RESIDENTS in a small Highland village have already snapped up more than £4,000-worth of “community shares” in the last remaining example of a purpose-built PoW camp in the UK, which once held scores of senior Nazis.
Ten B-listed nissen huts that once held World War II prisoners at Cultybraggan Camp, near Comrie in Perthshire, are to be turned self-catering and bunkhouse accommodation.
The Comrie Development Trust, which has owned the camp since it exercised a community right-to-buy option in 2007, says locals in Comrie – population 2,000 – will be able to cash in on the trend for holidaying in unusual places – so called “heritage hutting” or “dark tourism”.
The £697,000 project is estimated to increase visitor numbers to the area to over 15,000 after five years creating the equivalent of 20 full time jobs and boosting the local economy by up to £2 million.
The Trust’s plan has secured conditional grants of more than £600,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and SSE.
But as part of the overall funding, the Trust has to raise some £35,000 through a Community Shares Scheme from people in the local area and others with an interest in seeing this heritage site preserved.
With the share offer having been open only a few days, chairman of the Trust, Bill Thow said that money was coming in fast.
He said: “The offer has met 12 per cent of its target sum, with 32 days still to go, and I am confident the full amount will be raised for this most welcome addition to our visitor offering at Cultybraggan Camp.”
Built in 1939, the so-called “Black Camp of the North” held up to 4000 German prisoners at a time, many of them the toughest Afrika Korps and SS troops.
The ringleaders of the infamous 1944 Devizes Plot to free 250,000 PoWs from camps throughout the country – and then mount an attack on the UK from within – were consigned to Camp 21, as Cultybraggan was known during the war years.
It has been reported that Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess, was held there for a night en route to England after crash-landing in Scotland, though some commentators insist the Hess story is a myth.
In the most notorious incident in the camp’s history, five Nazi prisoners held there murdered a fellow prisoner, Sergeant Wolfgang Rostberg, whose zeal for the Nazi cause had, they believed, waned in captivity.
The five were tried, found guilty, and eventually hanged at Pentonville Prison.
The complex was retained as a training camp after the war and regulars, territorials and Army cadets were frequent visitors for the next 60 years until the MoD closed it down in 2004.
There was a fear that the site would be used for housing, out of keeping with the community, when it was put up for sale by the Government for £350,000.
Instead it was purchased by the Trust which has strived to give the camp a new lease of life.
The 64-acre camp still contains numerous Nissan huts and buildings and even a high-tech underground bunker, making it the most complete prisoner-of-war camp remaining in the UK.
The buildings will be restored to a condition as stipulated by Historic Scotland, which has given its backing to the project, offering a grant of up to £257,500.
Shares are available to buy at microgenius.org.uk and further details can be found on the CDT website, comriedevelopmenttrust.org.uk.
Investments can be as little as £25 and up to £5,000.