From Tobruk to Clare: the experiences of the Italian prisoner of war Luigi Bortolotti 1941-1946
O'Connor, Desmond John
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The paper explores the personal account of an Italian prisoner of war, Luigi Bortolotti (1916-1980), who has left a 300-page diary manuscript that relates his experiences from the time of his capture in Tobruk in 1941 until he was repatriated to Italy in 1946. After being placed in camps in Ismailia and Suez, Bortolotti was shipped to Australia where he spent nearly three years in the POW camp at Hay (New South Wales). Early in 1944 he was sent to work on a farm in Clare, South Australia, a country town to which he would return to settle as a migrant in 1948. The paper follows Bortolotti’s daily, often mundane account of his life as a POW in the context of the events of the time and highlights the mental and physical stress and sense of hopelessness that he and many other Italian POWs felt in the Hay camp during their years of confinement. It re-evaluates what has too easily been labeled the “fair treatment” of Italian POWs in Australia and a wartime experience that has been called “not a bad thing”.