British attitudes towards German prisoners of war and their treatment: 1939-48

Discussion in 'Research Material' started by CL1, Mar 13, 2021.

  1. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    This thesis examines attitudes expressed towards German prisoners of war (POWs) and their treatment in Britain between 1939 and 1948. The original contribution of this thesis is to highlight the importance of British values, particularly the notion of fair- play, in public discussions of the treatment of POWs. In so doing, this thesis brings together three historiographical areas which had usually been dealt with separately:
  2. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting this. I came across the Paper a few years back whilst looking something else up on Ernest Swinton (p46) ‘father of the Tank’, got drawn back to his “The Defence of Duffer’s Drift” and then sidetracked to a Rand publication on Information Operations using a similar premise:

    Anon. Back to the Paper, which I have now actually finished. Plenty of interesting snippets, quite a few of which tie to recent threads seen on WW2talk.

    One of many which chimed was the piece on the knives associated with German paratroopers (p61), which I presume were the Flieger-Kappmesser that could be opened with one hand in the event of needing to cut rigging, if stuck in a tree. A sought after ‘souvenir’. Chatting recently to a friend who had known a former Fallschirmjaeger who had settled in England, he still had his jump qualification badge that he had been gifted as a memento 40 years back. Seemingly his older brother had asked hopefully at the time if he still had his knife, but was disappointed to be told this had been taken at point of capture by a soldier from 2 LINCOLNS.

    The piece from the Hull Daily Mail reporter (p85) who “noted that while many POWs were brought to port where he was waiting to embark to Normandy, the dockyard workers stood silently watching them”. If it was Hull, it might have been other POWs:


    The dockers in this local memories feature don’t especially look like POWs, but those in the next image do:

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  3. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    I like to add the following: My father was captured on his way back from occupied Copenhagen to his home in Germany in South Denmark, and was treated very well indeed. From 1950 in Hannover, he worked for the British Army for a while
    Same with the father of a friend of mine. captured byUS forces in Huertgenwald and send to the US working in Cotton fields, Then he was asked if he would like to go back to Europe. He eventually worked on a farm in Scotland and had a ball of a time. Many years after the war, him and his Scottish friends still talked about the great time they had together.
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  4. Aeronut

    Aeronut Junior Member

    The following is part of the personal account of the 1 Bn The Black Watch, Commanding Officer, Col J A Hopwood. Obviously there's no point in putting chaps in the cage if they can be useful. :)

    After the capture of Le Havre, information was received that the Battalion would remain in the area for several days, and a general cleaning up, checking of weapons and clothing ensued. The Battalion actually remained in the Le Havre area until 25th September, when it started to move up to Dunkirk. During this period six days were spent in Le Havre town guarding captured enemy food, stores, barracks and a POW camp, some four miles east of the town. During this period a considerable amount of useful enemy equipment and store were acquired, including three generators which were able to give electric light to the whole Battalion, and two Boche electricians who volunteered to run the lighting system for the rest of the campaign rather than spend their time in the POW camp. In addition, a second Italian, named John, was also acquired from the POW camp as a companion to Luigi, who it will be remembered was taken prisoner at Le Maupas. Several cases of wine and liqueurs were obtained, and it was possible to make a distribution to all sergeants and the men in the Battalion, and at the same time to run a large Champagne cocktail party for the officers to which several French girls came. On 22nd September, the Battalion was relieved in Le Havre by 7th A & SH and returned to its old billets at Marfauville and La Chapelle.
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  5. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Just curious were German POW ever paraded through towns or cities under escort? Or were they kept out of public sight?
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  6. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    They were not 'paraded' but nearly always arrived in a port where they were formed in ranks and marched to the railway station. When they were in ranks it was easier to spot them breaking way rather than if they were in a loose crowd. After a trip to a medical / interrogation reception camp, which was short stay, most went again by train to either a regional transit camp or direct to their final camp. Again, by train. These camps were picked as the fairly large ones in 1944 as they wanted to house as many as possible in as small as possible an area, because of the shortage of guards. Lodge Moor, 17, held up to 12,000 and Sudbury, Derbyshire, also held very large numbers for example. On arrival at the station, men were again formed in ranks and collected from the train guards formed from the Corps of Military Police, (blue caps not red caps), and marched to the camp by the camp guard force. Incomers arrived usually one train load at a time. Below Weymouth June 1944, when the tanks were there probably because of the uncertainties of the US reception teams at this early stage. Weymouth and Portland for US POW landings, Southampton and Gosport for the Brits and Canadians in the early days.

    Office of Medical History - Surgery in WWII - Activities of Surgical Consultants
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Parading of enemy POWs, not as I remember from newsreels of the time. Such a practice of humiliation was not the policy of the British government. It was one to educate German POWs on the advantage of the democratic system as opposed to the totalitarian system which for many was the only system that they had experienced in their lives. Overall and certainly of the Western Powers, although Stalin did sign up to it, was for Germany after its defeat to be reastablished as a democratic free state.

    A step towards this was to assess POWs as to their political insight.. those who retained their allegiance to the National Socialism ideology, the hard liners and those not so indoctrinated.

    Entirely different in Russia where POWs were paraded through public fairways to enforce the ideology and the regime were hitting back against the invader....propaganda as expected.
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  8. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    The Laws of Armed Conflict require that prisoners of war are protected against .... insults and public curiosity. By and large, a paucity of questionable photographs and adverse memories suggest this was quite well applied. The decency with which many prisoners were treated is evident in a lot of the testimonies of those who stayed behind and naturalised, who also then felt obliged to contribute more then they received. Anyone like myself who ever enjoyed the delights of Cultybraggan will have given a second glance when reading of the bequest given a few years ago by Heinrich Steinmeyer. Bert Trautmann remains a legend even outside Manchester and the ever modest Werner Heubeck another. And this repayment for decency continues. There are fewer ex-PWs still about - the last I knew passed away last December - Obituary: Ted Winkler, wartime airman - and many were ordinary and non-celebrity, but they probably remain as fondly remembered as any local veteran.
  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The relevant agreement covering the act of war when the Second World War started was the Geneva Convention of 1929 which laid down how POWs should be treated in time of war. It was agreed and recognised by the signatories of the majority of countries with few exceptions.

    Any circumventing of the Convention by the excuse that a country did not recognise it because they were not a signatory to the Convention proved to be no avail when such countries were brought to book for their ill treatment of POWs.
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  10. Osborne2

    Osborne2 Well-Known Member

    This did not happen in Britain. Moscow 57,000 being paraded through the streets in 1944.
    Harry Ree likes this.

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