Walter 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 this country….'

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 old world.

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

Horst Jacobs, arrived in Australia on the Dunera 1940. President Hay-Tatura Association

"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."