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  • hilly 10:55 am on June 11, 2015  

    Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill 

    Front cover of "Zur Erinnerung an 1020" from the Greenwich Heritage Centre

    Front cover of “Zur Erinnerung an 1020″ from the Greenwich Heritage Centre

    Zur Erinnerung an 1020 G-PWW-Coy Shooters Hill – As a Memento of German Prisoner of War Working Company 1020 Shooters Hill – is the title of an exquisite,  slim booklet from the archives of the Greenwich Heritage Centre. Its contents are a set of pen and ink drawings of the PoW camp by one of the German prisoners, Wolfram Dörge. Dated Christmas 1946, it is dedicated to the officer in charge of the camp, Major Leech, who was known to the prisoners of war as the “Father of the Camp”.

    Wolfram Dörge’s pictures show the various huts that made up the camp, including the mess hut, the infirmary, the recreation room and the cobblers’ and tailor’s shop. They also include views of the inside of some of the huts, such as the billet hut shown below, the kitchen and the stage in the recreation room. It is a unique record of life for German prisoners of war in the UK after the end of the second world war.

    Wolfram Dörge's picture of the Officers' Mess at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the Officers’ Mess at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge's picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the inside of a hut at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020

    Wolfram Dörge’s picture of the recreation ground at Camp 1020

    The camp was situated in the area now taken up by the southernmost 9 holes of Shooters Hill Golf Club, the part nearest Shooters Hill, plus the westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm. The Shooters Hill Golf Club history page  summarises the use of this part of the course during the war years:

    In 1939, the southernmost 9 holes of the course were requisitioned for the establishment of an anti-aircraft battery and part of the Clubhouse became the headquarters of the Home Guard, and in the latter years part of the course also became a Prisoner of War camp for some 1000 German and Italian prisoners. The camp was surrounded by a 7ft high wire fence, and the cookhouse situated by the 17th green. The remaining 9 holes continued to be played even though the course sustained considerable damage from bombing.

    The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club

    The 17th Green at Shooters Hill Golf Club

    The anti-aircraft battery was an unusual one – it was a Z Battery, which used 3-inch rockets to defend against enemy air attacks. In 2005 a community archaeological research programme called the “Lie of the Land project” led by local archaeologist Andy Brockman investigated the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery and the findings are documented in chapter 14 of Images of Conflict: Military Aerial Photography and Archaeology. An aerial photograph of the golf course from August 1944 shows the 64 twin-barrelled rocket projectors of the battery arranged in an 8 by 8 grid across the eastern-facing slopes. The battery was initially manned by personnel from the Royal Artillery, but later the Home Guard took over and it was fully manned by the Home Guard from the end of July 1943.

    Even at the time it seems there was some doubt about the effectiveness of such unguided rockets against enemy aircraft, and it was suggested that they were there as much for civilian morale as for usefulness in defence. After the battery was stood down it is reported that the Mayor of Bexley sent a message to the stand down dinner which included the comment: “Thank God you are standing down because you have caused more damage to property in Bexleyheath than the enemy has”.

    The Z Battery was on the golf course between August 1942 and November 1944, according to David Lloyd Bathe’s “Steeped in History”, which also mentions that an American tented camp was there before the PoW camp. Another aerial photograph from Images of Conflict, from October 1945, shows rows of military Bell tents which were no longer there in the autumn of 1946 – presumably this was the American camp – though when the PoW camp was first set up some of the prisoners were billeted in tents.

    "Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135" by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer - This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg#/media/File:Loading_Z_battery_Merseyside_1942_IWM_H_21135.jpg

    “Loading Z battery Merseyside 1942 IWM H 21135″ by Taylor (Lt), War Office official photographer – This is photograph H 21135 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 4700-37). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

    Camp 1020 was formed on 26th June 1946 according to a fascinating document from the National Archive which was referred to by Andy Brockman in his talk about the camp to Shooters Hill Local History Group last  September. Andy thanked SE9 Magazine who passed on the document which is a report on an inspection visit to the camp and gives details of the PoWs and their educational and cultural activities in the camp, including the work to “denazify” the prisoners .

    At the time of the report there were 533 German prisoners in the camp. They had all been transferred from Camp 197 at Chepstow, but before that 75% had been in the USA and the remainder in Belgium. Initially morale was low, as the report says:

    Morale at first was low, owing to the disappointment of Ps.W. ex USA, who had been assured by American officers that they were being repatriated, and discontentment of Ps.W. ex Belgium who alleged they had been badly fed and roughly treated in Belgium. Good treatment, attention to welfare and educational activities on the part of the British staff and better food has now raised morale considerably. Many Ps.W. ex Belgium have gained up to 40 lbs in weight and the camp can now be regarded as content and happy.

    Many of the activities organised for the prisoners were aimed towards political re-education, or denazification. One of the first steps was to classify how strongly each prisoner adhered to the Nazi ideology. A report on a project about another PoW camp, at Butcher Hill in Horsforth, explains the classification scheme:

    White patches (‘A’ ‘A-‘) were for prisoners with no loyalty or affiliation to the Nazis. A grey patch (‘B+’ ‘B’ ‘B-‘) meant that the prisoner, although not an ardent Nazi, had no strong feelings either way (mitläufer). Hard-core Nazis and almost all Waffen SS and U-Boat crews wore a black patch (‘C’ or ‘C+’).

    It isn’t clear whether the black/grey/white patch system was used at Camp 1020, but the camp was classified overall as grey and the A/B/C  method of classifying prisoners was used. The vast majority of Shooters Hill prisoners were classified as A and B with just 31 Cs and 1 C+.

    There were a wide range of re-education activities, including lectures on “Public Life in England” and “Germany yesterday, today and tomorrow” which were attended by between 100 and 150 prisoners and were followed by “lively discussions”. A press review was held three times a week attended by 150-200 men. Press items were selected and translated beforehand for the review. “Mr. Churchill’s speech at Conservative Conference was given in full and caused much discussion”. The radio was popular, with about 200 men listening to the BBC news in German on the “good quality wireless” in the recreation room. The YMCA Film Unit visited every Tuesday.

    There were beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in English and classes in French and Spanish. The number of classes was limited by lack of accommodation, according to the report. It also recommended that the library of 103 books in German and 100 in English be augmented with more German novels. In addition the supply of newspapers needed to be increased. They received copies of the Daily Express, Daily Herald, Daily Mail, the Times and the News of the World, and also of a UK government produced newspaper in German called Wochenpost. The 50 copies of the latter were deemed totally inadequate for a camp of 530 men.

    Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course

    Westernmost fields of Woodlands Farm looking towards golf course

    Why were prisoners of war still held in 1946, when the war in Europe had ended over a year earlier? They were kept as workers to help in reconstruction work at a time when many British workers were still overseas in the armed forces. Under the Geneva Convention PoWs couldn’t be forced to work, but most of them volunteered to as a way of passing the time. At its peak in September 1946 there were 402,200 prisoners of war in the UK, in hundreds of camps, of which 84.9% were working. It has been estimated that 25% of the workforce in the UK was such PoW labour.

    “Steeped in History” records that the prisoners in Camp 1020 worked mainly in the warehouses of the North Woolwich dockyards and in the public utilities of military and civilian facilities. A few helped with farm work, for example harvesting potatoes at Woodlands Farm where the Western field was given over entirely to growing potatoes. They also worked on the groundworks for the Cherry Orchard Estate in Charlton and on snow clearance in the harsh winter of 1946/47. David Lloyd Bathe tells the story of how they saved a Charlton football match:

    In the very severe winter of 1946/47, PoWs volunteered to clear the snow from the First Division Charlton Athletic’s football ground so that a regular weekend game could be played. About 300 PoW volunteers were “guests of honour! at the game.
    “When our part in saving the game was acknowledged over the loudspeakers, there was much cheering and backslapping, and many cigarettes came our way!”

    Prisoners at the camp were allowed quite a lot of freedom. When they weren’t working they could move freely within 5 miles of the camp in daylight hours. On Sundays a party of about 70 protestants went to a service in Welling Church. Catholics initially had a religious service at the camp led by a German speaking priest, but later they attended a mass arranged by Fr. Nevatt at St. Stephen’s RC Church in Welling. This became known to parishioners as the German Mass and hymns were sung in German.

    According to David Lloyd Bathe the prisoners at Working Camp 1020 were discharged from the camp in the spring of 1947. Now, nearly 70 years later, almost all trace of the war-time uses of the golf course and farm has disappeared. Apart from some anomalies in archaeological geophysical surveys at Woodlands Farm all that remains is a couple of ramps leading from Shooters Hill towards the golf course.

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

    Ramp from Shooters Hill towards golf course

     
  • hilly 6:03 pm on May 29, 2015
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    Woodlands Farm Summer Show and Open Farm Sunday 

    Summer Show 2015

    Woodlands Farm‘s Summer Show is combined with Open Farm Sunday again this year, so it will include farming related demonstrations such as sheep shearing and a vintage tractor display. It takes place on Sunday 7th June between 11.00am and 4.30pm. Maureen from the farm wrote with details:

    All are welcome at the Woodlands Farm Summer Show. Come and meet our animals, and enjoy the chance to buy quality local produce at reasonable prices, including home-made preserves and cakes. Relax in our café, get involved in craft activities and games, and enjoy displays of country crafts. Entry is £1 adults, 50p children. All proceeds go towards caring for our animals. A great family day out!

    Since Open Farm Sunday started in 2006 over over a thousand farmers have opened their farms to the public for a day. This year hundreds of farms will be open on Sunday 7th June. In London, as well as Woodlands Farm,  this includes Stepney City Farm and Kentish Town City Farm.  Open Farm Sunday is organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming).

    Woodlands Farm's 2014  Summer Show

    Woodlands Farm’s 2014 Summer Show

    The farm will also be participating in the pollinator survey  which is being run as part of Open Farm Sunday again this year. The pollinator survey is one of a series of ecological surveys that the farm will be repeating this year, following the same approach as in 2014. Others already lined up are an amphibian survey on Tuesday 16th June, a meadow plants survey on Wednesday 24th June, two bat surveys in July, a dragonfly survey on Wednesday 8th July and the Big Butterfly count in August. If you’re interested in being involved in the surveys contact Hannah Forshaw, the farm’s Education Officer, on education@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org.

    Wild Rose at Woodlands Farm

    Wild Rose at Woodlands Farm

     
  • hilly 11:51 am on May 10, 2015
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    Shrewsbury Park Bat Walk 

    May 15 bat walk poster

    The Friends of Shrewsbury Park‘s bat walks have become so popular that this year they will be holding two. The first will be held next Friday, 15th May, and the second later in the year on 11th September. An e-mail from the Friends gave the details:

    Hang out with the bats
    Shrewsbury Park 15th May 2015
    Meet in the car park off Plum Lane at 8.00pm for an introduction from bat-wise FSP members who will lead this adventure through the park at sunset using our eyes, ears and bat detectors!
    – Wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing
    – Children must be accompanied by an adult
    – Walk lasts about 1 ½ hours and torches are helpful
    – Dogs must be kept on a lead
    – If you have mobility issues, please contact us on fspdog@hotmail.com and we will help you to participate.  The trail is a mixture of paved path, gravel and grass.
    If it rains, neither the bats nor us will be coming out!!

    The Friends will be borrowing bat detectors for the evening from the local parks forum,  the Bat Conservation Trust and London Bat Group.

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

    Biggles the giant Pipistrelle at Bat Fest at the Natural History Museum

    If you’re interested in bats then there will be lots of other chances to see them during the summer months. You can get really close to bats at the annual Bat Fest held at the Natural History Museum. This year it will be held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, 29th and 30th August from 12-5pm. One of the many highlights is Jenny Clark and her education bats, as the BCT website says:

    Sussex Bat Hospital –  One of our most popular attractions!
    Learn about the work of Jenny the bat carer a.k.a. ‘BatLady’ who will bring her bat lodgers in for the day. These bats have been previously injured but sadly cannot be released into the wild. However, they live a comfortable life with Jenny who caters to all of their batty needs.

    Jenny, who was awarded the MBE in the 2015 New Years Honours List for her services to bat conservation, brings along examples of most of the UK bat species and shows them off to visitors.

    There will also be a number of other bat walks in the local area during the coming months. Woodlands Farm and Hall Place haven’t published the dates for their bat walks yet, but Crossness Nature Reserve have. The Bexley Wildlife blog has the details:

    Fri 14th Aug, 20:15 – 22:30
    BAT WALK– A walk round Southmere Lake and Crossness Southern Marsh, south of Eastern Way, identifying bat species with the use of bat detectors. Daubenton’s bats will be putting on a show over the lake, and Pipistrelle bats – and hopefully other species – will be hunting over the marshes. Feel free to bring children along. Bring a torch if you have one and you might want to wear some insect repellent. Sorry, there are no refreshments provided for this event
    PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THIS DATE MAY NEED TO BE CHANGED. PLEASE BOOK ON IF INTERESTED IN ATTENDING AND I WILL UPDATE YOU IF THERE IS A DATE CHANGE – THANK YOU
    Meet 20:15 at the Southmere Lake/ Lakeside Complex car park off Belvedere Road (SE2 9AQ)

    Fri 11th Sept, 19:00 – 21:00
    BAT WALK– A nocturnal walk around the nature reserve north of Eastern Way after sunset, identifying bat species with the use of bat detectors. Hopefully we’ll see some other nocturnal species too. Bring a torch if you have one, and you might wish to wear some insect repellent.

    Book for these by contacting Karen Sutton, the Biodiversity Team Manager at Thames Water Crossness Nature Reserve by phone on 07747 643958 or Email: Karen.sutton@thameswater.co.uk.

    If you can’t wait to see some bats here is a video of a pipistrelle bat in the hand. Remember though, if you do find a bat you shouldn’t handle it, but follow the BCT guidelines for containing it and contact the Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228 or email enquiries@bats.org.uk.

     
  • hilly 10:37 pm on May 5, 2015
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    St George’s Chapel Restoration 

    St Georges Chapel Flyer May 2015

    If you have been past the grade II listed St George’s Garrison Church recently, you’ll have noticed that the restoration work is well under way, with the substantial wooden beams that will hold the new tensile fabric roof all in place. The restoration of the marvellous mosaics has also started. Pictures of the restoration have been published on the chapel’s new twitter feed @HpoSe18

    There’s a rare chance at 1.00pm this Saturday, 9th May,  at Woolwich Library to learn more about the restoration and visit the chapel. Julie Ricketts, the Heritage Project Officer for the restoration, sent details:

    Learn about the restoration project at St. George’s Chapel, Woolwich and plans to return it to community use. Find out how your community group can use the venue. Take part in Heritage Open Day and Armed Forces Day. Discover our range of volunteering opportunities.
    Presentations from the architect and mosaic conservator, followed by a visit to the site in Grand Depot Road. Refreshments provided.
    No invitation required, all welcome from 1pm in the Reader Development Room, Woolwich Library. Contact Julie Ricketts, Heritage Project Officer, e-mail hpostgeorgeswoolwich@gmail.com, Tel 0754 6265480 Twitter https://twitter.com/HpoSe18, & on Facebook

    I understand that the plan is to set up a friends group for the chapel and make it available to community groups. Should be an interesting afternoon, I’m really looking forward to learning more about the restoration of the mosaics.

    Remembrance Sunday, St George's Garrison Church Woolwich

    Remembrance Sunday, St George’s Garrison Church Woolwich

    St George shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George's Garrison Church Woolwich

    St George shown in the Victoria Cross Memorial mosaic in St George’s Garrison Church Woolwich

     

     
  • hilly 6:22 pm on April 24, 2015
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    Bluebell Walk on Sunday May 3rd 

    Bluebell Walk poster

    If you’re interested in the ecology and history of Oxleas Woods then make sure you go on the Bluebell Walk through the woods and Woodlands Farm on Sunday May 3rd. Hannah from the farm wrote with details:

    Enjoy a leisurely walk through ancient Oxleas Woodlands on the bank holiday Sunday May 3rd. The walk is led by staff of the Woodlands Farm Trust and starts at the historic Severndroog Castle on Shooters Hill and end at Woodlands Farm. Barry Gray, Chair of the Woodlands Farm Trust said ‘Oxleas Woodlands are a riot of new growth at present, with bluebells, wood anenomes, wood violets and many other plants coming into flower. Perfect for a walk describing some of the interesting ecology, history and uses of Oxleas over the years’.

    The walk starts at Severndroog Castle at 1.30pm and ends at Woodlands Farm, and should take between 1 ½ – 2 hours. Why not get to Severndroog early for a guided visit and a coffee or brunch in the café. The café at Woodlands Farm will be open for further refreshments at the end of the walk.

    For more information please contact Woodlands Farm on 020 8319 8900 or email admin@thewoodlandsfarmtrust.org

    The last time this walk took place we saw not only bluebells but many other wild flowers, including Stitchwort, Ladies Smock, Wood Sorrel, Wild Garlic and Wood Anemones. We learned about and saw plants that are rarely seen outside ancient woodland, such as the Wild Service Tree and  Butchers Broom – species that would be threatened if a road was ever built through the woods. You can see photographs of the plants and wild flowers of Oxleas Woods in a Flickr album here. We also walked by the historic cants of coppiced Hazels and Chestnuts deep in the wood and heard about their place in medieval life.

    Very highly recommended.

    Bluebells  in Oxleas Wood

    Bluebells in Oxleas Wood

    Ladies Smock (Cardamine pratensis) in Oxleas Wood

    Ladies Smock in Oxleas Wood

     
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