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Please note The Wartime Memories Project are Not the owners of Harperly Camp, the information on this page is provided for reference only, we are unable to assist with access to the site for any purpose.
Harperley, near Crook in County Durham was first used as a prisoner of war camp during the First and Second World Wars.
Harperley Camp (camp 93) was a purpose-built camp, designed to house low security-risk POWs. At first the prisoners were housed in tents but prefabricated buildings were soon erected by the first Italian prisoners. By September 1944, most of the Italians had dispersed to hostels and farms to make way for around 900 German prisoners identified as ‘low risk’, who provided the area with a valuable workforce.
In 1999 the camp was for sale:
Going for $160,000: one prisoner of war camp. Single owner, original buildings (somewhat used). The 17-acre camp, which has 50 prison huts, a chapel and a theater, was built by Italian POWs in the early 1940s, then used to hold captured Germans. It forms part of the 470-acre Low Harperley Farm in County Durham, northeast England, which has been put up for sale for $1.7 million after the death of farmer Charlie Johnson. One of the huts still contains original paintings by German prisoners, he said.
The camp was bought by Lisa and James McLeod who are currently in the process of forming a charitable trust in order to develop the site. The museum will present the World War Two POW experience from the viewpoint of local people, as well as that of the prisoners and guards.
Eight five percent of the original buildings remain, including all the main huts. It is a purpose-built camp, designed to house low security-risk POWs. The site was granted ancient monument status in July 2002, the first World War Two camp to be scheduled. The camp was recently featured on the BBC's Restoration programme.
The camp orgionally had about 60 huts, with its own dentist, priest and chapel, an extensive library, and a large mess hut in which one of the prisoners painted murals of rural scenes in Bavaria. There was also a theatre, doubling as cinema, with stage, orchestra pit and tiered seating, and the prisoners cheered when Hitler or high-ranking German officers appeared on Pathe newsreels, and booed Churchill with gusto.
One of the better-known German ex-prisoners was Bert Trautmann, who volunteered for bomb disposal work in England after the war and became a professional goalkeeper, playing for Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup Final. He broke his neck making a spectacular save during the game and played on for the remaining 17 minutes of the match, despite great pain. A number of other PoWs stayed on. One, Rudi Lux, stayed not only because he married a local girl but also because his home town became part of the Eastern bloc after the war. During his time at Harperley, he was transported to Roker on the back of a lorry every day. He worked on removing large concrete anti-tank blocks from the beach, part of the coastal defences against the threat of invasion.
There were 10 subsidiary camps at Bedburn, Langton Grange, Windlestone Hall, Bishop Auckland, Mount Oswald, Usworth, Lanchester, Consett, Hamsterley Hall and High Spen.
The sports field at Harperley may also have been the venue for the first England v Germany post-war football match when the camp team took on Crook Town
Only one absconded from Harperley never to be heard of again. When other misdemeanours occurred, camp staff took a pragmatic view: One prisoner apparently frequently donned a British uniform to go into town. Although he was guilty of numerous "offences," staff decided to keep the event 'under their hats' so that his repatriation went ahead as planned. Another 'escapee' was found courting a local woman on a street corner. Through their farm labour, sport, arts, crafts and music, the prisoners formed strong bonds with the people of the County and nearly 10 per cent remained in Britain rather than return home.
To raise funds to restore the camp, a set of Limited Edition Prints of the POW's paintings were been produced but insuffient funds were raised and the camp is now closed to visitors.
I was excited to see Harperley POW Camp on the news last night. I knew my Grandfather, Alec Doughty served as a British Soldier in a POW camp in Crook, Co Durham but did not know the name of the camp. He was an Interpreter to the German Soldiers. At the end of the 2nd World war, the prisoners gave my Grandfather a painting as a token of thanks to him for looking after the prisoners so well. The painting was painted by Heinrich Wagner and is signed.
Ever since I was a little girl, my Grandparents hung this painting in the sitting room and I always admired it especially as it had so much history. When my Grandfather died, I was lucky enough to be passed the painting via my mother and it proudly hangs in my sitting room.
I would love to inform the painter, Heinrich Wagner, if he is still alive, that the painting is in good hands and will be passed onto my Children. If he has sadly passed away, then I am sure his family would be grateful to know and understand how much the painting means to me.
Peter has written a book about his experiences as a POW.
Enemies of Yesterday Shall Now be Friends
British Soldiers based at Harperley
- Alec Doughty. Read his story
- Major Tetlow. Camp Commader.
- Lt Col. George Kinnear Stobbart. Camp Commader.
List of Prisoners
- Rudolf Bernig
- Gunther Bunker
- Rudi Doering
- Rudi Hauff
- Gerald Hayden
- Karl Heinz
- Peter Heontch Read his story
- Christian Hoemann
- Eduard Jaden
- Berholt Klinger
- Benno Lugering
- Rudi Lux
- Paul Messer
- Heinz Muller
- Rudi Sieber
- Bert Trautmann
- Hans Vees
- Heinrich Wagner. Read his story
- Gunther Wolkenhauer
If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.
If you have a story which you would like to share, or a website dedicated to a POW camp or prisoner of World War Two please get in touch. Add Your Story
Prisoners in the North: The Forgotten Deaths at Harperley Camp
Our Price: £5.50
A book about German prisoners-of-war on Wearside has been written by a Sunderland man who first heard about them at a sea scout camp 40 years ago.
More Information on
Prisoners in the North: The Forgotten Deaths at Harperley Camp
POW Camps Index
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