THE COMMENTS MADE ABOUT THE NEWS ARTICLES:
There has been tremendous support / response to the news articles and here are some of the comments received or taken from the guest book.
Whilst I am grateful for the kind words of support I have, in some cases, had to edit some of the text in the emails to remove overly offensive comments. However these comments are not my comments; they are the comments of individuals responding to recent events brought about verbally or written by Council Leader Jeff Jones.
18th February 2003 From: Professor Ian Kershaw (Modern History - Sheffield University)
Dear Mr. Exton,
Thank you for your letter. I have checked your web-site. It seems unobjectionable
to me, from what I have seen and read, and you provide a suitable disclaimer
on p.5 to fend off allegations about pro-Nazi sentiments (though I would not
have included the wording about 'sacrifices' of the Germans). Naturally, I cannot
comment on the local politics involved. Yours sincerely, Ian Kershaw
Note: The point, referred to above (Sacrifices), has since been removed from the home page disclaimer.
20th November 2004 From: Nick Ross
In view of some of the negative comments you have received, I would like to commend you for taking the time to preserve the memories and history of a fading time. I am writing to you from Los Angeles, and I came across the site by accident but found it remarkable. My father served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during WWII. His two brothers fought in Europe--one as a paratrooper on D-Day. My mother's seven brothers all served in the Army, with one landing at Omaha Beach and later being killed by a sniper in the Battle of the Bulge. And my father-in-law was a tank commander under Patton.
Yet with all of this, over the years, there has still been a gradual erosion of a tangible connection to WWII. It is just what happens with the passage of time. Twenty years ago, all one could do for his own children was talk to them, take them on a trip or two and point them toward the library.
But the Internet has changed all that, and people like you and your partner are not only doing something interesting, you are giving new generations something they can touch. The photographs, biographies and stories you have assembled required an enormous amount of work, and if it means anything to you, I think you should be honored for your commitment.
As for your detractors, there will always be those who will seek celebrity by criticizing the efforts of others. Generally, these people have done little on their own. You have done the right thing by posting their objections. Fools always damn themselves with their own words.
And though you almost certainly know the story, I am reminded of the Caliph, who when asked what should be done with the texts contained in the great Library at Alexandria replied, "They either conflict with the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they confirm it, in which case they are redundant. Burn them." And so they were used to heat the bathhouses. What would we not give to have them today.
As I write this, my two sons, ages 23 and 21 are in Prague. Tomorrow they will catch a train to Krakow and shortly thereafter they will walk the now-quiet lanes of Auschwitz. Only by remembering the past can we keep those lanes quiet.
22nd May 2004 From: Ian Campbell
In Jeff Jones' world the camp at Dachau would have been turned into an industrial park and the followers of nazism could point to the non existence of the camps as proof that they never existed. As someone who has visited Dachau and the son of a British Army medic who comforted the victims of Bergen-Belsen I am incensed at Mr Jones' attitude. Please preserve island farm for our future generations as even people who have lived here in the last forty years have no knowledge of the strategic importance of Bridgend to the war effort in the forties.
4th May 2004 From: Cllr Harry Bebell
Thanks for the memories. I was born in 1936 and the war history has always evaded me till now. I am amazed that so much went on in my area and I remember the damage caused. Thanks again for all you brillient work Cllr Harry Bebell
28th April 2004 From: A Whiteside
Extremly interesting to someone like me who had never heard of Island Farm until Jeff Jones' incredible and disgraceful publicly humiliating and arrogant (and ignorant) performances.
November 2003 From Natalie Thomas
I think your website is great and really interesting. My son has found out a lot from this site. I think turning it into a educational site is a great idea and I would certainly take my four children there
20th August 2003 From WG Davis - Cardiff
So that man has decided to push his snout into the mire again. Yes it is that Jones bloke. Why doesn't he look at the POW paintings like everybody else ? We know the paintings are not done by talented artists, but they are historical. What about the prehistoric cave paintings and drawings, does he think that they should be scrubbed off just because they are old and crude ?
2003 From Philip Loveday
What a web-site, well done. Very informitive and what a history lesson to boot. I am an import into Bridgend after 20 years service in HM Forces (army)and have been here, ever since my demob in 1986.
Funny thing History (Coun/Ex-Teacher. Jeff Jones). I never knew about our local history until I read all the fuss Mr. Jones started to cause with his silly comments and then making them into "JOKES" Glam Gazette. But then who is to stand in the way of "Excellence" not me. Mister low on the scale of 1-10. 1 being the lowest. If ever there was a case for racism and bigtry, be a councillor and get away with it, but us lowly types would be prosecuted to the fullest letter of the law.
Why? I ask myself, is it because we never had the privilage and the luxury of being rich and famous. Or is it because our education was not worth the paper it was written on. With memories on the ebb, history has a habit of being forgotten or repeating itself. Even if it is bad, it is still history. So saving it is better for our children to make their own minds up in the future, not the politicians.
If your website helps to deter the horrors of war, we should nuture the site for all to see, young and old. If certain members of the local council dissaprove they should take a hard look at themselves because most wars are started by POLITICIANS to better their aims in life.
Once again thank you for a very, very good history lesson about Bridgend and Island Farm. Well Done.
2003 From Roger Price
Keep up the good work (and I ain't a Nazi sympathiser by any stretch of the imagination - in fact, I was so staid in my views that I DIDN'T rejoice even when the Berlin Wall came down and was strongly opposed to the re-unification of Germany but have to admit it seems to have gone remarkably well to date.
2003 From Bill Magowan
I was very interested to read all the comments re. island farm camp on your excellent website. Having visited the camp in the late 1980's and having read articles over the years, I was perturbed to read of the ill-thought ramblings of the council leader Jeff Jones. I only wish island farm had been kept in it's entirety, the original occupants' drawings themselves intrigued me.
2003 From: Tony Nicholson
Congratulations on the site, one of the best I've seen. Keep up the good work and good luck from a English member of the public.
2003 From Adrian Morgan
I would like to compliment you on a very interesting and well presented web site. I live in the Bridgend area, and have long been interested in the history surrounding me. It's a shame that certain councillors do not have the same interest in the past.
2003 From Pamela Henning
This site was recommended to me by a member of the online British pub I belong to. A staggering amount of work has been done on this site...an absolute labour of love. My father & all my uncles & uncles-in-law fought in the US forces. The lives of that generation were consumed by WWII & its aftermath. And we children & grandchildren of these vets (of all nations) cherish this history. That generation has almost all passed away now; sites like Brigend will continue to speak for them. Thank you.
2003 From: IOLO
GOOD SITE.THE HISTORY SURROUNDING ISLAND FARM HAS INTRIGUED LOTS OF BRIDGEND PEOPLE AND THIS SITE HELPS WITH FILLING IN THE NECESSARY BLANKS.LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO CORRECT THE FUTURE.
2003 From: Hedley Rees
Having browsed through all the interesting, far flung correspondents to this site, I am even more convinced than ever that Jeff Jones is ignoring the biggest single asset Bridgend has. There must be massive potential to convert this into a masterpiece of historical storytelling using the last remaining hut 9 and some inventive recreation in the surrounding area. If anyone has the time, why don't they email the Welsh Assembly to that effect?
2003 From: John Schofield
Without any doubt, this is one of the finest, most fascinating and informative sites I've visited on the web. It has been the subject of much controversy because of a totally unjustified and prejudiced view of its contents taken by the Leader of Bridgend Borough Council. It is an admirable source of research, based on the unique circumstance that so many high-ranking officers of the Wehrmacht were held there. The remaining Hut 9 is a valuable resource for tourism purposes, in addition to research. The folly of those who describe this site as a monument to fascism is totally incomprehensible.
2003 From: Andrew Gibbs
WW2 is taught as part of the curriculum in Brynteg Comprehensive school (a stones throw from the camp) that is REAL History on our doorsteps. Preserve what is left as a reminder of the reason for it's creation. Lest we forget !! Great website, for a worthwhile cause.
2003 From: Dean
Really impressed with your web site and your dedication to keeping history alive. I live in Bridgend and want to help in any way I can to support Hut 9 and anything else, that might be going on.
2003 From: Colin Cronin
I walked through the camp when I was a young teenager.I felt a sense of history about the place.Now there is only one hut left it would be a shame if that were lost too.
2003 From: Ruaridh Mc Fadyen (15 Years)
I am Ruaridh Mc Fadyen, I am doing 13 GCSEs and live in Chippenham, (near Bath/Bristol) in England. I will be taking my exams in early May. I am doing my creative writing English coursework and have decided to write a story about German POWs at Island Farm camp. I originally decided to write the story based on British POWs in Germany. Though I wanted to direct criticism at the protagonist's captors, and at the risk of sounding biased and/or racist to the Germans, I decided to write from the German perspective so that all criticism was directed at my own nationality (just about). After deciding to break the stereotype in this way, (many do not realise that German POW camps existed) I searched on 'Google' (as you do) to find a real life situation in which German POWs were held captive - and the first site I found was yours! It was so useful I saw no need to venture further, and so I set about writing my story.
Brett Exton: "I asked Ruaridh if he would consider writing me a brief paragraph/s, from a student's perspective, about what his thoughts are on the website and what sort of help it gave him as a student. Below is his kind response:
Ruaridh Mc Fadyen: "It is both sensible and educational to acknowledge all perspectives of a situation - for example your website. Being residents of Britain (or America) we receive a quite biased opinion of past events tailored to justify our actions. As sensitive as the events were, it is in our interest to be aware of others' views.
We can learn from these perspectives and avoid their unwanted reoccurence or instead, as historians do for the benefit of righteousness, analyse them and see what was wrong and how they justified their actions.
From what I have read your [Brett Exton's] website is quite descriptive and is much like 'The Great Escape' scenario but with roles reversed. Moreover, it is a true and accurate account of what happened.
The information contained on your website is of particular value because of its rarity - the opponents view (which is often underplayed). It is not criminally 'Nazi-sympathetic' to educate people as to what the Nazi's views were and what their struggles were - regardless of whatever immorals they are held responsible for.
The website in question has been of sufficient use to several courseworks of mine from different subjects - as well as a thoroughly interesting read. It does not encourage Nazi views and does not directly imply that they were innocent or just in any of their doings - it merely relates to us their perspective and the similarities between the war they fought and the one we won. I therefore conclude that one can comprehend this website without reading, believing or suspecting any wrong. Calling it 'sympathetic to Nazis' is a transparent argument with poor foundations. The website contains little or no heavily opinionated content, especially none that would insinuate against the Nazis enemies."
2003 From: Dr Geoff Ballinger
I'd like to voice my disappointment at Bridgend Council's attitude both towards Island Farm, and to your Web Site. I'd also like to thank you for all the help you've given us.
I had the privilege of filming in Hut 9 as part of our series on the Second World War in Wales (Yr Ail Ryfel Byd yng Nghymru) and found it a fascinating experience. I had been informed of the site's existence and importance by an educational adviser, but it wasn't until reading the contents of your web site that I was convinced there was an interesting story of value to today's children. I do hope nobody will not accuse me of promoting fascism by including images of Hut 9 in the series - but somehow I suspect that 9-yr olds have greater sophistication than certain councillors!
I'm astonished at Jeff Jones' infantile reaction to your web-site, particularly as you have been so scrupulously impartial in your research, and I hope you're not too discouraged by such absurd slanders.
Co-incidentally, I have also had the pleasure of filming in Colditz Castle and the parallels between the two places are interesting, not only because of the escape stories, but also because of their later histories: Colditz too has suffered from a certain amount of neglect, and frustratingly for the curator, much of its wartime history (including graffiti and objects associated with the various escape attempts) has been obliterated in the course of a government-sponsored restoration project.
To my mind, Hut 9 is as significant an historical monument as the keeps and dungeons of our castles (which also were home to some highly suspect inmates), and with sensitive interpretation could become an important educational resource in its own right.
Good luck with your website, and the campaign to preserve Hut 9.
Dr Geoff Ballinger
Producer: 'Yr Ail Ryfel Byd yng Nghymru'
P.S. Please note that the contents of this e-mail are personal opinions, and should not be construed as an official statement on the part of the BBC.
2003 From: Ceri Davies
I'm very sorry, and extremely surprised, to hear about the problems you've been experiencing with regards to your interest in Island Farm.
I am totally happy to say that I used your website for research purposes for our series, and having spoken to Geoff Ballinger, we are both happy to cite that we went to film on the premesis of Island Farm as a direct result of looking at your website. I personally found the website interesting, informative and thorough and considered it a valuable source of local interest in Bridgend in general -not just on Island Farm.
I think it would be a great loss to Bridgend's local history as well as a loss to the general history of Wales and the Second World War if the one remaining hut was to be demolished. I think it's a great pity that the whole camp was not kept as it was originally.
I wish you luck with your website and your campaign to keep the Island Farm hut.
P.S. Please note that the contents of this e-mail are personal opinions, and should not be construed as an official statement on the part of the BBC.
2003 From: Ray Sauer Houston, Texas
I have studied the statements of Jeff Jones as well as the comments from others on your website. Please feel free to add my comments.
I am a 68 year old American with a German name, but mostly Scandinavian ancestry. For the record, my Great Grandfather came to America in 1847 to escape German military service. WW II is the focus of my earliest memory, and when I read the Wall Street Journal and saw a reference to Ewald von Kleist, I looked him up with the Google search engine and found your site. His father had been one of the prisoners at Island Farm. Read the article (it is attached) and ask Mr. Jones to tell me how your history is causing any harm. Your history helped me appreciate the Field Marshal's son even more.
It seems to me that Jeff Jones has a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with his "shrine to Nazism" charges. His stated solution ("knock it down") sounds a lot like the Taliban demolishing Buddhist statues that were centuries old. A son's interest in trying to understand his father (Behrends) and in seeing where he spent some of his last days is a natural thing. I myself have traveled thousands of miles to see my Father's birthplace and was greatly moved by the visit. In other words, Jones is way off base with his stated positions.
I hope you are able to retain and improve your contribution to history. And I'm glad your citizens didn't destroy all the Roman antiquities in your country. I suppose a Jones solution would have knocked them down before I could see them.
I can't comment on the local politics, which seem to be the real reason for the irrational statements.
With respect to the value of history, I agree with so much of the other commentary. Rabbi Ives has pointed out a direct benefit of the preservation. The comparison to Nazi book burning should prompt some serious thinking.
Thank you again for your work. I hope your council both sees the value of history and puts forward its real reason for its sensationalism.
Ray Sauer Houston, Texas
From: Hugh Davies - Tour guide of Bletchley Park
I am a guide at Bletchley Park. A few months ago a visitor to BP said something to me about an escape at a POW camp in Bridgend. I said I had never heard of one and left it at that. This week something prompted me to "google" Bridgend POW and low and behold Island Farm. A fascinating site and very professional. The Special camp inmates list is a who's who of the High Command. Like yourself I detest Nazi and everything it stood for and I always remind visitors to BP that what we are talking about is not glamorous in any way but concerns death and suffering. If we can't teach by history how can we expect the youth of today to learn.
From: N. Hill
In his rise to power and complete domination of his people, Hitler set about re-writing the history of Germany and generated many mis-truths and lies about his political opponents in order to achieve his own personal goals and increase his own power and wealth. By wishing to destroy a historically significant site/building and personally attacking those that are trying to preserve it and overturn the rulings of a Government supported body like English Heritage, is the Leader of Bridgend council showing worrying signs of developing a dictatorial attitude and small regard for the history of his area(country), aka Herr Hitler?!
2003 From: Marcus A.
I must say that even the dear old Gazette excels itself at times ! I just read the item concerning Island Farm; and I followed up that by visiting your website mentioned in the article.
Strange, indeed, to open the pages of the Gazette and see, not the stern (though more recently avuncular) face of Uncle J. but the infinitely sterner faces of some of the most (in)famous officers of the Wehrmacht
Uncle J. may be an historian; yet I maintain that, just like science in the broadest sense, history is not an exact subject, but has to be constantly amended in the light of emergent new discoveries and significant contngencies.
Britain's economy is much more shaky than many people believe it to be; and there's been a desperate rush to set up Theme Parks, Nature Reserves and all manner of other devices for 'preserving our heritage' - which is not to say that such things aren't exceptionally good in themselves.
This website is excellent. The fact that it presents such a well-documented history of that eerie setting shouldn't frighten anybody at all. Have you noticed how many TV documentaries are reminding younger generations of World War 2 ? It's a very necessary and ,indeed, vital thing to do. With all due respect to History teachers and Lecturers, many teenagers have the most horribly mangled notion of what their predecessors were involved in.
It's most unfortunate for Uncle J. that a listed building, ugly enough in appearance (like so many others) and even more ugly in many of its associations, should pose any kind of problem for site development. Oh what a magic word - development ! Give some thought to its connotations; and you'll see that it surely has its downside.
For reasons not directly associated with World War 2, plans for the 'development' of the Island Farm site were seemingly shelved. Then an ever so sinister development of another kind emerged. The whole matter was to be reconsidered by the full Council. Seems as if the gods of a once-marvellous game have to be placated - or at any rate invoked in the name of excellence. ( Truth is, rugby went the way cricket went after the depredations of Kerry Packer: but that's another topic.)
The Island Farm Action Group must continue to campaign vigorously; but I fear that they may be outgunned by groups that have been wheeling and dealing in the background for quite some time already ! Can Uncle J. be persuaded to join this debate; or is he more likely to remain entrenched in his Gazette column, smiling triumphantly at the prospect of a victory for the developers ?
What price heritage ? What price unique historical significance ? Unpleasant influences don't need sites to represent their distorted philosophies. Such things well up readily from the minds of men, as much more recent history shows graphically enough.
From: Christopher Wallace
A fascinating website - it certainly doesn't appear to condone or encourage Nazism. I stumbled on to this by accident but found it entertaining and extremely interesting and informative. The biographies of some of the senior German officers are particularly good. The story of the escape was good too. Keep up the good work.
2003 From: Steve
I have lived in the Bridgend area for all my life.Some eleven years ago, when my son was two years of age, my father-in-law said one day as we were passing the old camp have you ever been in there and I said no. We went in and looked around then found the pictures you have on this site we took pictures of most of them and even my son enjoyed himself that day. I think your site is really good.
From: Jason Brian Edwards
Hi I just bought the Gazette this morning. Just a quick note to say that I am disgusted at the attitude of Jeff Jones. I have never actually been to island farm which is something I am very sorry about. I have not fully explored your site but be assured I will. I am a 31 year old Computer Engineer. I have no Nazi inclinations yet have a keen interest in World War 1 and 2. Such a huge historical happening is not something which should be forgotten. I commend your site for its historical content and information. I hope that Island farm does not get removed.
2003 From: Howard Blackmore
History about Island farm should not be buried on a whim of a politician, who I am told would also burn all of the books in Bridgend library on Nazism. I seem to remember that Hitler did a similar thing....and where did that get him! Good site only wish there were others. We could do with some on the British POW camps in Germany. My father was held in Stalag IV. There are a few good sites for American POWs but none for the British.
.2003 From: Dave Jones
I read with great interest the Gazette article. My wife's grandfather and my father were in the local homeguard during W.W.II. My father has recounted many events from this period; most humorous, some not so. I would have liked the whole camp to have remained as was and developed as a museum. Sadly, this will never be realised. I have visited Auschwitz (I and II). Apart from the obvious feelings, I found this to be an excellent day out full of reflections and soul-searching. Does this morbid (perhaps) curiosity also make me a potential Nazi? I think not. I cannot understand Jeff Jones for wanting to destroy culture and history in this way.
2003 From: Austin J. Ruddy BA (Hons)
I am a graduate in archaeology and have worked for the Council for British Archaeology's 'Defence of Britain' Project, surveying WW2 defence sites. I am also a member of the Pillbox Study Group (-their journal 'Loopholes' has carried articles occasionally about British POW camps). I am also having a book published by the Historic Military Press in the next couple of months on the subject of 'British Anti-Invasion Defences 1940-1944'.
It is absolutely vital to the history of this country that our wartime defences are recorded and preserved for future generations so that they can learn from them, and for the last 15 years I have been recording these sites. SO as you may imagine it makes my blood boil when people such as Councillor Jeff Jones who, by the display of his own ignorance shows how historically shallow he is. He cannot be allowed to prevail in the destruction of archaeology for his own belief. I am a devout anti-Nazi, always have been: anyone who seriously studies WW2 for more than 5 minutes cannot fail to be. Ironically if Councillor Jones had his way he would be doing exactly what the Nazis did at the end of the war: destroying all traces of themselves to hide and censor history. He would in actual fact be helping them to achieve this. I find myself coming across this form of archaeological destruction all too often and I also find myself having to repeat the famous phrase by George Santayana: 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'. All the best - I hope that Councillor Jones shuts up
.2003 From: Doug Breary (Peterborough. Ontario. Canada. )
Regardless of what some of your politicians are saying, the reaction to the books that have been written in the past and to your very well done website on Island Farm's History is obvious proof of people's interest in the subject and I doubt very many of them are Neo Nazi's ! I'm insulted by the thought that my interest would/might be interpreted that way. Regardless of the outcome of the dispute the history is well documented. To the politicians I offer the slogan used on Memorial Day by the Veterans Organization here in Canada. "LEST WE FORGET"
2003 From: Steve Maddern
Fantastic site! Surely one the the best sites in Wales, and demonstrates what can be done positively on the web. I have been interested in the camp for over 20 years, and this site does the history of the place justice. Never mind what some politicos are saying.
2003 From: Christopher Teague
Yesterday, couldn't believe what I read in the local rag (The Bridgend Post). Jeff Jones (council leader): "[the remaining hut] should be demolished since only fans of Nazi-ism will find it of interest" and someone from the Anti-Racism Coalition: "Bridgend should be remembered for better things...". The hut should be granted listed status: it's part of our local history and should be preserved. I only wish I took more interest when I was younger, and the other huts still stood.