World War Two prisoner of war camp discovered – in plumber’s back garden

September 6, 2010 | by | 3 Comments

A shocked plumber has discovered a prisoner of war camp that housed 10,000 German soldiers during the Second World War – in his BACK GARDEN.

David Murray, 39, was digging behind his bungalow when he unearthed a dog tag from a German prisoner.

He got permission from his landlord to continue excavations and within an hour he had located old bottles, buttons from uniforms and used ammunition.

David has now recovered more than 2,000 items from the camp, including a live GRENADE that had to be blown up by a RAF bomb disposal unit.

Self-employed plumber David, of Much Hadham, Herts., said he was ”completely shocked” at the find.

He said: ”It was a huge shock when I found the tag, it was just poking out of the ground so it was just luck I saw it glint in the light.

”I’ve been storing all of the items in my shed but it’s getting very full up now so I am hoping to get a Nissan hut to display everything in.

”The grenade was a complete shock too, I spotted it in the ground and didn’t realise what it was, it didn’t look like the ones you see in films at all.

”I tried to defuse it a couple of times myself but I couldn’t get the screws off the top. It’s a good job because the RAF said it was very unstable.

”They weren’t very happy with me when I told them I’d been holding it next to my ear and listening to see if it would go bang.

”It’s really incredible to think that 70 years 10,000 prisoners of war were walking around in my back garden.”

The Wynches Camp opened in 1939 and first housed Italian prisoners, but later took Germans – some of whom did not leave until 1947.

Historians believe that the camp was also used for Allied training and accommodated American and Indian Gurkha units as they geared up for war.

The 40-acre camp, which held up to 10,000 prisoners, was situated in Much Hadham, and David’s landlord owns 20 acres of the land it stood on.

Following the war, the camp was opened, leaving prisoners to work as farmhands before they were released when it was torn down in around 1950.

Some prisoners are thought to have remained in Much Hadham after the closure, with rumours that a number fathered children and married local girls.

David, who lives with his brother, dad-of-three Alec, 35, who is also a plumber, has so far excavated just one acre of the site.

He believes it could take a years of digging and researching before the camp is fully exposed.

David spends all his free time armed with a metal detector and has discovered over six ‘pits’ filled with historic artefacts.

Round brass washers and coins from all over the world, including German coins with Nazi emblems, have been among the smallest items found.

Bottles of alcohol, mineral water from Bishop’s Stortford, boot polish from Philadelphia and 1930s retro perfume bottles have also been discovered on the site.

David has also dug up live ammunition for Lee-Enfield .303 calibre rifles and .45 calibre pistol rounds and is now painstakingly labelling each item.

He is ”continuously” patrolling the site to watch for night hawkers, who he fears will steal the historic artefacts.

He is working alongside local historian Richard Maddams to research the camp and the duo hope to write a book on their findings.

They are appealing for anyone with information about Much Hadham in the Second World War period to contact them on murray-a@tiscali.co.uk.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Indyjonez says:

    I hope he as contacted an archaeologist to come out and over see his “digging” operations. Just seems like another looter to me. I realize it’s his property and has permission to “dig” but he is destroying evidence that researchers could use to help piece together life at this POW camp.

  2. Arcjohn says:

    Better to get a qualified archaeologist in there in order to conduct a systematic excavation rather than a local historian whos good on a shovel.

  3. What a find! It seems things like this are turning up quite frequently!

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