In the April/May 2015 issue of Horizons magazine we featured a story about touring the Wheatbelt’s war history sites. Below are two stories from members recalling their stories of wartime in the Wheatbelt.

wheatbelt_war_stories

Memories of an Italian Prisoner of War

John W Young

Around the years 1944-1945 I remember a military truck arriving at our farm in Calcarra which was 150kms north east of Perth. I was about six to seven years old at the time.

A man dressed in a maroon uniform climbed out the back of the truck. We found out his name was Lorenzo Maccaleni. He was a prisoner of war.

Lorenzo originally slept in the chaff house next to the draft horses. In time a small hut on stumps was built by Lorenzo, lined with bags.

Lorenzo then helped my father Frank ‘Ned’ Young with the farming and everyday jobs such as cropping and tending to the animals and picking roots, for around three years.

Our own house was built with weatherboard and tin and lined with hessian bags. Lorenzo was a bricklayer by trade and he helped to build our family a new home. The garage was built and the foundations laid for the house during this time.

Today the house still stands and remains in very good condition.

There were other prisoners of war living in the area and they would meet up on Sundays to cook traditional dishes and chat. This gathering helped them remember their families back in Italy and the sharing of traditional food helped them survive their prisoner of war experience.

Lorenzo would make us children toy trucks, segmented snakes out of scraps of wood and musical instruments which I still have today. I was very upset when he returned to Italy; no one had mentioned him leaving.

When Lorenzo arrived home in Italy everything was in a terrible state from the aftermath of the fighting that took place around his home village. His life in Italy did not improve, so he wrote to my father and asked if he would sponsor him and his family to come to Australia.

My father contacted the Italian consul, a Mr Del Piano, and his return to Australia was arranged. Lorenzo worked for a short time on the farm but owing to our finances he found work elsewhere and then brought his family out from Italy.

Unfortunately we lost contact when their family moved to South Australia.

Reflecting on this time I remember the military regularly visiting us with an officer, a driver, interpreter and a guard in a large military car. I thought they were checking on Lorenzo however they were making sure the farmers were treating the prisoner of war with care. It says a lot about how our country operates.

Lorenzo had children of a similar age to me in Italy and on reflection he must have missed his children terribly and enjoyed interacting with us. I shall always remember these years and hope that we were able to make Lorenzo’s time in Australia a little easier.

WW2 as a nine year old in Goomalling, circa 1943

Brice Roberts

We lived in the residence of the Bank of New South Wales. Due to workforce issues it was decreed that small country towns would mostly have only one bank. In Goomalling’s case the Commonwealth Bank was it.

Separated by a vacant lot next to us was the headquarters of the Voluntary Defence Corps. (VDC). My father was a member. The big day arrived when the rifles were delivered. They were in wooden cases and covered in grease which had to be removed and it was a messy job.

The railway station was over the main road to us and frequent troop trains would stop. The trains were transporting various trucks, machinery and the odd light armoured vehicle. Troops were not allowed to leave the train and it became the rule that the local kids would do the troops’ shopping at Plaistowe’s deli a short distance away. Requests were for bottles of cool drink, lollies, fruit and ice cream – either three penny or six penny. We kids made a killing as the soldiers often gave us any change or else a tip.

It was many years later that I realised the troop trains were headed for Nungarin where there was a big ordnance depot.

There was much excitement when a tiger moth aeroplane landed in a paddock on the fringes of the town. I remember looking at it and thinking what a magnificent bit of machinery it was and this being the case we would certainly win the war.

It was unknown to most if the pilot was lost on a training flight from Cunderdin or was low on fuel. The locals scrounged around and came up with some (rationed) petrol, pointed him in, hopefully, the right direction so he could fight another day.

Our car had sleeves on its tyres, tin covers over the headlights and a white line painted around its body. Many of the cars had gas producers due to petrol rationing.