Shropshire Star

WW2 pistol and Wrexham beer among fascinating finds at Shropshire PoW camp

Archaeologists have unearthed fascinating remnants of a British prisoner of war camp in Shropshire that housed 2,000 prisoners during the 1940s.

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A loaded pistol and beer bottles from Wrexham were among the finds at Mile End

The German Second World War soldiers were imprisoned close to the Park Hall military camp, near Oswestry.

Excavations have been taking place at Mile End where work is continuing on the multi-million pound revamp of the A5/A483 junction to the south of the town.

Experts from Wessex Archaeology, who carried out the excavations, say the evidence they have found suggests that the camp was in use between 1940 and 1948 and believe it will give them an insight into what life was like as a prisoner of war in Shropshire.

Among the finds were a loaded German pistol and a spent .303 cartridge as well as signs of comfort including beer bottles from the now defunct Border Breweries in Wrexham.

A map showing the layout of the camp at Mile End
A spent .303 cartridge was found at Mile End. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

John Winfer, project manager at Wessex Archaeology, said: “What we have revealed is surprising evidence of some (relatively speaking) comfortable conditions for the inmates.

"We know from our documentary research that the Red Cross, which visited many POW camps across Europe during the Second World War, came to assess conditions at the Mile End camp.

"The visit report highlights the range of facilities and activities on offer to the prisoners, which is supported by the archaeological evidence we uncovered."

Glass bottles once containing hygiene and cleaning products. Photo: Wessex Archaeology
Toothbrushes and other personal items found at the camp. Photo: Wessex Archaeology
A second roundabout has been built at Mile End in the latest multi-million pound change to the layout

He said the prisoners benefited from sports pitches, musical performances, electricity to power lights and heating, enough toilets available for everyone at the camp, and several hot and cold showers and wash basins.

Many of the prisoners would have been employed in carpentry workshops, with younger inmates given time off to study at the camp’s school, he said,

"Those overseeing the camp enjoyed more spacious accommodation, and our work uncovered military issue ceramic tableware accompanied by beer glasses. This all paints a civilised and rather unexpected picture of a POW camp,” Mr Winfer said.

A toy camel was also found. Photo: Wessex Archaeology
Wings from a German uniform. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

Artefacts giving more personal insights those living at the camp include a lead alloy toy camel and toiletries including toothbrushes.

But it is an aluminium metal identification tag from a German soldier that has excited archaeologists the most.

Mr Winfer said: "This is an intriguing find with so much potential. In the event of death during the war, the tag would have been snapped, with one half buried with the body for later identification and the other given to unit administrators for recording.

A loaded German pistol. Photo: Wessex Archaeology
Beer bottles found at the camp. Photo: Wessex Archaeology

"In this case, it tells us that the German POW in question belonged to the 3rd Company, Landesschützen Battalion XI/I marking the capture of this prisoner early in the war, September 1939 to 1940.

"We know his serial number too, so we’ll be doing further research to reveal the full story."

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