Cannon Hall Military Camp/Polish Resettlement Camp

Cawthorne 1940

Cannon Hall Park was requisitioned by the War Office in 1940 to house a camp for the armed forces.

Military Camp 1940-1952
Military Camp 1940-1952
Cannon Hall Park

The camp was initially built as a tented camp in July 1940 to house British troops evacuated from Dunkirk. Over the following years it was replaced by more permanent buildings, paved roads, services and facilities.Cannon Hall Park 

Inside the Catholic chapel

Over the period 1940 to 1949 the Cannon Hall Camp was home to different units of the British, Canadian and Polish armies and was sited alongside the centre of Cawthorne village. At peak times the camp housed around 1,000 troops, which had a significant impact on the life of the villagers.

canteen ladies


A group of Polish soldiers 1947The end of the war saw some 250,000 Free Polish Armed Forces troops in Western Europe and the Middle East. Many of Troopsthese troops could not return to Poland because, either their homes in eastern Poland had been given to the Soviet Union (Yalta Agreement), or because they feared living under Communist rule in Poland, many having already experienced the horrors of the Soviet work camps.

To accommodate the troops not wishing to return, in May 1946 the British set up the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC), a non-combat unit of the British Army, which was designed to ease the Poles’ transition into British civilian life. Members of the Free Polish Armed Forces, which were now being disbanded, were free to volunteer and sign on with the PRC. Around 140,000 joined up.


The PRC contracts were for 2 years, although a soldier was free to leave for a civilian job at any time. The Poles in the PRC were housed in some 300 camps around Britain – Cannon Hall, Cawthorne, was one of these camps.

Polish soldier with children

Testing the ice

Officer pulling sledge

The following photos feature Polish soldiers and their families who occupied the Cannon Hall Camp post World War 2 1946 – 1952 when it was designated a Polish Resettlement Camp.



Soldier and Archbishop

Football teamsClassroomIts purpose was to facilitate the educational needs of the many Poles who had their schooling disrupted and required additional studies to complete to ‘0’ and ‘A’ level standards in a variety of subjects:

  • Social Integration – English language, laws and customs
  • Education – to ‘A’ level in two subjects
  • Trade & Craft Skills – Agriculture, Mining
  • Recreation & Leisure –
  • Dancing club, lessons and dances (led by professional teachers)
  • Table tennis club
  • Football team
  • Theatre/Drama group
  • Film club
  • Chess & Bridge clubs

The Camp which previously had been ‘off limited’ to civilians when used as a Military Camp, became much more accessible to the public.

People in the camp


Locals were invited to visit and participate in a range of social and sporting activities.

Boy Scouts and Polish troops

Lorraine and Fraser Broadhead (nee Heeley) recall 3 Polish children joining them at Cawthorne School where Mrs Sykes, the infant teacher, thought it wise to teach them how to knit a dishcloth as she had no knowledge of the Polish languageSchoolchildren

Bella RaperBella Raper (nee Thorp) lived at Norcroft in 1947 and as her family supplied the Polish Camp with fish she  got to know the Polish people quite well.  When the Polish families arrived they had nothing and she remembers her mother giving away her favourite doll to a little Polish girl at Christmas.  Bella recalls "It was a wonderful time to be young, going to dances, whist drives and film shows, a real social whirl".

Eric Ellis writes: When the Polish people came to Cawthorne, and my Dad delivered milk to the camp in the Park, I sometimes went with him. I was 10 years old.Days remembered

 I remember the Easter celebrations well.  It was a very special and happy time for the Polish people, a way to remember their homeland.  One of the things I remember was the baskets full of coloured eggs all beautifully decorated.
The Poles also liked to share a drink at this special time and I remember my Dad getting quite merry on the strong vodka, as this was repeated at each home he delivered to.

The Blue PlaqueTwo Polish soldiers and the Blue  PlaqueUnveiling the Blue PlaqueIn April 2013 a blue plaque was unveiled to commemorate the siting of the Cannon Hall Military Camp by Parish Councillor Margaret Broadhead, along with local historian Barry Jackson. 2 Polish soldiers also attended the service to pay their respects to the Polish soldiers of World War II. The plaque gives details of the history of the camp.


Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee Museum, which is in the middle of Cawthorne village, holds a comprehensive history of the Cannon Hall Camp, with many more photos and an explanation of why the Poles came to be in Cawthorne.

Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee Museum, Taylor Hill, Cawthorne, Barnsley, South Yorks S75 4HQ

Opening Times: Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays : 2pm – 5pm from Palm Sunday to the end of October.

Group bookings anytime throughout the year. To make arrangements ring : 01226 790545 / 790246 / 790375

Images and text supplied by David Chinnock, Jan Kukula and photographs of the blue plaque taken by Julie Ellis