Tag Archive | Ship in a Bottle

All Bottled Up

Among the many pastimes of German prisoners of war interned in Canada was the building of ships in bottles. Ranging from simple sailing vessels to elaborate models of five-masted barques, ships in bottles were often traded or sold to other PoWs, guards, camp staff, and civilians. While PoWs in smaller camps built them for their own amusement or to pass the time, some of the larger camps had groups of PoWs that produced handicrafts specifically to sell.


PoW craftsman in Camp 32 (Hull, Quebec) with ships in bottles, pipes, and other handicrafts. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

I recently acquired my first PoW-made ship in a bottle. The ship is a four-masted barque that appears to be flying an Italian flag. I’m assuming that the maker had some knowledge of naval signal flags as it is also flying a “Zulu” flag to show that it is in need of a tug. However, PoWs from the Army, Air Force, and Navy were known to have built model ships so he may only have had access to a book or photo of the appropriate flags. Like many PoW-made ships, the background is decorated with a brightly coloured seaside town.



The ship was reportedly made by a PoW in a Manitoba camp but I have not been able to confirm this as of yet. The maker did sign his name on the bottle (at least I’m assuming its his name) but sometime in the last seventy years, much of it has disappeared. The best guess I have is something along the lines of “from D. BERETTA” or “PERETTA” but I’m not sure about that. If the ship is flying the Italian flag, perhaps it was an Italian internee in Canada or the US. Anyone have any other ideas as to what the name could be?

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