SHADY LANE POW CAMP
At a well-attended meeting of the Evington Local History and Heritage Group, held in the Park House on October 16th, Dr Margaret Bonney of Knighton gave an informative and lively talk about the Shady Lane prisoner-of-war camp, built originally by the Americans as a camp for their troops and situated between the brook and Gartree Road, in what is now the Arboretum. First Italian and then German prisoners were housed there between 1944 and 1948, when the camp was closed.
Although the war ended in 1945, there was a delay in sending the prisoners back home, partly because of conditions in war-torn Germany and partly – perhaps mainly – because there was a labour shortage here, so that some prisoners were employed as useful (and cheap!) labour on farms and on public works (e.g. road-building).
Dr Bonney also spoke about other POW camps in Leicestershire (of which there were many), particularly mentioning a large one at Scraptoft, which at one time could accommodate 2,000 men.
As well as Dr Bonney, we were pleased to have with us a guest specially invited by the speaker, Karl Hohn, who was sent to Evington as an eighteen-year-old prisoner, having been wounded and captured in the Ardennes region of France during the Allies’ advance towards Germany. He confirmed that relations between the local population were friendly; indeed, he said, compared to conditions in Germany at the time, Evington seemed like paradise, what with biscuits and invitations to Sunday and Christmas dinners with local families. He even married a local girl while still a prisoner – although he had to return to the camp each evening! Not surprisingly, he stayed on after the war, and now lives in Anstey.
Information about the programme of the Local History Group can be found on the Co-op noticeboard in Main Street or by e-mailing Chris Hossack – firstname.lastname@example.org