Cowra can you help Francesca?

Eighty years ago on October 14, 1941, Ippolito Moscatelli arrived at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp.

He was one of a group of 989 Italians brought directly from Egypt to Australia on the Queen Mary,arriving in Sydney on October 13, 1941.

Moscatelli, from Milan, served with the Regia Marina and had been captured at Tobruk on January 22,1941.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the arrival, 'They were mostly soldiers, but a few sailors and airmen were noticed as the men entered the trains... An Australian officer, who acted as interpreter for the Italian prisoners said that they seemed to be very quiet and obedient and glad to be in Australia. They had behaved very well during the voyage. Their only concern appeared to be about their families in Italy... Most men were in poor physique and some of them appeared to be mere boys.'

At the time the Cowra POW Camp was a fledging camp, and these men were its first residents.

On November 12, 1941 it was reported that Cowra Camp had 787 POWs in Camp 12C and 999 POWs in Camp 12D.

While the camp amenities were housed in barracks, the accommodation consisted of wooden floored tents sleeping six men, no beds but a weatherproof cover was provided for the floor and the men were issued with a paillasse and three blankets.

Dr Georges Morel from the ICRC reported in November 1941 that the men kept busy with amateur work such as making violins and guitars from case wood and the metal wires taken from motorcycle brakes and some drew caricatures in pencil and ink.

Living in Millan, Francesca Maffietti, granddaughter of Moscatelli, believes that her nonno Peppino's interest in art began while in the Cowra Camp.

Francesca believes she is hoping for the impossible, that some of her grandfather's work still remains in the region.

"I am interested to know if there are examples of nonno Peppino's work in the Cowra district," she said.

"I have read stories about Italians making a gift of their artwork to Australian soldiers who worked in the Cowra Camp.

"Sometimes he signed his work with his initials MI and other times he wrote his name in full: Moscatelli Ippolito."

Francesca said her family loved the work he produced while in Australia and were fascinated by it.

"My mother and I continue to find nonno's artwork from his days in Australia," she said.

"He painted on board and handkerchiefs, he sketched in monotones and in colour.

"Nonno's style was eclectic, it is as though he was experimenting with different forms.

"I think he painted the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as this would have been a powerful image when the Queen Mary sailed into Sydney," Francesca reflects.

On January 22, 1947 Moscatelli arrived in Naples on the Alcantara,having spent six years to the day as a prisoner of war.

Francesca is currently working with Joanne Tapiolas from italianprisonersofwar.com to uncover her nonno Peppino's journey in Australia.

If you can help piece together the details of his time in Australia please contact: joannetappy@gmail.com

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