Hut 9 opened for visitors

Monday, 27 February 2017

By GEM Staff Reporter
in Other News

The site of the former Second World War German prisoner-of-war camp at Island Farm, Bridgend, was opened to the public recently as the Hut 9 Preservation Group staged their first open weekend of 2017.

A total of 630 visitors took the opportunity to visit the scene of the famous ‘German Great Escape’ and were entertained by volunteers, who told them more about the history of the site.

The former World War Two camp is sealed to visitors for much of the time, but several times each year the locked doors of the hut from which this escape was made, are opened to allow hundreds of visitors a rare look inside this unique building.

Members of the Hut 9 Preservation Group and over 50 ‘living historians’, dressed in period uniforms, gave talks and guided tours inside the hut. A number of period military vehicles were also on site.

Military historians were on hand to tell visitors about the history of the buildings, from their occupation by female workers at the nearby ordnance factory to the housing of hundreds of German prisoners of war. Also on display were dozens of original wall paintings made by the occupants over 70 years ago and rescued from some of the now-demolished huts.

Brett Exton gave illustrated talks on the history of the site, and Dr Jonathan Hicks told visitors about the work of the group since its formation in 2012, and ALSO gave an insight into that famous night in March 1945 when 70 German prisoners made their bid for freedom.

A spokesman said: “Every penny donated by visitors at these special openings is spent on improving the visitor experience. In the last two years, under the guidance of group member Wayne Gill, the group has renovated a nearby derelict building to convert it into a visitor centre and this building now contains a re-creation of the night that 70 Germans escaped through a tunnel dug from one of the rooms in Hut 9.

The group has also worked hard to kit out the rooms inside Hut 9 to give visitors an insight into its fascinating past and another newly-furbished room was opened for the first time for this event.

A replica guard tower has been constructed by the group and a replica NAAFI café, staffed by volunteers, provided refreshments, while group member Stel Anthony recorded the memories of visitors who remembered the site in its heyday.

Dr Hicks said: “It was apparent from the hundreds of positive comments made by our visitors that they value the work we have done to keep alive this important piece of Welsh history. The open weekend was fully booked up months in advance, which gives some idea of the scale of public interest in this historic site.

“All 300 tickets for our June 10 event have already been reserved. I am now taking bookings for our October event, and half of the 600 tickets have already been snapped up. The interest in our work is phenomenal.”

Donations to the Hut 9 voluntary group, which is seeking to ensure the future of the site, are welcomed and allow the group to make even more improvements to the building and surrounding area.

To reserve a place on the Hut 9 tours on October 7 and 8, email Dr Hicks at: [email protected]. Details of the tours are also available via the group’s website: www.hut9.org.uk.

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Article source: http://www.bridgend-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=112218&headline=Hut%209%20opened%20for%20visitors§ionIs=news&searchyear=2017