After the start of the First World War it became necessary to construct camps around Britain to hold the thousands of German soldiers captured by our soldiers. One of these was here in Deepcut, on Frith Hill, north of the main barracks. The site is now part of Pine Ridge Golf course and the development of the area for this purpose, and also due to the temporary nature of the camp, means there is no physical evidence of the POW camp remaining.
There is very little information available about any of the POW camps in Britain, and even fewer photographs. The fact that so many images of the Frith Hill camp suggest that this camp was one of the earliest, and before any restrictions were introduced on images of Prisoners of War.
The German POW’s were obviously of great interest to the locals (and I’ll show more of that in a later post) and the last postcard above had a message which is testament to that, dated Oct 1914
“Dear Herbert (Herbert was Herbert Chick, a butcher’s son inAxminster, found on the 1911 census)
How would you like to come & see these German prisoners? Some came in on Sunday. I thought this would do for your album. Tell your Dad and Mum that we are likely to be shifted at any time and to any place. I saw some of the famous Death’s Head Hussars, such a pretty dress & smart men also. I went and saw the camp. All are allowed to get quite close, providing do not touch the barbed wire. Remember me to all. With Kind Regards, from Dick.”
Getting quite close was something that would be a short-lived privilege. I also found a series of letters from a soldier that passed through the camp in mid 1915. He references an incident that led to changes at the camp.
“There are a lot of German prisoners here, one of East Lancs killed a German with a pick, the German said nasty things to him, so he give him a pat over the railings with his pick, he died the next morning, now there is a hundred yards space between them and us.”
The conditions at the POW camps in Britain were far more hospitable for the German soldiers in comparision to the conditions in the German camps. A German appointed inspector found no ill-treatment, and said that Germans at the Frith Hill camp “have their own police, even their own secret police”
There were a few deaths of German prisoners however, and they were buried in the graveyard of St Barbara’s garrison church in Deepcut, until they were disinterred in the 60’s and moved to a cemetery somewhere in the Midlands.