West Boldon, Downhill Quarry, POW Camp (HER 5852) In West Boldon was the site of a Second World War prisoner of war camp.Each POW camp was allocated an official number during World War Two within a prescribed numerical sequence, ranging from Camp 1 (Grizedale Hall, Ambleside) to Camp 1026 (Raynes Park, Wimbledon). The West Boldon camp was Camp 605. Not all of the sites were true Prisoner of War camps, many were hostels situated some distance away from the parent site or base camp. It is not known what category West Boldon Camp was.(Thomas 2003)
As can be seen from the photo today nothing remains of the camp and its buildings with the only things remaining are the quarry's high wall and the ridge of trees that can be seen from the road
The aerial photograph below (Reproduced by permission of Historic England Archive) from February 1946 show 14 Nissen Huts located in the centre of the quarry with the back of the quarry rising some 100ft high providing a natural barrier. There is also a collection of other buildings at the entrance of the quarry nearest the road. Hopefully further research in the future my reveal the function of these buildings. Although the natural terrain provides a unique location for the POW camp, it is a little strange considering RAF Usworth was less than a mile away across the fields.
POW's were often put to work mostly on farms to replace the locals who were off fighting the war.There are plenty of in the immediate area Such as Locky's farm mentioned in Bryan Lockey Memories located elsewhere on the site, but maybe these POW's were also used to maintain the Airfield nearby? The fact that this photo was taken in 1946 and still showed the nissen huts would seem to indicate that as history has recorded in other areas that not all Italian POW's were repatriated until a year or two after the war with some electing to stay making britain their new home.
Below we can see a diagram of a typical Nissen hut used extensively during this period due to its simple and quick construction using a simple wood frame covered in corrigated iron. These can be found at airfields and army camps as barracks as well as many other uses.
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