« Pay to Save | Main | Stanford Trails »

The Last Glacier in Wiltshire Melts and a History Lesson

Come back Mr Free Market the last glacier in Wiltshire is melting;
Where's Al Gore when you need him?

The circle you can see on the hill below is Rybury Camp, an ancient Neolithic fortification, which nearly became a bloody battlefield in 1944.

In December 1944 an audacious plan was hatched by Waffen SS officers and some Fallschirmjäger troops to break out of their camp in Devizes, Wiltshire and seize weapons, including tanks from a local army depot and march on London, all this was to coincide with the Ardennes offensive which was taking place in Europe. The Ardennes Offensive lifted the moral of many German prisoners as they though this would lead to their liberation but they were very much mistaken.

Their plan called for them to regroup after escape at Rybury Camp, await reinforcements and fight off any opposition.

Although the plan sounds ludicrous it caused the British some concern and not unfoundedly as there were around 250,000 prisoners in Britain (the equivalent of 48 divisions) at that time and the British and American forces stationed in Britain numbered considerably less as they were fighting in Europe and the Far East.

The huts were bugged and so the plan was discovered. On the night of The Great Escape at the appointed time the floodlights were turned on and revealed the camp ringed by Grenadier Guards who were stationed nearby. The easy going local guards were replaced that night by Polish troops, noted for their sensitivity towards Nazis.... The perpetrators were dealt with, being sent to Comrie Camp in Perthshire (Camp 21) in the wilds of Scotland which housed hard-line line Nazis (mainly young Waffen SS, Fallschirmjäger and U-boat crew prisoners) out of the way of other moderate prisoners. This did lead to one very unfortunate incident where Feldwebel Wolfgang Rosterg-a known anti-Nazi was sent by mistake. He was believed to have informed of the plot to march on London and after a severe beating was hanged in the latrine. Five prisoners were caught, tried and hanged in Pentonville Prison in North London on 6th October 1946. Another prisoner- Unteroffizer Gerhard Rettig was beaten to death for his open criticism of the plan and was beaten to death after being chased round the camp and two other prisoners were executed in November 1946 in Pentonville Prison.

Picture Credit Young Harry


Should have just gone all Roman on them (especially up at Comrie). Decimation would have been just the ticket, methinks.

This is a very interesting post for me.

My late father was in German POW camps in Western Canada after capture in the Bay of Biscay by the Royal Navy. His ship, the "Baden", was an innocent "Merchantman" (Torpedoes? What torpedoes?) scuttled by the captain and the engine room apprentice: Dad.

He always maintained the Brits sent him to Canada because it made escape and sabotage impossible or useless. The Canadian prairies in 1942 had nothing to sabotage, not without walking hundreds/thousands of miles.

I always assumed the Brits shipped over as many as they could. Why were so many left behind? The camps in Canada were huge. I think the Americans' were as well.

Dad also maintained it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He was farmed out to a local rancher, and spent the last two years of the war literally as a cowboy, unsupervised except for monthly visits from the local Mountie constable who came to drink beer with dad and the rancher. Dad claims no escape attempts until they told him of Stalin's Yalta repatriation treaty.

Hey Kim, my dad's Aunt was a German born Catholic nun, a schoolteacher, and i think school principal, in...wait for it...Fredericksburg, Texas. I still have a post card, a picture of dad and some of his cronies in "Camp 31", he sent to my great aunt in 1942. Got a "War Censor" stamp and all. Sister Bibiana Pahlsmeier kept it and returned it to Dad in 1969 when she came to Calgary Canada, as did my Grandmother from Germany, to see her sister for the first time since 1912.

Good thing I know you were joking about killing 1 in 10 poor German conscript or crazy boys or I'd get the Catholic nun mafia of Texas to pay you a visit. Bibiana was very well connected, and one of the kindest and toughest people I ever met. She had not seen her sister for over 65 years because she made a vow to God not to return to Europe if her brother survived WW I. He did.

Small and crazy world eh?

I have skied the White Lady at Aviemore with less snow lying than that.

Fred: hence my comment about "Comrie", which is where the diehard Nazis were sent. Decimation would have been too good for the likes of them.

Post a comment