Corporal Joe Hartill, (No. 201341) 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment - POW 1918

Home address: 2, Hill Street, Upper Gosnal, Dudley, Staffs.

Place and Date of Capture: Near St. Quentin. 29th March 1918.

Last November 1917, I saw the doctor of my unit, an R.A.M.C., Captain Mannel by name; go out in front of the parapet to the help of a wounded man. He was fired at and wounded. The Germans could see he was a Red Cross man, for he had the band on his arm. He got back to our lines all right. I got rough treatment from the Germans.

I was captured on the 29th March 1918, near St. Quentin, at 4.30 p.m., with three officers, one sergeant, and eight men of my unit. The officers were Second-Lieutenant Lawrence and Wells, and another second-lieutenant whose name I do not know. We stayed in the open all the night of the 29th instant. We were taken back to German headquarters, four men being left behind to work as stretcher-bearers. The sentries were changed and we were sent to Bray. After capture we got practically no food for three days, except some substitute coffee and some bread, obtained from the German soldiers.

We reached Bray on the 30th instant. We were searched and questioned, there, and the officers were sent away from here. Any kind of weapon, razors, cap badges, &c., correspondence, soap, were taken away, but no clothes, money or paybooks were taken.

On the 31st March we were taken to Cappy, a small village near Bray. There was an English prisoners of war camp here and we were placed in it. There were no other prisoners here on our arrival, but by the end of April there were 600 assembled together.

At Cappy the food was one loaf between five men, one litre of soup a day—this was sometimes barley boiled in water, sometimes mixed vegetables, no meat—no vegetables, one issue of fat a week, about 44 grammes, one issue of sausage and one of jam per week. The daily food ration was very small, and we got into very poor condition. We used to buy bread from the Germans with the French money we had.

The accommodation was in prison huts, blown and knocked about by shellfire. There were no beds and no blankets, and very little shelter from the weather. We were very crowded and sleeping on top of one another.

The work here was levelling a space for an aerodrome. The hours were from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with one hour's spell at midday. We were kept hard at it and there was no pay for this work.

About the middle of April we were allowed to write home. We were supplied with prisoners of war cards, and I addressed mine to my home address, but I do not know whether it reached home. I sent a second postcard off from here, but do not know whether that arrived home either.

There was a lot of sickness at Cappy, dysentery, boils and weakness from lack of food and exposure. A German R.A.M.C. corporal used to come round, ostensibly to attend to the sick, but he did not help us. He used to laugh at most of us. There was no washing apparatus there, the men never had a wash, and they were absolutely alive with lice, which were walking in the beds. No attempt was made to stop them or remedy these conditions. Also no towels were given us.

I was continuously under shellfire there. Cappy is about 8 kilometres from Albert. I frequently had to get up in the night and go into a deep dugout. There were not many casualties from the shellfire, but the shells continued all the time we were there.

From Cappy we were taken to Le Quesnoy, about the beginning of May, and there had a bath with no soap, and were fumigated. We stayed here four or five days, and were then taken to Roisel. We were registered as prisoners of war here and received a number some time after which we wore all the time.