Dunera Lives. Volume 2
Ken Inglis et al
Clayton, Vic: Monash University Publishing, 2020
Paperback 512pp RRP $39.95
Reviewer: Neville Taylor, February 2021
Interned in the UK as enemy aliens, probably because there were potentially Nazi agents among them, were men and boys who had sought refuge from the Nazis. Most were from Germany and Austria, with a few from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, the Soviet Union, Turkey, Palestine and Italy. Many were unknowingly Jewish. The ship Dunera sailed on 10 July 1940 for Australia with 2546 internees and the Queen Mary left Singapore on 18 September with 266 men, women and children detained as potential enemies of Britain. On arrival in Australia, they were sent to internment camps in Hay, Orange and Tatura.
Following Dunera Lives. Volume 1: A Visual History, Volume 2 presents 20 detailed profiles of the ‘Dunera Boys’. The first two profiles are not of internees, but of Edward Broughton and Julian Layton who both worked for to return all the internees to freedom.
Broughton was a Maori who fought with New Zealand forces in both the Boer War and First World War. Enlisting in the Australian Army in 1940, he became a captain commanding the 8th Labour Company. As one option for the internees was to join the Army in the Labour Company, Broughton commanded respect through his knowledge of their individual names, their customs, traditions, religious holidays and diet, and would not tolerate any form of internee harassment. He assisted many in their eventual transition back into Australian society and retained contact with many following this.
Julian Layton (formerly Lowenstein) was, by the mid-1930s, actively involved with organisations finding ways to enable more than 4000 to escape the Continent and rebuild their lives in Britain. In Australia, as an agent of the British Home Office and an officer in the British Pioneer Corps, he was charged with finding ways to free all internees in Australia so they could join the services or contribute in other ways to the Allied war effort. Labour shortages enabled him to organize work parties and internees to join the British and Australian armies. Returning to Britain in January 1945, he then had the task of processing the survivors liberated from German concentration camps.
Ken Inglis had worked tirelessly on the detailed lives of a sample of 30 of the ‘Dunera Boys’, narrowing it to eighteen before his passing. His fellow writers completed the research and writing to enable a chapter on each internee he had selected to illustrate the diversity and achievements of the internees. So often the success stories that had been told were of those with academic, artistic or musical ability who were able to have professional careers for themselves in a post-War Australia.
The profiles are most thorough, and, where known, include detail of the internees’ parents and their lives in the late 19th century, their youth and background prior to escaping Nazism. Numerous examples of the mistreatment during the Dunera voyage to Australia are part of their stories. The innumerable problems faced in acclimatising to their new surroundings, bureaucracy not recognising their needs, and the loneliness of separation from family are common features of their stories, often created dependent bonds between them. The incredible dedication required to re-establish their bona fides in their own fields is something to be admired. The eighteen profiles include three artists, two historians, four scientists, an economist, a businessman, a composer, a furniture maker, a forestry worker, a youth hostel warden and a psychiatrist.
Each profile is accompanied by photographs, often with family, their partners, in internment camps and in their later life. Some sketches and art works are included where appropriate. The text is complemented by detailed footnotes and a comprehensive Index. Included is a manifest of those non-Italians who came out on the Dunera including their date of birth, initial internment camp and those who passed away before gaining freedom.
Sitting beside Dunera, a Visual History, this work completes a moving and invaluable record of a set of circumstances imposed upon those who had no control over their immediate future, but showed the determination and fortitude to overcome them.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.