Stories of Remembrance

Army, Second World War (1939-45)Lieutenant Trevor Conor Knaggs,2nd Australian Imperial Force

On Sundays, when the wives came to visit, they were always taken to nearby Mount Hopeful - next door was Mount Disappointment.
Conor Knaggs

Lieutenant Trevor Conor Knaggs began his working career in 1932 as an office boy in an insurance company.  In 1939, at the outbreak of war, he joined up to train with the Citizens Military Forces - he thought if he knew a bit about fighting, he stood a better chance of surviving.

He enlisted in the Army in July 1942 and served as a Gunner with 2 Field Regiment, firing 25-pounders in the Owen Stanley Ranges of New Guinea.  His two brothers also served in New Guinea, one at Milne Bay and the other in Z Special.

On his return to Australia towards the end of the war, and now with the rank of Lieutenant, he spent the last three months of his Army career in Prisoner-of War Camps in regional Victoria.

Dhurringile was a camp for German officers and he was placed on guard duty on his first night there.  The orders stated:  ‘Prisoners must be counted once by day and once by night.’  At 6.00 pm he counted 199 prisoners; in the morning he counted again - there were only 197!  The Sergeant suggested he ‘must have made a mistake,’ so he counted again.....197!!  The prisoners had to stand and wait while a third count was made - this time he called the names and discovered 2 orderlies were missing.  They were recovered one day after their escape and marched back to camp in their underwear - a disgrace for the proud German prisoners.

At Dhurringile prisoners included the officers from the German raider HSK Kormoran which sank the Sydney in a naval battle in 1942.  Conor described prisoner Theodore Detmers, Captain of the Kormoran, as ‘one of the old time German Officers.  He knew every dot of the Geneva convention.’  Detmers would complain on behalf of the other prisoners as he was ‘the senior man inside the wire.’

When observing military protocols within the camps, guards were required to salute senior officers.  Australian guards were, however, reluctant to acknowledge the rank of the enemy.  Conor described it as ‘...a bit of a wave, rather than (a) salute.”

Conor also recollected that prisoners had volumes of technical books.  “We would go through the huts looking for ammo, poison, and bombs.  One day, one of them was reading a book - a big new book on building.  Being curious, I asked “What are you doing?” and he replied “there will be a lot of building to be done in Germany after the war.”

For the guards, life could be tough.  Those posted to Dhurringile lived in tents and the food was poor.  Conor said, with a smile:  “On Sundays, when the wives came to visit, they were always taken to nearby Mount Hopeful - next door was Mount Disappointment.”   

This Story of Remembrance was compiled through the research of the Exhibitions and Collections team at the Shrine of Remembrance.

  • Name Trevor 'Conor' Knaggs
  • Service Number VX146448
  • Date of Birth 20 April 1917
  • Place of Birth Armadale, Victoria
  • Date of Enlistment 23 July 1942
  • Date of Discharge 10 April 1946
  • Date of Death 11 May 2013
  • Place of Death East Brighton, Victoria

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