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Remembering Zonderwater’s Italian Prisoners of War

Remembering Zonderwater’s Italian Prisoners of War

At the Zonderwater memorial service aeroplanes did a fly pastEvery year on the first Sunday in November, a Memorial is held for the Italian Prisoners of War that were incarcerated at Zonderwater POW Camp near Cullinan between 1941 and 1947.

To read the full story on Zonderwater, click here.

Over 100 000 POWs were held here and, despite being far from family and being held prisoner, their indomitable spirit managed to make the best of a hard situation. Colonel Prinsloo, the Camp Commandant, believed that being kept busy was essential to their health and the POWs not only had schools and education but played sport and produced wonderful arts and crafts. Much of this can be seen in the small museum alongside the cemetery.

The Memorial service is a poignant one with many wreaths being laid, one of them by Paolo Ricci, the last surviving POW living in South Africa.  There is also a fly-past of aeroplanes in formation and a Catholic Mass.  The finale is a South African military helicopter dropping rose petals on the more than 300 graves of POWs who died while incarcerated.

But although this event commemorates a serious time in our history, it seems a loving and happy occasion.  I watched as children, who are descendants of these POWs, ran to catch the rose petals as they fell and Paolo Ricci smiling surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Photography Sue Adams

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