Tag Archives: secret internment camp

Hidden history at Western Creek…

Work is progressing by the Millmerran Historical Society to put together a booklet, museum display and a stone plaque to memorialise the site of the Western Creek internment camp. As it comes together, I wanted to share with you two other photographs I have that were taken inside the internment camp in 1942.

The first is the Western Creek Internees undertaking forestry work in the state forest and Annibale (Joe) is standing to the far right. (This appeared in Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar.)

The second is a never before seen photograph of some down time within the internment camp, which was usually spent playing cards or the occasional singalong (Annibale (Joe) is sitting front centre). Considering many men came to the camp with one suitcase that carried all they owned, it was fortunate a few also happened to have musical instruments with them that allowed the internees to have some music, especially considering they didn’t have the facilities of other ‘official’ internment camps.

Seeing these photographs, you may understand my frustration when time and again, I was told by various authorities that the internment camp at Western Creek never existed.

I’m very grateful to so many Millmerran locals for their support, kind messages and offers of help since my earlier post about this. And again, very heartfelt thanks to the Millmerran Historical Society and Lion’s Club for their time and efforts, in particular, time spent physically going out to the internment camp site for accuracy.

If anyone happens to have any information or other photographs regarding the internment camp at Western Creek, I would very much like to hear from you so it may be included in what is being put together. Very much appreciated! Zoe x

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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


Filed under inspiration + history