The biggest escape attempt made by German Prisoners of War in Great Britain during the Second World War! 70 prisoners escaped from Island Farm through a tunnel dug from Hut 9  (the only prison hut now left standing). The tunnel was about 70 feet (21 m) long and breached the perimeter fence. See our video and photo album footage on YouTube. Also see our Photo Album here.

 

The Visit to Hut 9 Island Farm during the Open Day, deserved a whopping 11 out of 10 for BCBC effort and achievement. It was a free entry event for all the family. Part of Open Doors and European Heritage Days, "Bridgend Hidden Gems" (well hidden if you ask me) with volunteers from the 1940s Museum in Swansea and a local re-enactment group that also helped to bring the building to life, as visitors were able to listen to local experts talk about the history of the POW site. Good effort by the BCBC Conservation & Design Team. Well Done to all in the project team.

 

Visitors had the opportunity to to view over 20 wall paintings,  removed from the rest of the site prior to demolition.

 

This is the first time the Hut has been open to the public since the early 90s. What a privilege for the lucky 650 visitors; some came from as far as Surrey and Cardigan.

 

For me it was an overwhelming experience; an overdose of local history; so educational! The visual aspect impressed me most. Being there... This place is real. We were told they were expecting tours of 8 people at a time and they actually had in them as much as 4-fold. A grand success. Impressive output for such an input. There was so much in it! I left well after 4pm and there were people still arriving...
 

They say "If you got it, flaunt it". A lot of UK towns have capitalised on their POW Camps and invested with good returns, in their preservation and cultural promotion. If you would like to see further development of the area around Hut 9, please write to BCBC in support of this project. The team hopes that they will be opening again soon, because of the great response. The public enjoys visiting such historic spots, this way showing their love and support for the project. I hope equally BCBC reacts to that by providing to the project and team their support in turn with the appropriate funding. As the project involves European history, it could well be a candidate for a European Cultural Fund or Grant. This area is part of Welsh WW2 Heritage. Wales has an internationally known historic past related to WW2 and we have the duty to preserve it for our children to read, see, experience and learn from.

 

I urge you to visit the place when it re-opens. The pictures say only a small portion of the story. The available narrated tours, WW2 exhibits and the actors/ volunteers, enhance the colouration of the mystic environment. The visit was a historic and real experience for all the family. The youngest learnt and the much older remembered... Above all the entrance was free, showing that BCBC is offering something for nothing. This is how one defines "public service".

 

For more info on Hut 9 Contact Conservation&design@bridgend.gov.uk

 

I took plenty of pictures (nothing changed there) and also shot a short video interview with Wendy Gardner (BCBC). She explained briefly all about the place and how things developed. Wendy said that the huge success of the weekend showed that there is immense public interest in Hut 9 and the story it has to tell, and that it could not have gone ahead without the help of some wonderful volunteers. She said that the way forward is to channel the interest shown on the day to forming a friends group. It is important to get public support to maintain interest in the building

 

HUT 9 - GREAT LINKS

Brett Exton has a a fabulous website about Island Farm here: http://www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk/

Brett was the person  who gave the 40 minute talk outside Hut 9 during the first Open Day. I think he knows more than almost anyone else about the building, the site and its dramatic history.

 

Here is another Island Farm related website. Again, it is surprising how much history exists around us. http://www.bracklaordnance.co.uk/island%20farm.htm

 

The project team launched an iPad/ iPhone App, so go out there and get it.

 The app is designed for both iPhone and iPad. The app-spec:

bullet

Free

bullet

Category: Education

bullet

Updated: 14 September 2012

bullet

Version: 1.1

bullet

Size: 351 MB

bullet

Language: English

bullet

Developer: MJR Solutions Ltd

bullet

© 2012 MJR Solutions Ltd & BCBC

App Description - The Welsh Great Escape began on the 10th March 1945. 70 German prisoners of war escaped from Camp 198 on the outskirts of Bridgend. The site is known locally as Island Farm. Only one building remains - Hut 9 - the hut that housed the escape tunnel. Hut 9 is now a Grade II listed building, inhabited by bats and is rarely accessible to the general public. The Island Farm app explores the history of the site from pre World War ll when it was still farmland, through the war preparations, war time, the escape and on to present day. Augmented reality is used to recreate the buildings that no longer exist and 3D animations to enable exploration of the interior of the building as it would have been in the build up to the escape and on the night of the escape. Interactive maps are used to show the layout of the camp as it once was, how far the escapees travelled and to highlight related points of interest in the Bridgend area.

 

See more on the App here: http://appalerts.com/apps/island-farm-welsh-great-escape/

 

My good old Gair Rhydd friend Meirion sent me the link on a Channel 4 documentary on the Great Escape. A must see programme. It was on CH4 10 years go. Check out this link -  http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-welsh-great-escape/4od. You need to register but watching it is FREE.

 

There is an association between the HUT-9 POW Camp and Porthcawl.

The Welsh Great Escape of 70 POWs in 1945 relates to a murder in Porthcawl, the same weekend as the escape operation took place. Read the story here: http://www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk/Murder%20Mystery%20In%20Porthcawl.htm
 

BBC Wales News sadly reports: The POW Camp has become a haven for vandals who have targeted the building.: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-13907658

 

BBC Wales News reports: Multimillion-pound plans for a major sports village at the site of a former prisoner of war camp in Bridgend have cleared a planning hurdle. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-13894472

 

 

Open Doors

To find out about more places that you can visit through Open Doors take a look at the calendar of events.