Prisoners of the Kaiser
By Richard Van Emden
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military 2000 208 Pages
PDF 119 MB
The men whose stories are told in this book are unique, their recollections a final testament to a time in history almost beyond human recall. They are the last Prisoners of War captured during the 1914-1918 war and they are all over 100 years old. The search for these men has been exhaustive, and they probably represent almost all the surviving British prisoners from that time. Sadly, even as I write, they are fading away as all good soldiers are required to do. It is perfectly possible to assert, as I did, that a veteran is alive, to be told that he had died. He was alive in my mind because I had recently photographed him, and although frailer than when I first met him, he was as mentally active as ever. And then you hear he died two months ago, and you realise that you photographed him in March, and four months to a man who is 106 years old may as well be five years. The passing of Jack Rogers, affable, gentlemanly, courteous and kind, forces me to acknowledge that so significant a time in our nation's development is now beyond us - nearly.
If there is a common thread in the stories of all those captured during the First World War, it is that they never expected to become prisoners of war. For the nature of conflict at the front brought on a particular fatalism, perhaps unique to this War. The soldiers who went abroad to serve fully expected to fight, and most expected to die or at least be wounded in action. All - no doubt - harboured the desire to come back alive and whole, but short of that, they desired either a quick and merciful death or an injury that would send them home, light enough not to blight their lives but harsh enough to preclude any further participation in the war. None of the men that I have met in the past or during the research for this book ever expected to be taken prisoner. Their capture was a surprise. Then it was a shock.