FRITZ ANSCHEIT was a Prisoner of War working on the land in the Sadberge area, on the outskirts of Darlington, in 1946 – we know this, because he repaired a water trough and wrote his name into the wet cement (Memories 447).

Glenice Lawson, of Barton, has been in touch because she has a letter sent on July 9, 1945, from a PoW who signs himself Allessandro Trunini to her father, Wheatley Todd, who farmed at Long Newton.

The Northern Echo: PoW letter, SadbergePoW letter, Sadberge

Allessandro had been working on the dairy farm and was expressing his sorrow at having been moved to another PoW camp in Gloucestershire.

“I sorry to be here,” writes Allessandro. “Is reely a place that I don’t like. I still doing work into milk shop. This work I don’t like very much.

“Well, dear thank you so much about your kindness which you had about me. I never forget that nice things gone.

“My health is going on well and so will hop you too and all of your family…”

It is a very brave stab by Allessandro, whose name must be Italian, to write in a foreign language to thank the man who had shown him such kindness – although Allessandro adds a little message at the end: “XXXXXXXXXXX to your servant”. Perhaps there was a farmgirl he wanted to be remembered to.

The Northern Echo: Harperley POW Camp, Near Crook, County Durham, in 2003Harperley POW Camp, Near Crook, County Durham, in 2003

“My father talked a lot about the PoW who helped on the farm,” says Glenice. “We had beautiful birdhouses in the garden with thatched roofs that the PoWs made.”

It seems likely that Allessandro was living in the Harperley PoW camp that still survives at Fir Tree, near Crook. It housed 1,400 Italian PoWs from 1943 until 1945, and they went out six days a week from 7am to 7pm to work on the land.

Harperley was PoW Camp 93 and it was in charge of 10 satellite camps across the county, including at Oaklands at Bishop Auckland and Windlestone Hall near Rushyford. Perhaps Allessandro was stationed in one of those which would have been closer to the Long Newton farm rather than him being motored all the way from Harperley every day.

The Northern Echo: Hulam Women's Land Army camp near Ingleton. Picture from Google StreetviewHulam Women's Land Army camp near Ingleton. Picture from Google Streetview

OR perhaps Allessandro was based at Hulam camp, near Ingleton which is near Staindrop, and it was another of Harperley’s satellites.

We are grateful to David Middlemas for pointing out that Hulam camp still stands, remote and overgrown – at least it was overgrown the last time David cycled out that way, its brick water tower jutting above its disused sheds.

Hulam was built in 1941 as a Women’s Land Army camp – just like the one at Sadberge on the A66, which featured in Memories 447. It held about 65 young women, many of whom came from Tyneside to work on the land.

Sadberge lasted as a Land Army camp until 1948, but Hulam appears to have a found a new use housing Italian and perhaps German PoWs before the war was out. In peacetime, it was occupied by Displaced Persons from the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and once they had gone home, in the late 1940s it became an agricultural holiday centre. People, keen to rebuild the country after the war, came to stay for a week or two and accepted very small wages in return for doing farmwork.

After that, they became farm out-buildings, but now, from the saddle at least, they don’t appear to have much use.

The Northern Echo: Echo memories - Mary Woodthorpe's picture of Beacon Hill filling station. It was demolished about 1967 when the A66 was widened. Behind it stood the Women's Land Army HostelEcho memories - Mary Woodthorpe's picture of Beacon Hill filling station. It was demolished about 1967 when the A66 was widened. Behind it stood the Women's Land Army Hostel

ARE there any other Land Army hostels, or PoW camps, we should be aware of? Women farmworkers were based at hostels at Beacon Hill, Sadberge, at Hulam and at Wolviston. David Thompson also points out a suspicious huddle of Second World War-looking huts at Great Broughton, near Stokesley.

The Northern Echo: Wartime hostel at Ingleton, Hulam, in 2006Wartime hostel at Ingleton, Hulam, in 2006

“I’ve driven past them hundreds of times and have always meant to stop for a mooch but never have,” he says.

If you can help, please email

MANY thanks for all your correspondence: we’ve received interesting stuff on a marvellous mangle and on Second World War dustcart headlights, but you’ll have to wait on tenterhooks till next week for that.