Held at:

National Monuments Record Centre [English Heritage]




Original document


English Heritage Project Report: Prisoner of War Camps 1939 to 1948

Place name:

Golden Valley 


1939 - 1948


This report by English Heritage has been included in the Ewyas Lacy Study Group website to provide background to and aid the interpretation of the material presented as the Voss Collection concerning the prisoner of war camp at Dorstone in the Golden Valley and the activities of its inmates in the Ewyas Lacy area.

The report sets out to describe the nature, location, design and operation of the various types of camps and the activities of the prisoners held in them. References are given to other studies including academic assessment of the impact of transient prisoner populations on local communities. It also addresses the current [as at 2003] survival status of the individual sites classifying them as ‘complete’, ‘near complete, ‘partial remains’ or ‘removed’. However, the report is not comprehensive in scope – it lists for example just two POW camps in the whole of Herefordshire and does not record the presence of the Dorstone Camp in the Golden Valley at all. The authors acknowledge the limits of their study and make reference to a large volume of as yet unresearched documentation on POW camps held in the National Archives.

The report notes that not all sites were true Prisoner of War camps; many were hostels situated some distance away from the parent site, or base camp. These base camps often parented up to seven hostels; no attempt was made during the assessment to specifically locate these hostel sites. Dorstone camp may well have been one such ‘hostel’.

Defining exactly what constitutes a Prisoner of War camp is also said to be difficult because of the immense variety of types, sizes, and classes of buildings used. The number and types of camp varied throughout the war. In addition to the base camps, a large number of semi-autonomous hostels were established out in the country, and a large number of PoWs were billeted on farms.

The documentation of POW camps is also somewhat erratic; the report’s author notes that without further documentary research it is hard to tell whether the inconsistencies in the camp numbering system and location data were the result of a deliberate policy, or of the fluidity of the situation. There is certainly documentation held in The National Archives to show that the British were unwilling to release the location of Prisoner of War camps to the Germans due to the fear of possible paratroop raids to release the prisoners. The Germans on the other hand indicated that they were seeking the information to ensure that they did not bomb the camps by mistake.

Although contracts for the building of these camps were issued during late 1942 and early 1943 to a number of well-known construction companies, the prisoners built many of the ‘Standard’ camps themselves, living under canvas until the accommodation was complete. The most common variety of building used was the 18ft 6in-span Ministry of War Production (MoWP) standard hut, although some sectional timber, Laing, 16-ft and 24-ft span Nissen, British Concrete Federation (BCF) and Orlit huts were used at a number of sites.

The report notes that the majority of PoW camps remained active in their original role until 1948. After this date many were removed for a variety of reasons, chief of which were post-war reconstruction and the reclamation of agricultural land. However, a large number of these sites, particularly the purpose built ones, were handed over to the administration of a number of county agricultural committees who ran them as hostels for farm workers. Many of these farm workers were the very same men who had been held in them as prisoners, but who elected to remain in Britain rather than be repatriated. These hostels often continued to function as such well into the late 1960s and early 1970s.


The original report “Prisoner of War Camps 1939 to 1948” by Roger JC Thomas is available for download as a PDF file.



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