Town’s historic PoW camp included in radio programme

HOW a disused mill in Leigh came to be used as a World War One camp for German prisoners will feature in a radio show this weekend.

Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the British government implemented a policy of interning all Germans, Austrians and Hungarians of military age who were living in Britain and Ireland as they viewed them with suspicion and feared that they might have been sympathetic to the German war effort.

Initially 300 of these ordinary civilians were interned in Richmond Barracks, Templemore, Co Tipperary, but as the war progressed and enemy soldiers started being captured on a large scale, the British government decided to transfer the civilian internees first to a camp in Oldcastle Co Meath, but just months later to a disused mill in Leigh.

Their story in Ireland and what became of them after they arrived in Leigh is to be the subject of a radio documentary which will be aired on Tipp FM radio in Ireland this weekend.

The programme will examine who exactly these men detained in Ireland and England were, where they were captured, life in confinement, deaths of inmates within the three camps and the reason as to why in the finish all of the POWs and civilian internees were transported over to Leigh as well as other camps in the UK. Local reaction to these foreign visitors back then will be explored as will the political climate both in Ireland and abroad during this period.

Hannah Turner - a local history officer based in Leigh - discusses the layout of the camp there and the conditions under which the men arrived over from Ireland.

Playwright Neil Duffield in Bolton also contributes to the programme and outlines how his interest in the subject was the inspiration for his play on the Leigh POWs entitled Lilford Mill which he wrote in the 1980s.

There are also numerous references to local man Leslie Smith (now deceased) who wrote the book: The German prisoner of war camp at Leigh, 1914-1919.

Ms Turner has in intriguing story about an escape tunnel constructed by the POWs which was ultimately discovered in time by the Leigh camp authorities.

The programme which features interviewees from the Leigh area is entitled ‘Turnhalle Barracks – German Prisoners of War in Templemore’ and will be broadcast on Tipp FM radio in Ireland on Sunday July 21 at 6pm. It can be heard in the UK on or as a podcast.