Prisoners of War in WWI Had It Tough

The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia), November 12, 2018 | Go to article overview

Prisoners of War in WWI Had It Tough


Byline: LOOKING BACK RICHMOND RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY

WE KNOW a great deal about the World War II prisoners of war, but little about the World War I prisoners.

A cursory look at the various indexes might give the impression that there were no prisoners. However, more than 4000 Australians were captured, mostly by the Germans.

The Turkish captured about 230. A full 25 per cent of those captured by the Turkish died while in captivity, whereas only 9 per cent of those captured by the Germans died.

The Turkish camps and facilities were more primitive and food was scarce, medical care primitive or non-existent, and illnesses such as typhus and malaria were rampant.

However, it should be remembered that most of the Turkish population suffered in a similar fashion. The German situation was much better, especially as regards medical attention.

Both countries used most prisoners of war as labourers, in factories, on construction of roads and port facilities, and the Turkish built a railway in southern Turkey.

This railway, built mainly in mountainous country, caused many deaths.

Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, and poor diet took their toll.

It was a forerunner of World War II's Burma-Thailand Railway horror!

Some prisoners of war fared better than others, and a special branch of the Australian Red Cross was established to send food and clothing parcels to all prisoners.

This saved many lives. Going through the Army record of individual soldiers highlights the efforts of this service.

The first thing was to find whether a soldier was indeed a prisoner and then to put him on the list to receive parcels.

Lists of prisoners came through from the German authorities from time to time but these were often very out of date by the time they were received in England.

Then the British Army had to advise the Australian Army and a man could die in the meantime. …

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