While there are number of documented cases of Italian prisoners of war marrying Australian women, the official stance was framed around the British Government’s policy, that being : REFUSAL FOR PERMISSION FOR CO-OPERATORS TO MARRY BRITISH WOMEN.
Buried deep in the National Archives is the story of one family who sought permission for an Italian POW to marry a young Australian woman. EJ was a Land Army Girl and AM was a POW. They met at Goolagong while EJ was picking tomatoes with the Land Army.
An honourable man, AM wanted to marry EJ and support her and their son. As the extracts from letters highlight: AM had sought and obtained permission from his family in Italy, the catholic priest at Cowra had baptised the baby and HA, EJ’s mother had arranged work for AM.
“My darling, after so much waiting I got a letter from you. It gave me so much happiness. My dearest, you said that mum rang up the officer at Cowra, well they did not yet call me to ask me anything about it however when they want me, I’m always ready to tell them the truth and I’ll tell them that I want to be free and marry you straight away. I’m glad that you will send your photo to my mother, she will be happy to get it.” AM 15 May 1945
“I have had his baby baptised at the Catholic Church here in Cowra and told Father the priest all about my trouble and he is preparing me for our marriage… at the Church here I would keep it secret” EJ 7 June 1945
“My daughter is very anxious to marry an Italian prisoner of war… he [the baby] is very sick now has a very bad chest and took convulsions last night… the prisoner is also anxious to marry my daughter he is a good man and we can get him work in the back country trapping with my son who has all the outfit and is willing to do something to help them when they get married.” HA (mother of EJ) 20 June 1945
Unfortunately, the government response was : “Although there appears to be no law in existence which would affect the validity of such marriages if performed it was decided that they would not be permitted.” So while the government would not sanction marriages or give couples permission to marry, there was little authorities could do, should an Australian woman and an Italian POW marry. Unfortunately, EJ and AM did not see this ‘loophole’.
AM and EJ did however seem to have spent 4 to 6 weeks together in early 1946 after AM escaped from custody. He returned willingly to camp and surrendered himself to the guards. On 10th January 1947, AM was repatriated to Italy and there is no record of his return to Australia.
EJ and AM made one mistake, and that was to ask permission to marry from the authorities. Had they married, their story might have had a happier ending.
The relationship between Italian POW FN and HM, was dealt with the full force of the law. On 20th April 1945, FN was sent to Detention Barracks at Hay (NSW) for 12 months by order of a Military Court. FN was charged with “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline among PW (Between Dec 43 and Feb 44 having sexual intercourse with a female).” A harsh penalty considering other similar cases were dealt with differently and with more compassion. FN wanted to marry HM and HM said that she was prepared to marry him. Their liaison had resulted in the birth of a son. FN served his 12 months detention but never returned to the state of his placement nor to Australia after the war.
A softening of the official directive regarding marriage of Australian women to Italian prisoners of war, is however highlighted by this notation from 18 December 1946:
Approval by the Minister has been given in principle to marriages between Italian prisoners of war and Australian Women. ( War Diary AWM52 1/1/14/15 July to December 1946)
One wonders if Italian POWs AM and FN were notified of this change in policy regarding marriages between Italian POWs and Australian women and given the opportunity to marry EJ and HM and be reunited with their sons.
Two stories with happier endings can be found at: Colleen and Mick and Francesco and June
Records reveal the following statement on POW marriages:
It became apparent that 2 PW had been married to Australian women whilst escapees in Australia, and 4 others, 3 of whom had been escapees, desired to contract marriages; the remaining PW had been for a long period in rural employment. The bona fides of the applications of these latter 4 PW were given full consideration and approval was finally given for their marriages, and where necessary leave was granted to them to enable marriages to be effected. (NAA: A7711)
And another happy ending is that of Mr and Mrs Auciello. Nicola Auciello was photographed before he boarded the Alcantara to return to Italy. The attached report states: “Nicola Auciello, Italian sailor, became a prisoner in the Mediterranean Sea when the Sydney sank his cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni, said he was engaged to an Australian girl who lived at Orange and wanted to get back Australia to marry her. Asked if any other Italians had become engaged Auciello smiled and said, “Plenty.”
1946, The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), 23 December, p. 3. (LATE FINAL EXTRA), viewed 13 Apr 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24562456
He was repatriated to Italy and then his fiancee made the journey to Italy to marry before returning to Australia.