Monday, 27 December 2010

The Story of Corporal Gideon - Newport POW

In May 1915 the Welsh Schoolboy International Rugby Player Corporal Gideon ('Dick') was captured by the Germans. He was taken to Giessen where he remained for 6 months. Later he was sent to a chemical works at Frankfurt and found himself to be the only NCO working there. Every day Gideon and his fellow prisoners were woken at 5.30am, given a chink of German bread, cold potatoes and coffee. The work was heavy and Gideon and his colleagues were in a very weakened state.

He and 7 other men refused to work until they received proper food. For this act of defiance, Gideon was struck hard in the face, had his shoulder dislocated by a rifle blow and was subsequently kicked to the floor. Following this beating Gideon was forced to march up and down all day before being sent to a military prison in Frankfurt. His diet did not improve after the move.

At Frankfurt train station Gideon was jeered and spat upon. He was court-martialled and put in solitary confinement for 7 days. The first four days he was just fed black bread and soup, then he was put in the Strafe Barracks where he sat all day, hands folded, watched by 2 Germans he nicknamed 'Mutiny' and 'Shrapnel'. Food parcels were recieved, but infrequently.

Gideon did several jobs while in Frankfurt - digging potatoes on a farm, being a porter at the railway station, a warehouse worker and a tobacco factory worker. He received less than 1p for his labours.

During this time he noted that the Russian POWs were treated decidedly worse than the British. While food was of a very poor standard for the British, the Russians were practically starved to death as the German guards provided them with little food at all. Towards the end of Gideon's captivity, food parcels were more regular and the British lads were able to give the starving Russian POWs the food they begged for so desperately.

Corporal Gideon survived his ordeal, which is more than could be said for most of the Russian prisoners he encountered. The German POWs who were imprisoned around Newport, appear to have had had a far more comfortable time of it. - German POWs Blog Post to Follow.

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