The HMT “Dunera” Affair: It Wasn’t Pretty

This chapter of Jupp’s Australia experiences looks like the darkest one we have come across so far.  Indeed, he WAS on the notorious HMT “Dunera”…

The Wiki entry gives an idea what life was like on the 57-day voyage without going into too much detail.  Compared to that, camp life must have seemed like a vacation at the Holiday Inn, at least in the beginning.  An Austrian passenger whose memories his grandchildren scanned and uploaded, put it as follows:


[When we left the ship in Sydney,] “we had all found out since we embarked in Liverpool that nothing can be bad enough that it could not be worse and that however bad things might be in future they would probably not quite reach Dunera conditions.  We had gone through purgatory, perhaps, by way of comparison we shall enjoy our lives more later on.

Conditions must have been horrific on the hopelessly overcrowded ship, in every regard.   The sanitary situation and anything relating to hygiene, both personal and in general, was beyond description, food was scarce and not everything was in fact fit for consumption, random violence and hostility towards the internees on part of the soldiers and crew made everyone feel exceedingly helpless and scared. Confiscation of property, theft of anything valuable and careless treatment of luggage in general, plus the utter uselessness of complaining about any of the ill treatment or wrongs done, made it blatantly obvious to the internees that the only thing left for them to do was to lay low, stay out of harm’s way as best as possible, and hope that the final destination (which was unknown to a good many of them) was reached soon.



Given that a good many internees had been lied to about the destination and conditions of the transport and hence had volunteered for it, and started their journey with high hopes of freedom and reunification with their wives and children (everyone on the ship was male), the reality of life on the HMT “Dunera” must have hit doubly hard.   It is astonishing that other than two, all internees survived the voyage to Australia.

Jupp did not mention this voyage a whole lot, but the route that the “Dunera” took and a few tale telling remarks about the conditions on board can be found in his “Internment Dates“, a diary-type list of where he was when during his internment.

I will add three links to websites that deal with the Dunera affair.  Two of these are not “eye-witness-story” links but contain information taken from, or links to official documents.  The third one is a pdf written by a man whose father had befriended one of the later internees in 1939, and it’s well worth reading, also for the photos.

  • National Archives of Australia Research Guide
    After a short summary of the Dunera Affair a (long) list of digitized documents follows that I haven’t searched for information on Jupp yet, but a friendly visitor of our site (see comment below) found these two documents online:




    The “Walter” in this account shared Jupp’s experiences, and they might even have returned to England on the same ship, although he was transferred to Tatura earlier than Jupp.

3 Replies to “The HMT “Dunera” Affair: It Wasn’t Pretty”

  1. Thank you very much, Mr Morgenroth, for the comment and the links. I will add the pictures of the documents to this site instantly.


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