In Search of an Old Enemy author seeks info on PoWs

BETWEEN 1944 and 1948 approximately 13,000 German Prisoners of War were held captive in camps throughout Northern Ireland including Lissanoure, Cloughmills. Distinguishable in the white and grey armbands that categorised their political allegiances, these infantrymen of the Wehrmacht, sailors of the Kreigsmarine and aircrew of the Luftwaffe soon became a common - if not curious - sight to the people of Ulster.

However, some 62 years after the camps closed and the final prisoner was offered repatriation to a shattered Germany, local author, John McCann, is asking questions and is hoping Ballymena Times readers can supply the answers that will help him write a book on the subject.

For instance, do you know if any choose to stay behind, and if so, what social legacy did they or their compatriots leave?

Shortly after D-Day, 6 June 1944, several POW camps were established in Northern Ireland to intern over 2% of the influx of captured Germans entering Britain. These included:

• Lisanoure Camp, Loughgiel, Cloughmills, Co. Antrim

• Gosford Camp, Markethill, Co. Armagh

• Elmfield Camp, Gilford, Co. Armagh

• Holywood Camp, Jackson Rd, Belfast

• Grangefield Camp, Belfast Military Hospital, Belfast

• RAF Camp Rockport, Belfast

• Dungannon Camp, Co Tyrone

• Craigavad Camp, Belfast

• Monrush Camp, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone

Suddenly, as the German prisoners arrived, a human face of war presented itself to a populace somewhat isolated from its horror. Nevertheless, before long, local schoolchildren were going to the camps in trepidation to ‘see the enemy’ and attempt to trade cigarettes for handmade toys. Whilst inside the barbed wire enclosures, the young men of a defeated nation glimpsed out at the victorious enemy looking in.

Soon, however, as the war drew to its inevitable conclusion, restrictions were lifted and POWs could be seen working the land and fixing the roads and buildings. Then, by Christmas 1946, the ban on fraternisation was lifted, allowing many people to put the war behind them and invite German POWs into their homes.

It is estimated that even after the offer of repatriation in 1947, some 24,000 German POWs decided to stay in Britain. Did any remain in Northern Ireland? Were their any marriages to local girls? Are any children or grandchildren still living in Ulster?

What social impact did the POWs really have? If you can help in answering any of these questions, or provide further information relating to this theme, please call 07885731202 to contact John McCann. Alternatively you can send an email jpmccann82d@yahoo.com