German Prisoners of War in Northern Ireland

Towards the end of World War Two, there were many German prisoners of war in Northern Ireland in camps and military hospitals across the country,

Many residents of Northern Ireland have fond memories of the German prisoners of war who came to Ulster in following D-Day in 1944. There were camps throughout the country in Belfast, Holywood, Gilford, Portadown, and Cookstown to name a few.

Between 1944 and 1948, around 13,000 Germans were prisoners of war in Ulster based camps. These men from the Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine, and Luftwaffe wore grey and white armbands. From these, camp authorities could tell the political allegiance and status.

There are stories of daring escapes, prisoners on the run being caught on the railways, others being shot as they made their break. There are stories too of the exchange of goods and gifts between prisoners and locals. For the most part, the relationship between the two groups was amiable.

Restrictions and Fraternisation

On 28th July 1945, the Mid-Ulster Mail carried the following piece on farming in Ulster.

The Daily Mail says that Northern Ireland farmers with hay and flax crops due to be harvested are faced with an acute labour shortage and representations are being made to the Northern Ireland Government for the allocation of labour from German prisoner of war camps in Ulster.

The Government had encouraged farmers to grow hayseed but this was more labour intensive. Along with flax, both were important crops and the use of German detainees was essential in ensuring the harvest came in on time.

By 1945, authorities lifted restrictions and prisoners of war found work labouring on farmland. Locals also made use of the free labour to repair roads and buildings. In one example, German POWs constructed the back 3rd tee at Portadown Golf Club, Co. Armagh. By Christmas 1946, a ban on fraternisation had lifted. German prisoners of war, once seen as the enemy, found themselves invited into the homes of the people of Northern Ireland.

Camps and Hospitals

Map showing Brownstown Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Brownstown Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Fitzroy Street, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Camp 11a, the Brownstown Prisoner of War Camp, was lost beneath redevelopment of the Brownstown Estate in the 1960s but residents remember German inmates.

Map showing Campbell College, Belfast

Campbell College, Belfast

Belmont Road, Belfast

Campbell College in East Belfast has a strong Second World War heritage having served as a military hospital from 1940 - 1944 and being bombed in May 1941.

Map showing Carrickblacker Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Carrickblacker Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

192 Gilford Road, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Portadown Golf Club was once the site of a grand house and the Carrickblacker Prisoner of War Camp, which took its name from the 17th century mansion.

Map showing Elmfield Prisoner of War Camp, Gilford, Co. Down

Elmfield Prisoner of War Camp, Gilford, Co. Down

Moyallan Road, Gilford, Co. Down

The polo fields and grounds of a large stately home in Gilford, Co. Down became Elmfield prisoner of war camp in 1945. Around 1,800 German troops were held.

Map showing Kilbroney Forest Park, Rostrevor, Co. Down

Kilbroney Forest Park, Rostrevor, Co. Down

80 Shore Road, Rostrevor, Co. Down

Kilbroney Estate in Rostrevor, Co. Down saw much use during World War Two first by British and American troops and then as a German prisoner of war camp.

Map showing Killicomaine Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Killicomaine Prisoner of War Camp, Portadown, Co. Armagh

Killicomaine Road, Portadown, Co. Armagh

The Killicomaine Prisoner of War Camp stood on the grounds of Killicomaine Castle or Irwin's Castle running onto Collen's Lane, now called Princess Way.

Map showing Kinnegar Prisoner of War Camp, Holywood, Co. Down

Kinnegar Prisoner of War Camp, Holywood, Co. Down

38 Kinnegar Road, Holywood, Co. Down

Kinnegar Prisoner of War Camp stood on the site of Kinnegar Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down. In February 1945, 9 German POWs staged a daring escape attempt.

Map showing Taughmonagh Prisoner of War Camp, Finaghy, Co. Antrim

Taughmonagh Prisoner of War Camp, Finaghy, Co. Antrim

Lisburn Road, Finaghy, Co. Antrim

The Taughmonagh Prisoner of War Camp stood on what is now the housing development of the same name as well as on Balmoral Golf Club in Finaghy, Co. Antrim.

Germans in Ulster

Rudolf Blume

Gefreiter | B4534

Gefreiter or Corporal Rudolf Blume served in the German Wehrmacht during the war. Born in Roßlau, he was brought to Northern Ireland as a prisoner of war.

Wilhelm Dalbeck

Oberkanonier | A438606

Oberkanonier or Private First Class Wilhelm Dalbeck served in the German Army and was a prisoner of war in Camp 172, Jackson Road, Holywood, Co. Down in 1945.

Gerhard Geier

Unteroffizier | B19042

Unteroffizier Gerhard Geier served in the Luftwaffe in World War Two. He died at Campbell College Military Hospital, Belfast, Co. Antrim on 25th March 1945.

Wilhelm Jungclaus

Obergefreiter | A811180

Corporal Wilhelm Jungclaus died in a road traffic collision on 26th May 1945. At the time, the German seaman was a prisoner of war in Gilford, Co. Down.

August Kreinbring

Stabsgefreiter | B4246

Stabsgefreiter or Lance Corporal August Kreinbring served in the German Wehrmacht during the war. He was born in Bulzenow in Germany on 17th November 1915.

Herbert Lisser

Obergefreiter | A58170

Herbert Lisser served as an Obergefreiter in the German Luftwaffe during WWII. He died of cardiac arrest caused by war wounds on 22nd March 1945 in Belfast.

Alfred Rinn

Oberfeldwebel | B71040

Oberfeldwebel or Sergeant Alfred Rinn served in the German Wehrmacht during the war. He fought with the Landesschützenzug 23, an infantry defence regiment.

Rudolf Schwarz

Obermaat

Obermaat Rudolf Schwarz served in the Kriegsmarine during World War Two. He died on 29th May 1945 while a prisoner at Orangefield, Belfast, Co. Down.

Friedrich Selbach

Obergefreiter

Friedrich Selbach died on 26th July 1945 in a road traffic collision near Larne, Co. Antrim. The German soldier was part of a convoy of prisoners of war.

Wilhelm Thoene

Gefreiter | B24399

Gefreiter Wilhelm Thoene served in the Wehrmacht, the Nazi military in World War Two. He died in Northern Ireland on 7th March 1945 while a Prisoner of War.

Incidents involving prisoners of war

YMCA visit to prisoners of war in Ulster

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24th July 2019

In May 1945, members of the YMCA made a visit to German-speaking prisoners of war detained in camps across Ulster providing them with religious guidance.