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German Prisoners of War at Camp 30 and the Battle of Bowmanville

For the week of Monday, November 16, 2015

On November 20, 1941, the first German Prisoners of War (POWs) arrived at Camp 30 in Bowmanville, Ontario. The internment camp was one of many that detained the thousands of German POWs captured by Allied forces and brought to Canada during the Second World War.

An aerial view of Camp 30
© Department of National Defence

To accommodate the incoming POWs, Camp 30 took over the existing facilities of the Bowmanville Boys Training School. The boys who attended the school were sent home and the campus was transformed. Barbed wire fences and watchtowers were erected and the school’s dormitory, cafeteria, gymnasium, and other buildings were renovated. At its peak of operation in 1944, Camp 30 had more than 800 German military officers and soldiers within its confines. It closed in 1945 and, two years later, reopened as a boy’s school.

A caricature drawing of the Battle of Bowmanville, October 1942
© Courtesy of Clarington Museums

Camp 30 was the setting for “the Battle of Bowmanville,” a riot that broke out at the camp in October 1942. Canadian authorities were ordered to shackle the POWs, in keeping with the way prisoners were dealt with by German, British, and Canadian militaries overseas. When the shackles were brought out at Camp 30, the detainees refused to co-operate. They armed themselves with baseball bats, hockey sticks and bricks, barricaded themselves inside several buildings throughout the camp, and even took one of the Canadian guards hostage. After three days, Canadian authorities regained control and camp life returned to normal. The riot received much media attention and is a rare example of wartime aggression on Canadian soil.

Internment camps like Camp 30 contributed greatly to the Allied war effort. Removed from the battle zones of Europe, the camps ensured that POWs had minimal chances of escaping. They also relieved significant pressure from the soldiers fighting overseas. The Former Bowmanville Boys Training School/Camp 30, Bowmanville, Ontario, is a National Historic Site and the Detention of Second World War Military Prisoners of War and of Enemy Aliens Sent to Canada from Great Britain is a National Historic Event. For more on Camp 30, visit the Bowmanville Museum’s virtual exhibit.

This year marks the second year of the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. For more on German military prisoners of war in Canada, please read: Canada Agrees to Hold Second World War Prisoners and A Time of Tragedy in the This Week in History archives. Also visit the Government of Canada’s World War Commemorations page.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. Also, click here to learn about the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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