435N93 Obergetreiter Willi Maass served with the Luftwaffe, 3rd Reserve Flakabt.

  • 24 June 1944: Cherbourg, France: He was captured by US Forces, taken to the USA and held at Aliceville, Alabama.  This place, presumably was a holding and dispersal camp for incoming POWs.
  • 26 July 1944: He was held at Camp Como, Mississippi.  There were 4 POW Camps in Mississippi – Camp McCain near Granada, Camp Como in the northern Delta, Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg and Camp Clinton near Jackson.  Ten branch camps were developed in the Delta located at Greenville, Belzoni, Leland, Clarksdale, Drew, Greenwood, Lake Washington, Merigold, Rosedale and Indianola and they furnished POWs to work in the cotton fields.  The war in Europe ended in May 1945 but the POWs were required to work until the labour shortage was deemed to be over by the US Government. [1]

In 1946, 130,000 German POWs arrived in the UK from the USA resulting in over 400,000 POWs in the country by September 1946.[2]

  • 30 April 1946: Willi Maass arrived in UK and was initially held at POW Camp 17, Sheffield then transferred to POW Camp 93 Harperley, County Durham.
  • Autumn and Winter 1946: He was employed as an agricultural worker for Mr. Ted Stephenson, Low Westgarth Farm, Copley, County Durham.[3]


1943: POW Camp 93, Harperley, Fir Tree, Crook, County Durham was purpose built on land owned by Mr. Charles Johnson, Low Harperley Farm.  Initially, it was established to house Italian POWs captured in North Africa.[4] In February 1942, there were some 28,000 Italian POWs in the UK and the majority were required for agricultural work.  This figure rose to 108,000 by June 1944.[5]

8 September 1943: Italy surrendered.

13 October 1943: Italy joined the Allies in the war against Germany. The situation for Italian POWs and Surrendered Enemy Personnel [SEN] in the UK changed.  The Italians were offered the status of “co-operators” and recognised as “co-belligerents”.  Such POWs were allowed to work without escort and without restriction to locality.

May 1944: Over 56,000 Italian POWs had volunteered to co-operate out of about 93,000.  By June, over 108,000 were engaged in employment schemes.  Repatriation at this time was not an option.[6]   

June 1944: The numbers of German POWs were insignificant [about 8,000] until the invasion of France when numbers began to rise sharply. [7]

22 September 1944: At Harperley Camp, the Italian POWs were dispersed to hostels and farms to make room for 716 German POWs deemed to be a low security risk.[8]   Eventually, there were subsidiary camps and hostels at various locations – Bedburn Camp which could house about 150 men, Langton Grange 150, Windlestone Hall 100, Bishop Auckland Hospital [fluctuated], Mount Oswald 100, Usworth 100, Lanchester 100, Consett 100, Hamsterley Hall 100 and High Spen 100.[9]

October 1944: The decision to employ German POWs was taken.  Prior to this, POW Camps for Germans were places of detention unlike the Italian camps. At this time, there were about 90,000 German POWs in the UK.   

December 1944: The 144,450 German POWs outnumbered the Italians.[10] 

December 1945: The numbers of German POWs continued to rise throughout 1945 to 211,300 by December and similarly throughout 1946 to reach a peak of 402,000 in September.[11]

September 1946: More than a year after the end of the Second World War there over 400,000 German POWs held in camps in the UK.[12] The numbers had reached this peak when a further 130,000 POWs arrived from the USA during the year.[13]  Eventually, there were around 1500 POW Camps and hostels, 390 being major sites spread right across the UK.[14]  Due to a labour shortage, the British government needed this source of workers to supplement those servicemen still on active service.  In September, repatriation of German POWs finally commenced at the rate of 15,000 per month with an additional 500 per month for compassionate cases.[15] 

November 1946 to October 1947: Officers from the Foreign Office Re-education Section paid visits to Harperley Camp and recorded that POW numbers fluctuated from between 426 and 899 at the main camp with typically about 1000 at associated hostels and billets.[16]  It is possible that Willi Maass was interviewed since it is believed that he was held at Harperley at this time.

Christmas 1946: A watershed moment in the history of German POWs held in the UK when the Labour Government, relaxed fraternisation regulations, particularly the announcement that POWs would be permitted to accept invitations to private homes to celebrate Christmas.[17]  An occasion enjoyed by the Stephenson family and Willi Maass.

February 1947: Catastrophic weather conditions, heavy snowfall, prevented the movement of coal, the nation’s primary power source, from reaching power stations, gasworks, factories and homes.  British troops together with an equal number of German POWs, worked shoulder to shoulder to clear road and rail links.[18]

March 1947: There were 170,000 German POWs working in agriculture in the UK which represented 20% of agricultural workers.[19]  Further freedoms were given – patches on clothes were to be removed, extension of the 5 mile limits, POWs could enter private homes without their Commandant’s approval, they could attend football matches etc.[20]

June 1947: There were still 282,431 German POWs in UK, more than 2 years after the end of the war.[21]

July 1947: Further relaxation of the rules were granted.  POW pay could be given in sterling for use in shops, public transport, entertainment but not licensed premises rather than tokens.[22]

Summer 1947: The last Italian POWs were repatriated from the British Commonwealth.[23]

August 1947: From Harperley Camp, 633 POWs had returned to Germany, 8 had been granted civilian status in the UK and a further 34 men were waiting to have their applications considered. [24] 

The exact date when Willi Maass was repatriated is unknown.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that he was still in County Durham in September 1947.  Eric Stephenson [then 9 years old] recalls being at Wolsingham Agricultural Show [25] with his father and meeting Willi.  A meeting vivid in Eric’ s memory since he was greeted by Willi as a long lost son, being picked up and swung around.

December 1947: Repatriation increased from 15,000 to 20,000 per month.[26]

12 July 1948: Having commenced in September 1946, repatriation of German POWs was completed.[27]  However, 25,252 German POWs elected to stay on in the UK taking up the offer to continue to work in agriculture, their status akin to indentured labour.  Around 12,000 stayed on beyond their short term contracts.[28]

Summer 1948:  Harperley Camp is presumed to have ceased to function as a POW Camp although it may have continued to be used as a hostel for agricultural workers or displaced people waiting for new housing.[29]

No.93 Harperley POW Camp: some  notes [30]

The Commandant

1943-45: The Commandant at the outset was Major Tetlow, a resident of Wolsingham.[31]  He retired in 1945.

1945-48:  He was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel George Kinnear Stobart, Durham Light Infantry [DLI].  Poor health caused Lieutenant Colonel G.K. Stobart to give up command of 2/DLI whilst in India and he returned to the UK.  He held the position of commandant until the final closure of the camp in 1948. [32]  In 1939, G.K. Stobart lived at Helme Park Hall, just a couple of miles up the road from Harperley Camp, with his wife Ailsa and his parents G.H. and M.A. Stobart.[33]

Distribution of POWs: a comment

The procedure for the employment of POWs in agriculture was overseen by local government, the civilian Durham War Agricultural Committee, a function of Durham County Council.  The HQ was in the Shire Office, Old Elvet, Durham City.[34]  The DCC Labour Office official was Bill Phillips and his assistant was Dick Shier.[35]  The system was as follows:

“The Labour Office representative would visit a farm and negotiate with the owner the term of a contract for employing a POW on the farm.  These were on a daily employment basis where the POW was transported each morning from the camp to the farm and returned each evening.  If the farm owners preferred the POW could be treated as a billettee.  This meant the POW would be housed, fed and employed on the farm for a specified period. [36]

From 1945, the Commandant of Harperley Camp was Lieutenant Colonel G.K. Stobart, who was the eldest son of Colonel George Herbert Stobart CBE DSO ADC of Harperley Hall and Helme Park, County Durham.[37]  The Stobarts were a well-respected family in the county, land owners and their business interests were primarily in the coal industry, having numerous local concerns.  It is highly likely that many of the local farmers knew Colonel Stobart [38] and his son, in a business or personal capacity.  Ted Stephenson’s parents were adjoining land owners to the Stobart family and farmed land to the south west of Harperley Hall, on the other side of the River Wear.  It is not difficult to imagine that Ted Stephenson and Lieutenant Colonel G.K. Stobart knew each other and possibly enjoyed a long standing friendship.  The distribution of POWs from Harperley Camp may well have taken place in an amicable, courteous manner rather than a bureaucratic, officious nature.  Over the period, Ted Stephenson secured the services of 3 POWs – 1 Italian who didn’t last out the day, 1 German who lasted 1 week and then Will Maass who was a great asset and formed a friendship with Ted.



Article from the NORTHERN ECHO June 2005
Article from the NORTHERN ECHO September 2009


[1] “German Prisoners of war in Mississippi, 1943-1946” Skates J.R. 2001 http://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/articles/233/german-prisoners-of-war-in-mississippi-1943-1946

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/day-deutschland-died-retracing-fate-captured-axis-soldiers-end-ww2-10216869.html

[3] Exact dates are unknown

[4] “Prisoner of War Camps in County Durham” Arcumes & Helvet 2002 p.10 & p.102

[5] “Temporary Settlements and Transient Populations: The Legacy of Britain’s Prisoner of War Camps 1940-1948” 1999 Hellen J.A. p.193 & 194

[6] Hellen J.A. p.198

[7] Hellen J.A. p.193

[8] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020730

[9] Arcumes & Helvet p.8 & p.11

[10] Hellen J.A. p.193 & 194

[11] Hellen J.A. p.193

[12] https://theconversation.com/what-happened-to-german-prisoners-of-war-in-britain-after-hitlers-defeat-74859

[13] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/day-deutschland-died-retracing-fate-captured-axis-soldiers-end-ww2-10216869.html

[14] Hellen J.A. p.191

[15] “British attitudes towards German prisoners of war and their treatment 1939-48” Malpass A.P. 2016 Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University p.190

[16] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020730 Eric Branse-Instone studied notes from official files held at the Public Record Office, Kew, London [2002] Probably file no.939/173.

[17] Malpass A.P. p.146

[18] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/day-deutschland-died-retracing-fate-captured-axis-soldiers-end-ww2-10216869.html

[19] Malpass A.P. p.122

[20] Malpass A.P. p.151

[21] Malpass A.P. p.190

[22] Malpass A.P. p.151

[23] “Employing the enemy: the contribution of German and Italian Prisoners of war to British agriculture during and after the Second World War” Custodis J. Agricultural History Review p.244

[24] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020730

[25] Note: Wolsingham Agricultural Show is held annually in September

[26] Malpass A.P. p.194

[27] Malpass A.P. p.194

[28] Malpass A.P. p.204

[29] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1020730

[30] “Prisoner of War Camps in County Durham” Arcumes & Helvet 2002

[31] Possibly Major W.S.F. Tetlow Royal Artillery, Territorial Army identified on Army Lists 1939-1945

[32] Arcumes & Hevlet p.38-41

[33] 1939 England & Wales Register

[34] Arcumes & Helvet p.45

[35] Arcumes & Helvet p.17

[36] Arcumes & Helvet p 45 & 46.

[37] Arcumes & Helvet p.41

[38] Colonel G.H. Stobart 1871-1943 [Mike Ellis email 03/09/2017] Lieutenant Colonel G.K. Stobart 1901-1984