Sunday History Photo / Au

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 06:31
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With increasing concerns as the pall of WWII settled over Europe, “enemy aliens” in Australia whose loyalty was suspect were removed to Internment Camps. The Camps initially housed immigrants from Germany, Italy and other axis-linked countries. They were subsequently joined by Japanese internees, and prisoners of war and internees transported from the Middle East, Pacific Islands, the Netherlands East Indies, the Straits Settlements, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

For security reasons, tokens were used in Australian and New Zealand World War II Internment Camps in place of the normal currency. They were introduced in Australia, probably in 1943, to replace paper canteen coupons.

Two Melbourne firms manufactured the tokens: Arendsen & Sons made five shillings, two shillings and one penny pieces; while KG Luke & Co produced the one shilling and three pence tokens that completed the series. Other than the pennies, which were struck in brass (with a few rare copper or bronze trial or specimen strikes), the tokens were struck in copper.

The tokens were holed in the centre, clearly distinguishing them from the circulating currency. Wreaths, ornamented with berries and gum nuts, surround the centre holes together with the inscriptions of “INTERNMENT CAMPS” on the obverse and the denomination on the reverse. The Luke tokens have finer design details than the Arendsen pieces.

Fortunately, a small number of tokens avoided the destruction of the series that followed the end of World War II, when the tokens were ordered in by the Army and melted down under supervision.

This Token above was collected by my Father when he was stationed at Cowra, fortunately he was transferred to the camp at Aspley Qld two days before the Cowra Breakout

As Australian currency was forbidden in the Hay Internment Camp the ingenious internees designed their own currency which was printed by the local newspaper the Riverine Grazier. Notes in the denominations Sixpence, Shilling and Two Shillings were produced from designs prepared by Georg Telscher, who had contributed to Austrian note designs in the 1930's.

The cunning designs incorporated a number of hidden messages. In the barbed wire around the edge of the note can be read "We are here because we are here". In the barbed wire at the foot of the fencing can be read "HMT (His Majesty's Troop Ship) Dunera, Liverpool to Hay". Woven into the fleece of the sheep on the back of the note are the names of some of the internees. It has also been suggested that the barbed wire behind the Coat of Arms hides a message in morse code!

The notes only circulated for about three months in 1941 before a Sydney newspaper published a picture which alerted Commonwealth authorities who promptly stepped in and initiated the withdrawal of the issue as it contravened Australia’s currency legislation. Only a small number of these historic notes, souvenired by the inmates, have survived.

The 5/- Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by R. Arendeen & Sons Pty Ltd of Malvern, Victoria

The 1/- & Three Pence Hay Internment Camp Token. Minted by K. J. Luke & Co. Ltd of Fitzroy, Victoria

It is wrong to suggest that the tokens were only used at Hay, as is sometimes the case, although tokens counterstamped “H” for the Hay Camp are understood to exist.
Internment Camps were located across Australia, with the main ones at Cowra and Hay in NSW, Enoggera (Gaythorne) in Queensland, Tatura (Rushworth) in Victoria and Loveday in South Australia. There were other smaller or temporary Camps (such as Long Bay in Sydney and Dhurringile in Victoria) that accommodated POWs and internees, often before they were transferred to one of the larger Camps.
The Harvey Camp in Western Australia was closed in 1942 after the discovery of hidden weapons and a finding by military authorities that Camp administration was inadequate. The internees were transferred first to Parkeston near Kalgoorlie and then to Loveday.
In January 1943, some 17,000 POWs and internees were in the Camps.

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Reply By: glids - Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 09:06

Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 09:06
As usual, Doug, a fascinating story from Australia's past.

I had no idea such currency was used in the camps.

I always look forward to your contributions - great work.

AnswerID: 496652

Reply By: Off-track - Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 10:52

Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 10:52
Concur with everything that Glids said. That was a fascinating insight indeed.
AnswerID: 496660

Reply By: Member - Paul B (WA) - Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 12:37

Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 12:37
As always, a most interesting piece to add to our Sunday reading, Doug.

I've since met people who were kids in the internment camps and the thing they remember most about it was the terrific sense of camaraderie and community that developed amongst the internees, who apart from their internment, largely had very little in common with each other.

The other thing they talk about was the entrepreneurial spirit that emerged - someone was always able to meet a need, but without totally cornering the market. Most internees, after the war, were economically very successful in just about anything they turned their hands to.

BTW, there's a little Tenterfield terrier I often see here in Kalgoorlie that always reminds me of your Dusty, not that I ever met him other than via your descriptions on your web page.

Thanks once again for your Sunday history lessons.
AnswerID: 496665

Reply By: Candace S. - Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 14:40

Sunday, Oct 14, 2012 at 14:40
Very interesting! Thank you in particular for the excellent photos. I look forward (as always) to next Sunday's edition!
AnswerID: 496671

Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 12:42

Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012 at 12:42
Thanks once again, Doug. We visited the exhibition about the camp at the Hay Railway Station two years ago but I don't remember seeing the camp currency.
You are a legend!
AnswerID: 496787

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