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POW Camp at Little Bay

Ref: Info Point

Further Information

During the early stages of the war, enemy prisoners were kept in holding cells at the Detention Barracks in Windmill Hill. The first being 55 Vichy French sailors captured aboard the submarine Ajax.

During the 1930’s the military had levelled a large part of the old quarry between Camp Bay and Little Bay. This area had been transformed into recreational facilities, including a football pitch, for the troops stationed in Gibraltar.

Football pitch at Camp Bay 1931.Source:  George Lewis Land photograph collection.

On the 5th October 1940 a camp, known as Warsaw Camp, was set up in Little Bay to accommodate around 300 Polish soldiers and 9 Officers who had arrived as reinforcements to the Garrison of Gibraltar. Subsequently, the Poles transferred to Catalan Bay Barracks and tasked with patrolling and protecting the eastern seaboard. Polish troops were still present in Gibraltar when General Sikorski came to inspect them during his ill-fated visit in July 1943.

Gibraltar July 4th, 1943. Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces General Wladyslaw Sikorski conducts a review of a company of Polish soldiers stationed in Gibraltar. Source: Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London/KARTA Centre.

During the summer of 1941 the camp at Little Bay was used for physical and recreational activities for the service personnel and by 1942 the camp had been converted into a Physical Training camp were around 60 men a week could be put through gruelling physical training.

Warsaw Camp, circa 1941.

The first German prisoners to arrive in Gibraltar were captured submarine personnel operating in the Western Mediterranean, but once again they were held at the Detention Barracks before being transferred to UK camps. The exception being General Hans-Jürgen Von Arnim of the German Afrika Corps who arrived in Gibraltar who arrived on the 14th March 1943 after being captured at Cap Bon in Tunisia, he was accommodated at the Convent for the night in respect of his rank.

General Hans-Jürgen Von Arnim as a POW.

German submariners POWS sinking of U-95 submarine of the 7th U-boat Flotilla landed the Dutch submarine O-21 HNMLS, Gibraltar 1941.

Kapitain Leutnant Gert Schreiber, the Captain of U-95, leaving the Dutch submarine.

Kapitain Leutnant Gert Schreiber, the Captain of U-95, leaving the Dutch submarine, Gibraltar 1941.

German U-boat prisoners seen leaving HMS HESPERUS on arrival at Gibraltar.

German POW's brought ashore circa 1944.

U-Boat survivors, March 1944 landing in Gibraltar. Survivors of two U-Boats destroyed by patrol frigates of the 1st escort Group, HMS Affleck and her sister ships Gore, Gould and Garlies.

German U-Boat survivors being loaded onto a truck, March 1944.

German POW’s being escorted onto a pontoon next to the Camber on their way to a POW Camp in UK.

Blinfolded German POW's walking down gang-way, March 1944.

Due to Britain’s chronic lack of service personnel it was agreed to employ around 600 Italian Prisoners of War as pioneers to complete Fortress defences as well as other works at the airfield and Naval Works in Gibraltar. Arriving in February 1944 these POW’s were organised into two Pioneer Companies (Nos. 650 & 656) under the command of the Royal Engineer Corps. Initially the Italians lived in a tented camp in the area of Glacis but later moved to the buildings that used to house the Isolation Hospital at Laguna.

Italian pioneer company Gibraltar 17th Feb 1946 with 2 British Officers.

Isolation Hospital, Laguna, where the Italian POW's were billeted.

Italian graffiti, Hay's Level.

Italian grafitti left below Buena Vista.

Italian grafitti, detail.

The Italian POW’s remained in Gibraltar until the 25th March 1946 when they were repatriated by the SS Cita de Tunis which had arrived from Naples bringing around 400 German POW’s as a replacement Labour Battalion. The POW’s, mostly Afrika Corps, disembarked from tenders at Commercial Mole and then transported aboard military trucks to Little Bay Camp. Some of the prisoners arrived in very poor physical conditions but within a month or so, it was reported that their condition was now excellent. Another 50 arrived a few months later bringing the total number of POW’s to 447.

German POW Camp at Little Bay.

German POW graffiti in the tunnels behind REME Chambers.

German Afrika Corps POW's Gibraltar, c1946.

German POW's working in a team with the Royal Engineers.

German POW’s remained interned at Little Bay Camp until the 15th June 1947 when all 447 Officers and men were finally repatriated.

The camp, however, was only partially dismantled in the 1950’s in order to construct the Nuffield Pool providing physical and recreational activities for service personnel and their families.

In 1960, Keightley Way tunnel was built providing vehicular access to and from Europa Flats by way of Rosia Road. A number of Nissen huts were cleared to create the gradient required for Rosia Road to meet the northern end of the tunnel.

Nuffield Pool surrounded by old Nissen huts that were part of a POW camp during the second world war, circa 1960.

POW Camp at Little Bay Image