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German/Italian POW Camp, Perth, Australia

Article about: Hi Guys... not sure if this is the correct forum, I tried to find one concerned with POW camps but this is as close as I could find. Anyway, I have just 'discovered' (after mountain-biking i

  1. #1

    Default German/Italian POW Camp, Perth, Australia

    Hi Guys... not sure if this is the correct forum, I tried to find one concerned with POW camps but this is as close as I could find. Anyway, I have just 'discovered' (after mountain-biking in the area) that the peaceful remains of a German/Italian POW camp lay hidden in the middle of the bush, near a small country town called Dwelingup, south/west of Perth, WA.
    Most of the foundations are still there and lots of relics (mainly building materials)... it's so secluded and quiet there, and not easy to find, so it's a very peaceful and isolated place... apart from the screeching of black cockatoos overhead! It's so easy to imagine, as you sit amongst the sweet smelling gum trees and wattle bushes, what it must have been like... it would have been really hot during the summer months, that's for sure... especially as the huts had tin roofs, etc. Anyway, here's an interesting outline of the place and its prisoners, and I will post some photos as well...

    When Australia went to war in 1939, a labour shortage resulted that, by 1942 had reached crisis point.* Success in the war meant that 250,000 prisoners needed to be secured.* Therefore, an agreement was reached with Britain and Prisoners of War (POW’s) were shipped from Libya and India to assist the Australian workforce, particularly rural areas.
    The Army and POW’s themselves built a network of camps and control centers across Australia.
    One POW Camp and 30 control centers were located in Western Australia.* The one POW Camp, No 16 Prisoner of War Compound and Garrison, was built at Marrinup, 83km south Perth, to provide farm labour and cut firewood for the state capital.* It was approximately 16 ha in size.
    No 16 Marrinup POW Camp took its first prisoners in August 1943 and released its last in April 1946.* It was built to accommodate 1,200 men, including Army personnel, and thousands of prisoners passed through its gates.* Most were German and Italian, who were put in separate compounds in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
    The camp was basically a transit stop for workers on the way to farms or rural control centers.* Prisoners stayed for long periods only for medical or disciplinary reasons.
    A high barbwire fence surrounded the compounds with triple concertina wire strategically placed outside. High-powered floodlights encircled the area and six watchtowers were built, one at each corner.
    Within the compound, the huts had a wooden bed, a mattress, blankets and a locker for each POW.* Most of the buildings were constructed of material scrounged from disbanded internee camps and Army depots.*
    Buildings included sleeping huts, six men to each, hospitals, latrines, hot and cold showers, washhouses, messroom, administrative office, a ‘drying room’ for wet clothes and an education hut.
    Gardening was a favourite occupation, and a fine example of their skills and initiative is a fishpond and garden beds built in the shape of the playing card suits.* These can still be seen adjacent to the powerhouse foundations.
    The Geneva Convention governed treatment of prisoners and was closely followed to avoid reprisals against Australian POW’s overseas.
    Because of the lack of work supervisors, extensive screening of prisoners occurred before they reached Marrinup.* No escapes, “super-nazi”,”super-patriots”, troublemakers or medically unfit were accepted at the camp.
    Most of the Italians were chosen for their rural working background and less troublesome nature, while some Germans were taken because of their skills as woodcutters.* Their average age was 30.
    On arrival each POW was issued a second-hand Army uniform that had been dyed maroon, and was allowed to wear his insignia of rank.
    Conditions were comfortable but monotonous and the work hard.* There was little foreign literature; a booklet was issued explaining the meaning and pronunciation of English words.* Delays in mail were up to two years, and there was nothing to remind men of home. With little to read, being able to talk only to other prisoners, and surrounded by an unfamiliar landscape, life was very isolated and lonely.
    Camp life followed a strict routine with the day beginning at 6am, work finishing at 3pm and lights out at 10pm.* Italian prisoners were sent via control centres to farms from Geraldton to Albany, where life was strenuous but less authoritarian.* For the most part they were willing workers.* Unless discipline was required or they were unwilling to work, accommodation was supplied at the farm.
    The German woodcutters worked in the forest and supplied Perth with 2,500 tonnes of firewood every week. This fuelled Perth’s power generators, water pumping stations and industry.* Marrinup provided half of Perth’s annual need of firewood.
    Prisoners were expected to work eight hours a day whether inside or outside the camp.
    Those who remained within the camp were rostered for general cleaning, or for various jobs in the boot maker, tailor or carpentry shops that utilized their skills.
    Prisoners were paid about one shilling and three pence a day for their work, but in tokens not currency.* The tokens were used to buy chocolate, cigarettes, and other items from a mobile army canteen that visited the centers regularly.
    In their free time the prisoners painted, sketched, carved wood and crafted wooden items.* Education was also available and subjects such as Mathematics, Spanish, English, Biology, Physics and Accountancy were taught.
    On Sundays, prisoners were allowed out of the camp on parole walks, and football matches and other sporting activities were arranged for them. Locals and army personnel took part in these. Many a foul resulted when occasional matches were organised between the Germans and the Italians.
    With the end of the war came the need to return to POW’s to their own country of origin.* However, particularly in the last few months before repatriation in 1946, a number indicated their wish to stay in Australia and not return to war devastated Europe.* Their employers supported them.* Policy dictated, however, that they must return before they could apply to immigrate by sponsorship.
    Thirty men escaped and remained in WA after the final shipload of POW’s left Fremantle in December 1946.* The Marrinup camps last POW’s left in April 1946.* In four months all the buildings had been auctioned off or absorbed back into Army depots.
    All that remains are some of the buildings foundations and the gardens.* If you look closely you will also be able to distinguish trees that were used to mount watchtowers and some ruts in the ground that were along the fence lines.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: German/Italian POW Camp, Perth, Australia

    I been there, absoloutely fascinating. Did you see the foundations of the solitary cells? It has wear marks in the concrete from the german soldiers hobnails as they paced back and forward, and the flower beds in the shape of hearts, diamonds, spades and cluns.....

  3. #3


    German/Italian POW Camp, Perth, Australia
    My grandfather Charles Gibson Western was a WO II there and was discharged from the army there in 1946. He was deemed too old to serve overseas in WW2. He was a first World War vet. He liked the Italians - especially the food they made. He found the Germans more dour and some of them seemed to think that Germany was going to win the war. Camp conditions seem better than the Japanese and Allied POW camps in Germany.

  4. #4


    Hello , a link with camps, but not in Australia.
    Les camps de prisonniers de guerre de l'Axe

    The best forum of the net on MG 34 and MG 42 is here :

    The best Militaria forum in France is here :

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