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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Behaving as no Englishmen Should


seaforths

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I read an interesting exchange of correspondence last night in the Foreign Office files from October/November 1918. Two POWs lodged a complaint that their parcels were not being delivered. They wanted to know if they were being withheld because they had requested to remain in Germany after the war?

The response from the FO, after an investigation, revealed that their parcels were being sent to them. However, they were being withheld by the help committee at their camp, on the grounds that they were behaving as no Englishmen should because they had either married or intended to marry German women and wanted to remain in Germany.

While I was aware that some POWs and soldiers remained in Germany after the war after marrying German women, this is the first time I had seen something about how that news was taken by some of their own countrymen. It also made me wonder how their families and relatives at home might have taken their happy news of marriage?

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I'm no expert but it seems to me that PoW's would have extremely limited access to German females and that any such "exposure" would indicate long term PoW's for any such opportunity to arise, much less materialise into marriage. As long term PoW's, they would have been more accustomed to German culture and also may not have experienced the horrors of trench warfare if say captured when the War was in its early stages and not static as it was for 4 long bitter years. To put it crudely, they hadn't experienced the depths to which both sides may have sunk in the desperate fighting with men seeing hundreds of their comrades being gassed or cut down by withering machine gun fire or heavy barrages.

One might also assume that the German relatives of those women would be equally upset, fraternising with the enemy when they too had lost husbands, sons or other relatives.

My own experience was knowing a WW2 soldier who had been the third British soldier allowed to marry a German girl and I know they both had a lot of prejudice to overcome in both sets of relatives and neighbours, but they did and had a very happy and long marriage. So much so that he was a member of our Pipe Band and we were invited over at regular intervals to play at the town's Schutzenfests and Oktoberfests where we all got on very well and very cheerfully, aided no doubt by copious amounts of beer.

Incidentally, due to the purity laws it seems very difficult to get aggressively drunk as you do with many UK drinks where you have all kinds of additives, some freely admitted to make you have a hangover, as "unless you feel bad the next day, you don't feel as if you've had a "good" night out....." and which perhaps explains a lot of loutish behaviour in UK streets.

So I don't know if that's a satisfactory answer, but that's my view.

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Or quite simply, they fell in love.

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From reading books on POWs it seems that quite a few who were working too far to travel back and forth to their camps,were put with families out on farms etc. Some made themselves a little more than helpful in the absence of husbands who were away fighting.

The attitude of the Germans towards fighting seems to have waned towards the latter part of the war. The attitude of the German public towards POWs, later in the war also improved too. We had been conscripting since the beginning of 1916 and there must have been a fair few men who were not entirely happy about fighting.

Thanks for those thoughts - I think they must have had to overcome a lot from both sides of the family. I knew a few people of ww2 era that harboured grudges against Germans and Japanese for their whole lives. They wouldn't even purchase an item that had been manufactured in those countries.

Maybe these men and women just realised that underneath their nationalities, they were the same human beings and, as auchonvillerssomme said, they just fell in love. Perhaps the actions of those withholding the parcels was an indication of the prejudices they would have to face and overcome, for many years.

I read of a Sgt that took German lessons and the men started to turn against him. He had to reason with them that he was taking German lessons because he felt that things were not being translated accurately and he was doing it for the greater good of the men, most were convinced but some were not.

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From reading books on POWs it seems that quite a few who were working too far to travel back and forth to their camps,were put with families out on farms etc. Some made themselves a little more than helpful in the absence of husbands who were away fighting.

The attitude of the Germans towards fighting seems to have waned towards the latter part of the war. The attitude of the German public towards POWs, later in the war also improved too. We had been conscripting since the beginning of 1916 and there must have been a fair few men who were not entirely happy about fighting.

Thanks for those thoughts - I think they must have had to overcome a lot from both sides of the family. I knew a few people of ww2 era that harboured grudges against Germans and Japanese for their whole lives. They wouldn't even purchase an item that had been manufactured in those countries.

Maybe these men and women just realised that underneath their nationalities, they were the same human beings and, as auchonvillerssomme said, they just fell in love. Perhaps the actions of those withholding the parcels was an indication of the prejudices they would have to face and overcome, for many years.

I read of a Sgt that took German lessons and the men started to turn against him. He had to reason with them that he was taking German lessons because he felt that things were not being translated accurately and he was doing it for the greater good of the men, most were convinced but some were not.

I knew a lovely German lady who married a British soldier at the end of the war and moved back to the UK - no animosity on either side from what I'm aware of (although possibly because her family seemed to by happy to see the back of Hitler). Her sister stayed in Germany and married a count (only for the money though - he married her as she was his long time house keeper and he wanted the estate and money to go to someone when he died as he had no heirs).

Craig

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On the other hand

Had I been a participant in the Great War and witnessed my comrades being mown down by machine guns,

blown to smithereens by shell's, fired from enemy positions

gassed, maimed and wounded

I would at the time have considered the soldiers to be traitors for fraternizing with the enemy and wishing to stay in Germany

Just my opinion although I am sure this would have been the view of the vast majority of serving soldiers

Ray

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Just a thought .. Look how many Germans stayed in the UK after WW2 and made a good life for themselves. Also Italians seem to have been very happy to stay here. From what I have read and been told the Italian lads were often less restricted in their movements whilst POW

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La Grande Illusion, anyone?


Or quite simply, they fell in love.

As the thread title says: "Behaving as no Englishman should."

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During WW2 British soldiers married German, Japanese and Italian women, they even brought them home. I know soldiers who married Irish Catholics during the 1980's, couldn't hear any shouting then, well not on our side anyway.

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Just a thought .. Look how many Germans stayed in the UK after WW2 and made a good life for themselves. Also Italians seem to have been very happy to stay here. From what I have read and been told the Italian lads were often less restricted in their movements whilst POW

I know of a farmer who lent a .410 to "his Eyeties" in order for them to control vermin whilst they were working around the farm.

A lot of Germans stayed because their homes were in the Russian Zone.

I always think of good old, brave old, Bert Trautmann when this subject comes up.

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La Grande Illusion, anyone?

As the thread title says: "Behaving as no Englishman should."

Well judging by the way we are portrayed in film and media, we need a decent cover.

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I know of a farmer who lent a .410 to "his Eyeties" in order for them to control vermin whilst they were working around the farm.

My grandmother had Italian POW's lodging with her - they were ex-conscripts and were happy to have been captured. A German ex-paratrooper POW also settled locally after release and married after the war. None of them seem to have had any major issues. I can imagine that most people were of the opinion that that it was the Nazi's/Mussolini running the show and as such didn't quite have the hatred of the general German's and Italian's that they could have had.

In WW1 there perhaps wasn't quite the separate figures to look at in the same way.

Craig

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On the other hand

Had I been a participant in the Great War and witnessed my comrades being mown down by machine guns,

blown to smithereens by shell's, fired from enemy positions

gassed, maimed and wounded

I would at the time have considered the soldiers to be traitors for fraternizing with the enemy and wishing to stay in Germany

Just my opinion although I am sure this would have been the view of the vast majority of serving soldiers

Ray

I think you are probably right Ray.

However, for some, it might be that finding themselves with a caring or compassionate family might have been a relief after some of the horrors they had faced and perhaps restored their faith in humanity in some way.

It seems that the instances of ww2 prisoners seems to be more well known and maybe because for some of us, we are not far removed from that generation. A relative some time ago told me of the local girls that fraternised with prisoners while they were put to work on the land.

I think that there might have been some coercion from the Germans for prisoners to remain in Germany after the war. Perhaps someone else can confirm this. When you read POW interviews, it seems as though they are being questioned from an unseen script. I get the feeling there must have been a list of scripted questions they were asked and that these questions may have changed or been added to during the course of the war. I've never seen such a list of questions but some of the statements from the men will say something along the lines of; I was not asked to remain in Germany after the war. I've seen it on a few occasions and wondered if they were perhaps promised special treatment if they agreed to remain after the war.

I'll run their names through ICRC and see what information there is for them. I was reluctant to post their names in the thread but I will post their PA number and entry location on any sheets.

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KevinBattle, perhaps you weren't so far off the mark.

Both men same regiment and battalion and both have capture dates of 27th August 1914.

First man:
PA 765 he is on the latter half of the page, list 485c and the 5th entry under that list of names.
PA 7296 he is entry no.2 on that sheet.

Other man:
PA 755 he is on the upper part of the page list 485a, 10th entry on the page.
PA7296 he is entry no.6 on that sheet.

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By 1918 they were interned at Munster and that is where they were when they made their decision to remain in Germany:

post-70679-0-56220300-1436480932_thumb.j

Extract above from one of the letters of correspondence on the two men

post-70679-0-64414900-1436480958_thumb.j

Comment above from the Foreign Office

Ironically, if anyone follows through the PA refs, they will see these men were not English!

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