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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

British Prisoners of War


JMB1943

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I have read that approx. 192,000 men were taken prisoner (cannot remember if on all fronts or Western Theatre only).

Is the France & Flanders number known ?

Is there a breakdown (e.g. any given battalion/regt/ unit/ bde/divn) available ?

Regards,

JMB

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  • 1 month later...

The figure you mention is the Official War Office Figure for all theatres of war. A more interesting calculation is the number of prisoners of the Germans on the Western Front who were never registered. Lewis- Stempel in his recent book estimates there were over 100,000 of these. I believe that approaching 60% of British prisoners on the Western Front were taken in the German Spring Offensive of 1918, 20,000 on March 21st alone. I have figures based on research of official Birmingham returnees for the various regiments. The Birmingham figures represent just about every Regt in the Army. The Australians have very good records, compiled at the time by a Red Cross worker

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If memory serves me, about 175,000 British and Dominion troops were taken prisoner in France and Flanders. Well over 100,000 of these were captured in 1918.

I'll go and check from the official Medical History :

Total , Western Front : 174,926

Of whom 19,915 were captured in 1914 ; 8,621 in 1915 ; 15,516 in 1916 ; 23,227 in 1917 and 107, 647 in 1918.

Edit : 12,879 were taken prisoner in Mesopotamia ; 1,385 in Egypt and Palestine, fewer than 500 in Gallipoli; 1,194 in Macedonia ; 214 in East Africa ; 278 in Italy and 133 in North Russia.

I can't get over that Gallipoli figure....with out being precise, it appears that four British soldiers were killed for every one taken prisoner in France and Flanders ; it was eighty to one at Gallipoli.

Phil (PJA)

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Hello all

There is a List of British OFFICERS taken prisoner in the various Theatres of War, published by Cox & Co, the Army Agents. It gives a breakdown by battalions for infantry, but no subdivision for RFA, RE etc.

Ron

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A more interesting calculation is the number of prisoners of the Germans on the Western Front who were never registered. Lewis- Stempel in his recent book estimates there were over 100,000 of these.

Does he allude to Allied prisoners here, as opposed to purely British/Dominion ?

It seems an inordinately large number if it applies to the British alone.

I note there will usually be a disparity between the number claimed by one side and the number admitted by the other. This doesn't necessarily imply deliberate suppression. It might reflect failure of administration to keep up with records.

Editing : Another aspect needs to be considered...the status of wounded men who were captured. I don't know this to be a fact, but I suspect that , in many cases, it was important to keep a record of unwounded prisoners as opposed to a gross total that included the wounded. Maybe the figure of 175,000 for the Western Front does not include thousands of wounded. I wonder if the British count of German POWs was stringently confined to unwounded only.

Another edit : In the first month of the war, a very large proportion of British casualties were posted as POW, and I have no doubt that these included wounded. In the following years, it's my belief that the number of POWs - as cited in the rendition in my earlier post - was, as far as possible, exclusive of the wounded.

Phil (PJA)

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According to the British Official History of the Occupation of the Rhineland by Sir J. Edmonds, the Germans had no central management of POWs, which made it difficult to establish numbers. On 9 Jan.1919, the British estimated there were 36,000 still to be released. The Germans said there were only 13,579.This discrepancy was never properly resolved, and it is suggested, owed much to German laxity in reporting the deaths of POWs to the Red X. Furthermore, the Germans holding back POWs to work on battlefield clearance in 1918, rather than sending them to camps, can't have helped the record keeping, I think.

Michael

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Thanks to all for the informative answers.

Richard--"official Birmingham returnees" Were the returnees processed through a central repatriation center, prior to being sent home ? Also, is the data you referred to on-line ?

Ron--I have just taken delivery of the Cox & Co. book; yet to peruse.

Regards,

JMB

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The Birmingham figures are not on line, they show somewhere in the region of 2,000 men returned and 14 officers. I know they are not complete as the list

seems not to include those who never made it to a camp. I know that reception centres were set up at various points for those who made their own way

across the lines. I have read somewhere that they dealt with over 32,000 of all nationalities. They also appear to have been processed very quickly as some reached Dover by Nov. 15th. One of the first to return to Birmingham does not appear on the list. He was one of 846 who was greeted in Dover by the Prince of Wales. I am still working on various issues relating to these men.

I n response to PJA there was a consistent and deliberate suppression of numbers by the Germans, and 100,000 may seem a large amount but of the 30 prisoners that I interviewed in the 70's 3 never made it to a camp and another 3 were 10 to 12 weeks before making it to a camp. All were 'working ' behind the lines. One very detailed report I have indicates that 50% of one group , mainly Leicesters were killed or died while in captivity in cages behind the lines.

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