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11: German prisoners of war in Northern Ireland
Episode 1131st August 2022 • A Wee Bit Of War • Scott Edgar of WartimeNI
00:00:00 00:25:41

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Towards the end of the Second World War, German soldiers, seamen, and airmen landed in Northern Ireland. Safely held as prisoners of war in Allied hands, these men - and a few women - spent time in camps across Ulster. Initially, a fraternisation ban kept prisoners well away from locals but some friendships formed. In more recent years, locals spoke fondly of the Germans and their time in Northern Ireland. In this episode, you'll hear of tragic accidents, Nazi ceremonies, and even the odd daring escape.


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Hello and welcome to A Wee Bit Of War, a podcast dedicated to telling the stories of Northern Ireland during the Second World War. I'm your host, Scott Edgar, and in this episode, I’m going solo to begin a journey into a piece of research that has always fascinated me. We’ve covered Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and even the Belgian Army but there was another nationality with several thousand troops in Ulster in 1945, the Germans.

a credible feint to do so. In:


Following the Allied invasion of Normandy, British, American, and Canadian troops captured thousands of members of the German armed forces. Around 13,000 of them ended up in Northern Ireland, held at camps in Belfast, Holywood, Gilford, Portadown, and Cookstown to name but a few. After the war, locals spoke fondly of the uniform-clad Germans with their armbands to denote political allegiance and status.

Locals and prisoners got along well for the most part. There are many stories of friendships formed, and the exchange of goods and gifts between the two groups. While there are some stories of daring escape attempts, it is the craftsmanship and hard work of the Germans that is mostly remembered by the people of Ulster.


Northern Ireland was, and to some extent still is, an agricultural country. Towards the end of the Second World War, there was a noted boom in farming harvests, and an equally noted lack of manpower to deal with it. On 28th July 1945, the Mid-Ulster Mail reported:

The Daily Mail says that Northern Ireland farmers with hay and flax crops due to be harvested are faced with an acute labour shortage and representations are being made to the Northern Ireland Government for the allocation of labour from German prisoner of war camps in Ulster.

time-consuming to harvest. By:


It's in my old hometown of Portadown that we start our German prisoner of war story. Ten years ago when I first began researching the Second World War in Northern Ireland, I heard several mentions of a Prisoner of War Camp at Brownstown on the outskirts of the Co. Armagh town.

xtensively redeveloped in the:


On 10th June 2014, Noel Carville wrote in the Portadown Times newspaper about a P.O.W. camp at Killicomaine Castle in Portadown. Locals will know this as Irwin's Castle, named after the family who still reside there. The camp ran from Collen's Row to Killicomaine Road along what was then Collen's Lane. If you're looking at a map today, Collen's Lane has been renamed Princess Way since the development of the Killicomaine housing estate in 1954. The ground occupied by the camp would be beneath the houses of Abercorn Park.

ied a camp in Nissen huts. In:

th January:


While the Carrickblacker House site was never used as a prisoner of war camp, many prisoners worked the land there. One of their labours, as we mentioned, was the back 3rd tee on the Portadown Golf Club which now occupies the site. The club demolished the grand Carrickblacker House in 1988.

So let's talk actual camps. The site we just mentioned at Carrickblacker was in close proximity to the rural Co. Down village of Gilford. Further out the road, stood the mid-19th century Elmfield Castle. Built by local linen magnates, the Dicksons, this was a lavish estate and locals will tell you the P.O.W. camp stood on what were once the polo fields at Dickson's Hill.

By January:

At first, locals both feared and hated the tall, fair-haired men marching through Gilford having unloaded from British Army trucks. Yellow diamond patches sewed on the back of their uniforms denoted their prisoner of war status. Locals would hear them sing as they worked and exercised at the camp. Soon, local farmers would make use of this strong workforce. Some locals would even pass a loose Woodbine or two through the fence to the prisoners.


In Gilford, one task given to the German prisoners was the construction of a shooting range in the ground of Woodbank House, a stately home owned by the Sinton family. A pair of septic tanks on the family’s land is said to be the only remnants of the camp.

th May:

th June:

Private Alec Twyman of the Royal Army Service Corps was the driver of the lorry that overturned at Knock Road, Portadown. Jungclaus, the 42-year-old German became trapped beneath the lorry along with other prisoners. Local residents and workers rushed to help the injured parties, comforting them until medical help arrived. Jungclaus had sustained serious head injuries, a broken right collarbone, and fractured ribs.


An inquest into the death took place on Monday 28th May 1945 overseen by Captain W.A. Coote. A Hungarian Staff Sergeant acted as an interpreter although witness Günther Dieckmann spoke good English. Private P.H. Crowther was in another lorry further ahead in the convoy. He gave evidence that the overturned vehicle was traveling “quite normally”. Lance Corporal S. Gentry corroborated the evidence, estimating the speed of the lorry to be around 25mph before the incident. Head Constable McCutcheon of Armagh P.S.V. Department suggested the occupants of the lorry may have swayed as the vehicle took the bend, causing it to overturn. Coroner Dr. George Dougan M.P. returned a verdict of accidental death.

th May:

ield. The camp remained until:


On 20th January 1945, the Portadown News reported on the escape of 4 German Prisoners of War from the Elmfield Camp at Gilford. The 2 members of the Wehrmacht, a Fallschirmjäger, and a Luftwaffe airman staged their breakout only 48 hours after arriving at the camp.

th January:

noticed their absence at the:

By that evening, Luftwaffe airman Martin Wolff, and Wehrmacht soldier Heinrich Westermann were under guard of members of the R.U.C. at Tandragee. Michael Callan, a farmer and retired member of the Royal Irish Constabulary from Cordrain near Tandragee, spoke to the Portadown News:


Mr. Callan said about seven p.m. on Sunday, the two prisoners entered his home, and speaking in broken English, gave away their identity. Mr. Callan made them tea, and as they were partaking of the meal at the kitchen table, he observed one of the men, whom he described as “innocent-looking lads”, studying a small map.

Mr. Callan quietly locked all the doors and windows, and slipping out unobserved, contacted a neighbour, who in turn informed the Tandragee police. Mr. Callan returned to the house and engaged the Germans in conversation until the arrival of the R.U.C. One of the prisoners told Mr. Callan that he had an uncle residing in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the search was continuing for Horst Zimmerman and Ferdinand Kankowski.


Early on Monday 15th January 1945, Michael Mackle, a railway signalman at Poyntzpass, Co. Armagh heard heavy footsteps on the road. On looking out of his cabin, he saw the two escaped Prisoners of War approaching the level crossing. Mackle shouted, and the prisoners turned, running back towards Co. Down.

th January:

Let’s return briefly, however, to the burial of Wilhelm Jungclaus. His grave lies next to two fellow prisoners of war, also killed in tragic circumstances in Northern Ireland.

th December:


A German Officer named Schuller attended the inquest into the incident. He told authorities of his disgust at learning about the Nazi concentration camps. He went on to thank the people of Northern Ireland for their hospitable treatment of German prisoners. In particular, he thanked those who had tried to help save the lives of Blume and August Kreinbring.

th November:

Gosford Castle stands near the village of Markethill, Co. Armagh. In modern times, the property has fallen into disrepair and changed hands many times. The Norman-style frontage of the grand country house also featured as a setting for the hit H.B.O drama 'Game of Thrones'.

th Earl of Gosford in:


During the Second World War, authorities commandeered the large house and grounds for use by British and American troops. The grounds also saw use as a German Prisoner of War Camp towards the end of the war.

Little remains of Prisoner of War Camp No. 10 on the grounds of Gosford Castle. In the public car park stands a small stone tower constructed by prisoners. A plaque tells more of the story:

confined here at Gosford from:


On 27th November 1946 and 28th November 1946, an auction took place at Gosford Castle. For sale was the contents of the former military site and Prisoner of War Camp.

Blume, Kreinbring, and indeed Jungclaus would not get the chance to return home following the Second World War. As a result of injuries sustained in road traffic incidents, all three died at a military hospital on the site of Campbell College in East Belfast.

d as a military hospital from:

Among other deaths of German prisoners of War at the Campbell College hospital was Unteroffizier Gerhard Geier. He served in the Luftwaffe in a role similar to a Corporal in the British military.

Geier, with P.O.W. number B:

rd July:

nd June:


One of the more interesting cases from Campbell College Military Hospital is that of Herbert Lisser. Lisser was an Obergefreiter in the Luftwaffe. Born in Bremen the 21-year-old German became Prisoner of War number A58170.

nd March:

th March:


The Nazi salute was given by more than 100 German soldiers and airmen who stood on the steps of a hospital at a Northern Ireland prisoner of war camp today, and watched the funeral of one of their comrades, an army corporal who was fatally wounded when attempting to escape from a camp.

The coffin, draped with a Swastika flag was carried by six members of the Luftwaffe. Included in the small party who walked behind the coffin were two German nursing sisters who, with a number of others, were taken prisoner in a Brussels hospital. At Belfast City Cemetery, where the interment took place, a brief service was conducted by a German chaplain.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by Wiltons of the Crumlin Road, Belfast.


This story has always piqued my interest for several reasons. Firstly, the potential inconsistency in the records, although I suppose a fatal gunshot wound sustained in an escape bid is something of a precursor to a cardiac arrest. Secondly, the vivid imagery of the Nazi salute being given in East Belfast as a swastika-draped coffin makes its way from the hospital conjures up all sorts of feelings. Third, and finally, this is the only report I have found to date that suggests that there were also German women held in Northern Ireland.

Campbell College and its surrounds were not the only places to find German prisoners of war in East Belfast. Records suggest that a small camp also existed in Orangefield Park, where a military hospital also operated.

th May:


An inquest was held and fellow prisoner Edward Jouck gave evidence in English. Jouck was on the same transport as Selbach, leaving from Larne Railway Station to work at a coal dump along with 13 others and 1 escort from the British Army.

While travelling at approximately 25mph, the lorry struck the kerb at the side of the narrow street. The jolt saw Friedrich Selbach crushed between a telegraph pole and the iron support of the lorry’s hood.


The escort was Gunner W. Thompson of the Royal Artillery. His evidence corroborated that of Edward Jouck. Belfast City Coroner, Dr. H.P. Lowe returned an open verdict after considering the evidence. The Larne Times and The Ballymena Weekly Telegraph carried the story on 9th August 1945.

Closer to Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast, the Taughmonagh Prisoner of War Camp stood on an area of vacant land near the 3rd fairway of Balmoral Golf Club. Throughout the Second World War, celebrities including boxing heavyweight Joe Louis and fighter pilot Douglas Bader enjoyed a round of golf on the Balmoral course. Meanwhile, across the barbed wire, German military men awaited their fate as the war in Europe drew to an end. Enterprising locals would bring cigarettes to the prisoners in return for golf balls that found their way into the camp.

rd January:

Members of the church had sent gifts and decorations for the camp Christmas tree to the detained Germans. One local woman who sent a gift was the mother of a young man who had spent 5 years in a prisoner of war camp in Germany.


On the other side of Belfast, prisoners of war could also be found in and around Holywood, Co. Down where Germans were noted at Palace Barracks, Kinnegar Barracks, and on the coast at Rockport. Again, the deaths of some prisoners of war took place at these camps, including that of Oberkanonier Wilhelm Dalbeck at Palace Barracks on 23rd July 1945.

th February:

rd February:

th January:

th January:

Constable Gracey was unarmed and returning home from duty. He observed the men from a distance before concealing himself by the side of the road. The two young men were German airmen, both aged around 20 years old. Having captured the pair, Jack brought them up the road to the family home where his mother Eliza Jane Gracey waited.


Betty remembered one of the escapees having an open wound on his hand, perhaps an injury sustained during the escape. He walked over to the fireplace and held his hand over the open flames to cauterise the wound. Having been on the run, the Germans were hungry and soon Eliza Jane began making them an Ulster Fry. Meanwhile, Jack took his bicycle and made off towards nearby Ballygowan.

In Ballygowan, he sought out Joe Gibson. Joe was the Sub-District Commandant of the Ulster Special Constabulary. As well as holding that position, he also owned the only telephone in the area. Jack and Joe alerted the authorities to the whereabouts of the German escapees.


From the comfort of the Gracey household, Jack brought the prisoners to the Post Office in Ballygowan, where Gibson also held the position of Postmaster. There, they awaited the authorities. Soon, members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and military from Saintfield arrived to return the Germans to custody. There was no resistance from the re-captured Germans, one of whom spoke good English.

A third member of the escapee party was also returned to the Prisoner of War Camp. An employee of Mr. J.L.O. Andrews – son of former Prime Minister John Miller Andrews – of Ballywilliam House, Comber, Co. Down had found him asleep in a pile of hay in a cattle byre.

ad entered the byre at around:

The Gracey family always remembered the two young German airmen. After the Second World War, Jack named a pair of family dogs after the two airmen.


It wasn’t only a tale of death and foiled escape attempts for German prisoners of war in Northern Ireland. Those in the Rockport camp seemed to enjoy at least some of their time in Ulster.

A list of Prisoner of War Camps published by Historic England lists Camp 173, a Base Camp at "Rockport, Belfast" and Camp 681, a German Working Company at "Rockport". Over time, the exact whereabouts of the camp has become something of a mystery.

Concrete bases of Nissen Huts remain standing in woodland near the sewage treatment works at the coast. Many other holding areas for Prisoners of War in Northern Ireland were close to railway halts. This Co. Down site would have been a short march from Seahill Railway Station. Contemporary newspaper reports suggest the camp was on the other side of the village to where the hut bases stand.

In April:

th April:

Football is the favourite pastime of the Rockport Camp. Most of the prisoners are newcomers to the game but it is extraordinary how quickly they have mastered it. There is one youngster who is considered to be the equal of Davy Cochrane, and another who has the technique of a Joe Bambrick. Some of them, it is said, can almost make the ball talk.


We have only begun to step into the world of German prisoners of war in Northern Ireland in this episode. This is just the very beginning of a story, inspiring us to look in much greater depth at this topic. And, that’s before we even think about the Italian P.O.Ws, and the internment of foreign nationals who already lived in Northern Ireland at the outbreak of war. Ending with that story of prisoners enjoying a game of football has also reminded us that there’s an apocryphal tale of Manchester City and German international goalkeeper, Bert Trautmann, known for his F.A. Cup Final heroics in 1956. Locals will tell you that he graced the sportsfield at the Elmfield Camp during his time as a prisoner of war but perhaps that is a story for another day.

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