'There they expected prisoners of war, and we had to persuade the Aussies that we were not'

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'There they expected prisoners of war, and we had to persuade the Aussies that we were not'


Peter recounts being shipped to Australia as an English prisoner and being released again after he joined the English army to fight in India.


Peter Layton


Trinity College Dublin




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Peter Layton

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Adolescence and Early Adulthood


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Shortly after war broke out,I was again arrested or interned. We were sent to Lingfield racecourse,and from there to Liverpool,to embark on the troopship 'Dunera ' Below deck we were locked up,and the ship set sail-across the Atlantic,to Cape Town,then on to Australia. We were allowed on deck for one hour each day,we had to go barefoot,so as not to damage or dirty the deckplanks. Eventually we arrived in Sydney,where we disembarked,and then by train to Hay(NSW),where there was a camp ready for us. There they expected prisoners of war,and we had to persuade the Aussies that we were not. There were about 4000 of us if I remember rightly,divided into four camps. We elected a camp leader (Dr. Auerbach was his name.). After the first few days,we managed to persuade the guards to let us have roll call in bed. Most people had some money available,but I worked in the kitchen,stoking the boilers,and in the dining rooms,serving food. After a while we were well organized,football,classes in all sort of things,because we had a medley of academicals and trades people amongst us. We organised concerts,language classes,art appreciation,chess classes,you name it we had it. We were also allowed out to the nearest river for swimming and bathing. We suffered a lot of duststorms in Hay. Later we were moved to another camp in Shepparton,near Adelaide. A lot of internees applied to join the army,and those that were accepted,were sent back to England. We were supplied with new clothes for the journey,I remember getting a burgundy sports jacket. We were supplied with identity documents in lieu for passports and embarked at Melbourne on the H.M.T. D3.for England this time across the Pacific through the Panama canal Oct./Nov.1941. On arrival in England,we were given a week or so leave to visit whoever we wanted,and finally had to report to Ilfracombe for training etc. Now we were members of the Pioneer Corps. After completion of training I was sent to a company in Long Marston,which is near Stratford on Avon. We were looking after a large Bailey Bridge depot. All,with the exception of senior NCOs or officers,were Germans or Austrians. Eventually we were given the chance to join a fighting unit. I was finally accepted for the RAC (Royal Armoured Corps) off for training again,this time to Farnborough (Hants). After training in Ilfracombe and later in Farnborough was sent to India to join a tank regiment in India. After training we were allocated to A Regiment in India. I can't remember much of the trip,but the regiment we joined was 'The third Carabiniers-Prince of Wales Dragoon Guards ' A posh name for an ordinary tank regiment. We were in Poona,Rawalpindi,and then off to Burma. It was pretty wet,as it was the monsoon season. Through Burma,I remember Mandalay with its enormously thick walls,the Irrawaddy,which we had to cross on rafts for our tanks of course and on and on to finally fight in Rangoon. The tanks were left there,after disarming them,and we went back to India. Eventually back to England for demobilisation in November 1951.


Irish Research Council for Arts,Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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