1st AIF Transit Camp UK

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Brief History

A sub unit of the HQ 1st AIF Reception Group UK, it was formed in June 1944 at Camp Pell, Victoria in the expectation that the Normandy invasion would soon bring the release of POWs held by the Germans. The 1st AIF Transit Camp UK had the role of receiving and documenting the soldiers who would then be allocated to one of four reception camps to be established to hold them for up to six months before shipping home might be available. The unit left for the UK in July, sailing via the USA with a 4 day stop over in San Franciso before moving on to New York for a week, and finally arriving Gourock in Scotland on 27 August 1944. With the first POWs arriving two days after their arrival, they set up temporary camp at Hazelmere in Buckinghamshire in late August 1944, and in September they relocated to permanent quarters at Eastbourne a coastal town in southern Sussex.

However, large numbers of released POWs were not seen until March 1945, and by then there regularly available shipping was available. As a result only two of the four reception camps became operational, with the 1st of them activated in October 1944, and the 2nd in March 1945. Significant numbers of released AIF POWs arrived in the UK during the last weeks of the war in Europe and after the German surrender in May 1945. After being granted a period of leave the released POWs were sent to the reception camps to await a ship home. The average wait was three weeks, significantly less than the 6 months originally thought to be likely.

Staff from the 3rd and 4th reception camps were absorbed into the two operational camps in May 1945. Task completed, the 1st AIF Transit Camp UK closed in August with most staff returning to Australia and the rest absorbed into the Australian Army Staff UK in September 1945.

Liberated POWs

This unit processed the recovery of 5,668 Australian ex POWs from the European Theatre. A similar unit in Singapore recovered 10,955 Australian service personnel from Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Malaya, Indochina and the Netherlands East Indies, while one in Manila processed 14,684 of whom 2,683 were Australian from POW camps in Japan, Korea, and Manchuria.


Content has come from The Unit Guide - Volume 6 - The Australian Army 1939-1945, page 6.440 & 6.441 - Graham R McKenzie-Smith - Big Sky Publishing - 2018

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