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May 28, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

World War II: German POWs in central Virginia

wpa_fruitstore

When Bill Davidson saw his family’s “Davidson Orchard” included on the Caryswood Centennial Map, he commented that his family once owned over 5,000 acres there and added, “I recently learned that during World War II, some German prisoners of war were brought in to help with the work on the orchard.”

Coincidentally, I recently learned that in February of 1944 it was announced that approximately 250 German POWs would be held in western Albemarle County at White Hall.  They would be housed in the camp built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and work in the vicinity as agricultural laborers, picking apples and peaches. Surely, Davidson Orchard was not the only farm in Buckingham to utilize the Germans POWs.

Does anyone know of other Buckingham farms where the German prisoners worked?

Coming Next: Three German Prisoners Escape

5 Comments

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  1. Diane Apperson / May 29 2013 10:48 am

    Joanne. I’ve heard my Dad speak about this through the years and had recently asked him about it again in more detail. Two summers during WWII my Dad (83yrs. old) and his brother (deceased) helped pick peaches at Mr. William & Mr. Ovid Davidson’s orchard. Both summers he recalls German POWs being bussed from Camp Pickett (south of Farmville) to help pick. They were brought in the mornings and returned to Camp Pickett each evening. They brought their lunch with them. There were only a couple of guards (one per bus) and back to what Lynne said in her comment, apparently the guards were not too concerned about escapes because the guards remained at the store building while the POWs were in the orchards picking. My Dad remembers them keeping to them themselves and sitting together during lunch. Most spoke no English.

    Later, in the 1950’s, my Uncle spent his military service years in Germany. He told my Dad that while there he met 1 or 2 former POWs that had worked in sawmills in Florida during WWII. They spoke about some German POWs that did not want to return to Germany at War’s end.

    In refernce to other Buckingham farms using German POW labor, it apparently must have been fairly common. I know of a neighbor that recalls the farm he grew up on (several miles north of the orchard, off Rt. 15) also having POWs from Camp Pickett to work during the summer months. His guardian would go get several POWs in the morning and return them during the evening. The farm apparently provided their meals, because my neighbor recalls his Aunt Kate cooking for them.

    As for the POWs held in western Albemarle at White Hall, I’ve never heard anyone speak about that.

    Diane

    • Joanne Yeck / May 29 2013 1:32 pm

      Diane, This great! It seemed too far to bring prisoners from western Albemarle to Davidson’s Orchard; however, Farmville and Camp Pickett make sense! Thanks for telling your Dad’s story.

  2. Lynne Henshaw / May 28 2013 9:26 pm

    I don’t know where the German POW’s were housed in Buckingham Co., but my husband, Carl, who was a young Marine in WWII, said of the German POW’s sent to Chesterfield Co., (where he was from) that they were very happy to be out of the war, to have a decent place to sleep, and regular meals. They didn’t want to go back to Germany, and were easy to “guard”.

    • Joanne Yeck / May 29 2013 7:26 am

      Lynne, I did not know that there were German POWs held in Chesterfield Co. Now I’m wondering, how many German POWs were in the state and for how long….

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