English POW Camps: authorisation to build, etc

Discussion in 'UK PoW Camps' started by duckscross72, Feb 25, 2021.

  1. duckscross72

    duckscross72 New Member

    Ducks Cross No.72 POW camp Wilden Bedfordshire.

    I lived from childhood from the 1950's up to the 80's during the time when my parents owned part of the camp.
    We lived in two of the concrete huts joined together which was our "bungalow". Over the years I've collected a good deal of interesting information but one thing that I always wondered is why this site was chosen.
    I have a secret document of 14/03/1942 giving permission for the camp to be built but cant find anything in the local county records regarding planning.
    The farmer it seems never sold the land to the ministry and was handed the land back after the war complete
    with all the buildings.
    Can anybody give an answer please as to how sites were chosen.
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Prisoners of War in Bedfordshire
    Stephen Risby - author

    Prisoners of War in Bedfordshire is a blend of local military and social history, placed in a national context. Stephen Risby seeks to answer important questions such as why were prisoners of war brought to Bedfordshire during the darkest days of the Second World War? How did most of them come to be trusted and allowed to roam the area unguarded? What was their lifestyle really like? The circumstances surrounding the building of a prisoner of war camp at Ducks Cross in north Bedfordshire go some way to explaining these questions, providing an insight into the British public's changing view of 'the enemy'. Despite today's rosy recollections, these relationships were not always easy. The murder of Private Hands by an escaping Italian and its aftermath would result in the only known incident of armed combat between an enemy soldier and the Home Guard. Prisoners of War in Bedfordshire will interest both residents of Bedfordshire and those seeking a broader knowledge of the lives and fortunes of Italian and German prisoners in the United Kingdom.

    It could be as simple enough that extra hands were needed in particular areas to help feed the rest of the country

    Lindele likes this.
  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    have a read through this


    Eden was one of 487 PoW camps hastily thrown up across Britain to house more than 400,000 incoming prisoners during the Second World War,” says Bob Moore, professor of 20th-century European history at the University of Sheffield. “At first, these were almost all Italians, seized in northeast Africa as the allies gained ground in Egypt, Eritrea, Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland. Initially, the vast majority of captured Germans were shipped out directly to Canada; many Italians, too, were dispatched to Britain’s former dominions, to India or South Africa. But those who were taken to Eden and the other British camps weren’t here to see out the rest of the war behind barbed wire; they were here to work.”
    British PoW camps
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    This paper attempts to fill an apparent gap by tracing the development of a complex military settlement system, now largely obliterated by normal forces of change and decay, and by analyzing the policies which led to the location, operation and evolution of the camp sites.
  5. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  6. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Key issues were: What was the need? Generally agriculture, so it had to be a rural area with local agricultural labour demand as the prisoners would be controlled in where they worked by the County agricultural committee. Land was either loaned by a farmer or requisitioned. Second, it had to be away from other sensitive military installations which at the time were generally UK forces. I recall guidance on mileage separation was given by the War Office. The US building programme under Bolero was only just kicking off in later 1942 so that did not come into it in the early stages. Camp numbers were generally 1941-1944, but not always, issued in numerical order. I know 74 was a 1942 build. Camps were often constructed from the kit form buildings by the men themselves, while they lived in tents until huts were ready. I suspect if you find a map with the site shown, the huts are often fairly close together in symmetrical ranks as it meant a shorter perimeter fence. Generally they were about a 1000 men max, and commanded by a major and guarded by the Pioneer Corps. Most of them were quite old or physically or mentally too poor to serve in the front line. I have seen a record where the complaint was no deaf men should be used any longer as guards. Requisition records are missing for most, but not all counties, check the National Archives for those extant. Your local records office may have county agricultural executive committee records.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  7. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Camps originally were built for 500, but many were increased by extensions later. In addition, up to three out stationed hostels were built each for 60-70 men for some camps.However local factors permitted in Wales, one camp to have eight. The War Office ratios of guards to POWs worked out at 115 guards for a 500 bed camp at the beginning, 200 required 92 and 100, 81.Therefore they wanted camps to be a minimum of 500. The maximum size of an Italian POW camp was normally 1000 in the war years. National Archives LAB 8/126 Both my posts apply only to the war years Italian camps. German camp numbers went up to 12,000 in one extreme case.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Compulsory purchase or requisition.. wartime government legislation in order to have the means to prosecute war against the enemy.

    I have seen accounts in the past where he first thing a landowner, farmer or asset owner would know of the future of their asset would be when a War Office, Air Ministry or Admiralty official would turn up at the property and declared it would be used for war purposes if suitable. There was no planning process, the government had special powers to compulsory purchase or requisition any asset it saw fit. The majority of coastal hotels and country house were so requisitioned.

    Interestingly there was legislation effected10 years after the war for the return, by sale, of such assets to their former owners. This arose from the Crichel Down affair when a compulsory purchased asset, rather than being sold back to the previous owner was transferred from the Air Ministry to another government department. This was contrary to the promises made by the wartime government to former owners of the asset.

    Crichel Down affair - Wikipedia.

    From that I noted when the RAF finally shutdown RAF Kirton Lindsey, an official notice was attached to the locked off main entrance requesting by name the former owners of the land to get in touch with government agency dealing with the disposal of the asset. I think that there were three former owners of land listed. I have a photograph of the notice but not at hand.
    Osborne2 likes this.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    RAF Kirton Lindsey closure and disposal 2013

    Attached Files:

  10. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    My uncle was a farmer in Northumberland in those days and there was a POW camp up the back field . The area is still called the Camp..Post war belonged to the Army as a shooting range.
    Uncle had prisoners working for him and I met some of them - decent hardworking men. i assumed they were German but maybe italian.
    Almost all the land in that area belongs to the Duke of Northumberland and the farmers are tenant farmers. So they must have asked whoever was Duke at the timefor permission to build.
  11. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member

    Never forget the Dorset village of Tyneham.Requisitioned as a firing range,along with a vast acreage of land.Village shot to bits by tanks. Was never returned and still sits in the middle of the firing range.Building have been done up a little and made safe with public access allowed when not in use by army.
  12. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    Asking permission is being very polite. Dunham Park owned by the Earl of Stamford was told that they military wanted his park for a 3000 man camp next to his mansion and his woods were going to be cut down to make room. His only way out was to release another part of the estate well away from the Hall. Many farmers were just told to go when the Air Ministry came calling to build over 400 new airfields. The only really successful objectors tended to be the County Agricultural Committees who had control over all aspects of agriculture and who could force the military to go elsewhere if the land was exceptionally productive. Landed estates seem to have been a significant target as often parkland was not under the plough and therefore was not automatically deemed critical.
  13. duckscross72

    duckscross72 New Member

    Thanks all for the reply's. I have met with Stephen Risby author of the book Prisoners of War in Bedfordshire
    but he hadn't discovered why the site was chosen, I'll try the local records office again.

Share This Page