Sandhill Park near Bishops Lydeard was used as a prisoner-of-war camp from 1916 until 1918.
The building was empty when war began in 1914 and was taken over by the government to house German officers who had been captured on the Western Front.
The official government records relating to Sandhill Park are held in the National Archives, London, however local newspapers from the period help tell the story of the camp.
One of the first references to Sandhill Park’s wartime use describes German prisoners marching through Coombe Florey on Christmas Eve 1916.
By the winter of 1916 many local men were serving in the armed forces and fighting against Germany. Seeing enemy soldiers must have been a remarkable sight for the villagers.
There were numerous articles in the Taunton Courier about German prisoners at Sandhill receiving luxurious food and special treatment. Nearly a hundred years later it is difficult to know if these reports were true or just one of many wartime rumours.
In September 1917 two German prisoners, Lieutenant Block and Second Lieutenant Harzog, escaped. They were eventually captured in Dorset after spending two days on the run.
The camp became the focus of national attention. In February 1918 it was reported that the prisoners had hoisted the German flag from the top of Sandhill Park to commemorate the Kaiser’s birthday, much to the annoyance of the camp’s guards. News of this controversial act spread quickly and was even mentioned in parliament.
The camp ceased to operate in April 1918 when the German prisoners were transferred elsewhere.
If you have any further information about Sandhill Park or other prisoner-of-war camps in Somerset please comment below.