The buildings, succumbed to time and vandalism hint at the educational institutions this site had been, but a part of its past has been buried in history and reclaimed by Mother nature. A designated National Historic Site since 2013, the “No Trespassing” signs and graffiti reveal it has avid devotees, and the intrigue of what it once was only adds to the list. The decayed walls and overgrown streets obscure the truth. The truth being it’s hard to imagine a place like this ever existed…. at least in Canada.
A prisoner of war camp is not hard to imagine, especially during WWII. What is hard to conceive is that the Third Reich’s highest ranking German officers when captured, were sent to a covert location, across the Atlantic ocean far from the battle lines. The theory was that should these POWs escape their confinement they could not return and benefit Germany. Yes this is the truth, a secret POW camp in Bowmanville Ontario, known as Camp 30. I knew POW camps existed in Canada, but they were for citizens of German or Japanese descent, not soldiers. And here under our noses the deadliest of Nazi’s were housed, in what some claim was no more than a “5 star” hotel, complete with theatre and swimming pool.
But Camp 30 wasn’t just a resort, a home away from home, albeit the POWs were treated and fed very well. This is also where the Battle of Bowmanville took place. I know. You’re asking yourself the Battle of What? It was during the early hours of October 10, 1942 when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave the order that all German POWs be shackled. A direct retaliation for the shackling of allied forces, there was particular attention given to Camp 30 due to its high-profile guests. Believe it or not, the Germans were asked to co-operate with being shackled intermittently throughout their day to appease the Allied directive. To say they refused would be an understatement. While the rest barricaded themselves in other buildings, 300 prisoners captured and built their resistance headquarters for defying and fighting the orders in the main cafeteria. Over 100 Canadian soldiers were sent to aid the outnumbered guards. It is said the three-day battle was fought with baseball bats, hockey sticks, iron bars, frying pans, hoses and even a jar of jam which led to the only fatality. Let’s be honest – you can’t get any more Canadian than that! By 6:00 pm on October the 12th the battle was over and control was reclaimed.
Was this little piece of our history missed or intentionally bypassed during our history lessons and text books? Why do so few Canadians know about this area and its past? Is it not a disservice to those who have fought and died for this country to allow such a significant piece of Canadian history to be lost to time? Lest we forget.
~ True North Nomad
Are there any little known secrets in Canada’s past you’d like to share? Send us your ideas.
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