Archaeologists find ketchup, fishy condiments, beer and radio remains at World War II Prisoner of War camp

By Ben Miller | 09 June 2014

Ketchup, fish paste, beer and radios used by residents of a former Prisoner of War camp for German and Italian captives have been hinted at during a dig in East Ayrshire

A photo of a large square hole in the ground next to an archaeological measuring stick
© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
Six brick and concrete buildings, nine drain junction boxes, five concrete paths and a road were found at the site known as Camp 22, Temple Camp, Auchinleck Camp and Pennylands Camp since 1942.

The grounds were originally built as training facilities for the Tank Corps, but went on to become a transit camp for German and Italian captives during the Second World War before becoming a repatriation centre for Polish soldiers.

“A series of 24 concrete-surrounded postholes on the north side of the road almost certainly relate to what would have been a fairly substantial fence dating to the POW camp phase of use,” says Christine Rennie, who oversaw a watching brief while topsoil and overburden were dug up in the Dumfries House area.

“Some of the artefacts retrieved from the site reflect the daily life of the men who lived in the camps.

“The small assemblage includes items relating to food – an HP sauce bottle, Peck's fish paste bottle, Neill's perfection preserve and a teapot lid – and domestic life, with hygienic polish, boot polish and cutlery.

“Some aspects of a social life may be extrapolated from the recovery of a label indicating that the camp's inhabitants had access to a wireless radio and beer and whisky, although they were probably not consumed while it functioned as a Prisoner of War camp.

“The recovery of a plastic cosmetic compact and a baby's feeding bottle from secure contexts is quite intriguing. It could be an indication that at least one Ayrshire lass left the county when her Polish husband was repatriated.”

The buildings are said to be in “varying states” of preservation, with only one containing any intact floor levels as part of a latrine and shower room.

Germans and Italians stayed at the camp between 1943 and 1944, three years before it became a temporary home for Polish occupants.

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A photo of a large area of concrete and gravel terrain with archaeological implements
Structure E with two drain junction boxes and a fence posthole© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
A photo of a large square of dark brown muddy archaeological terrain
Structure B, with latrines at right centre© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
A photo of a square archaeological site made up of stones, mud, grass and buildings
Structures D and E© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
A photo of an archaeological site made up of layers of stone and mud in front of trees
Archaeologists exposing one of the buildings© GUARD Archaeology Ltd
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