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.
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.
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/