National Identity Explored: Emigrant Italians in Australia and British Canada in WWI
Agutter, Karen Maree
MetadataShow full item record
On 22nd May 1918, twenty armed military and South Australian state police converged on the small Australian town of Broken Hill and arrested in excess of forty Italian men of military age living and working in the mining town. These men were escorted to Adelaide for processing and deportation to Italy to serve with the Italian Army. As Mr. Finlayson, the Federal Member for Brisbane who witnessed the armed escort, later reported to the Australian Federal Parliament, this was “a sight that might be expected in Prussia”.But this was not Prussia; it was Australia, and these Italians, though allies in the war against Germany had proven reluctant to answer their country’s ‘call to arms’. The ensuing forced repatriation by the Australian Government of over five hundred Italian men in the last months of the War was a significant event for a country that had eschewed the conscription of its own citizens. By contrast, in Canada, from the time of Italy’s declaration of war, Italians volunteered in their hundreds to either return to Italy or to fight in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). As early as August 1915, over five hundred had come forward in Ontario alone and they would continue to do so at the rate of thirty to thirty five a day.This paper analyses why Italian immigrants, living either in Australia or British speaking Canada during World War One, responded so differently to their country’s calls to arms, and why the respective governments treated their allies in such a contrasting manner.