The sleepy village of Handforth, two miles north of Wilmslow and some ten miles south of Manchester, housed one of Britain’s largest First World War Prisoner of War and internment camps. From its opening in October 1914 through to its eventual closure in November 1919, thousands of men passed through the Handforth camp. While captured German soldiers constituted the largest group of prisoners, men from a vast range of different countries and backgrounds also ended up in Handforth.

Handforth in Cheshire
Location of Handforth in Cheshire

This website reveals the lives of some of the many internees, from Anglo-German waiters and Austro-Hungarians labourers through to Croatian seamen and Polish soldiers. To ensure the prisoners were properly cared for, Swiss and American observers, Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests and high-ranking British politicians also became regular visitors to the camp. In short, for five short years, Handforth went from being a small, rural village to having perhaps the most diverse population in the North West of England, albeit one that was interned behind wire.

Camp Building
Handforth, Main Camp Building (IWM, Q56589)

This project, which is a joint collaboration between the Department of History & Archaeology at the University of Chester and Handforth Parish Council, makes the hidden history of the camp available for the first time. It forms one part of the larger ‘Diverse Narratives of the First World War’ project: http://diversenarratives.com/


10 thoughts on “Home

  1. There is a group picture of officers in charge of Handforth pow camp the gentleman in the front row with the dog at his feet is the spitting image of my grandfatherCaptain Edwin Drew


  2. Thanks Dorothy. That is a really interesting observation. Was your grandfather stationed at the Handforth camp for long and in what capacity? We have struggled to find too much information on the officers so any details would really help to fill the gaps.


  3. You may want to search eBay for listing 351981640991
    a postcard from Handford sent by a German POW
    Extremely rare. I have been dealing in Militaria for over 20 years and it is the first I have come across


    • Hi,
      A good question… Unfortunately, we don’t have a list of the survivors, although one must have existed. The best place to try to reconstruct this is through the International Committee of the Red Cross lists. All of the Mainz’s survivors will be on these listed, which are now digitized:
      If you have the name of one survivor, this will hopefully lead you to other names, as POWs tended to be listed by the Red Cross in groups.

      Good luck!


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