19-25 January 1915: Contact from Prisoners of War

The South Western Star of 22 January 1915 carried two letters from Battersea men who had been at the front and were now prisoners of war. The first letter came from Private J H Gardiner, of Hut 32A, Gottinggen, Hanover and was dated 15 December, although it did not reach the offices of the Star until the beginning of the week it was published. He encourages everyone at home to carry on doing all they can for soldiers at the front, including noting how welcome parcels containing warm clothing are – proof that the girls of Upper Tooting School were right to be knitting socks.

…I am sorry to say that those who have had the misfortune to be taken prisoners often get forgotten. A lot of the soldiers here are receiving parcels from friends, which are very welcome – such as warm clothing and parcels of eatables. We are always on the look-out for parcels of eatables. We have here several Battersea men who are not so fortunate as others and are unable to get parcels sent them, and it adds to the hardships to see other men receiving parcels when we are unable to have them sent. It is on account of these men of Battersea that I am writing to ask you if you could use your influence to get some Battersea people to send parcels of eatables and clothing to their townsfolk out here. Parcels of eatables and clothing we are allowed to receive and anything such as cake, biscuits, tarts, pies, jam, potted meat etc are very welcome…

The second letter came from a group of Battersea men who were held elsewhere, as they note that “we are the only Battersea men here”. They wrote to ask for “a change of underclothing, also a parcel of provisions and tobacco and a pipe each”. In response to this being published they all promised to “call at the South Western Star offices the first day we reach Battersea”. It was signed from E Locke, T Walsh, G Dyer and B Golder and each man had included his number and regiment.

The Red Cross has records relating to Prisoners of War and these can be searched online. An initial search has discovered that Private Golder was Benjamin Golder, the information beside is name is “La Bassee”, which is presumably where he was captured. This information was supplied to the Red Cross in 1916 and the digitised records are available online here. The site can be difficult to use – the only other record found easily was that of George Dyer, who was held near Munster – and the original lists of prisoners have all the information bar the names and regiments in German.

The South Western Star is available on microfilm

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