Sunshine Coast Genealogy

Poor Nicola. His part in the war was over almost before it started … and ultimately brought him to Buderim.

Nicola Evangelista, a farmer from Cassino in the province of Frosinone in Italy, was a private with the Italian guard unit II Reggimento Granatieri di Savoia during World War II. He was stationed with his unit at Keren in Italian East Africa (Ethiopia) in March 1941 when British and Allied armies overran the area. Nicola spent the next four years as a prisoner of war. 

He was dispatched to Melbourne on the Mooltan on December 29, 1943, before being transferred to Cowra No.12 (A) on December 30. He later transferred to the Gaythorne detention centre in Brisbane. 

Another casualty of war was Buderim farmer Henry Ernest Beamish. 

Although born in London, Beamish had migrated to Australia and was living in Brisbane during World War I, when he enlisted with the AIF on August 18, 1915. He was appointed to the 15th Battalion (12th Reinforcement). 

Beamish was returned to Australia suffering severe shell shock after an explosion left him half-buried and unconscious. His experience of war left him with long-term nerve damage, nervousness and insomnia. 

By 1944, Beamish was living with his wife Agnes and four school-age daughters on his Buderim fruit farm. With just the girls plus his own poor health, he needed help with farm machinery and heavy lifting. He was one of the many local farmers who volunteered to take in prisoners of war. 

On March 3, 1944, Henry Beamish was assigned three young men: Nicola Evangelista, Sebastiano Fresilli and Tommaso Mallozzi.

Beamish supplied a hut for the men with beds, toilets, showers and food. The POWs worked a six-day week and on Sundays the farmer had to allow them to attend church. As most POWs were well behaved, quiet and good workers, they were welcomed into the local communities.

Nicola had been working on Beamish’s farm only about 14 months when he became ill. He was just 28 years old when he died on April 30, 1945, from lobar pneumonia and pancreatitis. He was buried at Nambour Cemetery on May 1, 1945. The only remaining record of him is a burial card for Old Nambour Cemetery held by Genealogy Sunshine Coast saying “EVANGELISTE, Nicola, age 26 yrs, Italian POW, Religion RC. NB1 08 19. Burial No. 16558”. 

His remains were later sent to the Italian Ossuary in Victoria, where commemorations are held each year. Nicola’s family in Italy, who had wondered about his whereabouts for more than 70 years, now have peace in knowing his final resting place.

Nicola’s story is included in a book called Walking in their Boots by Joanne Tapiolas. She is part of an Australia-wide project to link Italian families with lost relatives, and runs a Facebook page that continues to look for more information. Anyone with information on Italian POWs in the area is welcome to submit it to Genealogy Sunshine Coast or via Joanne’s Facebook page.

The Genealogy Sunshine Coast Resource Centre in Petrie Park Rd, Nambour (just opposite the swimming pool), is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9am-4.30pm. Visit sites.google.com/site/genealogysunshinecoastinc or facebook.com/gscnambour, phone 5329 2315 or email genealogysc@gmail.com.


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