Monday, 10 June 2013

Memories of Number 1 Internment Camp Harare

June 10, 1940 - onward

Mr. Virgilio Vincenzo Garlzlo

This camp was for German and Italian families.

When Italy joined Germany in the war against England, we were arrested and put in camp with the Germans. I was only 12 years old at the time. The living conditions at the camp were quite reasonable and food was quite ample. The living quarters were for family units. The meals were prepared by cooks in separate kitchens for Italians and Germans because of the different eating habits. We also had separate dining rooms. The kitchens had wood burning stoves and the wood was chopped and cut by the internees themselves. The firewood was also chopped for hot water for the bathrooms.

The camps consisted of an inner barbed wire fence about 12 foot high and an outer fence which was of high voltage and if any animal came in contact with the fence the alarm would go off and the guards would run around the outside of the fence to see what had set the alarm off. We were not guarded by the police but by the army who were very nice and friendly to us always very helpful. We had a football field and a Boche field in the camp. We also had two lady teachers from outside the camp come to give the children lessons. We also had at a later stage Italian lessons as a lot of us could not speak Italian, only our Piemonti dialect.

In around 1943 we were allowed to go out of the camp for walks in groups and children were taken to town to the bioscope in the "Black Maria".

At the ending of the war we all went to Norton 30 km from town. We spent another 2 years there but this place had no fences and we were practically free. We remained there for 2 years as the government did not know what to do with us. They kept saying that we might be repatriated back to Germany and Italy. Eventually some Germans were sent back to Germany but most of us Italians were, set out free. Hoping this letter will help with your enquiries.

Mr. Virgilio Vincenzo Garlzlo.
16 May 2012


Photographs from this period are included below.

Please note that many of the Italians worked on farms in the area and the photograph below is marked:-

Glenara Farm, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, 160 acres in one on field of potatoes grown for Troops in Europe 1943-44. Italian prisoners helped to grow and maintain farm equipment.

Herbert Newmarch

Photograph is stamped J.R. Cooksey, 65 Second Street, Salisbury


Eddy Norris records his thanks and appreciation to Ermeilio curator of the Zonderwater Block Museum just outside Pretoria.

I visited this museum and was truly surprised at the wonderful work completed to retian their heritage. At Zonderwater there are over 250 graves of those that died in this camp.

In South Africa there were 18 camps, many f the pass road were built by these chaps.

I think it would be disrespectful of me to try and attempt to put more information down, simply said, I am not qualified and have requested Ermeilo to consider putting a brief report together for ORAFs.

I would also like to request the History Society of Zimbabwe to see and hopefully make available to ORAFs and pamphlets or reports on the chaps in Southern Rhodesia.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

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Ref. Rhodesia

The following information was greater than the permitted number of text permitted under comments and I now append Mike's Story.
Mike Taylor (UBHS) Writes:-
I have been fascinated by the comments about this grand old house. I re-attach the piece I wrote earlier, with a few amendments. Nothing further (of relevance) could be ascertained. How interesting Bob Manser attended a talk on the house all those years ago. I am very interested in the provenance of the house - and that it passed through so many hands and is now a restaurant- and would love to know more. I have somewhere in my scrapbooks a photocopy of a watercolour painted by my mother, Molly Brooks, of Lorelei as we knew it. Hopefully I can lay my hand to it!

Thank you again for all the interesting snippets you bring to enrich our lives.

Mikes recollection;:-

I read with interest of what you refer to as the spook house, and would like to add a personal flavour to the story, if I may. The house, Lorelei, as we knew it, (just inside the front door hung a framed translation of the song The Lorelei) belonged to a dear relation of mine - we called her ‘aunt’; she was in fact my father Neville Brooks’ father William Arthur’s sister, Millicent Williams (nee Brooks), so my Great Aunt. She was married to Vernon Williams, and they ran a dairy farm there. Of their three children, only one reached adulthood, as it were. Billy was killed, at about 18 years old, we believe by a milking stool at the hands of an inebriated help in the dairy; Fairy, the baby daughter died of diphtheria, and Bob (NAF) Williams was the third.

He and his family, his wife Marize, and children Michael, Prudence and Christopher lived in the house built on the property, named Chirimba. Marize’s sister Claire was married to a man (John Dale) who was one of only two survivors on the oil tanker, the ‘SS Doryssa’ which was torpedoed near Durban. None of the Williams children have married, and all live elsewhere.

Lorelei, when we knew it, was an imposing stone - unpainted - and set among rock formations, all with names. Bee Rock, Swimming Pool Rock, (there was a pool in amongst the rocks and one could dive from some at varying heights depending on one’s level of bravery...)and Dairy Rock are just some that spring to mind. Under Bee rock, thus named as it was festooned with enormous dripping hives, was the little family graveyard.

Vernon did not like indoor plumbing and there was a long-drop outside, under Lav Rock naturally. When he died Auntie Mill had a loo built upstairs just outside her bedroom, on what was really the roof. It was quite scary to go, literally outside, from the landing to use it.

As a family we used to gather every Sunday for afternoon tea, presided over by Auntie Mill, and a proper tea was beautifully served, with bread and butter, sandwiches, cakes, scones and jam - the lot.  After tea the children played outside, the men repaired to the Billiards Room, and the women folk sat in the sitting room. We used to play a quaint game called Jumbalo, (which was a complicated version of ‘open gates’) on the huge sweeping sandy driveway.  As evening drew in we gathered once more in the sitting room and Auntie Mill would lead us on the piano in songs such as ‘Daisy, Daisy ...’ Hungry children could eat bread and egg-in-a-cup (which had been prepared earlier and left on the old stove).

Huge extended family gatherings - Williams, Brooks, Singleton, Cummings, Wilsons, Parkers - took place at Christmas, where an elaborate series of games was a pre-dinner special feature. Divided young with old, we would undertake various tasks as disparate as picking up marbles with chopsticks, cutting tape with nail-scissors, guessing the provenance of ties, naming the famous faces ... before sitting down to a sumptuous Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. I had an early lesson in graciousness from my aunt. Sitting next to her, I noticed she had put mayonnaise on her Christmas Pudding, instead of cream, and when I called her attention to it, she said it was bad manners to cavil about food and ate it, uncomplainingly, to the last crumb.

Bobby drove a beautiful grey Bentley, and Marize a dashing white Jag. Vernon had a car in the garage, but I do not remember seeing it on the road, nor its make.

We had many happy times in that gracious old home, and were unaware of its provenance, as children are. I have not heard of its later owners, but knew it housed BSAP members. My immediate family and I left Zimbabwe in 1981, and have often talked of Lorelei and its happy associations. Our extended family live scattered across the globe, and of those venerable old spirits of my father’s generation and the one of which Auntie Millie was a typical example - sadly they are no more. So, I have no one to ask if my recollections are correct, but I think they are pretty accurate.


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At 10 June 2013 at 20:25 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

I found that post really interesting, mainly because at the end of the war when they released all the Germans and Italians, the Government moved "poor" Rhodesians into the internment camps and I happened to be one of those Rhodesians. (My father suddenly died leaving my mother with no support and four young children) The first seven years of my life were spent behind barbed wire fences, although the main gate was always opened. The camp was renamed Beatrice Road Cottages and was a wonderful place for a young child to grow up. We had our own little kindergarden school, a roller skating rink, a laundry and the little houses were brick built and very comfortable. All the roads were tarred. Plus the fact it was a very tight community. The only downside was it did attract a criminal element and as a youngster you could always tell when someone was released from jail because the prison authorities gave them a suit and a bus ticket. There were some larger than life characters who lived there such as Peter Platt who was a motorcycle racer and later a mercenary in the Congo, Billy Crauser and his brothers who were gangsters and the Parson family who ran the Cottages. The government started building African townships next to the Cottages and eventually the white people were moved out and it became part of the Harare township. I remember going back there in the late seventies and it was still the same.

Vic MacKenzie
Fallbrook southern California.

At 11 June 2013 at 09:54 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Stu Walton Writes:-

This was such an interesting article. Thank you for posting it.

Wouldn't it be so interesting to be able to tag the people in the photos, as we had so many Italians at school with us back in the '60's, and maybe some of the people in these photos would have been the parents of the kids at school with us.

At 11 June 2013 at 20:08 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

My wife's late step-father, Egon Groeger, was a Sergeant at the Italian internment camp near Fort Victoria. Egon was Jewish and had escaped from Vienna by the skin of his teeth when the Nazis arrived. Being Austrian he was briefly interned at the outbreak of war before it was realised he was actually an ally. However, he was called up for guard duties at the Fort Victoria camp. We still have his ID card somewhere.

He told a story about some of the Italian prisoners breaking out of the camp to spend the weekends with female company in the local kraals. They always returned voluntarily by Monday morning! Apparently at the end of the war many of them applied to stay on in Rhodesia but the government insisted that they be repatriated to Italy and apply from there. I remember that in Bulawayo in the 60s and 70s there were a number of prominent citizens who had gone this route.

I hope this snippet will be of interest.

John Andrews (BSAP)

At 12 June 2013 at 14:50 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12 June 2013 at 15:38 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

The Spook House
An interesting house built by Italians in Internment

By Bob Manser (RhAF)

Please note that this article has been appended to Memories of Number 1 Internment Camp Harare

Many Harare folk will know well the old stone white house on the Mutare Road in Msasa. It was on the right hand side of the road going out of town just before Jaggers Hyperstore or going back a few years , near the old Drive In Cinema . It was always known as the White House or the Spook House. It was near the Outdoor Living Centre and the last owner I remember was a Mr Rhodes who owned the Centre. Not sure who owns it now but I believe it has become a successful restaurant.

The Williams family first owned this house and I remember vaguely going on a History Society trip to the house and listened to a very interesting talk by Doctor Williams , and he maintained that the house was built by Italians who were interned during the war. It was I believe the very very first house in Msasa which was on big farm owned by the Williams family. Hence all the roads in Msasa are a confusion of names, Williams Way, Martin Drive, Stephen Drive, George Drive, George Avenue Neil Avenue, Roberts Drive etc., all Williams family members I should imagine.

This talk was many years ago and my memory of the talk is a bit rusty. He did mention that one of the family, a young girl died of typhoid or some such disease and her ghostly form was often seen wandering around the kitchen.
He also mentioned that in years gone by , some BSAP chaps were renting his cottage next door. They maintained that one day they saw a very old model car approach the gate, when they went outside to see who it was, the car had disappeared into thin air. When they described the car to Dr Williams, he said it had belonged to his father or grandfather , both long dead,.

So it has not been named the spook house for nothing.

Also one of our other History Society members, I think it was Richard Wood, mentioned that the tall granite boulders behind the house had a previous gruesome history , and these were supposedly used by the Shona to throw various folk to their deaths from these boulders for certain misdeeds, or witch hunts etc long before the Spook House was built.

So all in all an eerie area.

Maybe some members of the History Society can add to this or correct any errors I may have inadvertently made.

Comments are always welcome, please mail them to Eddy Norris at

As always, thanks to Bob for sharing this story with ORAFs.

At 13 June 2013 at 12:59 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

The Spook House

Doug Smith (RhAF) Writes:-
It is still there. Rhodes did own it. He has passed away. Brian Rhodes was from Karoi area and his nick name was TSOTSE. He was a problem child.

He owned the outdoor living centre and many acres in that area. One of our famous rally drivers stayed there, Hanas Kruger.
I went there when he lived there. Very narrow doors and very airy. To have spooks there, it would not surprise me. It then became a restaurant after Hanas moved out. I am unsure if it is still running but the house is still there.
It reminds me of the big house behind the seven miles hotel out on the Harare south road. It burnt down and not even the locals would go near it. Also meant to be haunted.

At 13 June 2013 at 20:21 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Ian Mckenzie (RhAF) Writes:-

I lived across the road from the Spook House in the late seventy in Greengrove. Funny, the house always intrigued me and one day I when across to look around. Surprised to see a swimming pool which was someway away from the house amongst the large granite rocks. Never went near the house, thank goodness.
Glad that I went in daylight. If I had known this was the Spook House I would never have ventured here in the first place.

At 15 June 2013 at 09:54 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

David Bruce Writes:-

This house sounds like Lorelei which was right next door to the Drive In on the Umtali Road and was owned by NAF Williams. It was rented by members of C.I.D. Salisbury and I was one of its occupants in 1964-5. There were huge boulders alongside the house with a swimming pool under them. It is news to me that it was haunted.

At 16 June 2013 at 10:28 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Bob Manser (RhAF) Writes:-

If Doctor Williams who owned the house says it was haunted and told a large gathering of us History Society members at an organized talk, then I believe Doctor Williams. I think he was not a Medical Doc but agriculture or something technical ? Mind is rusty. It’s reputation as Spook House goes back donkeys years, amazed Dave did not know or even hear the rumours as I was in Salisbury from 1954 and it was always called the Spook House then

It was Doc Williams himself who told us of the incident with the BSAP guys and the old mystery car also.

At 16 June 2013 at 10:30 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Eddy Norris (ORAFs) Writes:-

Bob, I think it is brilliant that your article has received so much attention, like I say. our methos of recording memories is better than research, we have a wonderful cross section of memories.

At 24 June 2013 at 19:31 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

John Mussell (RhAF) Writes:-

I was interested to see mentioned in the piece, The Spook House, the name of Neville Brooks.
There was a person of that name in the SRAAF. Here is an extract from Dave Barbour's story in Our Rhodesian Heritage.
"I was introduced to Battle formation by Lt Neville Brooks (an Auxiliary Officer designated to be one of the Flight Commanders of the soon to be formed No.1 Squadron SRAAF)"
I take it that they were one and the same person.

At 11 April 2016 at 19:29 , Blogger Itai Mazire said...

Hey there, M journalist and I am doing a documentary on the internment camps in Harare, my main focus is on the Beatrice Cottages Camp that housed Italians and Germans during the WW11. Recently young children playing in the area, discovered-what appeared to be a bunker or trenches. I have made some researh but it seems there is no information about these bunker or trenches. I was hoping to get information about these underground bunker or holding jail at the Italian
internment camp

At 25 June 2019 at 10:41 , Blogger Angel Claudia said...

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