripolitania and it is my urgent wish to rejoin it in the shortest possible time. To the above I can only add the prayer that you will kindly consider my request.
The Empire Clyde* returned Liborio to Italy. It was a Royal Navy Hospital Ship which departed Sydney for Naples on 12th December 1946. There were 226 Italian prisoners of war on board who had embarked at Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.
But Liborio’s return to his family in Tripoli was further delayed. Once he arrived in Naples, he required an operation. Fighting bureaucracy, he tried to gain permission several times to reach Libya and his wife and parents.
Liborio’s grandson, Liborio Mauro says that “He told her [my grandmother] if I’m not able to join you, I would like to go back in Australia. After 3 times, he finally joined my grandmother in Libya where my father Carmelo was born in Tripoli in 1949.”
Tracing Liborio’s journey as a prisoner of war has not been an easy on. His grandson explains that his records have his name spelt incorrectly: BUONADONNA instead of BONADONNA, LIBRIO instead of LIBORIO.
But passion and determination on the part of grandson Liborio has ensured that Liborio Bonadonna’s story is told and his records and photographs of his time as a prisoner of war in Australia are with the family.
Liborio Mauro says, “All my family are happy and my father is crying for happiness. My grandfather was the most important person in my family. He was a true gentleman, well-educated and everyone fell in love with him. He was a strong and simple man.”
*The Empire Clyde was a British Navy war prize from the Abyssinian campaign. It was formerly an Italian passenger liner Leonardo da Vinci.
Liborio Bonadonna with his family c 1979, grandson Liborio Mauro on his grandfather’s lap
Sometimes it is the little items which catch my eye.
Prisoner of war uniforms has left me quite perplexed.
For a few years now, I had noticed the black stripe down the side of trousers. This however only seemed to be for Italian POWs who had time in India.
This was confirmed by Domenico Ferulli’s recollections:
Ad Ismailia, località al centro del canale di Suez, sono cinque giorni chiusi un un recinto nel deserto. Sono spossati fisicamente e con il morale a terra. La notte è talmente freddo che molti sono costretti a bruciare la giacca o le scarpe per riscaldarsi. Per cucinare si usa la paglia. Fatti spogliare e fare una doccia tutto il vestiario è ritirato e bruciato in alcuni forni. Periscono incenerite anche le migliaia di pidocchi, che da mesi hanno tenuto fastidiosa compagnia! Assegnano a ciascun prigioniero: una giacca leggera color cenere con una toppa di stoffa nero quadrata cucito dietro le spalle, pantaloni lunghi con banda nero, scarpe nuove, sapone per la pulizia e persino dentifricio con spazzolino da denti.
Italians Taking Communion in a British Camp in India 1943
Suddenly, everywhere I looked, I saw the black diamond sitting squarely between the shoulders of a light colour jacket and shirt, as well as the black stripe down the leg of shorts and trousers.
Many of the clothing items the Italian soldiers brought into the camps in Egypt were infested with lice or fleas. It makes sense that these uniforms were burnt and new ones issued.
In May 1943 it was reported that Italian casualties (deaths, missing and prisoners of war) were 400,000.
Logistically, how did the Allied Forces procure 400,000 replacement clothing and find staff to sew on patches.
And what did these patches represent! Was there a code relating to intended destinations for the prisoners? Or was the allocation of uniforms random?
Prisoners of war in England wore a dark coloured uniform with either a pale coloured circle shaped patch sewn on the right leg or a diamond patch on the right leg.
Emilio Clemente is standing on the right of the photo
Prisoner of War Uniforms with patch on right trouser leg
English Prisoner of War Camp courtesy of Mimosa Clemente
Then I noticed an Italian prisoner of war in November 1941 at Cowra camp wearing a black diamond shaped patch on the backside of light coloured trousers.
The Italians who arrived in Australia during 1941, was transferred directly from Egypt to Australia. Did they receive these pants in Australia or Egypt? Answer: Egypt, because once in Australia, the Italians were issued with their Australia POW uniform.
The strap is taken from a uniform jacket issued to enemy prisoners of war and civilian internees held in Australian camps during the Second World War. (AMW Relic 32594)
The official Australian prisoner of war uniform was disposal Australian Army khaki uniforms which had been dyed burgundy as is illustrated in the above photograph. The men were allowed to keep other clothing to be worn only inside camp or for farm work, this included their national uniforms.
Canteen at Cowra Camp November 1941
(ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-32B 1941)
At Campo 306 Geneifa Egypt prisoners of war were photographed wearing the black diamond pants with dark shirts and there are groups of Italians wearing the black stripe pants and black diamond shirts. A pattern seems to emerge: prisoners once processed in Egypt were given clothing: 1. pale coloured pants with a black stripe and pale coloured shirt with a black diamond OR 2. dark coloured shirt and pale coloured pants with a black diamond on the backside of the pants.
The Kitchen at Geneifa Camp 360 Egypt (ICRC VP-HIST-00851-25)
The photo below was taken in 1943, Italian prisoners of war in Melbourne after arriving from India….black stripe on pant!
(1943). Italian Prisoners of War – Italian prisoners of war on their way to a prisoner-of-war camp, following their arrival in Australia.
(National Archives of Australia)
Cowra, NSW. 1944-02-03. Italian prisoners-of-war from No. 12 Prisoner-of-War Camp using a heavy duty pulley block and tackle to pull down a large tree in a paddock near the camp. (AWM Image 064137, Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)
Was the allocation of clothing random?
Was the use of stripes and diamonds random?
Did your father or grandfather mention the POW uniforms?
Has anyone else noticed these uniforms with patches or stripes?
Have a look at photos taken of nonno or papa in the camps of India?
The USA appear to have adopted a completely different approach as is indicated by the P.W. stamped on both shorts and shirts of these German prisoners of war.
German Prisoner of War Uniforms
(from Military Law and Vigilante Justice
in Prisoner of War Camps during World War II
Mark M. Hull, PhD, JD, FRHistS January-February 2020 MILITARY REVIEW)
I am not sure if you have noticed the names of the army photographers who took the group photos of the Italian prisoners of war: Geoffrey McInnes, Ronald Leslie Stewart and Lewecki.
Why did Steward and McInnes have their first names identified but not Lewecki? A little puzzle…
Once I started to look for more information about these army photographers, I found the answer to another puzzle:
why did the Italian prisoners of war look like criminals in their identification photos?
The answer is simple: these identification photos were standard army photographs.
Australian soldiers and Italian prisoners of war had the same type of photos taken. There was no stigma or negative aspect to these identification photos. This was just a process.
Read the article below to find out further information…
The man behind the camera and named as Lewecki is Michael Nicholas LEWICKI. When he arrived in Australia in 1928 on the Cephee, he identified his nationality as Polish; his last residence as Germany and his occupation as agriculturalist. By 1936 he was operating a successful business in partnership with Herman Schϋtze: The Leicagraph Company. They took street photographs, and were “skilled in sport, ballroom, commercial, portrait, outdoor and other branches of this art.”
By April 1940, Michael Lewicki was the official Defence Department photographer and the following article is from the Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW: 1931-1954), Saturday 27 April 1940, page 5:
Pictures 350 A.I.F. Men Daily
Australia’s busiest cameraman is Mr Michael Lewicki, official Defence Department photographer.
He takes on an average of 700 pictures of A.I.F. recruits every day.
“Since war began, I have taken 19,000 pictures of soldiers,” Mr Lewicki said yesterday.
Mr Lewicki is a Pole by birth. He left Warsaw for Australia 12 years ago and is now a naturalised Australian.
He is engaged by the Defence Department under contract to take pictures of soldiers.
Every A.I.F. recruit has to be photographed twice – once full face and once profile.
From each negative four prints are taken. One of these is pasted in the soldiers’ pay-book, and the rest are for Defence Department records.
Mr Lewicki’s studio was recently transferred from Ingleburn camp to the A.I.F. recruiting depot, Moore Park.
Recruits are enlisted and officially photographed on the same day.
At present 350 men ae being photographed daily, but Mr Lewicki’s single camera equipment is capable of photographing 1200 men a day.
It stands to reason that the identification photos of the Italian prisoners of war were also taken by these same photographers. For those of you lucky enough to have copies of your father’s identification photos, you will notice that they were taken in the same manner as the Australian soldiers: one full face and one profile.
At first, it is easy to think that the Italians were made to look like criminals in the identification photos. Reality is that it did not matter whether you were an Australian soldier or an Italian prisoner of war, the same photos were taken. This was part of military procedure.
Alfredo Bertini and William Hugh Lewis
(NAA: A7919 C99229 and NAA: A7919 C99409)
Michael Lewicki was taking identification photos of 350 recruits per day.
The first group of Italian prisoners of war to Australia in May 1941, totalled 2006. I wonder how many days it took to take identification photos of these 2006 Italians at Hay Prisoner of War Camp. I wonder if Michael Lewicki took the identification photos of the Italian prisoners of war. He had the equipment; and he had the experience.
If your father was photographed by LEWECKI, now you know a little more about the man behind the camera: Michael LEWICKI.
Evandro Dell’Amico’s passion for this history is obvious. He has published two books relating to his father: Bruno Dell’Amico’s time as a soldier and prisoner of war.
Scheda descrittiva “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE” – The Aussie Journey
Ne “IL VIAGGIO AUSTRALE – The Aussie Journey”, prima edizione 2017 e seconda edizione nel 2018, con il logo del Consiglio Regionale della Toscana ed altri Enti Pubblici ed Associazioni private, l’autore, Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21/5/1952, descrive
(photo courtesy of Evando Dell’Amico)
il lungo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia del padre Bruno.
Carrista dell’Esercito Italiano, nella seconda campagna d’Africa, il 7 febbraio 1941, viene ferito nella battaglia di Beda Fomm nei pressi di Agedabia in Cirenaica (LIBIA).
Fatto prigioniero degli Inglesi, resta in Egitto sino al dicembre 1941 e da qui viene trasferito in Australia, ove, come PIW n.49833, resterà, prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales sino all’imbarco il 23 dicembre 1946 a Sydney, sulla nave della Regia Marina Inglese “Alcantara”.
Avendo scoperto, alla morte del padre Bruno, una “valigia dei ricordi” ove erano state raccolte foto e lettere del periodo bellico e della prigionia nel secondo conflitto mondiale, dopo la pubblicazione del primo libro “L’uomo tornato da lontano” e dopo contatti con la Presidente dell’Associzione di Amicizia Cowra-Italia, Maria Baron Bell ed il Vice Presidente della Cowra Breakout Association, Harvey Nicholson, Evandro Dell’Amico decide di tornare sulle orme del padre, 70 anni dopo la prigionia subita in Australia.
Nel frattempo avviene, prima, la pubblicazione, da parte di un giornalista australiano, John Madden, di una foto di una famiglia australiana con cui Bruno aveva fatto amicizia, durante i lavori agricoli prestati in una fattoria e poi, il successivo ritrovamento dell’unico superstite della famiglia, Eris Hackett.
In pochi mesi viene organizzata un viaggio in direzione Cowra ed una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia tra i popoli, con il sostegno della Regione Toscana, la Provincia di Massa Carrara, il Comune di Carrara, di Massa e varie associazioni private.
Un’esperienza intensissima, con partenza da Milano il 2 agosto 2016, soggiorno a Cowra per partecipare a commemorazioni e manifestazioni, con scambio di doni e ritorno a Milano il 10/8. Successivamente, nello stesso mese, vengono recati i doni del Sindaco di Cowra Bill West e delle Associazioni di amicizia sopra ricordate, a Firenze, al Presidente della Toscana Enrico Rossi ed al Sindaco di Carrara, Angelo Zubbani ed al Sindaco di Massa, Alessandro Volpi.
Il libro “Il Viaggio Australe” è stato presentato pubblicamente a Carrara l’11/5/2018, dall’autore e dal prof. Giancarlo Tassinari, medico, docente dell’Università di Verona che era stato protagonista della “missione australe” nel 2016. La presentazione si è potuta avvalere di uno short fotografico realizzato dai due compagni di viaggio.
Il libro è stato oggetto di premi speciali / segnalazioni da parte di prestigiose giurie in Premi Letterari Europei, il “San Domenichino” e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo“, a Massa e “Thesaurus- Città della Rosa” ad Aulla.
“L’uomo Tornato Da Lontano” is Evandro Dell’Amico’s tribute to his father Bruno Dell’Amico: soldier, prisoner of war, film maker and advocate for the rights of workers. Evandro shares a little about his book and his father…
Evandro Dell’Amico has only recently learnt that his father Bruno performed in a play in June 1946 in the prisoner of war Camp Cowra, New South Wales. A precious memory from the past and a reminder that it is never too late to learn something new about your parents.
Scheda descrittiva sintetica dei libri “L’uomo tornato da lontano” di Evandro Dell’Amico
(Photo courtesy of Evandro Dell’Amico)
I libri di memorie familiari sul padre Bruno, scritti da Evandro Dell’Amico, nato a Carrara il 21 maggio 1952, prendono l’avvio nel 2013. Gli studi e la raccolta di materiale documentale e fotografico, affluiscono in una tesi laurea in lettere, discussa all’Università di Pisa, in data 7 luglio 2014. In parallelo a questa ricerca universitaria, gli eredi di Bruno Dell’Amico (Carrara, 1920-1998), Evandro e Lia, hanno realizzato un progetto culturale di digitalizzazione delle oltre trenta pellicole realizzate dal padre tra gli anni ’60-80. I risultati di questo progetto vengono presentati a Firenze, in data 7 aprile 2016, presso la sede del Consiglio Regionale della Toscana.
Nel giugno 2016 viene pubblicata la prima edizione de “L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO –
The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)
“L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO –
The man who came back home from afar Carrara (ITALIA) – Cowra (AUSTRALIA)
L’opera pubblica foto e documenti sulla vita del padre BRUNO DELL’AMICO che, nel dopoguerra, fu segretario del sindacato dei metalmeccanici FIOM CGIL, uomo politico di fede socialista, assessore al Comune di Carrara dal 1956 al 1970, sindacalista dei lavoratori ospedalieri di Carrara, Presidente dell’Associazione Diabetici di Carrara, sino alla morte, avvenuta il 1°maggio 1998. Nella sua veste di cineasta ha prodotto oltre trenta documentari girati prevalentemente nella provincia di Massa Carrara.
La prima parte del libro racconta la vita militare, l’addestramento da pilota carrista in Italia e la successiva partenza, nella 1^ campagna nell’Africa Settentrionale del 1940 e la 2^ del 1941. A seguito della disfatta della X Armata dell’Esercito Italiano, (comandata dal generale Giovanni Tellera, caduto sul campo), il 7 febbraio 1941, nella battaglia di Beda Fomm, presso Agedabia. in Libia, Bruno viene ferito e catturato dagli Inglesi. Dopo una breve prigionia in Egitto, il P.I.W. N. 49833 viene traferito in AUSTRALIA Sosterà prevalentemente nel Cowra Camp (New South Wales), 5 mesi a Canowindra e 10 mesi a Taree, tra il dicembre 1941 al dicembre 1946.
I flashback riportano all’attualità vissuta dal narrante, con ritorno su luoghi ove avvennero proiezioni di film di Bruno Dell’Amico
La quarta parte , “Il ritorno da lontano”, riprende la storia della prigionia in Australia ed avviene la “chiusura del cerchio”, ovvero attraverso i contatti del figlio Evandro con Associazione di Amicizia italo australiana, avviene la risoluzione di un “mistero”..che trova la sua conclusione nel secondo libro “Il viaggio australe” (ove viene pubblicato il corposo epistolario di guerra e di prigionia e viene descritta una missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia, ovvero il viaggio di ritorno del figlio, 70 anni dopo, sulle orme del padre, nel Cowra Camp nel New South Wales e dintorni).
“L’UOMO TORNATO DA LONTANO” è stato presentato :
-il 7 aprile 2016 , a Firenze, presso il Consiglio Regionale Toscano, assieme al “Progetto Cineteca”
-nel Luglio 2016, a Carrara, durante la Festa Provinciale CGIL di Massa Carrara;
-il 5 Agosto 2016 ,in occasione della missione di memoria, pace ed amicizia in AUSTRALIA, con il patrocinio di Regione Toscana, Comune di Carrara, Massa ed il sostegno di ANPI e CGIL MS, nella città di COWRA (New South Wales) ove nel 1941 era stato aperto un grande campo di concentramento. Lì, ed in altre zone dell’Australia, Bruno, assieme a migliaia di militari Italiani fu imprigionato o sottoposto a lavori agricoli in fattorie.
Il libro ha ricevuto premi speciali dalla giuria anche in Concorsi Letterari Europei
come il “San Domenichino e “Massa Città Fiabesca di Mare e di Marmo”, edizione 2017. Massa, 19 febbraio 2021 Evandro Dell’Amico
“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Elliot
Vito Eliseo has a passion for local history and undertakes research trying to reconstruct the stories of all those from his village who died during WW II. Vito believes that is important to make these stories known to future generations. He is concerned that in Italy there are still children who do not know what happened to their parents.
One of the Italian prisoners of war who died in Australia during WW2 was Martino D’Aniello, a relative of Vito.
Vito explains, “Unfortunately no one is left of Martino’s immediate family, there were 2 brothers and a sister… I could not find any grandchildren.” Vito has written, In memoria di Martino D’Aniello which you can read at the end of this article.
Martino, a waiter from Serre (Salerno), was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk, Libya on the 22nd January 1941. He was 24 years old when he died at the Waranga Hospital [28 Camp Hospital], Murchison Camp Victoria on 3rd December 1944.
This is the sadness of war; regardless of where a soldier died: Libya, Egypt, India or Australia; regardless of whether the man died in battle, in a field hospital or in a prisoner of war hospital; the death of a young man is a tragedy.
List of Italians laid to rest at The Ossario (Photo courtesy of Alex Miles)
The government records offered up a little information about Martino’s death. Martino died 3 days after being sent to hospital for “Acute Nephritis” and then he was buried at the Murchison Cemetery on 5th December 1944. In 1961, his remains were exhumed and he was re-interred at The Ossario* Murchison on 6th September 1961 and his name is on a bronze plaque at its entrance.
There is some comfort in knowing where Martino now ‘rests in peace’. There is no comfort though knowing that your loved one died on the other side of the world without family and friends.
A series of extraordinary and unconnected circumstances, has brought to light an invaluable insight into the funeral of Martino. Martino’s funeral was photographed by a representative from the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-10)
On the 5th December 1944, under an Australian summer’s sky; surrounded by Cypress pines and eucalyptus, Martino’s compatriots stand solemnly at his graveside. He was far from home, but Martino was not alone.
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-11)
Australian soldiers from the Murchison Camp together with Italian prisoners of war respectfully farewelled Martino. Vito reflects, “it is a consolation for his family to know that Martino did not die alone, he had the comfort of his companions and the generous people near him who considered him a guest and not a prisoner.”
Funeral of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-13)
Grave of Martino D’Aniello 5th December 1944with temporary marker front right(ICRC V-P-HIST 01184-12)
As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.
Martino D’Aniello nasce a Serre il 13 ottobre 1920 da Valentino e Michelina Mennella, un ragazzo come tanti altri, frequenta la scuola fino alla V elementare, e come tutti i suoi coetanei viene chiamato alla visita di leva il 6 giugno 1939, ed essendo di sana e robusta costituzione, per di più patentato, viene arruolato per poi essere chiamato alle armi il 1 febbraio 1940.
Viene assegnato al 1° Reggimento Fanteria G.a.F. (Guardia alla Frontiera) del XX° C.A. in Napoli, dopo la vestizione ed il necessario addestramento il giorno 8 marzo si imbarca per arrivare a Tripoli il giorno 11 marzo 1940.
Assegnato al XXXV° Settore di copertura, già dal successivo 11 giugno, viene a trovarsi in “territorio in stato di guerra”, la successiva assegnazione al 6° Autogruppo di Manovra lo condurrà a Tobruk, ed è su tale città che si stà concentrando l’attenzione degli inglesi per l’importanza strategica del suo porto.
La città cinta d’assedio dovette capitolare e fu occupata il 21 gennaio 1941, con la conseguente cattura di tutti i militari italiani che vi si trovavano, ed è in tale data che inizia l’odissea di Martino, con la sua tragica conclusione.
Gli inglesi a seguito delle positive vicende belliche in nord-Africa si ritrovarono a gestire alcune centinaia di migliaia di prigionieri che dovettero inevitabilmente smistare lontano dalle zone di guerra, e Martino, in questa moltitudine, si ritrovò prima a Ceylon e poi a Bombay in India, da qui ancora un altro trasferimento, a bordo del piroscafo Mount Vernon, che lo vede sbarcare il 26 aprile 1944 nel porto di Melbourne in Australia.
In Australia viene internato nel campo prigionieri di guerra di Murchison nel distretto di Vittoria, dove ai prigionieri è permesso anche di andare a lavorare fuori presso terzi, cosa che, dal 27 giugno 1944, inizia a fare anche Martino andando a lavorare presso mr. Kyneton, un allevatore di ovini, questo lavoro durerà poco, fino al 2 settembre, perché si ammala di una grave forma di nefrite, e rientra al campo.
Per l’aggravarsi delle condizioni il 30 novembre viene ricoverato nell’ospedale di Waranga, però il male è incurabile e muore il giorno 3 dicembre 1944 ed il giorno 5 dicembre viene sepolto nel cimitero della città di Murchison, poco dopo i compagni di prigionia provvidero a costruire una tomba più dignitosa che non il mucchio di terra che si vede nella foto.
Purtroppo le sue traversie ancora non erano finite, infatti il settore del cimitero dove era sepolto negli anni 50 subisce un allagamento, e questo episodio fece si che un italiano, che viveva nelle vicinanze, desse inizio ad una colletta tra i tanti italiani emigrati e con i fondi raccolti fu costruito un MEMORIALE, ove nel 1961 furono trasferiti i resti mortali di tutti i prigionieri italiani deceduti durante la prigionia.
Ogni anno il tale MEMORIALE, la domenica prossima all’ 11 novembre vi viene tenuta una cerimonia di commemorazione.
Welcome to Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War a comprehensive archive of documents, artefacts, testaments, photographs and research relating to this compelling chapter in Australian history. This is a community history involving Australian and Italian families from fourteen countries who have shared their stories so that this history is not forgotten.
Over 18000 Italian Prisoners of War came to Australia from 1941 – 1945. Captured in theatres of war in North Africa, East Africa and Europe, they were transported to Australia via staging camps in Egypt, Palestine and India.
There is much written about internment in Cowra, Murchison and Hay the main Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in New South Wales and Victoria, but only snippets of information are recorded about Italian prisoners of war in other states.
This research features Italian prisoners of war and their farming families in Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Articles cut across a range of topics: the battles in Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece; the movement of prisoners from the place of capture to prisoner of war camps in Egypt and Palestine; interment in the camps of India; transport to Australia; repatriation from Australia and arrival in Naples.
The stories and memories of Italian and Australian farming families gives this history a voice. The diversity of photos and relics shared personalises what would otherwise be a very black and white official report.
The articles featured on the project’s website brings colour and personality to this almost forgotten chapter in Australia’s history.