Brighton Military Camp has an interesting history. A military camp for training recruits, it became a prisoner of war camp during WW2 and then after the war it was a migrant hostel for newly arrived migrants from Europe. Details of this history has been written by Reg Watson: Brighton Army Camp History
But from December 1943 to 1946 (April/May) the complex was known as Brighton PW Camp No. 18. Army records state that it had a capacity of 600: two compounds of 300 each. It was the parent and administrative camp for all Italian prisoners of war sent to work on farms in Tasmania.
Professor Ian McFarlane’s research into the Italian POW workforce adds further details and personal experiences to this history: Italian POWS in North West Tasmania
Below is a diagram of the PW Camp drawn in October 1944. With some concern over the security of the camp, changes to the boundaries had changed as resident numbers decreased. The original compound is indicated by the outer blue line. The compound was reduced in size to the red line. The second reduction saw the compound decreased in size to the a to b line. The October 1944 proposed reduction of the compound at night was to the inner blue line. This last proposal was rejected by Camp Commandant Captain A Pearson. In a letter he reports that due to the number of years the Italians had been in captivity c. 3.5 years, they had developed ‘barbed wire complex’ and would struggle mentally if they were fenced in, in a small compound as many were becoming ‘mentally deranged.’ Captain Pearson wrote, “In conclusion, it is desired to emphasise that the forgoing is not submitted to molly-coddle PW, but with the sole purpose of keeping them mentally and physically sound and thereby have the maximum number available for employment and at the same time comply with intention of regulations issued relative to the control of PW.” NAA P617 519.3.159 PART 1
Brighton PW Compound 1944
NAA P617 519.3.159 PART 1 Page 35
In February 1944, the scheme of employing prisoners of war on Tasmanian farms had received the ‘thumbs up’ from farmers and further recruitment of farmers was sort from Department of Manpower.
1944 ‘ITALIAN WAR PRISONERS’, The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), 14 February, p. 2. , viewed 30 Jul 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article26018382
But by June 1944, right wing racism was being reported by ‘Smith’s Weekly’ which seized on any opportunity to discredit the Italian prisoners of war and their treatment.
1944 ‘PREFERENCE TO DAGOES’, Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), 3 June, p. 1. , viewed 30 Jul 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article235765497
The following two photos were taken of the Brighton PW Camp site in April 1943 when it was under the direction of Department of Army as an army training camp. Little would have changed when it transitioned to a PW Camp.
BRIGHTON, TAS. 1943-04-23. A SECTION OF BRIGHTON CAMP IS BEING CONVERTED BY MEMBERS OF NO. 19 MAINTENANCE PLATOON, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS, INTO BARRACKS FOR A TRAINING UNIT OF THE AWAS. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS A GENERAL VIEW OF THE NEW QUARTERS FOR THE TRAINING UNIT.
BRIGHTON, TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA. 1943-04-28. GENERAL VIEW OF BRIGHTON MILITARY CAMP.
By June 1944, Brighton PW Camp Tasmania had been abandoned and the Italian prisoners of war were transferred to Loveday PW Camp South Australia.
Prisoners of War. Italian. Loveday (S.A.) & Northam (W.A.) Camps. NAA: A1067, IC46/32/1/9