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2 hours ago, mblebaron said:

What was the process for a POW to return home after Armistice?

Welcome to the GWF

The short answer, as always with WW1 is, 'it depends'. A little more information always helps. I assume your question relates to British POWs held by the Germans

The Armistice obliged the Germans to release all POWs 'without reciprocity'. 

Many of those captured during  the German Spring Offensive were retained behind the lines in France.  They simply walked towards the Allied lines.  They represented a relatively small proportion of the POWs.  Many more were held in camps as far as what is now Poland.  I visited the CWGC Cemetery at Poznan on a WW2 mission and noticed there were a number of WW1 graves of POWs.

Their release had to be facilitated by the Germans who, to a certain extent did not hurry to do so.  It was estimated two months after the Armistice there were still 14,000 British prisoners in German camps. The Germans had no central list and the only way to find them all was to send the Red Cross into each Army Corps District.  It was not until January or February 1919 that these men came home.

They returned on boats from Calais, Boulogne and Rotterdam as well as Hamburg and Copenhagen. They landed in the UK at three ports, Hull, Leith and of course Dover. From there they went by train to dispersal camps, such as Ripon and Canterbury. 

It was at this point the the two month POW leave as noted in the link by Michelle came in. At the bottom of the page is a link which will take you to the POW Camps in Germany.

Their arrival home was often recorded in the local newspapers, and certainly the local papers for Hull reported the arrival of POW ships.  The names of repatriated POWs appeared in the Weekly Casualty Lists published by the War Office and available on Find My Past.

Recommended Reading and acknowledgement to the content above  Richard van Emden "Prisoners of the Kaiser"



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Depending on where your subject was held it might be worth searching the forum for the “Danish scheme” threads.

This scheme involved moving pows from camps in north Germany to Copenhagen to be processed and allocated to a troop ship for their return to the UK. 
A small number were sent to neutral Sweden after there was said to be no accommodation left in Denmark. From memory I think around 3000 prisoners (my grandad being one) followed this route though I didn’t find anything to suggest he sailed home from Ljungbyhed, it seems more probable those from Sweden transferred ship to ship for the final leg of their journey.

Warnemunde was another North German port utilised for repatriation from large camps such as Gustrow and of course the many satellite camps in the locality.

Finally, only very recently on this forum a studio photo of a soldier taken in an English studio clearly showed a man in pow uniform. Having known my grandads past as a pow for most of my life I admit that I hadn’t considered that he would reach home in prison uniform. It is of course quite logical, at the end of a long and costly war it’s unlikely our Government would/could finance new clothing for many thousands of troops who were likely to be demobbed soon after.


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A fairly large number of long-term and/or sick NCO prisoners of war had been interned in Holland since January 1918, German as well as Allied; these men were repatriated pretty swiftly to the UK by sea.

For instance the second list below shows Royal Engineer NCOs who disembarked at Hull on 18th November 1918. Despite the title, at least some of these were men returning from internment in Holland, not Germany - the ones I've researched were made prisoner in August 1914 and interned in Holland in 1918, and a quick sample of the other regimental numbers suggests at least that those checked were pre-War Regulars too. An even quicker look at the cavalry numbers suggests a similar cohort, but I haven't researched these men so can't elaborate. (image via the ICRC online records of POWs)


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  • 6 months later...

Might be worth perusing "The British Prisoner of War" monthly journal by the Red Cross and Order of St John http://www.gutenberg-e.org/steuer/steuer.ch08f.html#

December 1918 describes a bit about the process http://www.gutenberg-e.org/steuer/archive/detail/C08.a10.p31.page133.n12.jpg.html including the King's message to repatriated PoW [apparently hard copy to the military and read to civilians]

Another book that might be of interest could be "British Prisoners of War in First World War Germany" by Oliver Wilkinson https://www.cambridge.org/gb/universitypress/subjects/history/military-history/british-prisoners-war-first-world-war-germany?format=PB


Edited by Matlock1418
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The British Prisoner of War is a new one to me - many thanks, Matlock1418!

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3 hours ago, Pat Atkins said:

The British Prisoner of War is a new one to me

And to me until only a short while before posting - just happend to be reading a book and up popped a new steer and I recalled the thread! [Oops, destroyed my cred!] - Everday a school day

Shame the 'newbie' OP author has not replied.  Hey ho, never the less we have learnt something new along the way.


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