Felice compleanno con i migliori auguri.
2 Aprile 1946
Vic Adamthwaite grew up knowing the meaning of these words and the history behind them. On 18th October 1945, Vic’s dad Frederic ‘Gordon’ Adamthwaite was sent to the Portsea POW Hostel and put in charge of a group of Italian prisoners of war.
Vic contacted me for some assistance and/or background information about the Portsea Italian prisoners of war and he shared his memories of this box : “At the end of the war and prior to the return of the Italian prisoners of war to Europe to rebuild their homeland, some of them scrounged materials to construct a jewellery box and present it to my father Frederick (Fred) Gordon Adamthwaite.
He was a Staff Sergeant in charge of the POW Hostel and treated his POW’s with dignity, respect and compassion. He reasoned that for them the war was over and that being away from their families in a war torn Europe not knowing their fate was difficult.
The box was presented to my father in appreciation of his kind treatment toward them; to be given to my mother on the occasion of her birthday.
The box was constructed with materials taken from bed frames, furniture etc, varnish scraped from same, heated and reused. The box was fashioned using rudimentary tools and with great artisan skills.
The box is constructed to look like a row of books with larger books on their side above and below the row of books.
It has a hidden catch which needs 5 steps to open.”
Intricate Design to ‘unlock’ the Jewellery Box
Photos are courtesy of Vic Adamthwaite Bendigo Victoria
When Vic sent me these photos, I was lost for words. This was history in a box; a gift from an Italian soldier to an Australian soldier; a prisoner to the ‘jailer’; but more importantly a thank you gift from one gentleman to another.
The box is beautiful and meaningful. This history is a living, breathing history. As Australian and Italian families continue to find objects and photos relating to this POW history and search for answers, a greater understanding of this chapter in Australia’s wartime history is revealed.