Harperley POW Camp / Locations / United Kingdom

Harperley POW Camp – A Brief History

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Harperley Prisoner of War Camp, co. Durham, UK – Camp 93

There were approximately 1500 POW camps in WW2 in Britain but only 100 were purpose built, such as Harperley. The initial 54 buildings were constructed to MOD plans using MOD materials and typical of many military installations around Wartime Britain. 49 buildings remain in varying states of decay; they were built to last 15 years.

Located on a hill above the River Wear approximately 250m West of the A68 & A689 junction. It was built on farmland from the Spring of 1943 by its first occupants. Italian POW’s. and the camp’s life expectancy was then estimated to be 15 years.

Harperley Camp was a purpose-built structure to house low security risk prisoners numbering from 800 to 1500 men. It was also a headquarters camp, eventually controlling a further 10 satellite camps across North East England. These in turn, were run by NCO’s housing in total, a further 500 POW’s making the maximum number controlled from Harperley 2000 men.

Shortly after the Italian Government had capitulated & its Army surrendered some of the prisoners were repatriated and the remainder who did not leave were moved to other camps, such as Bedburn and Consett.

The German POWs arrived in September 1944, three months after D-Day, 6 th June 1944. Initially, they were transported to America, Canada , the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand. If Hitler & the Axis Powers had successfully invaded, the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, did not want to supply a ready-made army stationed in Britain, albeit under lock & key.

British guards to the North & Prisoners to the South ! The Prisoners (firstly , the Italians, then, secondly, the Germans) in their compound were self-governing and catered to their own needs. The guards entered only if there was trouble, or, they were invited in. There are no evident reports of trouble here at Harperley.

The current owners purchased Harperley late in 2001, a vision of the past & the future. It had to be first cleared of the 2 metre high thorns & bracken, the green slimy concrete paths & roadway and rid it of it’s resident vermin population.

Harperley was included in the first series of the BBC TV ‘Restoration ‘ programme, which helped to obtain funding to refurbish the interiors of the British guards’ accommodation I known now as the Garden Centre, Gift & Farm Shops and the immensely popular Tea Rooms & ‘Der Que ll ’ Restaurant building. The ‘Prisoner side ‘ was to be another venture by the owners possibly storing plant & farm machinery or a poultry farm until their interest grew from the sights and buildings they uncovered. The owners eventually placed a local newspaper advertisement and, subsequently, were contacted by ex-POWs, ex-Guards and local residents. One ex-POW in particular has played a prominent part.

At its height, Harperley held from 800 to 1500 prisoners and they were counted out and either loaded onto different forms of transport, or marched, to work, 6 days a week at 7am, locally to agricultural, dam, forestry, road and other labour consuming projects. They returned 12 hours later at 7pm. Depending upon their skills they could earn 6d (or 2 1/2 pence) a week – British agricultural workers could earn 75 shillings (or £3.75p). Some surviving prisoners inform us they ‘blew’ their wages on things such as ‘…a slice of fruitcake and a bottle of pop ‘. However. regulations stated POWs were not allowed to carry cash and their wages were placed in a central fund from which they collectively benefited. On their return from their daily work they would march to the only entrance & exit from the ‘Prisoner side’ to be given”…their personal GIFT from King George VI, three horrible cigarettes !” (Incidentally. Gift in German means POISON !).

The API Team, along with invited guests teams, remain proud of the fact that they were the first team to officially investigate a prisoner of war camp in the UK. We remain the only team to date which has been allowed the privilege of investigating Harperley,  POW Camp 93.

Harperley POW Camp – Prisoners

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List of Known German Prisoners
Peter Hoentsch  Rudolf Bernig
Gunter Bunke  Rudi Doering
Gerald Hayden  Rudi Hauff
Eduard Jaden  Karl Heinz
Rudi Lux  Christian Hoemann
Bernd Carl “Bert” Trautmann   Berholt Klinger
Reinhard Nieke  Benno Lugering
Johannes Heerdegen  Heinz Muller
Hans Vees  Gunther Wolkenhauer

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