Under military guard

When the trains – loaded with Italian captives from the north of Queensland – arrived in Brisbane, responsibility passed from the police to the military.

It is unclear how the internees were transported through the Brisbane suburbs to Gaythorne, where an internment camp had been set up adjacent to the existing army barracks. Most likely the internment trains were diverted onto the Ferny Grove line and their human cargo was deposited at the Gaythorne Station, directly opposite the campsite.

Once under military control, life improved immensely. Internees were covered by the Geneva Convention (1929), which set out rules and standards for the treatment of prisoners of war (PoWs). In short, their accommodation and rations had to be of similar quality and quantity to their captors. They were to be treated respectfully and allowed to keep possessions of a personal nature. They could be offered employment (such as food preparation, wood-cutting) for an agreed daily rate of pay, but working was not compulsory.

At Gaythorne camp (now part of Gallipoli Barracks Enoggera), the men were issued with second-hand army uniforms, dyed the colour burgundy for the sake of security. They were given access to interpreters and scribes who helped them write letters of objection against their internment orders.

On 15 June 1940, just four days after his capture, Angelo was amongst the first Italians to arrive at Gaythorne. Nine days later his letter of appeal – handwritten in pen-and-ink by a scribe and signed by him in a faltering hand – was delivered to the camp Commandant.

Sir,
I hereby beg to appeal against my internement (sic) to this Camp on the following reasons: I have been in Australia for the last 18 yaers (sic), I am a partner with my brother on a Sugar Farm, I have always been a good law abiding Citizen, I cannot read or write even in the English language. I never interfered in any politics which I do not undestand (sic). As to my references I will refer you to the following persons … (a list of five non-Italian residents was provided) …
Hoping to be succsesfull (sic) in my appeal I thank you.

Five months later he was transferred to Hay internment camp in the dry central west of New South Wales. In May 1941, he sent a letter (intercepted and translated into English) to his brother Giuseppe, who was by then interned at Gaythorne.

Apropos of my appeal – Yesterday I was sentended (sic) to internment for the duration of the war. They did not even accept my application. I expected all this. I was the last of whose (sic) who came from Babinda to receive my sentence. Now, however, we resign ourselves to spend the whole period patiently and tranquilly and comfort ourselves in the destiny that is coming. Let us hope it will not last long and that we shall be together again forever.

On 12 June 1941 Angelo was transferred to Loveday internment camp, where he was reunited with his brother. He remained there until his release at the end of Italy’s war in October 1943.

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About Debbie Terranova

Debbie Terranova is an Australian author of contemporary and historical fiction. In 2018 she was awarded a QANZAC 100 Fellowship with the State Library of Queensland to undertake an exciting research project entitled "Queensland Women and War". Debbie has published three novels and several short stories. 'Enemies within these Shores' (2018) is based on a true story about the internment of civilians in Australia during WWII. 'The Scarlet Key' (2016) and 'Baby Farm' (2014) are crime mysteries about ageing disgracefully and forced adoptions respectively.
This entry was posted in Internment, Italians in Australia, Loveday, World War 2 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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