During the Second World War, the British armed services fought the Italian army in North Africa. On the surrender of Italy in 1943 the Italian prisoners of war were initially held in POW camps in Eritrea, but due to shortages of labour in Great Britain, many were transported to this country to undertake bomb damage clearance and construction work in the cities and agricultural labour.
In 1944 four new huts built of concrete sections were erected on Peckham Rye Common to house POWs. The occupants raised pigs and chickens and also harvested produce grown on the Common. The initial occupants were Italian prisoners, but these were soon replaced by German POWs and displaced people from Europe.
Since the 1940s one of the huts subsequently became the One O’clock Club; the other three were demolished in 2009. At the end of March 2018 the last hut has been demolished so that this area can be returned to the Common. An information board was erected in 2012 to mark this important period of our heritage and will remind future generations of the sacrifices that the population made at the time of that terrible conflict. From: Spring 2018 issue