Sunday, December 26, 2010

LSE Research "A Very Modern Action" - The Spring Reprisals of 1917

"In 1917, the Germans calculated that public outrage over prisoner mistreatment could be used to their advantage. Heather Jones from the Department of International History, LSE, explains.

The prisoner reprisals of 1917 were a retaliatory action taken by German forces against captured French and British troops, in reaction to poor British and French treatment of German prisoner workers. This was a ruthless, calculated policy, intended to manipulate public opinion.

Prisoners held behind German lines during the 1917 reprisals were forced to work under shellfire on subsistence rations. But rather than conceal this mistreatment, the German captors actively encouraged prisoners to write home about it. This deliberate release of information was intended to mobilise public opinion in Britain and France in order to force changes in British and French military policy.

The plan worked. As a direct consequence of the 1917 reprisal sequences, the French and British governments insisted, against the wishes of their military chiefs, that their German prisoner workers be withdrawn to safety. In consequence, the Germans halted their reprisals in May of 1917.

However, the reprisals ultimately paved the way for more radicalised German prisoner mistreatment later in the war. By 1918, beatings and malnutrition were commonplace in the German army, and actions which a year before had been sufficiently shocking as to constitute a "reprisal" had become the norm."

"You Tube " hadn't immediately sprung to mind as a source of information about WW1 so I have been really pleased to be able to take  some time out to relax and spend this Boxing Day browsing  some fascinating videos which relate to not only to my increasing interest in the mis-treatment of British WW1 prisoners held near the Eastern Front  but also to information about Latvia during WW1 and later under Soviet Occupation.

I've found them a fascinating resource but a word of warning that not only is it addictive stuff and as I know I can go completely off at a tangent but some of the WW1 videos are really moving especially if there is a family connection.

There is also alot that can be said for the accompanying music eg Hans Zimmer "journey to the line" played to accompany a video,a tribute to  Irish soldiers during WW1 or poetry ike that of Wilfred Owen.

I notice that Heather Jones, who is a lecturer in International studies and specialist in First World War studies has a book which is due to be published in 2011

Violence against Prisoners of War in the First World War: Britain, France and Germany, 1914-1920 (Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare)