This may not be the most exciting of artifacts at first glance but it does have a story. This is a sewing kit, also known as a “housewife,” that was issued to Canadian soldiers during the Second World War. The design had changed little from those issued in the First World War and they included, among other things, needles and thread, a thimble, and spare buttons for repairing clothing. This particular example was made by S.S. Holden Limited of Ottawa in 1940 and is missing its contents.
The name “Uhland” is handwritten on the inner flap and if that strikes you as a name not commonly found in Canada, you are correct. This sewing kit was never issued to a Canadian soldier – it belonged to a German prisoner of war: Otto Uhland.
Otto Uhland was a Leutnant (Lieutenant) in the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. On August 14, 1940, Uhland was piloting a Heinkel He-111 during an attack on the Cardiff docks. With him was Radio Operator Uffz. Edo Flick, Uffz. Flight Mechanic Josef Krenn, Navigator Uffz. Hans Ramstetter, and Gunner Gefr. Gerhard Rother. British Spitfires of No. 92 Squadron, Royal Air Force intercepted Uhland’s formation and began their attack. Uhland’s plane was hit and, after jettisoning their bombs near Burnham-on-Sea, he and his crew bailed out. The plane crashed on the Cann Farm near Puriton, Somerset and the crew was captured shortly thereafter. Pilot Officer William C. Watling and Flight Lieutenant Robert S. Tuck were credited with the “kill.”
Uhland and his crew were quickly taken into custody and handed over to military authorities. After a few months in British captivity, he was transferred to Canada in January 1941. Uhland was first interned at Camp W – later Camp 100 – at Neys, Ontario but was transferred to Camp 30 at Bowmanville, Ontario in November 1941.
It is unknown where Uhland acquired the sewing kit but it was likely while he was at Neys or Bowmanville. The Scale of Issue of Clothing, Camp Equipment, Barrack Equipment and Tools, Etc. for Internment Camps (1942) indicates each POW was to be issued with one “housewife.” These sewing kits would be used to mend their clothing and military uniforms, which were generally reserved for special occasions to limit wear. More elaborate repairs or alterations to uniforms would have been done by a POW who worked as the camp tailor and, if needed, replacement uniforms could also be mailed from Germany.
Uhland would spend the next three and half years at Bowmanville, before being transferred to Camp 130 at Seebe/Kananaskis, Alberta in April 1945. In June 1946, he was transferred to the United Kingdom and he would have likely returned to Germany in 1947.
In 2011, residents re-discovered the wreckage of Uhland’s He-111 and archaeologists conducted excavations of the site.
 Trivett, Hugh, Achtung Spitfire: Luftwaffe over England: Eagle Day 14 August 1940 (The History Press, 2016), 264-266.
It has been a while since my last post here but I’m still researching and writing about POWs in Canada. I’m happy to say that I finished my dissertation and successfully defended my PhD. I’m hoping that this (and the current pandemic) will give me more time to share some of my research here.
Speaking of research, I recently published a photo essay on the Network in Canadian History & the Environment about POWs and their pets in Canada during the Second World War. If you are interested in learning more about POW pets (including the black bear cub seen below) or you simply like seeing pictures of dogs, cats, and bears, click HERE or on the image below.
While picture postcards of German prisoners of war in Canada are not particularly uncommon, examples from certain camps can prove more difficult to find (for more on PoW picture postcards, see my earlier post here). In my experience, images from Camp 100 at Neys, Ontario are among those harder to find. I was therefore quite happy to obtain this image recently. Depicting ten prisoners and their dog on a sandy beach with Lake Superior in the background, this postcard was sent by Enemy Merchant Seaman (EMS) Karl Hannover to his family in Germany in 1942.
Karl Hannover arrived in Canada in late June or early July 1940 and was likely first interned At Camp R in Red Rock, Ontario. However, he was soon transferred to Camp Q at Monteith, Ontario and, on November 25, 1941, he was transferred to Camp 100 (Neys) where he would remain for two years.
Located on the shore of Lake Superior, Camp 100 at Neys, Ontario, was arguably one of the most scenic locations for an internment camp. One of two purpose-built internment camps in Northern Ontario (the other being Camp X, later Camp 101, at Angler), Camp W (later renamed Camp 100) opened in January 1941 and initially held about 450 German officers and other ranks sent to Canada from the United Kingdom. By the end of the year, these men were transferred to other camps and replaced by about 650 civilian internees and enemy merchant seamen (EMS). The camp temporarily closed from December 1943 to August 1944 and re-opened as a “Black” camp – a higher-security camp primarily intended for pro-Nazis and troublemakers. The Neys Internment Camp finally closed at the end of April 1946.
An artist, Hannover submitted a design for consideration as the 1943 Christmas cards printed and distributed by the War Prisoners’ Aid of the YMCA but it does not appear his design was chose for, in November 1943, he and the rest of the EMS at Neys were relocated to Camp 23 (Monteith). In March 1946, Hannover was transferred to the United Kingdom, likely returning to Germany the following year.
Camp 100 was abandoned and dismantled in the late 1940s and the site was eventually re-forested. In 1964, the former camp location and the surrounding location became part of Neys Provincial Park. Few traces of the camp remain today although one can still find pieces of scrap metal scattered throughout the site and you can still make out the outlines of some of the building foundations. Park staff also run regular tours of the site throughout the summer months.