Prisoners of War on Chobham Common. by Ron Little.
Henry, a German Prisoner of war at Brick Hill. He worked at Slococks Nursery, and helped Mr.Millard with his bees, as he had his own bees in Germany. (Image courtesy of J. End.)
The German POW camp was built on Chobham Common during the last war. It was situated to the west of Fox Hill and practically opposite Brick Hill.
A general view of a group of Nissen huts amongst trees at a German Prisoner of War camp, somewhere in Britain.. (Image courtesy of IMW)
During daytime, quite a number of the POW’s were employed under guard working on farms. But they must have spent much of their leisure hours at handicrafts and produced a number of well made articles. Among these were concertina-type sewing boxes. These were sold locally for £1: we still have one of these boxes, still in excellent condition and still in use today.
German Prisoners of War in Britain; everyday life at a German POW Camp, UK, 1945. (Image courtesy of IMW.)
On the Brick Hill side of the road, the POW’s had quite a good football pitch. Although it was rather stony, it served its purpose adequately. The POW’s were keen footballers and produced an excellent team which played matches against other POW teams on Sundays. The football played was first class and these matches always attracted many of the local football enthusiasts. Whilst the matches were in progress the rest of the POWs would line the sides of the pitch and in unison would voice their opinions of the referee in the few words of English that they knew. At times this caused considerable embarrassment especially if there happened to be ladies present! They were a first class team and among their players was a pre-war Austrian International player. But the star of their team was the goalkeeper who after the war settled in this country and became a professional footballer – playing as goalkeeper for Manchester City. His name was Bert Trautman.
Sculpture of Bert Trautmann at the Manchester City Museum, Manchester, UK. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
As time went on they were able to play against local football teams but proved far too good for our lads.
It was 2 – 3 years after the end of hostilities before the POW’s were repatriated. I think it was Christmas 1946 that they were allowed to walk freely around the district. It was at this time that I was visiting my parents who then lived in the shop which is now Suttons the Bakers. Somebody happened to say that there were a couple of POW’s outside. My Father said, “Why not invite them in?” After a while they were eventually persuaded to come indoors where they enjoyed mince pies and a glass of wine. Really it proved rather emotional as one of my brothers who had only just returned from Germany came in and of course the POW’s were very keen to gain first hand knowledge of the state of their country.
German Prisoners of War mend boots and shoes at their PoW camp, somewhere in Britain. They are working in a Nissen hut which is being used as a cobbler’s shop. (Image courtesy IMW)
There were a number of people in the village who befriended the POW’s. Among them were my sister and brother-in-law: they were good friends with a couple of these POW’s, who would often call in for a cup of tea and cakes. What I must mention is how this particular pair of POW’s constructed a lovely wooden rabbit hutch, and pushed it, complete with a young rabbit, on a wheelbarrow all the way from Chobham Common to Chertsey Road, and presented it to my young nephew as a gift in return for the kindness shown to them. Eventually repatriation was completed and the POW’s returned home: but not all of them, as some had met local girls whom they married and settled in this country. I know there were one or two in this district who no doubt could tell many tales of their time as POW’s on Chobham Common.
This article was originally published in the Windlesham Magazine in August, 1991.
Although I have tried to contact Mr. Little or his family, I have not been able to find them. If you know anything about Ron Little, I would be very glad to hear from you.