Book tells war stories of Pembrokeshire bird men

First published in News

Three of the four captives featured in a new book about British prisoners of war in Germany during the Second World War have links with Pembrokeshire, including a man who later became warden of the field centre at Dale Fort.

‘Birds in a Cage’ by Derek Niemann is about four PoWs who found comfort in observing birds on migration, nesting or just visiting the compounds, during their years in confinement.

These men later went on to become leaders in wildlife conservation after the war.

RAF pilot John Barrett was captured when he was shot down over Germany in September 1941 and later became warden of the newly established field centre at Dale Fort in 1947.

In a letter to a friend from PoW days he wrote: “You need not bother about any more change of address. I’m here for good. It’s far too lovely ever to leave.”

Mr Barrett stayed in the county for the rest of his life.

One result of his hours of teaching marine biology on the shores of Pembrokeshire was the ‘Collins Guide to the Seashore’ in 1958, of which he was the main author.

Mr Barrett was also responsible for Skokholm Bird Observatory and pioneered the walks and talks programme of the National Park from the Countryside Unit at Broad Haven.

Fellow PoW John Buxton was captured during an ill-fated campaign in Norway in May 1940, where he served with 1st Independent Company (later 1st Commandos).

The former Skokholm warden, who married Marjorie, the sister of Welsh naturalist Ronald Lockley, returned to Pembrokeshire in 1946, and coauthored ‘Island of Skomer’, which remains an important text on the natural history of the island.

Peter Conder, who was warden of the Skokholm Bird Observatory from 1947 to 1954, was captured at St-Valery-en- Caux in June 1940 while serving with the Royal Signals.

He later joined the infant Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, becoming director in 1963. laying the foundations for one of the world’s leading nature conservation organisations.

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