During World War 2, prisoners of war were held near Hemyock. Many, especially Italian POWs were paid to work on local farms. Some stories are extracted from the book Memories of War. Other pages in this series:
In 1995, as part of the Hemyock Commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of the Allied Victories in Europe and Japan (VE Day and VJ Day), Margaret Sheppard and Norman Lowman collected first hand accounts from more than eighty resident of Hemyock of life during the Second World War. Although obviously not a complete record, these memories do show how ordinary people were able to rise to the occasion and "do their bit" both in the armed forces and on the "home front."
Nearby Prisoner of War camps included one for Italians at Waterloo Cross near Uffculme; and one at Wellington near Pyles Thorne Close, for Germans & some Italians. Temporary camps such as the ones near Bradninch Cricket Ground and on Tiverton’s Old Racecourse (now Tiverton High School) built to house US troops preparing for D-Day, were later used to house POWs and / or had POW compounds.
There were also the Internment Camps for "enemy aliens" (mostly German nationals), such as the one near Paignton where Mr B. was stationed while serving in the Territorial Army.
Wartime bombing of UK cities during WWII left a severe housing crisis. Some ex POW & temporary military camps were later re-used and occupied by UK families, sometimes as "squatters."
Some WWII Prisoners of War were determined never to help "their enemy," but as during WWI, many POWs did accept the offer of paid work on local farms. Their help was welcomed at a time when labour was short because so many local men were away, serving Britain’s in war effort. Many POWs were from rural areas, so were used to farm work.
Although "prisoners of war," they were usually considered as low-risk for absconding. Some were delivered daily by transport; some even lived on local farms. It is unlikely that many POWs working on local farms were closely guarded by troops while they worked.
Some prisoners were very creative and ingenious: eg. Making toy models of a cockerel picking-up corn, out of a flat piece of wood, a block, some string, and paint. The swinging movement of the block would cause "the bird" to pick-up "the corn." Other POWs made rings or bracelets out of thrup'ny pieces and bits of scrap metal.
As during previous conflicts, these prisoners would tell residents that they had been conscripted into the war and knew very little of its implications.
Relations with farmers and local people seem to have been good. Some POWs did not want to return to their home countries. Some later returned to live & work in Devon, perhaps after marrying in their home country. At least one ex POW returned to work at the farm where he had worked as a POW... and later inherited this farm.
The memories were published originally in 1995 as a 65 page, A4 booklet, illustrated with many photographs. All profits went to the Royal British Legion.
The text has been extensively re-edited and republished in Amazon Kindle format, in aid of Hemyock's Blackdown Support Group charity, it is equivalent to about 115 A5 pages. The photographs have been made into online slideshows.
The complete WWII "Box Set," Hemyock Memories Volume 5, contains all the WWII volumes 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 covering life during World War II 1939-45. These Memories of WWII Kindle books contain eyewitness accounts by residents of Hemyock, of their life during WWII, both serving overseas and on the "Home Front."
For convenience, the photos have been arranged in four groups, forming four slide shows, each lasting about four minutes. The slide shows have been uploaded as 1080p HD. This means that they can be viewed using most types of computer or mobile devices and at any of the resolutions supported by YouTube. Contact us for a DVD version of these slideshows, or versions in other formats.
Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
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