Anti-Aircraft, Bunker or POW Camp?

Garage

Even in the internet age, a time of instant access to information, the famous town of Huddersfield has numerous historic treats that lack much public information or media/public visibility. That is, save from the dedicated members of a few social media pages.

The growing urban exploration and photography trend has seen a rise in exposure to many forgotten sites and landmarks. One such site that gets its annual social media flurry of attention rests just south of our famous Castle Hill.

One morning, in search of this historic site, I found myself near Stirley Community Farm in the splendidly named and idyllically set village of Hall Bower. Here, on Hall Bower Lane, I encountered a farmer who told me all about the ‘prisoner of war camp’ he and his friends had explored as children. He assured me that it was not a bunker, though there was one ‘over yonder’ – waving his arm in an unspecified direction – it was a former prisoner of war (POW) camp said to have held about 20 German soldiers during World War II.

Fortified

Before my first visit I had been told of this POW camp or bunker ‘up near Castle Hill’, but – at the time – had been unable to find any information online about it.

The Farmer directed me onto a little snicket that led up through the fields of Hall Bower and onto Ashes Lane.

Following this road away from Castle Hill and carrying on past Hey Lane Cemetery for approximately 500 metres, I reached a gate on the left side of the road. Hopping over the gate, I followed the S-shaped road up a gentle incline until I was greeted with a frosty-tipped view of the farmlands that gently slope upward until they reach Castle Hill-Side.

Drawing my eyes back to my immediate surrounding, I noticed a few structures of interest.

Battle Stations

While I do adore a good myth and am more than happy to playfully perpetuate the good ones, I have been unable to find any evidence that this site was a POW camp during WW2.

Since this initial visit, I have learnt that the few structures here were likely a garage, a control building and a large grey bunker with a heavy anti-aircraft gun emplacement (Cotterill, 2018).

This latter concrete building has a ladder and stair access to the roof on either side and is a somewhat daunting structure. Tarnished with semi-decent graffiti, the feature that drew my interest was the triangular markings stamped into the roof. What is this for? Is where an anti-aircraft gun would have sat?

View to Castle Hill

The base appears to have been occupied by the 294 Battery of the 96th Royal Artillery Battery in 1940 (Dobinson, 1996).

The following year the Luftwaffe, heading back to the fatherland, had dropped bombs in and around the Huddersfield area (Robinson, 2016). I can only imagine the sirens blaring and the soldiers of the 96th scrambling to stations and potentially taking some shots at the planes overhead.

Records show that by 1942 the site was unmanned (Dobinson, 1996) and in the 80 years since the surrounding farmlands have politely encroached on the area leaving these fascinating buildings intact.

Not much survives to tell us about Huddersfield’s heavy anti-aircraft battery site, but it is there and is worth knowing about. Most importantly the people, the soldiers of 294 Battery of the 96th Royal Artillery Battery are well worth remembering.


References

B, B. (2015) Huddersfield Heavy Anti Aircraft Gun site near Castle Hill, Yorkshire, Lancashire at War, http://www.lancashireatwar.co.uk/huddersfield/4588264303

Cotterill, R. (2018) Guarding Home, Unseen Britain, http://rikcotterill.com/blog/guarding-home/

Dobinson, C. (1996) Anti-aircraft artillery: England’s air defence gun sites, 1914-46, Council For British Archaeology

Robinson, A. (2016, December 6). Did Hitler’s bombs hit Huddersfield? Yorkshire Live https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/ask-examiner-hitlers-bombs-hit-12279060

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