Kilbroney Forest Park lies outside Rostrevor, Co. Down. Known for its historic and beautiful trees, the parkland overlooks Carlingford Lough. As well as inspiring generations of writers like CS Lewis and Seamus Heaney, Kilbroney offers some little known Would War Two history.
In 1919, a second cousin of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon inherited the Kilbroney Estate. Elizabeth would go on to become the wife of King George VI and the Royal couple visited Northern Ireland in wartime. In 1937, the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret holidayed at Kilbroney.
During the Second World War, Kilbroney Forest Park held a prisoner of war camp for captured Germans. Locals remembered the prisoners being friendly. They crafted hand-made toys in exchange for cigarettes and got along well with the children. Residents in Rostrevor treated the prisoners as equals, men who had also suffered the horrors of war.
In 1977, the Bowes-Lyon family sold Kilbroney to the local council who demolished the house in 1980. When plans emerged to build housing on the site, locals threatened to chain themselves to the gates. Currently owned by Newry, Mourne, and Down District Council, Kilbroney is a public park.
During a heatwave in 2018, scorched earth highlighted the positions of the old Nissen huts that made up the POW camp. The British Army built and used the huts first before handing over the site to the United States Army. After the American GIs left for Normandy, the later years of the war saw them used to detain prisoners of the Wehrmacht.