Alessandra Nicoletti from Rome, Italy is searching for the farmer in the Macksville district who showed kindness and respect to her grandfather was a prisoner of war working on his farm in the Macksville area from 1944 to1945.
Ermanno Nicoletti was captured in Tobruk on January 22, 1941 and arrived in Australia in May on board the Queen Mary. He spent time in Hay and Cowra Prisoner of War and Internment Camps before volunteering to work on a farm.
Nonno Ermanno shared many stories with his family about his life on the farm.
Alessandra remembers that farmer called her grandfather ‘Nick’ (probably from his surname, Nicoletti) and her nonno called him ‘Boss’.
“Boss knew that my grandad was a hunter so he took my nonno (grandfather) with him sometimes. One time my granddad saw a bird on a branch paralysed by a snake that was just in front it.
"The snake is going to kill the bird and eat it – but I can stop it,” Nonno said.
The boss laughed out loud but saw that Nonno was serious.
“OK, take my gun and show me.”
Nonno aimed and shot, nothing moved. The boss laughed again, teasing him that he missed the shot.
Right then the snake fell on the ground and the bird ‘woke up’ and flew away. They both went to the tree to have a look at the snake – the bullet went right through the temple.
The boss took the gun from Nonno and never gave it to him again!
I know that my granddad had a lovely time with Boss, he always talked very fondly about him. It was hard work but lots of respect and good company.
Boss taught English to Nonno by patiently repeating words and ‘writing’ them on the ground.”
In preparation for a visit to Australia with her father, Alessandra is hoping to find some memory of Nonno Ermanno in Macksville.
“Nonno was artistic and carved scenes in blocks of soap and wood. He also sketched and exchanged some of his work with Australian soldiers on the Queen Mary for extra food and medicine for his friends who were very sick,” she said.
“He always signed his work: “Nicer” (with is Nic for Nicoletti and er for Ermanno).
She wonders if someone in the Macksville area has a sketch signed ‘Nicer’?
“I am learning new things about Nonno but I would be very happy to know this farmer and/or his family and thank them in person for their kindness to him.”
In February 1944, the Department of Army set up a prisoner of war control centre known as N12 PWCC in Macksville.
Captain N Hely was assigned as officer-in-charge of the army staff which included an interpreter and driver to oversee and administer the scheme of placing Italian prisoners of war to work on farms.
The centre was leased by the army and could have been a shop or office space and provided accommodation for the army staff and a detention room for POWs.
The records indicate there were 130 Italian POWs in the district. It was a difficult time for farmers as young Australian men had joined the armed forces and that left farmers without a workforce.
The Italian POWs wore a distinctive red coloured uniform and are often remembered for their great singing voices, going to the local church, the chocolate they bought from the Army Canteen truck and gave to the farm children and the gifts they made for the farmers when they left.
If Macksville locals can assist Alessandra Nicoletti in any way, please contact us here at the Guardian News firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as researcher Joanne Tapiolas, email@example.com
Further information on the research project can be found at italianprisonersofwar.com