Site of PoW camp, Bontnewydd

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Site of PoW camp, Bontnewydd

Here Lôn Las Eifion (cycling and walking route) and the Welsh Highland Railway pass the site of a camp for prisoners of war in the 1940s. The camp was in the field east of what was then the Caernarfon to Afonwen railway. Bases of camp huts survive there.

In 1943 the Ministry of Works asked Caernarvonshire County Council to establish camps for Italian prisoners of war (PoWs) who would work on local farms. Many farm workers had joined the armed forces during the war and the sinking of merchant ships had forced Britain to produce more food, instead of relying on imports.

Bontnewydd was one of the new camps. Italian PoWs often cycled from there to local farms. Historian Gareth Roberts recalled in 2021 that his mother said she had encountered PoWs on the trains which passed Bontnewydd more than once. She remembered the Italians as friendly and full of fun.

The Italians were eventually moved elsewhere. German PoWs arrived a few months after the war in Europe ended in May 1945. It was not until 1947-48 that Britain allowed large numbers of PoWs to return to Germany.

The Bontnewydd PoWs sometimes played football against the RAF Llandwrog team. Their welfare was overseen by Rev Stephen Tudor (of Capel Moriah, Caernarfon) and his wife. The couple set up a library for the PoWs and prepared dinner for them each Sunday. The prisoners were delighted, and called Mrs Tudor “Mam”!

One prisoner’s mother, Gerdina Balsters, wrote to Rev Tudor in November 1947 to thank him for “all the goodness” he had shown, and was showing, towards her son and other PoWs. Some former prisoners wrote to the Tudors after returning to Germany, some saying they missed the people and the area.

The camp was reused in 1962 to house local people while the Glan Beuno housing estate was built.

With thanks to Gareth Roberts

Postcode: LL54 7YF    View Location Map