n Northumberland, between Hexham and Carlisle, was camp 18, a gigantic camp divided up into three compounds, provided by watch-towers at the corners and with high, double barbed-wire fences. The guards patrolled between the double fences with machine guns. Inside, in front of the fence, still lay roles of steeled barbed wire, diameter about 1.50 m, hardy to conquer by tanks let alone by a defenseless POW. When the wire entanglements were touched it get shot (warning shots at first). 7000 German officers as a prisoner of war were in this camp. This camp was held by the Americans before the invasion. The barracks from lightweight construction, which was manufactured from concrete parts, took hold of 100 men in each half.
t the two sides of the average walk stood two-storey narrow beds 2 and 2 besides each other. There was a narrow walk between the beds; the beds were the only place to sit. In the middle of the long barrack stood a little cylindrical iron stove. The whole equipment of the beds was a palliasse and two blankets. Later there was laundry (New Year 1946): 2 sheets and 1 pillowcase, after the regulations of the Geneva convention.
atering wasn't good in the beginning. In the morning the PW got one ladle of porridge and 1 slice of white bread, at noon vegetable stew (1 ladle) or potatoes with minced entrails, usually liver. The liver mash was served in zinc baths for some time. The consequence was a poisoning with evil consequences. In the evening two slices bread with a piece of sausage. A prisoner wrote the following verses to this:
|(Sung according to the melody of a the folk song "Morgenrot ...")|
In the camp are small rolls.
And the POW's have hollow cheeks,
with tears they strive to shit.
To be a POW is not beautiful "
|(Gesungen nach der Melodie "Morgenrot...")|
"Morgenrot - Morgenrötchen!
In dem Camp gibt's kleine Brötchen.
Und die POW's haben hohle Backen,
unter Tränen müh'n sie sich zu kacken.
POW sein ist nicht schön."
irst, there was counting appeal in the morning, to find out whether somebody had succeeded in escaping. In the other time of the day, the POW employed his self. After some months they recovered from the shock caused by the outcome of the war and the captivity. The spirit of 7000 officers came out. A small summary of this:
A high school was set up with consent of London. Sufficient teachers, who took on the lesson in the desired subjects, were in the camp. Many POW have copied their high school degree which also was appreciated in Germany. The lessons were held in the barrack of the kitchen.
In connection with the university of Durham, a camp-university was set up with all faculties apart from the theological and medical. These were held in London. Professors from Austria, Hungary and Germany were enough in the camp. No books and typing paper was available in the first year. They wrote on smooth gray toilet paper - whole books -, pencils were rare. One piece of a pencil was traded against 40 cigarettes. A teacher training college also was part of the university. (Requested) prisoners of war were dismissed after and after. Several came to London, some to political training at "Hampton Park".
A larger group of actors and amateurs played theaters with a demanding program. Theater room was the broad kitchen hut. In a free barrack was set up a marionettes theater with a revolving stage. The players hat to travel with their marionettes in numerous cities of North-England to show their art -- in English language of course. Difficult things were played like "Faust" (Goethe) and "Der zerbrochene Krug" (H. von Kleist). The theater group even played "Jedermann" and the operetta "Zar und Zimmermann" at the court of the Featherstone castle.
The camp- choir played a part in this. This choir, whose head was the director of the opera of Saarbrücken, held a concert in the camp at every Sunday, with own compositions sometimes. The choir sung in all cathedrals of the surroundings music of Bach, for a grateful audience. These concerts outside the camp were always a piece of liberty for the prisoners, therefore very popular.
Just as diligently and imaginatively was the work in the artist studio of the camp: Sculptures made of different materials, paintings, carvings, art forgings, metal foundries and much more. At regularly exhibitions hundreds of visitors from the English population made a pilgrimage to the camp to admire the works of art.
One likes to wonder where the POW got the material and the tools from. Everything was removed, they only got a spoon because knives were dangerous in the hand of a POW. The other things they have made by themselves or got it later, when they were allowed to work in the farming. Most material was scrap-metal and empty boxes of POW which worked on the airfield nearby. The beginning was: knives made out of the ribbon iron under the palliasses of their beds. From this they also produced saws by means of hard stones from the Tyne river. The invention didn't know any limits. Wall clocks for example were produced after exact calculation: the gear wheels made of wood, the axes from the barbed wire, the bearing from screwing heads of tubas tooth paste, the dial from a can.
Another example: The prisoners could buy lemon sugar which dated from English army inventory (Navy). Cane sugar mixed with nature lemon juice got usually offered in 3 l cans rusted at the outside -- suitable for the production of a refreshing drink. At one day, there was no sugar available anymore. Reason: A group had bought all the sugar and (because of regular controls) in a small distillery under the beds in a secret cellar they made alcohol. Then the alcohol got mixed with essences and they sold the liqueur on the black market.
have more than 40 letters written by comrades of a sports team, addressed to Mr. Hans-Max Fischer out of Wuppertal-Elberfeld, who already got repatriated. The letters give an impression about the life in camp 18, the worries and needs of the prisoners. Unfortunately I have no time to translate all letters from German to English but if any reader of this sites is able to - you are welcome to contact me.
Meinrad Mayer, Beuren near Neu-Ulm, Bavaria. He got repatriated at 10/22/1946. He wrote two interesting letters expressing the experiences he made and the situation back home.