Unembellished fact often heard retold - Huthwaite sited a World War Two prisoner of war camp. Although commonly recalled from living memory, this has surprisingly escaped any mention in our local history and still left widely unrecognised. National archives did help researchers plot locations for hundreds of British based PoW camps, but as 2003 report by English Heritage first realised, incomplete records couldn't fully account for large gaps and variances between sequential numbers. The unidentified Huthwaite compound may therefore be like many other smaller sized or temporary enclosures, only given localised recognition.
Those born just before the war; of my fathers generation, may be last to remember inquisitively seeing the actual camp. It stood upon Common Road, at the time below most housing and almost facing the Slack Road or Pit Lane entrance into New Hucknall Colliery which now residentially addresses a recently built Mill Lane housing estate. There's no trace left of the prisoner of war camp once sited upon the B6027 around ref. SK 46830 58420. Land development founded an Everest Crisp factory. Since 1989 it established current use for Huthwaite Roofing Supplies Ltd.
Childhood memories of the camp by Roy Elliott are similarly shared by Trev Ashmore. Confirming others basic understandings, when undatable wood huts enclosed by barbed wire fencing held Italian prisoners. Wearing dark jackets with distinguishing coloured symbols on the back is also how elders, like my grandmother Dora Elliott still recalls witnessing their escorted walks cheerfully taken between farms.
But thanks now extend to Mr Fredrick G Pote in Cornwall, who has authoritatively added helpfully enlightening information. Quoting with kind permission from correspondence best relates his humble self introduction, and it truly qualifies 1946 experience of being stationed in Huthwaite, performing Prisoner of War soldiering guard duties.
I was called up into the army in 1941 and my first posting overseas was to Algiers. From there to Malta, where we took part in the landings on Sicily July 10th 1943. Arriving back in the UK in 1944, to then take part in the D Day landings in Normandy, and then on to Germany until VE Day.
In 1946 I was sent home to the UK to a P.O.W. Camp which was situated at Common Road, Huthwaite, I think almost opposite a coal mine. I spent about six months there and was very happy.
I made friends with some people living in that road and was invited by one family for a cup of tea on more than one occasion, the name I cannot remember after all these years. The man of the house was a coal miner and we often went to a pub called the Miners Arms. These were times of great shortages and they often ran out of beer and sometimes not enough glasses to go round, so some were left drinking out of jam jars. We got our newspapers from a shop at the top of Common Road, the owner was I think a Mr. Jones.
The Huthwaite camp was a detachment from our main camp situated at The Hayes Swanwick, Derbyshire. We had about fifty PoW's, whom we sent out each morning to work on farms in the area. I often took prisoners to a radio shop on the road to Sutton-in-Ashfield, and they would carry back batteries and accumulators for our radios. They were only allowed out under escort, and they were all Germans.
All prisoners were German ex-soldiers, but gave very little trouble to the guards. We only had to threaten them with a return to The Hayes to bring them into line. They wore army battledress, which was dyed brown with a red circle on the back of the tunic and a patch on the trouser knee. Very distinctive indeed.
The camp was enclosed with barbed wire, with a large gate almost opposite the Pit Road. The gate was manned all and every night. The camp huts were all wooden construction, I think six in total. One large one in two sections, one end being the cookhouse and the other end the prisoners dining area. There were nine soldiers to look after them, and our hut was the last one at the bottom of the camp (nearest the gate.)
We were all well fed, a typical days menu would be:- porridge for breakfast; very little for lunch as the camp would be empty; plenty of bread and sometimes cake and individual fruit pies. The main evening meal would consist of canned stew or corned beef, of which there was plenty, and all prepared by German cooks. We had no M.O. (medical officer) and in case of sickness the Prisoners of War were taken to the surgery at Huthwaite to be treated. The soldiers reported there also.
Contrary to all popular belief, Mr. Pote confirms his German prisoners were those who wore distinctive red circles. Everyone felt sure the Huthwaite camp only held Italian prisoners of war, mostly remembering other tunics displayed a yellow diamond on the back. The experience of young twins James and John Sterland, born 1938 on a small Huthwaite farm presents similar heard encounters. Another memory is on Threshing days, which only happened once a year, around November. A contractor used to come to the farm to thresh the summer's harvest. The contractor had Italian Prisoners of War working for him. One of these Italians made a ring out of a truepenny piece for my sister who was one year older than my brother and me.
All prisoner transfers into our Huthwaite PoW work camp would likely come from The Hayes main security compound, after being individually classified low risk and trustworthy of performing farm work; albeit under armed escort. Unsure if secrecy surrounded the revelation that Germans were placed here, but the undated siting of our temporary work camp would doubtfully predate VE day which marked ending of European conflicts. Majority of prisoners were shipped to British camps after 1944. They began fulfilling much demanded farm labouring roles until safe release. Considering villagers remember friendly Italian speaking prisoners does suggest they joined and finally outnumbered an initial German workforce. Voiced consensus remained well impressed by polite, good work and handicraft skills, claiming an unnamed few did stay and locally marry.
Mr Paul Keeling shares dated portraits given his father as a keepsake from their friendship, from when this former POW worker named Constantino had been employed in Huthwaite under Paul's late grandfather.
Most British held Prisoners of War gained release by 1948, so the Huthwaite compound must have barely seen out three years guarded use, and after wartime. Camp affairs were never widely publicised, leaving uncertainly regarding dated closure or then potentially next rehousing other displaced foreign labourers.
A 1948 clipping exposes Fred Wield as warden of the Notts War Agricultural Executive Committee's hostel, assisting the war torn plight widely faced by Ukrainians. This little remembered Ukrainian hostel was noted to be somewhere on Common Road, so almost certainly addresses the former PoW camp. Others camps are now widely found to have been likewise adopted elsewhere.
The plot of land for siting a Huthwaite camp is discovered once part of an estate held by Quakers. Unbeknown to many, they actually next founded a factory there manufacturing the once popular brand of Everest Crisps.
There's some chance two of those wooden camp huts are still used in Huthwaite. When the Edward brothers resituated their successful toffee factory to its present off road position, they claimed to cheaply acquiring a couple of ex army prefab units. Although not revealing where or from whom they were purchased. it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume they found local availability.
Written 11 Apr 12 Revised 15 Mar 15 © by Gary Elliott