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Kut Cruelty - William Fratel


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In late 1919, there was much press coverage of the court martial of Warrant Officer (Class 1) Assistant Surgeon William Fratel of the Indian Army Medical Department.

Fratel had been the British medical officer at the hospital at Bagtscche, and there were nineteen charges against him—seven of " disgraceful conduct of cruel kind", four of "conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline" and eight of "neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline." he pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, but the King remitted 9 months of the sentence in view of the fact that it had been proved at trial that he had done much to relieve the suffering of prisoners, and he was released in January 1920.

Does anyone know anything more about the case, or Fratel and what became of him?

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Hi - a quick search on the Newspapers & Periodicals section of the FindMyPast website shows over 100 articles about the case. Unfortunately I haven't the time to spend long looking at them this evening, but can do on another day if needed.

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There is a file at the British Library, in the India Office Records, but it is not available online.

Collection 425/1684 Court martial of Assistant Surgeon W. Fratel for alleged ill-treatment of prisoners of war in Turkey.

Collection Area: India Office Records and Private Papers

Reference: IOR/L/MIL/7/18932

Creation Date: 1919-1920

Extent and Access: 
Extent: 1 file

Catalogue reference: http://hviewer.bl.uk/IamsHViewer/Default.aspx?mdark=ark:/81055/vdc_100000000113.0x0002e0 (may not open at times)

Cheers

Maureen

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Hi greenman,

That's very kind of you but i've had a look at some of those.

Fratel was described as "Eurasian". I think he was born in India, and his father may have been Theodore Fratel. He was reduced to the ranks and discharged after the case, as well as serving a brief prison sentence. I don't know what became of him.

IPT

A free newspaper article - http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=KCC19191106.2.5

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A William Frankel, aged 39 married in Lucknow in 1927. He was a widower, a contractor to/for a railway company. His father was Theodore who, I think was also connected with the railways. Eurasians (also called Anglo-Indians) were a mixed race community - many of them worked for the railways (cf Bhowani Jaunction).

It would be interesting to know what (if any) his medical qualification was. If he was a qualified doctor he would have been commissioned in the IMS which had Indian and mixed race medical officers (to practice on non-Europeans). That in itself does raise questions since as a pow he seems to have been used as an assistant to a German doctor treating British soldiers.

I haven't read all the reports. The evidence is interesting both for and against him.

RM

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An Assistant Surgeon was a position in the Indian Army, for doctors who were appointed in India (rather than in Britain). An Assistant Surgeon was, in India, a fully qualified and registered doctor. There were a number of grades of Assistant Surgeon. By the time of the Great War, the higher graded ones, generally a reflection of length of service in the Army, had Honorary Commissions as Officers. The lesser graded ones were Warrant Officers. At the time of the Great War they were in the Indian Subordinate Medical Department, or I S M D. The word “Subordinate” was dropped in 1919. (Those doctors appointed in Britain were in the Indian Medical Service)

They worked with European soldiers, not Indian soldiers.

The FIBIS Fibiwiki has a page called Apothecary which sets out the history of Apothecaries. The name was changed from Apothecary to Assistant Surgeon in 1894.

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Apothecary

Cheers

Maureen

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An Assistant Surgeon was a position in the Indian Army, for doctors who were appointed in India (rather than in Britain). An Assistant Surgeon was, in India, a fully qualified and registered doctor. There were a number of grades of Assistant Surgeon. By the time of the Great War, the higher graded ones, generally a reflection of length of service in the Army, had Honorary Commissions as Officers. The lesser graded ones were Warrant Officers. At the time of the Great War they were in the Indian Subordinate Medical Department, or I S M D. The word “Subordinate” was dropped in 1919. (Those doctors appointed in Britain were in the Indian Medical Service)

They worked with European soldiers, not Indian soldiers.

The FIBIS Fibiwiki has a page called Apothecary which sets out the history of Apothecaries. The name was changed from Apothecary to Assistant Surgeon in 1894.

http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Apothecary

Cheers

Maureen

Thanks Maureen

I really should read FIBIS more often!

RM

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I have now looked at some of the newspaper repots on findmypast, and it appears that William Fratel was at the work camp at Bagtsche, where there was a hospital run by the German railway construction company.

Bagtsche appears to be a work camp associated with the construction of the Baghdad Railway in the Amanus Mountains. In particular, there appears to have been a tunnel through the mountains from Bagtsche to Airan –Entilli, (although the actual tunnel may have been constructed before the POWs arrived]

However, this part of the world looks extremely isolated. See this photo on flickr.com of the Amanus Mountains

https://www.flickr.com/photos/39631091@N03/6975802428/in/photolist

A photo on flickr.com, from the same poster, in respect of Belemedik which was a railway work camp in the Taurus Mountains, contains some comments about the POWs in the Amanus Mountains. “The POWs were under the administration of the Turkish army but the army was neither prepared nor able to accommodate and feed the foreign POWs once the huge numbers of British and Indian POWs from Kut arrived at Amanus mountains. In fact, the Turkish army had massive problems to feed and equip their own men. The army was more than willing to provide these POWs as workforce to the railway company which from then on had the responsibility of providing food and shelter to these POWs. However, the company was neither prepared for the thousands of additional men (plus Armenian refugees). This was a great challenge for the railway company to establish stocks necessary and it took approx. a half year until the situation became stable”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/39631091@N03/6786478496/in/photolist

Whatever may be the rights and wrong of William Fratel’s case, I think it is very likely that medical supplies were limited in the isolated camp at Bagtsche, and that it may not have been possible to prevent many of the deaths due to lack of medical supplies/and or limited medical treatment at the time.

Cheers

Maureen

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Very interesting. Thanks.

He was clearly working in awful conditions, and it's difficult to know whether there was any more he could have done. There can't have been complete confidence in the sentence given to him, if the majority of it was remitted by the King.

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A really interesting story - I'm interested in the area and events as my Great Grandfather served with the SLI in Mespotamia. So even though not directly involved it helps put his war service into some context.

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Does it say anywhere that he had to forfeit his medals as part of the sentence? I think it was pretty much a given but perhaps with the sentence being shortened by HM he kept his medals. I agree that the conditions he worked under were beyond anything as usual & his aid was limited by what he had to use to ease suffering.

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According to the January 1919 Indian Army list, William Fratel was an Assistant Surgeon, 3rd Class, ranking as a Sub-conductor in the Indian Medical Department . He was on the Bombay establishment.

Born 28 January 1887, 1st appointed as a warrant officer 10 August 1907 and he was appointed to his current rank 10 August 1914.

I hope that's helps.

Matthew

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  • 4 weeks later...

fratel.jpg

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And in the end

fratel2.jpg

fratel3.jpg

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And he married in 1919. It is an odd "added" GRO entry, and I put it all here

fratel4.jpg

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He had for service in the Gulf as an Asst, Surgeon from Apr to Jun 1912

Naval General Service Medal 1909-1920

Clasp: Persian Gulf 1915 (operations in Persian Gulf, Straits of Ormuz and Sea of Oman)

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The Deputy Judge Advocate's summation of the evidence is interesting.

The part about the prisoners naturally smarting against a sense of wrong, and potentially seeking a scapegoat?

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The part about the prisoners naturally smarting against a sense of wrong, and potentially seeking a scapegoat?

Yes. On that summing up, it would be interesting to think what verdict a civilian jury would have returned.

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  • 1 year later...

William Fratel was born 28/1/1887, presumably India (?).

 

He was the son of a man 'who held an important position in one of the British railways in India'. (Theodore Fratel -1863-1938 who was widowed and remarried 1898, noted as Loco-Foreman, BBCI Railway)

 

He went to Grant Medical College, Bombay in 1903 and passed out 1907. At which pont he joined the Indian Army- Indian Medical Department, attesting 10/8/1907.

 

He served 11th April- 10th June 1912 as an Assistant Surgeon 4th Class on RIMS Minto which qualified him for the NGS Medal (1915) clasp Persian Gulf 1909-1914.

 

He had 'a number of brothers, 3 of which were in Indian Government service'.

 

He married in 1919, widowed and remarried 1927.

 

In Mesopotamia he was attached to an artillery battery (86 HB RGA) and was captured at the surrender of Kut. As stated above he ended up with a Court Martial in 1919.

 

In 1936 he is noted on his brother Eugene's probate as Controller BBCIR -Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway.

 

It seems probable that it is his death recorded 1951 Ealing aged 65. There are electoral rolls for Ealing in the preceding years 1949 and 50 with his (?) name. Since his second wife Lavinia died in India 1945 I presume he came to UK between '46 and '49 ?

 

This is about all I can find on him. Can you find any more, please? Can you find his medal index card? Can you identify his family? (dont confuse with Eugene Fratel, Asst Surgeon IMS- who was a brother)

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962
updating personal info as at 13/10/2020
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