Ryder Cup volunteers could stay in Nazi POW camp

The Cultybraggan camp. Pictures: CSNA/ Helen Peck
The Cultybraggan camp. Pictures: CSNA/ Helen Peck
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A FORMER prisoner of war camp which once held some of Hitler’s crack SS troops could be given a new lease of life - as a temporary home for the army of volunteers at next year’s Ryder Cup clash in Scotland.

Cultybraggan Camp, on the outskirts of Comrie in Perthshire, was a maximum-security facility throughout the Second World War, holding up to 4,000 “dangerous” Nazi and Italian prisoners, including fanatical members of the Waffen SS.

Its high-profile prisoners included Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess, who was held there for one night after he crash-landed his plane in Scotland in 1941, and the ringleaders of the infamous “Devizes plot” - a Nazi plan to free 250,000 German PoWs from prison camps across the country and attack Britain from within.

The massive camp and its 100 surviving Category A listed Nissen huts were taken into the ownership of the Comrie Development Trust under the land reform legislation in September 2007.

And today David McColl, the chairman of the trust, announced ambitious proposals to use the camp and its historic huts as the base for up to 500 volunteers attending the biennial clash between Europe and America’s top golfers at Gleneagles, 16 miles away.

A total of 1800 volunteers have already been selected for the event in September 2014, half of whom live in Scotland.

Mr McColl explained that the idea of using the camp for some of the volunteers had come about through a desire to better utilise the camp and its buildings.

He said: “There will be thousands of volunteers, contractors, security and other staff helping to make the Ryder Cup a success and many of them will need somewhere to stay. It seemed appropriate that with the event coming in 2014 we take the chance to develop and refurbish our Nissen huts.”

The plan is to seek commercial partners to refurbish up to twelve Nissen huts at the camp to provide “bunkhouse” style accommodation for up to 25 volunteers in each hut. The bunkhouses will be augmented by temporary accommodation in yurts and other tented structures.

Mr McColl said: “The idea is to make it more interesting for the volunteers by creating a Scottish experience. They will be spending their day at Gleneagles, marshalling or whatever they do, and coming back to their accommodation at night with nothing to do. But if they were to stay at the camp we could put on things like ceilidhs and barbecues for them then they would enjoy their time in Scotland and not feel so isolated.”

“We are hoping that the camp’s history will be a major plus point.”

The trust is now hoping to recruit commercial partners to the venture to help spread the costs of refurbishing the huts to the required standard.

Said Mr McColl: “We are going to be pretty active over the next few weeks to try and cement our thinking and get these people on board as partners. “It would be a terrible shame to miss out on an opportunity such as this as events like the Ryder Cup don’t come along often”

Cultybraggan was built in 1939 with five separate compounds - one each for Army, Navy, Air Force and SS prisoners, and one for officers.

Following the war it was used as an Army training area before being used by the Royal Observer Corps as a nuclear monitoring post and a Regional Government Headquarters. Cultybraggan has been hailed as “one of the three best preserved purpose-built WWII prisoner of war camps in Britain.”

Antonia Beggs, Ryder Cup Operations Director, said: “We are currently in the process of working with Perth and Kinross Council to source affordable and comfortable accommodation in the area for our volunteers. We have not yet held any discussions with the Comrie Development Trust over the use of Cultybraggan Camp, however we welcome any opportunity to review potential locations that meet the needs and requirements for us to house volunteers or other staff members in 2014.”