Wednesday, September 11, 2013

PoWs at Mafeking

Among one of the most commonly-searched PoW camps that are re-directed to my site is the small labour project that operated outside of Mafeking, Manitoba from 1944 to 1946. While I have talked about this project briefly at times (see here), my records pertaining to this particular site are farily limited. Unfortunately, the microfilmed records that are held at the Library and Archives Canada are very poor quality and, in many cases, illegible. However, thanks to a few individuals, most notably Lutz Beranek, the history of PoWs at Mafeking is starting to emerge.

As part of my research, I had wanted to find the former PoW camp site to see what evidence remains of its short history. The problem, however, was trying to find the site. The few records I had provided a very general area while the Swan Valley Historical Society's Lasting Impressions stated that the camp was located on the shore of a small lake northwest of Mafeking. With the help of Google's satellite imagery, I was able to map some possible locations and load their coordinates into my GPS. Making the three-hour drive to Mafeking, I set out to see what I can find.

After about an hour and a half bushwacking through some dense brush, I finally stumbled across the remnants of the camp. While the majority of the structures were removed after the PoWs left in 1946, some of the log buildings built by the PoWs are still standing.

Camp clearing
One of the PoW-built log buildings

While only a few traces of the camp remain, there's still enough to shed some light on one of Canada's homefront contributions to the Second World War!