Travers, arrived in Australia on the Dunera 1940.
"Many of us internees were still in their teens
and early twenties, all virulently anti-Nazi, yet
kept behind barbed wire at Hay, later Tatura, by the
authorities. The great majority of us would willingly
have volunteered to enlist in the fighting forces
to help defeat the Axis forces. Yet we were kept interned,
in spite of a memorandum received by Robert Menzies
from Sir Herbert Emerson, High Commissioner for Refugees,
which stated, '…truth is that the great majority of…refugees
are decent well-living persons who have gone through
one suffering or another, and have every good ground
for hating the Nazi system…'
At the same time the Australian authorities received
an official briefing from the British government,
'The internees were not interned in this country…because
their reliability was open to question, but in pursuance
of general internment of Germans and Austrians adopted
as a precautionary measure, and their internment involved
no reflection on their loyalty and disposition to
So we were isolated, kept out of sight by an unwilling-to-comprehend
government. We who were young, impressionable, inexperienced
but willing to serve the Allied war effort, and equally
keen to escape the dreary isolation of internment,
were ready to accept almost any alternative to escape
our predicament. I considered migration to the USA
where I had uncles willing to help, going to Palestine,
or wherever. I was reluctant, however to return to
Britain…From the first I loved the wide, open spaces
of Australia, felt freer, more able to breathe - even
whilst interned in Hay! I thought that I would like
to stay in this country, a whole new world for me
- a new beginning after a double rejection by the
The opportunity, and the first possibility of freedom
came with the Japanese strike at Pearl Harbour, in
December 1941. Australia found herself short of manpower,
and we were given the choice to volunteer to serve
in the Australian army."
Clockwise from left: Walter
Travers, Bob Vogel,
Henry Vollmer and Peter Lasky
Jacobs, arrived in Australia on the Dunera 1940. President
"We who arrived in Sydney on HMT Dunera on September
6th 1940 have indeed been lucky. Had we travelled
in peacetime on a scheduled P&O liner, our shipboard
friends, who became our extended family, would have
been but acquaintances; we would have been more shallow
and narrow-minded. The experience was a great leveller
- we were all equal in misfortune.
We could hardly have had a less promising
start in a new land: uninvited, unwanted, many of
us unskilled and penniless, in tattered clothes, without
kith or kin, strangers to its language and customs.
Yet the thousand who stayed can look
back with pride on the contributions they have made
to this country, unique for so small a group.
Australia has been good to us. Like
good wine, given the right soil, climate and time,
we have matured and improved with age.
We have been able to repay our debt
with interest - and gratitude."