Jan 16, 2014

Graytown and the POW Camp






Graytown - named after Mr Wilson Gray and who later became Judge Gray in New Zealand - is a gold mining ghost town located approx 120 km north of Melbourne on the road between Heathcote and Nagambie in Victoria, Australia.

Graytown was formerly known as Spring Creek which was surveyed in 1848. When gold was discovered here (at Moonlight Flat) in 1868 more than 30,000 miners arrived from nearby Heathcote, Whroo and Rushworth, significantly depleting the population of those towns. At this time, Graytown was compared in size to the Ballarat Goldrush days. In 1871 there were 511 buildings in town!


The alluvial gold rapidly disappeared and by late 1870 the population had declined to 150. The death-knell came in 1870 when a flood swamped the mining endeavours and destroyed numerous buildings. Many of the remaining structures were moved elsewhere.



GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GENERAL VIEW OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP CAMP.

In the Second World War a prisoner-of-war camp was set up with internees from the German warship the Kormoran.

A bush wood cutting camp was established at Camp 6 Graytown POW Camp during World War 2. Approximately 250 Italian and then the German POW's were detained at Camp 6 Graytown POW Camp. The German POW's were mostly crew members from the German raider ship Kormoran which had sunk HMAS Sydney off the Western Australian coast. Some Finnish seamen were also held at Camp 6 Graytown.


MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

MURCHISON, VIC. 1943-11-23/30. GRAYTOWN SECTION OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

Of the Kormoran's complement of 393 officers and men, 315 were recovered along with three of the four Chinese taken captive when the Kormoran sank the Eurylochus 10 months earlier. Approximately 20 of the crew were killed on board during the battle, the remainder drowning when their overloaded raft capsized.


Oberleutenant (Lieutenant Commander) Messerschmidt was issued with this life jacket while serving on the German raider HSK KORMORAN. The ship was lost off the Western Australian coast in battle with HMAS SYDNEY on 19 November 1941. He later gave the jacket to prison guard Warrant Officer H Scanlon at the prisoner of war camp which held many survivors from the KORMORAN. (Australian National Maritime Museum)

Except for the prisoners  picked up by the Aquitania which continued her voyage to Sydney, and those recovered by the Trocas which proceeded directly to Fremantle, the prisoners were taken by sea and land to Carnarvon where the preliminary interrogations took place.

They were then transported to Fremantle where 19 men were taken to hospital and the remainder distributed between Fremantle Detention Barracks, Swanbourne Barracks and the internment camp at Harvey, 87 miles south of Perth.

Once the interrogations had been completed preparations were made to transfer the prisoners to internment camps in Victoria. The officers departed on the liner Duntroon on 13th December, while the sailors were transported by train in two groups, the first departing on 27th December and the second in early January.
 

Two prisoners too ill to travel remained behind in Fremantle, one of them - Erich Meyer - died three months later of lung cancer. Meyer was the only crew member who died in Australia.
Upon arrival in Melbourne all the prisoners were taken to Murchison prisoner of war camp in northern Victoria where they joined those rescued by the Aquitania. The officers were later transferred to Dhurringile, (see below) a homestead property about 10 miles from Murchison Camp that had been converted into a detention camp.

MURCHISON, AUSTRALIA. 1943-01. DHURRINGILE HOMESTEAD, TAKEN OVER BY THE MILITARY AUTHORITIES AS PORTION OF THE ACCOMMODATION FOR PRISONERS OF WAR OF NO. 13 PRISONER OF
WAR GROUP. GERMAN OFFICER PRISONERS OF WAR ARE HOUSED IN THIS BUILDING.







GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR FELLING A LARGE TREE FOR FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR UNLOADING LOGS FOR FIREWOOD, WHILE OTHERS CAN BE SEEN STACKING IT IN TIDY HEAPS AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR FELLING TREES FOR FIREWOOD AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

 article in the Narandera Argus & Riverina Advertiser Tuesday 16 January 1945.

By 1943 the men had been transferred to a timber felling camp at Graytown while others were transferred to Tatura.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. BOTH HORSE DRAWN AND MOTOR VEHICLES ARE USED AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP TO GET THEIR WINTER FIREWOOD IN. THIS PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS A FINE TEAM OF HORSES HARNESSED TO A FOUR WHEEL LORRY.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. MOBILE SAWBENCH BEING REPAIRED BY GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP. THESE PRISONERS WERE MEMBERS OF THE CREW OF THE GERMAN RAIDER KORMORAN.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. HORSE DRAWN WATER TANK OF THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP DELIVERING WATER TO GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR WHO ARE CUTTING WOOD IN THE FOREST.

GRAYTOWN, VIC. 1943-12-01. SMALL MOBILE SAW BENCH, OPERATED BY GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR WHO ARE CUTTING FIREWOOD FOR THE 13TH AUSTRALIAN PRISONER OF WAR GROUP.

German Prisoners of War at a Funeral, Tatura, Murchison District, Victoria, circa 1942 (from Museum Victoria)

The prisoners remained interned in Australia under Army control until January 1947 when they sailed from Melbourne on the Orontes.


Article in The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania) Thursday 23rd January 1947.
German Prisoners of War waiting at Melbourne to board the liner Orontes for repatriation, turned their backs on the coils of barbed wire laying on the wharf.


POWS go home article appeared in the Argus on Wed 22 January 1947



AERIAL STARBOARD BOW VIEW OF THE BRITISH TRANSPORT RMS ORONTES . IN 1947 SHE REPATRIATED THE SURVIVORS OF THE GERMAN AUXILIARY CRUISER KORMORAN FROM CAPTIVITY IN AUSTRALIA. (NAVAL HISTORICAL COLLECTION)















In the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW) on Wednesday 22 January 1947




In 1984, the new formed Tatura & District Historical Society identified the seven World War Two POW and Internment camps in the Tatura district of Victoria as being of significant historical importance for the district. The Society opened the Bill Doller Room in 1991 to house their collection on these camps.  The Tatura Wartime Camp Museum website is here



above image: The Kormoran Monument

Camp Road, Prisoner of War Camp 13, Murchison.

Monument constructed by German prisoners of war at Camp 13 in Murchison commemorates the German sailors from the merchant cruiser HSK "Kormoran" which sunk the H.M.A.S. Sydney in November 1941. 

The cross on the top of the monument is not the original cross.  The monument's original cross was destroyed after the end of World War Two, and it was re-constructed by former German prisoners of the camp.

Note : This monument is on private land and is not accessible to members of the public.  Monument Australia thanks John Gribben of the Greater Shepparton City Council for organising access to obtain the monument photographs.


Graytown is a very special part of Victoria, not only is it now a designated National Park, it is also of great historical significance for anyone interested in WW2 or the gold rush era.



Just about all that is left of the POW Camp at Graytown in 2013

Take a drive to the Mt Black lookout for spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, spend some time at the Graytown Cemetery, or take advantage of the picnic areas and keep an eye out for the native wildlife.
To visit Graytown today it is almost impossible to believe that 90 hotels, several banks, two newspapers, a post office, a police station, courts, most Church denominations, a concert hall, a school, stores and various businesses and even a cricket team existed!

All that remains are some white ant riddled stumps of old poppet legs and fence posts, water filled holes that were once cellars of hotels, empty streets and a chimney from a once busy boarding house. There are also some water filled mine shafts, some as deep as 165 metres. So do take care when wandering around.


Graytown area as it is today - January 2013

By having the image of "
The Kormoran Monument" above, it is only right that I should include one for the HMAS Sydney as seen at Geraldton in West Australia, Australia.


Wikipedia has some information on the Battle between HMAS Sydney & German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran here.

With thanks to the extinct "The Ballan News",  The State Library of Victoria and Yvonne Cochrane for the information above.

Thanks to TROVE for articles from newspapers.

Thanks also to Monuments Australia, AWM (Australian War Memorial), Museum Victoria and the Australian National Maritime Museum for images.

There is a set of books (three volumes) titled "The loss of HMAS Sydney 11". Information from the Attorney Generals Department on those can be found here. 

I completed a blog post recently on a small town named COSTERFIELD, which is next to Graytown. If you would like to read that, it is here.

This blog post on Graytown really did start out to be about the Graytown Cemetery, with a small amount about the POW Camp and the prisoners.  But as I started doing the research on Graytown I found so many images and articles about the camp that were spread far and wide on all sorts of websites that I decided to do the blog on Graytown and the POW Camp and by doing so, collate most of the articles and images all in one place! 

The images can all be found on my PICASA site.

My next blog post will definitely be about the cemetery.




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2 comments:

  1. Great work, would have liked a bit more information on the Italians and also maybe a proper map with coordinates?
    Many thanks

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  2. Does anyone know weather the pow camp was on the east side of graytown/rushworth rd,,,or the western side,closer to the hill,Gowing by the second pic,,,it was taken from the east looking towards the hill,,which would put it on the western side of the rd,,, but the concrete flooring for buildings is a lot farther back east,nearer to spring ck rd,,,thank you,,

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