Why a prisoner of Denny’s Camp 64 is seeking ‘auld acquaintance’

It’s not unusual for war veterans to try and find former comrades who may still be living, often after many decades.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 20th December 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 12:08 pm

But one old soldier, now 94, whose daughter has written to the Falkirk Herald on his behalf, is arguably in a special league of his own - because he is German, and was a prisoner of war in Denny.

Ernst Jebautzke, born in Hof, Bavaria, in 1925, is described by his daughter Christine as “one of the oldest Youtube personalities of Germany”.

In five fascinating first-hand accounts his “Old Stories” tell the remarkable story of the seemingly unlikely friendship and hospitality he found as a prisoner in post-war austerity Scotland.

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German POWs working in snow.

It was a lifetime ago, but as we approach Christmas he still remembers what his daughter called “his heart-warming experience in Denny in 1946” - which she considers was “unimaginable” at that time.

However his experience chimes with other accounts given by prisoners who - perhaps toiling on road works - were pulled in to people’s homes and treated like special guests.

There was top security for Nazi hard cases, but for most Germans captivity was a release from the threat of imminent death in a war they had comprehensively lost and had no interest in fighting.

They found themselves (like thousands of Italian prisoners before them) in camps surrounded by barbed wire, but usually guarded by men whose guns, if they carried them, were not loaded.

In one of his videos Ernst explains how in 1946 it was still strictly forbidden for prisoners to contact the civilian population, but those same locals seem frequently to have found ways of ignoring the rules.

The war was over, but many could relate only too easily to the loneliness of young men cut off from friends and family in a foreign country.

Strange friendships developed between erstwhile enemies, and some Germans (and Italians) simply never went home.

Meanwhile it is not the first time a former Denny POW has featured in the Falkirk Herald.

In 2006 we told how Jupp Hansen, then aged 81, spent a week revisiting the scenes of his wartime imprisonment along with his son Heribert.

As an 18-year-old Wehrmacht conscript he had been “lucky” enough to escape a posting to the Eastern Front (which was seen as a virtual death sentence) and was captured fighting the Americans instead.

Jupp was transported to the USA but was later relocated to Scotland.

He spent more than a year at the Castlerankine POW camp near Denny, but for much of his time as a prisoner lived and worked at Craigend Brickworks in Standburn.

The old soldier visited Denny 45 years later, touring Callendar House as well as the Smith Institute in Stirling - where toys made by POWs had become museum exhibits.

Jupp married in 1949 and had two sons, but for decades never talked about the war or his time spent as a POW.

Camp 64, as it was known, had its own hospital, canteen, bakery, shoemaker’s shop and reading room.

A report in The Falkirk Herald in 1946, following a visit by the Town Council to the camp, said: “Although the barbed wire was symbolic, and guards were entirely without rifles or any weapons, there had never been any trouble, and attempts to escape were unheard of.”

When the camp finally closed, it was turned into a piggery and later taken over by a former POW who simply didn’t go home.

Now, all those years later, Herr Jebautske would dearly like to say “Fröhliche Weihnachten” to his fellow former prisoner.

His daughter hopes somebody may be able to tell her if Jupp is still alive, and perhaps provide contact details for him or his son.

Thanks to Ernst their poignant memories of that extraordinary Scottish Christmas in Denny, 1946, live on.