Wiltshire Heritage Museum in public appeal to save German Prisoner of War diary

By Culture24 Staff | 05 January 2010
A picture of the inside of a handwritten diary

Wiltshire Heritage Museum has launched a public appeal in a bid to rescue an exquisite diary full of watercolour drawings and personal reflections from a German prisoner of war during the Second World War.

The unknown captive crafted the 56-page memoir (above) while being held at Le Marchant Camp in Devizes between 1944 and 1946.

It includes a detailed map of the 7,500-man camp, and translators are currently interpreting the text as organisers aim to identify the author and raise the £900 asking price to keep it.

A picture of the inside of a handwritten diary

The 56-page diary includes the layout of the camp

Unprecedented and often entertaining revelations on life inside Le Marchant feature, including accounts of the terrible food on offer and transactions between inmates using cigarettes as currency.

Lisa Webb, Curator of the Museum's hoard of objects from the camp, said the "gorgeously illustrated" book was "hugely significant" to the area.

"For the first time we will have an insight into how the prisoners in the camp lived on a day-to-day basis, how they were treated by the guards and how the camp was arranged internally," she explained.

A picture of the inside of a handwritten diary

Translators are now interpreting the handwritten book

"The sale of this diary provides the Museum with a rare and exciting opportunity to acquire a unique piece of history about the town of Devizes that until now was largely unknown."

The Museum is hoping to secure half of their target from the Victoria and Albert Museum's Purchase Grant Fund, and have received more than £100 in donations from the campaign so far.

Contributions can be made online or in person at the Museum.

Donors who pledge more than £5 will be given free admission to the Museum's current On the Home Front: Wiltshire in World War II exhibition.

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