Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
jemm

Wittenberg POW Camp 1914-1915

Recommended Posts

jemm

I came across this article in my local 1916 paper and thought it may intrest others, it is a exact typed copy of the article.

Wednesday April 12th 1916

JEERS AT THE DEAD

———————————

HORRORS OF WITTENBERG WAR CAMP

—————————————

GERMAN DOCTORS DESERT FEVER STRICKEN INMATES

Terrible revelations of the conditions prevailing in the Wittenberg prisoners of war camp in Germany during the typhus outbreak, which occurred at the end of 1914 and early in 1915, are given in the reports of the Government Committee of Inquiry, presided over by Mr Justice Younger. The report is based on the statements from repatriated prisoners of war, and especially from Major Priestley, R.A.M.C. Captain Vidal. R.A.M.C. and Captain Lauder. R.A.M.C. the only survivors of six British doctors sent from another camp to take the place of duty abandoned by the German medical staff when the typhus manifested itself. The camp was grossly overcrowded. While typhus was raging 15,000 prisoners ( 700 ) British were contained to it’s ten and half acres.

Though the winter of 1914-1915 was extremely severe, there was a great shortage of coal, the men were insufficiently clothed, they were given no change of underclothing, the washing and sanitary arrangements were very inadequate, the food was bad and insufficient. The epidemic was due to these conditions.

When Major, Priestley arrived the prisoners were gaunt, of a peculiar grey pallor and verminous. The German authorities though not ignorant of the dangers did nothing to prevent or minimize the spread of infection. When Captain Vidal asked that the remaining healthy English might be placed together in one compound his request was insultingly refused. The epidemic broke out in December 1914. The German staff, military and medical precipitately left the camp, and until August, 1915, with two exceptions communication between prisoners am their guards was by means of directions shouted from the guards or officers remaining outside the wire entanglements.

CAMP SUPPLIES

All supplies were pushed into the camp over shoots. The food for the hospital was passed in on a trolly over about twenty yards of rail worked by winches at either end so as to avoid all contact between the prisoners and the outside world. No medical attention during the whole time was provided by German staff. The six British doctors sent to the camps had, in defiance of the Geneva Convention been detained as ordinary prisoners of war at Halle. On arrival at Wittenberg they were marched to the camp. They visited the different compounds and were received in apathetic silence. The rooms were unlighted, and the men were aimlessly marching up and down , some were lying on the floor probably sickening for typhus. When they got into the open air again Major Fry, broke down. The horror of it all was more than he could for the moment bear. No mattresses were supplied in the improvised hospital. The result was that many typhus patients would not go into the hospital they hid their condition as long as possible. The diet was hopeless for patients in a fever. In truth the ration was not a ration at all it was a pretence. It was not even possible to give the patients warm water with their milk. Major Fry and Captain Sutcliffe died of typhus about a month after their arrival Captain Field died later.

There is no doubt in the minds of the committee that the conditions to which the camp authorities had reduced the campo and prisoners they had abandoned were directly responsible for the deaths of these devoted men. Captain Lauder alone of the officers attacked finally recovered. When convalescent he bravely continued his duty.

The dead were buried in a cemetery formed out of a part of the camp. The Germans sent in a certain number of coffins every day, into which the bodies of the dead were put and carried out by their comrades, through a gate in the barbed wire. There was not sufficient room for the burial of so many, and the coffins were piled one upon another.

SAVAGE DOGS TO TERROISE PRISONERS

What the prisoners found hardest to bear were the jeers with which the coffins were frequently greeted by the inhabitants of Wittenberg, who stood outside the wire and were permitted to insult the dead. There were between 250 and 300 English cases and 60 deaths. Captain Vidal says that the conditions were thoroughly realised by the German authorities without any effort being made by them to bring about an improvement.

Savage dogs were habitually employed to terrorise the prisoners, flogging with a rubber whip was frequent, men were struck with little or no provocation, and were tied to posts with their arms above their heads for hours. Captain Lauder reports that many of these men went so far as to look upon the typhus with all its horrors as a god-send; they preferred it to the presence of the German guards. The commandant during the whole time was General Von Dassel. The committee believe that he had now been removed from a position which he always was unfitted to occupy. Dr Aschenbach, however remains medical officer, and no confidence can be felt that so long as he is there the prisoners will have the medical care to which they are entitled.

On one occasion during the whole course of the epidemic did Dr Aschenbach enter the hospital, or even the camp. He came attired in a complete suit of protective clothing, including a mask and rubber gloves. His inspection was brief and rapid. For his services in combating the epidemic. Dr Aschenbach, the committee understand has been awarded the Iron Cross.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Doug Johnson

Cpt Vidal's official report is in WO161, on line from the NA and reads very much the same as the article.

The use of dogs was one matter that was taken up by the American Ambassador and is commented upon in his book, also available on line (for free)

Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mary Kemp
Cpt Vidal's official report is in WO161, on line from the NA and reads very much the same as the article.

The use of dogs was one matter that was taken up by the American Ambassador and is commented upon in his book, also available on line (for free)

Doug

Can you tell me the title of the book or the on line sight. Thanyyou Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mary Kemp
Mary,

This should take you there:

http://www.lib.byu.edu/~rdh/wwi/memoir/Gerard/4yrsTC.htm

In case it doesn't the book is "My Four Years in Germany" by James W Gerard.

Doug

Thankyou, I have managed to access the site. My grandfather ( Herbert Booth Hughes Bandsman HLI)spent most of the war at Wittenberg. He survived but never recovered good health and died in 1924 from TB six months before my mother was born. Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petestarling

Just picked this up.

There is a large file on Captain Vidal in the Army Medical Services Museum containing his letters, various reports and some patient details.

Pete Starling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mary Kemp

Do I have to go to the Army Medical Services Museum to access this information?

Regards Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petestarling

Mary

What are you looking for?

Pete

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mary Kemp

Just more general information about Wittenberg camp and the everyday life there as my grandfather Herbert Booth Hughes (HLI) spent most of the war there.He came back from the war but died from TB not long after.

Regards

Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petestarling

Mary

I have just looked through the file and the patient record book and can not find your grandfathers name listed so presumably he was not admitted to the hospital.

Pete Starling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
reminiscene

Many thanks for posting this very interesting account of events at Wittenberg. It must have been absolutely dreadful to have been there and to have endured those conditions.

I recently discovered a photograph of a memorial to British Officers, NCOs and Men who died at Wittenberg in an album which belonged to my wife's grandfather. I am not sure how my wife's grandfather (3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders) came by the photograph as he was a POW in Alten Grabow for most of the First World War. The only possible connection seems to be that he may have known the Gordon Highlander commemorated on the memorial.

A photograph of the memorial can be seen on my website, Reminiscene, either through the Scottish Soldiers page at http://www.reminiscene.co.uk/scottishsoldiers.htm or directly at http://www.reminiscene.co.uk/photographs/dah0033.jpg. Thanks to a good photograph and the aid of a magnifying glass, I have been able to transcribe the names on the visible panels of the memorial and you can find this at http://www.reminiscene.co.uk/wittenbergmemorial.pdf. The names include Major Fry and Captains Sutcliff and Field.

Does anybody know whether the memorial is actually located in Wittenberg?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest rudig
Mary

I have just looked through the file and the patient record book and can not find your grandfathers name listed so presumably he was not admitted to the hospital.

Pete Starling

Hello,

My grandfather, a Belgian named Maes Felix Victor was also at Wittenberg as a civilian and was hit by typhus. Is there anything you can find in de list you have regarding his admission to the hospital?

Thanks,

Rudi.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
petestarling

Rudi

I can not find any civilian details I am afraid.

Pete Starling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pattjack

HI please can you look to see if a william jackson is on the wittenberg memorial photo he was in wiienberg till his death on 09/03/1915 he was in the 1st middlesex regiment L/9471 and in the berlin south-western cemetery thank you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pattjack
Mary

I have just looked through the file and the patient record book and can not find your grandfathers name listed so presumably he was not admitted to the hospital.

Pete Starling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pattjack

HI peter just read your post and hopefull that you may find a record of my granfather who was william jackson L/9471 he died at wittenberg on the 09/03/1915 and would be greatfull if you can give me any thing thank you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Mary Kemp

Pattjack

I have a photo taken in April of the memorial with your grandfather's name on it. E mail me if you would like a copy.

Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pattjack
Pattjack

I have a photo taken in April of the memorial with your grandfather's name on it. E mail me if you would like a copy.

Mary

yes please mary thank you my email is patsyohara2008@yahoo.co.uk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest rudig

Hello,

This is an article I could find on the web from april 22, 1916 in a medical journal.

post-46972-1276343944.jpgpost-46972-1276343944.jpg

Best regards,

Rudi.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bluekingell

Hi Pete

Was Private 4956 John Arthur Costello of the 1st BN LNL's listed on the patient records. hes a first cousin of mine and died at Wittemburg in Dec 1915 of Consumption

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mg8555

Hi Pete, My Great grandfather served with the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was captured by the Germans on 21/22nd Dec 1914 at Givenchy. He was 4081 Pte Robert Mather from Preston. He was mentioned for his service volunteering as a medical orderly during the typhus epidemic and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. I would love to know more about this camp and if there is any mention of him on any records?

Thanks...Mick

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Yvonner

I am researching my great grandad Philip Felix Wright who died in Wittenberg POW camp on 20/04/1915.  He had been working as a medical orderly helping the men who had typhus before contracting the disease himself.  Would anyone have any other information about Philip ie where he was buried and why his name does not appear on the memorial for those who died.  He was a Lance Corporal with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Regimental number 3104.  He would have been c54 when he died and he had previously served with the British Army in the 2nd Boer war.

Edited by Yvonner
Add more information

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RaySearching

 

Yvonner

Your Great Grandad

Is Interred in Berlin Western Cemetery Germany

 

HERE

 

Regards Ray

 

 

Edit Photo's of Philip, Headstone photo and Bio 

HERE

Edited by RaySearching

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nigel Cooper

I recently discovered my Great uncle Percy Lucas (Service No.3952) of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was captured at La Basse and was transferred to Wittenberg P.O.W. Camp. 

Records that I found through the international Red Cross showed that he died in the barracks hospital in February 1915, the cause of death given was 'Lungenentz ' which I am assured translates as 'Pneumonia '.

And having read the reports on this camp it did not come as a surprise that he suffered such an awful death.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×