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Prisoner of War camp photograph

PoW camp photograph
What was it used for? To house prisoners of war
Where is it from? Merrow
When was it made? About 1950
How was it made? Photographed
What was it made from? Photographic paper
Size L 121mm, W 83mm
Museum number TG.1082

This photograph, taken about 1950, shows the Prisoner of War (PoW) camp on Merrow Downs. The camp was used throughout World War II. When it opened Italian prisoners captured in North Africa were housed there. Later German PoWs joined them. After the war ended, and the prisoners had left, the site became home to some local people.

When the camp at Merrow started, the authorities decided not to house German PoWs there as the Special Operations Executive (SOE) had bases nearby. The SOE carried out top-secret work. However, towards the end of the war, the British captured huge numbers of Germans and the authorities changed their mind. German prisoners were also held at other camps in Surrey.

Most prisoners at Merrow seem to have been happy with their situation although there were a few escape attempts, and at least one inmate committed suicide. Some prisoners worked outside the camp in the daytime and their conduct made a good impression. Some even decided to remain in England after the war ended and a few married local women.

The last PoWs left the camp in 1948. Over the next decade, the council used the camp as emergency housing for people who had lost their homes due to bombing. The conditions at Merrow Downs weren't ideal. However many people tried to make their temporary accommodation more homely by adding features such as gardens.