Prisoners on Cannock Chase (Hardback)
Great War PoWs and Brocton Camp
Over the course of many years Richard Pursehouse has painstakingly unravelled the story of a First World War prisoner of war camp which held captured German personnel in the very heart of the English countryside.
He first became aware of the existence of the camp while walking over Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, finding sewer covers in what appeared to be uninhabited heathland. Intrigued, the author set out to investigate the mystery and discovered that the sewers were for two Army camps – Brocton and Rugeley – that had been constructed for soldiers training during the First World War. What he also found, however, was that the Brocton Camp site also included a segregated autonomous prisoner of war camp.
With the aid of an old postcard, Richard was able to identify the exact location and layout of the long-lost camp. His research continued until he had accumulated an enormous amount of detail about the camp and life for its prisoners. He found a file by the Camp Commandant, Swiss Legation correspondence, stories in newspapers, letters and diaries, and received photographs from interested individuals. Amongst his finds was a box holding scores of fascinating letters sent home by an administration clerk while he was working at the camp.
During his investigations, Richard also learned of attempted murders and escapes (including the only escapee to make it back to Germany), deaths, thefts – and a fatal scandal. The letters, documents and diaries reveal how the prisoners coped with incarceration, as well as their treatment, both in terms of camp conditions and their medical needs.
He has also established a definitive answer to the ‘myth’ that some of the prisoners assisted in building the nearby Messines terrain model. The model was a post-battle training tool to instruct newly-arrived New Zealand troops, which also provided a visual explanation of how they had defeated the Germans in the Battle of Messines in June 1917.
The result is a unique insight into what life was like inside a British Prisoner of War camp during the First World War.
This is more than local history (although it will be of great interest to people from the area – I certainly intend to go and find the site once we are all allowed out again!), as it covers an important but often sidelined aspect of the First World War.History of War
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A well researched and written book, with great attention to detail and plenty of humour. You get the feeling that the author loves his subject and has dug deep for facts and anecdotes.Amazon Customer
Bought it for my dad who loved it, and now I'm getting stuck into it too.
What a fascinating read on a subject I knew little about and I suspect that most people have little knowledge about too. I suspect these days when people think of prisoner of war camps they think of WW2 and camps British soldiers had to endure. But this book looks at everyday life for the prisoners such as exercise, work parties, food, security and much more. The book is also very impressive not just in its writing and research but also the maps at the beginning of the various camps is very clear and well done. Along with all the pictures in the whole book that range from the prison camp inmates, to staff, to the location and also propaganda, posters and documents related to the site.UK Historian
At the end of the book is a very comprehensive Endnotes section to read which is excellent and not very often seen. This is a very impressive book, very well written and researched and I can honestly say it was a joy to read. An excellent 5 stars.
’Story of German PoWs on Chase’Express & Star (print), 3rd April 2020
Article: 'Life of German prisoners of war on Cannock Chase told in new book’ as featured byExpress & Star, 2nd April 2020 - words by Jamie Brassington
Article: 'Spanish Flu Left Prisoner Of War Camp Devastated' as featured bySunday Mercury, 8th March 2020
The book is an interesting look at a little-known theme that will thrill the historian and the enthusiast of the Great War.On The Old Barbed Wire
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Richard Pursehouse has uncovered so much more about this area and turned it into a fascinating book worthy of your attention. As a first world war POW camp, it saw various scandals, intrigues and escapes. It's Richard's painstaking research and diligence in uncovering the stories that are showcased so brilliantly in his amazing book.Books Monthly
Article: 'Spanish flu left prisoner of war camp devastated'Birmingham Post, 19th March 2020
Article: 'Guilty of selling bread to war prisoners and other secrets' as featured byBurton Mail, 11th March 2020 - words by Stephen Sinfield
Article: 'Global pandemics nothing new - Spanish flu struck during the war' as featured byThe Staffordshire Newsletter, 18th March 2020
A well research piece of work on a topic which has received little attention in the past. The content reads well and is supported by a good pictorial collection. I wonder if some of the contemporary images could have been lightened and the present day photographs printed in colour - as a light relief to all those in black and white.Amazon Customer, Brian Baker
Article: 'New book tells the story of Great War German prisoners' as featured byThe Bugle – words by Dan Shaw
I ordered this book over a year ago, but it was not delivered until yesterday. However, it was worth the wait. Being a resident of Stafford I am keenly interested in the history of Cannock Chase and have already researched the history of Brocton and Rugeley's WWI military training camps, as well as the WWII RAF camp at Hednesford. But, until now, detailed information about the prisoner-of-war camp was scarce. That is remedied with Richard Pursehouse's excellent new book, 'Prisoners on Cannock Chase'. Packed with maps, photographs and illustrations, this invaluable record details the prisoners, Commandant, guards, interpreters, work parties, kitchens, hospital, railway, buildings, Red Cross inspections, Spanish Flu epidemic, recreation, crime, discipline, eventual repatriation, dismantling and disposal of fixed assets, etc.Amazon Customer, K. Batchelor
It is a thoroughly well-researched and highly-recommended insight into an important aspect of the history of Cannock Chase. As stated above, the book arrived only yesterday, but already I have read it avidly from cover to cover.
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