Trumpington Prisoner of War Camp: Josef Bibracher and the ‘Youth Camp’

Josef Bibracher was one of the German prisoners held after the War in the ‘Youth Camp’ at the Trumpington Prisoner of War Camp. In 2017, his granddaughter, Cathy Vanner, sent information about his experiences, including notes by Philip Fairclough.

This is one of a number of pages about Trumpington PoW Camp .

Cathy Vanner has provided information about her grandfather, Josef Bibracher, who was a German Prisoner at the Trumpington Camp. His story was told to Philip Fairclough, from whom these notes have been abstracted.

Josef Bibracher had joined the German army as an officer cadet in 1944, aged 17. They were sent to fight the French Maquis in the Grenoble area, where Josef was wounded and eventually became a prisoner of the US army. He was transferred to the United States, including a Camp in Gettysburg . In winter 1945, he was returned to Europe and imprisoned in camps around Cambridge for four years.

He was in camps in Ely and Gamlingay before being transferred to the Trumpington ‘Youth Camp’, intended for those who had spent their formative years under Nazi rule. Other prisoners had been in the U Boat service or SS. Prisoners were categorised into Grade A (convinced democrat who opposed militarism and fascism), Grade B (majority who did not think much about politics and went along with the group) and Grade C (the most committed nationalists, reluctant to abandon their beliefs). The release date of a prisoner was determined by their grade and Josef Bibracher was required to remain a prisoner for a long time. He said to Philip Fairclough:

“I am sure my attitude was affected by the enforced stay in England. I was young and angry and let it show. Looking back perhaps staying in England was really the best think that could have happened. We had no idea of the truly terrible conditions in Germany.”

“The facilities at Trumpington were quite good. It was a big camp with about 2000 men. We had football, boxing and all kinds of sport. We were not closely guarded as we had been in the USA. I went out on working details supervising the other PoWs on the farm. There was nothing much to do so in return for some milk and tobacco I agreed to do manual work for the farmer. This, of course, was against the rules. Normally we just marched back to the camp straight through the main gate. On this occasion a new guard decided to search the PoWs. He found my tobacco and confiscated it into his own pocket. I was a trained boxer and hit him. He went down straight away and I was marched off to the camp jail for a few weeks (bread and water for two days first, then hot food for one day, then back to bread and water). They let me out early as there was a big boxing match at Duxford and I was to represent the camp. The new guard was transferred.”

In late 1946, Josef Bibracher was transferred to the Camp in Whittlesford. He worked at the leather factory in Sawston and was invited to visit a local family. This included a daughter, Barbara Day, who he helped to learn English. He was transferred back to the Trumpington Camp but continued to see Barbara and they married in last 1948. Josef Bibracher was released and went back to Germany with his family in 1949 before returning to live in England.