homepage of website wereldoorlog 1914-1918

       Internment of British sailor/soldiers of
       the Royal Naval Division in Groningen
       during the First World War


by Menno Wielinga, translation by Guido Blokland 

On 11th October 1914, 1,500 men of the First Royal Naval Brigade arrived in Groningen. They had been deployed in early October to assist the Belgian army against German troops attacking Antwerp. 

During their retreat in Belgium, their escape route was cut off. Commodore Wilfred Henderson was determined for his men not to be taken prisoner of war by the Germans, so he crossed the frontier into Holland with three of his batallions. 

Photograph of the barracks with to the left in the background the prison and the watertower.

On arrival in Holland, they were interned (in accordance with International Law), in Groningen, a city in northern Holland. Behind the present-day Mesdagkliniek (the former city jail) a complete encampment was erected on the paradeground of the Rabenhauptkazerne (the local military barracks, situated opposite this prison).

The camp had many facilities for sports, housing, healthcare, security and relaxation. This camp quickly acquired the local nickname of “Engelse Kamp” (English Camp). The British themselves called the camp 'Timbertown' or 'HMS Timbertown'. 

Internment of British militaries at Groningen 1914-1918

 Guido Blokland - HMS TIMBERTOWN - British service personnel of
the Isle of Lewis interned in Groningen during the Great War 1914 - 1918 

 War graves from the Great War on the Zuiderbegraafplaats in Groningen

The First Royal Naval Brigade was part of the Royal Naval Division. If you want to know more about the Royal Naval Division read the article written by Eric R.J. Wils:

The (63rd) Royal Naval Division - Sailors in the First World War trenches
Originally, this division was part of the Royal Navy, manned by sailors and marines. Shortly after the outbreak of war, they were told they had to become infantry-men. A search for traces of this division leads to Antwerp, Gallipoli, the Somme, Arras, Passchendaele, to end in London.

Book published about the English Camp

Het Engelse Kamp – Groningen 1914 -1918

This book is a unique report about the internment of 1.500 British sailors in the city of Groningen during the Great War. Life in the Camp in all its facets has been reconstructed using newspaper, literature, diaries, reports, letters, contact with descendants from internees. The book has about 300 pages and more than 270 historical photographs. The book contains a DVD with a film documentary by director Leo van Maaren about the Timbertown Follies - the ‘funny British cabaret company’ which was very successful and acquired national publicity. Through interviews with Dutch music experts a forgotten episode in Dutch music history is being brought back to life. Retail price 32.95 euro.

You can order the book by email to info@profiel.nl
Please include your full name and address at the order.
■■ NB. The book is in Dutch with a summery in English.

The story of the Britons in Groningen can be read in this series of articles, which were originally published in the regional newspaper 'Nieuwsblad van het Noorden'. All articles are translated by Guido Blokland.
Although the book is published now I am still looking for more information about the English Camp. Every detail, anecdote, photograph or personal memory is useful for my research. Do not hesitate to e-mail me! Please send reactions to Menno Wielinga:

  If you are interested in the Royal Naval Division may be you are intersted in the 24 part history of the Royal Naval Brigade the R.N.D. written by Leonard Sellers extending to 2,433 pages plus 3 indexes ended 9 years ago. It has now become available on 1 CD. Click here to have a look on EBay.

   Part 1 'Saturday afternoon soldiers' called upon to save Antwerp

  Part 2 The First Brigade is forgotten in the evacuation of Antwerp 

  Part 3 Large groups of Groningers stare at us through the fences

  Part 4 British complain of poor food

  Part 5 Boredom the biggest enemy of interned Britons

  Part 6 British were popular with the women  

  Part 7 British football at high level

  Part 8 Internees taken prisoner of war during compassionate leave

  Part 9 State of Siege declared in Groningen

  Part 10 The escape by John Henry Bentham (1)

  Part 11 The escape by John Henry Bentham (2)

  Part 12 Nine British servicemen lie buried at Groningen

  Part 13 The English Camp in Groningen 1919-1958 

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  Other Great War webpages

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is the largest in world history and caused over 700,000 casualties

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