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Friday, September 10, 2021

Day 29

An article in ‘The Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer’ from 1918 titled ‘That Camp!’ intimates the sensation the building of the Molonglo Internment Camp made on the local region: “Many rumours are still current as to what the camp at the four-mile is going to be, and the wiseacres express their opinions. Some persons, supposed to be "in the know," appear to be very mysterious and state, "Oh, I know what it is, but I can not tell you!" At all events the official voice is silent on the subject” (05.03.1918). The Molonglo Internment Camp was built during WWI after the British Government asked if suitable arrangements could be made to accommodate several thousand enemy nationals expected to be expelled from China and German East Africa. The camp was designed by John Smith Murdoch (who also designed the Powerhouse in Kingston, Provisional Parliament House, etc.) to provide “very excellent” self-contained accommodation for nearly 3000 families. He designed the buildings to be set out in a fan formation around a central hub, including a watch tower, for easy supervision. According to newspaper reports after the war the camp comprised 80 blocks of buildings, each containing 21 rooms with electric lights, and a sewage system and water supply. There was a canteen, bakery, meat stalls, recreation rooms, the aforementioned watchtower and a connection via rail. With an establishment of such size, it is no wonder it’s construction didn’t go unnoticed, with “a large number of tradesmen, labourers, and horses and drays... employed in carrying out works on a large scale,” reported in the same article above, along with men arriving daily from Sydney and special trains carting building material to the site. In the end, the settlement only ever housed 200 German civilians, including British subjects (Australians) married to Germans, rounded up from around Australia, Fiji and other parts of the British Empire. As the Germans didn’t want their subjects to be taken to such a far away place as Australia and after negotiations with the British Government the arrangements to move them hither was cancelled.