The story of the men that created the notes used in the Hay Internment Camp was recounted in popular culture most explicitly in the 1980's TV series produced by the BBC titled "The Dunera Boys". The full story of the notes is far less well known - particularly the fact that the designs either side contain a range of "hidden" messages within them.
The "Dunera Boys" included musicians, artists, philosophers, scientists and writers - their living facilities at Camp Hay were basic, many said that was boredom that was the greatest enemy.
Internees organised educational and artistic projects, including lectures, concerts and camp newspapers. One such project was the creation of these currency notes that were intended to be used within the confines of the internment camp. The designer of the notes, George Teltscher, clearly revelled in the intellectual and artistic challenge that the design process offered, as he deployed several design devices that have proven to have an enduring appeal to historians and collectors.
Numerous Hidden Messages Can Be Found In the Designs on Both Sides
Aficionados of these notes have long known that three relatively obvious hidden messages can be found in the simultan designs across the front of the note:
- The designer’s name “Eppennstein” can be seen within the fleece of the merino;
- The phrase “We Are Here Because We Are Here” can be seen in the barbed wire perimeter of the note; and
- The phrase “HMT Dunera Liverpool to Hay” can be seen in the barbed wire running across the face of the note, on the ground at the base of the fence poles.
Research in recent years has determined that the back of the notes are also thought to contain hidden text. Although this research is not yet complete, the names of each of the internees that were assigned to Hut 26 at Camp 7 in Hay are believed to be hidden within the fleeces of the 25 merino rams.
Further research by several enthusiastic amateur historians researching the case of "...one of Australia's most baffling cold case mysteries - The Somerton Man" has asserted that the designs of these notes may contain many more messages than has been previously determined. Those messages are thought to have been written in micro code within or under minor aspects of the ink either side. Click this link to read more about the theories they have proposed).
Just whether those theories have any merit or not is still a matter of some debate, however it is clear that Teltscher's work was sophisticated enough that it occupies fertile minds some 8 decades later.
The considered opinion to date is that these hidden messages were not intended to be seditious or subversive in any way, but simply a way for the internees to express their intelligence and creativity.
It will be interesting to see whether research exploring any of the new theories confirm that conclusion.