Bowmanville POW camp

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Bowmanville POW camp in 2011

The Bowmanville POW camp also known as Camp 30 was a Canadian-run POW camp for German soldiers during World War II located in the community of Bowmanville, Ontario in Clarington, Ontario, Canada (2020 Lambs Road). In September 2013, the camp was designated a National Historic Site.[1]

Prisoners Otto Kretschmer and Wolfgang Heyda were the subject of an elaborate escape attempt named Operation Kiebitz.

Early history[edit]

In 1922, John H. H. Jury donated his farm of 300 acres to the government to build a "School for unadjusted boys who were not inherently delinquent" (Bowmanville Boys Training School). Two of the early buildings were completed in 1927. The property taught boys until 1941, 14 years after it first opened as a school, when the government told the school to move to a new location so the area could be quickly turned into a prisoner of war (P.O.W) camp. Bowmanville Boys Training School were relocated within Bowmanville to "Rathskamoray" (Currently the Lion's Centre), although most boys returned home.

Canadian officials had barely seven months to turn the boys school into a prisoner-of-war (POW) camp. The school was built to hold many people, but the officials had many tasks to complete before prisoners could be moved in: building barb-wire fences 15 feet apart, guard towers (nine), as well as gates and barracks for the Canadian guards. These tasks were completed in late 1941, just as the prisoners were arriving.

After the war ended, the POWs were shipped back to Europe, and the site resumed its use as a school.

Battle of Bowmanville[edit]

Main article: Battle of Bowmanville
Cafeteria and site of "Battle of Bowmanville", c. 1930

In October 1942, between 1,500 to 4,000 prisoners revolted against the POW guards after they were shackled as retribution as part of the escalation of Germany's new Commando Order.

Lieutenant Colonel James Taylor had asked German senior officer Georg Friemel to supply 100 prisoners to volunteer to be shackled as part of the ongoing international dispute. When he refused, Otto Kretschmer and Hans Hefele were also asked to provide volunteers, but refused.

Taylor ordered the guards to find 100 officers to be shackled by force, and Horst Elfe, Kretschmer and others barricaded themselves in the mess hall, arming themselves with sticks, iron bars and other makeshift weapons. Approximately 100 Canadian soldiers requisitioned from another base in Kingston arrived, and together stormed the mess hall using only baseball bats, so the two sides remained evenly matched. After several hours of brawling, the Canadians brought high pressure water hoses and soaked the cabin thoroughly until the prisoners agreed to come out peacefully.

During later incidents in the battle which spanned several days, Volkmar König was wounded by gunfire and another prisoner was bayoneted, and a Canadian soldier suffered a skull fracture from a thrown jar of jam. After calm had returned, 126 of the prisoners were transferred to other camps.

Escape attempts[edit]

During the years the site was used as a prisoner of war camp, there were many escape attempts; even though it was said the prisoners were treated better than most citizens of Bomanville and the surrounding area.

  • The first attempt occurred during November 25, during the camp's first year. A prisoner attempted to crawl underneath the barbed wire, but was caught immediately and given a 28-day detention.
  • Operation Kiebitz - failed escape attempt to rescue four German submarine commanders.
  • On December the 30th, a prisoner attempted an escape by hiding in the laundry truck as it was leaving the camp. The attempt failed, and he was held in the Oshawa Jail for a few hours before being released into the camp that same day.
  • During a routine inspection in the prisoner's cells, a tin can was found with a map and tools to escape, on the 29th of July, 1943. The can was taken and likely either locked away, or destroyed.
  • It is said the most notorious escape attempts were that in which the P.O.W's tried to build tunnels. Several were attempted, and when found were stopped and closed off. The most famous tunnel attempt was started in the North-east corner of Victoria Hall. (Referred to by prisoners as Haus IV) The tunnel was 50cmX50cm squared, lighting had been wired in, and a ventilation system installed using tin cans. Supports were every 1–2 meters and were made from wood from attics within the camp. The dirt excavated was disposed of using a trolley system, and men passing a bucket up to the attic through a hole in the ceiling. Eventually in September 1943 after pounds of dirt being passed up in to the attic, it collapsed and alerted all nearby guards, who discovered the tunnel and collapsed it.

Present day[edit]

The property remained as a boys training school until 1979 and various acamedic used until 2008 (school for overseas Malaysian students, St. Stephen's Catholic School and finally a private Islamic university).[2]

In present times, the P.O.W Camp 30 is greatly neglected. Buildings are boarded up, doors are blocked by dirt, or are also boarded up. All windows are broken, and interiors of the buildings are badly damaged with graffiti covering the walls, and drywall smashed. Most are also considered dangerous or a fire hazard (There is fire damage within all of the biggest buildings), but some remain in fairly good condition, with minimal water damage.

In 2013, Camp 30 received a spot on Heritage Canada's list for 'The top 10 endangered places of 2013' mainly because it was scheduled to be demolished, due to neglect of the buildings, and the value of the land to a developer. This demolition plan was cancelled later in 2013, after it was named a National Historic Site. Most agree that the site should be saved, but at the moment it is undecided what will be done with the property. "All we want to see is reuse of the buildings... some people want a big, beautiful museum, we understand the finances aren't there. We just want to see adaptive reuse" the president of ACO Clarington, Tracey Ali, said to the Clarington newspaper. The estimated amount to restore all buildings could go as high as $15,000,000.

The Clarington paper also reports of how a committee was created Sept. 9th, 2013 to look at how the buildings can be saved, and how they will be preserved. A heritage plaque is expected to be put up, given its landmark designation.

The site is currently in poor condition, vandalised, abandoned and neglected.[3]

Today the cafeteria is little more than a brick shell, although the building's original freezer remains intact. Also, the basement has the remains of two boilers.

References[edit]

  • Hodgson, Lynn Philip; Longfield, Alan Paul (2003). Word of honour : Camp 30, Bowmanville. Inside Camp X series. Introduction by Volkmar Koenig, PoW. Port Perry, Ont: Blake Books Distribution. ISBN 9780968706282. OCLC 53458569. 
  • P.o.w camp 30 history. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.camp30.ca/history.html
  • O'Meara, J. (2013, Sept). Camp 30 set to take its place in history. Clarington

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°55′37″N 78°40′00″W / 43.92694°N 78.66667°W / 43.92694; -78.66667