German Prisoners of the Great War (Hardback)
Life in a Yorkshire Camp
- First full English translation of a German account of life in an English prisoner-of-war camp in Skipton, Yorkshire during the First World War
- Extensive introduction based on research carried out into the history of the camp and the German soldiers who were held there
- Vivid insight into the experience of the soldiers revealed through their own words
- Features graphic illustrations drawn by the prisoners
- A rare direct view of a neglected aspect of First World War history
- Describes work done with the local community to uncover the story of the camp including archaeology and film making
In Munich in 1920, just after the end of the First World War, German officers who had been prisoners of war in England published a book they had written and smuggled back to Germany. Through vivid text and illustrations they describe in detail their experience of life in captivity in a camp at Skipton in Yorkshire. Their work, now translated into English for the first time, gives us a unique insight into their feelings about the war, their captors and their longing to go home.
In their own words they record the conditions, the daily routines, the food, their relationship with the prison authorities, their activities and entertainments, and their thoughts of their homeland. The challenges and privations they faced are part of their story, as is the community they created within the confines of the camp. The whole gamut of their existence is portrayed here, in particular through their drawings and cartoons which are reproduced alongside the translation.
German Prisoners of the Great War offers us a direct inside of view a hitherto neglected aspect of the wartime experience a century ago.
Article: ‘Translation of Skipton PoWs’ book now in print’, words by Vivien MasonCraven Herald and Pioneer, 25th February 2021
Article: The life and times of a Skipton prisoner as featured byCraven Herald and Pioneer, 21st January 2021
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Brenda Carleton
"During the First World War, nearly 9 million of the 70 million soldiers mobilised globally spent time in enemy captivity." This statistic surprised me, as did many in this fascinating and eye-opening book written about the German officers held in a prison camp in Skipton, Yorkshire. I had no clue this particular place existed. But I do now. The first officers arrived in January, 1918 to a place which was initially used as a military training camp. Evidently 916 were held over a period of nearly two years. Interestingly, structures and materials were sold after taken down in 1920.
This historical account is largely comprised of writings by the officers themselves, always compelling, often humorous. We are taken through daily activities in this POW camp through their recorded details which are thankfully now put together here. And oh, what stories! They include a witty ode to an iron bed frame, sordid food descriptions and rations, joyful letter days, putting on plays and festivals, shower rituals (including the funny fake shower officers and the infernal trumpet!), vegetable crop failures, beautiful walks in the countryside, prisoneritis (what a sense of humour!), latrines (not what you think), library book loans, temporary interior decorating a nook, church services and many officers' views on God, influenza, chicken "surprise", all superbly written.
Finally, FINALLY after what must have felt like decades, the officers were told they would be leaving after war's end. But that turned out not to be true. Not yet. Of course this affected everything from food supplies to staff. They eventually returned home but not before suffering that one last agony.
Many things will be memorable to me including the officers' illustrations and stories and also the fact that though Germans weren't exactly known for their compassion, they truly cared about their comrades, especially when several died to influenza. Still, it seems to me that this camp was not nearly as frightful as many I've read about as there was a certain semblance of freedom. This was acknowledged in this book.
Readers who are intrigued by the war, especially from the POW point of view, should read this. You will learn a LOT. Many questions I had were answered, including loads I hadn't even contemplated. Am I ever glad this was written!