History Tuesday

Dhurringile mansionDhurringile Mansion

Today let us talk about the camps in Victoria

There were at least eight camps in the state during World War II which held between 4000 to 8000 people. Most were located in the Goulburn Valley because food was plentiful and there was a good supply of water.

Four of the camps were for enemy servicemen who had been captured from around the world and then transported to Australia. These camps were at Dhurringile Mansion, Camp 13 near Murchison, Camp 6 near Graytown and Camp 5 near Myrtleford.

The other four camps built near Tatura were for civilians considered a security risk because of their nationality.

The 65-room Dhurringile mansion was used as a POW camp for German officers. One of the most successful escapes from the camp happened in 1945 when 17 officers and three batmen tunnelled 14 feet down from a large crockery room, and under a perimeter fence.

The mansion was later used by the Presbyterian Church as a training camp for orphans before the Victorian Government turned it into a minimum security prison.

view from towervicView from a tower

The first purpose-built internment camp for World War II was located about 167 kilometres north of Melbourne at Tatura. It consisted of four camps, two at Tatura and two at Rushworth, a couple of kilometres away. The lands where the camps are situated has since been sold and is now in private hands, however, the German War Cemetery was built next to the Tatura cemetery a few years after the war ended. It was the first war cemetery to be established in Australia.

The camps at Tatura were opened in 1940 and held German and Italian internees. Conditions were tough, the mess halls were the only heated rooms in Camp 1 and only one section of Camp 2 had hot showers.

But internees were able to develop tennis courts, workshops, a newspaper, flower and vegetable gardens and start small businesses such as haircutting and tailoring.

A Kosher kitchen was established for Jewish internees and one hut was also converted to a Jewish synagogue.

Camp 3 at Rushworth was used exclusively for family groups and hot water was available in all the wash rooms. It also featured a camp school taught by German teachers.

However, internees at Camp 4 lived in corrugated iron huts, which were very hot in summer and freezing in winter as the windows had no glass. This camp was used initially for Europeans who had been living in Australia at the outbreak of the war. They included Germans Italians, Hungarians, Finns and Romanians. Once Japan entered the war, they had to make way for Japanese internees as well as some Chinese from Formosa, now known as Taiwan.

tunnel dug by german pows as seen in 1989Tunnel dug by Germans

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