Home   News   Article

Sawbridgeworth Local History Society hears story of prisoner-of-war camp in Hatfield Heath

Local history buffs learned that a planned five-year life for a prisoner of war (PoW) camp at Hatfield Heath has turned into 80 as 60% of its buildings remain today.

Guest speaker Mark Ratcliff told a meeting of Sawbridgeworth Local History Society at the Hailey Centre that the camp was set up in 1943.

By September 1946 it was housing 900 Italian, then German, prisoners, plus another 170 billeted on local farms and a further 900 at a linked facility at Hill Hall in Epping (now partly open to the public under English Heritage). It had seven officers and 40 other ranks managing the camp.

The camp in Hatfield Heath - 60% of the original buildings remain
The camp in Hatfield Heath - 60% of the original buildings remain

Some inmates married local girls (family connections remain) and some died in the camp and were initially buried in Bishop’s Stortford, then at the Cannock Chase war cemetery in Staffordshire.

Post-war there was a housing plan for the buildings, which were a unique mixture of wooden and concrete-frame structures, but the government wanted to keep it for displaced persons.

At one point it was a YMCA/hostel, then used for vehicle storage and chickens/animals. Its fate remains uncertain, with two planning applications pending.

Hatfield Regis Local History Society (HRLHS), supported by the parish council and residents, is trying to preserve at least some of its heritage, especially as it is in the top five best preserved camps of the 400-plus originally. Sawbridgeworth Local History Society has supported HRLHS’ objections to the planning applications.

The Sawbridgeworth history society is asking anyone who is happy to share memories of the camp to contact them by emailing sbwlocalhistory@gmail.com. The talk took place on Thursday March 28.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More