NAVY NEWS, JUNE 2007 27
SOCIAL and military historians
can study the plight of Britons
who fell into enemy hands 90
years ago from the sanctuary of
their own homes now.
Experts at the National
Archives (formerly the Public
Record Offi ce) – Britain’s
repository for offi cial documents
– have digitised reports,
interviews and papers relating to
around 3,000 people who were
taken prisoner by the Central
Powers in the Great War.
Nearly 200,000 British and
Commonwealth citizens were
captured during the four-
year cataclysm – and a small
percentage were repatriated or
escaped before the war’s end in
Those who did return to Allied
hands before the war’s end faced
interviews by the Committee on
the Treatment of British Prisoners
of War, who were keen to know
how well Britons had fared under
Many returning PoWs wrote
detailed narratives of their capture
and subsequent release/escape,
as well as providing accounts of
everyday life in prison camps.
They were also asked to
provide details of hospital
treatment on the other side of the
wire, such as whether German
doctors treated them kindly,
whether they received parcels
from home and what conditions
had been like.
The database compiled by
National Archives staff allows
people to search for an individual,
military unit, regimental/service
number and relevant people or
information contained in a report.
The 3,000 or so papers can
be searched via http://www.
if you prefer the traditional way
of researching, they can be found ● The Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth perform in the heart of Chatham during a celebration of the freedom of the town by the namesake frigate’s ship’s company
in fi le series WO161 at the NA Picture: Lt Cdr Chris Smith, HMS Chatham
SEVENTEEN years after she was
offi cially welcomed into the Fleet,
HMS Chatham returned to the quay
where it all began to celebrate Lord Mayor
the freedom of Medway.
With a bough of Kent oak raised in the
● An artist’s impression of the
new marines’ and corporals’
yardarm – a traditional sign celebrating the
blocks at Lympstone
independence of Medway folk (pictured,
right) – the Devonport-based Type 22
Also among the
frigate came alongside in No.2 basin at the
visitors were: Sea Cadets from
Out with the
berth where she was commissioned in 1990.
TS Talisman, Trafalgar and
Locals in houses and flats near the dockyard
Excalibur, the staff of the Jellybean
decked the outside of their homes in colourful flags
Appeal (which supports premature and
old at CTCRM
to celebrate their ship’s return.
sick babies), visitors from the Moss Lea
This was the first time Chatham had been home in
and Whitelodge day centres for people
18 months and some things had definitely improved
with disabilities, and Gerry Marsden.
BULLDOZERS have moved in at
in that time, chiefly the performance of her football
Gerry – as in 60s Merseybeaters Gerry
the Commando Training Centre
and the Pacemakers – is admittedly a
RM in Lympstone to pull down
Back in September 2005, the sailors were
Scouser, but he is friends with the destroyer’s
old junior ranks accommodation.
humiliated 11-0 by Chatham Town.
Ten weeks of demolition
There was no re-match in 2007, but there was
He was invited aboard with his wife
work on the corporals’ and a clash with the local police on Gillingham FC’s
Pauline and they repaid the hospitality
marines’ blocks at the Devon training ground, where the constabulary ran out
inviting the fl iers to their home to watch
establishment should have been 6-3 winners, despite a second-half comeback
the Grand National.
completed by the time you read by Chatham.
Some members of the ship’s company
this. The ship used the visit home to hand over
enjoyed the great horse race in the fl esh,
Rising phoenix-like on the half the proceeds of fundraising during her
while other sailors were invited to
same site over the next ten South Atlantic deployment last year.
Manchester City’s stadium to watch
months will be modern single- Crew raised £2,400, split equally
a Premiership clash with Liverpool
living accommodation with between Derriford Hospital in Plymouth
(which turned out to be a rather
individual cabins for marines and the Oliver Fisher Special Care Baby
drab 0-0 draw).
and corporals on the staff at Trust in Medway Maritime Hospital,
Also to be found by the shores of the
Lympstone. Gillingham; the latter is a cause close to the
Mersey that very same weekend was
“What the corporals and heart of Medway lad PO Gary Hammell as
HMS Mersey herself, calling in on her
marines here will be getting are his daughter had benefited from the care the
affi liated borough of Sefton.
230 en-suite cabins with full-sized hospital provided.
And as it happened a dozen sailors from
beds and a phone point allowing The key event of the visit was a freedom parade
the fishery protection ship made a bee-line for
broadband internet access,” down Chatham’s high street; 110 of the ship’s
explained WO Des Cannon, company of 250 were spared for the ceremony, with
They also made a bee-line for a park in the
Barrack Services Warrant Officer the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth leading
heart of the Waterloo district of Sefton.
at Lympstone. the way.
More than half the ship’s company tackled
“The two new blocks will Medway folk thanked the Chatham men and a rather overgrown waterfall, stream and pond,
also provide communal areas women for coming home at an official reception in which were all given a much-needed makeover,
for laundry, preparing food and the town’s St George’s Hall. while locals in turn provided much-needed
relaxation. Meanwhile in the north-west, destroyer HMS refreshments to keep the Merseymen and
“They will be a vast Manchester arrived in Liverpool for Grand National women’s energy levels up.
improvement on what is currently weekend (the timing was entirely coincidental we Like Manchester, Mersey hosted a reception
available and – more importantly believe...). for affiliates and friends of the ship aboard.
– it’s accommodation which is fit The height of bridges on the Manchester Unlike Manchester, however, they were
for purpose.” Ship Canal precludes any thought of the treated to an unveiling of a new ship: a
The new blocks are part of destroyer visiting the northern metropolis. 1:96 scale radio-control model of Mersey
a wider initiative to upgrade all But if the mountain can’t come to (which by our reckoning should be 271cm
accommodation for single Service Mohammed... long – or 106in in old money).
personnel across the Armed Numerous affiliates were hosted aboard The replica is the work of expert
Forces; last month saw the final the Busy Bee – her nickname comes from modelmaker David Wooley who has spent
block at HMS Nelson, Vanguard the industrious insects on the ship’s badge two years crafting Mersey in miniature
block, ready for occupation. – which berthed at Huskisson Dock in form; he’s now turning his attention to a
The £2bn programme should Liverpool. rather larger challenge, future carrier HMS
be completed in 2013. The ship hosted an official reception for Prince of Wales.
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