Italian Prisoner of War Identity Card, Mercuri, Mario PWI 57376
(National Archives of Australia J3118, 119)
Allan Blackman from Gympie recalls a macadamia farm at Lagoon Pocket where he worked during the 1970s and how he had been told about a few hundred seedling trees that had been planted by the Italian POWs during WW2. Combining local knowledge with archival research, a more complete picture emerges.
Mario Mercuri and Guido Vaccarini worked on Bernard Mason’s farm at Lagoon Pocket and “they would all search in the scrub above Calico Creek for wild macadamias with thin shells which were used to establish Bernie’s orchard.” This species of macadamia ‘integrifolia’ is also known as ‘papershell’ macadamia because of its thinner shell. As a native species, it is now listed as vulnerable.
While initially, the relationship between farmer and POWs would have been of one boss and worker, a friendship of mutual respect would have been emerged as Guido and Mario were credited with saving the lives of Bernie Mason’s daughters. The connection between Bernie Mason and Guido Vaccarini continued with Guido visiting Gympie to visit Bernie, after he had migrated to Australian in 1951.