24th January 2013:
The story of Oxford Archaeology’s excavation of a World War II prisoner of war camp at La Glacerie in Normandy has been published in a ground-breaking book on the archaeology of prisoner of war camps. The account of the site, written by OA’s Head of International Business, Rob Early, is one of several case studies to feature in Prisoners of War: Archaeology, Memory, and Heritage of 19th- and 20th-Century Mass Internment (edited by Harold Mytum and Gilly Carr), which reveals the hidden history and experiences inside camps of the Napoleonic era, the American Civil War, and the First and Second World Wars.
La Glacerie in Cherbourg was established by the American authorities in August 1944 to hold German prisoners following the D-Day landings. Traces of the camp were discovered during investigation of Gallo-Roman remains in advance of housing development in 2009, and the unprecedented decision was made to conduct a full-scale excavation of the World War II site.
Using an RAF photograph as a guide to the camp’s layout, the excavation uncovered 180 structures, the huts occupied by German prisoners of war. The huts were about 2m wide by 5m long and were made by a variety of material, metal sheets, wooden planks and roofing felt. Remarkably, the huts had sunken floors and resembled sunken-featured buildings typical of Anglo-Saxon and early medieval Europe. Some 4,000 finds were recovered from the excavation, including identification tags, aspirin tins, bottles, shoes, and items from uniforms.
The investigation at La Glacerie offers an insight into the construction and use of early medieval buildings. Mores significantly, the site makes a valuable contribution to the study of prisoner of war camps, their impact on the landscape, and their legacy for the wartime generation and their descendants.