Site of army and PoW camp, Johnstown

button-theme-pow Link to Welsh translationSite of army and PoW camp, Johnstown

During the Second World War, land now occupied by Carmarthen Athletic’s rugby ground was part of an army camp. From 1944, prisoners of war were held here. The aerial views of the camp in 1941 (upper photo) and 1944 are shown here thanks to the Welsh Government and Dyfed Archaeological Trust.

Photo of Ystrad army camp in 1941Before the war, the land was part of the Ystrad estate. Ystrad mansion was by the eastern edge of Ystrad Wood. The United Counties Agricultural Show was held on the estate in the late 19th and early 20th century. When the estate was put up for sale in 1909 it included a “timbered park” (parkland with large trees), pleasure grounds, gardens, three lodges and five farms.

Ystrad camp, established in the early 1940s, was used by Royal Marines and by a battalion of free Belgians. Some of the Belgians had fled their homeland as Germany invaded in 1940. Others had been ex-pats before the war. Keen to help the Allies, they grouped at Tenby initially.

American soldiers stayed here during the build-up of forces for D-Day, when the Allies began the liberation of France and Belgium. Ystrad was the headquarters and a winter camp for a battalion of the US Army’s 38th Infantry Regiment.

Photo of Ystrad army camp in 1944After the Americans had left, the facilities became a camp for prisoners of war (PoWs). By then, the Allies had captured large numbers of Italian and German servicemen. Many were sent to rural areas to help on farms, in place of workers who had left to join the armed forces.

PoWs worked six and a half days a week for one penny per hour. Jobs varied with the type of farm and the season, but generally the most onerous went to PoWs. Prisoners also toiled on road maintenance and in quarries. In 1945 they helped demolish pillboxes and barbed-wire entanglements (installed early in the war in case of German invasion).

Ystrad was a base camp, where PoWs arriving in the region would be screened and “graded” according to their ideological beliefs, before being moved to other camps.

About the place-name:
Johnstown is the name of a housing development and business park by the road from Carmarthen to Llansteffan. The initial element in Johnstown relates to John Jones of Ystrad who died in 1842; the second element is town – ‘settlement’. Bilingual road signs also have Tre Ioan.

With thanks to Alice Pyper, of Dyfed Archaeological Trust, and Prof Dai Thorne, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: SA31 3QY    View Location Map