Monday, 6 November 2017

A shout-out to the kriegie tin bashers of Stalag Luft III

Tin bashers such as Tony Gordon, who was noted by Bill Fordyce as North Compound’s ‘official’ tin basher, played a key role in Stalag Luft III’s physical comfort.
(Caricature of Tony Gordon, by Bill Fordyce. Fordyce's wartime log book, courtesy of Lily Fordyce)
As had prisoners of war in earlier conflicts, they produced artefacts which are generally described as ‘trench art’ from materials at hand—particularly dried milk powder tins the equivalent of the Great War’s bully beef tin—including kitchen and table utensils, biscuit grinders, jugs, tea pots, and coffee percolators.

(Klim tin, 'lifted' from the internet so long ago I have no idea where it came from. Sorry.)
The tin bashers also played a key role in the camp’s social life. George Archer sketched ‘Simo’s Masterpiece’, a brewing still manufactured by ‘Brew Fuhrer’ Laurie Simpson, noting that the fractionating column was constructed out of Klim, Ovaltine and cheese tins, joined together with solder from cigarette packet foil.

(George Archer's wartime log book, courtesy of David Archer)
Some became so skilled that tin bashing evolved from the purely utilitarian. Illustrations of percolators, tea pots and coffee pots in Belaria compound’s record of captivity, for instance, indicate that aesthetic form became as important in kriegie manufacture as function.
(Cousens, (ed), The Log: Stalag Luft III Belaria–Sagan 1939–1945. Cheltenham: the author, [1947], p. 193.)
The tin bashers also built chip heaters, ‘blowers’, and stoves. Tim Mayo, for instance, constructed a stove for his room out of Klim (powdered milk) tins, clay, bricks and solder from silver paper. The force draft cooker, known as a ‘blower’ or ‘stufa’, which ‘burns at a fierce heat’, used ‘fuel of all descriptions’. It was particularly useful when ‘fuel is almost non existent’, and is considered by historian Peter Doyle to be ‘the epitome of POW ingenuity’ and an ‘icon of captivity’.
(From Ken Todd's wartime log book, courtesy of Peter Todd)
But given that today will see the yearly running of the 'race that stops the nation', this post particularly celebrates the exemplary work of Bill Fordyce during his stint in an Italian POW camp, PG 78, Sulmona.

 
(Bill Fordyce, in happier times, courtesy of Lily Fordyce.)
He designed the 1942 Melbourne Cup trophy and ‘horses’. The blurry images are from Bill’s log book and the sharp image (AWM) P00631.005 is from the AWM collection. If you look carefully you can see Bill’s name on the stables.
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