Prisoners of War

German prisoners resting in their cage after their capture in France, November 1916. 'Papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928)'.
German prisoners resting in their cage after their capture in France, November 1916. ‘Papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928)’.

From the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century to the First and Second World Wars of the twentieth, there have been prisoners of war held in camps in Scotland. The library collections include a number of books and journal articles on these prisoners and the conditions in which they were held.

The most comprehensive and detailed account of the Napoleonic prisoners is found in Ian MacDougall’s book ‘All men are brethren: French, Scandinavian, Italian, German, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish, Polish, West Indian, American and other prisoners of war in Scotland during the Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1814′ (2008). This work, which took twenty years to research, provides an invaluable insight into the lives of the prisoners. The author has also published ‘The prisoners at Penicuik: French and other prisoners of war, 1803-1814′ (1989), which focusses primarily on the three camps in the town: Greenlaw, Esk Mills and Valleyfield.

There are a number of journal articles in ‘The Scottish Post: the journal of the Scottish Postal History Society’ that provide an overview of camps in Scotland.

  • David Jefferies, ‘Prisoner of war camps in Scotland’, no.56 (1992), pp.490-5
  • David Jefferies, ‘Update on prisoner of war camps in Scotland’, no.58 (1993), pp.524-5
  • David Jefferies, ‘P.O.W. camps in Scotland’, no.70 (1996), pp.726-7
  • James Mackay, ‘Prisoner of war camps in Scotland’, no.112 (2006), pp.7-11

During the First World War there was a camp at Stobs near Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The library holds several articles on this camp which were published in the ‘Transactions of the Hawick Archaeological Society’.

  • E. Judith Murray, ‘Stobs Camp 1903-1959′ (1988), pp.12-25
  • Julie M. Horne, ‘The German connection: the Stobs Camp newspaper 1916-1919′ (1988), pp.26-32
  • Stefan Manz, ‘New evidence on Stobs Internment Camp 1914-1919′ (2002), pp.59-69

Another area of the country that held German prisoners was the Inner Hebrides on the west coast of scotland. The story of their forced employment as iron-ore miners is told in ‘The Raasay Iron Mine 1912-1942: where enemies become friends’ by Lawrence & Pamela Draper (1990).

In World War II Scotland hosted both German and Italian P.O.W.s. James MacDonald’s book ‘Churchill’s Prisoners: the Italians in Orkney 1942-1944′ (1987) provides a historical overview of the subject. Johann Custodis’ article ‘Exploiting the enemy in the Orkneys: the employment of Italian prisoners of war on the Scapa Flow barriers during the second world war’, published in ‘Journal of Scottish Historical Studies’, Vol.31(1) (2011), pp.72-98, considers the moral and ethical issues surrounding this period of history.

Finally, a recent publication sheds light on one of the most hidden camps in Scotland: ‘Camp 165 Watten: Scotland’s most secretive prisoner of war camp’ by Valerie Campbell (2008). The camp was situated at Watten in Caithness and housed some high ranking prisoners. The book is based primarily on oral testimony of those who lived in the area and those who were imprisoned in the camp.