Memorial for Aussie POWs with 96 year old Bill Rudd

 

Today I travelled North to Udine and to nearby San Mauro, the site of Prison Camp 57, where Aussie and Kiwi prisoners of war were interred during World War 2. We were there for a ceremony in a small church built by Aussies and Kiwis, many of them captured in North Africa. One of the former POWs was Melbourne's Bill Rudd, now a sharp and sprightly 96, a 'Sapper' who was captured after the Battle of El Alamein. On his way to Camp 57 the ship Bill was travelling in, was torpedoed by a British submarine. Many of his mates died and today we unveiled in the church a marble tablet listing the names of the Australians and New Zealanders who were killed. Bill was taken to San Mauro and later transferred to a work camp working in a rice field. Then he escaped to Switzerland where he met his future wife. Most Australians celebrate our tradition of mateship. Bill Rudd lives it and has built an extraordinary bridge of friendship to the local people of San Mauro who helped rebuild the church and preserve the story of what happened there. One of those local people presented me with a digger's helmet, letters and maps which I have sent to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Here are my remarks in the little church.