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Camp that held Hitler’s deputy open to visitors

Rudolf Hess, seen in 1937, was held at Cultybraggan after crashlanding in Scotland. Picture: Getty

Rudolf Hess, seen in 1937, was held at Cultybraggan after crashlanding in Scotland. Picture: Getty

  • by ANNA GAULT
 

A FORMER prisoner of war camp that housed Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, is to unveil a heritage centre showcasing its history.

Cultybraggan Camp in Comrie, Perthshire, once housed a number of Germany’s most senior and fanatical Nazis.

The site, made up of 100 corrugated iron Nissen huts, has undergone a major revamp after owners the Comrie Development Trust received two £10,000 funding packages from the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Built in 1939, the remote maximum security site contained up to 4,000 German prisoners at a time, many of them the toughest Afrika Korps and SS troops.

Nazi leader Rudolf Hess was held there for a night en route to England after crash-landing in Scotland.

And 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.

Local volunteers from the Comrie Heritage Group (CHG) have spent months transforming the former guard room at the entrance to the camp into the home of a permanent exhibition giving visitors an introduction to the camp and the village of Comrie. The centre will open on Saturday 28 March.

Self-guide leaflets will be available at the centre, making it easy to explore the former PoW site, although guided tours will still run on a monthly basis.

Fiona Davidson, chairwoman of the CHG, said: “It will be a fascinating exhibition for locals and visitors alike. It is intended not only to be a starting point for exploring the camp but for exploring the wider Comrie area as well, its rich and varied history and characters.”

Ms Davidson added that the group had spent a lot of time going through archives and gathering information and old photographs, to be displayed on large exhibition boards.

She said: “We have done a lot of research from boxes full of material lent to us by the Sorley family, whose grocery business ran in the village from the early 1900s throughout the war period.

“We have also spoken to relatives of people involved with the camp in the past, and our predecessors, the Oral History Group, passed on the information they gained from compiling the Camp 21 booklet.”

Members of the heritage group have also researched the history of the area back to Roman and prehistoric times, as the exhibition is not just about the camp but also a timeline of Comrie’s history.

Volunteer Blair Urquhart said: “Hut One is the first step on the ladder of the heritage group’s policy of retaining the mixed use of the camp and identifying five or six centres of interest specifically for heritage development. We are looking for buildings that tell the story of the various uses of the camp since 1941 and one of the huts will eventually become a museum.”

In the most notorious incident in the camp’s history, five Nazi prisoners murdered a fellow prisoner, Sergeant Wolfgang Rostberg, whose zeal for the Nazi cause had, they believed, waned in captivity. The five were tried and hanged.

The complex became a training camp after the war and regulars, territorials and Army cadets were frequent visitors for the next 60 years until the Ministry of Defence closed it in 2004.

 

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