Holsworthy (Liverpool), New South Wales (1914–20 and 1939–46)

The Holsworthy camp at Liverpool in western Sydney was the largest and longest running internment camp. Over the period of its operation, covering both World Wars, it housed up to 6000 men, both internees and prisoners of war. A range of nationalities was represented in the camp, in the first world war principally people of German and Austro-Hungarian origin, some of them Australian-born. In World War II those of German, Austrian, Italian and Japanese origin were the principal groups interned. Naturalised British Subjects of enemy origin were also interned, as well as Australians of German, Italian and Japanese descent, and some of Aboriginal descent.

The camp grew from a collection of tents to a small town of huts complete with theatres, restaurants and cafes, other small businesses, an orchestra and sporting and educational activities. Physical conditions in the camp were difficult. Living conditions were overcrowded and sanitary facilities were basic. There were also reports of corrupt or brutal guards working in the camp.

Holsworthy camp remained open until the last internees and prisoners of war were repatriated in 1920.

Part of the compound and recreational grounds at the Holsworthy camp, c. 1918 (NAA: A1336, 7597)

From 1939 the rifle range was converted to a prisoner of war camp. It was used to accommodate internees temporarily while they were waiting for tribunal hearings in Sydney. The mostly male internees were not generally employed because of the temporary nature of their stays at Holsworthy. They cultivated gardens, played cricket and football, attended lectures and had access to daily newspapers. In August 1942, Holsworthy camp held 124 internees of various nationalities and included some women. It closed in 1946.

Chinese and Javanese internees working among tomato plants on the farm of the Liverpool POW and internment camp, 1944 (AWM: 064363)


The National Archives holds records about the Holsworthy camp. A selection of these is listed below.

Collection references

* These files have been digitised and are available online. Click on the reference number above to retrieve the item from the RecordSearch database. Then click on the 'View digital copy' icon to view the online file. It will appear in a new browser window.

 'Aliens and others': World War ll internment project

The National Archives of Australia is a partner in an Australian Research Council project titled ‘Aliens and others: representing citizenship and internment in Australia during World War II', headed by Dr Ilma O'Brien of the Victoria University of Technology.

As part of the project, Dr O'Brien is interested in collecting personal memories of World War II internment in Australia. If you have personal or family memories, photographs or documents about internment you would like to share, further information about the project can be obtained from Dr O'Brien at ilma.obrien@latrobe.edu.au.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019