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January 13, 2013




The situation is especially intolerable on farms where the prisoners are working for the farmer. Here the Englishman feels lord of the manor, is waited on hand and foot, accepts no orders, and does exactly as he likes. The prisoners are particularly well treated by the womenfolk, who believe the political prophesies of the British and think it clever to ingratiate themselves

john malpas

Often at the time the pr
isoners were the only fit young males around. The original male locals were often away in the army.


There were a lot of Italian POWs in Somerset and a certain amount of interbreeding took place.

A few stayed on and more came over after the war to do the lowliest of all Somerset jobs, peat digging. From there they slowly bled into the building trades and now head some of the largest companies. In the mid-50's a fight took place between Teddy Boys and Italians in Wells. An annual dinner now takes place on the day of the fight with both sides and their descendants attending.

Some names are still pure Italian, they speak pure Somerset, and many of them still receive annual lorry loads of grapes from the homeland which they turn into great wine.


Although a large proportion of British prisoners in Germany come from ordinary working classes, a large number of them speak impeccable and fluent German.

This seems unlikely to say the least.


Not necessarily. The report was written in 1943. If you'd gone into the bag in 1940 after Dunkirk - and that's where a lot of these POWs would have come from, IIRC there were about 40,000 prisoners taken after Dunkirk - you'd have had three years living and working in Germany. Even for a member of the "ordinary working classes", I'd think that would be enough time to get pretty good at German.

The little examples of undermining morale are very good. In the book "The Great Escape" (not in the film, tragically) there's a note about the labour corps volunteers who used to march past Sagan every morning singing their Nazi songs, until the POWs organised a choir of 200 to stand by the wire and sing "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go" in squeaky voices. After a few mornings of that, the labour corps started marching the long way round to avoid them.

chris y

My dad was rounded up at Tobruk and only taken to Germany after Italy came out of the war. Even so by the time he got out he spoke good enough German to win a translation prize in his retirement. A lot of people learned German/Italian because there was fuck all else to do.

Richard J

ISTR from Hitler's First War (recommended, BTW) that the fraternaisation between the Tommies and yer Hun took place in both English and German - which makes a bit more sense when you think about the large amount of German immigration into places like Bradford, etc.


the large amount of German immigration into places like Bradford

I didn't know there was any, but it makes sense. There was a lot of German immigration to the US, after all, and Britain would have been almost as attractive.

Martin Wisse

Don't forget Hitler was a scouser (and serenaded by Morrisey, but that's another story).


Well, he was perpetually whiny and aggrieved.


"Calm down, calm down," sagte der Führer...


Ajay: as well as a district called Little Germany that basically looks like an inner suburb of Vienna or Berlin if it hadn't been bombed, bombarded, and stormed, we still have a Lutheran church that preaches in German.

And we even had our own Nazi - Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, Rudolf Hess's deputy and the head of the party organisation of Germans abroad, born in Bradford in 1903. We don't boast about him much for some reason.

We also have a street called Hammstrasse, but that's in recognition of a German burns clinic in Hamm's assistance after the Bradford City fire.


Also, I just found out the other day that the Bradford Ukrainian Club's on Twitter.


do they have their own SS division?


My gran goes to that church; like a lot of the congregation she came over post-war in search of a job. I don't know whether the original Little Germany immigrants were more likely to have been skilled artisans or unskilled labour. There were professionals in the mix, as (eg) one of the early doctors working on woolpackers' disease (anthrax) in Bradford was a German; certainly the Manchester textile industries imported German chemists to work on dyestuffs, and I presume the same was true of the Bradford wool trade.

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