Shropshire Routes to Roots
|Routes | World Wars | Changing face of Shropshire|
1. Prisoners of war
Did the British press manipulate Shropshire people's opinions of the Germans?
Over the centuries, Shropshire has been settled in by the Saxons, invaded by the Normans and been a line of defence for England against the Welsh. Over the years, Shropshire has been influenced by many 'newcomers'.
In the modern age, people from nations all over the world have settled in the County. During World War One (1914-1918) and later World War Two (1939-1945), many people came into Shropshire.
Prisoners of war
Although POWs did an excellent job of working the land during a time of War, different nationalities living side by side in Shropshire did not always trust one another. The extracts below show what people thought of POWs during World War One. The two extracts are taken from a Shropshire newspaper, The Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser.
On August 13th, 1919, just after the end of World War One, the paper reported on a letter which had been published in a Berlin newspaper. The letter was from a German prisoner being held at Park Hall, Oswestry. The letter said:
A defenceless German prisoner was, without legal condemnation, shot for having committed a slight offence. To mark their deep disgust and indignation, eighteen hundred officers...did not appear at roll-call. We were then fetched out by the English soldiers who pushed us with the butt ends of their rifles, and struck us with their bayonets, to the parade ground, and there we were all penned in a narrow space, and for hours were abused and knocked about. The English soldiers steal and pillage in our barracks.
In a note at the bottom of the article, the editor of the Oswestry Advertiser responded:
Of course, as our readers will remember, the prisoner was shot by pure accident, and it was only the unruly behaviour of the Germans themselves which caused the sentry to fire his rifle. But who allows these misleading stories to be sent home to Germany from the camp?
Because so many British men were fighting, there was a lack of agricultural workers. To solve this, the Board of Agriculture urged farmers to employ German Prisoners of war. However, it was not always this simple.
On July 3rd, 1918, towards the end of World War One, the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser commented on the case of one local farmer who had tried to do just that:
A local farmer said that he had applied for a prisoner [to work on his fields] but was informed that he could not have a man because there was insufficient escort at the camp!...As a matter of fact, it is doubtful whether any escort is really necessary, for we know of cases where prisoners are left by a guard in the morning and collected again in the evening and all goes smoothly with the arrangement. This may not altogether accord with the conceptions of the military mind, but the military mind must not be allowed to interfere with what strikes most people as a very advantageous arrangement...
After the World Wars, people in Shropshire welcomed people from other cultures.
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Page created October 2003 and last updated 30 July 2007