Q7 PW Control Centre Kenilworth and Staff
(from the collection of Kenilworth Museum, donated by Tony White)
The Q7 PW Control Centre in Kenilworth is a well-known landmark. Situated on Elizabeth Street, Margaret and Tony White called the property home from 1993 – 2015 and operated it as a Bed and Breakfast. Margaret White’s interest in local history extends to her researching the history of the building. “The house was prefabricated in Brisbane and erected after the establishment of the Kenilworth town. The area was ‘Kenilworth Station’ and after the owner Hugh Moore died, the area was gazetted as a town. It was one of the first houses built on land purchased at auction by Patrick Sharry in 1921. The Sharry’s operated it as a boarding house which was disproved of by Mrs Duggan, mother-in-law and financer for the Sharrys. She took possession of the house and converted it into 3 – 4 flats. Mrs Duggan’s daughters Mrs ER Fritz and Mrs MA O’Connell were bequeathed the house which was then leased as Q7 PW Control Centre during the war. The Purdon family were the next owners, followed by Kevin and Gloria McGinn then us. Now it has a new life as a family home. The L shaped area under the house was known to be the ‘lock up’ for POWs, most likely caught for fraternizing with the local girls. The house is across the road from the local Catholic Church and the prisoners used to come to church and stand at the back and at the sides in their red ‘pajamas’. Some of them biked in from Cambroon to attend church”, Margaret reminisces.
And there were many other stories about the house and the time when Italian Prisoners of War worked on farms in the Kenilworth district. “We often received visits from people who had a connection to the house: ex Army staff, families of ex Army staff. I did also hear that at least one Italian ex-prisoner came back for a visit. The driver was Mr Thomas Dwyer, a Caloundra local and the Army staff were referred to as ‘officers and gentlemen’. We also had a visitor who happened to have attended the autopsy in Gympie of a Kenilworth POW who had drowned in the Mary River. The locals and prisoners were having a picnic on the Mary River at the end of the war when the Italian drowned. He was buried in Gympie and his remains were transferred to Melbourne” relates Margaret.
Local historian Lenore Meldrum recalls that living next door to the centre were her aunt and uncle. They often talked of the Italians attending mass with the locals but also about welcoming the Italians into their home: “Aunt was a skilled pianist and my cousin tells me that it was not unusual for the men (both soldiers and Italians) to come to their home on a Sunday evening with their musical instruments and join in a sing along around the piano”, Lenore relates.
Other Kenilworth memories collected by Kenilworth & District Historical Assn. Inc. for publication in The Mary Voice include that of Ivy Loweke as retold by her daughter Margaret Pickering: “Arthur Hughes* accommodated two of the Italian detainees, who worked on his farm (near Moy Pocket) on the Gheerulla to Brooloo Road. Normally, detainees were kept in pairs and monitored. They were fed and accommodated. Dave Ower also accommodated two detainees. Dave’s farm was between the farms of Cope Loweke and Arthur Hughes. Cope Loweke declined having detainees on his farm, because he had two daughters (Thelma and Ivy); and didn’t feel it would be appropriate.”
*NB Guido Crocetti and Giuseppe D’Ambrosio were assigned to Arthur Hughes at Moy Pocket.
George Pearce also remembered the Italian POWs in the Kenilworth district and recounts this memory in Ducks on the Noosa River. The Leo mentioned is most likely Pantaleo De Carlo (farmer from Vernolle Lecce) who went to work at DE Pearce’s farm Oakey Creek, Eumundi 25th May 1944 together with Salvatore Maci (farmer from Squinzano Lecce).