UK feared ex-POWs would stay put


The British government feared that plans to send home 10,000 German ex-prisoners of war would result in the men refusing to leave the UK.

Documents released for the first time reveal authorities were worried that plans to deport the former servicemen in 1948 would cause mass disorder.

It was thought some Germans, who had been employed as civilian agricultural workers, might even commit suicide.

A memo warned that any trouble would have "awkward political repercussions".

'Outbreaks of disorder'

The papers released by the National Archives in Kew, west London, show the cabinet decided in June 1948 to deport 10,000 of the 25,000 former German POWs still working as civilians in Britain, starting from November of the same year.

Under "Operation Repat", the ex-servicemen would be shipped back to the continent from Harwich in Essex after being held in a nearby detention centre.

But authorities were warned that police would have no legal power to force them to leave - as it was "not feasible" for the Home Secretary to sign 10,000 deportation orders.

One memo warned: "The arrangements assume that the men will go without trouble, but this of course cannot be assumed - very much the contrary."

Police were to be stationed at hostels "to prevent any possible outbreaks of disorder" when the Germans were informed they were leaving.

Any stragglers who refused to go would be served with deportation orders and held at Chelmsford prison.

But one memo acknowledged that if the Germans resisted repatriation on a large scale "we would have to consider the position again".

Under the planned operation, 800 Germans would be taken to Harwich by train every other day starting 23 November.

'Mass disobedience'

The minutes of one Whitehall planning meeting recorded: "The War Office representative promised (unofficially) to have troops at the transit camp in the hope that their presence might prevent any mass disobedience."

In one county it was reported that "four men might commit suicide rather than be sent back".

To quell discontent, it was suggested that notices might be put up in hostels where the ex-POWS were staying, promising that no-one would be sent back to Soviet-occupied East Germany.

Officials were also concerned that the Germans might try to escape while in transit to Harwich, and find themselves working in the black economy.

A note by one civil servant said: "There will presumably always be a possibility - if not an actual probability - that some of them will try to make a break for it."

It continued: "It is desirable to avoid large numbers of men escaping in this way and joining the 'underground.'"
Bloody Asylum seekers eh?
Any figures of how many actually stayed, went back, went missing?
General Melchett said:
Any figures of how many actually stayed, went back, went missing?
My Great-Grandad was a German POW in the UK during WW1, he stayed for a year or so after the war and worked in the UK. He said that he was very well treated and enjoyed his stay. Eventually he returned to Germany (as many foreigners do) as it was his home.

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