MERROW POW CAMP|
camp was originally built in 1941-42 to house Italians from
the North Africa campaign and only later in the war did it
house German POWs. It consisted of a series of huts terraced
into the slope of the Downs west of the Golf Club, on four
corners of the camp were outlook towers. Even today traces
of the camp can still be seen including the main entrance
road to the camp and a levelled area that was used for football
Some of the prisoners worked clearing ditches and carrying
out road maintenance or helping at local farms and market
gardens. Gradually, after the war, prisoners were given more
freedom, such as going into Guildford unescorted. The
huts were also used for a while after the war as temporary
housing for local people. The camp was demolished in the late
The Merrow Downs camp was designated Camp No 57 Working Camp
and was graded Grey. This referred to the type of prisoners
held there, who were graded by a colour patch which was worn
on their uniform. White or grey patches meant the person in
question was not an ardent Nazi and had no strong feelings
either way. The real hard-core Nazis wore a black patch and
included most Waffen SS prisoners and U-boat crews.
In October 1945 the main camp housed the Italian Labour Battalion
with German POWs in three hostels in the area. By
June 1946 61 Germans were housed with the Italians in the
main camp and the number of German housed in 6 local hostels
had risen to 2512. It was also noted that the arrival of 'black'
prisoners including 30 Waffen SS soldiers had led to difficulty
with existing White/Grey POWs.
the September all the Italians had gone but as late as March
1948 540 prisoners were still living in the main camp, with
a further 242 in hostels and 35 in billets. By this time several
prisoners had received diplomas in English and were studying
a wide range of courses at Guildford Technical College. A
number of prisoners held in Britain never went home to Germany,
marrying English girls and settling in this country.
about the POW Camp Merrow Down an
excellent historical site, (scroll down to find) about Guildford and the River Wey, including articles
that first appeared in the Surrey Advertiser on the history
of the POW Camp Merrow written by John Glanfield.