American Representatives

The Americans were the second largest group of foreigners to visit the Handforth camp on a regular basis. Like the Swiss, delegates from the American Embassy in London, made regular tours of Britain’s POW camps, inspecting facilities and ensuring the care of the internees. However, in contrast to the regular Swiss visits, American tours of Handforth appear to have been much more sporadic.

Buckner
William Hepburn Buckler

The first recorded American visit to Handforth occurred in July 1915, when Edward George Lowry, Head of the German Division of the American Embassy, travelled up from London to view the camp’s civilian internees. It was not until January 1916 that the next American visit occurred. On this occasion, William Hepburn Buckler, a noted archaeologist and wartime attaché, gave the camp a clean bill of health. “The day of my visit was one of frost with snow covering the ground”, he wrote. “But within the camp building the good heating and lighting made everything warm and cheerful”, he concluded optimistically.

 

Buckner book
Buckler the archaeologist

In April of the same year, Boylston Adams Beal, another American Embassy attaché, became the next visitor to travel up to Handforth from London. Beal, who had originally been a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, was also pleased with conditions in the camp. What seemed to impress him the most was the fact that the POWs had space for exercise and were also allowed to tend a camp garden situated in front of the main building.

garden
Hanforth, POW Garden (IWM, Q64161)

 

The next American visit took place in August 1916, when Francis E. Brantingham, toured Handforth on behalf of the Embassy in London. As was the case with his colleagues, Buckler and Beal, Brantingham found little cause for complaint. He noted that a few prisoners spoke to him with concerns, but he dismissed all of these as “trivial” matters. Brantingham returned to Handforth at the end of the year, this time with his colleague Boylston Beal in tow. Four months later America entered the war on the side of Britain and France. It is not clear whether visits to Handforth continued after America’s previous neutrality had ended. Nonetheless, for one brief moment, Handforth became a key destination for high-ranking American diplomats.

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