06 April 2006

Italian POWs in India, 1944

One of the most intriguing organized units involved in road building [in India] was the Italian Auxiliary Pioneer Corps. This was raised from so-called Italian 'co-operators'. During 8th Army's campaigns against the Italians in 1941 and 1942, thousands of Italians had been brought to POW camps in India as they could not be taken to Britain. At first, the Italians were something of a nuisance in a jocular sort of way. They were adept at spreading anti-Allied propaganda to the Indian population – for example on the backs of cigarette packs with one or two cigarettes left in them. British military intelligence was particularly struck by one jape. The POWs had fabricated an Italian fascist flag from old clothes. They captured a vulture which flew into their compound and tied the flag to it. The unfortunate bird was seen flapping around the surrounding villages for hours displaying the insignia of Mussolini's new Roman Empire. After the fall of the dictator and the German invasion of Italy, however, many Italian soldiers who were not committed fascists agreed to work on the Allied side. The valleys of Assam were alive with the sounds of the songs of Sorrento.
SOURCE: Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire & the War with Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (Penguin, 2004), p. 426


Sankaran said...

This is one of most ill researched piece on Italian POW's I have come across. There were about 100,000 Italian POWs in India by 1945 and they were spread over 28 camps and these were all over British India.

great game 1 said...

I believe there were Italian POWs in Kolar, India

CB said...

My grandfather was one of them and he never collaborate with the British, not because he was committed to fascism but because as a sergeant it was his duty and his honour as a commander to protect his soldiers.