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The Crucifix in the Bottle

by John Ades

The crucifix in the bottle

I was born in Carfax Avenue, Tongham in 1939. My parentsí house was bombed in 1940 and we were evacuated to 87 Oxenden Road, my current address.

In 1943, a number of Italian Prisoners of War were kept at Carfax Avenue (then called Raytone and Princes Avenue). The prisoners lived in the houses surrounding Carfax Avenue and their administrative offices and cookhouse were in the centre triangle which now has flats and houses, and before that had prefabs.

As a young child I recall going to visit the Italians at meal times and eat Italian dishes with them. They also made us leather belts with coloured cable and toys now sadly gone. When I used to go to mass at the Holy Angels in Ash, the prisoners would march to mass singing as they went. They filled one side of the church and their hymn singing was very good.

There was a Belgian lady who lived at 79 Oxenden Road who became friendly with them. It was POW Annunziata Alfonso who made the crucifix in the bottle dated 12.3.1944. The bottle was made specially for Mrs Buxton. In her later years she gave the bottle to me as she knew I recalled the POWs from my childhood.

The Italian Medical Officer was very good at treating us young children when we had cuts and grazes. My recollection is that the prisoners had a very good imprisonment in Carfax, with most of them working on the land in the locality or in the Aldershot and Farnborough Barracks.

The bottle has on it what I believe to be holly leaves. I donated the bottle to Ash Museum as a memento of the Italians and my young childhood days which were happily spent with the friendly prisoners of war.

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