Tag Archives: Yanco Camp 15

Fratelli

Against all odds, brothers Luigi and Anselmo were reunited in an Egyptian Prisoner of War Camp.

Anselmo Franchi served with an artillery unit when he was captured at Bardia on 5th January 1941.

His older brother Luigi served with an infantry unit when he was captured at Tobruk on 16th April 1941.

With over 100,000 Italian prisoners of war under the control of the British Command, how do brothers find each other?

Anselmo’s son-in-law Roberto Pardini provides the answer, which was shaped by a series of unrelated and random events.

“On 28 May 41, Anselmo had been a prisoner for almost six months and he is loaded onto an English truck, along with 50 other prisoners, to go and set up tents. During the trip, due to the too high speed, the driver of the truck loses control of the vehicle. The vehicle overturns causing nine deaths and several injuries, including Anselmo, who is taken to the hospital for a head injury, and he will remain there for a month.


During his hospitalization, he sees other prisoners and sick arriving at the hospital, among these there are some who wear the insignia of his brother’s regiment and the battalion on their hats.

Anselmo tries to ask these men if they know Luigi, but being from another company, they don’t know who he was. Every now and then a sergeant of that battalion passed by, who came to see the wounded and the sick and not even he could give news to Anselmo about his brother, but the sergeant asked for his name and surname, promising that he would try to search.


The Italian prisoners were divided into 24 camps of 1000 people each, the sergeant spread the name, so Anselmo discovered that Luigi was a prisoner in camp 19.


After leaving the hospital, Anselmo returned to his camp and a few days later was able to see his brother in the other camp through the fences. At this point Anselmo turned to a marshal of the Italian Navy, who was the head of his camp, to ask if there was the possibility of having them reunite. This happened on 25 June 41. Since that day they were not separated.”

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 46738 Guido Santunioni;46909 Giovanni Venturelli; 49725 Guido Tantini; 46788 Mario Salvini; 45698 Eugenio Ferrara; 46852 Archemede Montanari; 46087 Giuseppe Martari. Front row: 46904 Gino Uguzzoni; 46124 Olindo Magagni; 48050 Luigi Franchi; 48051 Anselmo Franchi; 45878 Adolfo Giottoli. Note: The number is an assigned POW number. (AWM Image 030171/03

The reuniting of Luigi and Anselmo is remarkable if you consider the many variables which could have kept the brothers separated: Bardia soldiers arrived in Australia in May 1941, Bardia soldiers were sent to India, there was more than one prisoner of war camp site in Egypt: Qassassin, Ismailia, Geneifa- Camp 306 (capacity 19,200), 307, 308, 309, 310 (capacity 10,000).

One can only image the reaction of Anselmo and Luigi’s mother when she received news that her sons had been reunited. 

Throughout their journey from Egypt to Naples, Luigi and Anselmo remained together except for Anselmo’s 14 days detention in 1943 and his 10 days hospitalisation in 1946.

Luigi and Anselmo were transferred to Hay Camp then to Yanco Camp. Roberto continues the story with memories from Australia, “They were in a team of woodcutters of about 20 people and every day they went to the woods to cut wood.  Anselmo said they were eucalyptus trees.”


It happened that during the tomato season they were destined for harvesting these fruits on farms. The problem in this case was that Luigi, being colour blind, exchanged the colour green with red, so Anselmo had to keep an eye on him, otherwise he only picked unripe tomatoes.”

Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from No. 15 POW Camp harvesting Tatura Dwarf Globe tomatoes on the Leeton Experimental Farm. These tomatoes are a special seed crop and will be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. On horseback is Private G. A. Lawless, a guard of the 15th Garrison Battalion. No POWs have tried to escape from this camp. (AWM Image 063935, Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Close to sixty years later Anselmo and Luigi were reunited with one of their friends from their days at Hay and Yanco Camps. Roberto relates, the circumstances and events,

“In 2003, the granddaughter of Camillo Lazzeroni, another of Hay’s prisoners, made a search for those men with whom her grandfather had made friendships with.  Two of these men were Anselmo and Luigi. After a great deal of work, she managed to get in touch and my wife and I accompanied Anselmo, not Luigi because it was a too long journey, to San Sepolcro, in the province of Arezzo, for them to meet after 57 years.

You can imagine the emotion!!!! Even now, while I’m writing, I have shivers thinking about that day.”

Camillo and Anselmo 2003 (courtesy of Roberto Pardini)

About two years later, Camillo returned the visit and accompanied by his daughter, came to visit Anselmo, and was able to hug Luigi again.”

Anselmo, Camillo and Luigi 2005 (photo courtesy of Robert Pardini)

…a remarkable and emotional series of events…

Baldo’s War

Baldo Valeri was with an infantry division when he was transferred from Italy to Libya.  He is seated in the front row, first right with his friends.

His time in battle was short; he was captured on the second day of the Battle of Bardia 4th January 1941.

When he arrived in Australia in May1941 he had been in the army for 40 months.

Libya: Baldo Valeri seated front row right (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Fortune was his. It is documented that 40,000 Italians were captured at Bardia. Like winning the lottery, Baldo was lucky to be directed to board the Queen Mary on 6th May 1941 for Australia. Only 2,016 Italian prisoners of war were on this voyage: the first group of Italians to be sent directly to Australia.

From Sydney Harbour he boarded a train for a journey to Hay Camp.

Then Yanco Camp became Baldo’s home for two and a half years.  Yanco Camp was home to 700-800 Italians growing vegetables, tending to a dairy herd and piggery as well as producing supplies of vegetable seeds for the Commonwealth Government.

Eight hundred men need feeding.  The supply of meat per 100 men per week was recorded as: 300 pounds beef, (136kg) 255 pounds mouton, (116kg) and 35 pounds sausages, (16 kg).  A quick calculation equates to 1088 kg beef and 928 kg mouton for 800 men per week. The photo below taken at Yanco Camp illustrates that butchers were important to the operation of the camps.

It seems reasonable to assume that Baldo, a butcher, worked in the meat room at Yanco Camp.

Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Two Italian prisoner of war (POWs) butchers cutting up the day’s meat ration in the butchers shop of No. 15 POW Camp. (AWM Image 063945 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 46978 Baldo Valeri; 46655 Guido Rosato; 46688 Pasquale Montepara; 45351 Nicola Catalano; 46891 Ernesto Tamburino; 47902 Raffaele Blasioli; 45248 Donato Cipriani. Front row: 45585 Luigi Di Cioccio; 46271 Andrea Moscatelli; 48096 Emilio Grisanti; 45719 Antonio Fafone; 45043 Pellegrino Acquaviva. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

The Yanco kitchen was situated within the barracks used  as a dining room.  The kitchen had a large oven and cookers, four rooms for provisions, a cold room and a bakery where four bakers baked bread daily for the men.

The photo of the kitchen at Yanco below, highlights the industry of the men. It must have been a sense of relief for bakers, cooks, pastry chefs and butchers to work in their field of experience.

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoner of war (POWs) cooks at No. 15 POW Camp preparing a meal in one of the camp kitchens. (AWM Image 063915 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

Baldo was also accommodated at Cowra and Liverpool Camps.  Upon his return to Naples on the Ormonde 27th January 1947, Baldo had been a prisoner of war for six years.

Baldo’s son Geremia writes about his father’s life after return to Italy, “La sua vita è stata difficile,ma una volta tornato in Italia ,ha dedicato tutte le sue energie sul lavoro, per il benessere di noi figli.

Le uniche cose che lui ha riportato dalla prigionia, sono una ciotola di alluminio,dove mangiava,un piccolo vocabolario inglese-italiano, e un pezzo di stoffa bordoeux, che usavamo come coperta. Mi raccontava sempre un episodio, dove lui cercava di sottrarre qualche patata dal magazzino, perché aveva fame. Il vigilante del campo se ne accorse e lo colpi con il calcio del fucile. Lui avrebbe voluto tornare in Australia per lavorare, ma non trovò nessuno che gli facesse l’atto di richiamo.”

Baldo Valeri outside his shop in Vittorito (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Baldo and Cesira celebrating 50 years of marriage with their son Geremia (photo courtesy of Geremia Valeri)

Walking in his footsteps…Yanco

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Twenty two of the original thirty Italian prisoners of war (POWs) who arrived at No. 15 POW Camp on 19 March 1942.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInness Image 063919)

I hadn’t meant to delve into places outside of Queensland, because nine PWCC, one PWC Hostel and one PW&I Camp is more than I can handle. But here I am, delving into the history of Yanco Camp 15.

Many Queensland Italian POWs had worked at Yanco, so this is justification enough.  A little more research and I realised the similarities between the work being done at Yanco and the work being undertaken at Q6 PWC Hostel Home Hill. Another Queensland connection.

But in truth, my motivation is much less complicated: a gentleman from Rome, Alessdandro Di Sabatino contacted me.  He is visiting Australia in 2018 and he would like to walk in the footsteps of his father, Antonio Di Sabatino.  And so my quest to understand the operations of Yanco began.

Di Sabatino, Antonio first left standing

Yanco, Australia. 23 January 1944. Group of Italian prisoners of war (POWs) interned at No. 15 POW Group. Back row, left to right: 45593 Antonio De Sabatino;49625 Oreste Piermattei; 49876 Goffredo Mangiasciutto; 46515 Andrea Pesaola; 45240 Cesare Nobilia; 48641 Luigi Salvati; 45417 Paolo Di Massimo. Front row: 49902 Giuseppe Ricci; 45732 Armando Guaazi; 46354 Mario Palma; 49489 Antonio Galea; 45730 Nicola Clemenzi. Note: The number is an assigned POW number.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 030171/01)

I have combined photos from Australian War Memorial and interspersed them through the following newspaper article, accessible from Trove.com to assist other children and grandchildren of Italian POWs to walk in their father or grandfather’s footsteps.

Yanco Camp 15 is now the Yanco Agricultural Institute (YAI).  The site has been repurposed many times during its history and the YAI celebrated its 100 anniversary in 2008. Staff of the YAI welcome visits from families of the Italian POWs and are more than happy to provide you with an historical perspective of the property.

Yanco 063917.JPG

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) at No. 15 POW Camp enjoying a shower after a hard day’s work on the farm. This shower block can accommodate twenty four men at a time, and was originally a Riverina Welfare Farm building.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063917)

Yanco Prisoner of War Camp (NSW) was a compound housing 700 – 800  prisoners of war who worked producing vegetables for supply to the allied forces. The site is in the Riverina district WNW of Canberra, between Wagga Wagga and Hay.  It is 290 km from Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camp and 170 km from Hay Prisoner of War and Internment Camp.

Yanco 063594

YANCO, NSW. 1944-01-22. VIEW FROM THE WATER TOWER SHOWING THE MESS BUILDING AND THE ITALIAN PRISONER OF WAR (POW) TENTS OF NO. 15 POW CAMP. IN THE BACKGROUND CAN BE SEEN SOME 250 ACRES OF BEANS AND TOMATOES.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063594)

Yanco operated differently to the other POW camps and this included the baking of bread. A request was lodged for the procurement of 100 bread tins: “that probable reason for demand for 100 Tins, bread for No. 15 P.W. Camp Yanco is that P.W. there make their own bread which procedure is not followed in other P.W. Camps. P.W. held at this camp total 550 and in view of foregoing, supply is recommended.” (AWM War Diary 18 Oct 43)

Yanco Bread 3896867

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoner of war (POWs) bakers at No. 15 POW of War Camp removing bread from the oven. In the foreground can be seen tins of dough ready to be baked. (AWM Photo 063916 Geoffrey McInnes)

The article below from Farmer and Settler (Sydney, NSW: 1906 – 1955), Friday 14 April 1944, page 6 explains the operations and importance of the work done by Italian prisoners of war at Yanco.

Riverina Farm Now Biggest Vegetable Garden Project in Australia

Swarthy Italians have replaced students, soldiers have taken over from teachers, and fields where games were played are now flourishing vegetable gardens at Riverina Welfare Farm, Yanco.

Yanco 063822.JPG

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-29. An Italian prisoner of war (POW) from No. 15 POW Camp operating a horse drawn insecticide duster on a crop of tomatoes on one of the unit’s farms.

Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063822

In two years the farm has become Australia’s greatest vegetable growing project- the biggest producer on the food front.

New methods of growing and harvesting have been introduced as well as new methods of seed production.  At present more than 300 acres have been devoted to vegetables for seed purposes only.

The farm was taken over from the Education Department in March, 1942, by the Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Department of Commerce to step up vegetable growing.

In the first year, using only prisoners of war labour more than 500 tons of tomatoes, silver beet, sweet corn, beans, cabbages, cauliflowers and sweet peppers (an American delicacy) were delivered to Leeton cannery.  The area under vegetables was 320 acres.

Yanco 063793.JPG

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-29. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from No. 15 POW Camp grading and packing tomatoes at the packing shed before sending them to the Leeton Co-operative Cannery for processing.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063793)

With the importation of lend-lease machinery, several units were sent to the farm to speed up production and last October the area given to vegetables was increased to 640 acres.

Shortage of vegetable seed and the difficulty of importing it caused a change of plans.  Instead of bulk vegetable production, the farm set out to grow seed.

Two areas of 320 acres and 150 acres were laid out under spray irrigation, the remainder being furrow irrigation.  With the spray equipment, about 40 acres are given water at the rate of one inch of rain a day.

Largest crops sown are beans, 160 acres; tomatoes 75 acres; silver beet 37 acres, carrots 30 acres and sweet corn 25 acres.  The carrots will be transplanted in the winter to 100 acres for seed production.

Yanco 063820.JPG

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-29. Italian prisoners of war (POW) from No. 15 POW Camp using a Farmall tractor and a furrowing out machine to prepare a paddock for silver beet irrigation.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063820)

Next month 38 acres will be sown to onion and in June, 150 acres of peas will be sown.  Some peas will be sent to the cannery and the remainder retained for seed.

Beside the vegetable project, the farm which is 2045 acres in extent has 225 acres under pasture, paspalum and clover, 40 acres under Lucerne, 50 acres under orchard and 30 acres under sorghum to make 200 tons of silage.

In addition, it has a stud Jersey herd of 115 head of cattle, a Berkshire pig stud of 130 as well as 300 sheep and 60 horses.  All products go to the Services.

Yanco 063884

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) tending stud Berkshire pigs on the farm at No. 15 POW Camp.

Australia War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063884)

The Farm Manager (Mr John L Green) yesterday described the new method of harvesting and preparing tomato seed.

Varieties being grown include 16 acres of Bonnie Best, 15 Marglobe, 12 Break of Day, 14 Pearson, 9 Earliana, 8 Tatura Dwarf Globe and one of Bonnie Marr, a new type.

Picked into kerosene tins, they are emptied into lug boxes in the field and these are carted on drays to the grading shed erected in the field adjacent to the crop.  An average day’s picking is 500 to 600 lug boxes, weighing 10 to 12 tons.

The tomatoes are then place on sorting tables 30 ft long, 3 ft wide and made of rubber and this revolves.

Those retained for seed extraction pass through an electrically driver pulper and juice extractor, and the pulp thus obtained, together with that returned from the cannery is placed in barrels and treated with hydrochloric acid for the purpose of making seed extraction more rapid and easy.

Yanco 063885

Yanco, NSW. 1944-01-31. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from No. 15 POW Camp pulping tomatoes in order to recover the seed. The crushed tomato is then treated with weak hydrochloric acid to free the seed from the pulp. Seeds are then washed and dried.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063885)

The system was developed by Mr EM Hutton, of the C.S. and I.R. AT Canberra two years ago and makes it possible to pre-treat pulp in 30 minutes compared with two days required under the old system of natural fermentation.

The pulp is poured on to a 600 ft wooden flume with a slight gradual decline.  The flume is 15 inch wide and 12 inch deep and every 5 ft is a baffle board 6 inch high.

Water is run in at a rate sufficient to give a flow of ½ to 1 inch over the baffles.

The result is the seed, being heavier than the pulp, sinks and is caught in the baffles, while the pulp flows over and is eventually lost at the lower end in an open drain.

Two barrels of pulp, representing 100 bushells of tomatoes can be washed in this manner in 50 minutes. The washing, however, does not remove every small particle of pulp, it being necessary to take this in a screen of meshes.

After this treatment, the seed is placed for 24 hours in a solution of ascetic acid with the object of controlling bacterial canker disease.

It is then spread on tarpaulins on a drying green for six to 10 hours, collected and bagged.

Mr Green said that already 1500 lb of seed has been produced and it was expected that 3000 lb more seed would be harvested before the end of May.  The amount of tomatoes involved would be 400 tons.

Yanco 063934.JPG

Yanco, NSW. 1944-02-01. Italian prisoners of war (POWs) from No. 15 POW Camp picking Tatura Dwarf Globe tomatoes which they have grown for seed on the unit’s vegetable farm.

(Australian War Memorial: Geoffrey McInnes Image 063934)