Wednesday 30 January 2008 by Nick Fletcher. 3 comments
News, Personal Stories, New acquisitions

Escape maps, medals and military insignia from an infamous German prisoner of war camp are among the latest additions to the Australian War Memorial's collection.

Medals and photographs from Lieutenant JR Jack Millet’s Colditz collection

The items belonged to WA-born Lieutenant JR 'Jack' Millet who enlisted in 1940 with 2/11 Infantry Battalion. He served in the Middle East before being captured by the Germans on Crete in May 1941.

After several escape attempts, Millet was sent to Oflag IV-C, the 'escape-proof' high security prisoner of war camp for officers popularly known as 'Colditz'.

Millet was famed for producing high quality escape maps, essential documents for allied prisoners trying to escape from occupied Europe. He was one of approximately 20 Australians interned at Colditz. The last survivor of that group, he died in Perth in 1999.

Items from Lieutenant JR Jack Millet’s Colditz collection, including hand-drawn escape maps, currency and a compass

Millet's Colditz collection includes medals, photographs of himself with other Australian and allied prisoners in Colditz, several hand drawn escape maps, and a key he manufactured to give prisoners access to the German food store in the camp.

The new additions are significant for the Memorial's collection. Although there is considerable material held on prisoners of the Japanese, items relating to Australians captured in Europe and the Middle East are much less common.

The Axis powers in Europe (Germany and Italy) captured 8,591 Australian personnel during the Second World War, moving them to camps in Germany, Austria or Poland.

Lieutenant Jack Milett

Lieutenant John (Jack) Robert Millett was born in 1912 in Olive Street, Subiaco. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to York for ten years, before moving again to Leederville.

In 1927 Jack began working for General Motors in Cottesloe assembling cars and studying blacksmithing, carpentry, mechanics, and (in what would later be very important) technical drawing.

During the depression, Jack and his father traveled to the Pilbara region's goldmines. Jack then returned to Perth as a panel beater; joining the Army Reserves in 1937 and marrying Irene Cary in 1938.

Jack sailed from Fremantle as a Lieutenant in the 2nd/11th unit in 1940. He first saw action in the Western Desert in the initial attack on Tobruk and then at Derna and Gazi before being shipped to Greece, where he was captured in the fall of Crete.

Jack was taken to a prisoner of war camp where he provided detailed maps to escapees in a large-scale tunnel break out. He was identified as a ring-leader by the Germans, and moved to Colditz with other escapees, including ten other Australians. At Colditz, Jack continued to help with maps, and his reputation as the 'map maker of Colditz' is documented in various publications, most notably The Diggers of Colditz by Jack Champ and Colin Burgess.

Jack Millett passed away in December 1999.

Comments

Australian War Memorial» Blog Archive » How to m

[...] many copies of a map was through jelly mimeograph. Recently the Memorial acquired the collection of Jack Millett, a Western Australian man captured at Crete who later became the main map maker in Colditz. The [...]

Marco

Hello, I also have a few items from the Australians in Oflag IVC Maybe you would like to have them for your collection. Regards Marco Jacobs Netherlands

Michael Booker

I am on holiday near Perth at present and read your interesting comments about obtaining the MI9 jelly maps originals the property of Millet a well known Australian at Colditz. My friend Colin Burgess has written the best book available about the Australians in Colditz and also another friend Marco Jacobs, of Holland should be taken up on his offer of items from Australian POWs at Colditz. I was interested to see a copy of my book 'Collecting Colditz and its secrets' at the excellent Connolly library during a recent visit, Michael Booker