Lodge Moor POW camp held around 11,000 prisoners from Germany, Italy and Ukraine at its peak in 1944, but had been left to nature and disappeared underneath shrubbery and soil for decades.
Now some the camp’s brick buildings, foundations from its barracks and other remains have finally been unearthed by archeology students at the University of Sheffield, in the north of England.
Perhaps its most well-known prisoner was Karl Dönitz, who spent around six weeks in the camp at the end of World War I after his U-boat encountered technical difficulties and was forced to surface in October 1918.
Dönitz tricked his way out of the camp, researchers said, by feigning mental illness to avoid being tried as a war criminal.
After being sent back to Germany he rose through the ranks of the Nazi German navy, eventually becoming its commander during the last years of the Second World War. Dönitz eventually succeeded Adolf Hitler as the president of Nazi Germany in the final weeks of the conflict following the ruler’s suicide, before being convicted of war crimes in the Nuremberg Trials.
“The prisoner of war camp was a very unpleasant place to stay,” said Rob Johnson, who worked on the project. “The prisoners were fed food out of galvanised dustbins, had to stand outside in the mud, rain and cold for several hours a day during roll call, and since it was so overpopulated as a transit camp, they were squashed into tents or the barracks with little personal space.”
A painting by ex-Wehrmacht officer Heinz Georg Lutz whilst he was a prisoner of war at Lodge Moor.
Courtesy Picture Sheffield
“It’s exciting to think what could be uncovered at the camp as it hasn’t received any archaeological surveys prior to our projects,” he added. “We found some reinforced glass and iron knots from the old barracks just walking around the area, which is incredible to think it has all just been lying around untouched and forgotten for so many years.”
Another student involved, Samuel Timson, added: “Some of the German prisoners managed to escape on 20 December 1944 but were recaptured without a fight 24 hours later in Rotherham.”
“After the war, some of the prisoners decided to stay in Sheffield – for example we found a newspaper interview with a former prisoner who became a nurse,” he added.