top of page

Exploring the History of the PoW Camp in Bontnewydd, Caernarfon

Introduction

The history of Bontnewydd, a small village in Caernarfon, Wales, is intertwined with the presence of a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp during the 1940s. This camp, located in the field east of the former Caernarfon to Afonwen railway, witnessed the internment of both Italian and German prisoners. In this article, we delve into the fascinating stories and experiences surrounding the Bontnewydd PoW camp, shedding light on the interactions between the prisoners and the local community.


An old chapel that's been converted into one of the most unusual properties in North Wales has been put up for sale.  Capel Siloam in Bontnewydd in Gwynedd was built in the first half of the 19th century and, despite its recent renovation, many of its original features have remained intact, which is what separates the property from every other that's currently on the market.  There's not many houses in North Wales with a 50ft vaulted living room ceiling - or a pulpit for that matter.  With its wooden panels, massive bookcases, and innate sense of drama, the building has everything you need, short of a suit of armour and perhaps a peephole painting, to double as a murder mystery setting.
Bontnewydd Chapel

Italian PoWs on Local Farms

In 1943, amidst the height of World War II, the Ministry of Works approached Caernarvonshire County Council with a request to establish camps for Italian PoWs who would work on local farms. As many farm workers had joined the armed forces, and import shortages due to sinking merchant ships necessitated increased food production, the Italian PoWs played a crucial role in filling the labor gap. Bontnewydd became one of the camps where these prisoners were stationed.

Historian Gareth Roberts recollects his mother's encounters with the Italian PoWs on trains passing through Bontnewydd. She fondly remembered them as friendly and full of fun. These prisoners often cycled from the camp to the nearby farms where they labored. The interactions between the Italians and the local community were marked by warmth and camaraderie.


Arrival of German PoWs

Following the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, the Italian PoWs were relocated, making way for German prisoners. It wasn't until 1947-48 that Britain allowed large numbers of PoWs to return to Germany. The Bontnewydd camp thus became the temporary home for German prisoners during this transitional period.


Football Matches and Community Support

Despite the circumstances, the Bontnewydd PoWs found ways to engage with the local community. One notable activity was playing football matches against the RAF Llandwrog team. These matches provided a sense of camaraderie and entertainment for both the prisoners and the locals.

Rev. Stephen Tudor, along with his wife, played a significant role in overseeing the welfare of the PoWs. The couple established a library for the prisoners, and every Sunday, they prepared a special dinner for them. The prisoners held Mrs. Tudor in high regard and affectionately called her "Mam." Their appreciation for the kindness and support they received from the Tudors is evident in the letters sent by prisoners and their families.

Gerdina Balsters, the mother of one of the prisoners, wrote to Rev. Tudor expressing her gratitude for the generosity and care shown towards her son and other PoWs. Many former prisoners also reached out to the Tudors after their return to Germany, expressing their fond memories and nostalgia for the people and the area.


Plas Dinas is a Grade II listed building in Bontnewydd, Gwynedd, near Caernarfon in North Wales, between the Welsh coast and the Snowdonia mountains.[2][3] It is a large country house which retains significant features of an early 17th-century house at its core.  Since 1915 the estate has been in the hands of the Armstrong-Jones family. Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon spent much time there, including with Princess Margaret during their marriage from 1960 to 1978.  Since the 1990s the mansion has been a country house hotel, now called Plas Dinas Country House.
Plas Dinas - Bontnewydd

Reuse of the Camp and Plas Dinas

In 1962, the Bontnewydd camp was repurposed to accommodate local residents while the Glan Beuno housing estate was being constructed. Today, the site serves as a reminder of the significant historical events that unfolded within its boundaries.

The minor road adjacent to the camp site leads to Plas Dinas, a 17th-century manor house that was once home to the grandparents of the renowned celebrity photographer, Lord Snowdon. This historic landmark adds another layer of intrigue to the area's rich history.


Conclusion

The PoW camp in Bontnewydd holds a unique place in the village's history, symbolizing a time of both adversity and unexpected connections. The Italian and German PoWs, through their work on local farms and their interactions with the community, left an indelible mark on the collective memory of Bontnewydd. The kindness and support extended by individuals like Rev. Stephen Tudor and his wife fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. Today, the remnants of the camp stand as a testament to the resilience and humanity that can emerge even in the darkest of times.


Published by

Visit Caernarfon Ltd

コメント


コメント機能がオフになっています。
bottom of page