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Island Farm

 

Welcome to Island Farm a Prisoner of War Camp known as Camp 198 which lies on the outskirts of the town of Bridgend in South Wales. The camp held up to 2000 prisoners, mainly German and some Italian, and was the scene of the largest escape ever attempt by German Prisoners Of War in Britain during World War II.

The construction of the camp that became known as the Island Farm Camp was started in 1936 and was originally built to house the workers employed at the munitions factory in Bridgend ROF 53. But they preferred to travel, some up to 30 miles a day rather than stay in the camps dull and dismal conditions. The camp remained empty until 1943, until the  American troops arrived and were housed there prior to the invasion of France.

After the successful invasion the authorities had to find a camp for the large number of prisoners captured in Europe. Island Farm was empty and the prefabricated concrete huts were surrounded by open fields which made it an ideal place, some conversion work had to be carried out prior to the arrival of the prisoners with barbed wire fences being erected. The first batch of prisoners that arrived was then put to work completing the conversion.

The camp known as Island Farm was re-designated as Camp 198 and housed the German and some Italian troops. In 1944 all the enlisted prisoners were moved out, to make way for German Officers, the first of these officer prisoners POWs arrived in November 1944.


They soon started to plan an escape. Two tunnels were dug, but the first was discovered in January 1945. The second tunnel went undetected and on the night of 10 March 1945, about, 70 to 80 (the exact number was unknown) prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug from Hut 9, the tunnel was about 60 feet long and went well past the perimeter fence.

The techniques used by the inmates were ingenious. Excavating the tunnel was not the easiest of tasks, as the heavy Welsh clay soil which the camp was built upon was difficult to excavate with the cans, knives and tins they had retrieved from the camp canteen but they were used as digging implements and put together to form an air pipe to the tunnel.

The soil was moved out of the tunnel on a makeshift skip and put into kit bags. At first, prisoners carried the soil in their pockets to the long jump pit or gardening plots. Others kneaded clay into small balls and dropped them through a hole in a false wall they had constructed in an unused room in one of the huts managing to conceal much of the soil.

To support the tunnel roof, oak benches were stolen from the camp canteen, a ventilation pipeline was made from condensed milk tins and the air was pumped through by a hand operated fan. The tunnel had its own electric lights that were tapped off the mains supply. And the Noise was concealed by chorus singing.

The Great Escape
The escapers were divided into small groups, each of which was equipped with food, map and homemade compass, they also had identity papers that were produced in the camp. All these preparations required tremendous organization, but to this day it is not known who actually organized the escape. Escaperís were split into small groups, each escaperís identity was known only to the others in his small group, protecting them against betrayal and the authoritiesí knowledge of the full extent of the escape.

All but 3 were recaptured, although a few were captured close to the camp, others were spread much further afield, a doctorís car had been stolen and a few of the prisoners reached Birmingham and even Southampton, over 150 miles, a very long way in 1945.

Just three weeks after the escape, on 31 March 1945, all 1,600 officers were transferred out from Island Farm. It was then re-designated Special Camp 11 and was made ready to receive senior German officers. In all there were 160 officers holding the rank of general, admiral, or field marshal, including a number of Hitler's closest advisers. Many of them had been captured in France and were held awaiting a trial at Nuremberg.

Near the end of the war it became known as Special Camp XI. The list of former inmates includes many senior SS military leaders, who were awaiting extradition to the Nuremberg trials.

A few names of the POWs

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander in chief of the German armies in the campaign against France in 1940

Field Marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist, who was involved in the Battle of Paris and was in charge of Army Group A from 1942 until 1944.

Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, who established the operation plans for Hitler's successful campaign in the west and commanded the Eleventh Army, which conquered the Crimea and Sevastopol on the eastern front.

Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch, who was named commander in chief of the German army by Hitler in 1938 and who was instrumental in the planning and execution of attacks on Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and the Soviet Union.

Generaloberst Gotthard Heinrici, commander of Army Group Vistula, who defended Berlin against three Red armies in the last battle of World War II.

Generaloberst Heinrich von Vietinghoff, Supreme Commander of the 10th German Army in Italy, 1943 to 1945, which the Germans referred to as the South western Front.

Island Farm Camp closed in 1948, when the last prisoners were returned to Germany.

Today all that remains of Island Farm is Hut 9.


A Love story of One of the Prisoners and a local Lady.

A picture of his sweet heart drawn on the hut wall.

One of the Prisoners of Island Farm didnít return home to Germany after the war was over he married a Lady from Aberkenfig and even played football for Tondu Robins.
His name was Helmut Gunter Gutler , he wasnít a prisoner awaiting trial. In fact he may have been in the navy. However there is a drawing on the hut wall of a young lady named Erika. And the story goes that Erika the
Lady from Aberkenfig
married,  Helmut Gunter Gutler and they settled in Sarn after the war ended. He was a very good footballer who played for Bayern Munich and Germany before the war, He fitted in well with the Tondu Robins and when they played, the opposition new they were in for a tough match.

Utube video Here


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Bridgend History

The Old Post Office Garage
The Old Post Office Garage



Royal cipher E VIII R. 1936

Bridgend ROF 53
Bridgend ROF 53


Hut 9
Hut 9


Hut 9
Island Farm



The Old Historic Bridge



Newcastle Castle



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