Trial Bay, New South Wales (1914–18)

German internees at Trial Bay in period costume and theatrical scene from the play Minna von Barnhelm, 1916 (AWM H12132/29)

The Trial Bay camp was situated in an old gaol near the entrance to the Macleay River in northern New South Wales. The camp housed internees and prisoners of war of wealth and social standing, such as consular and military officers, physicians, businessmen and other professionals. Most were Germans or Austrians brought to Australia from the Pacific, China and South-East Asia. At its peak, the Trial Bay camp held 580 men.

Internees were housed either in the stone gaol cells or, for those with higher ranks, in huts outside the gaol itself. The men made an effort to make themselves comfortable in the camp. They made their own furniture, held regular concerts and theatrical performances, read in the extensive gaol library and studied a variety of subjects.

The camp was located on a peninsula, separated from the mainland by a boundary fence. Inside the boundary internees were free to swim, fish, sunbathe or play tennis on the courts they had constructed. They were allowed to leave the camp to collect wood for the kitchen or bring water from the well on the hill behind the camp.

After a threat of a German landing party arriving at Trial Bay to release the internees was received, Australian authorities felt it was wise to move the men to Holsworthy camp near Sydney. Trial Bay camp closed in 1918.

Records

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

Trial Bay Gaol and internment camp
The camp at Trial Bay, c. 1918 (NAA: A1336, 7597)

Collection references

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017