Tag Archives: Riccardo Del-Bo from Parma

An Alpine Ice Pick

Giuseppe Noal and Pietro Marcon crafted a special gift for Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown, Commandant of Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp: an alpine ice pick.

An ‘interesting’ gift but a gift with significance.

Background and Connections

Pietro Marcon served with the Alpini. The Alpini is Italy’s specialist mountain infantry and served in battle in the Greek – Albanian conflict of WW2. Pietro was captured 13.2.41 while Giuseppe Noal was captured three days before on the 10.2.41. Giuseppe’s card records his place of capture as Greece while Pietro’s card records Libya. [While an Alpini Corps served in East Africa, I do no know if the Alpini served in Libya]

The complex issues of record keeping implies that not all information for each Italian is correct.  Some men are captured as ‘Libya Greece’ or ‘Albania Libya’. Others have ‘Progradecci Greece’ as place of capture but Progradecci is in Albania.

I have no doubt that Pietro and Giuseppe both served with the Alpini and were captured in Greece.  Their journey is identical from arrival in Australia on the Queen Mary 13.1.041 to their departure on the Alcantara on 23.12.46, including placement at Q6 Home Hill Hostel vegetable project. These are men who forged a friendship before capture.

Looking further for a glimpse of Pietro and Giuseppe, a group photo taken in Cowra Camp highlights further common threads or connections.

The photo below is intriguing: seven out of the ten men were captured in Greece or Albania. All men arrived in Sydney Australia on the Queen Mary 13.10.41

Almerino Albertin from Abano Terme Padova : 1.3.41 Greece

Carlo Dell Antonio from Predazzo Trento: 3.12.40 Greece

Pietro Marcon from Rossano Veneto Vicenza: 13.2.41 (Alpini) [Greece?]

Giuseppe Noal from Via Felice Cavalotti Milano: 10.2.41 Greece

Giuseppe Oldani from Abbiategrasso: 3.12.40 Albania

Carlo Fossati from Lissone Milano: 3.12.40 Premeti [Pëmet Albania]

Riccardo Del Bo from Castrovillari Cosenza; 24.1.41 Greece

Mario Mancini and Giovanni Tadini could well have been captured in Greece or Albania as their dates of capture suggest this: 3.12.40 and 8.12.40.

Interestingly, Riccardo Del-Bo also made a gift for Colonel Brown: a caricature.

Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 47841 Almerino Albertin; 48023 Carlo Dell Antonio; 48340 Giovanni Tadini; 48210 Pietro Marcon; 48234 Giuseppe Noal; 48199 Mario Mancini. Front row: 48251 Giuseppe Oldani; 48055 Carlo Fossati; 48106 Riccardo Del Bo; Unidentified (name cut off list). Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030149/22 Photographer Michael Lewecki)

The Ice Pick

The ice pick signifies the Alpini Corps and its connection to Pietro and Giuseppe. They decorated it with a hat badge and star.  The alpine hat and feather are the most recognised features of the Alpini uniform.  

They engraved their names, Colonel Brown’s name and a quote in Italian: ‘ABBIAMO ISSATO I PEZZI, LA, DOVE ALL’ UOMO, PESAVA PERFINO IL PANE NELLE TASCHE’.

The words are from a patriotic speech by poet Gabriele d’Annunzio: “Hanno portato I loro cannoni e issato I loro pezzi la’ dove all’uomo commune pesava perfino il pane in tasca”

A special thank you to Ermanno Scrazzolo for doing some background research for me and correction of place names.

Ermanno explains the quote in English: “we pulled up the pieces (cannons), up there where for the men even the bread in their pockets was a burden.”

Ermanno adds, “Normally the Alpine troops had mules for carrying cannon barrels, but where the mules could not go, the men had to pull up the barrels using ropes and their manpower.”

This was Pietro and Giuseppe’s journey: into the mountains of Greece and Albania during one of the coldest winters on record; dragging the cannons through the snow and high-altitude conditions; exhausted.

The ice pick is poignant and important, not only to Colonel Brown but for all families whose fathers fought in Greece and Albania. We are blessed that Colonel Brown’s family donated this item to the Australia War Memorial, giving another insight into the life of a soldier and prisoner of war.

Three Distinct Del-Bo Paintings

Hugh Cullimore Assistant Curator: Art Section at the Australian War Memorial has uncovered another painting by prisoner of war Riccardo Del Bo.

A caricature of Lt Colonel Brown is housed in the Australian War Memorial.  It was attributed as a caricature painted by an Italian prisoner of war which,  “depicts a profile portrait caricature of Lt. Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown (1899-1975) wearing a cap and uniform, who served as Group Commandant of the Cowra prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. During his time at Cowra, Lt. Colonel Brown became friendly with a number of the Italian POWs interred there, before returning to civilian duties in 1947. The Cowra prisoner of war camp was constructed in 1941-42 to house Italian POWs captured by Allied Forces during the war. By December 1942, some 2000 mainly Italian prisoners and internees were housed in the camp.”

Caricature of Lt Colonel Montague Ambrose Brown 1943 by Riccardo Pietro Edwardo Del Bo (AWM ART92902)

The signature of the artist appeared to be RDel-Bi, which was thought to be an abbreviation and not identifiable.

A little luck; a little magic and RDel-Bi is Riccardo Del-Bo. Confirmation came from grandson Riccardo Del-Bo in Italy, “..it is confirmed that the technique used is that of my grandfather and also the signature I found on other works. I always thank you for your interest.” The Del-Bo family is planning a ‘Retrospective Exhibition: Maestro Riccardo Del-Bo’ and is always interested in finding more evidence of Riccardo’s art. Other examples of his work can be found at this link : Maestro Riccardo Del Bo – 1914/1997

Riccardo Del-Bo’s legacy in Australia is two portraits and one caricature.

 Riccardo was at Cowra Camp from October 9141 to October 1943 and Lt. Colonel Brown was at Cowra Camp from March to August 1943. This is the period when he painted Lt Colonel Brown. How many other caricatures did Riccardo paint while in Cowra?

Riccardo then left his mark at his next placement: a farm outside Stanthorpe, Queensland. He painted a young Janette Jones. The portrait of Janette’s sister Dorothy, unfortunately has been lost. Click on the link for this article: Del Bo the painter

Portrait of Janette Jones (photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

The third Del-Bo portrait was rescued by Jennifer Ellis at a second hand shop in country Victoria and purchased for $2.00. Riccardo spent almost two years at the Murchison Prisoner of War Camp in Victoria; pointing in the direction that this portrait was painted in this camp. Click on the link for this article: Another Del-Bo

Portrait of a Lady by Riccardo Del-Bo (photo courtesy of Jennifer Ellis)

Three distinct prisoner of war placements; three distinct portraits.

The Italian prisoners of war were more than captured soldiers in burgundy coloured uniforms; they were individuals who amongst the backdrop of ‘imprisonment’ found a way to shine.

Another Del Bo!

Jennifer Ellis stumbled across a portrait of a lady and so began her journey to understand the history behind the portrait and painter…

Jennifer writes, “It was purchased in a second hand shop in Smythesdale Victoria for the sum of two dollars. It’s not framed . On canvas . On back is branded 1943 on the canvas. In red writing it has Riccardo del.bo Parma Italy. The front is signed like the picture in [your Del Bo] article and dated 1946. Pow . The detail is beautiful.”

Signature of Riccardo Del Bo 1944 and 1946

(photos courtesy of Janette Ratcliffe (Jones) and Jennifer Ellis)

It is with thanks to Janette Ratcliffe (Jones) that we know a little about Del Bo and his time on the Jones farm at Severnlea via Stanthorpe. Riccardo Del Bo was from the Parma region in Italy and had been captured in Greece on 24th January 1941. He arrived in Australian on ‘Queen Mary’ 13th October 1941 and was sent to Cowra PW & I Camp until his transfer to Stanthorpe via Gaythorne PW & I Camp in Mid October 1943.

On 7th February 1945 he was transferred to Murchison PW & I Camp in Victoria until his repatriation to Italy on the ‘Otranto’ on 10th January 1947.

It would appear that Jennifer’s ‘Del Bo’ was painted while he was in Murchison PW & I Camp. The answers to the questions: who is the lady in the painting? how did the painting get from a prisoner of war camp to a second hand shop? what is this painting’s story? Did Del Bo continue painting? will probably never be known. Shortly after Del Bo’s arrival at Murchison, he was photographed: he is the last man standing on the right.

Murchison, Australia. 2 March 1945. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned in D2 Compound, No. 13 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 61970 N. Bruni; 48039 P. De Carlo; Unidentified; 49913 Q. Spognetta; 48016 R. Del Bo. Front row: Unidentified; 57177 G. De Vita; 57536 P. Rizzelli; 48145 P. Landolfi; 46993 H. Zirafi; 48153 M. Lo Cantore. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.  (AWM Image 030230/04 Photographer Ronald Leslie Stewart)

Jennifer’s keen eye and interest in the history of her second hand bargain, means that another small part of the history of Italian prisoners of war in Australia has been pieced together.

Jennifer reflects, ” I am also happy that I have found some history of this picture. The man I purchased it from can’t remember where he got it from as its been hidden away… When I told him about the history he was amazed. He is an antique/junk seller, and when I mentioned the pow under the signature he was surprised that he missed it. As I said it’s still probably only worth two dollars- but worth more in the history of it. I don’t think it has ever been framed. I’d say perhaps he [Del Bo] made it as a gift for someone and they kept it in a draw rolled up. It would be great to see if he continued his art. “

Portrait of a Lady by Del Bo

(photo courtesy of Jennifer Ellis)

Del-Bo the painter

A portrait painted with house paint, hangs pride of place in the foyer of Janette Ratcliffe’s home at Thorndale.  The portrait is special because it tells the story of the time, Riccardo Del Bo captured the image of a young Janette on canvas.

The year was 1943, and Janette and Dorothy’s father Herbert Markham Jones from Rural Retreat Severnlea had employed Italian prisoners of war to help work his fruit orchards.  Janette remembers, “Riccardo Del-Bo was a sergeant and a painter.  He did three paintings of our family: a pastel of my father in the orchards with a young relative; one of me and one of my sister.”

Jones.Janette.Painting.

Janette Ratcliffe (nee Jones) with her portrait painted by Riccardo Del Bo

(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

Dorothy Barraclough (nee Jones) remembers, “Mum didn’t like the painting that Del Bo did of me.  She said that it made me look like an Italian girl.  But I had dark hair and I suppose that is how I looked.  Interesting the things you remember.  I also recall an incident regarding Bread and Butter Pudding.  One day, Mum and I came around the back of their accommodation and we saw a pile of Bread and Butter Pudding thrown into the bush. I suppose they were too polite to complain that they didn’t like the dessert. Mum stopped cooking for them after that.”

Sisters Dorothy and Janette both remember the rabbits trapped by the POWs and the beautiful rabbit stew they cooked. “They trained a pet cat Mena to catch rabbits.  It was a black and white cat and they loved that cat dearly, one would carry it around giving it cuddles.  Every morning it would go out and catch a rabbit.  The rabbits had a burrow under a tree.

When the Italians left, the cat would still go and catch a rabbit each day.  My sister and I would cuddle the rabbit and play with it, until we were tired of doing so and would let it go.  The next day, Mena would catch another rabbit,” Janette recalls.

Jones.Janette.Dorothy

Janette and Dorothy Jones in front of Prisoner of War Accommodation

at Rural Retreat Severnlea 2018

(Photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)

The POWs lived in a separate accommodation to the family home.  It was a room which was adjacent to the packing shed. It was lined and had floorboards, a stove, table, chairs and a row of beds. They cooked for themselves and Mr Jones had a substantial vegetable plot with seasonal crops such as asparagus, cabbage, potatoes. Dorothy recalls, “A striking memory of those times is that Orlando played with me.  Janette was at school and boarded in town during the week, so I suppose this is why I remember Orlando.  When I read his POW Service Card, I realised that during that time he was probably missing his children.  His card states that he had two daughters and one son.  The men liked the draught horses, they are very calm animals.  Dad said that they were good workers and just happy to be out of the war.”

Del Bo 3933648Cowra, NSW. 16 September 1943. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POW) interned at No. 12 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 47841 A. Albertin; 48923 C. Dell Antonio; 48340 G. Tadini; 48210 P. Marcon; 48234 G. Noal; 48199 M. Mancini. Front row: 48251 G. Oldani; 48055 C. Fossati; 48106 R. Del Bo; Unidentified (name cut off list). Note: The number is an assigned POW number

(Australian War Memorial, Image 030149/22, Photographer: Lewecki)

Dorothy and Janette remember some of the many rules the farmer and POWs had to abide by. The Italians had to wear maroon coloured clothes, could not go to dances and were able to buy items from the canteen truck.  But one regulation, stood out as a little harsh and that was the instruction that the farming families were not allowed to give the Italians presents.  “The officials said that anyone who was found with presents, would have them taken away and burnt. Dad after the war though, sent them a suit each.  He felt that a civilian suit would help them in life once they returned home,” Janette recollects.