Aldershot History - Frith Hill

As some know, I am currently undertaking a research project of the Hampshire and Surrey area during the first and second world wars. Obviously, Aldershot has a rich and proud military history, but i am more interested in digging out lesser-known events and areas, particularly the few prisoner of war camps that featured on the heathland very near my home. I was lucky enough to discover a 'Magic Lantern' glass slide on Ebay, which depicted (very unclearly in their original picture) a photograph taken of a very early camp of German prisoners. I managed to buy it, and after a long wait for it to arrive, I have finally scanned it in. Here is the first one to show you the slide casing details,



As you can see, there was a clear headline of "The Great European War" - referring to the First War of 1914-1918. The second line reads "German Prisoners at Aldershot" but does not provide a date.

After my own research (which could very well be incorrect, but I'm pretty confident!) I believe this to be a photograph of the 'Frith Hill' prisoner of war camp which was created in Aldershot during August 1914, as there were no other specifically built prisoner of war camps built in Britian at the time. It was a disused industrial area, in a suitable position due to it's closeness to the coast and rest of the south's road access. It was initially used to process prisoners before they were passed to various locations around the country.

I scanned the glass plate and managed to get quite a good result, considering it's nearly 100 years old! I chose not to edit out the damage to the plate, as i find it all part of it's interest!



My research leads to believe that there were both German and Austrian prisoners at the camp, and the description's i have found of "vast wire fencing and guard posts linked by telephones" fits the picture well enough! Inside the camp, they lived in the same bell tents as the British Army. Inside the camp there was also a post office a hospital and sports areas. The prisoners and internees received the same food ration as the British Front Line troops, which of course, wasn't the case for the captured British prisoners by Germany. This is what interests me about these British camps, it was a completely different environment to those abroad. I agree that it must have been awful for the prisoners to have been kept away from their homeland and families for so long, but no evidence states that they were mistreated. I was relieved to hear this, as i would have hated finding out a more unpleasant story about a place so near to my home!

I asked my Grandad about these camps which were in the area during World War 2, and he confirmed that the later camps involved the prisoners in the agriculture of the area, with German and Italian soldiers helping in the surrounding farmland.

Apparently, there was 6 successful escapes from Frith Hill, which caused serious alarm to the surrounding areas, with thousands of police and soldiers joining the search to find them. Only one evaded their capture, and escaped the camp.

In four years, only 3 or 4 inmates died at the camp, and were buried nearby. I would be interested to see what lies on this area now,

I know of later camps being build on the common land very nearby, so that is my next research venture, but to find such an early example is very exciting!
The picture is very telling of the fear, the barbed wire fence in the foreground preventing the photographer from approaching, and the men clasping at the fence is of course, upsetting. I wonder if it was taken by a soldier or civilian? For a local of the area, it must have been quite a spectacle to behold, and i would imagine, a very frightening prospect.

Now, for the record, this is simply for my own historical understanding, I obviously find these events upsetting, however, we can't deny the past, and also, one must remember that the English camps were very different to those over seas. Considering my paternal Grandmothers side of the family were Jewish and living through each of the world wars, I do not take this matter of history lightly, but that is another story all together! But I find it very important that we learn as much as we can about our (not so distant!) past.

I hope for those familiar with my local area, that was useful!

Thanks for reading!

Katie

9 comments :

abruce said...

this is fantastic!

LandGirl1980 said...

What a treasured find! So pleased that it is now in the hands of someone who appreciates it. Not only for how old it is (pretty good nick I would say!) but also for it's content.

The Imperial War Museum might be able to give you further details (if you have not contacted them already) - and most certainly a map reference so you could find the area today and see what's there?

Katie B said...

Thank you so much! I really appreciate you reading my blog and leaving such thoughtful comments! I shall definitely keep investigating, Aldershot actually has a official 'Military' Museum which i'm thinking about volunteering at at for a while, that would aid this project no end! My information so far has come from wonderful military enthusiasts from the local area, I'm so glad people still gather in town halls to discuss such things!

Thanks again! :)

Nic said...

Your website "Long May She Rain" is having quite an effect on me. So many similar interests. I too have always been an avid maker and finder of so many things. I particularly enjoy photography, the great outdoors, ok maybe not sewing, owls, knitwear (although my sister is a Master Knitter) or terriers, but certainly the 1940s since I was born during an air raid and my Mother told me she did not know which event precipitated which, and of course proper tea which won the very war in which I was born.

How did I get to you ? I am writing the history of my family. My paternal grandfather was born in Berlin and emigrated to England in about 1900. When Germany sank the Lusitania on 7 May 1915 around 60,000 German nationals were rounded up and placed in camps. My grandfather was one of them and through the AGFHS (Anglo-German Family History Society) I found out his internment number. The only reference to the camp was "Fi". I am curious to know if it was Frith Hill and have started to see if I could find out. I Googled a query and up popped your site.

Would you have any idea if there could be a connection between the term "Fi" and Frith Hill?

My grandfather was treated well as far as we know and whilst there made some beautiful objects. One was a hand mirror all carved out of wood with his wife's initials on the back with small "bunches of grapes" on each side.

The lantern slide you found is fascinating. It could be a commercial one because of the printed label. They were produced by the million in various formats and in colour and b&w.

Nic

Katie B said...

-Nic,

Thank you ever so much for such a kind and thoughtful comment, i'm so glad you found my blog, and have enjoyed it so far! It's always nice to find people with similar interests!

That information about your grandfather is fascinating, and i would love to help you discover if Frith Hill is the right place!

I am planning to take the slide to the Aldershot Military Museum soon to see if they can confirm it's content, so perhapes I could try and find out some other information for you?

Please do contact me on my personal email: k.bedlow@googlemail.com, and We can keep in touch about this properly!

Thanks again!

Katie

Andrew said...

The Frith Hill PoW camp was situated where the Pine Ridge Golf Course is now. I'm not sure about it being an ex-industrial area.. T(here was a Frith Barracks to the south of the PoW camp, what role it played in WW1 I'm not sure.) Looking at your photo (Brilliant find!) Its hard to judge where it was taken, the frith camp was on a plateau, but it looks very flat in this photo; Difficult to tell as so much has changed and a lot of landscaping was done when the golf course was built. There were a few camps around aldershot in WW1. Some good reading on Frith hill here: http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=79730&hl=frith+hill

Not much is recogniseable now, only the ponds which used to form cess pits I believe. Some good reading at the Camberley libary in the local history section...

Andrew

Katie B said...

Andrew - Thank you so much for such an informative reply!! I've been meaning to re-vist this post for a while now, and now with your excellent suggestions, I do plan to look into this more thouraghly, i plan to contact the Military Museum and see if they can help me pinpoint it, as its a press photograph they COULD have similar examples in their archive!
I will also check out the Camberley Library for some more information!

Thanks again!

Katie

Family History said...

According to family stories my Grandfather was stationed in a POW camp in Aldershot in WW1. I have posted a couple of photos on my Blog, the first photo was taken by a photographer in Farnborough Hampshire and the second one may be at Aldershot camp.
Go to: http://myhistoryfile.blogspot.co.uk

Katie Bedlow said...

Hello and thanks for commenting! Always good to hear news about Frith Hill! I too own that postcard of the camp, but i have never seen the one with the marching POW, that is a great find indeed! I am hoping to get a site dedicated to Aldershot soldiers history up next year, and it will be welcome to contributions and stories, so do stay in touch! My email is info@katiebedlow.com

Katie