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Prisoners on Cannock Chase (Hardback)

Great War PoWs and Brocton Camp

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: WWI Military > Prisoners of War P&S History > By Century > 13th Century WWI > Prisoners of War

By Richard Pursehouse
Frontline Books
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781526728258
Published: 10th February 2020


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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.

Podcast feature

Listen here: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cua2Vuc2luZ3RvbnMub3JnLnVrLz9mZWVkPXBvZGNhc3Q/episode/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5rZW5zaW5ndG9ucy5vcmcudWsvP3Bvc3RfdHlwZT1wb2RjYXN0JnA9MTQxNg?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwiYnqfovIH9AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAQ

Mentioned in Dispatches

Review as featured in

Full article available at:

The Long, Long Trail Blog

In researching and writing “Prisoners on Cannock Chase”, Richard Pursehouse has done a terrific job.

Read the full review here

The Long, Long Trail

An excellent read, based on thorough research, that tells about the POW camps themselves but also about social history of the time. I know the Chase well and have also read much over the years about WW 1 but still found a great amount of new material. The end notes are superb and essential to read as you go. I used a tablet which makes slipping around easy. Anyone interested in the first war will enjoy this book.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, Chris & Kath Smith

As featured in

Sunday Express 8/11/20

As featured in

Sunday Express 8/11/20

Article: ‘Captive community that left its mark on the Chase’ as featured by

Express & Star, 16th May 2020 – words by Toby Neal

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.

Read the full review here

History of War

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.
Bought it for my dad who loved it, and now I'm getting stuck into it too.
Well recommended.

Amazon Customer

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.

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.

UK Historian

’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 by

Express & Star, 2nd April 2020 - words by Jamie Brassington

Article: 'Spanish Flu Left Prisoner Of War Camp Devastated' as featured by

Sunday 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.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

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 by

Burton Mail, 11th March 2020 - words by Stephen Sinfield

Article: 'Global pandemics nothing new - Spanish flu struck during the war' as featured by

The 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 by

The 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.

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.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer, K. Batchelor

Article: Peter Rhodes on a tingling sensation, a French charmer and a new book on the Midlands' forgotten prison camps as featured by

Express & Star, 25th February 2020

About Richard Pursehouse

RICHARD PURSEHOUSE, whose degree dissertation was on the Waffen S.S., has had a life-long interest in military history. A member of the Western Front Association, he has visited the battlefields of Belgium and France many times, with a focus on the fighting around Ypres and Messines. Richard has given talks on the Messines terrain model built by New Zealand soldiers on Cannock Chase during the First World War that he and Lee Dent, a fellow member of The Chase Project military research group, re-discovered in 2008. Having written for magazines such as Britain at War, Staffordshire Life, the Western Front Association’s Bulletin, and the New Zealand WFA newsletter, he also contributes to local and national newspapers. Richard has lived near Cannock Chase most of his life, and frequently drags his ‘long-suffering Messines widow’ wife Chrissie and their dog on long treks across the Chase.

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