Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hansard: Prisoner of War (ill-treatment) Mr Churchill and Private A Skett

I've been interested in finding information about the circumstances which led to the death of the British soldiers who are buried in Jelgava (formerly Mitau).

I've discovered some records that show that many of these Prisoners of War were mistreated deliberately and on occasion killed in retailiation or "reprisal" for the alleged harsh treatment of German Pows by allied troops earlier in the War.

This, for example, is part of the transcript in which Mr Churchill, the Secretary of State for War is asked about the circumstances under which Private A. Skett "met his death"

Captain CRAIG

asked the Secretary of State for War whether evidence has been taken from returned prisoners of war as to the circumstances under which Private A. Skett, No. 6055, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, met his death while on commando at Latchen, Kurland, on orabout 6th April, 1917; if so, will he state these circumstances; whether he is aware that the whole details of this case were personally reported by Company Sergeant-Major William Acton Francis, No. 7078, 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment, to Mr. Vrendenburgh, the Dutch representative in charge of British interests, at Libau on or about 5th June, 1917; if he will say at what date His Majesty's Government learned for the first time of Private Skett's death; and on what date the officer commanding the Coldstream Guards and the deceased soldier's next-of-kin were officially informed as to the exact circumstances of his death; and what action His Majesty's Government proposes to take to bring those responsible for the death of Private Skett to justice?


Evidence has been taken from repatriated prisoners of war on this subject. The circumstances in which Private Skett met his death appear to have been as follows: On 6th April, 1917, Skett, a prisoner of war at Pinue, on the Eastern Front, being exhausted after a long march in the snow, was unable to proceed. He was ordered by the sentry to move on. On his replying that he was unable to do so, the sentry deliberately killed him. The report received from the German Government stated that Skett feigned inability to move, and that in the circumstances the sentry was justified in shooting him"

Reference Hansard 05 June 1919 vol 116 cc2248-51W

I have also found several similar terrible accounts of the treatment of the POWs and intend to publish some further entries. I'm trying to discover the location of these camps but have found that it's quite difficult as many documents relate to the German names of towns (Libau, Hasenpoth, Talsen etc) which are now correctly known by the Latvian name on modern maps.

 I  also have names including that of Lieutenant Prael at Latchen camp, a Lieutenant Greise and an interpreter called "Mavis"who once lived in Stoke and who was described as "the worst specimen of a human I ever came across"

 to be continued.............