During the First World War, 8 million solidiers were captured and sent to internment camps! And Yves’ brother Jean Baptiste was one of them.
I searched for information on the “Prisoners of the First World War” website to see if I could find anything to confirm or increase our knowledge about his experience. And here is the confirmation –
The card reads
Goasdoue, Jean Baptiste
Soldat Art. 3/4
Venant de Leysin
Repatrie le 12/9/18
Here’s a link to the glossary to explain the codes on the cards – http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/Content/help/glossary-en.pdf
Internment camp at Stendal
From what I can gather from the documents above, Jean Baptiste was originally in Stendal internment camp. I cannot read German so this may not be true! If anyone can read German or figure out what the documents say, please comment below or drop me a line.
Here is a report on the camp which makes pretty interesting reading.
Enclosure 2 in No. 10. Report by Mr. Jackson on Visit to Prisoners’ Detention Camp at Stendal.
On sandy soil, in what were cavalry exercise grounds, a camp has been built to contain 15,000 prisoners of war. Dependent upon this camp are a large number of ” Arbeitslager ” containing men in groups of various numbers from ten or a dozen up to 2,000, and at the time of my visit there were only about 7,200 in the parent camp. In that number were included sixty-four British and Canadians, all of whom had been more of less severely wounded, who had been brought during the past few weeks from hospitals at Cologne and Wittenberg. All said that they had been well treated in the hospitals, and several mentioned the fact that they had been treated with great kindness in the temporary hospitals to which they had been brought immediately after tlieir capture. Four British prisoners from this camp were included in the recent exchange of severely wounded, but there remain a number who have lost a limb or are on crutches, and who could be of no further active military service. None of these British prisoners are called on to work outside and only a few do light jobs in the camp. One of the non-commissioned officers (Corporal Frazer) has recovered from his Avounds to such an extent that he is to take part in a boxing match with tlie French camp champion in a few days. I talked with all the British prisoners and none had any important complaint. A few thought that their letters were not coming through promptly, but on investigation I found that their mail (letters and parcels) was still being sent by their friends to the hospitals in which they had been before coming to Stendal. Tliey all said that their mail had been received promptly while they were in the hospitals. A few wanted boots or underclothing, but they admitted that they had not made their wants known to the German authorities, and as soon as I called attention to the matter the commandant said they would be supplied. There is a large tailor shop (Russian prisoners) in the camp where quantities of outer garments (dark blue for summer, and dark blue or black for winter, with yellow piping) are being made to replace worn-out uniforms. In my conversation with the prisoners there was no complaint about the food, and not one of them even mentioned that subject. The kitchens are large, Avell arranged and scrupulously clean. The menu for the week is appended hereto.* The canteen seemed well supplied, and ” lemonades” and alcohol- free beer are purchasable. There were no British patients in the lazaret, whei’e one British private helps keep the place in order. The building was clean and well ventilated. In the lazaret all the sick have beds, and in the ordinary barracks iron beds are also provided for such of the severely wounded as might find it difficult to use the ordinary mattresses which are used by the other prisoners as well as by the German guards. The barracks are of the ordinary wooden type, clean, well aired and not over-crowded. The camp is divided into eight company enclosures each of which has its own wash and clothes drying rooms (there are also open-air washing facilities), and latrines, which ai’e far enough from the barracks to be unobjectionable and connected with the city water system so that they can be flushed as often as is desirable. There is one bath room (about forty douches with hot and cold water) Avith disinfecting ovens, through Avhich the men and their clothes pass about once a Aveek. An open-air swimming bath is being arranged. Tub baths are provided in the lazaret Avhere there is also a croquet ground. The commandant. Colonel Krause, has had charge of the camp ever since it was opened last October, and he seems very much interested in his work and is evidently respected by the prisoners. He has made use of large plots of ground in the neighbour- hood of the camp to grow potatoes, cabbages, lettuce, &c., the profits being used for the benefit of the prisoners as a body. June 30, 1915. * Not printed.
Our family story is that Jean Baptiste caught tuberculosis in the camp and was exchanged with a German prisoner then sent to Switzerland for treatment. We can’t be sure about the prisoner exchange part, but there was indeed an agreement between Switzerland and Germany to transfer prisoners-of-war with tuberculosis to Switzerland, and for sure Jean Baptiste was there – we have postcard to Yves from Leysin and the document above also confirms that on repatriation at the end of the war, JB was “venant de Leysin” (1).
This site describes what life was like in Leysin
Original prisoner documents: http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/File/Details/629352/6/2/