Frodsham Marsh: It’s Part in Adolf Hitlers Downfall!
Not doing justice to the title of the late great Spike Milligan’s autobiography ‘Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall’.
When I was a lad at Frodsham Secondary Modern School in the 1970’s (when I wasn’t wagging off down the marsh). I remember being given an assignment to write about the German and Italian prisoners of war housed at a site close to Helsby Grammer School during the war years. If memory serves me well the prisoners worked on excavating drainage ditches and constructing roads/small bridges across the marsh. There is little information on this subject but, there is a reminder to ‘Frodsham Marsh: It’s part in Adolf Hitlers Downfall’ with a P.O.W plaque on a small concrete bridge that crosses a ditch (on the approach tarmac road to and, adjacent with the dirt track ramp to No 6 tank) along Moorditch Lane.
All images by WSM.
Bearing in mind the main body of Frodsham Marsh was effectively no longer a tidal salt marsh when the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed in the early 1890’s. The ship canal dissected the salt marsh in two and only Frodsham Score is tidal today.This was then followed by the draining of marshes to produce farmland and the construction of drainage dykes on the marsh was hand dug by German POW’s in the WW2. Although, there has been attempts at some farming on reclaimed land on the marsh dating back to the Doomsday Book (of which Frodsham is included). The majority of draining was done by the prisoners of war.
The social history of the marshes is all well and good but what’s all this got to do with the birds on the marsh? Social history has a way of affecting our birds in many ways.The construction of the MSC and the draining of the marsh by generations of Frodsham and Helsby farmers and POW’s has produced the area we have today. The sludge tanks/pools were a by-product of dredgings from the ship canal and the arable land was produced after the marsh was drained. What the area would have been like without the ship canal can only be speculative? The tidal flood across the entire marshes would have been very impressive and the tidal surge on Frodsham Score on 05th December 2013 which spilled into the ship canal lasted for an hour and would have certainly reached Frodsham Main Street if it had occurred in the early 1890’s.
If we didn’t have the Manchester Ship Canal we would not have the sludge tanks. If our fathers and grandfathers didn’t capture the prisoners of war, who knows where Adolf and the marsh would have ended up?
Written by Bill Morton.