President Sandy Bannerman welcomed a large turnout of members including regular visitor Harold Wilner of the Rotary Club of Kingston-upon-Thames to last week’s meeting of the Rotary Club.
Past President and Paul Harris Fellow Jock Thorburn introduced the speaker Jake Coltman who gave an illustrated talk on Stobs Camp. Jake has made a lifetime study of the subject and has amassed a huge collection of postcards and literature which he used to illustrate the talk. The camp opened in 1903 when the army moved in 20,000 volunteer soldiers for summer camps under canvas. They arrived by train at Stobs Station and the officers were billetted in Stobs Castle. Such was the influx of men that it resulted in the formation of the Callants’ Club to preserve the history and customs of the town.
With the approach of the Great War, a POW camp was opened when foreign aliens in the UK were interned as they were feared to be a threat to national security. When war commenced and soldiers started to leave for the Front in Europe the camp became a prison for captured enemy personnel. Over 200 huts were built each housing 30 men and the camp became a township with all the services and amenities required. There were 575 such camps in the UK and 24 in Scotland of which Stobs was the largest. They even published their own newspaper ‘Stobsiade’ and it ran to 25 issues and Jake has copy of each one.
Forty-five prisoners died in the camp including some suicides and they were all buried in a cemetery there. In 1962 the bodies were removed and re-interred in a burial place in England. There were several escapes; 4 in 1915, 1 in 1916 and 6 in 1917 but none made it home to Germany and they were all recaptured shortly after. In 1959 Stobs Camp closed and everything was auctioned off but traces of it are still visible.
Jake ably answered several questions and President Sandy gave the vote of thanks and complimented him on his extensive knowledge of the subject which was thoroughly enjoyed by the club.