Friday, 10 October 2014

British Prisoner of War Camps

Map showing the huts of Stanhope prisoner of war camp, Durham OS sheet 24.SW (1923)
 Durham Ordnance Survey sheet 24.SW showing the huts of Stanhope prisoner of war camp

When thinking about prisoners of war, most people think about British men in German camps but there were in fact at least three camps for enemy combatant prisoners on our doorstep in County Durham.  So far, you can read about two of these on the Durham at War website, Castleside and Stanhope.  At the Record Office we have an auction sale catalogue from 1919 for the surplus hutting and fitments of the camp.  It includes all sorts of things from the actual huts to toilets and ‘death line fencing’. 

The third camp, still to be added, was at Harperley.  John Ruttley produced a book, ‘Prisoners in the North. The Forgotten Deaths at Harperley Camp’, in which he intended to write about the Second World War camp.  He applied for some documents from Switzerland and was surprised to discover they were inspection reports from the First World War.  The prisoners at Harperley seemed to be in good health until the Spanish Flu epidemic hit the camp in November 1918.  27 men died, the majority on, or after, the armistice was declared.  They were buried at St James church, Hamsterley, before being moved to the German cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, in the 1960s. 

We would be interested to know if any combatant prisoners stayed in the area after their release. If you know of any occurrences of this, please let us know at

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