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Australia's War 1939 - 1945
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German and Italian prison camps in Europe.
[DVA]
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Japanese prison camps in south-east and east Asia.
[DVA]
'camps'
illustration


'surviving'
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'ingenuity'
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Australian Prisoners of War 1940-1945
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An emaciated Australian
POW shows the effects of
malnutrition typical of many
Allied prisoners of the
Japanese.
[AWM P01433.019]

More than 30,000 Australians became prisoners of war (POWs) between 1940 and 1945. The Germans and Italians captured Australians during the Mediterranean and Middle East campaigns, and also at sea in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Members of RAAF aircrews, who had bailed out during operations over Germany, occupied Europe or North Africa, also became POWs. Of the 8,000 Australians taken prisoner by the Germans and Italians, 265 died during their captivity.

During the Pacific war, the Japanese captured 22,000 Australians: soldiers, sailors, airmen and members of the army nursing service, as well as some civilians. They were imprisoned in camps throughout Japanese-occupied territories in Borneo, Korea, Manchuria, Hainan, Rabaul, Ambon, Singapore, Timor, Java, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam and also Japan itself. At the end of the war only 13,872 of the POWs were recovered: one-third of the prisoners had died.

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Herbert Hawley
Four Years in Germany

Herbert Hawley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 7 November 1939. He was posted to the 2/3rd Field Regiment. In May 1940, after training at Ingleburn, near Sydney, he sailed with his regiment to England where he was stationed at Salisbury. In December he left England for the Middle East and then was moved to Greece where his regiment came under heavy attack from the German Luftwaffe (air force) and Panzer Divisions. His regiment was evacuated to Suda Bay, Crete. There they defended an airstrip at Retimo (Rethymnon) against German paratroopers but just 10 days later, they were forced to surrender and Herbert Hawley became a POW.

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POW post

Herb arrived in Wolfsburg prison camp in August 1941 and spent the next four years as a POW in Germany. He was sent to various locations and joined working parties on roads, on farms and repairing and laying railway lines. In May 1945, when the Germans surrendered, Herb was at Spittal, working on bomb-damaged railway trucks and tracks. He was repatriated to England through Italy and arrived home in Australia three months later.

(These photographs and Herbert's story have been compiled from material sent to the Department of Veterans' Affairs by his widow).

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945