Little is known about the war time history of the prisoner of war camp once sited at the Dignus Tile factory. A chance email to the Madeley website in early 2005 requesting any information or photographs of the camp, initiated a quest to find out more about Madeley’s role in housing captured prisoners of war. Included here is the original email message…
24th February, 2005
Dear Mr. Finney,
Perhaps you will be surprised to receive this e-mail from Germany. May I introduce myself before asking your assistance. I am librarian at Bayreuth University Library. Apart from dealing with books and media I am also responsible for organizing exhibitions showing interesting items of our rare book collection or presenting paintings and drawings of local artists. Early in May we are going to present a twin exhibition with paintings of a middle-aged artist (Berthold Rubenbauer, b. 1951) and drawings of his late father (Wilhelm Rubenbauer, 1916-1993).
Wilhelm Rubenbauer was actually a china painter by profession. During World War II he was taken prisoner and spent four years (1944 to 1948) as POW in England. About Christmas time in 1945 he was lucky to receive a paint box by the Red Cross and he made good use of it. He drew his comrades, scenes of camp life and a few landscapes. Being released he managed to take his drawings and paintings home to Germany. His son still preserves them. The original inscriptions on Wilhelm Rubenbauer’s drawings and paintings helped us to identify the POW-camp he belonged to. It must have been Camp 193 i.e. Madeley Tile Works Camp. Apart from Madeley there is a drawing that refers to Addersley and another one that shows Shrewsbury cathedral.
I wonder if you could provide any further information concerning Madeley Tile Works Camp ? Some drawings show a tar boiler. That is why I assume that the POWs had – at least sometimes – to repair roads or streets. Do you know who run the camp ? Have you got a picture of the camp commandant by any chance ? There is just one portrait amongst Rubenbauer’s sketches and drawings. According to Rubenbauer junior it shows the commandant. I don’t think so, as the man in the picture is wearing a German army cap. A neat drawing shows a three-gabled house with a row of chimneys on top of the roof and two turrets in front of the building. Old trees suggest that the house was situated in a garden or park. The German inscription says “red house”. Could my description enable you to identify the building ? Was it possibly the manor house?
I am looking forward to your reply.
With best wishes across the Channel
Dr. Rainer-Maria Kiel
Bayreuth University Library
With the assistance of Phil Shaw and Chris Machin, I was able to talk to Mr. Terry Elks of Newcastle Road, Madeley Heath, who furnished information which assisted in the search for further information. Also, Mr. Elks confirmed that there was indeed a POW camp in the village during World War II. There is some confusion when searching the internet, as some sites claim Madeley in Shropshire also had a camp 193 at Madeley Tile Works. Without doubt, Madeley Staffordshire is the location for this very camp 193!
During the war, Mr. Elks was a small boy and recalls that for approximately a year, George Rowby an American serviceman and his wife “Bridey” were billeted at his parents home, ‘Gordon House’ while doing duty in North Staffordshire. George’s occupation during his stay was barber to the prisoners of war and also the 83rd Infantry Division ‘The Thunderbolts’ stationed at Keele Hall, before their part in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach. What is known is that Keele Hall served as a U.S. Army Postal Office (A.P.O.) with the name ‘U.S. Army Postal Service A.P.O. 83 Keele Hall, England’. with one of the attachments being 323rd Field Artillery Battalion 6c Transport. Furthermore, the 83rd Infantry Division were spread as far afield as Shropshire and even into Wales during this time.