South Australians at War
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future



Experiences of War : Prisoners of War : Internees and prisoners of war in Australia

During the two world wars the Australian government confined 'enemy aliens' to internment camps. Under the War Precautions Act of 1914, 6,890 people, mainly German and Austro-Hungarian men, were classified as 'enemy aliens'. Some were naturalised British citizens (including second and third generation Australians, some with relatives serving in the Australian forces). Others were sailors of enemy nationality taken from ships in Australian ports when war broke out. South Australian internees were held at Torrens Island Internment Camp. A number of letters written by Wilhelm Reinhard while a prisoner of war (including one letter written at Torrens Island) are kept in the archival collection.

During the Second World War the internment of 'enemy aliens' was administered under the National Security Act of 1939. The main internment camp in South Australia was located at Loveday, near Barmera, on the River Murray. The Loveday Internment Camp accommodated German, Italian and Japanese internees, gathered from all over Australia. In 1941 the British government funded the transfer of a group of prisoners from the Middle East. The facilities at Loveday were later extended to accommodate prisoners of war from the Netherlands East Indies, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East, and prisoners transferred from Britain and New Zealand. The camp comprised six compounds and accommodation for personnel of the 25/33 Garrison Battalion who provided the camp guard. The maximum number of internees, 3,951, was reached in March 1942.

Internment in South Australia: history of Loveday internment group, Barmera, 1940-1946, describes the establishment and organisation of the camp, the conditions under which the internees and prisoners of war lived and the mix of nationalities held there. A First World War veteran, Jack Treloar, re-enlisted at the outbreak of World War Two and was posted at Loveday Camp. His sketches of Loveday's staff create an impression of the camp which contrasts with an account of the death of Italian prisoner of war, Francesco Fantin, which is described in an article by Paul Nursey-Bray, Anti-Fascism and internment: the case of Francesco Fantin.

Not all enemy prisoners of war were confined to camps for the entire duration of the war. From 1943, Italian prisoners were billeted out as farm labourers. They worked without guards, under the supervision of the nearest control centre, and received a weekly wage of £1. Their story is told in The Italian farming soldiers: prisoners of war in Australia, 1941-1947.

As a child Rosemary McGann lived in the South East of South Australia. An account of one Italian prisoner, Amedeo Bonvecchi (Tony), is told by Rosemary. Tony was assigned to her grandfather's property, and became a lifelong friend of the family. At the end of the war, when he was moved from her grandfather's property to a camp prior to repatriation, Tony wrote to the family, 'I remember you all my life bikos you have behaved very well, I say thanks you very march and all family.'

Anti-Fascism and internment: the case of Francesco Fant
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Anti-Fascism and internment: the case of Francesco Fant
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Anti-Fascism and internment: the case of Francesco Fant
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Concentration camp
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Concentration camp
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Der Kamerad : Wochenschrift der Kriegsgefangenen
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Drawings of staff at Loveday Internment Camp
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Internment in South Australia : [extracts] Part 2 of 3
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Internment in South Australia : [extracts] Part 1 of 3,
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Internment in South Australia : [extracts] Part 3 of 3,
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
John (Jack) Treloar (sketches)
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Postcards from Torrens Island
View item details
Add To My SA Memory

Items 1 - 12 of 14

Next 2