Food security for Australia during war time was a major concern and the establishment of PWCC in Queensland aimed to provide workers for farmers across a number of primary industries. The program was operational from October 1943 through to February 1946 and placed up to 1300 Italian prisoners of war in south east Queensland. With the addition of up to 250 Italians employed at Q6 PW Hostel Home Hill, the total approved allocation of Italian Prisoners of War to Queensland was 1550.
The Department of Labour and National Service during this period adjusted allocations per centre to take in to account seasonal fluctuations and increased demand. Within a 10 month time frame from October 1943 to August 1944, 9 PWCC had been established, 1 PWCC had been disbanded and 1 PWC Hostel had been established. By 3 January 1945, 1150 Italian prisoners of war were working in primary industries in Queensland.
Q1 was approved by 13 September 1943 with an allocation of 150 workers and approved employers selected by October 1943. The first group of Italian prisoners of war were allocated to Stanthorpe employers from 16 – 21 October 1943. By January 1944, approval had been given to increase Q1’s allocation from 150 to 200 workers.
The first six placements in Queensland for Italian Prisoners of War were confirmed by 25 January 1944:
Q1 Stanthorpe: already in operation, Q2 Nambour, Q3 Gympie, Q4 Gayndah, Q5 Texas and Q6 Home Hill.
Q2 began operation in February 1944. The first of its 100 workers were employed from 24 February 1944 at Woombye, Palmwoods and Montville. Captain Fletcher and his staff set up their centre at the Diggers Hall Nambour overseeing POWs placed in the localities of “Cooroy to Glasshouse Mountains and from the coast west to the Blackall Range including Montville and Mapleton, but excluding Maleny”.(Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser (Qld.: 1922-1954), 1944)
Q3 placed the first of its 100 POWs from 4 March 1944 with men being placed with farmers at Calico Creek. Allocation was increased to 150 later in March 1944 to absorb Q4 Gayndah numbers and to 200 in February 1945.
Q4 was approved but its temporary abandonment (it had not been set up) was approved March 1944 with its allocation of 100 positions to be split with 50 positions going to both Q2 Nambour and Q3 Gympie. It was eventually established with its first allocation of POW workers from 6 July 1944.
Q5 employed its first POWs from 6 March 1944 and POWs worked in the district through March to July. This PWCC was closed 12 July 1944, POWs reallocated and Q9 Monto was established and took up the Texas allocation for 100 workers. Texas POWs were sent to Gayndah, Stanthorpe and Kenilworth.
Q6 was approved with a placement of 250 POWs. By December 1943, there was Cabinet Approval in place to secure 1000 acres of land to ensure better supply of fresh vegetables for the services based in the north. Communication on 6 January 1944 approved for a PWC Hostel to be built on the Burdekin River to accommodate the POW labour force required for the extended Commonwealth Vegetable Farm Scheme with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture being the employing authority. The first 115 POWs arrived 28 April 1944 with another 136 POWs marching in on 18 September 1944. The Hostel closed on 8th November 1945 when all POWs boarded the train to Gaythorne in transit to Cowra. It was situated 22 miles up river Home Hill.
An adjunct to Q6 was the establishment of temporary PWCC Atherton. It was established at Atherton for an 8 week harvesting season of the maize crop in the area. An allocation of 60 was granted but only 53 POWs were sent from Q6 Home Hill arriving 3 July 1945 and being allocated to farmers by 4 July 1945.
Q7 was approved in April 1944, the first of 100 POWs employed in this centre began work on 15 May 1944 when they were allocated to farmers in Maleny and Wootha. Kenilworth House (corner of Elizabeth and Phillip Streets), a boarding house with about 20 rooms, was the PWCC headquarters.
Q8 was authorised as a temporary PWCC with an initial allocation of 50 POWs employed in the harvesting of the peanut crop on 18 March 1944 but by 22 March 1944 the approval had been amended to up to 120. Furthermore, Q8 was approved to operate on a permanent basis 24 April 1944. Initially, a temporary office was located at the Court House. By February 1945, numbers had been increased to 150 workers being employed in the area from Nanango to Murgon.
Q9 began operation 1 August 1944 with the first of its 100 POWs being placed with farmers on 4 August 1944. Sometime after February 1945, this quota was increased to 150.
Q10 was allocated 100 workers and the first POWs were employed from 10th July 44.
By August 1944 eight PWCC and one PWC Hostel were in operation as Q5 Texas had closed in July 1944. With the data available, 1521 Italian prisoners of war are confirmed to have lived and worked in Queensland providing a workforce for 600 primary industry employers.