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Remembered Today:

Employment of POW`s


bts1970
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Good morning

Couple of questions

I have been researching purton for 7 years now, just finishing the section regarding the remount depot there. In a private archive of papers i have come across a receipt from the "Wilts War agricultural Committee, Castle house, trowbridge"

It details the work done by POW`s (21 acres ploughed) with a charge of £26, 11 & 3.

I believe that the work was done at the remount Depot as opposed to private land, i wonder if the employment of POW`s always led to a bill that was paid & then the money reclaimed in some other way through the War office.......or would Mr robson have asked for POW assistance & therefore been charged almost as if it was a private job?

and

I have seen a couple of refrences regarding POW`s working in the Village, where was the nearest established POW camp (Purton in Wiltshire)

Many thanks

Bob

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I can't help with the specific case but some idea of how POWs working round here (Tenbury Wells/Clee Hill) were accmodated and used may provide possible insights. The men were used in ones and twos on local farms but were not kept in a classic POW camp, rather farm out buildings were converted to provide a dormitory and kitchen and from here the men would walk each morning to wherever their labour had been allocated and then return in the evening. They seem to have been very loosley supervised (if at all) as a report on a drowning in the river at Burford suggests. It appears that a group of POWs were returning from work on a Farm on Clee Hill and found that the footbridge that they normally used to cross the river was under repair and could not be used.Walking to Tenbury and crossing on the bridge there would add a couple of miles on their journeyand night was falling.Nevertheless most of them did this but one man decided that he could wade across. He did not arrive back at the dormitory and his body was later recovered from the Bristol Channel. This would suggest that either they were not escorted or the escort was very lax and the whole arrangement was very 'informal'. If this model was typical it is possible that there need not have been a major POW camp nearby.

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Bob.

Re: Purton. It is very likely that they came from POW Work Camp at Chiseldon.

The information comes from Prisoners of War in British Hands during WW1.Graham Mark, The Postal History Society, 2007. This is an excellent publication which gives the locations of POW Camps across the UK, and the type of camp it is. There is also a list of German escapers dates of escape, capture etc. Although the bulk of the book is about the history of German POW Mail in the UK, it is a first class reference work. It is not cheap, but a worthwhile purchase for those interested in such things.

TR

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I would have posted much as Terry has done. In Wiltshire all the main PoW camps were attached to airfields and army camps, and Chisledon* was the only one in the north of the county.

List of Places of Internment published by the Prisoner of War Information Bureau in 1919 includes sites some way from military camps: Chippenham (agricultural camp), Devizes (agricultural depot), Barney Farm (two miles west from Ramsbury), and Wootton Bassett (agricultural camp), all under the control of Dorchester PoW Camp. There would also have been attachments of small working-parties to individual farms.
In June 1918 migratory gangs of PoWs, each of 10 prisoners with two guards, started to work on the harvest in Wiltshire and other counties. Transport and accommodation was arranged by the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture, with the local army Command supplying rations and any tents that might be required. Some gangs were withdrawn after the harvest, but many remained working until repatriation. (National Archives HO 45/11025/410118 – no Wiltshire detail)
In 1918 the Government was considering how best to use the labour supply offered by German PoWs. NA file NATS 1/569 contains a list drawn up in October of camps that might be visited by a trade testing party to determine the aptitudes of prisoners. Noted are 144 PoWs at Chisledon, 179 at Codford, 844 at Lark Hill and 194 at Perham Down.
* I have opted for the more common spelling of "Chisledon" during the Great War, though instances of Terry's version exist, including, I believe a rare camp postmark. Today "Chiseldon" is the preferred form.
Moonraker
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Many thanks for the answers. I suspected that there was a Camp at Chiseldon but wasn`t sure.

In Ethel Richardson`s book "Remembrance Wakes" she stated that 1000 POW`s were to be housed at Purton Manor, but Miss Walsh refused to accept them & their Military guard. I have never been sure how true this statement was as I cannot see what employment in the area they may have been used for.

She does also state that her Sons farm employed POW`s as well.

With regard to the invoice, I can see it being a way of the system receiving money by using the POW force as hired hands to civilian work.

post-21863-0-19149300-1391174573_thumb.j

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... In Ethel Richardson`s book "Remembrance Wakes" she stated that 1000 POW`s were to be housed at Purton Manor, but Miss Walsh refused to accept them & their Military guard. I have never been sure how true this statement was as I cannot see what employment in the area they may have been used for.

I suspect one of the many mis-remembered stories from Wiltshire during the war. I could give a 30-minute talk on the subject! There are other local cases of figures "growing" exponentially; the number of soldiers based in the county, the number of Canadians dying from meningitis, the number of prostitutes working near the camps. It wouldn't surprise me if the actual figure was 10, though there might have been a case for some sort of accommodation - say, for a hundred PoWs - to supply farms and the like in North Wiltshire, given the absence of military establishments there.

Moonraker

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That's a fine photo.

Ethel bless her got carried away a couple of times, she stated that 300 from the Village enlisted in the first week!!!, my research has confirmed 10 with potentially 50 others already in service or recalled from reserve. But I do like this story....

“One Sunday afternoon our servants told us they had seen a man, dressed as a Scoutmaster seated on our fence, and that, on seeing he was observed by them, had hastily mounted his motor bicycle,and ridden off”. A few days later whilst driving to Brinkworth they were hailed by a Military policeman. “Beg your pardon sir, have you happened to see a man on a motor bicycle, dressed as a Scoutmaster? He is a dangerous international spy; slept in Wootton Bassett last night, and is going about the country sketching pieces of water, he was at Red Lodge a day or two ago. He has been trying to sell drugged sweets to the soldiers. We later heard that the Scout master was caught, promptly tried and shot”, the cunning Hun was everywhere, even in Purton it seems.

Bob

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  • 1 year later...

Hi everyone,

I have just come across this interesting thread. I have just written a book on the POW camp at Dorchester, which includes a chapter on work. What is evident from my research is that the employment of prisoners, particularly on farms was fraught with problems, In 1916 The British government came up with a scheme for employing prisoners in agriculture, but it was far from popular

with the County Agricultural Committees, who felt the practical problems too overwhelming, and it was not until 1918 that the scheme was implemented fully. In the meantime, camps like Dorchester were not slow to take the initiative. Prisoners were working on local farms and in the town before the end of 1914.

More information on this topic is in my book, Living with The Enemy, Dorchester's Great War Camp, priced £9.99. Copies are available from me or from Amazon and Waterstones.

Brian.

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  • 2 years later...
  • Admin
9 minutes ago, Judy C said:

Can anyone help me understand more about the Wootton Bassett POW camp in WW1?

Judy

Welcome to the forum

 

I would suggest you post a new thread as it is more likely to elicit attention and replies. Probably keeping it in Places & Infrastructures.

 

Good luck with your research

 

David

 

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