This research opens many doors into the past. For my generation, a record player was powered by electricity and was fitted into a well-made cabinet befitting a place in the family lounge room. I knew of gramophones cranked by a handle for operation. But I had never thought of a gramophone as being portable.
Enter Luigi Pinna from Cagliari Sardinia. Luigi sent me a photo of his father Antioco Pinna* and taking pride of place is a portable gramophone. My eyes were focussed on the men, Italian prisoners of war in South Australia, so I had not noticed the crank handle. And so much of what I have been told about Italian prisoners of war and music now makes sense. Portable gramophones gave easy access to music.
Antioco Pinna (left) with other Italian POWs and gramophone South Australia
(photo courtesy of Luigi Pinna)
A portable gramophone allowed soldiers to take their music with them, regardless of how many times they were moved or transferred. I read about t Jim, an Aussie soldier, who had taken his with him from the deserts of Tobruk Libya to the rainforest of Milne Bay New Guinea. And similarly, the Italian soldiers would have taken their portable gramophone from Ethiopia to India to Australia.
One 1941 newspaper article mentioned that the Red Cross was looking for donations to send to our soldiers. “If music hath charms to soothe a troubled mind,” then surely this is just what these men want, and a good portable gramophone is always a welcome. To be able to listen to the latest dance tune, or even a symphony orchestra when one is miles from anywhere in the desert must be quite a thrill…”
Some of the newspaper headlines of the time read:
Red Cross Wants Gramophones
Gramophones Wanted for Soldiers
A.I.F. to Learn French (via gramophone)
Gramophone from Tobruk
(1943 ‘Gramophone Wanted For Men In New Guinea’, Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), 11 October, p. 2. , viewed 15 Jun 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article193056681)
* Antioco Pinna was from Palma Suergio (Cagliari Sardinia). He was sent to South Australia and allocated to S13 PWC Hostel Mt Gambier-Penola-Mt Burr. The search for information about his stay in South Australia is ongoing. His son Luigi is hoping to find the South Australians in photos brought back to Italy by his father.