The PoW tree

The inscription on the PoW tree before it fell (Image credit: Doug Edworthy)

Just inside Dallington Forest, and close to a public bridleway, there was once a culturally-important tree that was pretty much unknown in the area – perhaps because it was difficult to find without guidance.

Discovered during the 2017 Veteran Tree Survey, the ‘PoW Tree’ was a veteran pollarded Beech tree, probably around 250 years old. Much of the interior of the trunk’s base had been hollowed-out by fungi and the opinion of an experienced arborist in 2018 was that the trunk would fail catastrophically within the next few years.

The tree got its name from graffiti carved on its trunk some 3 m from the ground. The inscription, presumably by a prisoner of war from Cologne (Köln), Germany, reads: –

TB

KÖLN

1946

P.O.W.

The inscription on the PoW Tree (Image credit: Jamie Simpson)

There was a German Prisoner of War Working Camp GPWW 145 situated at Normanhurst Court, Battle, less than 10 miles away, continuing to hold prisoners until 1948. The camp supplied labour to the Gypsum Mine at Mountfield and, at the time, much of Dallington Forest was under the management of the Mine. Parties of PoWs may have been employed as foresters and, perhaps during a lunch break, one of them climbed the tree to leave his indelible mark for posterity.

Who was ‘TB’? Or was the graffiti artist’s name actually ‘T.B.KÖLN’? Perhaps records could solve the riddle of his identity or perhaps we’ll never know.

Paying respects to the Fallen PoW Tree (Image credit: Doug Edworthy)

Sadly, the arborist’s prediction came true and sometime between 11th and 17th December 2019 this veteran Beech tree succumbed to time, rot and the elements.

Now that the graffiti is at ground level, it would be easy to do a bark rubbing of the inscription that could be framed and displayed together with information about the tree and the inscriber in the Brightling and Dallington Village Halls.

Image Credit: Jamie Simpson

Help from amateur (or professional) archivists and historians to research such records as exist of the Normanhurst Court PoW camp, its occupants, the Gypsum Mine and its management would be very welcome so that we can add more of the human dimension to the history of this tree.

If you can help please contact Doug Edworthy, Brightling & Dallington Tree Warden at treewarden@dallington.org.uk