Saturday, September 6, 2008

[Image] The long walk to the cage

April, 1941. Tobruk, Libya.

2/48th Captures 70 Italian POW's.

A lone Digger of the 2/48th Infantry Battalion leads a column of Italian POW's on the long walk back from the front lines to the Prisoner of War cage. This was a march of approximately 10 kilometres. With shouldered Lee-Enfield .303 and fixed bayonet he leads the prisoners past the HQ of the 26th Brigade.

It was because of the Italian's general reluctance to fight, and the fact that they felt they would be treated better by the Australians than the Germans, that they willingly surrendered in large numbers. Many captured Italian soldiers possessed a white silk handkerchief and were not afraid to use it. Italian soldiers would often withstand sustained small arms fire from a distance but would crack at the sight of the fixed bayonet up close. Even many of the Afrika Korps chose to spend the rest of the war as a POW than fall victim to an Aussie bayonet. Making this choice is not an act of cowardice.

Many of these Italian prisoners were sent back to Australia and sent to work on farms in rural areas, often later immigrating back after the war to purchase their own farms.

image p02242.018 Australian War Memorial.

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