Cultybraggan lies in the western area of Perthshire, some 2 miles (3 km) south of the village of Comrie. The site is home to a number of facilities, and was first used during World War II as a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp. Following the end of the war, it became an Army training area. In 1960, a Royal Observer Corps ROC nuclear monitoring post was located on the the site, and in 1990, an underground Regional Government Headquarters (RGH)was added.
The camp ceased to be used by the military in 2004, when villagers in Comrie began a campaign to buy part of the camp in order to preserve it as a heritage attraction. The group took possession of the site in 2007.
In late 2010, the trust held a fortnight of events aimed at informing businesses of its facilities in Cultybraggan, and attracting them to the area.
At the start of 2011, bunker which would have server the RGH was placed on the market, with an estimated value of up to £400,000. When built, the cost was in the region of £30 million, estimated to have risen to some £90 million in 2011.
Built in 1941, PoW camp No 21 at Cultybraggan was designed to hold some 4,000 Category A prisoners. Considered to be the toughest, most committed and fanatical Nazi PoWs, these men had been classified as 'Black' by the British authorities. Many had been captured from the SS and the Afrika Corps. The camp had five separate compounds; one each for the Army, Navy, Air Force and SS prisoners, and one for officers. There was an associated camp two miles away at Cowden, now a housing development in Comrie.
After the end of the war, five of the prisoners were hanged at Pentonville Prison, the largest multiple execution in 20th century Britain, after Wolfgang Rosterg, a German PoW known to be unsympathetic to the Nazi regime in Germany, was lynched there. The reason is not completely clear; some sources say he was killed because he was suspected of being a British spy, while others simply claim that he demonstrated insufficient zeal in his support for the Nazi Party, and was punished accordingly.
Cultybraggan represents one of the most complete PoW camps remaining in the UK, with the many Nissen huts there having changed little since their original construction. This has led to part of the original camp being scheduled as an Ancient Monument.
Produced in 1998, Execution at Camp 21 was made for Channel 4’s Secret History strand, and tells the story as that of the murder of Wolfgang Rosterg by a lynch mob of Nazi hardliners. The programme asks, "Was Wolfgang Rosterg a traitor to the Fatherland – or the victim of British Intelligence and deluded Nazi fanatics?":
Made for Channel 4’s Secret History strand, Execution at Camp 21 tells the story of the murder of Wolfgang Rosterg in German POW Camp 21 at Comrie in Scotland, by a lynch mob of Nazi hardliners.
The story began in 1944 in Devizes POW camp, Wiltshire, when Allied Intelligence officers believed they had thwarted a daring mass break out by hard-core SS troops. The plotters were interrogated and transferred to Comrie, a “black camp” where only the toughest Nazis were held. They believed that the anti-Nazi Rosterg – by a chilling mistake wrongly thrust into the lion’s den – had betrayed their Devizes plan. Rosterg was subjected to a brutal kangaroo court, and found battered and hanging from a makeshift noose the next morning. Despite their pleas that they were the scapegoats for the actions of a mob, seven (sic) men were arrested, tried and hanged by the British authorities – the largest mass execution in British history.
The validity of this programme may be questionable, as their research failed to get the simple number of those arrested, tried and convicted correct. Eight defendants appeared for trial by courts-martial, all pled Not Guilty, two were found Not Guilty, six were sentenced to death by hanging - five were executed after one death Sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.
Former PoW leaves estate to town
In September 2009, Heinrich Steinmeyer, 84, bequeathed about £110,000 to Comrie for what he described as the kindness he was shown while he was a prisoner there, and has instructed the executors of his estate to ensure his life savings are spent helping the elderly community of the town.
As a member of the SS he had expected little mercy after he surrendered to British troops in 1944, in Caen, northern France. Instead, he described how he was treated with humanity by both the troops who captured him and the guards at Cultybraggan, where he was transported to, and held until the end of the war. After being released, he found work on a farm in the town and lived there for seven years before returning to Germany, where he now lives in Delmenhorst, near Bremen.
2010 Interview: Heinrich Steinmeyer - Former PoW
The Interview, published in The Scotsman of Sunday 16 May 2010 begins:
PEOPLE who know Heinrich Steinmeyer regard him as a kind-hearted man. His regular parcels brimming with toys and chocolates have earned him the honorary title of "Uncle Heinz" by many families, and he is a respected member of his community.
His generous nature was taken to extremes when he decided last year to bequeath his entire savings and home to the elderly residents of a small Perthshire village. In a gesture some saw as highly ironic, Steinmeyer said he felt compelled to repay the people of Comrie for the humanity shown to him during the Second World War. He had not expected the tolerance and decency shown during his time as a prisoner in Scotland, particularly as he was a member of Hitler's notoriously fanatical SS. That a man closely associated with a regime marked by its cruelty should want to leave such a generous legacy to a place where he was incarcerated triggered headlines around the world.
Sitting in his pretty, well-kept home in Delmenhorst, near Bremen, surrounded by Scottish mementoes, Steinmeyer talks of his hope of making a trip to Comrie, to revisit Cultybraggan where he was held as a prisoner of war. But, aged 85, Heinrich knows this may well be his last visit. His final return to the picturesque little town will be after his death, when he has arranged to have his ashes scattered there.
He has diabetes, but Steinmeyer is otherwise fit and well. A divorcee with no children, he is tanned and slim, and seems younger than his years. The only obstacle to his travel plans is finding someone to accompany him as he doesn't want to drive in the UK.
So why is he so fond of a country where he was imprisoned? His answer is straightforward: "The Scots saved my life three times. The Scottish people showed me mercy."
The camp covered some 8 acres (3 hectares) and could accommodate 600 personnel in a mixture of huts and tents. Annually, the camp could accommodate some 80,000 man training days from the three services and cadets, and included adventure training, cross-country driving, and helicopter operations. Exercises took place in the Tighnablair Training Area, leased from the Drummond Estate, and included an area of some 12,000 acres.
Access to the camp was restricted, but the Defence Estates office in Rosyth could be contacted if visits need to be arranged. The hills of the surrounding Drummond Estate remain private land.
Camp opens as heritage destination in 2014
ROC Nuclear Monitoring Post
In August 1960, an underground Royal Observer Corps (ROC) monitoring post was installed in the north east corner of the camp site, and can be seen to the east of a nearby antenna mast. Closed in September, 1991, the post still remains on the site, locked since the ROC was stood down in the same year.
Regional Government Headquarters
In 1990, an underground Regional Government Headquarters bunker was completed in the north east corner of the camp site. This followed the closure of the Scottish North Zone Headquarters bunker at Troywood (Anstruther), it would have housed the Secretary of State for Scotland, the BBC, BT and other important organisations had a major conflict erupted. Almost as soon as the bunker was completed, the Cold War threat was considered to have receded, and the £3.6 million, two storey, underground structure was declared obsolete, and closed. The bunker was subsequently sold to the Army, and used to provide classrooms and other facilities for military training, but this need diminished, and it now lies neglected, used only as storage.
We are grateful to our friends at Subterranea Britannica for permission to reproduce the following details. Please be sure to review the original reports at the links given below.
Site Name: Cultybraggan RGHQ
Cultybraggan, Near Stirling, Perthshire
RSG site visit 8th March 2000.
This purpose-built RGHQ is located in the Army camp at Cultybraggan north of Stirling. It was finished in 1990 and was constructed to replace Anstruther. The bunker has now been sold to the army.
On the 8th March 2000 a very small party from Subterranea Britannica visited Cultybraggan RGHQ one mile south of Comrie in Perthshire and fifteen miles north of Stirling. The bunker is located within the Cultybraggan army training camp at NN768203. We had arranged to meet two officials from the Scottish Office (The Scottish equivalent of the Home Office) at noon but we arrived a little early to find the camp almost deserted. There was no guard on the gate so we drove on to the camp office where we found the caretaker and his daughter; he told us we could go anywhere on our own until the man from the Scottish Office arrived. The camp consists of little more than rows of WW2 Nissan Huts (It had been a prisoner of war camp) interspersed with a few small brick buildings. The bunker was obvious in the north east corner of the site; it's within its own fenced and locked compound. There is a large aerial mast on the north side and a long brick ventilation/exhaust tower on the top. On the east side of the compound, and within the camp is the Comrie ROC Post. All surface features of the post are intact and in good condition as is the green paint. The hatch is locked.
The bunker is on two levels, the upper level being above ground but mounded over with soil and grassed. The main entrance is on the west side of the mound where a blast door leads into a lobby area with a door into the decontamination room and a second blast door into the bunker. There is also a a bullet proof glass panel looking into a guard/control room. Going through the 2nd door there are stairs to the left down to the lower level and a door into the control room. In the room there is a large electrical panel with the controls for the bunker including fire protection, intruder alarm and controls for the filters and ventilation plant. The panel is still functioning. There are also two key cabinets full of keys. Beyond the control room the next door on the right leads into a small preparation room and then into the decontamination room where there are three shower blocks (the showers still work) with a door at the other end back into the entrance lobby.
Returning to the top of the stairs, a short passages opens into a large open plan office area running two thirds the length of the bunker and across two thirds of the width. This area has been completely stripped of everything. There is a concertina partician across the back third of the room and this area appears to have been used as a conference room. On the left (north) side of this room is a long thin room with evidence that it had contained tele-printers and next to that a small tea room with evidence of the tea making machine that stood there. From the back of the conference room a passage leads to the upper plant room, passing a second stairway down on the right and the emergency exit. This r plant room contains all the ventilation plant with its associated control cabinets plus two air compressors for pumping out the sewage. All the plant is still operating and every time a toilet was flushed one of the compressors would start. There is a well down to the lower plant room with a hoist on the east side of the room and through a door on the north side, behind some of the ventilation plant there is a ladder down to the lower plant room.
On the right (south) side of the large open plan office/conference room there are doors into approximately 8 square rooms some of which are now used by Cultybraggan Camp for storage. One room however contains a number of brand new telex machines, some of them still in their original packing crates. Apparently some of these machines, and their monitors have gone to Anstruther Museum. Returning to the entrance area and descending the stairs. There is a long corridor straight ahead with dormitories left and right, all these rooms are now empty. At the end of the corridor there is a cross passage, turning right leads into a store room while straight on leads to the bottom of the second stairway and then into the lower large plant room plant room which contains a long water tank and the ventilation plant, all of which is functioning. A door at the far end leads into the standby generator room with two large diesel generators still in place. A door from this room leads to the generator exhaust and up into the ventilation tower. Returning to the cross passage there is a door to the right with a combination lock on it, this was the strong room. A short corridor then leads to a second cross passage.
A door to the rights leads into the BBC Studio which is kept locked at all times. The door opens into the control room which is approximately 25' X 25' in size and lined with acoustic sheeting. The studio itself which is about 8' X 8' stands in the opposite corner. There are two floor standing racks on wheels, one has a stack of control units including a large jack panel. The other rack contains two Technics tuners the remote controls for which were found, still in their plastic bags, in a filing cabinet. There are also two private wires to radio repeater stations in the locality. There is a red light above the door into the studio which contains a chair, a custom made mixing desk, a Technics cassette player, a UHER portable reel to reel tape recorder (there is a tape on it which has a series of tones on it) and an AKG D202 microphone. There is a glass panel looking into the control room. All the equipment in the studio is still functioning and the private lines to the radio repeaters are still live. Turning right out of the studio leads to the BT room. In the centre of the room is the ECN (Emergency Communications Network) unit an SX 2000. There are racks of private wires and a programming terminal. There is a small room next to it containing two operators positions still in place. Next door to the BT room was the radio room with a large floor standing rack that had once contained all the radio equipment. The various receiver and transmitter units from the rack lie on the floor in an adjacent room.
Opposite the BT room a door leads into the medical room where there are two beds, a moveable screen and a door leading into a toilet and washroom. Returning to the second cross passage another long corridor gives access to three dormitories on the left hand side which still contain all their twin bunks and on the right hand side first the gents toilets with all the usual facilities, (WC, urinals and showers). Next to the gents toilets are two wash rooms with sinks and the plumbing and notices for a KEF washer and tumble drier and a washing up machine and then the ladies toilets. The final room at the end of the corridor is the canteen with hot plate which is rather corroded and an extractor above, preparation area and sinks. This opens out into the canteen which is completely empty. The door from the canteen leads to the bottom of the entrance stairs which has a storage area beneath.
Throughout, the bunker is carpeted and generally in excellent condition although it is a little damp in places and there are a number of rabbit carcasses on the floor. Most of the lighting works, all the ventilation plant and air conditioning works and is permanently operating. The telephones and intercoms all function, all the taps and showers are working and the toilets flush. The visit was arranged by Ward Westwater who was allowed to remove certain items for his own bunker, the former ROC 28 Group Control at Dundee (see Craigiebarns). The bunker has been sold by the Scottish Office to the MOD although at present it is still in the hands of the Scottish Office. The Army have removed some items while other items have gone to Anstruther. As the army have keys to the bunker and use some rooms for storage, the BBC studio and control room has always been kept locked as it is still fully equipped.
Since the visit all the equipment from the studio and the adjacent BBC office has been removed and taken to the Hack Green Museum.
Those taking part in the visit were Nick Catford Dan McKenzie, Ward Westwater and Caroline Westwater
3 ⇑ Interview: Heinrich Steinmeyer - Former POW - The Scotsman Retrieved January 08, 2017.
5 ⇑ Camp that held Hitler’s deputy open to visitors - The Scotsman Retrieved 26/03/2014.
- Public Information Leaflet from the Army Training Estate
- Channel 4: Execution at Camp 21
- Comrie PoW trial details
- Cultybraggan RGHQ tour
- Photographs of the camp and bunker
- Cultybraggan flickr photoset 2008, camp and bunker
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/erstlaub/sets/72157622335550611/?page=2]Cultybraggan Camp & Bunker September 2009 - a set on Flickr
- Comrie Development Trust Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- Comrie Development Trust » Cultybraggan Retrieved January 30, 2011.
- Hi-res aerial view
This view is centred on the ROC post, with the underground HQ immediately to the south west.
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