Sports behind Barbed Wire

Life behind barbed wire was generally monotonous and strictly regulated and for those spending upwards of five years in internment camps were liable to suffer significant mental strain. In an attempt to both prevent this and to break-up their daily routine, among the many activities organized by PoWs were sporting events. A variety of teams and competitions were organized inside the camps, including football (soccer) and hockey. Equipment was often provided by the War Prisoners’ Aid of the YMCA.

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PoW Hockey Team at Camp 132, Medicine Hat. Library and Archives Canada.

Soccer team at Camp 133, Lethbridge.

Soccer team at Camp 133, Lethbridge. Author’s Collection.

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View of a PoW soccer match from a guard tower at Camp 133, Lethbridge. Private Collection.

Some camps, particularly those that held officers, had access to facilities that let them take part in activities including tennis and swimming. This, however, didn’t prevent PoWs from improvising; faced without any suitable structure for sporting events, PoWs at Medicine Hat built their own stadium. However, playing sports like soccer and volleyball within a barbed-wire enclosure brought about another issue – in one camp, barbed wire ruined an average of eight soccer balls and four volleyballs every month.1


1. C.M.V. Madsen & R.J. Henderson, German Prisoners of War in Canada and their Artifacts, 1940-1948 (Regina, SK, 1993.), 42.

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About michaelohagan

PhD Candidate at Western University - Studying German Prisoners of War in Canada during the Second World War

One response to “Sports behind Barbed Wire”

  1. Kerstin McKinney says :

    Hello, I think I can recognize my granddad – Soccer Team at Lethbridge – he is the one on the right first row (sitting), Camp 133. My granddad was there as POW – we have a postcard that confirms that he was at Lethbridge from 1944. He was a keen soccer and handball player so I am pretty sure it is him.

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