Somes Prisoners

SS Willochra

The troopship SS Willochra carried over 400 internees away from New Zealand in May 1919, bound for their homelands. Theoretically they were being 'repatriated', but the reality was that they were being deported. The wives and children of some internees also travelled aboard the ship. 

However, New Zealand-born wives and others born in British countries, tended to stay behind and divorce their husbands. In part this was because they did not wish to experience living in a former enemy country where they might be discriminated against - something they had just endured in New Zealand due to the nationalities of their husbands. The New Zealand Government even changed the divorce laws to ensure that the husbands couldn't force their wives to take them back, if the husbands somehow returned. 

Most of the passengers who sailed on the Willochra were German, however, the ship also carried internees from Austria-Hungary (including Dalmatians), Bugaria and Turkey. These non-Germans disembarked at Sydney and were replaced on the ship by some of Australia's German internees. 

The non-German nationalities then spend four months at Holdsworthy Internment Camp, Sydney, before most embarked for their homelands aboard the Frankfurt four months later. Of the remaining two who did not travel on the Frankfurt, one had been ill and sailed a month later on the Valencia. The other had died during an influenza epidemic that struck the camp while they were stranded there.

(Above) Clipping from Rotterdam's Nieuwsblad, of 19 July 1919, announcing the Willochra's arrival the previous day.

(Below) "The steamship Willochra arrived here yesterday evening from Wellington and Australia via Port Natal. On board are approximately 900 German citizens who settled in Australia and German Africa who embarked in Lekhaven." Clipping from Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant 19 July 1919.