Tag Archives: Queen Mary 13 October 1941

Italians in Greece and Albania

Italian soldiers captured in Greece and Albania arrived in Australia on 13th October 1941 on the Queen Mary into Sydney. A number of Italian officers from the Greek Campaign arrived in Sydney on the Queen Mary’s previous voyage: 16th August 1940.

Unfortunately, these Italian prisoners of war, due to clerical processing oversights, are not clearly identified. It is difficult to know how many Italians from the Greek Campaign arrived in Australia. It appears that they were processed as prisoners of war in Egypt and the clerical staff recorded their place of capture as LIBYA.  Some Italian soldiers must have requested the addition of Greece or Albania, so we have this confusion: Place of Capture- Libya (Greece) or Libya (Albania).

A special thank you to Giulia Sigon. Her nonno Vinicio Sigon was the impetus for me to delve into this theatre of war. 

2nd Lieut Raimondo Uda serving with the airforce was captured on 30th July 1940: Antichitera Greece.

Italians Invade Greece

At 3 p.m. on Monday 28th October 1940, Italian troops crossed the border into Greece. In the first18 hours the Italians captured one small border town, but the Greeks counter attacked and advanced eight miles into Albania.  

On 30th October 1940, the newspaper reported Italy’s invasion of Greece: with the headlines: Italy Invades Greece, Duce’s Ultimatum Rejected.

On 30th October 1940 2nd Lieut Francesco Tieri an accountant serving with the 18th Regiment is captured

On 1st November 1940, Gino Volpi 2nd Lieut, a student from Firenze is captured.

On the 3rd November 1940, Gabriele Masulli a mechanic from Portenza is captured in Greece.

On 7th November 1940, Captain Alfredo Moricone from Ascoli Piceno is captured.

Reported 7.11.40

ITALIANS’ SLOW PROGRESS IN GREECE SHATTERS AXIS PRESTIGE

LONDON, Wednesday

Greek artillery is shelling Korca from the heights, six miles to the south of the city…  The newly captured heights mentioned in today’s Greek communique- are believed to be south-west of Korca.

Yugoslav reports state that the Greeks captured a  bridge on the Bechlista-Korca road above the Devoli River. The Greek advance in this sector was resumed after consolidating the positions beyond Bechlista, and attacks were continued throughout the night. Monastir, a point on Lake Presba, where the Yugoslav and Greek frontiers meet, was again bombed to-day, but there were, no casualties.

1940 ‘ITALIANS’ SLOW PROGRESS IN GREECE’, Glen Innes Examiner (NSW : 1908 – 1954), 7 November, p. 1. , viewed 19 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178545565

Antonio Damiani serving with an Alpine division is captured on 10.11.40 as is Luigi Mattei a Doctor, Corrado Celbrin, Ventruino Bacchschi Infantry.

Corporal Giovanni Bassignani with the 42 Fanteria is captured at Tepeleni on 13th November 1940.

Reported 21.11.40

The War in Greece Italians on Defensive

Threatened Supply Line Threatened

LONDON, November 12.

Latest reports of the fighting between the Greek and the Italians disclose that the Greeks have consolidated their positions on the centre front. It is also reported that Italian attacks on the Macedonian front have been repulsed.

The weather is clear on the Greek-Albanian frontier and the battle is still raging on the heights of Coritza. A Greek official statement claims farther successes in the air, Greek bombers being reported to have blown up ammunition dumps. The report also claims the further capture of Italians.

A message from Athens states that the smashing of the Italian Alpine divisions in the Pindus sector is considered an important victory. Italian generals pinned their hopes in the Alpine divisions being able to penetrate the Pindus mountains… The main Italian offensive against the Greek centre has been liquidated one week after the date set by Mussolini for the triumphal entry of Italian troop into Athens. The Italian drive against Salonika from Korca has also been flung back.

Only 8000 Alpine troops out of 12,000 escaped the Greek trap. A relieving infantry column was also routed.

1940 ‘THE WAR IN GREECE’, The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), 21 November, p. 15. , viewed 19 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article75441236

Giovanni Brondo was captured in Albania on 26th November 1940.  On the 29th November 1940, Raffaele Carrozzo and Giovanni Formasieri were captured. On 30th November 1940, Pietro Lazzarin, Alfredo Bianchi, Pietro Bruscagin, Giuseppe Bellon were captured in Greece while Angelo Fattorello was captured in Albania.

Reported 7.12.40

3 ALBANIAN TOWNS FALL TO GREEKS

ARGYROKASTRON, last of the main bases from which the Italians launched troops for the invasion of Greece, fell to Greek troops yesterday, completing a black week for the Italians. Premeti on the Voyusa River, north of Argyrokastron, fell on Wednesday, night  and Santi Quaranta, the seaport base in the south-west was occupied just before Argyrokastron.  This straightens the Greek line’ in the southern sector. 

In the northern sector the westerly wing of the Greek Army, operating

from Koritza and Pogradetz, has pushed into Albania’s main oil

territory, the valley between the Skumbi and Delvino rivers.

1940 ‘Black Week For Italians’, Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), 7 December, p. 1. , viewed 19 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48366880

Between 9th December 1940 and 23rd February 1941 the following soldiers are captured:

Vinicio Sigon (Nevizze). Luigi Cremaschi, Angelo Crippa (Pogredes), Riccardo Minari, Rodolfo Morelli (Pogradecci), Rocco Dolci, Francesco Lima, Primo Facchielli (Progradecci), Bettino Betti, Vitale Bartalucci (Pogradec), Adriano Bergamini (Goriza), Lodovico, Mario Barollo, Nello Avanzini (Nevizze), Luigi Di-Filippo (Clisuro), Gino Grandi (Chiusure), Gaetano De Mario, Antonio Pignatelli (SPI-Camarate) Donato Di Gregorio (Clisuro), Armando Continenza (Tepelene), Giuseppe Curti, Francesco Bernardini, Ezio Giorni, Alfredo Bellini, Pietro Franco, Gaetano Pavone, Giovan Battista De Gandenzi

Reported 3.3.41

SNOW ON THE BATTLEFIELDS

With mountain battlefields covered by fresh snow and hidden in storm clouds, and with visibility nil, operations in the Telelene area have been seriously hampered.

Ousted-from strongpoint after strongpoint and reeling back under the hammering of Greek artillery and the relentless pressure of tireless Greek infantry, the Italians once again found the weather an ally when they needed it most.

On battlefields a mile above sea-level snow once again lies deep, shrouding unburied dead and covering shell-scarred slopes and ridges with a mantle of dazzling white. Biting winds like blasts from the Arctic howl down ravines, and it is cold-bitterly, terribly cold.

Pack-mules slip on mountain paths treacherous with ice. Soldiers find snowdrifts five feet deep in front of their posts, making movement well-nigh impossible. Artillery observers trying to watch the enemy’s lines from positions carefully selected, can see nothing but a blanket of impenetrable fog.

It has been raining heavily for days. The Drinos and Aoous rivers are running bankers…

ITALIAN MORALE LOW

The Italians badly needed the respite the weather afforded them. Despite a stiffening of reinforcements of Bersaglieri and Blackshirts fresh from Italy they had lost position after position, and there had been convincing evidence that their morale was very low.

I saw a paper which was taken from a dead Italian officer. It was a long general order, exhorting Italian soldiers not to abandon their arms on the battlefield. The order stated: “Guard the arms which have been entrusted to you by the Fatherland. Cherish your cannons, machine-guns, and rifles. Those who abandon them are cowards and traitors. The enemy will use weapons you leave on their field of battle against you and your brothers.”

Considering the quantity of material of all kinds the Italians invariably jettison when defeated, the order was not without point.

The Greeks are using not only hundreds of Italian lorries, but Italian cannons, mortars, machine-guns, hand grenades, and even rifles captured since the war began.

I also saw papers found on a lieutenant colonel who was captured in this sector some days ago, when the Alpine battalion he commanded was smashed in a Greek attack. They included an order to captains of companies stating that it had come to his attention that men were surrendering and abandoning their lines. The colonel ordered the captains to post men with automatic rifles, with orders to fire on any soldier attempting to surrender

or retreat.

 Prisoners frequently tell me they have been machine-gunned by their own troops when attempting to surrender. They say that this task is usually given to Blackshirts, who are posted to the rear of the front line.

1941 ‘SNOW ON BATTLEFIELDS.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 3 March, p. 10. , viewed 19 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17728649

The shaded section of the map indicates the territory now in Greek hands. Progress of the fighting since the Italians invaded Greece in October is also shown.

1941 ‘HISTORY OF ALBANIAN CAMPAIGN’, Examiner (Launceston, Tas.: 1900 – 1954), 17 March, p. 1. (LATE NEWS EDITION), viewed 19 Sep 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52408671

From the 1st March to the 17th March 1941, the following men have been taken prisoners: Albertin Almerino (Monaster), Calligari Angelo, surgeon Boldrini Walter (Albania Pesdani), Graneri Lazzaro, Gaiassi Eugenio, Fraschini Bruno,  Cacciamali Giovanni and Gabrieli Stefano (Telepeni) Tancredi Domenico (Albania Anivinocasit) Benzoni Bartolo, Giuseppe Gentile, Michele Locantore (Greece/Albania)

For a more comprehensive account:

Il Fronte Greco was published in February 1942.

Camp 379 Qassassin

Prisoner of War Camp Quassassin was situated 35 kms by rail west of Ismalia on the Suez Canal; 230 kms SE of Alexandria and 74 kms from Geneifa.

On the map below, El Qassasin, Ismalia and Geneifa are identified.

(http://www.sunsandcanal.co.uk/canal-zone-map.html)

One Italian prisoner of war, Leonido Tassinari and his documentation assists us in understanding the journey of Italians serving with the navy at Tobruk.

Leonido Tassinari

Leonido was a gunner on the San Giorgio which was stationed in Tobruk Harbour when he was ‘captured’ on 22nd January 1941.

TOBRUK HARBOUR, 1941. ITALIAN GUNNERY TRAINING SHIP SAN GIORGIO WHICH WAS REDUCED TO A WRECK BY ATTACKS OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT AND RAF BOMBERS AT TOBRUK BETWEEN 1940-06 AND JANUARY 1941. (AWM Image P00090.026)

Leonido was processed at Quassassin on 5th March 1941.  His form is stamped in Geneifa Camp 15th September 1941. 

On 24th September Leonida and 988 other Italian prisoners of war boarded the Queen Mary. Around this same time, 948 Italian prisoners of war boarded the Queen Elizabeth.

Elio Spandonari

Elio Spandonari also served in the Italian navy at Tobruk. He wrote that from the Tobruk airfield which was used as a temporary prisoner of war compound, a group was taken to the port of Tobruk and boarded on a rusty boat.  The boat landed the men in Alexandria and they were taken to a concentration camp near the sea which was guarded by Polish soldiers*.  After a short stay, a group of marines were taken to a camp near Ismailia: El Quassassin (El Kassassin). Elio recalls that after many months, he was transferred to a camp close to Suez then the men in total about 2000 were transferred to the Port of Suez to be boarded on a ship: destination unknown.

“Il traghetto procedeva lentamente, però man mano la cittadina di Suez incominciava a rimpicciolirsi sino a diventare una striscia continua e incolore. Le navi ferme alle boe furono sorpassate e davanti a noi e, al di fuori di un enorme scafo poco distante non vi era più nulla, solo mare aperto.

Mai più pensavamo che quello fosse il mezzo destinato a trasportarci verso la destinazione che finalmente ci avevano comunicato: Australia, terra così lontana. Altre incognite, si andava verso posti sconosciuti…

Quel grande scafo con tre grossi fumaioli con una grande ‘C’ (Cunard Line) era la nave destinata al nostro trasporto. Era la Queen Mary, allora il più grande transatlantico del  mondo, stazza 80000 tonnellate, una montagna di acciaio.” (from Diario per Laura by Elio Spandonari)

Together, Tassinari’s documents and Spandonari’s testimony provide a timeline from capture at Tobruk Libya to arrival at Cowra Prisoner of War Camp Australia.

Port Tewfik was where the Italians boarded a ferry to be taken to the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary departed Suez on the 24th September 1941.  It arrived in Ceylon at Trincomalee, a deep-water harbour on 1st October 1941.  On the 7th October 1941, the Queen Mary sailed into Fremantle Harbour Western Australia. Coming in through Sydney Heads and sailing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Queen Mary disembarked her passengers on the 13th October 1941.

On the 14th October 1941, the first residents of Cowra Prisoner of War Camp arrived.

The Italian prisoners of war on the Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney on the 15th October 1941 and ‘marched in’ to Cowra Camp 16th October 1941.

Guerre 1939-1945. Nouvelle-Galles du sud, camp de Cowra. N°12, Section D. Les tentes. War 1939-1945. New South Wales, camp of Cowra, n°12, section D. The tents.

1st November 1941 Cowra PW Camp 12 Section D (ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-25)

Elio Spandonari, Ippolito Moscatelli , Leonido Tassinari Giuseppe Loprieno.

All four men served in the Italian Navy and were captured 21-22nd January 1941 at Tobruk.

There were a total of 339 marines from Tobruk on board the Queen Mary’s voyage to Australia in October 1941. It was almost nine months from the time the marines were captured to their arrival in Australia.

*Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade – a group of Polish soldiers, trained by the British in Latrun Palestine; they assisted the Australians and British during the Siege of Tobruk April 1941- December 1941.

A Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Every document, relic and memory relating to this history is special. Each item is invaluable.

A special thank you to Giuseppe Lutro’s family for sharing another ‘missing piece to our historical puzzle’.

Giuseppe was from Albidoni Cosenza and is seated third left in the photo below.

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 49640 Luigi La Favia; 47004 Luciano Zanon; 47915 Giovanni Bronzi; 49591 Pietro Perazzi; 49913 Quinto Spognetta; 49663 Carmine Ialongo; 48679 Angelo Tergorelli. Front row: 49858 Lorenzo Laurenti; 45570 Cesare De Angelis; 48160 Giuseppe Lutro; 46813 Pietro Salerno; 46889 Mario Paolocci. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030171/11 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

His Service and Casualty Card record his repatriation date: 31st December 1946 “Ormonde” but with thanks to Giuseppe we also know his arrival date in Naples Italy: 27th January 1947.

Giuseppe kept his arrival card Nave “Ormonde” 27-1.47. This card also confirms that part of the process upon arrival in Naples was to report to the Accommodation Centre in Naples (San Martino).

Recognition of Landing 27-1-1947 (photo courtesy of Nicola Lutro)

Logistically, I have always wondered how the Italian prisoners of war were processed upon arrival in Naples.  How did the Australian guard unit convey to the Italians the next stage of the process?  The Ormonde landed 2231 Italians. 

Now I know. With thanks to Giuseppe Lutro, I now know that the Italian military officials had printed cards, to be distributed to each man as he disembarked.  The card provided information for the next stage of the journey: to report to the Accommodation Centre.

This was most likely the first official document written in Italian the men had read in seven years.  Finally, they were almost home.

Impersonating an Officer

So many Italian prisoners of war, so many individual stories.

I found Giuseppe Spinelli by accident.

A solicitor from Rome, Giuseppe was with an artillery unit when he was captured in Bardia 4th January 1941.

Upon arrival in Australia on 13th October 1941, his rank was recorded as “Lieutenant”

It was 13 months before the authorities realised that the rank of Giuseppe Spinelli was sergeant.

I thought, did Giuseppe believe he could impersonate an officer?

Did the officers in the camps of Egypt and on the voyage to Australia not realise his deceit?

I offer the suggestion that Giuseppe Spinelli was suffering from a serious injury or medical condition. 

Groups of Italian prisoners of war were being sent to Australia and my suggestion is that an Italian medical officer claimed him to be a lieutenant to accelerate his chances of getting out of Egypt and to better medical care!

Giuseppe arrived in Sydney on the Queen Mary on 13th October 1941.  On this transport, there were 110 Italian officers. Giuseppe did not travel by train to Cowra with the other Italians. Instead on the 14th October 1941, Giuseppe was taken to 113 AGH (Australian General Hospital) in Concord Sydney.

CONCORD MILITARY HOSPITAL. PHOTOGRAPH PUBLISHED IN AUSTRALIA IN THE WAR OF 1939-45, MEDICAL, VOL 2, MIDDLE EAST AND FAR EAST, PAGE 431. (AWM Image 043228)

The newspapers reported that two ambulances ‘took away two stretcher cases and a few other men who were sick’.

1941 ‘Prisoners of War’, Glen Innes Examiner (NSW: 1908 – 1954), 14 October, p. 1. , viewed 20 Aug 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178556884

Upon arrival in Australia, he had a box of medicine which was returned to him on the 9th December 1941.

Giuseppe spent from 14th October 1941 in the 113 AGH until 5th December when he arrived at Murchison Camp.

Two months later, on the 5th February 1942, his record states: Falsely stated Lieut. – his status is Sgt.  

Maybe one day, Giuseppe’s family will tell me more of his story.

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]

What a journey!

Today I introduce you to Pasquale Landolfi from Frattaminore Napoli. Pasquale was 20 years old when he was captured at Tobruk 21.1.1941.

From 13.10.41 and his arrival on the Queen Mary into Sydney NSW until his departure on 28.6.1949 from Sydney NSW on the SS Surriento Pasquale travels through five states of Australia.

Tracing his journey Pasquale went from NEW SOUTH WALES: Sydney to Cowra Camp to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp. He transited through SOUTH AUSTRALIA on his way to WESTERN AUSTRALIA: No 8 Labour Detachment Karrakatta and Marrinup Camp.

Pasquale then crossed Australia again and returned to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and then NEW SOUTH WALES: Hay Camp.

The next stage of his journey took him to QUEENSLAND: Gaythorne Camp and Home Hill* Hostel. After escaping from the Home Hill Hostel, he briefly ‘visited’ Bowen until his arrest and return the Home Hill Hostel.

He returned to Gaythorne Camp before a return to VICTORIA: Murchison Camp and the Dandenong after he escaped from a Murchison working party. Upon capture he was sent to NEW SOUTH WALES: Holdsworthy Military Barracks for detention.

Three Italian prisoners of war boarded the SS Surriento in Sydney on 28.6.49: Pasquale Landolfi, Giacomo Tagliaferri and Isidoro Cammaroto. The ship sailed from Sydney to Brisbane QLD before departing for Italy.

The newspaper article below records this unusual situation of a passenger liner carrying three prisoners of war and two political deportees.

Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), Thursday 30 June 1949, page 8

1949 ‘Line­­r Has Unwelcome Quintette’, Brisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954), 30 June, p. 8. (CITY FINAL), viewed 20 Jul 2021, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article212190014

*Home Hill is 97 km south of Townsville. Bowen is 104 km south of Home Hill and 84 km north of Whitsundays.