Internees and POWS
Two distinct groups were detained in camps in this area during World War II
- PRISONERS-OF-WAR (POWs) were, as the name implies, enemy servicemen who had
been captured in various theatres of war, and transported to Australia for the
duration of the war.
- INTERNEES were civilians who were living in Australia, or other Allied
territories, and were deemed to be a security risk because of their nationality.
Their backgrounds were very diverse.
Camps in the Area
There were 7 camps in this area during World War 11. Three of these camps were
- DHURRINGILE 50 German officers and their batmen.
- CAMP 13 (MURCHISON) 4,000 POWs, mainly Italian and German, but also some
Japanese after the Cowra Breakout in 1944.
- CAMP 6 (GRAYTOWN) a bush wood cutting camp housing about 250 Italian, then
German POWs, the latter being mainly crew members of the Kormoran. Finnish
seamen were held there too.
The remaining camps were for internees, and included CAMPS 1 & 2 (TATURA) and
CAMPS 3 & 4 (RUSHWORTH). Each of these camps housed around 1,000 internees.
Camps 1 & 2 held single males, mainly Germans and Italians. Camps 3 & 4 held
family groups: Camp 3 mainly German and Camp 4 Japanese families.
Physical Layout of the Camps
Initially, barbed wire compounds were established, and accommodation was
provided in tents. In time, more permanent camps were established, with rows of
army huts replacing the tents.
Sleeping huts were usually 5-6 m x 20 m (16-18 x 60), constructed of
galvanised iron. In addition, large recreation h uts, kitchen and mess huts, and
ablution blocks were provided.
Camp 1 also included a first class hospital, and was the only camp to be sewered
Internally, the sleeping huts varied in layout. For example, in the case of
family camps, sleeping quarters were partitioned off with masonite to
accommodate family groups.
POW camps, and internment camps for single males had barrack-style
Guards and other support staff were garrisoned outside the compounds.
Life in the Camps
Life in the camps varied, depending on the nature of the particular camp. Family
camps incorporated playing areas for children and the necessary school
accommodation. Internees and POWs organised a wide range of activities to keep
minds and bodies active, including craft work, education, gardening, theatre,
music and sport. Some trusted prisoners worked on local farms.
The camps were very adequately supplied with food, and treatment by guards was
generally deemed to be good.
Visiting the Camp Sites Today
After the war, camps were dismantled, so that little physical evidence remains
today. However, it is still well worth visiting the sites to gain an
appreciation of what they were like.
Most of the camp sites are now on private property and some cases owner or
lessees need to be contacted before you enter. Tatura Historical Society can
provide details of how to gain access.
After the war, two war cemeteries were established in the area. The German War
Cemetery adjoins Tatura Cemetery, and the Italian Ossario and War Cemetery are
at Murchison Cemetery.
German and Italian POWs and Internees who died in various parts of Australia,
during both world wars, are buried at Tatura and Murchison respectively. A
commemorative service is held at each cemetery every November.
A number of books have been written about life in the camps, and these are
available for sale at Tatura Museum.
Walls of Wire by Joyce Hammond, provides a comprehensive study, particularly
of internment camps in the Tatura area.
Stalag Australia by Barbara Winter, gives an overview of POW camps around
Tatura Historical Society has collected the stories of many former POWs,
internees and garrison staff as part of its collection, and these are available
for researchers to use.
Tatura & District