Suffolk

Violin made at Braintree PoW camp restored

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Media captionThe sound of a violin found at a PoW camp and restored "sings out at you"

A violin made by a German soldier at an Essex prisoner of war camp has been restored and is to be played again.

The instrument is marked "1944" inside and was crafted at High Garret in Braintree, which held German and Italian prisoners during World War Two.

Russell Stowe, of Woodbridge Violins in Suffolk, said it was so well made it had to be the work of a professional.

"I've seen many violins in the past 25 years, but stringing this up was quite amazing," he said.

It is understood the craftsman was unable to take the violin back to Germany after the war, so he handed it to a British officer as a thank you for allowing him to make the instrument.

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Image copyright Braintree District Museum
Image caption High Garret in Braintree held German and Italian prisoners during World War Two

Inside is inscribed "Hergestellt in Englischer fangenschaft" (Made in English captivity).

The violin is now owned by David Powell, of Woodbridge, whose parents lived in Braintree and were given the instrument by an officer in 1945.

'Labour of love'

He is due to hear it played for the first time later on Thursday.

"It was always in and around the house, but I don't think it had any strings back then," he said.

"We have no idea where he got the wood from but he even boiled up his own glue.

Prisoner of War camps in Britain

400,000

German prisoners were brought to Britain in World War Two

  • 1,500 camps were created in stately homes, old barracks or huts

  • 20% of all farm work was being done by German PoWs in 1946

  • 250,000 Germans had been repatriated by 1947 but 24,000 decided to stay

  • 1948 last German PoWs left Britain

Getty Images
Image copyright Getty Images

"It's a labour of love."

Mr Stowe, who first saw the violin on Tuesday, said it only required minor repair work to make it playable.

"It's very, very well made and I've known amateur makers in proper workshops who do not make violins as good as this.

"The thing is very unusual because it was not made from the usual pine or maple - and that will influence how it sounds."

Image copyright Woodbridge Violins
Image caption It is thought the prisoner of war may been a professional violin-maker in civilian life

He said it was possible the violin body was made from a type of mahogany, with a packing material similar to a tea chest also used.

"This has got the touch of somebody who knows what they were doing and may have been a violin maker before the war started," he said.

"There were many violin-making families in Germany in the 1880s and 1890s."

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