POW's in Huyton
Wartime camps in Huyton
By Paul Coslett
Recollections of a wartime camps in Huyton are being sought for a new drama documentary. Internees, prisoners of war and American G.I.'s all spent time in the area.
Wartime Camps in Huyton
There were three different wartime camps in Huyton
The Internment camp held foreign nationals from 1939
The POW camp was set up in 1943
American GIs were stationed in Huyton from 1944
Recollections of Huyton’s wartime camps are being sought for a new drama documentary.
During the Second World War, Huyton was home to an internment camp, a prisoner of war camp and a base for American G.I.s. The Prisoner of War camp only closed in 1948, amongst its inmates was Bert Trautmann who later went on to be goalkeeper for Manchester City.
Local actor/writers Mike Howl and Paul Strange are appealing for local residents to share their anecdotes of the camps; they are also keen to hear from descendants and survivors from the internment camp.
The internment camp was opened in 1939 and held mainly Italian and German nationals who had been resident in the U.K. Conditions in this camp seem to have been very bad with many inmates living in tents, making their own bedding from straws.
Prisoners with a motorbike
Mike Howl and Paul Strange have discovered documents in the National Archives that describe conditions in the camp. A letter to the MP Sir Waldron Smithers in 1940 details some of the problems in the camp. The writer L.W. Joyhson-Eicks describes the poor conditions of the internees “One gentleman was interned in Russia during the last war and thought that his experiences there were considerably preferable to being interned in England."
The frustration of the internees is also documented, “I have no doubt whatsoever that their physical condition is aggravated by their mental inaction. They have absolutely nothing to do all day long except brood over their misfortunes and wish they could get out.”
Joyhson-Eicks expresses his concern for the long term health of the internees, “Although it is only my personal opinion, I nevertheless do honestly believe that unless conditions in the Camp are improved there will be a number of these elderly internees who will not survive a Winter there.
“….I can honestly say that it is a long time since I can remember having spent a more miserable afternoon that I did on Tuesday at Huyton Camp.” Later in the war internees were transferred to a camp on the Isle of Man.
The Prisoner of War Camp opened in 1943 and held German serviceman who had been captured, amongst them Bert Trautmann who locals recall playing in a game against the local pub team, The Eagle and Child. Trautmann later became famous for playing through the 1956 FA Cup final despite having broken his neck.
Local residents appear to have been quite sympathetic. Irene Higgin's lived in Longview at the time and remembers passing food through to the Germans, “All these raggedy prisoners of war marched down to the camp.
“They were in an awful state. They looked really ill kept. They were put into these wooden Nissan huts, and a camp was set up.
“I think there was a lot of pity in Huyton then, because they were so bad in appearance. So everyone used to cluster round the wires and give them bits and bobs, what we had you know, bread sandwiches.”
A prisoner relaxing
Many of the P.O.W.’s stayed on in Huyton and married local girls. Officially they weren’t allowed to fraternise with their documentations as late as 1949 classing them as ‘aliens’.
Many of the prisoners of war were formed in to bomb disposal units to clear the numerous German bombs that had been dropped on the area.
A Red Cross report on the P.O.W. camp in 1947 listed 138 German prisoners living in 5 huts with electric lights, iron stoves and hot showers. Breakfast consisted of coffee and cake with bread and cheese for lunch and Salzkartoffeln (salted potatoes) and Goulash for dinner. The prisoners had no complaints about the food although the report comments that the “supply of underwear is short”.
From 1944 American G.I.s were stationed in the area and Huyton residents recall tensions between black and white U.S. serviceman running high culminating in a night known as ‘the shoot out at the Eagle and Child.’
Mike Howl is keen to hear from anyone with stories to tell of the camp “Even if it is just one anecdote, that’s great, because it could become a scene in the production.
“We talk to people, they’re not formal interviews, just informal chats really, as people remember the period. It’s an important piece of history that needs recording.”
Anyone with stories can contact Mike at email@example.com
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 14:27
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William Robert Huyton (BoB)
Jean Ritter nee Finch