Disbandment

pow-all-will-be-returned-home

(Cairns Post (Qld.: 1909-1954), Monday 22 October 1945)

By the close of 1945, official approval was communicated for the disbandment of PW Control Centres in Queensland. With the declaration of surrender by the Japanese in August 1945, World War II had ended and plans to repatriate all Prisoners of War in Australia were underway.  As part of the repatriation process, Italian prisoners of war in PWCC and PW Hostel in Queensland were transferred south via Gaythorne.  While the majority of Italians were not repatriated to Italy until the end of 1946 and the beginning of 1947, disbandment of the centres and hostel was actioned.

Official orders  were:

To be disbanded by end December 1945: Q4 Gayndah, Q8 Kingaroy and Q9 Monto Q6 Hostel Home Hill (already disbanded 8 November 1945).

To be disbanded 1 January 1946:   Q2 Nambour, Q3 Kingaroy and Q7 Kenilworth.

To be disbanded 1 February 1946: Q1 Stanthorpe and Q10 Boonah.

(National Archives of Australia NAA:BP129/1, NCCR 174/5/557, 1945)

Farmers, in particular fruit growers with a summer harvest, were concerned about the pending shortage of labour. The newspaper article Farms Hit By P.O.W Transfer highlights this issue:

 FARMS HIT BY P.O.W. TRANSFER (12 November 1945)

Withdrawal of Italian P.O.W. farm labourers will leave Stanthorpe fruit-growers with an acute shortage of pickers for the coming harvest.

Their withdrawal will synchronise with the disbandment of the Women’s Land Army, which will cease operations on December 31. By then the district’s apple, pear, grape, peach, and plum harvest will be in full swing.

About 200 Italian p.o.w.’s have been working in the Stanthorpe district.

Growers, the local manpower authority, and the War Agricultural Committee directorate are now working on plans for a female labour force to work as pickers. All members will be volunteers.

In addition to Stanthorpe, Italians have been employed at Boonah, Kingaroy, Murgon, Lowood and Gympie. They were not sent north of Gympie for security reasons.

Their repatriation is expected to begin early next year. Farmers have found them, generally, to be willing workers and well behaved. A number of the Italians have made tentative inquiries on the possibility of returning as migrants.  (Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.: 1933 – 1954), 1945)

 Closure of Q1 Stanthorpe and Q10 Boonah would remove up to 300 potential workers from the harvest and strategically this might have been the reason for these two centres to remain in operation until February 1946.

The disbandment process put a strain on the resources of Gaythorne Prisoner of War and Internment Camp. As parent camp, it was inundated with Italian Prisoners of War from around Queensland.  With a capacity for 1800, Gaythorne became a staging camp for up to 1500 Italians from the nine Queensland centres.  The first group of approximately 250 came from Q6 Home Hill 8 November 1945 and the last Italians left 25 March 1946. Some POWs spent two months in transit at Gaythorne.

 Movements for each centre required the assembling of up to 250 Italian Prisoners of War from the centres and holding them under guard until onward transport by trains were arranged. Local showgrounds were used as temporary camps for Q7 Kenilworth’s and Q10 Boonah’s Italians.  Q1 Stanthorpe’s POWs were set up in a grain shed at Applethorpe adjacent to the railway line.  Q6 Home Hill POWs were transferred directly from the Hostel to the train station in Home Hill. Movement of large groups of POWs came with security issues as was evident by the escape of one POW from Q1 Stanthorpe. This was the only escape ‘in transit’ in Queensland.