A former German prisoner of war and ex-prison official have returned to the site of their World War Two POW camp in the New Forest after seven decades.
Hans Strehlau was held at the camp during 1946-47 at the same time that Gordon Forsey was Motor Transport Officer at the low-security prison.
The meet-up was organised by the New Forest National Park Authority as part of its New Forest Remembers WWII project. Hundreds of pictures, videos and interviews have been collected over several years and are publicly available at www.newforestheritage.org.
Setley Plain POW Camp 65 was built in 1941 to hold Italian Prisoners of War. From 1944 the camp went on to hold German prisoners, and continued to do so until 1947. The camp was then used to house young families of returning servicemen.
During the war years, lorries were often seen taking prisoners to and from their designated jobs in the Forest overseen by a single guard. POWs worked on the fields, in sawmills and even in the gardens of local residents.
Former POW Hans, 92, now lives in Hythe, on the edge of the New Forest and explained: “In May 1946 I was transferred to England and ended up at Setley POW camp. A lorry picked us up every day and took us to work on a farm down near Exbury, where eventually I moved to work permanently. When I and my fellow prisoners were discharged, we were given an ‘alien’ certificate to allow us to be paid for work and so I settled in the area.”
Gordon Forsey, from Poole, commented: “I was an unusual choice as Motor Transport Officer as I could not actually drive when I arrived at Setley. Consequently the German prisoners had to teach me to drive on the roads around the camp. The camp was a peaceful place, I remember walking round the camp and seeing model villages that the Germans constructed outside their huts depicting their own home towns.”
Gareth Owen, an archaeologist at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “It was a real pleasure to meet Gordon and Hans and quite emotional to see them reminiscing about their time spent at Setley POW camp. The New Forest area played a vital role during WWII, in particular during the top-secret build up to D-Day, and some 70 years on it is more important than ever that we all remember sites like this.
“As firsthand memories of the war years pass away we are left only with the documents, film, images and audio of these recollections. Time is running out to give those that lived through the war the chance to talk about their memories or for us to ask any new questions.
“The New Forest Remembers WWII project aimed to record the role of the New Forest area during WWII. We are very grateful to all those that came forward to share their documents, photos and memories.”