An Officers’ Camp

Prisoner of War Camp 5 Myrtleford was a camp established specifically for prisoner of war officers and their batmen*.  The site had two camps built to accommodate 500 men each: Camp A and Camp B. The camps were surrounded by barbed wire fencing and was set in a ‘delightfully wooded and green country at the foot of the mountains.  The climate is excellent and healthy with a cold winter and hot summer.’ (Dr Georges Morel June 1943)

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Vue du camp. War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. A view of the camp.

View of Myrtleford Camp July 1942 ICRC V-P-HIST-01883-01T

The men were accommodated in galvanised iron huts raised above the ground. They had glass windows and were lighted by electricity. The dormitories were lined inside.  The officer dormitories were divided into compartments: five compartments for 2 officers each or four compartments for four officers. Officers were provided with an iron bed, mattress, sheets, pillow and five blankets.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. Les travaux de drainage. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. The labour drainage.

Drainage Installed between Dormitories Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01883-05

Batmen dormitories were not divided into compartments and slept 24 men.  Each dormitory had two doors and ten windows. 

Furniture made by the Italian prisoners of war included small tables, benches and wardrobes.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp.

Ablutions Hut at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01880-15

There were three ablution huts for each camp.  One hut had 15 hot and 18 cold showers. Four hot showers were divided into compartments: two for superior officers and 2 for captains. There were another two huts for ablutions with 24 cold water taps.  The toilets and urinals were sewered.  Partitioned toilet compartments were for the use of superior officers and captains.  The laundry was in the hot shower hut containing eight troughs, four hot water taps and eight cold water taps.

Officers were allowed to go for walks on parole accompanied by two guides.  This happened two times per week for two hours.  N.C.O.s and privates went out under escort on an irregular basis.  Communication between the two camps was not allowed. 

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. C. 1943-11-06. THE ENTRANCE GATE INTO “B” COMPOUND AT THE 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP FROM THE GUARD TOWER. SOME PRISONERS, WHO HAVE BEEN OUT ON DUTIES AROUND THE CAMP AREA IN THE HORSE AND CART, ARE RETURNING FOR LUNCH. PRISONERS OF WAR AND INTERNEES (PWI) OFFICERS ARE SEEN PLAYING ON THE TENNIS COURTS CONSTRUCTED BY THEM. (AWM Image 059309 Photographer Geoffrey McInnes)

On 22nd June 1943, there were 440 Italian prisoners of war in Camp A: 308 officers and 132 N.C.O.s and privates.  In Camp B there were 254 Italian prisoners of war: 152 officers and 102 N.C.O.s and privates.

The customary duties of fatigues were carried out by N.C.O.s and privates for which there was no payment.  Opportunities for paid work was limited due to the fatigue duties and batman responsibilities taking up the majority of the men’s time.  On 22nd June 1943, from Camp A five men were employed inside the camp and three men were employed outside the camp.  For Camp B, five men were employed inside the camp and three men were employed outside the camp.  Paid work included gardening, woodcutting, road-making and carpentry and was paid at a rate of 1s 3d for skilled work and 7.5d for unskilled work.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp.

February 1945 Myrtleford Camp Italian Prisoners of War with wallabies pictured in front of vegetable gardens ICRC V-P-HIST-01882-31

Officers and prisoners of war from the merchant marines were not obliged to work.

Each month Italian prisoners of war, excluding merchant marines, were given an allowance.  The monthly payment** was:

Fighting Forces: Lt. Colonel £16.14.0, Major £14.10.4 Captain £11.9.2 Lieutenant £8.17.10 2nd Lieutenant £5.8.4 Sergeant 15s 4d Corporals 10s 9d

Protected Personnel (Priests, Doctors, Dentists, nurses, orderlies): Captain £38.19.9 Lieutenant £30.2.00 Sergeant 15s 4d Corporals 10s 9d

Interior of Chapels at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00313 and ICRC V-P-HIST-E-00314

Each camp had a chapel with a decorated altar made by the prisoners of war.  The service of mass was performed by a prisoner of war priest.

Guerre 1939-1945. Camp de Myrtleford. La chapelle et le Padre. World War 1939-1945. Myrtleford camp. The chapel.

Chapel at Myrtleford ICRC V-P-HIST-01879-36

Each camp had three tennis courts and a bowling green. There was a football ground near the camps.  Officers played golf two times a week outside the camp where a golf course would be reserved for them.

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. 1943-11-05 TO 1943-11-07. OFFICER PRISONERS OF THE 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP PLAYING TENNIS ON COURTS WHICH THEY BUILT THEMSELVES.

Regular football, tennis, bridge and golf tournaments were organised between the two camps.  Each camp had provision for a wireless service, the wireless set was to be purchased by the prisoners of war. In June 1943, there was no wireless service.  There were regular movie shows held by a travelling company with Camp A paying 15 per session and Camp B paying 9 per session.

There were separate dining rooms for officers and ordinary ranks in each camp.  Trestle tables with bench seats furnished the dining rooms.  They could be heated in winter, as these huts were not lined. Officers were entitled to buy wine and beer.  When Dr. Morel, representative of the International Red Cross visited in June 1943, a delivery of 50 gallons of wine and 63 gallons of beer had been delivered to Camp A. [1 gallon = 4.5 litres]

Regular football, tennis, bridge and golf tournaments were organised between the two camps.  Each camp had provision for a wireless service, the wireless set was to be purchased by the prisoners of war. In June 1943, there was no wireless service.  There were regular movie shows held by a travelling company with Camp A paying 15 per session and Camp B paying 9 per session.

There were separate dining rooms for officers and ordinary ranks in each camp.  Trestle tables with bench seats furnished the dining rooms.  They could be heated in winter, as these huts were not lined. Officers were entitled to buy wine and beer.  When Dr. Morel, representative of the International Red Cross visited in June 1943, a delivery of 50 gallons of wine and 63 gallons of beer had been delivered to Camp A. [1 gallon = 4.5 litres]

MYRTLEFORD, VIC. 1943-11-05 TO 1943-11-07. INTERIOR OF PRISONER OF WAR OFFICERS’ MESS IN “A” COMPOUND 51ST AUSTRALIAN GARRISON COMPANY PRISONER OF WAR CAMP WITH THE ORDERLIES AT THE TABLES.

*A batman or an orderly is a soldier or airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant.

** Australian currency £= pound s=shilling d=pence.  There were 12 pence = 1 shilling and 20 shillings = £1

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