Scrap book by German prisoners discovered in the New Forest

Sketch of POW camp at Setley

Published Wednesday 6 March 2013

A scrap book of sketches, poems and Christmas greetings by German prisoners of war has been unearthed in the New Forest thanks to a project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

The unique collection includes evocative sketches of the prisoner of war camp at Setley near Brockenhurst, as well as four wooden figures carved for the main gate.

The discovery was made as part of the New Forest Remembers – Untold Stories of World War II Project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

The camp at Setley originally housed Italian prisoners of war before German prisoners were moved in after the Normandy landings in 1944. The scrap book was compiled for Christmas and includes etchings of camp life, snowy scenes as well as seasonal greetings to each other. It also includes some photos of the 300 to 500 prisoners held there from 1945 to 1947. On the cover is the German word ‘Lager’, which means camp in German, as well as the prisoners of war camp number 65.

The book was given as a Christmas present to the German camp leader Max Mueller who later settled in the New Forest at the end of World War II. The two-foot high carvings from Setley were given to him after the camp closed in 1947.

They have been donated by Mr Mueller’s widow Molly and their son Mike.

Mike Mueller, who runs the Meerut bed and breakfast in Brockenhurst, said: ‘The scrap book has been gathering dust in a cupboard for years, and we just thought it would be nice for other people to see it. It was a Christmas present from the prisoners in the camp to my father. He didn’t talk much about his time there, so it’s remarkable to have this record.’

Gareth Owen, from the New Forest Remembers Project, said: ‘We’ve had a great response from people telling their World War Two stories, and the scrap book and carvings from Molly Mueller are real historical gems. The hand drawn sketches are particularly striking. Many of them are initialled so we are able to match them with the photos of the prisoners in the book. This is a fascinating insight into what was upmost in the minds of the German prisoners so far from their homeland.’

The two-year New Forest Remembers project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Exxon Mobil at Fawley. It aims to bring the war years to life through archaeological surveys and digitally capturing the memories of those who lived during the period. So far, more than 170 people have come forward to tell their stories.

The scrap book and carvings will be put on display as part of a New Forest Remembers exhibition at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst from 23 March until 28 April.

The exhibits will also be seen later in a digital portal full of recorded interviews, photos, letters, diaries, film footage and animated 3D reconstructions of some of the wartime buildings. Members of the public will be able to add their stories and memories to the portal when it goes online.

If you have your own story for the New Forest Remembers Project, you can contact the team at 01590 646600, email archaeology@newforestnpa.gov.uk or write to New Forest Remembers, New Forest National Park Authority, Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington, SO41 9ZG.

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Notes to Photo Editor:

Setley Camp Sketch – this is a hand drawn sketch made by a German prisoner of war at Setley Camp in the New Forest between 1945 and 1947

Notes to Editors:

Mike Mueller and mother Molly Mueller are available for interviews on request.

There are more photos available on request including a photo of Max Mueller, as well as sketches, carved figures, an aerial map of the camp from 1946, an artist impression of what the camp looked like and a recent image of the site.

Max Mueller biography

Max Mueller was born Ludwig Wilhelm Mueller in January 1919. He trained as a butcher before joining the German army. He was captured in France in 1944 and was sent to Setley Camp in the New Forest, where he was made the leader of five local Prisoner of War Camps. He was finally released just before Christmas 1947. Whilst most prisoners of war returned home, some stayed and settled in the New Forest. Mr Mueller worked as a farmer and married his wife Molly in 1952. They had two children. In 1955 he returned to butchering firstly in Hordle and then as manager of Holton’s in Brookley Road, Brockenhurst. He was well known in the community before he passed away in October 1988.

About New Forest Remembers – untold stories of World War II

The ‘New Forest remembers - untold stories of World War II’ is a Heritage Lottery Fund project. It is hosted by the New Forest National Park Authority, and supported by a wide range of organisations, including ExxonMobil and English Heritage, both financially and through staff time.

The project is carrying out essential archaeological surveying of part of the New Forest National Park including an airborne infra-red LiDAR survey (light detection and ranging), mapping work and field surveys.

An outreach programme is being designed to encourage local communities, groups and organisations to get involved. Teaching resources and educational activities will also be developed to link World War II archaeology with the National Curriculum.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Media Contact:
Sion Donovan, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646639
Email: sion.donovan@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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