Study aims to shed fresh light on Stobs prisoners

Stobs Camp, Hawick
Stobs Camp, Hawick

Academics from across Britain are joining forces with Scottish Borders Council to develop new research into the Stobs prisoner-of-war camp during the First World War.

That work, to mark the centenary of the “war to end all wars”, will culminate in June with a special study weekend of talks and events – free and open to the general public – in the Heritage Hub.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has announced that the Stobs project – entitled Local Memories, Global Context – has qualified for funding under a centenary initiative to examine “under-researched areas of First World War history”.

The project team is led by Dr Stefan Manz, head of German studies at Aston University, who, in 2002, used British and German military archives to publish an article on the camp in the transactions of Hawick Archaeological Society.

Further data from the German-language camp newspaper, local newspapers and the Heritage Hub archives, will be collected and distilled during the project.

The study weekend, featuring a range of expert speakers, will take place on June 18-19 and include a display of camp artefacts and texts held by SBC’s museum service.

Dr Manz said: “If any member of the public has items relating to the camp in their possession, it would be great if they brought them along.”

Dr Chris Bowles, SBC’s archaeology officer, will lead a tour of the Stobs site from 10am till 12.30pm on Sunday, June 19.

Dr Manz added: “Although the camp site is now in disrepair and not publicly accessible, it still gives a unique insight into its workings.”

Built in 1903 as a British Army training facility, Stobs became an internment camp at the end of 1914 when a further 200 huts were added.

The first internees were German civilian “enemy aliens”, but following the Western Front battles in Neuve Chappelle and Festubert in May 2015, they were soon outnumbered by PoWs.

It was one of the biggest internment camps in the British Empire – certainly the largest in Scotland – with up to 6,000 German prisoners.

A cemetery was added to the camp, and when the last PoWs left in 1919, it contained the bodies of 35 soldiers, four sailors and six interned German civilians. When the camp finally closed in 1962, these bodies were removed to the German military cemetery in Staffordshire.

More info on the Stobs research project from archives or on 360699.

Museum to reopen: page 10