Militaria: Axis PoW Collectibles

Hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers arrived in Britain during World War Two, but not, however, as victorious invaders, but defeated prisoners of war (PoWs). We here turn our focus on some of the fascinating memorabilia that reveals the PoW experience in their captors’ country.

A 1942-dated Italian phrase book, produced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for those working with Italian prisoners. These books sell for around the £40 mark when they do, if in good condition.

Perhaps reflective of the so-called ‘Phoney War’ there were just two PoW camps in Britain in 1939. And not surprisingly, given the lack of land battles on the continent, the first few Germans to be captured were downed Luftwaffe airmen or Kriegsmarine sailors. Indeed, prisoners of war were something of a novelty: German officers were initially incarcerated in the grand surroundings of Grizedale Hall in the Lake District, prompting one MP to sarcastically ask “would it not be cheaper to hold them at the Ritz Hotel in London?”.

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