Tag Archives: Queen Elizabeth October 1941

Ricordo della mia prigionia Australia

Ian Szafranek has shared two beautiful embroideries sewn by his grandfather Giuseppe Spagnolo while he was in Australia.  Giuseppe arrived in Australia on the Queen Elizabeth 15th October 1941 and departed on the Oranje (a hospital ship) on the 29th March 1943.

The initials within the red heart V G in the Arcangelo work represents Giuseppe’s love for his wife Vita. It was sewn in Cowra 1942.

Arcangelo 1942 (photo courtesy of Ian Szafranek)

Giuseppe  completed Santa Lucia in 1943. Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the blind and her name means light.

These embroideries are poignant and personal reminders of a Giuseppe Spagnolo and treasured keepsakes for his family.

Santa Lucia 1943 (photo courtesy of Ian Szafranek)

Read more about Giuseppe Spagnolo as told by his grandson Ian:

The Incredible Life of Giuseppe Spagnolo

How much does 14 shillings sixpence buy?

Filippo Ferrante had £-/14/6 (fourteen shillings and sixpence) in his possession when he completed his Property Statement in December 1941.

Filippo had arrived on the Queen Elizabeth in October 1941. He was sent directly to Cowra Camp New South Wales.

Where did he get the Australian money from?

A barber from Pofi (Frosinone) possibly Filippo offered his services to Australia soldiers on the ship returning to Australia.   

Australian currency – Maths Lesson

The currency of Australia was pounds £, shillings s and pence d

£1/10/6 = one pound, ten shillings and six pence.

£1 = 20 shillings

1 shilling = 12 pence

A look at 1943 newspapers

Petal Toilet Soap bar 4d

Singlet 1/11

Sal-Vital tin 2/-

Shaving mirror 1/4½

Sunshine Milk tin 1/4

Coffee Essence 1/10

Macaroni packet 7½d

Tomato sauce large 1/7

Toothpaste 1/1

Biscuits 1/10½

Seed packets 6d

Pastel Drawing Book 3d

Coloured pastels 9d

Exercise book 6d

Memo book 3d

Drawing lead pencils 2d

Plain flour 5 lbs 11d

Ricette (rice substitute) 3 lbs 1/-

Navy Beans 3 lbs 1/-

Plum Jam 24 oz 1/-

Soup mix 1/-

Biscuits doz. 1/3

Cordial 1/6

Newcastle Sun Wednesday 22 December 1948

NB The document for tobacco and cigarettes is from 1948. It is included for a general idea of prices.

Going Shopping £-/14/6

I have chosen items I know the men purchased from the canteen truck. Sal-Vital are effervescent salts to aid in digestion. Add to water, stir and drink. Brillcream is a hair cream. Tally Ho are cigarette papers for rolling your own cigarettes. The prisoners of war could use money in their accounts to purchase items from the camp canteen or the canteen truck which visited the farms. The items on sale were provisioned from army supplies. Some of these items like chocolate, canned peaches, condensed milk were impossible to purchase in shops (at times). Italian prisoners of war buying hard to find items, was a cause for criticism by many Australians. Some Italians purchased these items for the farmer’s wife in exchange for currency. It was prohibited to have currency. Some of the coins were used to make rings as gifts for the girls and women of the farming family.

Sal-vital 2/

Cordial 1/6

Brillcream 1/11

Tally Ho papers doz 3/6

Tobacco Ranch 3/11

Macaroni -/7½

Exercise Book -/6

Pencil -/1

Solvol Soap -/4½

Total: £-/14/5

Warwick Daily News Saturday 13 February 1943

Ricordo della prigionia in Australia

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:



Another Batch in Sydney

Sydney Tuesday-

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

This group of Italian prisoners were sent by train to Cowra: Cowra November 1941