Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Uncle Target, Sep 10, 2021.

  1. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    This was an offshore island near Sicily used by the Italians to incarcerate Allied POW’s
    It had no natural Water Supply and very little sanitation. The medical facilities were poor.
    It seems that this was not unusual in Italian POW camps at the time.

    Excerpt from a talk given by a soldier captured at Banana Ridge Tunisia 20th April 1943

    They put us in a truck and took us to Bizerta The German Guard Commander said “You are no longer guests of the German Army, you have the Americans, we have the Italians, farewell and good luck.”
    We were put on an invasion barge which ran into a rock in the fog.
    An American said “they dont know where they are” then someone shouted Lampedusa.
    They marched us to a camp, we could see the barbed wire and watch towers a few hundred yards away and could smell the camp.
    There were about 500 men mostly walking about with no trousers on. Dysentery was rife and they were dying 8 or 9 a day because the sanitation with no water was atrocious. I caught Dysentery, we all did and Malaria as well. They kept us a month then moved us on.
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Uncle T,

    An odd place, even for an Italian POW camp; a heavily fortified island in a strategic position and presumably 100% reliant on shipping in supplies. Just looked in the POW area and there are no other references to Lampedusa.

    The map cited on the following thread does not show any camp on the island. See: Italian prisoner of war camps. Definitive map.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
  3. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    Perhaps like so many who actually fought in the war, it seems he told lies!
    More "evidence" just might turn up once the name becomes noticed.
    The barges were, I am sure not imagined, particularly if they made several trips and contained many men.
    However they were not well educated in geography and were often mistaken, wounded (as was this man), ill and disorientated.
    This if you dont mind me mentioning, is why many people dont post on this site.
    Too many critics not enough positive contributors.
  4. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    Got a bit agitated above sorry about that. I have the utmost respect for the man who told the story. Sorry if it was a bit strong.
    I am checking different sources regarding Lampedusa so will post anything that I find.
    I trust that you might research the island as well and perhaps together we can resolve this issue.
    My intention was to find out if the island was later used by the Allies for Axis POW's or whether they regarded it as unsuitable.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
    4jonboy likes this.
  5. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    What is the source of the information you quoted in your first post? The forum usually likes members to provide a link to the information quoted.

    What was the gentleman's name who gave the talk and what year did he give it?

    Perhaps if members were given some more information, especially the chaps name, we could possibly trace him to a unit.

    It could be that the chap was interviewed many years after the war and somehow got his facts a little muddled up.

    I've been looking all day trying to find some answers but no luck so far.

  6. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Sure enough, there WAS a camp on Lampedusa.

    Prisoners of war should never have been sent there, as it was an Internment camp, under the jurisdiction of the Italian equivalent of the Home Office, whereas POW camps were the responsibility of the War Office/Ministry of Defence.

    The key words are ran into a rock in the fog. The barge would have been heading for Sicily and (presumably) the prisoners would have been sent to PG 98, but the old adage 'any port in a storm' seems to be what happened here.

    There were various types of Internment camp, but this one, I believe, was for political opponents of Mussolini. I am now going to check it out.

    JimHerriot, 4jonboy, TTH and 2 others like this.
  7. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Here's what I found and translated:

    Le pietre raccontano

    After the attack on Mussolini on 31 October1926 in Bologna, the fascist government promulgated the new public security laws by way of Royal Decree no.1848 of 6 November of the same year.

    From this moment on, anyone deemed to be a threat to public safety could be removed from their usual residence and forcibly sent to remote locations in central and southern Italy. In fact, even those who had simply expressed their opposition to the regime, any anti-fascist or presumed such, were also affected.

    From 1926 to 1943 there were about 10 thousand political prisoners; those considered more dangerous were mainly sent to the islands of Lampedusa, Favignana, Ustica, Lipari, Ponza, Tremiti and Ventoten

    Italian Historian Costantino Di Sante has indicated that Lampedusa was not used after a while because it was considered to be too close to the African coast. However, the increasing number of polical prisoners as time went on might have led to its 'revival'.

    I am fairly sure, but stand to be corrected, that the island was not used post-hostilities by the Allies to hold Fascists or German prisoners of war.

    JimHerriot and 4jonboy like this.
  8. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Whoever was navigating needed some serious retraining!!!

    Bizerte to Sicily and accidentally bump into Lampedusa! Wow!

    Using Vitellino's list above, Favignana looks a more likely candidate.
  9. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Well-Known Member

    Thank you vitellino the man who told the story is long dead he was a member of the Dunkirk Veterans, the 67th Field Regiment in WW2 and fought in the Korean War. In later years he tasted the sauce at Lea and Perrin.

    Sorry 4jonboy it came up in a discussion at a Mess Dinner some years ago so I'm afraid you will have to take the word of an Officer and a Gentleman if that is good enough.

    Thankfully everything doesnt originate in books, we seem to have lost track of verbal sources for our material.
    It seems to imply that verbal evidence is inadmissible or in the vernacular - people tell lies.

    Dont believe a word, words are only spoken and a heart, just like a promise, is there to be broken - Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy.

    Mark N recall that "Not the Nine o'clock News" TV sketch "Designed by Robots, Driven by Italians!"
    This is a pre-war version.

    Sailors have got lost in fog on the Med for Millenia.
    I sometimes wonder what books people on this site read.

    I think for me, the War is over.

    Pack up my troubles in my old kit bag, apply the D lock and throw away the key.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2021
  10. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    I would like to ask you all to believe what this veteran said.

    I have read a newspaper article of an interview he gave. When an Italian crew member asked a local in the port if they had arrived in Naples he was told that that it wasn't Naples, they had arrived in Lampedusa. You can't mistake the word Lampedusa for Favignana - or can you?

    I am now going to contact the Town Hall in Lampedusa to see what, if anything, they hold on this camp and its unfortunate inmates. They might not reply, as they are having to copy with the arrival of illegal immigrants on what is becoming a daily basis.

    As I am always on the look-out for new material on POWs in Italy - my chief interest - this post has opened up new horizons and I would like to thank Uncle Target for having posted it.
    4jonboy likes this.
  11. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Uncle T,.
    Well well here we go again .
    Just because members are trying to get to the bottom of what you posted, here you go chucking the teddy out of the pram. You're not the first to do that.

    You posted that you hoped that members would research the island and together they could come up with an answer to your question-well it seems to me that vitellino, aka Janet gave a suitable answer.

    This forum is for discussion-members like to check the facts and comment on what the OP has posted, well it seems you don't like their answers, but please don't criticise what they do or the type of books they read.

    AB64 likes this.
  12. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Hi Janet

    Thank you for continuing to investigate further. It is turning out to be a really interesting thread.

  13. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Email sent. Now the long wait!
    JimHerriot likes this.
  14. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    An account of the Islands liberation by men of the Coldstream Guards June 1943.


  15. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thanks Kyle. What an interesting account.

    The Coldstreams didn't fine any traces of the camp, I notice. It had been a tented camp, I gather, so easily dismantled after the last occupants had been taken off the island.

    JimHerriot likes this.
  16. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

  17. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    There's quite a bt of information about the surrender of Lampedusa, what's missing - in both British and Italian sources - Is information about the internment camp. There are some cartoons drawn by an Italian political internee but these are pre-war.

    Lampedusa has quite a long history as far as interning political dissidents is concerned - I have found some buildings which were erected for political detainees after the unification of Italy, and imagine these were used under Fascism, but the British soldier talked about tents, the sort which were used in all tented Pow camps on the mainland. There is still a big open space across the road from these buildings which might have been occupied by the tent(s).

    Edited: Have just found this old photo of the internment camp.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2021
  18. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Hello vitellino,

    I am curious as to where you got the idea of tents on Lampedusa from. Which British soldier talked about tents there?
  19. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Uncle Target does not wish the name of the soldier to be divulged.

    Since my last post I have contacted a resident on the island who has a blog to ask if he knows anything about this temporary camp.
  20. MarkN

    MarkN Banned

    Ok. So you are referring to the gunner from 67th Field RA. But where/when does he mention he was kept in a tented camp on Lampedusa? Or any mention of tents at all?

    I'm trying to understand the process at the time.

    You wrote "Prisoners of war should never have been sent there [Lampedusa], as it was an Internment camp, under the jurisdiction of the Italian equivalent of the Home Office, whereas POW camps were the responsibility of the War Office/Ministry of Defence."

    If there was no pre-existing POW camp on Lampedusa, was the tented camp there already (as an Italian army camp) when these chaps landed, or did the Italians fly/ship in some tents especially for them? The latter seems a strange move as it seems more logical just to take the POWs straight off the island if they're not supposed to be there in the first place.

    Also, another element that intrigues me is the reference to "barbed wire and watch towers". All of the texts I've read about these Fascist island internment camps is that they were run more as 'open colonies', that's to say it was the surrounding water that kept them prisoner whilst they were able to move freely around the islands themselves.

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