Prisoner of War Quarters on Queensland Farms
Living arrangements for the Italian POWs who worked on Queensland farms were inspected and approved by the commanding officer of the Prisoner of War Control Centre. Recollections of Queenslanders mention a variety of living arrangements for the Italians ranging from: sleeping on the verandah in the farmer’s house, sleeping in quarters built within a shed or barn, self contained cottages which had previously been labourers’ quarters and a stand alone building specifically constructed for the POWs. One of the excluded arrangements was ‘living in tents’. Please keep in mind that the buildings below are over 70 years old and no longer used as accommodation.
Some of the quarters still stand and continue to be reminders of those days.
Ol’ Goat Shed at the Boatfield Farm Amiens via Stanthorpe
(photo courtesy of Paula Boatfield)
Herbert William Boatfield’s farm was situated at Amiens and the farm had been Soldier Settlement plots of 55 acres. Records show that he employed Andrea Lapa from Barletta Bari and Luigi Gardini Catanzaro. Paula Boatfield says that the shed was later used for angora goats, hence the nickname for the building. Paula relates, “On our property is a building that we affectionately call the ol’ goat shed, because when Brett’s parents worked the property as a working orchard, they also had angora goats who lived in the goat shed and yards attached to it. The eastern wall of the ol’ goat shed has three doors (see photo) and the story was that when the Italian POWs were working on Harslett farm (our neighbour), when the authorities would visit the farm the POWs would come up here to our place and three of them each had a room in our ol’ goat shed. I don’t know how true this story.”
Prisoner of War Hut on the Sauer Farm Upson Downs outside of Gayndah
(photos courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)
Colin Sauer had two farms: Upson Downs and Bananpan across the river. This cottage is situated on Upson Downs. Documents record that he employed Antonio Iaccarino, a barber from Mondo di Procido; Giovanni Farina, a farmer from San Giovanni a Teduccio Napoli; and Fortunato Franco, a mason from Bovalino Reggio Calabria. Due to its historical significance, Colin’s grandson, Colin Wenck stands steadfast that the cottage will not be pulled down.
Workers Cottage at the Harsant Farm Warrill View via Boonah
(photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)
Roderick Harsant’s farm is at Warrill View via Boonah. Francesco Pintabona from Taviano Lecce; Domenico Masciulli from Palmoli Chieti; Salvatore Mensile from Siracusa Sicily; and Vincenzo Nocca from Modica Ragusa all spent time at the Harsant farm. Roderick’s son Ian says that the cottage used to be on the banks of the creek which is prone to flooding. To preserve this special link to Francesco Pintabona, Ian had the cottage moved and raised to protect it from future flooding. Ian’s grandson Jack muses,
“If only walls can talk!”
Janette and Dorothy Jones in front of Prisoner of War Accommodation
at Rural Retreat Severnlea 2018
(Photo courtesy of Joanne Tapiolas)
From Official Records
It is important to note that independent representatives eg Red Cross visited the POW camps and also the accommodation on farms. Reports were written and in March 1944, farm accommodation in N2 PWCC Parkes and N5 PWCC Canowindra were visited. Italian POWs had been working on these farms for six months. Extracts from this report follows:
This farm has one prisoner of war. It has a maisonette with electric lights The bedroom includes an iron bed, a mattress, a pillow, pillow cases, bed sheets and four blankets. The room is furnished with a dresser, a chair and a rug. The prisoner takes his showers in the farmer’s house. He take all his meals with the farmer’s family.
This farm has two prisoners of war. They are lodged in a tin shack, lit by the oil lamp. The bedding includes wooden beds, mattresses, pillows, bed sheets and four blankets each. The hut is furnished with a table and stools. The meals are taken in the same house where a wood furnace is installed. Ablutions are done at the laundry.
This farm employs two prisoners of war. They are housed in a separate maisonette, including a bedroom and a veranda. The room is furnished with stools and shelves. The light is electric. The bedding includes wooden beds, mattresses, pillows and four blankets each. Ablutions are done at the laundry. Meals are taken with the farmer’s family.
This farm employs three prisoners of war. They have a small house furnished with tables, stools, cupboards and oil lamps. The bedroom had iron beds, mattresses, pillows and four blankets each. The ablutions are made in the kitchen of this house. The meals are taken in a little room in this house.
The conclusion of the report includes recommendations:
In general, we have found that prisoners of war enjoy working on private farms. Their lodgings varies according to the possibilities of each employer, but the food is good and abundant, and the relations between the employers and the prisoners of war are cordial.
Problems of language are difficult, with employers only knowing English, and prisoners of war generally making little progress in the study of that language.
We believe, therefore, that Prisoners of War have a great need for Italian books and periodicals. However, it is not possible to procure them in Australia now. We have taken this up with the Apostolic Delegate who, while assuring us of his entire sympathy, informed us that he saw no way of finding Italian books on the spot.
We have obtained from the Red Cross 150 English periodicals which we have sent to the centres of Parkes and Canowindra. On the other hand, the National Secretary of the YMCA has just informed us that he has placed at our disposal 500 English periodicals to be distributed in the centres of control in Victoria. This effort will be continued, and we hope to be able to provide illustrated English periodicals in all Australian control centres.We have also consulted the Military Authorities, who have given their approval that small libraries of these illustrated periodicals be set up in each control centre.
Another important problem concerning Italian prisoners of war is that of family news. Indeed, in recent months, the number of letters received from Italy is extremely low. We offered our services to the prisoners of war to forward any request for family news.
Mittagong, 27 May 1944 (NAA: A989)
Schulz Farm Image Flats via Nambour
(photo courtesy of Martin Schulz)