Prisoners of war (POWs) who were captured by British forces were first brought to Britain in 1941, and housed in POW Camps all over the country.
West Lambrook had a camp, which can be seen in this photograph, top left – the huts where the men slept and ate are enclosed by the white concrete posts with wire fence.
The people gathered around the stage are celebrating the opening of the bus shelter – which had a plaque mounted on the back wall inside, giving thanks for the return of those who served in the war. The bus shelter has a union flag draped across the front in the photo above. The plaque and the bus shelter are still at the bottom of West Lambrook hill.
The camp at West Lambrook was officially called POW Hostel 44, part of Goathurst Camp near Bridgwater. It has been very difficult to find any official information about the West Lambrook Camp. This list came from research done by Martin J.Richards, as part of his Masters of Art Degree. Source : www.repatriatedlandscape.org.
The camp received both Italian and German prisoners of war, who worked each day on local farms.
A few photographs survive of some of the Italian POWs at West Lambrook camp. This one shows, left to right – Percy Clark, two POWs (names now forgotten) and Tom Pipe – from the archive of Hazel Manning-Johal, who is related to Tom Pipe.
Richard Batstone of West Lambrook was a child in the war. He is shown here sitting on a cart, with two Italian POWs on either side of him. The two workers standing at the front are Tom Priddle and Bert Porter. Bert Porter was a veteran of WW1 – he was a machine gunner and served in Egypt and France. The photograph was taken by Walter Batstone, Richard’s father.
The POWs were called Mick and Frank.
Do you have any photographs/memories of the camp or the men who stayed there in WW2 and worked on the land? Please contact us so we can archive such items.
This photograph also shows the opening of the bus shelter ceremony, with a brass band on the right. The huts of the Camp can be clearly seen behind the wire fence, top left, but today there is no trace of them. Houses were built on the site.
Italian Prisoners of War Working the Land 1942 – painting by Michael Ford, copyright Imperial War Museum (Art.IWM ART LD 1833).
Their clothing is marked with a red circle, which lets people know they are prisoners in case they attempt to escape. Here, they appear to be picking potatoes.
The late Margaret Elliot of Stembridge also remembers the Italians at West Lambrook. In the short film below, Margaret talks about cycyling past the camp on a Sunday.