Hidden in plain sight for 70 years

A relic from Cowra's past has been unearthed, hidden in plain sight for almost 70 years.

During recent work at the POW Camp Site, Essential Energy technicians Wayne Browne and Kerry Lewis saw something unusual lying on the ground, covered by leaves and dirt.

On further investigation they saw that the object, about the size of a dinner plate, was in fact a concrete likeness of a face.

It was then brought in to the Cowra Visitor Information Centre and presented to Sallieann Thompson, who called in Graham Apthorpe and Lawrance Ryan from the Cowra Breakout Association.

As the item was found in the Italian section of the POW Camp, Mr Apthorpe and Mr Ryan contacted Maria Bell of the Cowra Italy Friendship Association for information on the object.

When Mr Apthorpe arrived at the Bell's home, Maria was Skyping her cousin in Italy.

"She held the object up to the camera and it was identified as being la bocca della verita or the mouth of truth. Italian legend has it that if you put your fingers in the mouth and tell a lie they will be bitten off," Mr Apthorpe said.

It is thought that the mouth of truth was likely on the wall at the Italian Mess Hut, and Italian prisoners put their fingers in the mouth for good luck before they entered the building.

Son of Private Albert Rolls, who fired the warning shots on the night of the breakout, and President of the Cowra Breakout Association Gordon Rolls said that this happenstance find is extremely culturally significant.

"This find is an important contribution to the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp story. The mouth of truth will go into storage at the Council however I truly hope that in the near future we may have a dedicated museum where the many items that are already in Cowra can go on display to tell the incredible history of the Cowra Camp," Mr Rolls said.

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