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Article: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

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    Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    5 Comments by Doc Vernon Published on 13th June 2018 06:20 AM
    DuringWorld War II, a Canadian bomber flying from a base in Scotlandcrashed in what the crew thought was the vicinity of their airfield.Spotting a pub, they entered to celebrate their survival with a quickdrink but were stunned to see a group of soldiers wearing Naziuniforms and singing in German. Even more confusingly, the Germansresponded to their entry by shouting at them to “go to their ownbar.” The crew was soon given an explanation: after getting lostthey crashed in the Republic of Ireland… and now they werecaptured, just like the Jerries.








    Havingnegligible military power, Ireland was a neutral nation during thewar; Prime Minister Éamon de Valera went to great lengths tomaintain that neutrality. As part of this policy, he made a deal withboth the British and German governments: combatants of either countrycould be detained if found in Ireland and interned there for theduration of the war. Technically, the men were not prisoners of warbut “guests of the State,” with an obligation on the state toprevent them from returning to the war. A 19th century military campnamed Curragh Camp or “K-Lines” was designated to hold “guests”of both nationalities – along with a much higher number of Irishcitizens who were imprisoned because they were considered a threat tothe country’s neutrality, such as IRA men and pro-Naziactivists.



    At first, authorities looked the other waywhen British aircraft crashed or emergency landed in Ireland,allowing the crews to make their way home. The appearance of a Germanaircrew in 1940, however, forced them to start taking their jobseriously. Lieutenant Kurt Mollenhauer’s Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condoraircraft was taking meteorological readings off the Irish coast whenthey got lost in the mist and hit a mountain, with two crewmensuffering injuries.







    Theywere captured and taken to Curragh. They experienced some harshtreatment first but the Department of External Affairs quicklyrequested the army to improve their living conditions. With someGermans in actual custody, it was now also necessary to detainBritish pilots who landed in Ireland to maintain neutrality and thetwo sides had to be given the same treatment – preferably a lenientone to avoid angering Britain.






    Between1940 and 1943, some 40 British and 200 German military personnel weretaken to K-Lines, mainly air crews and men from shipwrecked U-boats.In appearance, the camp was a regular POW camp with guard towers,barbed wire and huts built on short stilts to prevent tunneling tofreedom, though the fence separating the British and German sides wasa mere four feet tall. Unlike in most camps, however, the guards hadblank rounds in their rifles and the prisoners were allowed to runtheir own bars with duty-free alcohol.

    The British barwas run on an honor system, with everyone pouring for themselves andrecording their consumption in a book. Prisoners were also allowed toborrow bicycles and leave the camp, provided they signed a parolepaper at the guardhouse, giving their word of honor not to escape andto return in time. Pub visits, with separate bars for groups ofdifferent nationalities, evening dances with the locals, fishing andgolfing trips and fox hunts were the norm, with one English officereven having his horse transported there from home and others havingtheir families join them in Ireland for the duration of the war. Someprisoners ended up marrying local girls and one German prisoner,Georg Fleischmann, stayed and became an important figure in Irishfilm industry.





    Whileboth sides enjoyed the chance to sit out the war in reasonablecomfort and without dishonorable behavior such as desertion, theGermans were generally more uptight about their situation. Despitebeing given some money to buy themselves civilian clothes for tripsto nearby towns, the preferred to stay in uniform inside the camp,planted gardens, made tennis courts, held exercise classes. On oneoccasion, they even set up a court to convict a comrade for treason,though the defendant couldn’t be executed, as the Irish refused tofurnish the Germans with a rifle and a single bullet. Sometimes,German prisoners sang Nazi songs just to piss off of their Britishco-internees. The two nations held boxing and soccer matches, with ahistorical record noting a German victory of 8-2 at one.


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    Default Re: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    That was WW2, yet in WW1 one of the biggest R&R camps was in County Tipperary from where the song,
    'It's a long way to Tipperary' came from.

    Had Ireland not split from UK there may well have been another then.

    But there were a number of Irish men who did fight with UK in the war.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    I remember reading a book covering the life of air crews in this camp. unfortunately cannot remember it's title name. they certainly lived well and had the unescorted run of the local area, unlike their brothers being held in Germany.

    regards stan

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    Default Re: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    As per Doc's article - Prime Minister Éamon de Valera went to great lengths to maintain that neutrality. As part of this policy, he made a deal with both the British and German governments: combatants of either country could be detained if found in Ireland and interned there for the duration of the war. Technically, the men were not prisoners of war but “guests of the State,”

    WW1 was a differing kettle of fish under British rule.

    Indeed following WW2 quite a few remained in Ireland,
    marrying and raising families.

    There are many recorded tales of in particular RAF personnel
    secretly passed over the border into the North.

    Keith.
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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    Default Re: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    My father in law, now long gone, was in the local Irish police and spent some time there as a duty police.
    He was stationed in Queens county at the time but they brought police in from many counties on a roster basis he told me many years ago.
    He told me it was not a difficult job as most of the prisoners were quite happy with their lot.
    Happy daze John in Oz.

    Life is too short to blend in.

    John Strange R737787
    World Traveller

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    Default Re: Curragh – the war’s most bizarre POW camp

    Spitfire down: The WWII camp where Allies and Germans mixed

    An attempt to recover a Spitfire from a peat bog in Donegal will highlight the peculiar story of the men - both British and German - who spent much of World War II in relative comfort in neighbouring camps in Dublin, writes historian Dan Snow.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13924720
    "Our veterans did not forget about us .... Let's not forget about them." From Michael Levesque

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