Work Camp   99 L

Bernstein Village and Castle

Location: Bernstein

Type of work: Farmwork & sawmill

Man of Confidence: Unknown

Number of Men: 13 approx.

Known to be present

Tom P. Boyle Pte   4484 Otago, NZ
George Brown Sgt A&SH 7576 Greenock; also 59/GW
Fred G. Coulter Bdsm RAC 5946 Boston, UK; also 522/L
Tommy Hales Rfmn KRRC 2962 London
Ron J. Harvey Dvr RASC 6999 London; also 522/L
Stan Hockley Cpl R Marines 6805 Portsmouth
Eddie Hopwood Marine R Marines 6130 Wrexham
Ken Hudson       Leeds
Bert Jackson Tpr RAC 1250 Manchester
Ernie Jackson       Baldock, Herts
Arthur Kemp L/Cpl REME 6948 Sheffield; also 839/L
W.A. (Bill) Thorpe Tpr RAC 5451 Walsall; also 839/L
W.D.R. (Ron) Tudor Sgt R Sigs 7577 Birkenhead; also 522/L

Photos provided by Ian Brown

Stan Hockley, George Brown Ron Harvey, Tom Hales Ernie Jackson, Ken Hudson Eddie Hopwood Arthur Kemp
Tom Boyle Bill Thorpe Bert Jackson Unknown, Fred Coulter  

Bernstein is a small village about 80km south of Vienna, in a region of rolling hills and woodland known as Burgenland. The village is dominated by the Castle

Arbeits Kommando 99/L were first kept in a small compound in Bernstein but were soon transferred to a room in the Castle. This was where the POW's would be kept for the night. During the day they would be taken out to work wherever it was needed, usually on the local farms. My father and Arthur Kemp, another POW, were sent to work on a farm owned by a Herr Funuvits situated about 2 miles outside Bernstein.

The room in the castle was locked at night and the window was barred. On the far side was the castle wall. The guard slept, with his wife, in the room above but this did not prove to be much of a deterrent. Behind a large wardrobe in the room, the POW's discovered a door which opened into the next room. Here the window was not barred and it was possible to get out into the castle grounds and then down a metal pipe by the swimming pool and out of the castle into the village to spend the night fraternizing with the local girls, before climbing back into the castle in the morning.(The photograph of the swimming pool shown above was taken by Bert Jackson in 1967.)

Unfortunately, in 2002, the room previously occupied by the POWs was now occupied by a hotel guest! However, Herr Berger-Almasy did show me the room underneath which the POWs used as a kitchen. Behind the building is a deep well, and Herr Berger-Almasy told me that it is still possible to find the contents of Red Cross parcels at the bottom of the well and in the woods beyond the castle walls.


The Almasy family

During the war, Bernstein Castle was owned by Baron Janos Almasy, a Hungarian aristocrat, who lived there with his wife, Marie. She had contracted polio as a child and was confined to a wheelchair.

As a curious historical side note, the Baron's younger brother, Count Ladislaus Almasy, is the real life character upon whom the book and film, 'The English Patient' is based. Ladislaus was a mysterious figure who spent much of his life on mapping expeditions in North Africa and may have been a German agent during the war.

The Almasy family still own the castle, which is now a hotel. For more information on the hotel and the Almasy family, visit the Burg Bernstein Web Site

Visit to Bernstein

In August 2002, I visited Bernstein Castle with Chris, my son. Frau Berger-Almasy (who is the granddaughter of the baron and now runs the hotel with her husband) was kind enough to take the time to show us around the grounds and to point out many of the locations of the war-time photographs that I had brought along. With the exception of the trees which had grown taller in the intervening years, very little, if anything, had changed since 1944. It was a very strange feeling to be standing on exactly the same spot as my father had 58 years ago.

In the following two photographs, I have tried to make a comparison between photos taken at Burg Bernstein  during the war and when Chris and I visited in 2002. In the first photo set, Chris is standing in the same spot as Arthur Kemp, outside the Castle. In the second set, Chris is sitting by the small well, the same location as Dad, Ron Tudor, Eddie Hopwood and Tommy Boyle. In the background is the castle swimming pool.

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