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The General Langfitt Story

Appendix 1 - Passenger List

A list of passengers who boarded the USAT General W. C. Langfitt in Mombasa has been compiled from the IRO's 'Nominal Roll of Persons Departing from Tengeru Camp on 30 January 1950 and Koja Camp on 2 February 1950'. In the original document, the typeface in some names is very poor, making it difficult to transcribe all names accurately. In addition, some names on the roll have been crossed out completely, others crossed out and then amended with a 'stet' noted in the margin. The summary figures of the General Langfitt passenger list show that 295 people from the Koja camp and 885 from the Tengeru camp arrived aboard the General Langfitt, a total of 1180 people. The problems of determining the precise number of people who arrived in Australia aboard the General W. C. Langfitt are discussed in Chapter 6 but a profile of the passengers can be gleaned from age, gender, ethnic and religious identity, and occupational details provided in the 'Nominal Roll'.

Although there were 410 males, only around 156 were adult males. There were 757 females, approximately 402 of whom were adults, and 154 of these were widows. Around 30 per cent of the group were children under twelve years of age. There were also a number of infants under two years whose gender is not recorded. All but ten persons were Polish, five of these being Hungarian, four Bulgarian and one Czech. The majority (97 per cent) were Roman Catholic, the remainder mostly Jewish and Orthodox. Apart from the 17 per cent who described themselves as housekeepers and 16 per cent who were students, the group comprised mainly tradespeople (30 per cent), professionals (12 per cent), labourers and farm workers (11 per cent) and clerical workers (7 per cent). Several participants qualified the occupational categories listed in the General Langfitt passenger list on the grounds that the 'African' Poles were warned that the Australian Selection Commission gave preference to people with a trades skill or qualification. Thus many Poles with professional qualifications did not state this. There has been no way of verifying this, but a preference for tradespeople is certainly consistent with Australian immigration policy of the period.

These figures show that the 'General Langfitt Group' was quite a unique immigrant group for that time. It comprised mostly women and children, when the criterion for the selection of immigrants was generally couples with or without dependent children. The small number of adult males meant that the group also contained a greater proportion of young dependants than was usual. The occupational groupings given above show that it was also a relatively highly skilled group.

Members of the 'General Langfitt Group' are, however, no more or less exceptional than many other Polish people who have settled in Australia. Millions of Polish people were deported to the USSR. Thousands of these found their way to Australia via different routes than that of the 'General Langfitt Group'. Many other Poles, for example, were placed in European camps and a select few in the armed services training camps in England. Others ended up in German prisoner-of-war camps or have remarkable tales of surviving the Nazi occupation. Their experiences of deportation, separation and hardships would be no less horrific, just as their efforts in rebuilding their lives would be no less courageous.

The experiences of all Polish people who suffered the displacement of war could be summed up in the image of an older woman, after an interview on a rainy Sunday afternoon, gazing out of the window with hands held in prayer murmuring quietly in Polish. She offered a haunting reminder of the enduring reality of the trauma of war and displacement and the courage required to pack these experiences away in a box labelled 'the past' in order to successfully establish a new life in a new nation.

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Last reviewed Tuesday 19 November 2013

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