PRISONERS OF WAR IN MAYLAND
Many Prisoners of War from Germany and Italy were put to work in the countryside in the Dengie during the Second World War. It is thought that there were up to 3,000 prisoners in the East of Essex.
They were put into a number of camps in the area and were then put to work on the farms. Richard Whent was only a young boy in 1945 when he became friendly with two prisoners, Otto and Henry, who worked for his father on the farm. He used to live in Mayland at Firth View Farm with his family, which is now known as Pet Save, in Steeple Road.
Last year Richard decided to write down his childhood memories of that time. He wrote them by hand and sent them to Trevor Chapman, local historian, who thought the story would be of interest to readers of The Maylands Mayl Magazine.
Childhood Memories of Richard Whent
My father Charles Whent first met Otto and Henry when they were working to widen the road at Steeple Road, Mayland, when he was on his milk round. They always used to say hello. He got to know them. It was a cold winter that year and Father gave them a pair of gloves each. They were both at the prisoner of war camp at Tillingham Marshes.
At Christmas you could have them round for Christmas Day. We had Otto and Reg Whent had Henry and we changed round on Boxing Day. After that Otto came and worked for us. He could eat with us but not sleep in the house so Father bought a caravan for him which he stayed in during week days. My father was impressed as he kept it so clean and tidy.
At weekends, Otto would get out of camp the back way and walk to our farm and Father would run him home at night. Once we biked to camp for Otto to get his hair cut. As you went through the gate with guards on there was a lovely rock garden the prisoners had built out of chunks of chalk from over the sea wall. Bags of flour would get washed up on the beaches from sunken ships. The flour would be hard on the outside but ok in the middle. We would use the middle for cooking and some lovely cakes were baked which I enjoyed.
Otto left us in September 1947 to return to Germany. It was my 11th birthday that year and he wrote me a letter from Colchester on 11th September 1947 which I still have.
Before I leave your country, I will send you my kindest congratulations to your 11th birthday. Tomorrow at 2 o’clock our ship will leave Harwich. On the day of your birthday I shall be at home I suppose.
Please deliver my sincerest thanks to your parents again for the beautiful time, which I spent in your home. Many greetings to your father and mother, Josephine and Evelyn, and grandmothers Tipton and Whent.
Again, I wish you many happy returns of the day and remain
I wrote to his wife in 1983 as Carol and I were visiting friends at the US Air Force Base (Bitburg) We stopped at Klon and found his niece. I asked about Otto. She told me he had died on 31st March 1974. I felt a bit sad as I had wished to meet him again as he was such a great friend to me and my sisters. When not working he would spend time with and play with us. He will be sadly missed.
Richard (Dick) Whent