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The reader should be aware that I am completing a research and study project that was started by Russell Webber in 1995 but was never completely finished due to his failing health and sad demise in 2017.
Russell completed the majority of the research and was able to question local inhabitants whilst their memories were still keen and some who have sadly passed away.
He was able to establish that there are no official records acknowledging the camp; perhaps they are still hidden away somewhere in the Public Record Office at Kew. I have the advantage of searching the internet whilst Russell was limited to local knowledge and local Record Offices.
POW camps were numbered in strict numerical order as they were established from number 1 to 1026. There were only 4 recorded in Cornwall but in practice there were more and their identification number will give you an idea when they were established.
115 White Cross, St Columb Major; Standard POW camp; German working camp; partial remains left.
257 Pennygillan Farm, Launceston; Standard POW camp; German working camp; now demolished.
406 Scarnecross, Launceston, Standard POW camp; base camp; now demolished.
674 Consols Mine, Tywardreath, Par; Standard POW camp, now demolsied.
Italian prisoners taken during the 8th Army’s North African Campaign built the majority of the so called ‘standard camps’ during late 1942 and early 1943.
Local demand for POW labour would lead to a need for a POW camp. A site would be identified, then surveyed for suitability and accessibility. If required the Ministry of War would issue a requisition which could not be ignored and a non negotiable fee paid. All building material would be imported but some could be sourced locally.
As the Italian POWs were considered ‘low risk’ they would have been billeted in tents on the site and directed to build their own camp.
The most common type of building used was the 18ft 6in span Ministry of War Production (MoWP) standard hut built using pre-cast reinforced concrete frames and wall panels. The MoWP huts used for domestic purposes such as the cook house, ablutions and latrines, were built of hollow clay blocks or bricks laid on their side (economy construction) rather than concrete panels.
The MoWP huts were 60 feet in length and built in 10 six feet bays with windows occupying alternate bays. Outward opening doors with padlock hasps were located in each gable wall. The interiors were open plan and heated by two cast iron pot belly stoves.
The site would have been fenced in with a simple plain barb wire fence attached to concrete posts. Within the compound, and in addition to the buildings, there would have been prisoners’ garden plots, a recreation ground; a sewage disposal works.
The guards would need there own transport yard, living quarters; and Command Post to man the entrance and exit. There would be no Guard Towers.
At the end of the war when the camp was no longer required the Ministry of War would hand back the land. They were required to return it in the same condition as they found it and remove all buildings. As a rule the land owner was only to happy to let them remain standing; the MoW would have carted away all remains and left the field clean where as the land owner would make good use of them or even sell them.