Luigi Bortolotti was a latecomer to Loveday, and he was a POW, not a civilian internee.
Bortolotti was born in Maiano in Udine in 1916. He served in the Italian armed forces in the Second World War. Captured at Tobruk in Libya in January 1941, he was transferred to Australia in May of that year. He spent more than two years in the POW camp at Hay in New South Wales before transfer to Yanco Camp 15, a work camp producing vegetables for supply to allied forces.
From May 1943 it became common for Italian POWs to be sent to work detachments to provide labour during a period of severe labour shortage, commonly in the agricultural sector. Initial hesitations because of security concerns in relation to Italian POWs were overcome – while reservations relating to German and Japanese POWs remained. In February 1944 Bortolotti was sent to South Australia and assigned to work on the farm of the Jarman family in the Clare Valley.
Not until March 1946, well after the end of the war in Europe, but just a short time after the Japanese civilian internees had been repatriated, did he arrive in Loveday. Loveday at this time was a collecting point for POWs in advance of their repatriation. According to the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, POWs could not be retained by the detaining power after the cessation of hostilities but had to be returned to their homeland – even if their personal preference might have been to stay where they were. Bortolotti was finally repatriated in November 1946, having been a POW for nearly six years. When he boarded the Strathmore at Port Adelaide he wrote: ‘After six years of waiting, the departure doesn’t turn out to be what I thought it would. We go on being what we were. It seems extremely hard to shake off the suffering of imprisonment. In short, it doesn’t seem at all real to us. Everyone is, or seems to be, worried about the future.’ (Diary, 7 November 1946. Cited in O’Connor, p. 77).
In August 1948 Bortolotti arrived back in Australia by plane and headed straight to the Clare Valley and the Jarmans, who had sponsored his return. He died in Clare in 1980.
Desmond O’Connor, ‘From Tobruk to Clare: the experiences of the Italian prisoner of war Luigi Bortolotti 1941-1946’, Fulgor 1, 3 (December 2003), 69-85.
NAA: MP1103/1, PWI45061, Prisoner of War/Internee: Bortolotti, Luigi; Date of birth - 30 September 1916; Nationality – Italian
NAA: D4878, BORTOLOTTI Luigi - Nationality: Italian - Arrived Melbourne per Australian National Airways flight E5 14 August 1948