Tag Archives: Millmerran

Western Creek Internment Camps

The Millmerran Historical Society have published a book, The Western Creek Internment Camps of World War II by Christine M. Turner. You may recognise Nonno Anni’s photographs that appear on the front cover! (And I’ve also written the Foreward in it.)

It seems so much has happened since I first went to Millmerran all those years ago seeking to find the internment camp Nonno Anni was taken to. Back then, only a handful of people knew about this hidden history. This new book even features a mud map to the hidden camp and I’m looking forward to going to see the memorial marker now in place there.

When I wrote about the secret camp in, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, I wasn’t sure what reaction to expect but all the people of Millmerran I’ve spoken to have been so wonderful in recognising and honouring this history, as well as finding out more, and for that I’ll always be grateful. Special mention to Cec Gibson who was the first to contact me out of the blue regarding it. So lovely that this long-hidden history is now being honoured further.

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Secret internment camp near Millmerran…

When I wrote about the secret internment camp at Western Creek in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, I thought that was the end of it. It took several years and almost a detective hunt to put together the information and I met many brick walls from authorities. Some refused to believe the camp that detained hundreds of innocent men during WW2 even existed, others conceded that records for such camps were often scant and, in the years afterward, destroyed. Or not kept at all. (These camps being relatively secret and hidden out in Queensland’s west in forest or bushland when official internment camps at places like Enoggera were full.)

However, I had photographs that were taken inside the camp of internees, like the one pictured here from 1942 with my grandfather, Joe, Nonno Anni (back right) as well as when he returned to the site in 1964 (photo below). Along with his stories, I spoke to others such as a ninety-year-old Millmerran local who clearly remembered the Western Creek internment camp and the internees. Yet, at the time, I went out searching for the site there was little to guide me, no mention of this part of local history in the museum and most didn’t know about it.

So, years afterward, it is quite unexpected to have been contacted by the Millmerran Museum and Historical Society, who, after learning about the camp through my book and their own subsequent searches, are planning to put together a display in the museum and a marker to memorialise the site of the Western Creek internment camp. I’m so thrilled and touched by this, both for the sake of the young men interned, the army guards who treated them with respect and the women and children left to fend for themselves, many of them on farms, who did it tough in the absence of their men and their workers.

In the coming months, while the display and site for the marker is organised, if anyone has any other information about the internment camp at Western Creek near Millmerran, I would love to hear from you. You are welcome to leave a message or email address via my contact page or private message me via Facebook or Instagram and I will get back to you.

To me, it’s both remiss and insensitive that internees in Australia weren’t given some type of official apology like those in other countries were and, of course, for most it is too late now to hear one. Nonno Anni never bore any bitterness or ill will for his internment, he accepted it with grace as a factor of wartime, but I hope remembering what happened in this way gives back a little of what was lost.

When I look at the faces of these young men in the Western Creek camp in 1942 and think of all those thousands of others who went through similar experiences, it makes the efforts to preserve this small part of history worth it and I’m very grateful to those in the Millmerran Museum and Historical Society who are working hard to do so. Hopefully, in some way, Nonno Anni and the other internees would have been pleased!! Zoe xx

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