Supply of wood to industries in South Australia was essential during WW2. Italian prisoners of war were employed in two South Australian wood cutting projects. The Morgan Hostel : S14 PWCH (Prisoner of War Control Hostel) was overseen by the State Conservator of Forests and the Woolenook Hostel: S12 PWCH was overseen by the South Australia Department of Lands. A group of Italians began work at S14 Morgan from 15.5.44 and were transferred as a group to S12 Woolenook on 9.8.45. Their experience from S14 Morgan would have been invaluable to the operation of S12 Woolenook.
S14 Morgan Hostel
S14 Morgan Hostel operated from 15th May 1944 through to 9th August 1945. The official date for closure was 4th August 1945. It is often recorded on the Service and Casualty Form as Hostel Morgan. The Employing Authority was the Conservator of Forests SA with the men employed for firewood cutting and accommodation was to provided by the Conservator of Forests SA.
Before May 1944, wood cutting was undertaken by a separate workforce of aliens*. This group of workers, continued working until March 45.
Newspapers provide the following information about Morgan wood cutting camps and facilities. There were two hostels: one at Morgan* and one at Mile End. In 1943 a new railway siding was constructed 2 miles from Morgan to facilitate the loading of wood. The railway siding was 17 mile from the camp. Also mentioned is that the camp was 20 miles from town. Saw benches were installed during 1943 to cut timber to domestic lengths. Previously, the timber was used for industry only. In 1944, green standing mallee timber was cut, as stores of all ‘ready made’ dead wood had been used. Also mentioned is that 30 to 35 trucks were needed to cart wood to the railway siding. In July 1944, with a decrease of the alien workforce (so that they could be used for fruit picking) the Commissioner of Public Works acknowledged that “We are already using prisoners of war at the moment and do not expect them to be taken away.”
One incident relating to S14 Morgan was the escape of two POWs. In February 1945, two Italians escaped: Tommaso Mazzilli a farmer from Corato (Bari) and Antonio Ninu a miner from Silanus (Nuoro).
1945 ‘2 ITALIANS LOST IN BUSH’, News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), 10 February, p. 3. , viewed 10 Apr 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127294816
Further information on S14 Morgan Hostel remains elusive.
*Parallel to the wood cutting undertaken by the Italian POWs was also a Civil Aliens Corps (CAC) group of Italian aliens who also worked for the Woods and Forestry Department. This CAC camp was known as No. 4 Camp Morgan. The Civil Aliens Corps was established as a labour corps of alien Australian residents. As ‘aliens’ they were directed to work in ‘essential’ industries. In March 1945, it was reported that 36 aliens were at Morgan and 52 aliens were working in the Bundaleer, Wirrabara and Mt Burr forestry.
Doctor Enrico Frego from Tornaco (Novara) was assigned to wood camps of S14 Morgan Hostel and S12 Woolenook Hostel. (S14 22.6.44 to 31.8.44 and 23.6.45 to 9.8.45) (S12 9.8.45 to 28.8.45)
Doctor Mario Sano from Torino was assigned to S14 Morgan Hostel (31.8.44 to 226.6.45)
S12 Woolenook Hostel
S12 Woolenook Bend Hostel operated from 9th August 1945 to December 1945. The date set for closure was 30 November 1945, but the majority of Italians left in two groups: 4.12.45 and 12.12.45. A small group of Italians were posted to this camp from 3.1.46 to 11.1.46.
It was a camp which had previously been occupied by Japanese internees from Loveday Camp. The camp and hostel buildings, plant and equipment were owned by the Department of Army. The Japanese internees vacated the camp on 6th May 1945.
The letter below, provides some of the details of the S12 Hostel and its operations. the camp site was about 12 miles past Renmark on the bank of the River Murray. The Minister of Irrigation acted as Employing Authority and the Italians were to be engaged in woodcutting, trellising, distribution of fencing posts and mill timber etc. The employing authority used the existing facilities on the site on a lease arrangement with the Department of Army. The hostel was allocated 1 Italian medical officer and 2 protected personnel for hygiene and RAP duties.
Doctor Enrico Frego from Tornaco (Novara) was assigned to wood camps S14 Morgan Hostel and S12 Woolenook Hostel. (S14 22.6.44 to 31.8.44 and 23.6.45 to 9.8.45) (S12 9.8.45 to 28.8.45)
Doctor Paolo Di Bella from Castelvetrano (Trapani) was assigned to wood camp S12 Woolenook Hostel.( 13.9.45 to 4.12.45)
The stack of cut wood at the edge of the river in the photo below illustrates the size and scale of the work at this hostel.
Woolenook, South Australia. A 400 ton stack of firewood cut to length by internees at Woolenook Camp, one of the Loveday Internment Camp group in the Barmera area. (AWM Image 122975 Photographer Hedley Keith Cullen)
S12 Woolenook Bend consisted of 18 prefabricated huts for communal purposes and accommodation was in tents. The auction notice for Woolenook Bend includes details of some of the other items for sale.
The photo below shows the Woolenook camp when it was occupied by the Japanese internees. The Hop In Centre+ in the foreground was the Salvation Army Recreation Centre also known as Red Shield Centre. The accommodation tents are in the background.
WOOLENOOK BEND, MURRAY RIVER, SA 1944-02-03. LOVEDAY INTERNMENT GROUP. THE TENT LINES OF THE AUSTRALIAN GUARDS AT THE WOOD CUTTING CAMP SET UP IN 1942. (AWM Image 122946 PHOTOGRAPHER SGT H. K. CULLEN)
+The background to the Salvation Army Hop In Centres is an interesting part of military history. Today, ‘ Sallyman’ vans still operate on military bases in Australia.
The Salvation Army was outlawed by the Italian government in October 1940 with property being confiscated and members imprisoned.