Towards the end of the Second World War, many Germans found themselves at the Rockport Prisoner of War Camp, Seahill, Co. Down. A list of Prisoner of War Camps published by Historic England lists Camp 173, a Base Camp at "Rockport, Belfast" and Camp 681, a German Working Company at "Rockport, Cragavan". Over time, the exact whereabouts of the camp has become something of a mystery.
Concrete bases of Nissen Huts remain standing in woodland near the sewage treatment works at the coast. Many other holding areas for Prisoners of War in Northern Ireland were close to railway halts. This Co. Down site would have been a short march from Seahill Railway Station. Contemporary newspaper reports suggest the camp was on the other side of the village to where the hut bases stand.
The camp is situated convenient to Glencraig Church on main Belfast to Bangor Road.
On 30th August 1940, an auction took place where Geoffrey Bing of Craigavad sold his freehold land to the north of Rockport House. The land fronted onto the main county road and the road leading to the house. The 26-acres included a 1-acre walled garden with fruit trees, glasshouses, and a potting shed. The land also included a gardener’s cottage and a wooden bungalow. All currently growing crops were part of the sale. It is not known if this land was later used for the Prisoner of War camp.
Life at a POW Camp
In April 1946, trucks brought Germans from the Rockport Prisoner of War Camp to the site of a gun emplacement at Lisnabreeny in the Castlereagh Hills overlooking Belfast. They worked at dismantling the site with pickaxes, shovels, and drills. From early morning to 1200hrs, they worked before breaking for a meal in the nearby military huts. After lunch, they continued working until the Army trucks picked them up later in the evening to return to the camp.
During the evenings, the Prisoners of War at Rockport played football, chess, and other amusements to pass the time.
Football is the favourite pastime of the Rockport Camp. Most of the prisoners are newcomers to the game but it is extraordinary how quickly they have mastered it. There is one youngster who is considered to be the equal of Davy Cochrane, and another who has the technique of a Joe Bambrick. Some of them, it is said, can almost make the ball talk.
Belfast Telegraph – Monday 29th April 1946.
When not excelling at sports, the German Prisoners of War at Seahill, Co. Down became known as master handymen. They constructed many items of wood, scrap metal, cardboard, or paper. Items included dolls and toy soldiers for children and also the repair of clocks and watches belonging to locals.
By June 1948, the Rockport Prisoner of War Camp was no longer in use. At 1100hrs on 23rd and 24th June 1948, an auction took place for the public sale of all the camp contents.
Contents of the 1948 Auction
|Standard Nissen Huts||91||36' x 16' (22 with Dormer Windows)|
|Nissen Hut||1||96' x 16' (8 Dormer Windows)|
|Nissen Hut||1||90' x 16' (8 Dormer Windows)|
|Nissen Hut||1||72' x 16' (4 Dormer Windows)|
|Nissen Huts||5||54' x 16'|
|Nissen Huts||3||48' x 16'|
|Nissen Hut||1||42' x 16'|
|Nissen Huts||2||30' x 16'|
|Nissen Hut||1||24' x 16'|
|Nissen Hut||2||18' x 16'|
|Nissen Hut||1||12' x 16'|
|Brick Buildings||5||Covered with Asbestos and Corrugated Iron with Wood Purlins.|
|Heating and Water Plant||1|
|Pumping Plant||1||With Lister 3.5 HP single-cylinder Diesel Engine. Wrought iron piping and fittings.|
|Pumping Plant||1||With Lister 7 HP Petrol Engine. Wrought iron piping and fittings.|
|Lumby Solar Domestic Hot Water Boilers||2|
|Beeston OX Domestic Hot Water Boilers||2|
|Hot Water Storage Cylinders||260 Gallon, 150 Gallon, and 48 Gallon.|
|Sectional Steel Tanks||2||Approximately 5,500 Gallons Each.|
|Sectional Steel Tanks||2||Approximately 3,000 Gallons Each.|
|Galvanised Iron Storage Tanks|