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saberhagen427

Cottbus No. I

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saberhagen427

Does anyone have a map that shows the exact location of the PoW camps at Cottbus? If so could you post a scan, or point them out on Google Maps?

I'm not entirely sure whether Cottbus No. I was the main camp at Cottbus, or whether it was a different camp. Lt. Ives who went to take charge of the prisoners and bring them home at the end of the war said that Cottbus-Sielow consisted of two camps: one at Cottbus where most of the British prisoners were, and one at Sielow which was mainly full of Russians. Would No. I be either of these, or might it be a work camp rather than a head camp? In any case, would the theatre most likely be at the head camp regardless of what or where No. I was?

The reason I'm asking is that I'm exploring the possibilities of Flickr for storing and sharing Great War photos, and one of its features is the ability to drag the photos onto a map to show where they were taken.

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Tom Morgan

Gavin - I don't have a very detailed map, but Mrs. Pope-Hennessey, in her Map of the Main Prison Camps in Germany and Austria says,

COTTBUS

A busy town on the Spree (pop. 48,600) containing wool, linen and yarn factories.Seventy miles S.E. of Berlin. The camp is situated on rising ground on the outskirts of the town. The buildings radiate from a central guard tower. There is a Y.M.C.A. hut. This is a coal-mining district and the camp is under the same command as Merzdorf. 3rd Army Corps.

Hope this is of interest.

Tom

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Doug Johnson

Gavin,

I know nothing of Cottbus and the following is probably of no help at all. Firstly, Munster I to III are all distinctly separate camps. Senne I to IV are all divisions of the same camp. though some are separated by a road. There was a post a short while ago that hinted of work camps also being numbered (in connection with Munster). Cottbus is listed as a headcamp and there is no mention of Sielow. however Cottbus has 11 000+ Russians registered as well as 2 000+ British and 2 000+ French but obviously these can be scattered amongst several camps. As for the theatre is could be anywhere or there could be more than one. Ahlhorn was a work camp and had a theatre whereas Gustrow, which was a very big head camp did not have a theatre from 1917 to 1918 as it had become a cafe. There were insufficient prisoners in the camp to put anything on.

The best bet might be WO161 reports or an inspection report. Interestingly Cottbus 1 is listed in the list of WO161 locations in the LLT index. Pity the search does not work.

Doug

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saberhagen427

So it's even more complicated than I thought!

The Lt. Ives who I mentioned before was the author of a WO161 report (WO161/96/141, also in FO383/491) which is the only one I could find which mentioned Cottbus. He arrived after the armistice to take charge of the prisoners and eventually took them out of the camp, handing them over at the Dutch border on 28th December 1918. He only mentioned the main Cottbus and Sielow camps, no work camps, but the situation then was by no means normal. By the time he arrived the German officers had abandoned the camp which, along with the town, was in the hands of mutinous German soldiers. One German officer even offered to arm and pay the British prisoners if they'd help him recapture the town!

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Doug Johnson

Pte Froeborn, AIF is mentioned as being in Cottbus Camp Hospital in WO161 p2592. Pte Smith, CEF mentioned as being at Cottbus on page 2413. These were picked up by scanning through the LLT index by regiment and the mentions will be in other peoples reports who will themselves have been at Cottbus. There may be more but I only got as far as the CEF. I have not got either of these pages.

Doug

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Doug Johnson

FO383/395 contains responses from the German Government regarding complaints about Cottbus - Sielow. Several other references to Cottbus are also in various other sections of FO383.

Doug

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saberhagen427

Thanks Doug. I hadn't seen those as I only looked at the index by camp. I'll look into them when I get a chance.

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MartinWills

Just guessing, but do I assume you have some camp theatre pictures? Postcards and postcard size pics of camp theatres for a number of the PoW camps do turn up from time to time.

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saberhagen427

I do indeed. You can see them here, along with some other photos of my great-grandad.

I'm always looking out for more Cottbus photos as they might help me to date them more accurately or even identify some of the other people in the group.

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Doug Johnson

The Imperial War Museum have three personal accounts listed for Cottbus that might be worth a look at.

There is a photograph on e-bay at the moment which shows a rather elaborate entrance gate, presumably constructed by the prisoners. Interestingly it has a pre printed back with the address details and it calls itself Cottbus I. Assuming Cottbus II does not exist, then presumably Cottbus, the head camp, is called Cottbus I to distinguish itself from Cottbus - Sielow which must have been a some type of work camp.

I have found a brief description which might be of some help. It states that the first camp was built on the racecourse in the north of the city to house 10 000 prisoners and on the 4th September some 7 000 Russians arrived. (This camp must be the one at Sielow which is directly north of the city) Later, in 1915, another camp was built to the east of the city.

Unfortunately that is as far as the description goes.

Doug

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saberhagen427

Thanks Doug, those are really interesting photos. Just to complicate it further, I see that some of them are marked Cottbus Merzdorf.

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Doug Johnson

Merzdorf is a suburb in the east of Cottbus so that ties in with the second camp being in the east. Which though is Cottbus 1?

Doug

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Doug Johnson

Mrs P-H lists Cottbus - Merzdorf under Merzdorf as follows;

See Cottbus from which it is three miles distant. Prisoners attempting to escape have been frequently sent to this camp. 3rd Army Corps.

Doug

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Doug Johnson

I now have reports from both cottbus camps but neither of these gives indication as to which camp is Cottbus 1. These reports are from October 1916. I note in the photographs the Bing Bong Boys are wearing naval uniforms. The report from Merzdorf indicates that the camp was full of sailors; Ships mentioned are Horus, Pendennis, Onward, Nellie Hutton, Era, Aero, Nomad, and Au Fait. Sielow is mentioned as having some 121 British in residence with some 50 more out on work placements but the report confirms that the camp had theatrical entertainments even though they were suspended at the time.

Doug

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saberhagen427

Thanks Doug, that's really interesting. Kate Wills said that naval style uniforms were quite common for concert parties so I hadn't considered the possibility that some of them might actually have been sailors. Judging by the photos we have (taken in 1917 or 1918), the prisoners involved in the theatre seem to have had access to quite a variety of outfits.

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Doug Johnson

Hi Gavin,

There are two things that make me think they are actually uniforms. Firstly one of the guys in one of the group photographs, sitting in the middle, has a different style jacket to the others. It is possible that he is wearing a jacket left over from an earlier performance but other than that why make one different to the rest? Secondly all the jackets have PoW arm bands. On the web site for Merzdorf the pictures of the theatre performances have civilian style jackets without the armbands and uniforms with. Again it is possible that the authorities insisted that the uniform style jackets made for the performance had arm bands but I would have thought escapes were more likely with the civilian jackets.

Doug

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Doug Johnson

Just to add to the confusion, Conrad Hoffman mentions a third camp. In one place he mentions providing athletic or indoor games equipment to "..Cottbus (all three camps)." and in another "...Cottbus (Sielow, Merzdorf and arrest camps)". Mrs P-H states that prisoners attempting to escape were sent to Merzdorf so presumably the arrest camp was either close to, adjacent or perhaps later incorporated into Merzdorf.

Doug

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Doug Johnson

Report of visit of Dr Ohnesorg, U.S.N., March 23rd 1916

COTTBUS

There are two camps here

Camp No 1 (Silow) This is placed on the outskirts of the town, the compound occupying the race court. The barracks are of wood, of the large type, divided into two large rooms, each accommodating 250 men. The bunks are arranged into two tiers at each end of the room, giving a large space in the centre for tables etc, where the interned mess, write and play games. The camp is divided into companies, each consisting of two barracks, and, when occupied to its full capacity, could accommodate 8,000 prisoners. There were barely 3,000 in the camp at the time of my visit. The British, 170 in number, occupied one of these half-barracks, and were quartered alaone. Thirty non-commissioned officers are detained here; of these five had lately volunteered for work and had been sent to an estate at Rogow, near Oegeln, where they were engaged in farm work. Twenty British enlisted men were also at a working camp at Schoenewald, engaged in agricultural work.

The seven senior non-commissioned officers had been given a room by themselves. The remainder were quartered with the enlisted personnel. A large field was available for exercise, football etc, and the camp had a very good theatre, besides a workshop, where I saw several of the prisoners, principally French, engaged in wood-carving and painting.

This camp contained only a lazaret for temporary cases. Those of the prisoners who became really ill were transferred to the prisoner of war hospital at the other camp.

Camp No 2 The only British found here were in the hospital, nine in number. Three were suffering from phthisis, one from valvular heart disease, whilst the remaining five were convalescing from wounds or some trivial ailment. The hospital consisted of three large barracks in a compound adjoining the prison camp. The wards were light, were ventilated, and the sanitary arrangements and equipment good. German doctors assisted by two Russian military surgeons supervised the treatment of the patients, while German and Russian hospital corps men were detailed for orderly duties. The hospital had its own kitchen etc. The Kommandant informed me that it was not the intention to quarter any British prisoners in camp 2; the camp at Silow had been decided on as the assembling depot for them.

NB elsewhere he mentions that the barracks at Cottbus no 2 were of the earth type.

Doug

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pratt

Cottbus I

5xfd72p.jpg

Friedhelm

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saberhagen427

Thanks both of you. This is excellent information which will finally allow me to place the photos on a map. Sorry I didn't reply earlier - I've been busy with other things and only just noticed the new posts. Presumably the British had been moved from 1 to 2 by the end of the war, but the situation when Ives arrived was clearly not normal.

Edit: And now I have placed all the photos on a map.

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jboyd

hi ,i have a letter that my granddad send home from cottbus 1, but a lot of the printed writting looks like russin

pt joesph boyd 9th the kings own yorkshire light infantry service no 37125

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saberhagen427

That's interesting. There were a lot of Russians at Cottbus. Maybe they'd run out of English postcards or gave him the wrong kind. Any chance you could upload a scan somehwere? I'd be interested in seeing it.

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saberhagen427

I've just gone back to Ives's report and realised that what I said in the first post was completely wrong. He actually said that the two camps were:

Sielow - at the racecourse, where most of the British prisoners were

Merzdorf - mostly Russians, with a few British in the hospital.

That makes it a lot less confusing than I thought, and everything else ties in. Clearly Sielow was I and Merzdorf was II, and my GGF was at Sielow. I'm going to put a transcript of the report online soon. [Edit: it's now online here]

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