Hutted Camp 266

By Ken Porter

At the top of Langdon Hills on the corner of Dry Street is a field we know today as Beacon field but back in the mid 1940s it was the home of a German POW camp known as Hutted Camp 266. It was a working camp and a transit camp. POWs would come to the camp be registered and sent on to satellite camps – Purfleet and Tillingham being two.

The house opposite the field called ‘The Climax’ was commandeered by the military and became the home of the Camp Commandants .

Photo:Camp 266 - Christmas party 1946

Camp 266 - Christmas party 1946

We are not yet sure when the camp was built or its initial requirements. It is possible it was built as early as 1943; however we do know that the first POWs did not arrive until April of 1945.

It could officially house up to 800 prisoners, though at times this number appears to have been well exceeded.

Photo:Camp Chef's

Camp Chef's

They had their own Chef’s, Doctors, Mechanics etc and two very good bands that use to put on concerts where the locals were often invited. They also produced their own newsletter, one of the few camps that did.

Towards the end of the war the POWs were put to work on the fields, damage work etc and many of them found English girlfriends married them and stayed behind.

The camp eventually closed in September 1948 when it was taken over by Shell to house its workers at Coryton. Shell moved out in 1951 and though the Local Council and the Basildon Corporation considered using the facilities it was eventually demolished. In the late 1950s and early 1960s it became the home of Westley Cricket Club before reverting to a picnic area for those visiting the country park.

This page was added by Ken Porter on 14/05/2011.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

l live in the house opposite The Climax top of Dry Street, now called Green Pastures,  previously Silsden. I have the Camp 266 book, it makes fantastic reading.  If anybody knows anything about my house I would love to hear about it. Best regards.

By Pat Sterling
On 27/11/2016

I recall the camp, in particular for a brief time at the Cubs in St Mary's Hall Akela & Baloo (Ms Cartwright and Vesey) invited a German officer to see us on parade. It did not last many times and I suspect because some parents were not pleased. Just a memory of a 5 year old that enables me to joke that I was for a while part of Hilter youth.

By Gerald Jones
On 01/03/2015

Hi Ken, I am probably mistaken about Italian prisoners as I only have recollections of conversations with long deceased family members.  As you quite rightly say there were no Italians in the Laindon camp, so I would guess the guys that worked in our garden were both German. I think that they also worked in my aunt's who lived next door and my grandparents' who lived round the corner in Benton Drive up on Primrose Hill. I will email you regarding my dad's service in the Royal Navy.  I would appreciate it if you would send Peter my email address as I lost contact some 25 years ago, I worked with him for a number of years, and we were part of a small group that socialised quite a lot. Best regards Derek

By Derek Brasier
On 10/02/2015

Hi Derek.  I am a little confused about the comment that you made about Italians. Many people keep saying about Italians from the camp. I have been in touch with a number of POW's from the camp including Peter who I know well and they all confirm that there were no Italians at the camp. I also have Red Cross reports and they do not list any Italians. The camp also had a regular newspaper and there is no reference in any of them about Italians. I also make the point that by the time the camp open in April 1945 the Italians had been on our side for two years. So I'm not sure where these Italians would have come from.

If you are interested I have written a book on the Langdon Hills Camp. 'German POW Camp 266 Langdon Hills' it can be obtained Amazon or Waterstone in Basildon...check the site for further information.

Derek...I am working on the Second World War, I would like  to talk about your dad's experience...if interested please contact my email address.

Cheers - Ken

Editor's note:  Ken's email address has been forwarded to Derek.

By Ken Porter
On 07/02/2015

Hi Peter.  How are you and your family, OK I hope?  I was just browsing Laindon history site (Hutted Camp) when your name popped up. I was interested to see that your father was a prisoner up at the camp.

I remember when I was very young that some of the German and Italian prisoners used to work on our gardens.  Where I lived we had a wooden bungalow standing in a massive garden, we had fruit trees and grew vegetables, my Dad was away in the Navy until 1947 so I assume that made us qualify for assistance. As I was so young at the time details are a bit sketchy but I do remember that they gave jobs to do all day great fun. Did your dad stay after the war,  a lot did. I see that he was a Para quite a dodgy occupation in those days.

I would love to research this period but there is not much on the internet and most people involved have passed on, but your dad seems to be doing OK.  My dad died 47 years ago aged 50.  I have just managed to obtain his Artic Star for his 2 years on artic convoys to Russia on a Destroyer. Anyway get in touch if you want, Chick and Barb have my address.  Derek.

By Derek Brasier
On 06/02/2015

Hi Ken.  Information re grandparents. Edith White and Florence Ash who will probably show up as living at Trecarne, Berry Lane, the home of my cousins Joan Nova White.  Hope this helps.   I have text two items but not sure if they have been received .One is on school and the other on High Road.

By Thelma Oliver
On 13/03/2014

Hi Thelma

Interesting....This is the first I have heard of Irish navvies actually building the camp. We are aware that Irish navvies were employed there after the Prisoners left and worked for Shell.  The Camp closed for prisoners in July 1948. If you can give us the names of your grandparents we can check the Electoral Registers to get an idea of when they moved to the area.

Keep the snippets coming.

Cheers

Ken

By Ken Porter
On 09/03/2014

My two grandmothers who were bombed out of Bethnal Green, lived with us in Salisbury Avenue. They were employed as cook & cleaners for the Irish Navvies who were brought over to dig and erect the German Prisoner of War camp at what was known as Coombe Woods, top of Crown Hill.  I do not remember the exact year!

By Thelma Oliver
On 09/03/2014

My father's family (Jung/Hahn anglicised to Young and Hahn) had properties at Langdon Hills, I was born 1933 London and visited there pre and post-war with my cousin Eric Greenaway (Royal Engineers) Jonas Karl Jung aka James Charles Young born Hessen was our great-grandfather and he had about five daughters and a son Charles by two wives, a house called? Cherries, a nursing home there run by his daughters and my father's sisters, a smallholding, Langdon Hills, Laindon later also a coal merchant's business. My father's father was imprisoned as an alien on the Isle of Man during World War 1 as he was not naturalised Hermann Hahn and Jonas Karl Jung were naturalised and I have traced their papers. I have more details and remember well the long storage sheds full of apples pears and other fruit. Understand their properties were sold to become part of Basildon New Town (?) the daughters moved to Cornwall, where they also had land and grew fruit and veg. it was there I visited last link Rosie Young/Jung before her death (about 90) with my cousin Kenneth Greenaway, circa 2000. Anyone recall the Young's place and Charles Young's 2nd wife Anna Maria nee Polenski born London? Adolph Hahn was ADC to Lord Kitchener Boer War/WW1 Army P.O./Royal Engineers and received the MBE, early telecommunications, opened lst Slough telephone exchange, I have his obituary, visited his house called Katerham (at one time he was Postmaster Caterham, Surrey). Have lots of related documents/info. Interest in POW camps-Germany/London history/run a genealogy web site for Clan. (Mrs.) Betty Telford HR2 9LX born 1933.

By BETTY TELFORD
On 20/08/2013

I believe my father was a company quartermaster sergeant at one of the camps, same name as me.

By James Cuddihee
On 17/01/2013

Very interested in your piece in the Echo 5.10.12, my dad was a prisoner from early on until about 1947. He met my mum, she was from Vange. In 47 they got married, I was born in Orsett in 48 and we moved to Germany when I was 8 weeks old (Cologne). I moved to England in 1971, married with 2 daughters, my dad is alive and well in Cologne my mum sadly died in 2011 he has visited the site in the past and he had a good time there he is now 90 years old in the war he was in a Luftwaffe parachute regiment regards P. Mertens

By Peter Mertens
On 11/10/2012

I can vividly remember the camp and also the large house on the opposite corner of the road. After its use as a POW camp, and during the few years it was used for other purposes, I recall my late father carrying out various repair and remedial works from time to time in the building and a family neighbour used to work in the kitchens, preparing meals for the workers housed there. I was taken there on many occasions but unfortunately never saw its interior.

By Colin Carey
On 11/10/2012

I remember the great camp concerts when the prisoners were allowed to invite local families to attend. They made a great fuss of my grandfather, Thomas Pyner and always found him a good seat near the front. Didn't the camp house members of the RAF when they were here to take part in the Coronation parade/line the route in London?

By Janet Harper (nee McDonnell)
On 25/09/2012

The conditions of war between 1914 and 1918 and again between 1930 and 1945 led to the creation in of a large number of camps at various locations in the British Isles, mainly linked to housing of service personnel or prisoners of war but also, in some cases, for other reasons associated with the war effort of the day. 

For example, what were intended as temporary buildings linked to the manufacture of munitions used in World War I were erected on Pitsea Marshes and at Kynock Town (later Coryton), Stanford-le-Hope. Remnants of these structures currently form the basis of the buildings at Wat Tyler Country Park adapted as exhibition and administrative buildings for the Park.

At Laindon, in the 1920s one of the large buildings that had been at Kynock Town was purchased and re-erected on the West side of Laindon High Road between Aston and Somerset Roads and used as the public hall known as The Memorial Hall.

In the Second World War, Laindon saw the erection of military camps at Old Church Hill, Langdon Hills and at Laindon Common. Additionally, as well as Hutted Camp 266 used for German Prisoners of War at Dry Street, Langdon Hills as detailed here, there were camps created (although referred to as “hostels”) in connection with agricultural activity in both Church Road and Pound Lane, Laindon, for either members of the Women’s Land Army or for workers recruited from (ostensibly neutral) Eire. 

At the end of hostilities in 1945 a great number of such camps became redundant and, while some, like those at Laindon Common, Pound Lane and at Church Road, Laindon, were quickly demolished, others remained empty for some time. When, in desperation, ad hoc community groups, faced with the seemingly intractable problem of finding somewhere to live in the face of the seemingly incurable housing problem of the day started occupying the empty huts, the authorities, both military and public, found that any legal attempt to remove them would prove to be extremely costly and time consuming. Thus was born “squatting” as it became known. The problem of squatting was dealt with in two ways. Either unused camps were, if not having been illegally occupied, patrolled to prevent anybody moving in and many a newly initiated National Serviceman found himself performing a 24hour “fire piquet” (the Army always chose to spell it “pikett”) guarding against invasion by his fellow countrymen rather than by a foreign force or, if occupied, the local authority generally took over control of the huts. Such appears to have been the fate that befell Hutted Camp 266 and in 1949, as it is revealed in the electoral roll, the camp is renamed as a “hostel” and is being lived in by at least 27 adults (male and female) of over the age of 21 years (the minimum voting age at the time).

By John Bathurst
On 27/08/2011

Good to see this article, since I have memories of seeing what I believed to be POWs wearing dark green uniforms, in Langdon Hills when I was a kid. Also my mother for a short while worked in the kitchens there (seems strange now seeing the picture of all 'the chefs'). A year or so ago I tried to find out more about the camp using the internet, and it did not appear on any of the POW camp lists that I found. Sadly I cannot add any useful information, only the aformentioned.

By Bruce Bellamy
On 14/08/2011
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