Captivity and Internment

Australian War Memorial

An exploration of war time confinement through artworks and artefacts from the Australian War Memorial. 

While working as a forced labourer on the notorious Burma–Thailand Railway, Private James Fraser, an Australian prisoner of war from the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, noticed some Japanese officers intensely studying a plan. He watched them place it in a leather case which they then hung up in a hut. Intrigued, Fraser reached in and took the plan without realising precisely what it was he was stealing.

Vivian Bullwinkel’s nursing uniform still bears the tear made by a bullet sustained during the Japanese massacre of prisoners at Banka Island in 1942. She would be the sole survivor of a horrifying slaughter.

Sister Betty Jeffrey recorded her experiences in various camps, including Palembang on Sumatra, in notebooks and on scraps of paper. For the prisoners, paper was a rare and valuable treasure, and writing implements were as difficult to obtain as food.

As an artist with a great love of the landscape Murray Griffin was keenly aware that the human suffering he was witnessing was set against the lush natural beauty of Singapore.

Violet Lloyd married Alan Glover on 7 June 1941, just five days after he enlisted in the Second AIF. After a ten-day honeymoon Alan began basic training at Puckapunyal, Victoria. He was assigned to the 8th Division and embarked for Malaya on 30 July. It was to be the last time the couple saw each other.

On 15 April 1945, as the war in Europe drew to an end, British forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. With them was Australian official war artist Alan Moore. For three days he drew and photographed the skeletal survivors and their persecutors, including the SS troops who were forced to bury their victims.

This work satirically presents a Second World War internee standing to attention within the confines of an internment camp.

Australian War Memorial
Credits: Story

Created by the Curator and Assistant Curator of Art, Australian War Memorial.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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