Ever hear of Camp 30?
If you’re like most Canadians, you’ve probably never heard of the camp that held German POWs near Bowmanville, Ontario from 1941 to 1945. I didn’t know much about it either until I had the opportunity recently to attend a meeting of the Oshawa Shrine Club. There a local historian from the Clarington Museums presented a slide show and talk about the history of the site and its role during the war as a prisoner-of-war camp.
Originally built to serve as a reform school for boys, in 1941 the camp was converted for use as a internment camp for German soldiers captured by the Allies. By 1943 more than 800 prisoners were housed there. Notable on the list of captives were leading U-Boat commanders Otto Kretschmer and Wolfgang Heyda, according to Heritage Canada The National Trust. By 1941 Kretschmer had already sunk 50 allied ships.
The camp is also famous as the only place in Canada where a battle was fought during the Second World War. In 1942 it was the site of what became known as the “Battle of Bowmanville”. It was then that German prisoners-of-war rioted with baseball bats and hockey sticks in protest of a plan to shackle them. Adolf Hitler was shackling Canadian soldiers captured at Dieppe, and Canadian authorities were considering doing the same to their German prisoners.
Today, as the pictures by Jeffery Golde attest, the camp is in a dilapidated state. Vandals have covered the buildings with graffiti, and destroyed the administration building in a 2009 fire. Declared a National Historic Site in 2013, the Municipality of Clarington, where is it located, are currently looking for ways to restore the camp.