Moora Mystery… thank you to Kyra Burns at the Norther Valleys News for publishing this article in the February 2021 Issue
Isidoro Del Piccolo worked on a Moora District farm together with Giuseppe another POW. Isidoro was given three photos from the farming family to take home to Italy with him; souvenirs of his time in Australia. Now 75 years later, his son-in-law Ermanno Scrazzolo hopes that someone in the district might recognise the people in the photos.
During WW 2 approximately 125 Italian prisoners of war worked and lived on Moora district farms. Due to a chronic shortage of Australian farming labourers, a system was developed to place low risk Italian prisoners of war on farms. This scheme was called: Prisoner of War Control Centre: Without Guards.
A Prisoner of War Control Centre (PWCC) was a shop, hall or commercial property located in a town like Moora, which was set up as offices to administer the Italian POWs in the district within a radius of 50 miles. There were seven AMF staff including a captain, truck driver and interpreter who liaised with farmers and the Italian workers. The Moora PWCC operated from April 1945 to May 1946.
Ermanno Scrazzolo in Italy is searching for his father-in-law’s Moora farming family. Isidoro Del Piccolo was sent to a Moora district farm on 29.5.45 and departed the district on 8.5.46.
Isidoro was from the Friuli region north east of Venice and registered his occupation as a mechanic (radio). He was 31 years old, had been captured in Sidi el Barrani, Libya in December 1940 and spent 4 years in a British POW Camp in Yol, India before arriving in Australia.
Giuseppe from Bari, Unknown, Isidoro Del Piccolo (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)
Reverse of Isidoro Del Piccolo’s Photo (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)
Scrazzolo provides some background information which he hopes will help find Isidoro’s farming family: “ I have some 90 letters that he [Isidoro] wrote home during his prisoner time which have been saved and about 30 of them have a Marrinup camp stamp. In one of the letters he says that he is in a farm far away from any town. In the farm there are four persons besides himself and the other POW, a barber from Bari. Isidoro only says that he made himself useful to the farmer especially in electrical things as he was very capable with anything electrical. The farmer gave Isidoro a foto of himself with the two Italians assigned to assist him. The back of the foto is signed by the farmer.” Giuseppe was known as Joseph and possibly Isidore was also given an Aussie name.
A second photo shows Giuseppe and Isidoro with two ladies. The reverse of the photo identifies them as Barbara and Beryl. Hopefully, someone will recognise the ladies. Quite possibly the young girl Beryl might still live in the district and have memories of the family’s Italian workers. The word “Invernina” is also noted on the reverse and Scrazzolo wonders if this was the name of the farm.
Giuseppe, Barbara, Beryl, Isidoro (photo courtesy of Ermanno Scrazzolo)
A common memory for this history is the red coloured clothes the Italians wore. Australian Army disposal uniforms were dyed a burgundy colour and issued to the Italian POWs. When away from the farm or in transit, the POWs wore these red uniforms. Another memory is the canteen truck from the PWCC which visited the farms on a regular basis and items from the canteen could be purchased by the Italians. Some children remember that the Italians would buy chocolate; a war time luxury and share it with them. Mail was also delivered via the canteen truck. All mail was censored, so any letters Isidoro wrote would be collected by the canteen truck and sent to Marrinup POW Camp for censoring. The Italians in Western Australia could only register Marrinup Camp as their address.
Scrazzolo contacted researcher Joanne Tapiolas to assist him to reconnect with Isidoro’s Australian farming family and to get a glimpse of farming life during WW 2. He would also like to tell the Aussie family a little about Isidoro’s life after he returned to Italy and the memories of Australia he shared.
Tapiolas who is based in Townsville Queensland assists Australian and Italian families to understand the personal connections and memories of this vibrant and diverse WW2 history.Tapiolas says, “The aim of the ‘Footprints of Italian Prisoners of War Project’ is to document this history. Photos like Isidoro’s are precious memories of the time prisoners of war worked on Australian farms. These photos and letters have been kept safe for over 75 years and with the assistance of the internet, Italian families are now trying to piece together the journey of their father or grandfather as a soldier and prisoner of war.” The project’s research can be accessed at italianprisonersofwar.com.
If you can help Scrazzolo with information about the people in the photos, please contact Tapiolas at: firstname.lastname@example.org