Anti-Escape Plans

It seemed that sooner or later such unruly prisoners would attempt to escape from the camp and Police Superintendent May and the camp Commandant Lieutenant-Colonel Darling got together to discuss plans for recapturing any prisoners who got out.

Colonel Darling
Island Farm Camp 198 Commandant
Superintendent
William May

Darling, a man with over thirty years service had much personal experience of POW life. He had been captured in WWI, escaped from Germany and made it to England via Holland.

Superintendent May suggested that immediately after an escape was detected the police force should be responsible for implementing a 3 mile area surrounding the camp with the army only being involved if the escape was significant. This, he felt, would have a calming effect on the Bridgend people who would quickly become alarmed at the sight of armed soldiers in the area. The police would check all pedestrians and motorists and would appeal to the public to immobilise their vehicles when not in use. May was also quick to point out that an escape would not necessarily have to mean that prisoners could plan to get out of Britain. With such an abundance of important airfields and ordnance factories in the area, sabotage could easily be on escaped prisoner's agenda.

Commandant Darling had already discovered a tunnel just before it was completed in Hut 16 in January 1945. As an ex-prisoner, Darling was familiar with escape plans and disguises and he knew that unusual or prolonged noise in a camp was usually to cover the sound of Tunnelling. Two officers had gone into a hut with iron bars following a tip off and they found that a slab had been cut out of the hearthstone in front of the stove. When the slab was lifted they found the mouth of tunnel complete with a prisoner busy digging.

Darling, also told May that tunnels usually go in pairs. The prisoners reason for this was that if one tunnel is discovered the camp staff are so pleased with themselves that they don't bother too look for anymore.

Two prisoners didn't bother to even tunnel. They used iron bars wrenched from the hut windows to make crude but effective wire cutters and snipped their way to freedom. This was quite a feat but it was a lot easier to perform at Island Farm than most other camps. Security was crude and frustrated attempts to improve them were made difficult by lack of materials such as wire and wood. Consequently, there were no raised guard towers at the time and no search lights, only acetylene flares which were difficult to move, unreliable and only stood 6 feet off the ground.

The most surprising feature about the escape is that it was not detected until the prisoners were actually caught in Port Talbot. The behaviour of the other prisoners at roll call had made the absence of two prisoners difficult to detect.


Views Of Island Farm

The brick towers, seen in the above photos housed water tanks at the top and a boiler at the bottom providing central heating and hot water

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