Today I wish to share a few images of Italians in the British Camps in India. It is a way to highlight the archives of the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Many families are already applying for personal documents from the Red Cross for their family members. There is also an extensive audio-visual collection available for viewing.
The ICRC’s historical archives comprise 6,700 linear metres of textual records and a collection of photographs, films and other audio archives. Tens of thousands of documents are available in digital format on the ICRC audiovisual archives portal.
While it is improbable that you will find a photo of your father, you will however view photos which will highlight aspects of the daily life and routine of Italian prisoners of war.
A comprehensive report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on its activities during the Second World War was published in May 1948.
Specific situations relating to India were mentioned:
Conditions of Health in the Camps:
World War II. Bangalore. Group I. Italian prisoners of war camp. Hospital ward. ICRC V-P-HIST-03473-26
India.- The authorities took the necessary measures to ensure health and cleanliness in camps despite the difficulties due to the geographical situation and climate. Both cholera and malaria had to be dealt with. The fairly large numbers of cases of syphilis amongst PW should also be mentioned.
In 1941, sanitary installations were satisfactory. In certain camps there were as many as 24 showers for 400 men. Many of the rooms were provided with ventilators, and the buildings were properly insulated against the heat.
Altogether, there was a shortage of medicaments, in particular quinine for treating malaria. The diseases most common were typhoid fever, dysentery, malaria and syphilis. The majority of PW were vaccinated against typhus. Paraffin oil was poured on the surface of ponds near some camps to prevent the spread of malaria.
In 1942, cholera broke out in several camps, but was effectively dealt with. In some camps there were more than 500 cases of syphilis. One of the most difficult problems to solve was a regular supple of water. The chief anxiety of the doctors was to prevent epidemics.
It was observed in 1943 that the men who had been vaccinated did not have cholera. On the other hand, in was found very difficult to contend with malaria in certain camps, where 60 to 80% of PW were stricken. Typhoid fever and dysentery were an almost continual menace and extensive measures were taken against them; there was also a great need for medicaments, and the ICRC rendered substantial services in this field.
From 1944 onwards everything was working satisfactorily in PW camps in India. Serums were sent out to the infirmaries in Ceylon, where venomous snakes were common.
World War II. Bangalore. Group I. Italian prisoners of war camp. The washing and at rear of photo water tanks for latrine cleaning. ICRC V-P-HIST-03469-05
World War II. British India. Group II. Italian prisoners of war camp. System of water purification.ICRC V-P-HIST-03470-15
World War II. British India. 05/1943 Group V. Italian prisoners of war camp. Disinfection plant. ICRC V-P-HIST-03471-20
In India, as the delegates found when they visited PW camps during 1941 and 1942, conditions in respect of clothing were most inadequate. There were complaints from every side, with regard to shortage both of clothes and underclothing, and of footwear. The delegates were moved to intervene, but the situation did not improve to any degree till 1943 and 1944, after fresh issues had been made.
Clothing Issue in India: Michele Truono (NAA: A7919, C98805)
The photos tell a little about life in a British prisoner of war camp in India…
A simple cup of coffee
Canteens were established in each camp. A range of products were sold: head ache tablets, powders for the digestion, toothpaste, cigarette holders, playing cards, combs, shaving cream, lemon squash, flavoured essence, items of clothing, exercise books, cigarettes.
Have to admire the Italians who made a coffee machine (is this a perculator?). There are even espresso cups and saucers.
Italian Prisoners of War: Canteen at Camp No. 4 British Camps in India
Life is a combination of magic and pasta …Federico Fellini
A little flour, a little water, a little magic and the Italian cooks at Bangalore make fresh pasta…
Italian Prisoners of War: Bangalore Group I Preparation of Spaghetti