Checkendon Camp was originally owned by the Ministry of Defence, making up part of RAF Woodcote in WWII. It was also used to house Italian prisoners of war. In 1948 the site was bought by the National Assistance board and turned into housing for Polish families arriving from the Middle East and Africa. There were 228,000 Polish troops in the British army and many were displaced after the conflict. The Polish Resettlement Act of 1947 was the first ever mass immigration legislation of the UK parliament and offered British citizenship these displaced troops.
Newly redundant military camps such as Checkendon provided space to provide shelter. However they were very basic, made up of corrugated Nissen huts and simple buildings set within the woodland. The Polish residents at Checkendon made the most of their situation and adapted well to the conditions. Soon Checkendon had its own church, school and entertainment facilities, such as a community hall, allowing for an active social life. There was even a wedding held at the camp in 1953. The camp finally closed in the early 60s.
After its use as a Polish Settlement Camp, many of the buildings were turned to light industrial use including a Rentokil wood treatment plant. Today many of the buildings are occupied as part of a timber yard.
Finding the remaining buildings hidden amongst the forest proved to be a tricky task. As nature has taken over the buildings are well hidden; camouflaged by mould, moss and ivy. On multiple occasions we headed towards what we thought was a building, only to find it was a mirage- our eyes seeing what we wanted to see rather then the cluster of trees that was actually there. Most of what can be found within the cluster of huts dates to their industrial past, with computers, chemicals and measuring instruments littered throughout the site.
Last Updated on 6 July 2022 by Michael