history of CAMPO 57 - GRupignano

this history is by Natale Zaccuri, under the auspices of The National Association of Engineers and Signalers (ANGET), and is reproduced with permission. It was originally translated by Ken Fenton of Richmond, Nelson, New Zealand, in 2004, but has been updated. The translator originally noted “Written with the benefit of hindsight and of a fifty years interval, it provides an interesting portrayal through Italian eyes of many but not all aspects of that prison life long ago. Among the viewpoints expressed by him are some, which are rather different to those being currently expressed by Australian or New Zealand survivors of the Camp´s regime. In this regard, the official website of the Australian War memorial (awm.gov.au) gives such views, which may help to redress any perceived imbalance or omissions in
Mr. Zaccuri´s account.


At the end of the 1980´s, some Udinese members of ANGET while crossing the fields of San Mauro, paths already trodden during military service, stopped in front of a very damaged and dilapidated church memorial tablet, still legible, telling that the place of prayer had been constructed during the 2nd World War by Anglo-Saxon prisoners of war.

It immediately struck a chord, being responsive to the strong calling that seemed to burst out from these walls, the old (military) engineers decided to get started; they rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

In this atmosphere there also sprang up the desire to know, in the most deeply possible way, the human environment in which the idea of building this church was born and developed.

The research work was not simple. The undertaking proceeded slowly, both on the account of the physical distance, for the greater part, of the players, and the elapsed length of time that had made the records dim and fragmented. But precisely for these difficulties, Dr. Natale Zaccuri felt all the more stimulated and, in the end, he succeeded in filling the huge gaps in knowledge to recreate the framework of life in the camp. The result of such a study, concluded by the more recent news about the reconstruction of the church, are contained in this book, and constitute the pieces of a mosaic systematically assembled and such that they become part of the larger mosaic of the recent history of Friuli.

Stefano Carraro

Presidente ANGET Udine




The Commune of Premaraccio is a local government area of about 420 square kilometers, bordered to the east by the Natisone River and situated on a flat area about 15 kilometers east of Udine, the provincial capital of Friuli. Premaraccio has a long history as the ancient buildings located there bear witness.

Colonized by Roman legions, with a place-name of Celtic origin like other localities in the district, the Commune today has a population of about four thousand; amongst its historical legacy is a prisoner of war camp built near San Mauro in the 1940’s – Campo PG 57. It is also identified with Grupignano as that was the nearest railway station.


Upon the entry of Italy into the war, in June of 1940, at Premariacco as in the rest of the country, youthful forces were called to arms. Only the disabled, older people, women and children remained at home. In general, inside and outside Friuli, from a food point of view, there was not much to be happy about: the median number of calories offered to Italians in that period was in order of 1100, according to the record of the “Food Rationing Card”. The workers of Friuli, who according to the 1940 census, were around 40,000, at least half of whom women, used to be paid a wage of 1 lira and 66 centesimi per hour.

In a year, on average, their income did not exceed 4650 lire! Ballila and Topolino were the automobiles of the time, that were slowly replacing horse-drawn transport, and the widespread use of bicycles, often items of strong interest of the Germans, who took every opportunity to requisition then. The lack of petrol dashed hopes driving the spluttering and gleaming cars.

Newspapers used to spread news from the front in very large letters and the most apropriate pictures were those offered on the pages of the “Illustrated Times”. L´EIAR (Company Italian Auditions Radiophonic) transmitted “News from home” for the fighting men.

The propaganda beat a drum of pride and the reality of blood and homesickness on the various battlefields often used to sap the morale of the fighting men.

At the end of the month of March 1942, use of the Food Rationing Card grew which used to give the right, among other things, to 150 grams of bread per day and to 100 grams of meat per week.

The farmlands of Friuli, stripped of able-bodied men, were cultivated as best as possible by the women and old people, while boys were used in public services. Those who were able, often used to work from dawn to late dusk!

The economy, based predominantly on agriculture, allowed rural workers a meagre income as war supplies were paramount. The law was clear, “whoever for the purpose of evading in whole or in part obligations deriving from mobilization, from requisitions, from the common pool or from the obligatory conveyance of good (…) is punished with imprisonment from three months to three years and with the penalty up to 20,000 lire”.

To requests about the availability of various kinds of food, the authorities often responded with an invitation to raise rabbits. For many, rabbits soon became sources of subsistance and sometimes a source for earning money. A person who had a courtyard behind the house was clearly fortunate because he could also expand his possibilities for breeding, for example, ducks or the fattening of swine.

It wasn´t a time for the mundane: they thought about their concerns, discomforts above all for the persons of a certain age and for the families where the father or husband was far away, at the front, or in behind lines where there was little to be happy about. Difficult times for all. There are still those who remembers how the butter was “sniffed” in the family and how the oily paper that wrapped it was sniffed for illusory satisfaction.

Two illegal actions, however, were tightly preserved: the “Black Market” (economic in character) and listening to London Radio, more ideological.


One day, news was spread of the need for female labor to package tents destined to accommodate prisoners of war that would soon arrive in the area.

That was the first time there was talk of a “camp” and the novelty aroused curiosity among the inhabitants of the district, both in regard to the tent city that was rapidly taking form and for so many – against their will – prisoners about to become “guests” of it.

But there was little time to linger. Other matters were getting more ominous, like the military situation on the various fronts; the scarcity of foodstuffs including those of basic need; the terrorizing incursions of bomber aircraft; requisitions for military needs for raw materials like copper, iron, tin; the prohibition of automobile traffic with the major aim of saving fuel; more severe rationing of food products (bread, pasta, milk, eggs, etc.) and other essentials. Compared to 1939, national agricultural production increased 20% and the public debt was almost trebled. All this while on the battlefields, the Italian Army did not succeed in providing convincing performances, and unsure because of the limited worth of its men.


Having marked out the place for the camp, the initial unfolding of tents greeted the first prisoners of Yugoslav nationality. Tents were very soon replaced by wooden barracks, then faced with bricks and the systematic occupation by military “tenants” of mixed nationality: English, New Zealanders, Australians and also some Greeks, captured on the African fronts who according to historical records, sometimes neared the ceiling capacity of 5000.

Don Angelo Saccavini, today a priest at Paderno (Udine), well remembers at age 11 the tents because they were taken down and taken along the road towards Gonars, a little township on the Friulian lowlands where another “camp” had been prepared in advance for the internement of Croatian and Slovenian citizens, women and children included.

So was born “P.G. 57 of Grupignano” with the large majority of prisoners coming from the North Africa front, remaining active until a few days after 8th September and supervised by the me commanded by Colonel of Carabinieri VE Calcaterra.

In the memory of those that knew him,  he was a character of grumpy disposition and due to his rather stout physique very much compelled to have all his clothing altered by the hands of Signora Assunta, a skillful tailoress residing a short distance from the Camp. On the contrary, his deputy was a man, they recount – to take a liking to, of good appearance and more communicative. For him, some of the ex-internees have had occasion to say, were reserved the anxious looks of the prisoners, hopeful of his understanding.

In the recollection of one of them, Aldo Marogna, by now deceased for some time, life in the camp was not then so uncomfortable, and having seen the frequency with which food parcels arrived by means of the Red Cross, also provided for the clearing of correspondence. Given the times, that condition was to be appreciated.

P.G. 57, in short, never was an Auschwitz with its installations of slaughter (where those who arrived there for the first time would read on the gate or on the entrance, published in large letters visible even from far away, the curt remark with a mournfully humorous flavor “Arbeits macht frei” that is “ Work makes free”) and not even the inferno of Mauthausen, Orankj or Buchenwald. With due perspective, P.G. 57 might be regarded rather a place of relative well-being, moreover well known by those who went to collect refuse: remains of fruit, glittering little balls of tinfoil … with still the faint aroma of wrapped chocolate, tins of partly consumed meat, cigarettes butts.

This is an opinion shared by former infantry corporal Luigi Dal Bosco who arrived with his 231st Garrison Company at the “Campo” on 1st July 1941, after 22 days spent in absence at Postumia. He wrote: “For a certain period at the camp, I was a guard and then I was promoted, a hand-picked soldier, because, highly regarded by superiors, I finally became a corporal on account of worthy service.

“I remained at the Camp from July 1941 until 1stOctober 1942. The day began at 7:00 in the morning and at night, if one was not on guard, one could go off duty on pass. During the day one was now employed on re-organization and order within the camp, then in the usual guard shifts.”

“We ate well”, Dal Bosco recalls. “With me there were Veronese friends Bicego, Niero and Beghini. Bicego was the head cook and Niero his assistant; Beghini was in charge of the canteen; a truly fortunate situation, avoiding the need to eat with the troops”.


The research commitment of all those who in whatever way served or experienced the vicissitudes of the camp, in 1991 brought to Douglas Frame, an Australian of Castle Hill, an “unearthed” intermediary, the Giorgiutti family from Friulian immigrants. They encouraged contact with an old “friend” of the incarceration Amelio Cavassi, who at the time was a guard and afterwards went to live at Medeuzza di San Giovanni al Natisone (Udine).

Taken as prisoner by the Germans at El Alamein in July 1942, Frame was “transferred” to the Italian Army at Mersa Matruh and, two months later in September, conducted to Camp P.G. 57.

He was just 23 years old. He remained for thirteen months, in the course of which, was able to kindle lasting friendships, as still done today among the people of Cividale or elsewhere.

These friendships ended because of his transfer to Germany for about two years, before being able to return home to Australia in June of 1945. Years of sacrifice, of sad moments, anxieties and thoughts for distant loved ones: years impossible to forget!

While writing in July 1991 to his Italian friend Amelio Cavassi, Frame recalled “the carabinieri that controlled the beds in the barracks with wolfhounds and pocket torches” and that enclosure, “our enclosure”, the best thing, was situated on the left side at the rear of the camp, viewed from the entrance gate.

He recalled also the names of some officers such as Lieutenant Loski (of that particular enclosure) a good man, friendly and rather old: Lieutenant Mussi, who by comparison was instead severe; the sergeant who was nick-named “Pedro (Peter) the Mexican” on account of his Latin-American looks, Colonel Calcaterra and Father Cotta, an elderly priest with a white beard, very appreciative of the problems both of the prisoners and of those in charge of the Camp.

Although an internee´s life was planned in every detail, there was always someone who was in the habit of gave purpose to his day. Documents uncovered in the District highlight, for example, the deep love of prisoner John M. Katz for a local girl.

At the home of Maria Braida, on the contrary, a watercolor given to her father by one of the prisoners has still been preserved. Mr. Valentino Tolazzi still possesses two poetic works written by a prisoner of Indian origin. During its period of permanence, the camp did not lack attempts to escape, as also those assigned to reflection and to resulting prayer, the idea of a plan for a specific place for worship.


Among the events that typified the Camp were attempts to escape. The first of these happened, as the then Sergeant Thomas Canning recorded in his writings, at the beginning of winter of 1942, ending tragically however. New Zealand prisoner Private Wright had been the one to put it into action, but his attempt to crawl under the barbed wire was halted by bullets fired by a sentry, one of which hit him high in the neck.

Obviously this event aroused reactions, above all by Camp Commandant, Colonel Calcaterra, who having assembled the prisoners onto the open space opposite where the little church was taking shape, proclaimed in a showy and confident manner that others would never be able to, or want to, escape from “his camp”, adding that the fate of Wright would concern anyone who tried to imitate him. Shortly afterwards, notwithstanding the threats, the first attempts commenced at studying and putting into effect that escape which, in the end, enabled a band of prisoners to get outside.

Certainly it wasn´t easy because one had to reckon not only with the constant surveillance of the searchlights, but also with the nature of the terrain, often extremely hard like that next to No. 2 compound. It wasn´t so in the area chosen for the quartering of prisoners captured at the battle of El Alamein. As a matter of fact, for a variable depth from three to three and one half meters, the friability of the ground made up for the scarcity and difficulty of means to excavate the coveted tunnel of liberty; a pickax, stolen from the Italians, a helmet used as a shovel, a kind of sledge used for the shifting of earth removed from the tunnel entrance, from where it was brought up and with evident prudence settled under the floorboards of the barracks a little distance away, which given the method of building its foundations, offered the precious space of 60 centimeters to be filled without becoming noticeable.

It is worthwhile recalling that the best accommodation buildings, re-sheathed in brickwork and located at the boundary of the Camp, were those reserved for the guards. About 70 centimeters high and 50 wide, the tunnel, according to plan, needed to emerge out onto the surface more or less 45 meters beyond the surrounding barbed wire fence and with the help of a plantation of millet, clearly protecting it from the intrusiveness of the searchlight´s beams of light, turned around by the sentries. With the completion of works drawing near, Canning again recalls there was no lack of discussion on the manner of escape, the evading potential, and the way ahead for launching forth once having gained the outside of the fence. Just when the work of advancing the tunnel was about to arrive well into the middle of the field of millet, Canning again notes, it occurred by chance that the owners of the property has decided on its harvesting. Obviously, the unforeseen event complicated the escape plan, because it was failed to both hide the tunnel exit and the necessary coverd of the escapers from anticipated weapons fire.

At that point, another problem cropped up making this a secondary concern: the layer of earth to be removed became so hard as to induce the group to opt bringing the tunnel mouth forward by ten meters. Unfortunately, the event increased the ever most demanding requirements for the concealment of the earth to be carried from the tunnel to under the floorboards of the barracks.

Finally after much anxiety and five weeks of exhausting work, on the night of 30th October 1942, the fateful time for escape arrived. The escapees, having arranged themselves in groups of 3 or 4 persons through the drawing of lots, then decided the order of exit from the tunnel for all the 19 who had accepted the risk of escaping. Canning again recalls Canning his two companions were Tom Comins (RAF Wellington bomber pilot) and Dick Head, of the 12th Battalion AIF. Everything went according to the prediction; Kevin O´Connel was for some moments illuminated by a moving searchlight while he was getting ready to come out.

However with composure the escapee remained still, so succeeding not to arouse any suspicious, and all went according to plan. Once beyond the tunnel, the nearby hills were their common destination. While the escapees were tasting those first longed for moments of freedom, within the camp on the day following the escape, life became a source of tension both among those responsible for discipline and among the prisoners themselves fearing heavy retaliation.

Looking at it from a distance, the Giulian Alps, densely covered with trees, appeared a convenient refuge. However the reality was not so, because in that area was a resident population of an Italian military division. Also for that reason, already on the day after the escape, two of the escapees were captured and – in due course at the end of the fifth day, the same thing happened to the remaining seventeen. The cherished dream of freedom ended for all, at least for the moment. Retaken and put in chains, the prisoners were brought back to the Camp and, for each one of them, the relevant punishment was inflicted, in variable measure according to military rank held. Two of the 19 were NCOs with the rank of sergeant: to them 25 days was inflicted: ten days of hard punishment and fifteen days of simple confinement. To the corporals, lance corporals and privates: thirty days, ten days hard and twenty days confinement.

“We did a week of our sentence”, again recalls Canning, “when one night a volley of shots resounded from the perimeter of nearby compound No. 2, followed by much shouting and calling out of the guard. The guard that had fired the magazine burst asserted that a prisoner had climbed the main wire fence … since the distance was less than 10 meters, he could not have missed him. However, there was no body. The following day a prisoner (Bill Pitt, 2nd/23rdBattalion AIF) was carried into the prison severely wounded …. As a result of despondency, he had got into position and climbed the barbed wire fence …. On the insistence of the medical officers Binns and Levins he was transferred to hospital and after his recovery transferred to another camp. Having overcome this difficult moment too, slowly the works for the realization of the little church resumed.

To the cement of the eager spirits was joined the industriousness of the hands recognizable by the rapid growth of the wall structure, well emerging in stone and cement with the rectangular nave and, in the background, an apse and a little presbytery. On the longer walls, ready to give light, there were four windows with openings framed towards the outside while the frontal part of the construction was bestowed with a portico of semi-circular structure, a colonnade formed by components of rectangular section in worked stone, and trussed on wood for the roof surmounted by terracotta tiles. The altar, like the entry steps for the church, was prefabricated outside the Camp. The precision of their construction was revealed such that at the time of assembly, all fitted perfectly.


It was the idea of the chaplain of the Camp, Father Giovanni Cotta for the building of a place of prayer. Part of the military administration, he had already attended to the prisoner of war camp at Prato Isarco (Bolzano) before arriving at “Campo 57” at Premariacco. He was already getting on in years, but – despite his age – was very energetic in action and in thought, pleasantly eloquent also when he expressed himself in English. From time to time he was given permission to hold discussions on non-military themes.

The most appropriate discussions seemed to be those of an agricultural character and of an architectural nature for which references were not lacking throughout the land. It appeared curious to many to see him move throughout the Camp with his face framed by a white beard falling down to his chest, short of stature and by form taking on a round shape. To assist him in the construction project for the chapel were, in particular, Father Tom Lynch, a priest of the diocese of Southampton and Captain in the British Army, and the New Zealander Ambrose Loughnan, having become a Dominican priest in 1951. Among those present in the Camp from time to time was also then Father Ricardo Travani, of the archiepiscopal Curia of Udine, who used to express himself well enough in English, and, as such, very effective in dialogue with English speaking prisoners.

Not difficult to find was labor. In brief, what could seem to most people a dream became a reality. The final allocation having been set, they got onto the foundations that were laid down at the beginning of 1942, thanks to the availability of numerous volunteers, above all the Australians and New Zealanders, obviously of Catholic faith. From memory, and some historical and fragmented written records, their undertaking was rewarded with a daily supplementary ration of bread. For the collection of stones for use in the building, prisoners were were under escort in groups of 8-10 with the preferred areas being along the banks of the Natisone River.

An unforgettable experience, again writes the Australian Frame. Moreover, he selects from a mass of records, “the departure from the Camp by lorry, together with seven other companions, for the purpose of going out to collect stones in the bed of a not distant streamlet that it appears was called Terano [Torre, more likely]. There, our sentry promised that if we filled the lorry quickly, he would pay for a beer for each one of us,” Said, done. Therefore, they ended up in a nearby inn, in one of the back rooms. Two young girls about 19 years old entered and spoke to us, with the sentry as interpreter. One of the girls, named Violetta, took a liking to me and asked the sentry permission to visit me in the Camp next Sunday, in order to bring me some fruit and sweets.

The sentry angrily replied that it was impossible and so Violetta took off disillusioned. Nevertheless, what happy memories! “Meanwhile the wall structure continued to grow rapidly and not much time elapsed before the positioning of a wooden cross, acquired by the prisoners with their savings. According to an investigation carried out by Mario Coccolo, a keen researcher of historical things concerning the place it was sculptured in the craft workshop “Senoner Holzbildhauer” of Ortisei (Of which Peppi and Richard Senoner are now the owners, respectively son and nephew of the maker) and painted by Corrado Pitscheider, also of Ortisei (Bolzano). From the cessation of war-related events to our times, the wooden Crucifix has found a secure repository in the parish church of Premariacco. Dedicated to “Our Master Jesus Crucified”, the new chapel, so sought after by Father Cotta and his friends in the venture, experienced its unique Eucharistic celebration only one week before the Camp started to be evacuated by the Germans: the 13thSeptember 1943.


On the 8th September 1943 Italy signed the armistice with the Allied Governments. The news also reached the Prisoner of War Camp No. 57. The prisoners went to see the Vice Commandant of the camp in order to attain their release immediately. He however could not do so because the Commandant, loyal to his orders, chose the course of awaiting new instructions and not that of immediate release.

To sort out the situation, Father Angelo Saccavini and with him Fabio Donato, still remember today one who worked in the Camp at various times – a few days after (between the 11th and 12th of September) the Germans had arrived by night in their transport, with headlights off, in front of the Camp entrance. The sentry, appreciating the reality, was unable to do anything without orders from higher authority.

The Germans having entered the Camp, in the hours following, formed “groups” of two to three hundred persons, and having been assigned, were escorted along the main road not far away to the railway station of “Veneta” at Moimacco, from where, crammed into cattle wagons, they went to Germany. Tears clearly flowed onto their faces, and one could read there expressions desperate for knowledge of the destiny that would await them! In those dramatic moments, the idea of escape – this time from the Germans – was uppermost in their minds. For those who were fortunate in choosing such a solution, the anchors of salvation were the families of the surrounding area, with their providential offers of civil clothing, while those discharged military personnel ended up being painstakingly hidden away.

In correspondence dated 6th August 1945, English prisoner William S.C. Paling remembered those moments with his friends Brier to whom he wrote: “For me it has been impossible to write to the Italian family who so kindly took care of me when I escaped from the (prisoner of) war camp at Premariacco. Unfortunately again I have been made prisoner and everything has been taken from me by the Germans. After having been with the partisans [rebels] for more than three months, I was taken to Germany, from where I finally succeeded in escaping across Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia, passing through Bari [Southern Italy], on 2nd November 1944 …”.

Among reminiscences of Fabio Donato, these places were easy prey, immediately after the compulsory evacuation by the Germans, to a population which looted everything removable: from household goods to sheds. And he similarly recounted the escape, this time successful, of a small group of prisoners, having happened at night, straddling between the 8thSeptember and the arrival of the Germans. Taken to the home of the same Donato, he was washed, hunger appeased, and put up as best as he could in the barn where he remained for 10 days or so.

The risks, obviously, were considerable: the Germans, in fact, often leaving their horses just under the lean-to of the same house, which the prisoners constituted a worrying presence. To have the prisoners at the house, in short, was nothing to be joyous about!

Fortunately, one morning, still before daybreak, while using the disguise of a farm worker, supplied with forks and rakes, with a cart of the horse-drawn type, he succeeded in getting away as far as Cosizza, in the municipality of Savogna, almost to the shelter of the boundary with Yugoslavia where, for the last time, there was an affected greeting.


The Camp, on the other hand, in the difficult months that followed the 8th September, like all the abandoned military assets, became RES NULLIUS, for disposal, it was taken out of military service at the disposal of the fearful of the future head of Communal Administration, to form accommodation for dispersed and displaced people.

For all the materials retrieved, as Mario Coccolo noted in his journalistic correspondence of August 1992, “they found adequate civil end use: the beams and planking were used in housing, overcoats and garments were made from blankets, the reticulated pipework formed the fences of vegetable gardens, the sheets of “ethernit” asbestos cement replaced the old sheet metal of lean-to shelters and the like. A saying was widespread in the area “Stuff from the Camp”. The wooden barracks, having been taken to pieces, the outline of some of their foundations still remain visible. By virtue that they resisted damage of weather and vandalism, certain masonry structures, some restored and today almost unrecognizable, are inhabited - like the former cinema premises or the building for the former Corps of Guards, where Antonio Cavaliero lives, a pleasant “personality” well inclined to dialogue and to recollection, notwithstanding ailments of advancing years.

Around almost everything has remained as those days, including the water piping put at the edges of the large courtyard, as the good Antonio remembers, having remained by choice in these parts that saw him as a young soldier, faithful servant of his country, a man in love with Lucia, whose remembrance is still most vivid in his memory.

Having overcome moments of chaos and the contradictions as a result of the armistice between Italy and the allied Anglo-American forces, the little church – contrary to what the fortunes of the Camp were – remained a visible testimony and, for some years to follow, was used above all for the Litany of Saints on Rogation Days. The proof is the commemorative plaque sited to the left of the entrance, recording the visit of the Archibishop of Udine, Mons. Giuseppe Nogara, that happened on 17th October 1946.


But let us return to the little church on order to relate a remarkable episode which land surveyor Mario Coccolo, at the time Mayor of Premariacco, was eye witness too. “It was in December of 1975, a Saturday like so many, with me in my office concentrating on getting through usual business when I sensed the arrival of a car in front of the municipal building. Looking up, I saw a luxurious blue “Cadillac” with a foreign registration plate having at the wheel a man of colour in uniform with a little monkey as escort, and in the place of honour, a bishop at whose side sat a gentleman with the evident role of secretary, as he then had to declare himself to the secretary of the Comune, and in asking to speak to the Mayor, to precisely locate his place of origin as Buenos Aires.

Having been admitted for a meeting, the prelate, upon declaring himself as such Monsignor Jacopo Antonio Lozzano, as the representative of and having interests on behalf of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the East with a seat at San Francisco … asked to be able to acquire the former church located in the former prison Camp of Premariacco, including the “surrounding grounds”. In the end, time shows how that had been a great bluff. Since then much and more prey to the scrub(wood) and the structural deterioration, the roof included.


These were the conditions that greeted the eyes of the members of the Udinese ANGET when – in 1990 – with General Steno Carraro as chairman - they “discovered” the little church. Abandoned among the ruins and rubble, it appeared to Father Gianni Meneni´s eyes like an unexpected recall to a past gone but not forgotten, and as such the idea of restoration was born for the purpose of later dedicating it to all those who, in war and in peace, had served in the Corps of Engineers and Signals; but also to keep alive the memory of those, their then enemies, who contributed to the building of that place of faith and prayer.

Semi-destroyed from roof to walls, invaded by scrub(wood), it began to receive the first necessary “attention” after – obviously – the indispensable certificate of conveyance from the Administration of Premariacco.

Word about the beginning of the restoration did not take a long time to spread among the associates of other sections of ANGET who did not hesitate to make themselves available both in material and in economic terms, even if finances never attained a level of sufficiency. Not such a reason, one well understands, for giving up! If it had been so from the start, definitely that description “tenacious, untiring, unpretentious, modest…” that highlighted the first words of motivation of recognition for the military value of the Corps of Engineers would assail the eyes and ears of the heirs of those heroes of so many battles and sacrifices for the greatness of the Nation.

The military engineer, who operates from within the zone most distant from the front lines up to forward outposts, who performs many tasks from combat to that of working with courage, decision, spirit of sacrifice, technical and scientific preparation; a precious combatant and also an expert “engineer” able to re-establish the balance undermined by real circumstances and of restoring confidence: the engineer who does not give up! And so, slowly, faith and tenacity have found strength in the arms and minds of many inside and outside the directing Council of the Udinese ANGET. For all, a unique objective: to reconstruct that little church and… in the eyes and in the hearts, the foretaste of the pleasure of sensing – well knowing that which will soon be the Chiesetta of ANGET.

Necessities, however, never end. And it has been pleasing to see the willingness of so many friends who have known how to be such, even in the moment of need! And of need, in the circumstances, there has been so much of it, both for morale and for … funds nearly empty. Having fed the latter, the master carpenter Marco Bulfone from Moggio made up his mind to complete the work, the same builder of the internal trusses, helped by some specialists from the team of Angetine volunteers. From the walls … to the roof and,  then, to the internal works like electric wiring and water and sanitary systems, finalized during 1993.

Still before the New Year passed, the bell tower was repaired and so too the main walls destined and ready to receive the new roof with the geometrics of its wooden trusses seeming like a work of art - carpenter style! Today, the fine view also repays those moments of strong anxiety evident when they discovered – in the course of work the awful conditions of the beams overhanging the pronaos.

At the end of the summer of 1993, at the “yard” again open, the adventure of reconstruction is enriched by a fact, certainly idealized in the minds of the people in charge, but rather remarkable: from New Zealand, where he now resides, the Rev. Father Ambrose Loughnan, Domenican Father, is heard from again. His arrival is announced by means of his letter to the President of ANGET, General Carraro, to whom he writes, among other things “I was part of the New Zealand Forces when I was 23 years old … It was in that camp, through the daily setting, that I began to think about my future as a priest …”. And he concluded “… I would truly be very happy to be able to celebrate the sacred mass that will signal the restoration of the little church that has occurred. For me personally that would be an act of thanks for the gift of life during these fifty years from 1945 to 1993 …”.

On 2nd December the wish of Father Ambrose became a reality: in that place that saw him constrained to live the reflective thoughts and actions of difficult times, he returned to celebrate the second mass in the history of that place of worship so laboriously achieved beforehand and again given a new life at last. (The first celebration, in 1993, happened only a few days before the German troops proceeded with the evacuation of prisoners to Germany). To gather around the welcome guest, there were obviously the members and supports of ANGET and many people from Premariacco, who still had a living memory of the reality of that earlier period. In sum, a memorable day in the name of the faith in primis for the maturing of the priestly idea of the Father, but also of the Christian values of friendship and brotherhood among people.

Having also recorded the moment in archives, it was necessary however to achieve the resolution of the building´s restoration project including the ornaments and fitting most suited. To the carver Silvano Bevilacqua fell the task of producing a crucifix, a chalice, and two candelabras, and the follow the Via Crucis. In addition, the Generals Campagna and Calamani offered bronze statues in the image of Saint Gabriel and Saint Barbara.

Other generosities have also to be taken note of – the firm supplying various materials, and some artisans who - acutely aware of the needs – are accepting reimbursement only for the raw materials and not for labor; the villagers like to express their solidarity with the initiative by assiduously making provision for the operation “ristoro”. In 1994 and, again in the first months of 1995, the repair of a large area of the floor, the plastering of internal and external walls, and the installation of new fixtures are proceeded with. Outside the building, by the hand of Romeo Lancerotto, a suitable pavement bearing some religious and military designs is being set out. The spring of 1996 is the season of the rebirth of the little church too, now ready to welcome friends and faithful and to give testimony to Christian love and the Gospel of God.

The rescue of the building (defined in the land register on folio no. 2 of cadastral maps 63, 238 and 250) granted by the Comune di Premariacco in bailment (commodation) of the title free for ten years to the Udinese section of Anget, as already recorded, began in the summer of 1991.

The technical relationship in respect to works of extraordinary maintenance, signed by building surveyor Michele Mauro, whose office is at Udine, emphasized that one was dealing with an article manufactured in masonry, width varying from 50 to 60 centimeters, placed at a median depth of about 85 centimeters, and surmounted at the roof by a frame visible in wood of fir (for the purpose of restoration). The roofing of the entrance, that initially seemed to need to be replaced only partially, required instead complete resurfacing, as in their totality did the 11 exterior door and window frames (re-done in anodized aluminum) and the main access door, now in wrought iron, having a squared pattern (anthracite color), with glass windows replacing the previous wooden ones.

Having given regard to their good condition, the marble chip tiles of the pre-existing floor have been part preserved.

More than eight meters wide and with a development in depth of a little more than twenty meters, the new structure externally presents walls finished off with plastered white stucco containing powdered marble.

Inside, the altar with a demountable iron plinth, surmounted by a shelf in wood of solid appearance. On the left side of those entering, now the evocative statue of Saint Augustine of Canterbury stands out, and arranged along the lateral walls, the tables of the Via Crucis. For those fond of figures, let us record that for the renewal of parts of the edifice in stonework about 35 quintals of cement, about 1700 bricks, double bricks and hollow flat blocks, 6000 pieces of pantile, 3 quintals of iron and arc welded mesh; the gutters have now been renovated in cooper, a footpath formed in fine washed river gravel (established) with designs and friezes, as well as having mounted five trusses with the boards placed above them being of the match lining type, their faces exposed to view.

Intercommunicating with the Sacresty, a small bathroom has been put in. To those who might want to view the church and its environs, the view that is offered today is that of a classical place in the Friulian countryside. In the foreground, at the margins of the way in, proceeding from the center of the place, one catches glimpses – among breaks within the shrubbery – of one of the surviving barracks in masonry with the ravages of time on it.

In clear contrast with what has been, a modern villa is now at the head of the access street to the little church, which in turn, is very near to the reconstructed building part (used) for civil habitation (where at the time there was the cookhouse for the Italian guards) and part used as a shed or stall (formerly the room for the cinema).

On the left side of the access way the partly modernized lodging made of compacted earth is still there, which was (built) for the Commandant of the Guards and, forward a little more, at some slight distance from the highway to Cividale del Friuli, finally, exists the house/barracks (also in this case again restored) and still inhabited by the former Sergeant Cavaliero, class of 1915. In such a “revisited” environment the reconstructed small church stands out, dedicated to “Our Father Jesus Christ Crucified”, strongly desired by the Udinese section of ANGET, in homage to all those who were constrained in the Camp by events, and also to so many – in peace and war – who served with honor in the Corps of Engineers and Signals.


Beyond the mid-century of history is a good time for meditating: not so much because the memory of the past is clouding over, but above all because the accelerating process of changes to the way of living and to society risks being an accomplice to a forgetfulness that has to be rejected. All this has to remain a warning for present and future generations.

The historiography, be it small or large, cannot but make for pondering over and understanding how much war is a tremendous event for humanity: violence degrades man, it  conditions him and humiliates him so as to make him an instrument without soul disposed even to seek revenge and to cause death. To know the torments and sorrows encountered by humanity, to rediscover the values of peace and democracy, can but be the objectives of all civilized peoples.


In wresting it from neglect and deterioration THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ENGINEERS AND SIGNALLERS OF ITALY wanted to restore the church as a sign of Christian brotherhood with the prisoners who erected it. 1991 – 1995.