- Harperly POW Camp during the Second World War -
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Harperly POW Camp
Please note The Wartime Memories Project are Not the owners of Harperly Camp, the information on this page is provided for reference only, we are unable to assist with access to the site for any purpose.
Harperley, near Crook in County Durham was first used as a prisoner of war camp during the First and Second World Wars. Harperley Camp (camp 93) was a purpose-built camp, designed to house low security-risk POWs. At first the prisoners were housed in tents but prefabricated buildings were soon erected by the first Italian prisoners. By September 1944, most of the Italians had dispersed to hostels and farms to make way for around 900 German prisoners identified as ‘low risk’, who provided the area with a valuable workforce.
In 1999 the camp was for sale: Going for $160,000: one prisoner of war camp. Single owner, original buildings (somewhat used). The 17-acre camp, which has 50 prison huts, a chapel and a theater, was built by Italian POWs in the early 1940s, then used to hold captured Germans. It forms part of the 470-acre Low Harperley Farm in County Durham, northeast England, which has been put up for sale for $1.7 million after the death of farmer Charlie Johnson. One of the huts still contains original paintings by German prisoners, he said.
The camp was bought by Lisa and James McLeod who formed a charitable trust in order to develop the site into a museum to present the World War Two POW experience from the viewpoint of local people, as well as that of the prisoners and guards. Eight five percent of the original buildings remain, including all the main huts. It was a purpose-built camp, designed to house low security-risk POWs. The site was granted ancient monument status in July 2002, the first World War Two camp to be scheduled. The camp was recently featured on the BBC's Restoration programme. The camp originally had about 60 huts, with its own dentist, priest and chapel, an extensive library, and a large mess hut in which one of the prisoners painted murals of rural scenes in Bavaria. There was also a theatre, doubling as cinema, with stage, orchestra pit and tiered seating, and the prisoners cheered when Hitler or high-ranking German officers appeared on Pathe newsreels, and booed Churchill with gusto.
One of the better-known German ex-prisoners was Bert Trautmann, who volunteered for bomb disposal work in England after the war and became a professional goalkeeper, playing for Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup Final. He broke his neck making a spectacular save during the game and played on for the remaining 17 minutes of the match, despite great pain. A number of other PoWs stayed on. One, Rudi Lux, stayed not only because he married a local girl but also because his home town became part of the Eastern bloc after the war. During his time at Harperley, he was transported to Roker on the back of a lorry every day. He worked on removing large concrete anti-tank blocks from the beach, part of the coastal defences against the threat of invasion.
There were 10 subsidiary camps at Bedburn, Langton Grange, Windlestone Hall, Bishop Auckland, Mount Oswald, Usworth, Lanchester, Consett, Hamsterley Hall and High Spen.
The sports field at Harperley may also have been the venue for the first England v Germany post-war football match when the camp team took on Crook Town
Only one pow absconded from Harperley, never to be heard of again. When other misdemeanours occurred, camp staff took a pragmatic view: One prisoner apparently frequently donned a British uniform to go into town. Although he was guilty of numerous "offences," staff decided to keep the event 'under their hats' so that his repatriation went ahead as planned. Another 'escapee' was found courting a local woman on a street corner. Through their farm labour, sport, arts, crafts and music, the prisoners formed strong bonds with the people of the County and nearly 10 per cent remained in Britain rather than return home.
To raise funds to restore the camp, a set of Limited Edition Prints of the POW's paintings were produced but insufficient funds were raised and the camp is now closed to visitors.
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Those known to have been held in or employed at
Harperly POW Camp
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Alec DoughtyMy father, Alec Doughty, was an interpreter at Harperley Camp and amongst the gifts made for him by prisoners was an elaborately carved walking stick. My mother used the stick when she broke her knee and my father used it after suffering a stroke. Unfortunately the walking stick was stolen when my father left it propped up outside a toilet he was using in London. He was very upset about it as it had great sentimental value. I have no idea who the prisoner was that carved and made the stick with such expertise, if anyone has any knowledge as to who may have carved it I would love to hear from them.Barbara Tyrel
Walter BealesWalter Beales was evacuated at Dunkirk then went on to work at the Harperly POW Camp in Durham. We know very little about his time in the military and would like to know moreSophie Green
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