Message in a Bottle

A Tiny Token of Love

Encased in an Eno’s Fruit Salts bottle, this miniature handcrafted sailing ship was posted to ‘Miss Violett Dawes’ by Angelo Laurenza during WWII. At this time Violet lived at Canowindra and Angelo was a Prisoner of War (POW) at the Cowra internment camp. It is not clear why the young POW gave the bottle to Violet, who was twenty years older than him.

Did Angelo fall in love with Violet and gift to her the ship-bottle as a token of his heart-felt affection? Or was Violet simply kind to the internee and in turn he gifted the ship as a gesture of gratitude? Angelo came to Australia in 1941 after being captured in Libya in December of the previous year. And this was a time when non-British people living in Australia were treated with some suspicion, including the Italian POWs. 

How Violet and Angelo started and nurtured their friendship is unclear. Angelo may have been one of the two internees temporarily assigned to Bill Chamney, who lived just outside of Canowindra. Angelo’s internee record shows he was sent to work at Canowindra between 1943 and 1945. Bill’s wife Dolly was a friend of Violet’s, and Violet may have met and spoke to Angelo when visiting the Chamney farm. In Australia, many POWs made handicrafts or works of art during their years of internment. They did this to ward off boredom or to barter for cigarettes and other luxuries with local people.

Violet was a lifelong local. She was born in 1893, grew up in South Canowindra, and died in 1981. She was well-liked and kindly, as well as known for her meticulous style of dress. The gift of the ship-bottle, which was also meticulously crafted, truly suited Violet’s character.

Violet received the bottle in a hand-stitched calico bag and through the post — addressed correctly but with her name misspelt. Violet truly treasured this little ship, as she kept it for the rest of her long life.