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BRIMINGTONS PRISONERS OF WAR
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - during the First World War some 8 million soldiers fighting on the front were taken prisoner and interned in camps, of whom around 2,400,000 were held by Germany.
In Germany -as in Britain-
meticulous war records were kept by the "The Kriegsministerium" (Ministry of
War) in Berlin. So the date and place of capture, death and or release
were recorded in detail - together with any personal information about the
Thanks to newly released information we have - so far - been able to uncover details of four Brimington soldiers who were prisoners of the Germans - but there could be more. What we know is that three of our men died in captivity, and one made it back to Brimington but died shortly after as a result of the injuries and illness he sustained whilst a prisoner of war -
"GUESTS OF THE KAISER"
Private George Insley
Private George Insley was reported missing on 27th March 1918 during the first week of the German Spring offensive - the ‘Kaiserschlacht’.
spite of stubborn resistance by the British forces the Germans managed to enter
Aveluy Wood, near the River Ancre on the Somme during the night of the 26th March 1918
and it was during this encounter with the enemy that Private Insley - along
with more than 200 of his comrades was taken prisoner.
He and his fellow POW's were taken north and imprisoned to an area around Mons in Belgium. The conditions inside the camp were known to be pretty bad and it was here in October 1918 that Private George Insley died of influenza. According to German records he died on 18th October but the CWGC has the date of death as 26th.
The Brimington soldier was initially buried in Havre Old Communal Cemetery, to the east of Mons. But later he was re -interred by the CWGC in St Symphorien Cemetery.
(left - Page from Private Insley POW record kept by the Germans)
Private Tom Inns
Private Tom Inns was taken prisoner within hours of his arrival at the notoriously bloody battlefield of Loos on the 5th September 1915 His battalion suffered heavy casualties and the Germans took many prisoners. He was eventually taken to the infamous Wesel POW camp in Germany. Reports of the prison camp were not favourable. Rumours of disease, malnutrition and forced labour were rife. Private Inns died in the camp of ‘disease’ on the 3rd May 1917.
He was probably buried first in the Friedrichsfeld POW - then in 1922 the CWGC decided that the graves of commonwealth servicemen who had died all over Germany should be brought together into 4 permanent cemeteries and Private Inns was transferred to Cologne Southern Cemetery.
(above - Page from Private Inns POW record kept by the Germans)
Sapper Charles Unwin
The parents of Sapper Charles Unwin received a letter on 10th August 1918 from their son stating that he was ‘...was a prisoner of war in a German camp ‘ This was the first communication they’d had from him since April that year.
It is now known that the Brimington soldier was reported as missing on May 30th when he was captured by the Germans and he died of wounds to the abdomen on June 15th 1918- two months before his parents received the letter.
According the his POW records Sapper Unwin was originally buried in Vervins German Cemetery in the Aisne area of Picardy. He was re-interred in Grand Seraucourt British Cemetery in July 1920. (above - Sapper Unwin's re-burial report (2nd entry)
Private William Haycox
We first came across the story of Brimington man Private William Haycox’s brutal treatment by the Germans, in a copy of the Sheffield Evening Telegraph from October 1918. Under the heading -
""HUN HORRORS"" Brimington Mans TrialsPrivate Haycox described the full horror of his four years in a German labour camp to the reporter
Since then we have delved deeper into the archives to uncover much more of the soldier’s terrible ordeal.
It was during the 1st Battle of Ypres - on the 20th October 1914 - at Ennetieres near Armentieres that Private Haycox was captured by the Germans. He remained a prisoner of war for the duration until his eventual repatriation on 3rd October 1918. For most of that time he was interned in the infamous Claustral POW camp in Lower Saxony, where the conditions were harsh and the regime brutal.
He described his capture and subsequent journey to the prison camp ‘Whilst travelling’ he said ‘we asked the German sisters for drinks of water for the wounded men, but these were refused and the sisters spat in the faces of the men ‘ and he added … ‘..at every station at which the train stopped on the way the Germans entered and thrashed the men with sticks, threw stones and other missiles at them’
When the men reached the camp, the Brimington man described how several of them were sent to work in a salt mine, but they refused to work, and as a result they were ‘all bayoneted and thrashed by the German soldiers “ Private Haycox revealed that he was “ ..stabbed in both legs and then bit between the eyes” and kept on ‘starvation rations of watery soup’ for many days.
When again the prisoners refused to work in the salt mines, they were taken to a punishment hut, and according to Private Haycox ‘.. placed up to the waist in water and kept in that place for seven days. And each morning taken out and flogged’ By the seventh day of the punishment the prisoners all gave in and were sent to work in the mines.
Apart from British prisoners, Private Haycox mentioned large numbers of French and Russian prisoners in the camp. And it was the Russians who helped dig an escape tunnel with the British. Sixteen Russians and two English - Private Haycox was one of them – made a bid to escape and managed to get within sight of the German border near Meppin, before they were recaptured.
The escapees were given 14 days ‘punishments’ for the offence.
In spite of the terrible hardships and suffering it appeared that the brave soldier was determined to put his awful experiences behind him and expressed a wish to return to his job as a miner at Ireland pit as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately just a month after his story appeared in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph on the 26th November 1918 Private Haycox died of the injuries he sustained during his imprisonment.
He was given a military funeral before his burial in Staveley cemetery. He was 32 years old and lived at Station Road, Brimington.
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