This location was built in the pre-WWII era as a school for "errant" boys, housing approximately 300 of them. Surrounded by farms, it seemed the perfect place to turn troublesome young boys, into responsible adults. Fate, it would seem, had something else in mind for these idyllic grounds.
When the war broke out in 1939, the Allies discovered that they needed a place to house their many German prisoners of war; a place where they would have difficulty escaping and possibly re-joining their former units. To meet these ends, the Canadian government built, or took over, many locations for use as POW camps. This location, officially known as Camp 30 at the time, was one of them.
The construction of the POW camp was fairly simplistic, all of the existing buildings were used. Wooden barracks, guard towers, and barbed wire fencing were all constructed. The outside perimiter security consisted of two 12-foot-high fences with electric lights every 12 feet and nine guard towers, topped off with approximately 60 miles of barbed wire. The size of the grounds is around 14-acres. Many of those original brick buildings are still standing today.
The camp served as home to German army officers from the Afrika Korps, fliers from the Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine officers. The new occupants were transferred from other POW camps at Neys, Fort Henry, Gravenhurst and Britain. In June 1942, the prisoner count was 487 officers, 21 midshipmen, and 135 other men of various rank. Those prisoners were guarded by a force headed by Lieutenant Colonel R.O. Bull M.C., consisting of a large support staff, the Veterans Guard of Canada, nine officers, and 239 other ranks.
By most accounts, things were fairly civil at the camp, barring one large, 3-day incident known simply as "The Battle of Bowmanville."