Monday, February 09, 2009
CAMP COMES DOWN
By the weekend little more than the brick watertower remained of the buildings at Pingley Camp, on the outskirts of Brigg, where the site is being re-developed for housing and industry.
All the huts which were home to German and Italian prisoners of war during the 1939-45 conflict have been demolished.
Pingley Camp is near Brigg Garden Centre, on Bigby High Road - just over the border into West Lindsey, where the district council gave planning consent for the new development.
Executive-style detached properties will be built on the site, which was acquired by Grimsby-based Barford Builders Ltd.
A few years ago, some surviving relics from Pingley Camp, including the dentist’s chair, were taken to Harperley, in Northumbria, where another PoW camp has been converted into a tourist attraction.
Brigg Amateur Social Historians made a visit there to see some of the Pingley artefacts in their new home, while Pingley Camp formed the basis for a very well-attended monthly meeting of the group, in the White Horse.
Long after the end of the Second World War, the camp continued to play home to agricultural workers, some of whom were students from Europe enjoying working holidays.
One of the PoWs, Gerhard Moerbe, of Scawby, married and stayed on in this country.
He shared his memories at that BASH meeting, and with readers of Nostalgia magazine.
Gerhard revealed there had been a drive to return all prisoners home before the 1948 Olympic Games were held in London.
Mr Moerbe who had been at Castlethorpe moved to Pingley Camp at Brigg in the summer of 1947 to act as a clerk in the transport office.
He, like many others, came from the Eastern part of Germany which had been occupied by the communist Russians.
"I was not anxious to get home. I came from East Germany and had no wish to go back to the Russian Zone. I had never lived under the Russians and had no intention of going back there," he told Nostalgia during an interview in 2002.
The spectre of life under a totalitarian Communist regime as one of the defeated enemy was as unappealing as the Nazi regime that had gone before.
"In the German regime you did not know anything. Things were strict in Germany. You were not allowed to listen to foreign radio stations. If you were caught there were strict prison sentences. We did not know any different or what was happening in other countries," he said.
There were French and Belgium prisoners who worked on farms in Germany. He felt there had been a good reception from the English for the German prisoners.
"A lot of the local people did not mind the prisoners of war. You maybe got a few looks but if you behaved yourself people accepted you," he revealed.
He said Pingley Camp consisted of concrete slab huts as opposed to Nissen huts. Jimmy Thorpe was the farmer at Pingley.
Mr Moerbe said that while at Pingley Camp he met up with a former schoolmate who it turned out was stationed at a camp at Sandtoft.
There were also camps at Scawby at the Greetwell crossroads, off Messingham Lane, on the Scawby side, at Low Santon and at Keadby.
"I was due to be repatriated by March 1948 but I volunteered to stay on to work on a farm."
He said around 20,000 former Prisoners of War were allowed to stay in England under a scheme run by the War Agricultural Association.
The local camp for such workers was a former WAAF camp at Kirmington opposite the parish church, to which he moved in March 1948.
He said there would have been around 160 at Kirmington with 20 people to a hut. He stayed there until December 1948. Anyone who wanted to stay had to find their own lodgings.
Mr Moerbe said he initially worked on Davy’s farm at Greetwell and then got a job with the farmer’s company at Yarborough Mills oil mill.
"I stayed there until towards the end of 1949 then I worked at the steelworks at Appleby-Frodingham," he added.
We'd love to hear your memories of Pingley Camp, or receive your comments on its demolition and the new plans for the site. Post them here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our pictures show the site at the weekend, with demolition well under way, and the camp as it was during a BASH visit a few years ago, while the huts were still standing.