Tracking down the old man’s arrival records from Europe to Australia. He was a violent drunken shit, but I do appreciate at least his refrain about how we should have no regard for anyone who thinks that workers can’t read literature or that ‘these books are not for the likes of us’. School was not the only place to learn also, but all people should get into the school/library/gallery without any kind of entry bar. He valued university of life education in the wildest sense. He carried his encyclopaedias out of our burning house (when I was four) rather than lose them, along the way sacrificing his immigration records and Euro identity papers etc to the bushfires (perhaps for good reason, I dread to discover).
Anyway, on the track of his records, I think I’ve found his 1950 arrival data – perhaps to Bonegilla (hi Glenda Sluga) and later to the Snowy scheme. There’s this helpful write up, to be absorbed also for its contrast to current Australian camp policy:
List with agency/person recording
Series details for: A12051
Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia per Hellenic Prince departing Naples 4 December 1950
1950 – 1950
1950 – 1950
Items in this series on RecordSearch
All items from this series are entered on RecordSearch.
1950 – 1950CA 51, Department of Immigration, Central Office
18 Sep 2013 – CA 9431, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Central Office – Immigration
Quantity and location
3.06 metres held in ACT
System of arrangement/ control
Multiple number with occasional ‘R’ prefix
Range of control symbols
1-2 to 1000; R3 to R230-R233
Predominant physical format
PAPER FILES AND DOCUMENTS
Function and Purpose
This series consists of Migrant Selection Documents for Displaced Persons who travelled to Australia on the ship ‘Hellenic Prince’ departing Naples on 3 December1950 and arriving in Melbourne 10 January 1951.
Displaced Persons Scheme
At the end of the Second World War, many hundreds of thousands of people who had been brought to Germany from occupied countries to labour in German industry were unable or unwilling to return to their homelands which were occupied by the army of the USSR (mainly Poland and the Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, in addition to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia).
These people came under the care of the International Refugee Organization (IRO). They were screened, given the status of Displaced Person and housed in camps in Germany, Italy and Austria.
On 21 July 1947, the Commonwealth Government entered into an agreement with the IRO for the resettlement of European Displaced Persons in Australia. This scheme was subsequently known as the DP Group Resettlement (or ‘Mass Resettlement’) scheme.
Under this agreement, the IRO undertook responsibility for provision of transport (at its own cost) and the care of the Displaced Persons until their disembarkation in Australia. The Commonwealth undertook selection in Europe and responsibility for reception in Australia, placement in employment and care after arrival of all members of the family unit. Unlike the DP schemes already operating in the United States, Canada and various South American countries, the prospective emigrant did not need to secure personal sponsorship from a relative or friend already resident in the country, or from a welfare society, who undertook to provide support (in the way of accommodation and sustenance after their arrival and until they were self-supporting). Instead, in Australia, the government itself would fulfil this role, an important difference that caused the Australian scheme to be regarded with favour by the IRO, despite the costs involved in transporting the refugees such a great distance. (Conversely, some DPs favoured Australia as a destination precisely because it was so remote from Europe.)
During the lifetime of the DP Scheme, the Australian government’s official representation in Germany was the Australian Military Mission in Berlin, which presided over the recruitment activities by Australian Migration personnel. From 1948, the Migration Branch of this office was headquartered separately in Cologne, with the Selection Teams being accommodated at various locations in the British and American zones of Germany. They were heavy dependent for their operations on the goodwill and cooperation of the British and American military authorities since all basic needs such as accommodation food, transport and communications came from this source.
Eligibility for selection was based initially on standards of age, physical fitness and the ability to do manual work. At first, Australia expressly targeted single Baltic people. However, as the scheme progressed, and this limited source dried up, the target groups widened. In the next two years, while the emphasis on fitness to undertake manual work remained, restrictions on nationality, marital status and composition of family groups were gradually relaxed until, in April 1949, the scheme was extended to include all European nationals whose Displaced Person status was recognised by the IRO. (The status of DP was stringently tested; the conditions of eligibility occupy eight pages of the Constitution of the IRO.)
All applicants within the worker age limits under this scheme undertook to remain in the employment found for them by the Commonwealth for a period of two years from the date of their arrival, and their continued residence in the Commonwealth was subject to their observing this undertaking. At the end of this period, these conditions of entry were revoked and the DPs effectively became permanent residents with the normal rights of citizens to live and work where they chose.
To meet its responsibilities under the agreement, and to ensure an appropriate environment for the reception of the DPs, and for their absorption into the community, the Commonwealth set up its own Reception and Training Centres at Bonegilla in Victoria, Bathurst and Greta in New South Wales, Graylands in West Australia and Woodside in South Australia. At these centres, the new arrivals were again medically examined and x-rayed and interviewed individually to assess their employment potential, within the limited range of the government’s intent; men had been recruited to work as labourers and unskilled workers, women as domestics, nurses and typists. Generally, any professional qualifications and technical skills the DPs possessed were ignored.
During their stay in the Reception and Training Centres, usually about three or four weeks, the DPs were given a course of instruction in utilitarian English and the Australian way of life. During this time, they were paid a special social service benefit from which an amount was deducted towards the cost of their upkeep. (Migrants under this scheme were eligible to receive health and medical service benefits, sickness and unemployment benefits, Maternity Allowance and Child Endowment.)
Subsequently, as the scheme progressed, many other accommodation centres for dependants of workers were established in many locations, from Cairns in North Queensland to Cunderdin in West Australia.
After a slow start, owing to the shortage of suitable shipping (there was only the one voyage in 1947, and sixteen voyages in 1948), there was a great expansion of the program when more shipping became available in 1949. In that year, the number of ships on charter to the IRO peaked at forty (exactly half were USATs) and there were seventy-eight DP voyages to Australia. Despite a change of government in Australia (which removed from the scene the personal drive and commitment of Minister Calwell and installed a new ministry which favoured traditional British migration), the program continued at a high level through 1950 and 1951, but decreased as the IRO neared the end of its mandated existence.
When the IRO wound up its activities in early 1952, there were still many Displaced Persons in camps in Europe who had already been accepted for migration to Australia under the DP Mass Resettlement scheme and whose passages had still to be arranged. This migration continued until late 1953 (under the auspices of the International Committee for European Migration – ICEM), usually by placing small numbers of people on ships carrying migrants under other schemes, or on a scheduled commercial service, rather than on ships chartered solely to carry DPs, as done previously. The last arrival occurred in September 1953, bringing the total number of arrivals under this scheme to approximately 170,700 persons.
Most of the voyages originated in Bremerhaven, Germany. In the middle period, many Displaced Persons were transported to Naples, Italy, by train, from Germany and Austria. Other occasional ports of origin were Genoa, Nordenham (near Bremerhaven) and Rotterdam on the Atlantic coast, and Genoa, Venice, Trieste and Piraeus in the Mediterranean. A few voyages collected further DPs en route form camps in Lebanon and Egypt (mostly Yugoslavs) and one voyage collected Polish DPs from a camp in Kenya, East Africa. The department attempted to alternate the arrivals between Melbourne and Sydney to even out the flow of new arrivals to Bonegilla and Bathurst centres, respectively, with limited success. Occasionally, a ship was directed to disembark passengers at Fremantle, Adelaide or Newcastle, usually as a result of specific employment opportunities in these areas.
During the course of the scheme, in late 1950 and early 1951, a small number of persons, mostly pregnant women or elderly dependents, were flown by chartered aircraft from Europe to Australia. Almost all of these flights departed from Bremen or Rome.
There were also some arrivals both by ship and aircraft from a DP camp in the Philippines. These DPs were former Russian nationals who had been evacuated to the Philippines from Shanghai in early 1949.
(Many other persons who had been DPs in Europe migrated to Australia during these years as privately sponsored migrants; not under the government sponsored Mass Resettlement scheme. This is particularly the case for Jewish DPs sponsored by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (AJWS) and the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC). These organisations were active in France and many of these voyages, by ships such as ‘Derna’, ‘Napoli’ and ‘El Soudan’, originated from Marseilles. There are files on these voyages in the Immigration Departments series A434; but, as the DPs involved were not recruited or selected by the Australian government officials, there are no migration selection documents for these people as there are for arrivals under the Mass Resettlement Scheme.)
The Ship and the Voyage
The ship ‘Hellenic Prince’ was chartered by the IRO to transport DPs to Australia. This voyage was her fourth DP voyage to Australia departing Naples on 3 December1950 and arriving in Melbourne 10 January 1951 carrying 953 DPs. The majority were mostly from Europe, Poland and the Baltic countries, in addition to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia and were composed of single males, single females, married couples and family groups.
Nominal Roll Nos 817-819 the Komlosy family disembarked at Colombo.
Nominal Roll Nos 855-857 the Bondarew family, disembarked at Suez.
The passengers disembarked and were transported by special train to the Department of Immigration Reception and Training Centre, Bonegilla departing from the ship’s side at 8:50 am and 9:50 am on 11 January 1951.
The Nominal Roll
A ship’s nominal roll is a list of all the passengers on board when the ship or aircraft departed from its port of departure.
A schedule of selected DPs for a particular voyage was assembled over some weeks by the Australian Migration Selection teams moving from one camp to another, interviewing potentially eligible DPs who had nominated for resettlement in Australia. Consequently, the schedule is first arranged under the heading of the camp and then by category of persons selected at that camp; that is, whether the DPs were single males, single females, married couples, etc. The names were normally listed alphabetically within each of these categories. When the schedule was complete (according to the passenger capacity of the particular ship), each person listed was allocated a number starting from number 1 for the first entry on the schedule and going through in one sequence to the last entry. The final form of the schedule of selected DPs thus became the ship’s nominal roll, and the allocated number against the entry for each person in the schedule was referred to as his or her nominal roll number.
At this point, the roll was typed up (in multiple copies) as the finalised list of approved migrants. However, there were often subsequent deletions (the names are still visible but are crossed through, usually in red crayon) as DPs who had been selected to travel had to be cancelled at the last moment, most frequently owing to the illness of a member of the family unit. To prevent the wastage of these available berths, a pool of cases (usually single males) was built up, after a time, at a camp at the point of embarkation (such as Bagnoli in Italy), which could be substituted to take advantage of these vacancies. These substitutes were known as Reserves and they were listed at the end of the existing roll in a new numerical sequence distinguished by an R prefix. Many nominal rolls therefore have two sequences of numbers, the main sequence and a sequence of Reserves.
The personal documents for each person on a voyage, that is, the records of the type which constitute this series (which also were sent to Australia on the same ship ), were arranged in accordance with this numbering scheme. The nominal roll numbers have therefore been adopted as the item control symbols for this series.
Multiple copies of the nominal roll were created in the Migration offices in Europe and accompanied the DPs on the voyage to Australia. On arrival here, copies were distributed to various government departments involved in the exercise, such as Customs and Social Services. A copy of the nominal roll for this voyage can be found in CRS A434, 1950/3/46121.
The same process regarding nominal rolls, and the same terminologies, applied to both ship and aircraft departures.
To aid identification, a considerable amount of personal information about the DP appears in the entry in the nominal roll. In addition to the name and nominal roll number, there was a reference to the CM-1 form (IRO’s record of interview to establish DP status), the actual DP status granted; Nationality, Religion, Marital status, Sex, Date of Birth, Age, Country and Place of Birth, Passport number and Place of Issue, and Occupation.
Given the difficulty for the overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic bureaucracy posed by the unfamiliar Slavic nomenclature, it quickly became standard departmental practice to use the nominal roll number as shorthand for the person. For this reason, the ship’s nominal roll and the person’s individual nominal roll number assumed a particular significance in the control of the records and the administration of the scheme generally.
As the nominal rolls were widely dispersed in departmental records and often difficult to identify, NAA staff have created an artificial series of copies of the nominal roll for each voyage and flight under the DP Mass Resettlement Scheme, registered as CRS A12916.
The records in this series, in general, are those created by the Australian Migration Selection Teams in Germany and Austria; for each person, these consist of two main documents:
A Processing card (5 x 8 inch index card) which shows the applicant’s name, date of birth, sex, nationality, educational standard, fluency of languages, IRO eligibility, documents produced to support identity, address of any relative in Australia, religion, particulars of dependants, any civil offences, literary test result, date of arrival in Germany and from where. On the reverse of the card, there is provision for recording (very briefly) the reason for coming to Germany, recent employment history and suggested employment in Australia; there is also a signed undertaking to abide by the conditions applying to their migration to Australia, and acceptance and signature of Selection Officer.
A large format IRO Medical Examination Form. The front page of the form provides for personal identification and includes the Displaced Person’s name, date of birth, and physical characteristics such as colour of eyes and hair, weight, height and any distinguishing scars or marks. In addition, a passport-style photograph is attached (designed to ensure that the person presenting for the examination was in fact the person described). The remainder of the form provides for recording a succession of medical examinations by the IRO Assembly Centre doctor, the IRO’s Resettlement Centre doctor and finally by the Australian Medical officer attached to the Selection Team. There is often also a chest x-ray negative attached.
There may also be some records which were created by the IRO itself relating to the processing of the application for registration as a DP and for resettlement outside Europe. They contain the same types of personal information as the records described above, but often with more detail and with explanatory statements about points of nationality or ethnicity, or about family relationships.
System of Arrangement and Control
The items of this series are arranged by the nominal roll number, as described above. Generally the records relating to one person constitute one record item. However, in cases where a number of consecutive entries on the nominal roll constitute a family unit, the documents for all members of this family unit are grouped together as one record item (contained in one folder), and the control symbol for this record item is the range of nominal roll numbers of the individual persons. For example, a control symbol of ‘112-115’ indicates there are documents for four members of a family unit within the record item, with nominal roll numbers 112, 113, 114 and 115. Some records in the series include alphabetical prefixes and/or suffixes.
Records for each voyage are controlled as a discrete series.
Language of the material
In most cases, the language of the printed forms and the entered data is English but there is some German, French and other languages represented.
English was the official language of the IRO which, although headquartered in Geneva, was staffed predominantly by British, American and Canadian personnel. Almost all the recruitment action for migration to Australia took place in the British and American zones of German where English was the language of the governing authority (though German was the lingua franca of the DPs themselves). Relatively little recruitment activity took place in the French Zone of Germany (partly because the French government had little enthusiasm for European emigration) and none at all in the Russian Zone. The same comments apply to the situation in Austria.
Relationships with other records
Other original records created by the IRO in Germany and Austria relating to individual DPs are in the custody of the International Tracing Service, Bad Arolsen Germany (website at its-arolsen.org). The forms CM-1 contain information derived from the personal interviews which were part of the process of establishing eligibility for DP status and may be of particular value. In general, the archives of the IRO generally are held by the National Archives of France in Paris.
When the DPs arrived in Australia, all persons over the age of 16 years were required to complete an Alien Registration application. These forms are also in the custody of the National Archives and are progressively being added to the RecordSearch database. In general, they do not contain any more personal information than is present in the migrant selection documents.
The Bonegilla cards (CRS A2571) record, along with the usual personal details, the dates of arrival and departure from Bonegilla and the destination on departure. They also have a passport-style photo attached, taken at the camp (that is, not the same photo as can be found on the IRO’s Medical Form).
There is no comprehensive index or other original register of DP records in the custody of NAA. However, the records relating to a particular person can be identified by keyword search, entering the person’s full name, in NAA’s RecordSearch database. Records relating to one voyage are controlled as a discrete series.
As mentioned above, NAA staff created, for reference purposes, an artificial series of copies of each nominal roll of each voyage and flight under the DP Mass Resettlement Scheme. This series is CRS A12916.
As each voyage was about to depart from Europe, the basic records (Processing Card and Medical Examination form) created by the Australian Selection teams for all the persons on that voyage were bundled up and forwarded on the same ship. (The documents for each person were loose, not pinned together or enclosed in a protective cover. Many DPs did not have the nominal roll number endorsed on their papers and were identified only by the names of the applicants.) The bundles were addressed to the Department of Immigration Central office in Canberra, but owing to space constraints in Canberra, the records were held at the Reception Centre in Bonegilla, where a very large quantity of such bundles gradually accumulated, arranged first by the voyage and, within that, by nominal roll number. However, whenever any subsequent issue or action arose in relation to a DP, the selection documents for that person were extracted from their place in this collection and sent to the Immigration Department in Canberra, or elsewhere, as required, where they were incorporated in a case file. There was so much demand for these records that an officer from the department in Canberra was stationed at Bonegilla expressly to deal with it; identifying, locating and forwarding the records as required.
In 1954, when the DP Scheme had ended, the DP records remaining at Bonegilla were transferred to the Department’s Kingston (Canberra) store in preparation for their transfer to the Archives. Despite the depredations that had been made, this was still the bulk of the record collection and was still in the original arrangement by voyage/flight. This material was transferred to the custody of the National Archives on 3 March 1958 and was accessioned as CP533/1. This accession consisted of 979 bundles occupying 354 shelf feet.
Three years later, a number of additional transfers were made. These were documents which had been extracted from the collection at Bonegilla and placed on case files, then subsequently culled from the case file when that file was to be destroyed. All of this material was arranged alphabetically by the persons surname, since often the relevant ship and nominal roll number were not known. A quantity of 49 bundles of this material (21 shelf feet) was transferred on 11 Feb 1961 and subsequently accessioned as CP900/2. A further 152 bundles (68 shelf feet) was transferred on 22 February 1961 and accessioned as CP899/4. In 1969, a further residue of this type of DP material was included with a large transfer of miscellaneous migrant selection documents from various migration schemes, which was accessioned as AA1969/339.
In 1954, the Liquidator for the IRO wrote to the Australian government proposing that the IRO’s records for each DP who had come to Australia should be forwarded to Australia for retention. These records related to the process of registration as a DP, the person’s engagement in the IRO’s Care and Maintenance program in the camps and the application for Resettlement outside of Europe. This documentation was subsequently forwarded from Geneva to Australia and this material was also transferred by the Immigration Department to the custody of the NAA in February, 1961. The quantity was 187 bundles, occupying 69 shelf feet, also arranged alphabetically by surname, and was accessioned as CP900/4. While in the custody of the Department, some documents from this material had also been extracted and used elsewhere, usually in tandem with the Australian-origin documents for the person.
Owing to the very large quantities of records involved and the absence of original control records, no attempt was made at this time to rationalise or to restore the arrangement of these records. Consequently, for the next thirty years, the standard of accessibility to individual DP’s records in the National Archives was very poor.
In 1999, Arrangement and Description section staff of NAA Canberra began a long-term project to restore this very large collection of personal documents (a total of more than 200 metres of densely packed loose documents) to its original arrangement and to enter each record into the RecordSearch database. This project involved researching the history of the DP scheme, identifying the voyages and flights that were made under this scheme, locating in each case a copy of the nominal roll and then identifying each document to a nominal roll entry so that the document’s original order and control could be established, then preserving and foldering the records and entering in the database. The project was completed in late 2002. Further work by Archival Description staff in 2009 resulted in updates to series registrations and series descriptive notes.
As some of the IRO records (accession CP900/4) had already been integrated with Australian-created material in the department, it was decided not to attempt to restore the separate existence of these two sets of records but, instead, to complete the integration so that only one record item would exist for each DP (or family unit.) Accordingly, all of the accessions mentioned above have now been integrated into one standardised arrangement which reflects the original arrangement by voyage/flight and within that by the nominal roll number, and with the IRO origin material, where it exists, present in the same folder.
There is at present a residue of documents which cannot be identified to a nominal roll entry and which at this time are controlled as a separate series, CRS A12685, for the DPs from Europe, and CRS A12701, for those from the Philippines. In addition, there are many nominal roll entries for which no documents were located during this exercise. It is believed these were extracted in the process described above and the case files on which they were placed are still extant. An ongoing exercise is underway to enter the vast quantity of case files in series A446 into the RecordSearch database and it is expected that many of the missing documents will be located during this process.
National Archives of Australia: A446, Correspondence files, annual single number series with block allocations.
Louise Holborn, History of the IRO (OUP London, 1956).
Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, No. 39, 1953 and No. 42, 1956.
Peter Plowman, Australian Migrant Ships 1946 – 1977, Rosenberg Publishing, Sydney 2008.
Peter Plowman, Emigrant Ships to Luxury Liners, NSW University Press, Sydney 1992.