Site of prisoner of war camp, Abergavenny

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Site of prisoner of war camp, Abergavenny

German prisoners of war were kept here before and after the end of the First World War. Their presence and the work they did aroused strong emotions in local residents.

The Monmouth Road Garage opened in this vicinity before the war. Abraham Harrison was proprietor in 1906. The Daimler Motor Company traded at the premises by 1910.

Photo of Monmouth Road garage c.1906
View across Monmouth Road Garage c.1906, courtesy of Abergavenny Museum

The garage had temporarily closed by autumn 1918, when it hosted a work camp for c.40 German prisoners of war (PoWs). The government sent thousands of PoWs to rural areas to work on farms. Britain needed to produce more food because U-boat attacks on merchant shipping cut food imports, but farms had lost many workers to the armed forces.

There were heated arguments about whether Germans based at “the Garage” should work on local farms, PoWs’ pay rates and whether farmers should feed Germans. Some said the PoWs were poor workers, others said they were better than the British soldiers who were sent to farms (often to help with harvesting). Trade unions objected to using German labour.

Repatriation of PoWs was delayed after the war ended in November 1918. In July 1919 former soldier Phillip William Carter was charged with malicious damage at Monmouth Road Garage. He said he had smashed a plate glass window because some of the Germans laughed at him and he wanted to make a public protest against them. He blamed Germans for his disability. He had been gassed on the Western Front in France and lost two relatives in the war.

Aerial view showing Monmouth Road Garage
Aerial view with garage in centre, courtesy of the RCAHMW and its Coflein website

He was working at Abertillery waterworks at the time of the court case. He was ordered to pay £10 towards the damage. A Mrs Price, who supplied goods to the men at the waterworks, made up his fine because he had fought for Britain “and saved us from the Germans”.

The PoWs had left by November 1919, when Thomas Temlett announced that the Abergavenny Motor Company would be reopening the garage. Today the site is home to the ATS tyre garage and an Aldi shop.

The aerial photo, courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales, is part of an image from the Aerofilms Collection of the National Monuments Record of Wales. The garage is at the centre.

With thanks to Janet Herrod, of Abergavenny Museum

Postcode: NP7 5HF    View Location Map

Website of ATS Abergavenny

Copies of the aerial photo and other images are available from the RCAHMW. Contact: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk