Welcome to Island Farm
When the invasion was well under way in France, it was decided that
Island Farm was to become a low-level security camp, and was given
the designation 198. Fence's were erected , that was as far as the
extra security went for the time being, as the first inmates were a
mix of very low ranking German and Italian prisoners that soon went
to work on local farms.
As the Winter approached in 1944, these prisoners were soon tasked with "Upgrading" the security of the camp which involved erecting a double high security fence around the entire site under supervision from their guards, for Island Farm was to become a top security camp for nearly 1800 higher ranking German officers.
In November 1944, they arrived. Hardened by many bitter years of war, numbed by nearly 15 years of national socialism, the elite of the Wehrmacht and the SS arrived by train at Bridgend Railway Station.
Many of the officers who arrived by train had already been making plans for escape, mental notes taken of the trip into Wales, the terrain and specific landmarks. At the declaration of war, signposts and place names had been removed from roads, towns and railway stations to help confuse the enemy. The Great Western Railway though had decided to leave the tourist maps in the carriages that brought the POW's to Wales. Copies were made of the maps, one detailed map was written onto the shirt tail by and SS officer by the name of Karl Ludwig.
Many of the prisoners fitted the stereotype of the Nazi, and they marched arrogant and defiant from the railway station, through Bridgend town to Island Farm, singing as they went, "We are marching to England" in perfect step. It is said that a local woman in the crowd that had gathered spat in the face of one tough looking nazi, who merely grinned, and did not break step.
Behind the wire, the prisoners were safe, for now. The camp's commandant, Lietenant-Colenel Edwin Darling was now in charge, after the local police superintendent, William May had delivered his human shipment. Now the serious business of escaping could begin, whilst fooling the guards into a false sense of security.