World War 2: Internment Camps – Southern Rhodesia

Internment Camps

Southern Rhodesia

During World War 2, Southern Rhodesia interned over 12,000 German, Austrian and Italian ‘enemy aliens’. In addition, they also hosted Polish and Persian refugees. The internees came in two waves: first wave were Camps No.1 & No.2, and second wave were the other camps. The first were nationals from the Axis nations, and second were the Italian internees and Polish refugees.

Initially, the Union of South Africa was to be the largest host of internees including those taken from Southern and Northern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland. However, General Smuts was cautious of the large local support of Nazi Germany and eventually compromised on only taking men. Southern Rhodesia welcomed the role of interning women and children and had been secretly preparing for the role in the mid-1930’s.

At the outbreak of war, 709 enemy aliens were identified in Southern and Northern Rhodesia. This role was administered by the Ministry of Justice and Defence through the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and a small ‘Agricultural’ army unit. Inmates were sent from Tanganyika and on the night of 3 September 1939, the CID rounded up 508 prisoners in Southern Rhodesia and placed them in Chikurubi Prison. Many were released on parole although 52 were placed on restriction. These inmates were later moved to the internment camps along with 64 persons from Northern Rhodesia.

Sites chosen for internment camps and refugee camps were considered to faster development of rural towns along rail lines, as well as to contribute to commercial farming and construction projects. The sites were managed by The Southern Rhodesia Internment Camp corps drawn exclusively from Medical Category B and supported by African Askaris. The camps were run under guidelines sent from Britain. The camps were directed to be cheaply made – similar to camps used for the mines and were intended to each hold 500 inmates. The first camp was opened on 12 October 1939.

Early in 1941, London instructed Salisbury to prepare to receive some 5,000 Italian internees from Abyssinia and Somalia as well as 1,000 refugees from Poland. Following this request, the Rhodesian Treasury authorised the establishment of another three internment camps and three refugee settlements.

In October 1943, the Mussolini regime collapsed and repatriation began by ship through South Africa and as the defeat of Germany loomed closer, it became a torrent. By 1945 Treasury began closing camps and dispersing the remaining inmates and refugees.

After the war in 1946-1947, Southern Rhodesia inherited the benefits of these camps including Vengere Township in Rusape, Diggleford School near Marondera, Beatrice Cottages in Mbare, certain structures in the King George VI Barracks in Salisbury, a government farm in Gatooma (later converted to the Cotton Research Board Training Institute), fully equipped workshops in Umvuma and buildings outside Masvingo (including an Italian church).

Internment Camps


Seventh-Day Adventist Church: Northern Rhodesia Mission Field

Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Northern Rhodesia Mission Field

The Northern Rhodesian Mission Field was organised in 1921. The territory covered Northern Rhodesia and the Caprivi Strip (a salient of Namibia that protrudes eastward for about 450 km from the north-eastern corner of Namibia. It is bordered by Botswana to the south, and by Angola and Zambia to the north).


  • 1905 – Rusangu Mission Station
  • 1917 – Musofu Mission Station
  • 1921 – Katima Mulilo Mission Station
  • 1925 – Muchenje Mission (re-opened 1934)
  • 1928 – Liumba Hill Mission Station

Native Missions

  • 1930 – Demu Mission
  • 1930 – Munenga Mission
  • 1931 – Sala Mission Station
  • 1933 – Sitote Misison Station
  • 1934 – Kuamba Mission
  • 1935 – Dimbwe Mission
  • 1935 – Kazungula Mission
  • 1936 – Tapo Mission Station


Seventh-Day Adventist Church: Liumba Hill Mission Station

Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Liumba Hill Mission Station

Samuel M Konigmacher established a school at Liumba Hill, Barotseland in 1928. Konigmacher had worked at Rusangu Mission and left to open Musofu Mission Station before opening Liumba Hill.

In 1935, a small dispensary was added and Konigmacher oversaw seven village schools.


Seventh-Day Adventist Church: Mwami Mission Station

Seventh-Day Adventist Church

Mwami Mission Station

The Mwami Mission Station was purchased by the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1925. Located 30km southeast of Chipata in the Eastern Province of Zambia and just 8km west of the Malawi-Zambia border, the mission was created to serve the people across that region. In 1927, a hospital with established at the station.

In 1962, the Mwami School of Nursing was established. It continues to operate today, training both young men and women to serve as qualified Zambian Enrolled Nurses across the country. An eye surgery centre at the mission saw its first patients in 1985, a service that is still provided to the community.




1953 – Central African Rhodes Centenary Exhibition

Central African Rhodes Centenary Exhibition

30 May – 29 August 1953

The Central African Rhodes Centenary Exhibition was held at Bulawayo Park and was opened during the 1953 Royal Tour by Her Majesty by the Queen Mother. The exhibition was held to celebrate the birth Cecil J Rhodes.

The exhibition was a vast panorama of the peoples and culture of the African continent. There were a number of national pavilions of the countries which had an interest in Africa and of the many British, French, Belgian and Portuguese territories. In the pavilions were exhibits of primary industries and the exporting of raw materials including gold, iron, coal, diamonds, copper.

The B.S.A.C. displayed its vast holdings in industry and agriculture; transport was represented by various national railways and airlines and a reconstructed African village pictured the dwellings, music and dance, the arts and crafts of the indigenous peoples.



Commemorative Covers


Stamp Issues

The stamps issued below were available at each of the country’s pavilions. The stamps were only valid in their respective country except for mail posted at the Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland pavilions.


  • Journal of the Rhodesian Study Circle No.19

Postcards: Universities’ Mission to Central Africa – Ndola

Universities’ Mission to Central Africa


No.sDescriptionEarliest PMK Date
N/AThe Cathedral Church of the nativity...


1956 – First Direct Airlink between Dar-es-Salaam and Ndola

First Direct Airlink between Dar-es-Salaam and Ndola

4 March 1956

On 4 March 1956, East African Airways established an airlink between Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika to Ndola, Northern Rhodesia.


1934 – First Mail Service to Australia & New Zealand (To New Zealand)

First Regular Mail Service to Australia

To New Zealand


From Broken Hill to New Zealand
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