Replica 'Blower' : Allied Prisoners of War, Europe

Accession Number REL/21527
Collection type Technology
Object type Technology
Physical description Clay, Tin, Wood
Maker Henry, Arthur John
Place made Australia, Germany, Italy
Date made c 1990
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Replica 'Blower' used by Allied Prisoners of War in Italy and Germany. The blower housing, air tunnel and outer fire box are manufactured from tin, including the vanes of the fan. The fan is operated by a pulley wheel connected to the fan spindle by a belt. The fire box is insulated with a clay refractory and has a heavy wire stand over the top on which to balance the tin being heated. The apparatus is mounted on a wooden frame.

History / Summary

The lack of facilities for the preparation of food from Red Cross parcels during the bitter European winters of the Second World War led to the development of the improvised 'blower' and fire box by Allied prisoners in Italian and German POW camps. The blower used a hand cranked rotary fan to force air through a wind tunnel to the fire box to greatly increase the combustion of the fuel. This generated sufficient temperature to heat water or food placed on the wire stand above the fire while using the minimum amount of scarce combustible materials, usually wood shavings.

The shavings were scavenged from all available sources including bed boards, floor boards, bunks and ceiling rafters. On at least one occasion, the ceiling of a hut collapsed when the pine rafters were continually shaved for their timber. The apparatus was not always allowed by camp commandants though one Italian commandant was so exasperated at British POWs' stubborn refusal to forgo a cup of tea that a dedicated area was set aside for their use.

Blowers were made from empty food tins, flattened and shaped using improvised tools, with the fire box insulated using clay or mud. Original designs utilised a bellows made from trouser leg or groundsheet to deliver the air flow however design improvements and modifications quickly followed the introduction of 'brewing races' into daily sports programs in some of the camps.

Manufactured by ex-Prisoner of War, Arthur John Henry of 3 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, this blower is a replica of a rotary fan type made and used by Henry and other POWs while in captivity.