UK’s biggest prisoner of war camp discovered in Sheffield

The forgotten history of what was once the country’s largest prisoner of war camp – a site that held a German admiral who tricked his way out of captivity and went on to succeed Hitler as president of the German Reich – has been uncovered by archaeologists.

The remains of the Lodge Moor camp,  have been brought to life by researchers from the University of Sheffield and the Sheffield Lakeland Landscape Partnership, who together discovered the site after it was hidden on the outskirts of the city for more than 60 years. At its peak in 1944, the camp held more than 11,000 people including Germans, Italians and soldiers from the Ukraine. The camp’s most famous prisoner was admiral Karl Doenitz who captained several German U-boats. He was captured when his vessel encountered technical difficulties and was forced to surface in October 1918. He spent around six weeks at the Sheffield camp, during which he plotted his escape by feigning mental illness to avoid being tried as a war criminal, eventually being transferred to Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital where he remained until the end of the war. He then became president of the German Reich after Hitler committed suicide.

A painting by Heinz Georg Lutz whilst he was a prisoner of war at Lodge Moor in September 1945 – April 1948. Credit: Picture Sheffield

Rob Johnson, one of the archaeology students who has been surveying the remains of the site, said: “Reading about the living conditions was probably the most striking thing during my research. The prisoner of war camp was a very unpleasant place to stay; the prisoners were fed food out of galvanised dustbins, had to stand outside in the mud, rain and cold for several hours a day during roll call, and since it was so overpopulated as a transit camp, they were squashed into tents or the barracks with little personal space.

“Nowadays, the site is popular with dog-walkers and pedestrians just going for a stroll who probably don’t know what the old building foundations are or that the site used to be a prisoner of war camp at all. They’re not aware they’re walking through the remains of what was once the largest prisoner of war camp in the UK.”

More information about the study can be found here.

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