World War I internee, alien and POW records held in Adelaide – Fact sheet 106

Internment during World War I

Internees are enemy aliens who are obliged to reside within prescribed ‘camps’ during time of war, generally unable to leave until the termination of the conflict. During World War I internment in Australia was regulated by the War Precautions Act 1914 and its regulations.

6890 people were interned in Australia during the War. They were mainly of German or Austro-Hungarian background, and included some who were naturalised British citizens (including second or third generation Australians some with siblings serving in the forces), crew of enemy nationality taken from ships in Australian ports, as well as Government officials and Lutheran missionaries from New Guinea. A small number of members of the International Workers of the World organisation (IWW) were also interned. After the War many internees were voluntarily repatriated to Europe, with some subsequently returning to Australia.

Many enemy aliens were allowed on ‘parole’ rather than being detained in a camp, and were required to report regularly to local police.

Records held in Adelaide

Wartime internment of enemy aliens was a significant matter in South Australia because of the relatively high number of migrants of German origin residing in the state. Internees were held at a camp established on Torrens Island.

The office in Adelaide holds a wide range of records dealing with internment during World War I. They include:

  • lists of internees
  • internee identification photographs
  • a register of internees on parole
  • records of the wartime control of enemy property, and
  • case files (except for Torrens Island camp case files, which have not survived) of the Attorney-General’s Department Investigation Branch. These files, which document the investigation and surveillance that preceded internment, often extend into the 1930s.

Selected records relating to World War I internment held in Adelaide

Investigation Branch, South Australia (CA 905)

Headquarters, 4th Military District Commonwealth Military Forces records, (CA 3207)

Australian Customs Service, South Australia (CA 802)

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesCorrespondence files1871–1962D596
ItemPayments to internees1915D596, 1915/3721
ItemPublic Trustee re Mr JWA Jung enemy shareholder1916–18D596, 1916/5722
ItemGermans entering Australia1920D596, 1920/5249
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