Patterton Prisoner of War Camp

Patterton Camp

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active
 

During the Second World War, a prisoner of war camp was located at Patterton, in the area known historically as Jenny Lind. The site  was approximately quarter of a mile north of Patterton Station, bounded by the present M77, Patterton Farm and the Stewarton Road (B769).

The site is listed in the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), National Monuments Record of Scotland (NS55NW 113) and is referred to as a military accommodation camp.

Until a few years ago the bases of some of the camp huts could be traced amongst the undergrowth but Whitecraigs Nursing Home and houses have now been built over most of the area and no trace of the camp remains. The south end of the site has been landscaped as part of the Dams to Darnley Country Park. Fortunately, in September 2004, before the last houses were built, Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) carried out an archaeological evaluation of the remaining part of the site. This included historical research regarding the use of the camp along with a photographic survey of the surviving structural remains.

The GUARD report states that there is no evidence to indicate when the camp was built but does identify that the layout of the camp was spacious and did not follow the standard Ministry of War design for prisoner of war camps. This suggests that it may have been a British military camp, possibly linked to the nearby military firing range, prior to being extended to be used as a prisoner of war camp.

GUARD have identified that the camp consisted of four separate sections: an open complex of structures to the north-east (possibly comprising the guards’ accommodation and administrative facilities), an enclosure to the west, another enclosure to the south of this, set around a residential bungalow and an area further to the south where additional huts stood. These areas can be identified from the aerial photograph, taken in November 1946.

Aerial Photograph of Patterton taken November 1946
Aerial Photograph of Patterton taken November 1946 - "National Collection of Aerial Photography", 106G/Scot/UK140/Part III/5276 - Flown 03 July 1946

Also from this aerial photograph, it is possible to see what GUARD identify as a possible parade square, ornamental planting and paving and dressed stone retaining walls. There is also evidence of possible allotments and a football pitch. This photograph is the best evidence which we have of the layout of the camp.

Although the 2004 survey was able to locate the site of many of the buildings from remaining foundations, it was not possible to identify the original function of the buildings, except where some had been used as ablution blocks with attached drainage.  However, an International Red Cross report written in November 1945 identifies how some of the huts were used. Click here to access the report.

Below are two views taken from the same location inside the area of the camp, looking across the Stewarton Road. One was taken in 1946 and the other in 2005 during the archaeological survey. The surveyor in the 2005 picture is standing on the same spot as the Germans in the 1946 picture.

Camp in 1946
Camp in 1946
Site of the camp in 2005
Site of the camp in 2005

 

The Accommodation

The accommodation in all prisoner of war camps was of a standard design. At Patterton, the majority of the buildings were Nissen huts. These were prefabricated buildings of corrugated steel in the shape of a half cylinder with a concrete or brick base. The heating was a free standing stove in the centre of the hut.

Nissen Huts
Nissen Huts

 There were also Jane huts which had pitched roofs and metal cladding but were built of timber.

Jane Huts
Jane Huts

Toilets and showers were provided in separate blocks. The facilities were basic but adequate for the time. A kitchen was provided and the prisoners were supplied with food which they then prepared and served. Meals were taken in a mess hut but it was not large enough for all the prisoners at one sitting. The Geneva Convention was specific about the type of accommodation in which prisoners could be housed. It was to be of no less a standard than the accommodation in which the guards were housed.


Camp Occupancy

It is thought that initially the camp may have been a British Military camp, although no records survive documenting this.

 

Italians

The earliest official record which has been found of the camp being used to accommodate prisoners dates from May 1944 when 602 Italian Pioneer Company was already in residence. The Italian prisoners did not appear to have many activities in the camp, with the exception of football matches against the local team, Nitshill Victoria, and occasional concerts and films.  

After the surrender of Italy to the Allies, these Italians ceased to be POWs and their status was unclear. Italian prisoners were asked if they wished to work as “co-operators”.and if they agreed, were classed as “co-belligerents”. Those who refused were held in “non co-operator” camps, still designated as prisoners of war. Those who agreed were referred to as members of Italian Working Companies or labour battalions. 602 Company was re-designated as 566 Italian Working Company.The number of men in this company varied  but was between 300 and 350 .

The men worked on activities which supported the Allied war effort.  For the Italians in Patterton Camp, this included work in the fields around Mearns and also in army stores and supply depots in Ayr, Kilmarnock, Bellahouston, Paisley, Newmilns, Dechmont Ranges, Thornliebank, Shawfield and Rouken Glen. They had more freedom and eventually were able to work unsupervised and leave the camp to mix in the community. They worked seven days a week with very occasional rest days.

The prisoners were allowed to develop the campsite and by June 1944, the Italian Prisoners had built a Chapel in the camp and held their first service on 4th June 1944.

On 1st August 1944, a second  group, 613 Italian Pioneer Company, consisting of 30 Officers and 284 other ranks embarked at Algeirs on HMS Orion. They arrived at Greenock  on 11th August 1944 and were transferred to Patterton Camp shortly thereafter. This Company was re-designated as 625 Italian Working Company.  

The greater freedom allowed  to co-operators brought its own dangers. On 9th October 1944 Soldate A Catrupi was killed in a motor accident at the junction of Thornliebank Road and Rouken Glen Road and on .3rd January 1945. Sargente Bruno Zanchi was returning to the camp during blackout conditions when he was struck by a pedal cycle. He died  the next day  in the Victoria Infirmary. In both cases, the unfortunate soldiers were buried in Dalbeth Cemetery .

Other fatalities which are recorded in the records are the deaths of Captain Major Nalin and Corporal A Greshi who were killed, along with a civilian on 28th December 1944 when a boiler exploded in the Grand Halls Kilmarnock where the men were on deployment . A public inquiry was held in the Sheriff Court and the soldiers were buried together in Kilmarnock Public Cemetery.

As the war progressed, there were increased numbers of German prisoners. On 23 May 1945, the Italians were moved out  to make way for incoming German prisoners.625 Company was moved to Scone Park Camp, near Perth and 566 Company to Tignabruich Camp.

 

196 Pioneer Corps

The Pioneer Corps was a British Army combatant corps used for light engineering tasks.On 26th April 1945, 196 Company Pioneer Corps arrived at Patterton. Their task was to prepare the camp for the arrival of German Prisoners. The status of the German prisoners was different to that of the Italians which meant that the camp perimeter had to be made more secure. The records report the Pioneer Corps worked on strengthening the perimeter and excavating a further area of the compound. Available records show that the Corps was still based in Patterton in December 1945 but was deployed at sites outwith the camp. There are no available records beyond that date.

 

Germans

The first available report relating to the German Prisoner of War Working Company 660 is dated June 1945. At this time there were approximately 600 men in the camp and the reports record the prisoners being put to work to make improvements  to the accommodation and the grounds of the camp. An excerpt from an inspection report in August 1945- states:

“....this camp which is truly ‘contented with little’. No orchestra, meagre library, no newspapers, but they are self respecting and compelled my admiration. I was told  the camp site was originally dreadful, but the POWs  drain and terrace it in their spare time and it should soon be a beauty spot.”

It is thought that the area which this refers is the extension of the camp to the south developed to accommodate the German prisoners. This area lies at the base of a slope, the sub soil is clay and the whole area is very damp. The original area of the camp built on the flat ground to the north was more suitable for the original camp

By the end of June, the Commanding Officer Major W M Spreckley was reporting his efforts to purchase musical instruments for use by the prisoners. He eventually was successful and an orchestra and a choir were formed. The camp also developed a library with one of the German prisoners acting as librarian.

Shortly after the Germans took occupation, they built a bakery on the site. The camp commandant supported the prisoners in achieving this by contacting salvage depots and collecting suitable items and materials. Mr Crawford, who lived in the cottage around which the camp had developed gave permission for stone from the quarry on Stewarton Road to be used for building the bakery and also the decorative stone walls.The records state that:: “The oven was completed on 19th September 1945, the prisoners working all night to get the job completed.”. The prisoners did bulk baking of bread to supply not only their own needs, but also provided for various other military establishments in the area. On average, 300 loaves of bread were distributed each day,.but on occasion up to 600 were distributed. An additional hut had to be built to store the flour!

During the period of the German occupation of the camp, the inmates and the staff made significant improvements to life in the camp. In addition to the bakery, they improved the chapel and adapted a building as a theatre where film shows and concerts were held. They also developed decorative gardens, grew produce in allotments and landscaped the grounds.

Reporting on an inspection visit  in August 1945, one inspector wrote:

“Major Spreckley speaks some German and knows more about the practical side of re-education than any other Commandant I have yet met. Prisoners of war told me that although the camps they had come from were better supplied for diversion, relaxation and free time amenities, they would rather be where they were so long as the Commandant was there too. One of them said they lived in dread that he would be promoted to a larger camp”.

Indeed several reports from visitors to the camp refer the the positive relationships between the prisoners and their guards.

Both the Italian and German prisoners were reported to be religious.  A visiting officer wrote in his report  of May 1947:

“The camp has a resident Protestant Padre (Cremer) who is reasonably satisfied with the religious side of the camp – having an average attendance of 20%. An RC Padre has paid occasional visits from 64 P/W Camp (Castle Rankin Camp in Denny) and there is a local priest who visits regularly and has attendance of 15%.  The camp is equipped with an excellent chapel, furnished very artistically from salvaged material.”

It is also reported that the prisoners made toys in the camp which were sent to the children’s ward of Glasgow Infirmary in December 1945.

Initially the German prisoners were confined to the camp but gradually they were allowed to work in the community. It appears that many of the German prisoners were skilled and did not normally work in agriculture. The precise nature of the work they undertook is not clear, but it appears that they worked at the Royal Army Supply Corps stores at Thornliebank, Cowglen Military Hospital and depots in Paisley, Kirklee and Darnley.

By August 1945, the process of “re-education” of the German prisoners had begun. This was a process designed to allow prisoners to see beyond the Nazi regime, which was all many had known from a very young age, with a view to a life in post war Germany. This was achieved by exposing the prisoners to the realities of life in Britain, showing them that hardship was also being experienced by the civilian population. Gradually restrictions on fraternisation were eased, allowing the prisoners to mix more freely in the local community.  They were encouraged to learn English and prisoners from Patterton went to Johnstone Castle Camp to sit the English examination. Success in this enhanced their chances of repatriation. They were also encouraged to read, debate and discuss political issues. The Red Cross report referred to above gives a detailed description of the camp in November 1945. Prisoners were continually assessed for suitability for repatriation and by May 1947 only 189 prisoners remained. The last prisoners left Patterton on 29th June 1947.

When the camp closed, all the equipment was sent to Camp 19 at Douglas in Lanarkshire. This was the last camp to close in Scotland and was the main repatriation camp, sending the prisoners home via deportation points in England.

 

Polish

After the departure of the German prisoners and until 1949, the camp was used by the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). The purpose of the PRC was to facilitate the transition from military life to civilian life in a foreign country for those Polish soldiers who wished to remain in Britain. Soldiers would learn English and undertake vocational training. During this training they would try to find a job. After a period of two years the individual was deemed to be a civilian.

 

Post war civilian inhabitants

After 1949 people from Glasgow, often referred to as “squatters” moved into the camp buildings. Each hut was divided and accommodated two families. There are no official records of life in the camp at this time but an insight is available from a letter written by Frank Reilly, Ontario, Canada.

“My family were homeless from 1948-51 in Glasgow. As a child, myself and my two brothers and my parents were boarded in the camp during this period. The dates I am unsure of. The POWs had left by 1947-48 and I believe it was turned over to the Corporation of Glasgow. I don't remember much about our stay there, or the precise time we were boarded. My father, a veteran of the Second World War, was particularly critical of the cleanliness or lack thereof of the Camp. I caught a disease that necessitated my being shaved bald and being dabbed with purple medicine. We were sent to Port Seton from the Camp for a break upon recovery, which was very nice. There was a railway line that led to the Camp. The line was there until the 1950s then it was dug up and removed.”

The families were gradually re-housed and the majority of the buildings were removed in the late 1950s.

Today there is no evidence that a Prisoner of War camp ever existed in the area.

 

Acknowledgements

Permission to use information from the GUARD report is gratefully acknowledged.

Patterton Aerial Image - "National Collection of Aerial Photography", 106G/Scot/UK140/Part III/5276 - Flown 03 July 1946

 

 

 


© 2019 Mearns History Group. All Rights Reserved. Designed by Nuadha