WW2 Prisoners of War

There were very few Prisoners of War in the early years of the war but this increased considerably after the North African campaign started in late 1940 with many Italians taken prisoner. Many were sent to Canada and elsewhere but those who were held in this country were increasingly being put to work in agriculture. By the time of the Italian Armistice in  September 1943 there were around 75,000 Italians prisoners at work in the UK.

Following D Day in 1944 there was a huge increase in the number of German prisoners brought to the UK. German prisoners were considered to be a higher risk than the mostly conscripted Italians and not so many of them were put to work. In March 1945 there ware 160,000 Germans of which 39,000 were employed and 154,000 Italian with 150,000 employed.

This additional labour force had become increasingly valued especially in agriculture but also in many other areas, so much so that after VE Day the government was very reluctant to repatriate the prisoners and it was the middle of 1948 before the last of them were allowed to return home.

The main camp in this area was Camp 53, called Sandbeds, which was in Gateforth New Road in Brayton next to Selby Golf Club. It later became a mushroom farm. As demand for accommodation increased additional camps known as hostels were attached to the main camp.

These Hostels had lower levels of security and were closer to the places of work where the men were employed.The Hostel at Sherburn had 3 compounds one of which we believe was to the North of the original Moor Lane not far from Sherburn Station. There is no sign of it today as some houses have been built there as well as the modern bypass.



The other 2 sites are said to be close by alongside the airfield. Information about how many prisoners of what nationality were housed at Sherburn is uncertain but they do seem to be mostly German with some Ukrainians and Rumanians.  Peak occupation seems to have been at the end of 1946 at around 570 prisoners with the last ones leaving at the beginning of 1948.

Franz Kamp was one of the prisoners who is quoted by Barwick in Elmet Historical Society as saying that there was no barbed wire at Sherburn and the guards were infinitesimally small in numbers. The labour and work was arranged by civilian personnel. He reports working pea picking in a field between Sherburn and South Milford.

If anyone has any additional information about the Sherburn hostels please let us know.