One of von Gruenewaldt’s murals.
The murals painted on the walls of the Recreation Hall once used at Camp 13 Murchison, are well-known locally as they were retrieved when the hall was demolished and now hang in venues around the township of Murchison.
These comical caricatures were painted by Hans Wolter von Gruenewaldt, a German POW in Camp 13. Hans was a Mining Engineer working in South Africa who was trying to escape internment when World War 2 broke out, but was captured by the British on board a ship off the coast of South Africa. He had an eventful journey after that, from miraculously surviving being torpedoed aboard the ill-fated Arandora Star only to be transported to Australia under appalling conditions on the notorious ‘hell-ship’ Dunera.
During his time in Camp 13 his artistic ability was evident as he sketched and drew the scenes around him, painted portraits of his fellow in-mates and decorated the backdrops for various stage productions. He used a wide variety of painting and drawing materials according to what could be sourced.
The Murchison Historical Society have a large collection of his work that have been donated by his son, Axel.
Recently, von Gruenewaldt’s grand-daughter Fleur and partner Steve, who live in New Zealand, visited Murchison. We were able to show them the murals hanging in the Community Centre and DPJones Nursing Home, as well as the large collection housed at the Heritage Centre. Fleur was delighted to see her Grandfather’s ability to paint in a wide range of medium, the extent of styles and obvious talent evident in his works. We also drove out to the site of Camp 13 and explained how the camp was set out and how it functioned.
It was wonderful to have a visit from von Gruenewaldt’s grand-daughter. Fleur would like to return to Murchison and bring her mother with her – hopefully in October 2017 to coincide with the launch of a book telling von Gruenewaldt’s amazing story.