Two identical Italian postcards for the same Australian soldier came available on eBay addressed to the same unidentified person, Mr. W. Lafranchi, 25 Pender Street, Preston, Victoria. Only one cover was dated in Italy, 22.2.42 (top R.H. corner). The cards were both printed as Poste Italiene Cartolini Postale Per Prigionieri Di Guerra, and both had various Passed by Censor handstamps, most of Italian origin includia a 2-line VERIFICATO/ PER CENSURA. The sender of both was identified as Lieutenant Godfrey Arthur Sheldrick, but what was the designated internment camp could have been different in both. The first was shown was as ‘N.17/ POSTA MILITARE 3200/ ITALY’ and the second as ‘N.78 POSTA/ MILITARE 3300 ITALY’ (Figures 1 & 2).
The earliest finding for the P.O.W. seen in The Argus (Melbourne) on 5 June 1941, under the heading of PERSONAL NOTES ON CASUALTIES, and a short paragraph on each was given: “LT. Godfrey A. Sheldrick (reported missing in North Africa since May 17) is the son of Mrs. Sheldrick of Preston , and of the late Mr. S.C. Sheldrick. Aged 36, he was Scoutmaster and District Commissioner for Preston where his wife and son live. Before joining the AIF, Lt. Sheldrick was a Lieut. In the 57 60th (—) AMF. He enlisted in July, and went overseas in November.” A picture of each casualty was shown in the newspaper, and Lieut. G.A. Sheldrick was shown as ‘Missing’ (Figure 3).
Lieut. Sheldrick’s father, Sidney Corney Sheldrick, was the son of Thomas Sheldrick and Margaret Sandall and Sidney was born about 1878 in Cambridge England, and he died in August 1928, at the age of 50. Sidney had married Amy Gertrude White and they had 2 children, Godfrey Arthur and Marjory Amy Sheldrick. Godfrey obviously had survived the war for he died in Heidelberg, Victoria on 4 August 1978 at the age of 73, and was buried in Fawkner Cemetery.
In the World War 2 Australian Army, Godfrey Arthur Sheldrick had a service number of VX48319, his date of birth was 16 May 1905 and he was listed as born in London, England. He enlisted on 25 July 1940 and his location was listed as Preston, Victoria. Violet Sheldrick, his wife was listed as next of kin and his date of discharge from the Army was 25 July 1945, as a Lieutenant in the 2/23 Battalion. He was shown as having been a P.O.W., but with no details where. His service Record is shown in Figure 4.
I was able to find his voluntary enlistment form in the Citizen Forces pre-WW2 on the 1st July 1926 when he was single, and he listed his occupation as a clerk when he enlisted in the 57th Battalion and he reached the rank of Lieutenant.
Although the 2 postcards showed that he was a prisoner of war in Italy, the cards did not show where in Italy. As a remarkable example of serendipity I came across a series of letters written by another prisoner of war in Italy to his mother, father and brother, who lived at North Mirboo, Victoria. In one letter from Lt. Barney B. Grogan of the same infantry Battalion 2/23, as that for Sheldrick, he wrote on May 19, 1941: “…..I was captured out on a patrol from Tobruk….This has been a very exciting week for me…19 more Australian officers arrived, 3 of my own battalion – Major Perry, Trevor Neundorf and Godfrey Sheldrick . Also 8 officers of the 24 th Battalion, all of whom I knew pretty well before the war”. In one of the letter he signed his whereabouts as Campo Concentramento Prigioni di Guerra, Agazzand, Razzanello, Piacenza, ITALY.” Piacenza is situated in Central Italy, shown in red box (Figure 5).
My suggestion that Sheldrick was in 2 different P.O.W. camps in Italy was correct, for whilst N.17 was at Piacenza, N. 78 was at Sulmona, Abruzzo, shown by red ‘balloon’ ( Figure 6).