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Mr Peter Jordan talks about POW Camps in Feltwell during WW2.

It was on Wednesday 11th April 1946 at 4pm that Peter "saw the fen and thought he’d been brought to a desert! There seemed to be only a few bushes between Feltwell and Ely, certainly not the trees that there are now."

Sergeant Jordan had been brought by 15cw truck, driven by a German driver with escort in the back, to take command of Poppylot POW Camp just opposite where Fletcher’s soil processing now stands. At that time Fletcher’s was Ernie Elmer’s Farm. This was Peter’s third POW camp and was to be his last before being demobed in 1947. He had arrived here from GHQ Barton Field Camp outside Ely, a camp of some 4-5000 prisoners. His previous guarding duties had been at Soham Prison Camp where the guards got less food than the prisoners did so Peter asked for a transfer. He duly went back to Barton and then on to Wereham Manor where he found himself guarding Italians. After a spell here he ended up being posted to Poppylot.

All of these camps were working camps and also open camps unlike Barton Field, no barbed wire, no Crows-Nests, only three guards, a Sergeant, a Corporal and a Lance Corporal. The Corporal under Peter was a Mr Ken Martland but unfortunately he cannot remember the name of the Lance Corporal. They lived on the camp, ate the same food as the POWs and between them they looked after 250 German prisoners, their only protection being a Sten gun each, loaded with 35 rounds. The POWs had a Camp Leader; the most senior ranker there and Peter communicated his orders to him through an Interpreter, another prisoner. The prisoners were infantrymen aged from 25 upward and in their spare time they played football on one of Ernie Elmer’s fields on the other side of the road to the camp. They had a very good team and played against other camps and even, on one occasion, the village.

A typical day for a prisoner would begin with wake-up at 5.30am followed by breakfast and roll call at 6.30. After that he would get on his bicycle, supplied by the War Ag. and travel to his designated farm to begin work by 7. Work would consist of leading horses, ploughing, weeding, harvesting, etc. Arriving back at camp by 6pm he would have tea and be free to go to bed at whatever time he liked. Bicycles were provided when the farmers began to complain about the cost of picking up the prisoners and returning them back at night. Weasenham took most prisoners, at Middle Farm and Schrub Hill, with others going to Duchy Farm, owned by Claud Stubbings and Larmen’s Fen. Peter and Ken would have to ride around on their bikes to make sure everything was going all right.

Many open camps existed in the area including Plough Camp, opposite The Plough public house down Blackdyke road, Poppylot Sidings Camp and one at Methwold Hythe. (See map) Prisoners from these camps were not allowed to mix. For a period of two months Peter ran both Poppylot and Poppylot Sidings camps together. Several were the times that Peter would have to cycle, in the early hours of the morning, to collect an escaped prisoner from the police at Southery. The escapee would then be marched back to camp, his name taken and then he would be sent back to GHQ at Barton Fields to spend 3-4 weeks in the guardhouse. Good behaviour resulted in them being sent back to the Sidings.

Accommodation at the camp consisted of 7 wooden huts with 35-40 prisoners in each. Two combustion stoves heated each hut, one at each end. In addition there was an ablutions hut, a boiler house for hot water and the cookhouse. Standing orders said that each hut had to be cleared out and cleaned once a week and the cookhouse daily. The prisoners slept in bunks whilst Peter and his staff slept in a separate room in single beds. Off this room was an office where Peter would do his paperwork. Requisitions for materials went originally back to Barton and later through HQ Cockley Cley (3-4000 prisoners) to the new GHQ at North Field Farm Camp near Kings Lynn (4-5000 prisoners).

During the 1947 floods the prisoners were evacuated to North Field but Peter was posted to Plough Camp. After 2 weeks there he was sent to Methwold Hythe where he spent 5 months before re-opening Poppylot. After the floodwaters had receded the prisoners returned and were put to work on repairing the damaged riverbanks at Lakenheath.

Later that year Peter was given his blue pinstriped demob suit in which he promptly got married.

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