Sunday, March 17, 2013

German POWS Scrap Book discovered in the New Forest

Setley German POWS Scrap Book
A scrap book of sketches, poems and Christmas greetings by German prisoners of war has been unearthed in the New Forest thanks to a project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

The unique collection includes evocative sketches of the prisoner of war camp at Setley near Brockenhurst, as well as four wooden figures carved for the main gate.

The discovery was made as part of the New Forest Remembers – Untold Stories of World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

The camp at Setley originally housed Italian prisoners of war before German prisoners were moved in after the Normandy landings in 1944. The scrap book was compiled for Christmas and includes etchings of camp life, snowy scenes as well as seasonal greetings to each other. It also includes some photos of the 300 to 500 prisoners held there from 1945 to 1947. On the cover is the German word ‘Lager’, which means camp in German, as well as the prisoners of war camp number 65.

The book was given as a Christmas present to the German camp leader Max Mueller who later settled in the New Forest at the end of World War II. The two-foot high carvings from Setley were given to him after the camp closed in 1947.

They have been donated by Mr Mueller’s widow Molly and their son Mike. Mike Mueller, who runs the Meerut bed and breakfast in Brockenhurst, said: ‘The scrap book has been gathering dust in a cupboard for years, and we just thought it would be nice for other people to see it. It was a Christmas present from the prisoners in the camp to my father. He didn’t talk much about his time there, so it’s remarkable to have this record.’

Gareth Owen, from the New Forest Remembers Project, said: ‘We’ve had a great response from people telling their World War Two stories, and the scrap book and carvings from Molly Mueller are real historical gems. The hand drawn sketches are particularly striking. Many of them are initialled so we are able to match them with the photos of the prisoners in the book. This is a fascinating insight into what was upmost in the minds of the German prisoners so far from their homeland.’

The two-year New Forest Remembers project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Exxon Mobil at Fawley. It aims to bring the war years to life through archaeological surveys and digitally capturing the memories of those who lived during the period. So far, more than 170 people have come forward to tell their stories.

Photo German POWS at Setley Camp in New Forest

The scrap book and carvings will be put on display as part of a New Forest Remembers exhibition at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst from 23 March until 28 April.

The exhibits will also be seen later in a digital portal full of recorded interviews, photos, letters, diaries, film footage and animated 3D reconstructions of some of the wartime buildings. Members of the public will be able to add their stories and memories to the portal when it goes online.

If you have your own story for the New Forest Remembers Project, you can contact the team at 01590 646600, email archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk or write to New Forest Remembers, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

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