anzac POW freemen in europe

Part 1 - "Missing in Action - Believed POW"

Chapter 5 - Italian Prison Camps

D. Camps controlled by PG 107 - Torviscosa

"The first of the independent work camps set up in Italy was PG 107 at Torviscosa. A large party was transferred from Campo 58 - Chiavari in September 1942, and in October, another 300 were sent there from Campo 57- Gruppignano.”

Reference A6 p 219

At the time of the first inspection of the camp by Captain L. Trippi of the International Red Cross on November 12 1942, the camp held 989 men - 3 officers and 613 men from New Zealand and 8 officers and 376 men from South Africa. The capacity of the camp was 1000. There was also one airman.

The Camp Commander was Col. Gustavo De Dominicis and the Camp Leader Staff Sergeant Greenberg.

Captain Leonardo Trippi opens his first report (English translation from original French) with a General Introduction:

“It is the first working camp established in Italy. Heretofore some POW were employed in the construction of lodgings in some camps, whereas the inmates of Campo 107 are used for doing reclamation work - building roads and draining the soil - in the neighbourhood of their camp.

The camp where the POW are quartered is located in a vast plain. In clear weather, mountains are seen to the north. The climate is good but fresh when the north wind blows and frequent haze and fogs must be anticipated in the winter. The camp is far from the danger zone, it covers an area of 37,000 square metres, divided into two sections but not separated by barbed wire. Each section comprises four large and one medium size barrack. The buildings are disposed in a horseshoe shape.

Washing and laundering is done in the courtyard, where the linen is hung out for drying. Further back stands a stone structure enclosing the toilets. Two very high large buildings, located beside the second section, contain large halls appropriated for dayrooms. There are other buildings holding day-rooms, the kitchen, the infirmary with isolation ward, a hall with shower, baths, stores and shoemakers and tailor's workshops.

The buildings are solid brick structures with cement flooring and eternit [tar] roofing, of a pleasant shape. There are wide areas and roads, particularly in one part of the camp, where a wide, well-kept road built on sound sub-soil is always dry - even during rainy weather. The soil of the other areas and the courtyards where the washing takes place, is loamy and wet for some time after rainy weather. Drains are now being built and stone and gravel are being used to transform the soil and make it sound.

The water for the camp, derived from artesian wells, has such a high pressure that it can be conveyed into pipes 1.50 metres above the soil; it is pumped into reservoirs where greater pressure is required.”

By the time George Bonnat, of the Swiss Legation had made the second inspection of Campo 107 - Torviscosa, on 29th December, 1942, the camp had reached its capacity of 1000.

Col. Gustavo De Dominicis had been replaced by Col. Nicita, while Staff Sergeant Greenberg was still Camp Commander. All New Zealand and South African Officers had disappeared, but the lone airman remained. A certain number of POW belonging to medical units had been sent to other camps as the infirmary already had its own personnel. POW mail was continuing to arrive regularly, letters from South Africa taking five weeks, from New Zealand two months, and one month from England. Red Cross parcels were also arriving regularly at one per man per week. George Bonnat talked freely with the POW, who told him that they held Col. Nicita in respect. However nothing had been done to issue work clothes.

This problem had also been overcome when George Bonnat carried out the third inspection on March 25th 1943. The POW had received:

800 Greatcoats
800 Blouses
1600 Undergarments
800 Trousers
1600 Underpants
1500 pairs socks
800 Shirts
800 pairs of boots
800 Pullovers
900 Forage caps
1000 pairs of gloves.
400 pairs of boots 
400 greatcoats were also held in stock

Private parcels were also being received, and books in Afrikaans had arrived.
The fourth and final visit was made by Capt. Trippi on August 25th 1943, just two week prior to the promulgation of the Italian Armistice with the Allies.

While S/Sgt Greenberg was still Camp Leader, there was a new Camp Commander - Col. R. Rosichelli.

S/Sgt Greenberg felt he could not run the camp through his nco’s and asked for rights which the Commandants all felt were their prerogative. The POW population had swelled to 1380. While the airman had gone, 3 Australians and 130 Indians had been added as well as more Australians and New Zealanders.

There were now 350 South Africans and 888 New Zealanders in the camp, but 30 of them were under arrest, mainly for refusing to work, and for two days prior to the visit,  a planned escape saw 9 POW get away with only 6 re-captured. 

Seven labour detachments had been formed, but neither S/Sgt Greenberg nor the inspection team had been able to visit them and they were home to POW sent direct to them from Campo 57 Gruppignano.

These detachments were:

107/1  No details available
107/2  Prati Nuova (Latisana, near Tagliamento river): 50 POW
including Ptes Hodge and C. Watkins
107/3  No details available 
107/4 San Dona di Piave (on Piave river 20 Km from Gulf of Venice): 50 POW
includes New Zealanders D. M. Craib, L. J. Read, C. Moncur, E. O. Martin, St. George, McLeod, R. H. Ryman, P. Day and E. C. Clarke.
107/5 Torre di Confine South of 107/4 and 107/7 No details available.
107/6  No details available.
La Salute di Livenza (Hamlet (frazione) in town district): 50 POW including New Zealanders Wilson, Weir, Williams, Archscott, Langley, Morrison, Nolan and Egan.

The following POW of the 2NZEF in Campo 107 escaped to Switzerland:

23476 Wyndham Adrian Richard Churchouse, 25 Bn - in 16/08/44, out 22/09/44
23930 Ernest Colin Clarke, 24 Bn - in 06/06/44, out 23/09/44
40563 Cyril Hugh Collins, 8 Fld Coy - in 31/12/43, out 23/09/44
61960 L/Cpl Paul Woodford Day, 24 Bn - in 08/06/44, out 29/09/44
30650 Sydney Norman Hamlin, 22 Bn - in 02/02/44, out 23/09/44
36630 L/Cpl Reginald F. Hollows, 8 Fld Coy - in 31/12/43, out 23/09/44
15082 Willoughby Richard Hudson, 26 Bn - in 24/12/44, out 23/09/44
13825 Gordon Vincent McLeod, 20 Bn - in 16/02/44, out 23/09/44
13629 Conrad James Maher, 20 Bn - in 31/01/44, out 23/09/44
12803 Clarence Joseph Meynell, 26 Bn - in 23/12/43, out 22/09/44
24249 Patrick Quirk, 7 Anti/Tank - in 21/09/43, out 23/09/44
32905 Terence Robson, 25 Bn - in 18/12/43, out 23/09/44
60585 Malcolm Arthur Tyson, Div Art - in 31/01/44, out 01/09/44

5154 Winston M. Horne, 19 Bn and 24372  L/Cpl Walter Willis fought with Italian Partisans.

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