Origins of the term "Displaced Persons"
Why "the Fifth Fleet"?
Those who fled west from the Soviet invasions of 1944-45 and the terrors of previous temporary invasions were regarded initially merely as people displaced to Germany, Austria and France by warfare. Britain, France and the United States believed that they would return to their homelands when peace was restored.
A small number did accept the offers from Soviet officials who toured the camps in the British, French and American zones. To the surprise of the occupying powers, the majority were adamant that they had already experienced enough of Communism. As the Cold War developed during 1945-47, the Western allies began to understand that return to the homeland would be a solution for few.
Other people displaced into the British, French and American zones were ethnic Germans who were expelled from the Communist-occupied countries in retaliation for Hitler's invasions and destruction. From an official point of view, they were the former nationals of the countries which had expelled them, now stateless. The earlier Displaced Persons from Eastern Europe were also "unwilling or unable to avail themselves of the protection of their country of nationality", to quote the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Although that 1951 international treaty applied initially only to people in Europe like the refugees from what had become the Soviet Union and its satellites, the "Displaced Persons" term had stuck.
The Fifth Fleet
If you are Australian, you know that 26 January is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788. To refresh the details in your memory, visit the Wikipedia article on the First Fleet.
The arrival of the Second Fleet in June 1790 was spread over a period of three weeks, mostly because half of its six ships had set off a different times. One ship had been wrecked off the Cape of Good Hope, leading to a voyage in a lifeboat which rivalled Captain Bligh's from the Bounty to Batavia at about the same time. Click here to read more.
The 11 ships of the Third Fleet drifted into Sydney Cove during the year of 1791. It is said that, by this time, the British Admiralty had given up the idea of organizing fleets to send the convicts to Australia.
While the wealthier ship-owners over the next century or more may well have possessed fleets of ships, their voyages to Australia were organized one by one.
The title "Fourth Fleet" has already been claimed by CJ Smee for a book he published in 1992, a compilation of the passenger lists for the three ships which carried convicts, guards and administrators to the infant Australia in 1792.
The ships which carried Displaced Persons to Australia after World War Two, under contract to the International Refugee Organization, represent the next time in Australia's history that settlers came in a group of ships "owned or operated as a unit".
They were Australia's Fifth Fleet.