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Remembered Today:

RWF POWs in Germany


geraint
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Browsing through the local archives office, the 18 September 1918 Free Press Newspaper had an article on which a local North Wales Committee, full of luminaries, the great and the good were fundraising "to provide food and comfort for the 1,132 Royal Welsh Fusilier prisoners currently being held in Germany"...."who are soley dependant on this fund for sustenance". The sums discussed were in the region of thousands of pounds to be collected.

How did the money get transferred to Germany. Was this Red Cross business? Were parcels delivered to individual soldiers in captivity?

Secondly, weren't the German authorities responible for feeding prisoners, and the phrase "soley dependant" was a propaganda slip in?

Third, how were figures on a regimental level so precisely calculated?

Any suggestions folks?

Geraint

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Geraint

Re your third question.

I don't proffes to know the answer (I'm sure someone will come along to do so) but what I can say is that I downloaded a file* compiled in 1919 of RWF men taken prisoners up to 25/12/1914. It gives number rank name address and latest information (repatriated etc) of about 3-400 men. The covering letter was from OIC No 2 Infantry Records, No 4 District. Address = The Riding Schools, Oswestry. It seems therfore that the stats were compiled at that level from early on.

Hywyn

* it is a poor copy and difficult to read when printed. Sadly I downloaded it early on before I got the 'WW1 bug' and I didn't record where I got it from.

PS

Have you seen the Admissions Book for Croesnewydd Hospital, Wrexham deposited at Ruthin Archives?. It has a number of RWF men in it..mostly local 4th Bn I think.

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Hywyn

Diolch yn fawr!

Shall scoot to the Archives for a look!

Geraint

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Hi Geraint,

For questions one and three, the answer is simply the British Red Cross. The details of all British (including Dominion) prisoners were sent from Germany to the Red Cross office in Berne, Switzerland, who then passed on the details to the British Red Cross office. Obtaining an idea of how many RWF were in Germany would simply be a matter of counting them from these lists. Due to the regional make-up of some of the British Army/Territorial/New Army units, the capture of specific battalions would have impacted heavily on regional specific areas. Thus, local people raised funds in support of the British Red Cross, who then in turn supplied prisoners with regular food parcels. But in order to receive parcels, the Red Cross had to know of your whereabouts, which discounted the many allied prisoners who were forced to work behind German lines in range of allied artillery. But you're also right in suggesting propaganda. That too would have played a part in motivating the masses to dig deep into their shallow pockets and do what they could. So really, the number of RWF in Germany at any given time could actually be more, or less than that stated in the newspaper.

Germany did have to feed its prisoners - it was part of the Hague Conventions, and both Germany and Britain were obliged to do so. But food was a major problem in Germany due to the allied shipping blockade (preventing fertilizers, imported food etc) and the effects of a total war being fought on two fronts. The food being given to prisoners was not flash at all, most of it 'erzatz' or substitute. They were also put to backbreaking work, in RR's case, in a coal mine, and the inferior food did not go a long way. Prisoners therefore managed to survive thanks to the British Red Cross (the British Red Cross also consisted of various branches, such as the Australian branch, New Zealand branch etc).

British prisoners were lucky: German civilians weren't given such concessions and many simply starved to death.

Cheers,

Aaron

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Aaron

Again thanks for you very very informative piece. Greatly appreciated.

As a matter of interest, perhaps the following may be of interest to you. It comes out of the same newspaper as the above.

The local North Wales POW camp was on the Hiraethog Mountains at Dyffryn Aled. The following changes in the prisoners' diet was recorded, and the changes made were due to complaints by the locals that the POWs were better fed than themselves.

"Per day

5oz bread, 4oz biscuits, 4oz meat (5days per week), 12oz herring (2 days per week), half oz tea or coffee, 1oz jam, 1 oz sugar, 20oz potato, 4oz veg or fruit, quarter oz salt,

Weekly

2oz oatmeal"

It seems to ba a well balanced diet, but not a lot of it!

Thanks

Geraint

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Interesting Geraint, looks more than a current undergraduate's weekly diet too!

You've picked up on an another important point. Despite the fact that taking prisoners denied your enemy important resources, Germany could simply not afford to exchange prisoners on a 1 for 1 basis. German prisoners had no form of welfare from home, but didn't need much as they were fed and looked after quite well. Alternatively, the British in Germany were not, and relied on their Red Cross parcels to survive. So really, Germany could not afford to exchange British prisoners for the thousands of its own countrymen purely because they were unable to feed them. I'm not too sure precisely how many German prisoners were in Britain, but definitely more than enough to do serious damage to allied units if they made their way back into the field.

I'm not a fan of counterfactual history, and there was no way the belligerents would have exchanged of fit, able-bodied prisoners anyway, but its an interesting point nonetheless.

cheers,

Aaron

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