During the re-occupation of France and Belgium, many of the captured German and Italian soldiers were brought to Northern Ireland and interred in Prisoner of War camps. There were five POW camps stationed in Northern Ireland, one of which was based at Toome. The camps were known by a number which was assigned from the British mainland; as camps closed their number was reassigned to a new camp elsewhere. Three of the camps are known by name:
No. 10 – Gosford Camp in Markethill, Co. Armagh
No. 12 – Elmford Camp in Gilford, near Portadown, Co. Armagh (later assigned to a camp in Bury, Manchester)
No. 161 – Belfast (earlier assigned to a camp in Grangefield, Gloucester)
Two of the camps are only known by their numbers No. 5 and No. 6 and it is not known which of these relates to the camp at Toome. The latter camp was later reassigned to camps at Long Marston, Strattford-Upon-Avon and Doncaster, North Yorkshire. One of these was the camp at Toome but at present there is no further information as to which one it was.
The prisoners were allowed to work on local farms as labourers and were transported there and back in army trucks. Most of the prisoners were ordinary soldiers separated from their family some struck up friendships with the local people. Sean McKee, a farmer from Airfield Road, Creagh recalls a German prisoner who would visit his grandmother on a Sunday to collect eggs for the POW camp. The prisoner became friendly with the family and even carved wooden gifts them; a wooden horse for Mr McKee who was only a small child at the time, a pair of hens for his grandmother’s mantelpiece, and a pair of dogs with wagging tails for his uncle. James and John Joe Walls of Airfield Road recall stories that POWs were invited to local dances/ceilis and even loaned ordinary clothes for the evening so as not to feel out of place in their black POW uniforms. (Image: Horse belonging to Sean McKee. Click here to enlarge image)
After the war the prisoners were gradually repatriated to Germany and Italy and the camps were closed down.