First World War Prisoner of War camp housed in canvas bell tents and large communal tents.
First World War Prisoner of War camp housed in tented accommodation © Private collection
First World War Prisoner of War camp housed in tented accommodation © Private collection

Prisoner of War Camps

Prisoner of war camps have been built in England since the beginning of the 19th century. This section provides you with information on Second World War camps and an appeal for information on the location and condition of camps from the First World War.    

Early prisoner of war camps

Some of the earliest prisoner of war camps were constructed at the turn of the 19th century to house soldiers captured during the Napoleonic wars. Places of imprisonment included Portchester Castle, Hampshire, and a large purpose-built camp at Norman Cross, Peterborough, where its earthwork traces can still be found. Others were accommodated in now lost prison hulks.  

The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 created a demand for new camps to house the many thousands of captured soldiers, sailors and airmen, and for the internment of civilians belonging to hostile nations.  

The locations of many of these camps still remain to be discovered. If you have information to share please visit the Home Front Legacy website.

The Second World War

Similarly, during the Second World War new camps were built to house prisoners of war and civilian internees. A large amount of documentary material is available in the National Archives, Kew, and in foreign archives, such as, those of the Red Cross. Less attention has been paid to the physical survival of these camps, which was addressed by a study to identify their total number and locations. Surviving camps are significant historic features in the landscape, and a place of memory for many veterans and their families, and local communities.

Survival of the camps

To help understand this subject, and inform future management of what are often now vulnerable and unstable sites, a study was undertaken of sites in England. You can read the results of the work in our report, Prisoner of War Camps, 1939-1945.