Captain C. V. Beresford - 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - Prisoner of War 1914
Charles Venalee Beresford, was born on 13th December, 1876 in North London. He was first commissioned into The Worcestershire Regiment on 21st March, 1900 from the Devon Militia. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment on its formation in 1900 from Oxford University. He was appointed Adjutant of the 5th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in 1908. He rejoined the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Dover in 1911 and was appointed Adjutant, (he also had temporary commission in the Royal Flying Corps) and served continuously with 3rd Battalion until 1914 when he was Captain and Adjutant of the Battalion. He sailed from Southampton on the 14th August 1914 in SS “Bosnian” arrived Havre on the morning of the 15th August. Shortly after his arrival in France he was severely wounded at the Battle of Le Gateau, he was sent to a temporary hospital which shortly afterwards fell into the hands of the Germans. He was Mentioned in Despatches on the 8th October 1914. After the war he was re-posted to the 3rd Battalion at Dover and rose to the rank of Major as Second-in-Command. He was invalided out of the army on 23rd November, 1920. He was a very popular officer and a good cricketer. He continued playing cricket, a game which was always close to his heart, and was for many years Secretary of Worcestershire County Cricket Club. For many years he had lived quietly in Devonshire. He died on the 19th April 1968 at the grand age of 91 at Odstock, Instow, North Devon.
Below is his own account of being captured and his time as a prisoner of war:
Report On Treatment In Germany from The 26th August, 1914 to 12th August, 1916
By Captain Beresford, Worcestershire Regiment
Capt. C. V. Beresford
"In writing the following report I have commenced from the time I was wounded, during the afternoon on the 26th August 1914, at Caudry. On recovering consciousness I found myself in a small hospital in the village of Caudry; on the 28th the Germans, who were then in occupation of the place, came into the hospital and sent all the wounded to Cambrai. On arrival there I was put in a large schoolroom, there were a great number of wounded in the room, both English and Germans; we were attended to by a German doctor and several French Red Cross girls; the room in which we were put was filthy, and practically the only cleaning that was carried out was done by a man who came round the beds, and sprinkled disinfectant from a watering can; the food was also very bad.
I remained in this place for about 8 days, when one morning I was told I was to get ready to go to Germany, I was helped out of bed at about 5 a.m., and dressed; then with the aid of some brother officers, who were also to be sent, I was supported down to the railway station; we were kept there all that day until the following morning, with a little dirty straw to lie on. During this time practically nothing was given to us; if anything was brought round in the shape of nourishment the Germans came first, then the French, and if there was anything over the English had it. The train for conveying us to Germany was ready about 10 to 11 a.m.; a German doctor then came in to where we were, he told the other officers to fall in, at the same time telling me I was to be sent back to hospital. I was then sent to the Civil Hospital, still run by the French, and where I remained in bed until the 8th of October or thereabouts; things were much better here, and one got good attention from the head French surgeon of the town, and who operated on me the day I arrived; the food was the best they could give us, as practically all supplies had been stopped.
After this date (8th October) I was removed up to a private ambulance on the outskirts of Cambrai, and which was looked after by a Madame Brunot; I was left here until the 16th October, when I was told to get out of bed, and get ready for my journey to Germany. I left the ambulance in a car that took me to the station, and where I arrived at about 10.30 a.m., I then had in my possession a small kit bag, in which I had a few articles of clothing, and a little food given to me by the French Red Cross. On getting out of the car on to the platform my bag was seized by several German soldiers, who proceeded to ransack it, anything they fancied they took, the rest of the things were thrown about in the mud, at the same time all my pockets were emptied by several German privates, and an officer proceeded to cut off the few remaining buttons I had on my service dress jacket, the other ornaments having previously been removed.
Capt. C. V. Beresford
After this performance, I was told I could now pick up my things, most of which had been taken. I was then put in the train. We remained in the siding all the rest of the day while the train was being filled up, and it was well into the night before we moved off. The first attempt in the shape of giving us any food, or water to drink, took place at Mons Station, on the Saturday morning, and as this consisted of one or two men with buckets of soup, with nothing to put it in, most of us had to go without. No other nourishment was to be had until reaching a place called Bingen-on-Rhine on Monday the 19th of October; there were numberless Red Cross women, with coffee, and other eatables at the stations we passed through, but these women, as soon as they saw we were English would not give us anything. From the time of leaving Cambrai, one was insulted at every stop, and which were very frequent, people crowded round the carriage, women included, and called one every name they could think of. There was no officer on the train, and one was left to the tender mercies of an under officer, and who took a delight to exhibit one as a wild beast.
At Bingen-on-Rhine we were put into a siding, and given a meal consisting of soup, this was the first since leaving Mons on the Saturday, and it was then Monday mid-day. On getting into my carriage again, which happened to be a second class, I was immediately pulled out by an under officer, who used most insulting language, and I was hauled into a third class compartment with some of our own men, and some French. On leaving Bingen I was taken on to Darmstadt, where we arrived at about 7 p.m. on the Monday. I was then put in a small room, and at about 8.30 p.m. was again put in the train, and taken to Mainz.
I was met at Mainz Station by an escort from the Citadelle, and marched up. On arrival I was put into a small room with three beds in it, attended by two under officers and a file of the guard. I was again searched. After this they left the room, locking the door, with a parting warning that if my lamp was not out in five minutes, the sentry would shoot through the window. During my first night, I was visited twice by an officer and a file of the guard with fixed bayonets, who marched up to my bed, shouted something in German, and retired.
Next morning at 7 a.m. I was visited by an under officer, who told me I was to get up at once, and that I had to parade at 9 a.m. for inspection. This I did together with the French officers, about 150 in number. I was placed on the left of the line, and after the others had been inspected by a major, by name de Raadt, and one of the worst types of officers I met during my two years in Germany, my turn to be inspected came. This officer walked round me several times calling me names. I had very little clothing on, one thing I had was a woolly waistcoat; this he objected to, saying it was not uniform, and had it taken away from me, leaving me with only a pair of breeches, boots, and very torn service dress jacket, and shirt. It was then bitterly cold, and one was not allowed to enter the building until 11 a.m., so I was left to keep warm as best I could. This was rather a difficult matter, as my wounds were still open, and I could scarcely walk. During my first morning at Mainz I was marched off by an under officer and a private to have a bath, under a cold tap, the latter performed the duty of washing me.
From this time onwards, for about three to four weeks, things were just bearable; we had two hours' exercise in the mornings and two in the afternoons, round a small square about the size of a double tennis court. It was naturally very crowded, as there were close on 200 officers. There was also a small room in which, if you had money, you could buy a few provisions and some articles of clothing. Towards the end of November things in general got very bad; both the commandant and this Major De Raadt went out of their way to make things as unbearable as possible. The canteen was shut, and nothing was allowed to be bought; one was only allowed to walk very slowly round the exercise ground, the time for being out was reduced; in the evenings one was shut up in one's room at 6 p.m., and not allowed to visit any other room; one was let out at 7.30 p.m. and marched up to a canteen, where a little supper was served. After it was over one had to return straight to one's room, remaining until bed time (9 p.m.), when all lights were put out. The rooms were overcrowded, and being locked up in this manner made things almost unbearable.
Periodical searches were made of all ones things, and on these occasions one was locked in one's room, on one occasion I remember from ten in the morning until close on nine in the evening. This sort of treatment went on till well into the New Year of 1915, when a large Commission of Red Cross visited the barracks. Complaints about the treatment were made, with the result that shortly after their visit things began to improve; the commandant disappeared, and not very long after Major De Raadt.
The new commandant was a great improvement, and also the new major, who was a gentleman and treated one as such. A great deal more ground was given us for exercise; one could visit the other barracks; a better canteen was started; the food improved, and we were allowed to buy a certain quantity of beer and wine at meals; the clothing, such as British warms and Burberrys, that had been taken away, were now returned to us; and after the bad times we had all had it was a welcome change. The American Consul visited us and helped to improve things considerably.
About the 12th May 1915, everyone in Mainz were sent up north to Stralsund on the Baltic. This camp could in no way be compared with Mainz. Arriving there after 24 hours' journey we were handed over to a new commandant. He was quite a decent fellow, friendly inclined towards the British, he in no way bothered one; we got most of the things we asked for, and had a large expanse of ground in which to take exercise; it was just over a mile round the island where we were allowed to walk. The only complaints to be made concerning this camp were the room accommodation, the sanitary arrangements, and the food, which were very bad. For several months all that was provided was a cup of coffee in the morning at 7.30 a.m., and a midday meal that at times was not fit to eat. There was some improvement before I left, as the food arrangements were taken over by a German officer, whereas before it was run by sort of hotel keepers, who made as much out of it as possible.
The English censor at Stralsund, by name Baron Heyking, showed kindness towards the British officers. He was always ready to get us things we wanted, if they were procurable, and he was very generous regarding the number of letters we wrote home. I was at Stralsund from May 1915, to the end of July 1916, and have no complaints to make against the authorities there.
I was sent to Constance for the second board of doctors about the 25th of July. I was passed by them to be sent to Switzerland, but as there was a delay in the exchange of prisoners, we were all sent back to Heidelberg, and where I remained until the 11th August. I was too short a time at this camp to express an opinion, but as far as I could see it was quite a good camp, and where one was treated as prisoners of war, and not criminals, by the commandant and the staff under him.
Before finishing this report I should like to say that I received kindness at the hands of Prince Max of Baden, as did likewise other British officers he came in contact with, and he did a good deal for our well being."
C. V. BERESFORD, Captain,
3rd Worcestershire Regiment.
Château d'Oex, 10.12.16.
Major Charles Venables Beresford was born on the 13th December 1876, and was first commissioned onto The Worcestershire Regiment on the 21st March 1900. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment on its formation in 1900 from Oxford Universityand served continuously with that Battalion until 1914 when he was Captain and Adjutant of the Battalion. He was severly wounded at the Battle of Le Cateau in 1914 and was in a temporary hospital which fell into the hands of the Germans.
He retired from the army on 23rd November 1920. He was a good cricketer and was for many years the Secretary of the Worcestershire County Cricket Club.
He died at Odstock, Instow, North Devon on the 19th April 1968, age 92.