Digging Cultybraggan and searching for escape tunnels

Next week from Monday 19th June LDH researcher Suzie Thomas and our project colleague Iain Banks will be busy looking at Second World War internment heritage in Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland has provided sponsorship for an excavation at Cultybraggan Prisoner of War (PoW) Camp, outside Comrie in Perthshire.  The camp was originally built for holding Italian PoWs, but later in the Second World War, was used for German PoWs.  Cultybraggan was part of a network of PoW camps across Britain, but was important as one of only two ‘Black’ camps in Scotland along with Watten in Caithness: both High Security camps where prisoners considered to be the most dangerous PoWs were held.

Location of Cultybraggan camp in Scotland.

We know that there were escape attempts from the compound, and that inmates had attempted to tunnel their way out of the camp.  None of the attempts were successful. The purpose of the excavation is to locate traces of tunnels in the camp’s Compound B, so that they can be compared to the tunnels of Stalag Luft III, which the University of Glasgow Centre for Battlefield Archaeology and GUARD excavated in 2011.

After the war, the camp was used for a variety of purposes, including as a training camp for the Army, the Territorial Army, and finally for a range of youth groups.  It has survived very well because of the subsequent uses, but it does mean that there have been many alterations to the camp.

Iain and Suzie will work alongside a team of MLitt Conflict Archaeology & Heritage students from University of Glasgow, as well as with volunteers from the local community; there will also be a contract archaeologist from GUARD Archaeology Ltd on site. A core goal of the fieldwork is to involve members of the community to promote the site on behalf of Comrie Development Trust, and to give local residents in the Comrie area the opportunity to participate in archaeological fieldwork.

View of Cultybraggan PoW camp, image courtesy of Iain Banks.

Suzie is also interested to talk to local people about the meanings and values they associate with the site, as part of her research at the University of Glasgow through a Royal Society of Edinburgh / Caledonian Research Fund European Visiting Fellowship. Please contact her if you are interested in speaking with her! suzie.e.thomas @ helsinki.fi

On the evening of Saturday 24th June, Iain will be giving a lecture in Comrie about PoW camps and the work that we have done at Cultybraggan. Everybody is welcome!