View of the Ossario and Bell Tower from the Western side
The Ossario, nestling quietly in the corner of the Murchison Cemetery is the resting place of 130 Italian POW’s and internees who died on Australian soil during the second World War. It is a unique place and so it is always exciting to learn more about its history.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting two interesting people there who each have a special connection with the Ossario. Mia Spizzica is conducting studies for her PhD on the Italian civilian internees of World War 2. Mia had arranged to meet an Italian gentleman at the Ossario by the name of Mr. Avelino Crespan who was the builder of the extension to the rear of the Ossario and I was able to join them.
It was a great pleasure to walk around the Ossario with Mia interviewing Avelino and to find out about the work he did there.
The original chapel area and bell tower of the Ossario was opened in 1961 and the remains of the Italians were interred in a crypt below. In the early 1970’s due to damage by flooding, it became necessary to build an area to the rear at ground level and for the caskets to be housed there safe from flood waters.
The stone for the extension was acquired from the same quarry as the original building and the roman roof tiles were also a perfect match.
The small lead lined caskets were reclaimed from the crypt and stored in the chapel area while the work was in progress. The steel framework that supported the compartments was retrieved and then the crypt was filled with sand. Once the extension was complete, the steel framework was placed in the new area and again available to house the small coffins. Also, the attractive polished Blackwood plaques were replaced which bear the names of the Italians who are resting there.
The new area for the caskets was completed in 1974. It blends perfectly with the original chapel and bell tower at the front.
Most people would be familiar with the front of the Ossario but not so familiar with the rear of the building which is also very appealing. It is an example of skilled craftsmen who made sure the stonework was of a high standard and that the addition complimented the original section.
We look forward to Mia completing her studies as after that she is hopeful to produce a book from the research she is undertaking. It was a great pleasure to meet Avelino and hear his story.
Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society Inc.
Mia Spizzica and Avelino Crespan