World War II Camps
There were 7 camps in the area during World War II which held about 4,000-8,000 people at any one time.
3 camps housed Prisoners Of War who were enemy servicemen captured in various theatres of war around the world and transported to Australia for the duration of the war.
The remaining 4 camps held Internees who were civilians living in Australia or other Allied territories and countries at the outbreak of war and were deemed to be a security risk because of their nationality.
The camps were situated in the Goulburn Valley as food was plentiful here and there was a good supply of water from the Waranga Basin.
The camps housing Internees were:
Camps 1 and 2 near Tatura for single males, mostly German and Italian
Camp 3 near Rushworth for mostly German family groups
Camp 4 near Rushworth for Japanese family groups
Each housed approximately 1000 internees.
Camp 1 had a first class hospital.
In October each year the museum conducts a bus tour to the site of Camp 1 for interested people.
As all the sites on which the camps were built are now in private hands,with the exception of Dhurringile Mansion which is now part of a prison, general access is not possible.
Please contact the museum for details of the date and the cost of the October bus tour.
Sketch of Camp 2
The camps housing POW’s were:
Dhurringile Mansion: for German Officers and their batmen including Captain Detmers of HSK Kormoran
Camp 13 near Murchison: or 4,000 POW’s mainly Italian and German but also some Japanese after the Cowra breakout
Camp 6 near Graytown: a wood cutting camp in the bush for Italian, German and Finnish POW’s which included the crew of the Kormoran
A garrison of guards and other support staff, including nurses, were stationed outside the compounds.
Dhurringile Mansion is now a part of HM Prison Dhurringile and any access to the Mansion must be organised through the Victorian Department of Justice. The Tatura Historical Society members are unable to organise access for visitors to Dhurringile Mansion.
The H.S.K.Kormoran Memorial at the site of Camp 13
The official German War Cemetery in Australia is situated next to the Tatura Cemetery.
2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the war cemetery.
Almost all German internees and prisoners of war who died in Australia during the war are interred in this cemetery.
Those who died in the Tatura camps during the war were buried here. After the war the War Graves Commission wrote to relatives of Germans who died in other camps around Australia seeking permission to disinter their remains and bury them at Tatura in an official war cemetery. All but 17 accepted the offer and the Australian German War Cemetery in Tatura is now their resting place.
The 17 whom relatives did not want disturbed are also commemorated on a wall in the cemetery.
From 2010 a memorial service will be held bi-annually on the Sunday closest to November 11th.
On this day the museum has an open day especially for relatives and friends who make the pilgrimage.
The museum has a photo of each grave and the internment or POW details of each of the persons buried there.
German War Cemetery at Tatura
From 1868 onwards the families of pious Swabians, Germans from the southern region of Germany , emigrated to the Holy Land from Germany.
The Holy Land at that time was Palestine which became Israel in 1948.
Religious differences with the German Evangelical -Lutheran Church caused the rift which led to the founding of the Friends of Jerusalem in 1854.
In 1861 the members of the Friends of Jerusalem declared themselves the "German Temple" and considered themselves an independent religious sect.
They believed that they had to form a community in Jerusalem to achieve God’s plan to improve the lot of mankind.
The first Templers left Germany in 1868 and by 1914 when WWI broke out there were 7 Temple Society settlements in the Holy Land.
In WWI the British occupied Palestine and the Templers were interned with other German nationals in Egypt.
In 1920 they were returned to their homes in the Holy Land and in 1923 Palestine came under British mandate.
When WWII was declared the British authorised that the Temple colonies be surrounded by barbed wire effectively making them internment camps. In 1941 the British decided to move the internees to Australia and in August of that year they arrived in Tatura.
Due to unsafe conditions in the Holy Land after the war the Templers who had been interned in Australia were offered the option of starting a new life here or returning to Germany. Templers who were still in Palestine during the war or in Germany were also able to emigrate to Australia.
These Templers had friends and relatives, who died during the war, buried in the Tatura War Cemetery and began making yearly visits to commemorate their lives here.
Their interest and enthusiasm led to the Tatura Historical Society’s involvement with the collection of their history, memorabilia and artefacts.