Extract from https://www.crieffmuseum.org.uk/page/index.html
By David Ferguson
1941 was a busy year in Strathearn with many military construction projects underway, and no doubt many of the materials were brought into the area by train. The projects included the Prisoner of War camps at Cultybraggan and Crieff, plus army camps and airfields at Findo Gask and elsewhere, plus a large NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) complex which was established at Balgowan, which had accommodation for 40 wagons. The NAAFI at Balgowan were responsible for feeding the PoW camps at Cultybraggan, Bankfoot and Errol, and the army bases at Findo and Trinity Gasks. An ex-Railway Clerk reckons that approximately 2 train loads of supplies were dispatched each night, while a Ministry of Transport report in 1946 stated that the depot was still considerably used and 12 wagons of flour had arrived the morning of the inspection (26th September) and around 30 loaded wagons left each week.
Cultybraggan was a large camp and could contain around 4,000 prisoners. It was eventually to become one of the UK’s detention centres for the worst calibre of people, with hardened members of the SS among its inmates. In November 1943 members of the Afrika Korps arrived at Comrie and residents recall the trains distinctly, as they generally originated at the Channel ports and so were made up of Southern Railway carriages painted in malachite green, while others were made up of Great Western Railway carriages in chocolate-and-cream livery, so making an interesting change from the maroon livery of the LMS Railway’s carriages that were usually seen on the line. James Hardie in ‘Comrie Character’s and Cameos’ published in 2000, remembers ‘One Sunday when no trains whatever used our line to Balquidder’s main line junction, we were all astounded to hear the unmistakable noise of a train travelling and stopping in the station. Many heard and saw as a large engine of a main line variety called a Black Five pulled eight main line passenger coaches into the station.’ Watching from a vantage point in Drummond Street, Comrie, James watched the proceedings as a body of strangers marched towards him. ‘As they grew nearer it was observed that they marched three abreast in one very long, unbroken column, with the Jocks of the camp stepping alongside, with some yards from one to the next on each side of the column, now seen to be obviously prisoners under guard… They were very erect, and of splendidly proud bearing, even although wearing only trousers and singlet, just as they had been when captured in Libyan heat… it turned out they were Rommel’s elite paratroops and were real tough guys, who glared at us with disdain as they passed only 4’ out from the kerb. .. Not all of the column were German paratroopers, for much of the rear had a good contingent of Italians, extremely miserable in this weather as they were again dressed in trousers and singlets, although they’d managed to grab musical instruments from somewhere. Altogether seven such identical trains pulled by Black Fives (and sometimes with 2 engines) disgorged prisoners that day.’