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Guest stephenf

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I am researching my Great Grand father who served in Mespot and died in 1916. The CWGC States he died as POW in Asia Minor and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial. A search in the PRO has only given me his Medal index card and it only gives his date of death. He was a Pte in the 2/4th Devons and was drafted from India to another Unit in Mespot. There is no war diary for the Devons for this period and i had a stroke of luck looking at other unit diaries for this period and found an entry in the 2ND RWKR that they received a draft of 150 men and officers from the 2/4th Devons and other territorial units in India, though i can not be 100% certain that he was one of these reinforcements.

How were the Authorities and Families notified of a soldier being taken prisoner and of his death while in captivity?. Being commemorated on the Basra memorial obviously shows that he has no known grave, i am assuming that he died in a camp in Turkey or while being transported. I also wonder if the date given for his death is accurate or it is when he went missing or taken prisoner. Any information on the procedures and any other known sources i could research would be gratfully received .


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stephenf. I know this does not help you but just a little snippet I came across recently about P.O.W,s who died in enemy camps.

British :-Officers 172. O/R,s 6249

Australian :-Officers 16. O/R,s 238

Canadian :-Officers 25. O/R,s 275

New Zealand:-Officers 2. O/R,S 27

Newfoundland:-Officers 0. O/R,s 31

South African:-Officers 0. O/R,s 61

Royal Navy Divi:-Officers 3. O/R,s 105

Indian Native:- Officers 1. O/R,s 267

TOTAL:- Officers 219. Other Ranks 7253

The infomation must be out there so hopefully some one else can put you in the right direction.

But i thought this might interest you and other members.

Regards Kevin

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Hi Stephen

If a person became a prisoner of war then usually the Red Cross would be notified who in turn would notify the person's family, but unfortunately with the Turks this did not always occur.

If you want to see an example of a red cross form of people who were captured by the Turks go to


Click on Biographical databases and then red cross files. While this only refers to Australian soldiers you might get an idea of what the red cross forms were like.

Once you are in the database, type in the name Francis Luke Adams and this will bring up his details. He was an Air mechanic who was captured in Mespotamia with the Australian Half Flight. He made it to prison camp in Turkey, but his date of death is unknown and is given from August to November 1916 and he is commemmorated on the North Wall Baghdad Cemetery.

For another example use Reginald Lushington who was captured on Gallipoli.

It might be worth tracking down where to have a look at these Red Cross forms in Britain and have a look to see if any members of your great grandfathers regiment had contact with Red Cross Statements in the war.

I have also found Prisoner of War repatriation statements to be of great use. Again I know where to access these in Australia, but hopefully one of the knowledgeable people on this forum can say where they can be accessed in Britain, the IWM?, PRO??. If you are able to have a look at the statements made by men of your great grandfathers regiment it may give you an insight into what they went through.

Other than that I think it would be useful to have a look for books about the POW experience in Turkey. 'Guests of the Unspeakable" and "A Prisoner of the Turks" are two that come immediately to mind, but there are others out there.

Good luck with it.


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Sadly these Red Cross Documents don't seem to have survived in British archives; if they appear in service records at Kew, I have never seen them. Perhaps others have?

The International Red Cross in Switzerland has the master copies of all papers connected with POWs; so if you write to them I suspect they will be able to help. I don't have an address, but you might be able to trace them on the Web?

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Paul and Andrew,

Thanks very much for the info, i will try the Red Cross. I have seen somewhere else that you can write to an office in London who maybe able to help.

Thanks again


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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Stephen,

I too am trying to find out what happened to a relative who died as a POW in Turkey. I found www.ifrc.org/contact useful. I eventually got an e-mail back stating that they do hold such records but they are not open for public search until they are 100 years old. However, you can pay for their archivist to check the records. They charge 80 swiss francs an hour (about £34) with a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 4hours. You specify how long.

Before contacting the ifrc it is worth getting a copy of the death certificate. e-mail Overseas GRO [Overseas.GRO@ons.gsi.gov.uk] giving as much detail as posible. They cost £11 for the search and certificate. If you are near to London DIY for £6.50 by visiting the Family Records Centre,

1, Myddleton Street, London EC1R 1UW

Hope this helps


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Andrew P's post touches upon an interesting topic.

Turkish prisoners records are thin on the ground, not least for Gallipoli.

A number of prisoners were used as labour on the railway through the Taurus Mountains in South East Turkey and the harsh conditions resulted in a number of deaths. Bean relates that a number were buried in the Taurus mountains at Hadjschkiri (there is a variety of spellings) and at least one of these was concentrated to Baghdad North Gate Cemetery. I wonder if the man Andrew records was another of these victims?

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  • 4 weeks later...

A good book describing persona experience of a Kut prisoner is (THE OTHER RANKS OF KUT) P W LONG. This is out of print and i was able to borrow a copy from my local service libary. He explains in detail the horrific treatment handed out by their captors. After reading this book i soon realised that the chances of any records surviving regarding POW'S who died would be minimal. This book is an excellent source of information naming places and people involved and gives the reader a gool feel of what those POW'S endured.


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While researching an officer who was killed at Gallipoli I came across a letter sent from the Military Secretary to the soldier's father. The family did not know for a long time that their son had been KIA.

The letter says that a communication received from The American Ambassador mentions a list of November 7th 1915 headed "List of Prisoners of War interred in Turkey including some Dead."

Unfortunately for the family of the soldier it was not stated if he was a prisoner or dead.

This letter was dated March 1916

There should be a copy of this list somewhere in the PRO. I have not followed this up as I have been involved in other research but I would be interested if anyone finds that it still exists.

The family that I mentioned above received another letter shortly after saying that a telegram had been received from the Charge d'Affaires at Constantinple. The telegram said that their son's name had been included in error in the list of November 7th. They were asked to disregard the list and substitute corrected list enclosed in letter of January 31st.

The correspondence between the elderly father and the War Office makes extremely sad reading.

I hope that this may be of some help in your search.



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  • 2 weeks later...

Another man captured at Kut was Pte E J Allen, 25996, 86th Batty. R.G.A.

His family received two letters from the Red Cross. The first one ran to two pages and was sent from Switzerland in May 1917. Part of it stated that " According to the Ottoman Red Crecent Lists of 15-5-17 your son is reported to have died at Angora on Feb 5th 1917. We regret that we are unable to say what was the cause of death, or to furnish any further particulars as to his burial etc".

On July 26 1917 another letter arrived from the Red Cross Central Prisoners of War Committee in London.

This states that "we have received a letter from the Ottoman Red Crescent informing us that the cause of death was Typhus"

These letters seem to indicate that quite a bit of information was passed back by the Turks, at least in this case.

Pte Allen is commemorated on the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetary.


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