German POW escape tunnel, hut 9 Bridgend

Island Farm was the backdrop for a daring escape that would see 70 German prisoners crawl for their freedom through a secret tunnel.

Go back 73 years to November 1944, a large contingent of German officers had just arrived in Bridgend as prisoners of Camp House 198. With the new arrivals came the inception of Wale's answer to the great escape.

Under the veil of constant chanting and disguised by drawings, a large tunnel was dug from under one of the huts to just outside the perimeter fence. 

On the night of the 10th March 1945, German officers took action and crept into the tunnel dug under a bed in search of freedom. 

In order to not arouse suspicion, clay that had been dug out was hidden behind false walls as its colour differed to the top soil. While wooden struts had been borrowed from their beds to support the tunnel.

Unfortunately, it seemed that so much attention had been paid to the escape, that their post-liberation plans were not so through. Within a week, all 70 escapees had been recaptured.

German POW escape, Hut 9 Bridgend
"Unfree is not dishonorable", written on the walls of Hut 9

Previously the camp had been home to 'other rank' German soldiers, happy to be away from the chaos of the front line. However after the German officers arrived, reports say the camp had become an annoyance to locals.

The official Island Farm website writes:

“The singing never seemed to cease, night after night. The surrounding air would be filled with singing which seemed to be full of defiance and hate. The noise from the camp, even when there was no trouble, resembled that of a bad tempered football crowd.”

During World War Two, the camp would be home to some 2,000 German prisoners of war. 

Flash forward to 2017 and the tunnel that spans over 30 feet has been opened up twice for scientific research.

Interest in the site has been steadily increasing, with its two annual open days booked up for 2018. 

The Hut 9 preservation group are aiming to secure funding to restore and preserve the site, as to keep the story of the Welsh Great Escape alive.

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