In 1946 there were more than 400,000 POW’s from Germany and there was some controversy about the Geneva convention, as many were not returned until well after the end of the war. Nearly a fifth of the farm work on British Soil was being carried out by POW’s and there was a ban on fraternisation between POW and the general populous. The ban was lifted in Christmas 1946 and so many men experienced a more friendly Christmas with local families for the first time in many years. Around 250,00 German POW’s went home but around 24,000 decided to stay in Britain.
Records from the time give some insight into the camp life, many of the documents don’t reveal the camp locations as they were not allowed to write their address on the letters they sent home. However many have been identified, some are better known than others and a list of them (ongoing) has been compiled to preserve the records even if the buildings themselves are gone.
It was part of the Redmires, and nearby is a large golf course, the old Lodge Moor Hospital’s remaining buildings are part of a residential complex, a plane crashed into the hospital killing one and injuring seven back in 1955.
The nearby land originally was planned for an airfield and racecourse, due to the elevated position the land was marshy and not suitable so the costly layouts went to waste. The overlapping land was used by the Sheffield Battalion for training grounds to dig trenches and practise for warfare. Sadly many of those that were training up on the high and uncompromising land would be lost in the Battle of the Somme.
There was a prisoner of war camp situated at Lodge Moor in the First World War, from 1917-1919 and was used to house German captives. An archaeological website details that the capacity of the camp was greatly extended bu the use of tented accommodation. It says that it was guarded by double wire perimeter fences with watchtowers. From 1917-1918 (for about six weeks approximately) it housed U-Boat captain Karl Dönitz, whom Hitler picked for his successor as Führer, he failed this in the last days of the Second World War. He returned to Germany in 1920, after being sent to Wynthenshaw Hospital after displaying odd behaviour, it is not unreasonable to assume he would have acted this way to ensure that he was taken from the camp in the first place.
The site was then used as a Smallpox hospital as an extension to the establishment at Lodge Moor but this was demolished and another POW camp set up for the Second World War. This time it housed Italian and German prisoners, this time it was slightly more to the right and opened out in front of the Three Merry Lads, this area is now demolished and opened up for planted woodland and traveller enclosure.
A local oral story says that the local Redmires army gave the Italian prisoners free cinema tickets and food to help them leave the area once Italy surrendered. Many in fact decided not to go back to Italy due to the way they were treated and remained in Sheffield. This seems quite reminiscent of the Dad’s Army episode, but the episode I believe is based more on Island Camp Farm than Sheffield’s. Locals also recall that the Italian POW’s would wave and try to talk to people because they missed their own family and so seeing some sense of normality they would want to interact.
Recently, armed with the iPhone as the camera batteries died when I got on to the site, we headed out to see the remains of the Lodge Moor Prisoner of War Camp. Lodge Moor lies on very open country side, in an elevated position, we found it by parking at the Sportsman Inn and then following the public footpath. It was icy there and snow lay on the ground, from Nottingham however there had been no such conditions with it being a lower ground.
A 1923 Survey map shows the layout of the buildings and is marked as the “Redmires Special School” and there is now a pub called the Three Merry Lads which was unmarked on there at the time. Originally when we pulled up we thought it was that car park we needed but the Sportsman’s Inn proved to be the better for accessibility.
The site itself is out in the peaks and is behind a large unmarked wall, protected from the roads and it is overgrown. The old cement outlines can be seen amongst the vegetation and trees, and we had a little of the frozen ground to protect us from the mulch thanks to the rain and the pretty much flooded basement levels.
It’s quite hard to imagine now, but prisoners would arrive at the camp and be interrogated by the Prisoner-of-War Interrogation Section, it categorised their strength of belief in National Socialism. Those who were fervent believers were labelled “black”, those non-believers were “white” and those in the middle – “grey”. At Lodge Moor some of the “black” POW’s joined in others to help plot and escape to help sabotage the war effort. Some had already begun tunnelling there and did much of it whilst the guards thought that they were asleep.
Whilst the prospect of being a POW is grim they fared better in the English camps than those in Germany, they were reasonably fed and cared for. They were educated outside of the Nazi propaganda, the POW’s were allowed to be used dor labour as long as it did not benefit the British War Effort and they could not be allowed to go into factories, as they were likely to be bombed.
Sleeping conditions were also rough, and this was not hard to be imagined when standing up on a frosty, snow covered hill in the middle of nowhere. Many prisoners would be sleeping rough and by 1944 the lodge was full so people were sleeping in the tents, many slept on bare mud in wet conditions.