Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Burrs Mill, POW Camp, Bury

Burrs Mill, Bury was associated with the Peel family and built in the 1790's. It later became a bleach works in the 1880's. When the Second World War came and places were needed to keep POWs and internees - it seemed an odd choice - but I guess it had space! Not being purpose built, and considering its setting (by the river and canal) and being at the foot of the Pennines, it must have been a cold and damp place to live.

 

It had previously been used as an army billet. K. Inman and M H Helm in their book 'Bury and the Second World War' say there was a Yeomanry attachment there at the beginning of the war: "almost as a reminder of days gone by....where soldiers could often be seen exercising their horses".

 

Towards the end of the war, German prisoners were briefly moved to Burrs from Warth Mill, as that Mill was cleared in preparation for new POWs as D-Day occured. Most of the prisoners were Italian and it was some of those prisoners who became heroes even though they were a long way from the war. More details further down the page.

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An Italian Hero in Lancashire:

Santo Verde lost his life in the River Irwell on 19th April 1945. He was trying to rescue two girls who had been playing by the river and had fallen in. Five other POWs and a local man helped in the rescue attempt. The girls were saved, but sadly 27 year old Santo got into difficulties and drowned.

For a detailed account of this story including the names of all involved go to:

http://aircrashsites.co.uk/history/an-italian-hero-in-lancashire/

Ian's research is excellent and so we are not going to try and replicate it here.

 

According to the Inman & Helm book, the local man, and three Italian POW's plus Santo received awards by the Royal Humane Society.

An interesting fact about those involved is that they were not Italian internees (like the Italians kept at Warth Mill). According to a post on Ian's blog aircrashsites.co.uk by the son of one of the men held at Burrs, they were soldiers (and therefore POWs) rather than internees and they had fought in north Africa, at Tobruk and El Alamane.

 

Although, by 1945 they would have been allowed much more freedom - to work and move about the town (though still under curfew and with certain places out of bounds - such as pubs).

Today only the chimney survives (Above Left) but the ruins of the mill have all been preserved as a picnic area and heritage attraction - free to visit. There is also an activity centre and cafe (Below)

There is also the Brown Cow pub (good food and beers) nearby and a caravan and camp site. Plus a sculpture trail and the ELR goes right past.

Below Left: Probably nothing to do with the site, but we are always on the loookout for earthworks! These are horse shoe shaped. They are on the hill by the canal.

Below Right: The view from the hill towards Castle Steads Iron Age hillfort.

These three photos are of a bench seat in the country park which mentions the POWs