Alien Workers & POW Camps
The FCV was always an organisation that served rural communities by providing employment opportunities in times of hardship. During WW2 the capacity of the FCV to employ people usefully was tested further, by involvement in the establishment and management of camps in rural Victoria to house not only so-called “Alien Workers” but Prisoners of War.
There are articles elsewhere on this website that speak directly to the involvement of the FCV in these activities.
“In 1944, I was given the job of laying out, constructing and supervising a 150 prisoner of war camp at Kinglake West for firewood production. It involved road construction, quarry operations, bridges, dam construction and practically clearfalling the old messmate culls for firewood.”
2. Bert Semmens: (p 20)
"Firewood was becoming scarce in Melbourne because of the enlistment and call up of men for military service. During 1942 the authorities had been collating information on enemy aliens - mostly Germans and Italians - and it was decided to put these men to good use cutting firewood in State Forest. As the Commission was used to coping with sudden influxes of forest workers during the Depression, it was asked to put up camps for those enemy aliens of military age (who otherwise might ‘sabotage’ the war effort) and supervise the cutting of firewood from around those camps for supply to Melbourne. It was decided to put up two camps of 40 men each in the Taggerty District, one in the Black Range near Murrindindi to be supervised from Taggerty, the other at Narbethong to be supervised by me."
3. Peter McHugh (p 243)
“Firewood was also cut at POW camps at Graytown near Heathcote by sailors rescued from the German Cruiser Kormoran, after a fierce battle with the HMAS Sydney off the Western Australian coast in November 1941 where both vessels sank.”
Extracts from Annual Reports provide an indication of the scale of FCV involvement.
“Civil Alien Corps camps were erected at the following locations: - Trentham, Dandenong, Dunolly, Cohuna, Heathcote, St. Arnaud, Yarrawonga, Barmah, Beaufort, Broadford, Scarsdale, Macedon, and Toolangi." (FCV AR 1942/43)
“An entirely new venture in the building programme was the construction of three camps for the housing of prisoners of war engaged on the cutting of firewood for supply to the Melbourne market. One of these camps has been completed and the other two are still under construction. The camps have been erected in accordance with specifications required by the Geneva Convention. Two of the camps will accommodate seventy-five prisoners each, and the third camp one hundred and fifty prisoners as well as the military guards.” (FCV AR 1943/44)
“With the improvement of supplies in 1945, the Commission was instructed to curtail operations in the production of firewood and to cease purchasing wood from private sources. Acting on these instructions the purchase of firewood was discontinued. The services of the Italian prisoners of war, encamped at Kinglake West and Broadford, who were engaged in the production of firewood, were dispensed with, as also were those of alien labour, pieceworkers and contractors. As a direct result, the amount of wood produced was 72,807 tons measure for 1945-46, as compared with 368,059 tons for the previous year." (FCV AR 1945/46)