EARLIER this year Jim Simpson’s bed caught fire.
For 60 years he’d kept a rug of national significance, depicting a map of Australia and the Coat of Arms he knitted while a prisoner of war, under that bed.
“It was rolled in his kit-bag and then in another kit-bag under his bed, so ideal conditions as far as keeping it away from temperature fluctuations and light,” Upper Murray Historical Society project officer Marita Albert said.
“Which was all wonderful until his electric blanket caught fire.
“We’re very, very lucky that two weeks prior to the fire he had given it to us.”
Mr Simpson’s rug was officially unveiled as the centrepiece of an extension to the Man From Snowy River Museum at Corryong.
For years the Australian War Memorial had wanted to preserve the rug but Jim, 96, would not let them.
“I want it to be in Corryong in memory of my mother, who taught me to knit, and in memory of the boys in the camp,” Mr Simpson said.
He knitted the rug while in a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War II.
He used wool from his own white naval pullover that he unravelled and rolled into balls of wool on the way to the camp after his plane was shot down over Hanover.
He scrounged worn-out jumpers that he boiled to rid them of the lice, and traded cigarettes for wool.
“The red wool came from a Canadian fellow’s hockey socks,” Mr Simpson said.
Ms Albert said she was thrilled with the acquisition.
“From a design point of view it’s amazing, from a technical point of view it’s amazing and as a prisoner of war artefact it’s unbelievable,” she said.
“I think it’s important for what it represents and that’s the spirit of the Australian Digger incarcerated, not knowing if they’re ever going to get out and still remaining strong in spirit.”
RAAF Group Captain Christopher Crowley unveiled a dedication to Mr Simpson before a Hercules plane did a flyover.
“The determination and courage that he displayed when he was shot down and had to parachute out of the Lancaster and was a POW for over two years, it’s just a fantastic story of bravery and commitment,” Group Captain Crowley said.
The project was funded by the Victorian government, the Upper Murray Historical Society and Towong Council.