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Treatment of German POWs

Heroes Remember

Treatment of German POWs

We never know what was going to happen. We never know how strong the Germans might be or might not be, but we knew we were winning We knew as long as they’re retreating, we are winning. But we, the individual man, we didn’t feel opposed to the individual German, at least in our outfit we didn’t, and when they were prisoners we talked to the prisoners. Now there were instances when they were not well treated, but that wasn’t general, that would happen anytime. You’d get that anywhere, but generally speaking the German prisoner was well treated and he didn’t cause much trouble. I remember October the 8th, the first day. They were coming down and some of them were helping wounded, you know, that were able to walk and there were no guards for some of them because they were well back of the line by the time they got to us, because the line had gone up ahead. But there was one day special. I remember a German officer, a young fella, oh, a fine looking fellow, well dressed, and he was smoking a cigarette and he was walking up and nobody with him and he’s walking to the rear, but he stopped and talked to us in perfect English. I’ll always remember that one man, and he was talking about things. He said he was out of it now and so on and so forth, which he was, of course. But no, the prisoners start coming back right away and they go back with, sometimes they have somebody with them and other times they are just going on their own. They are so far back into the territory that they didn’t want to go back, because well, if they wanted to go back they had to go through the firing on both sides, you see, and there was always a huge big cage got ready for prisoners and they were put in the cage until they got the right settlement for them. But I never saw them after they went into the, where they went, I don’t know. A lot of them were sent to England, some of them came to Canada. I don’t know where they went. But oh, we saw lots of prisoners. But they took lots of ours at times. Not the Canadians. They did take some, of course, but there was lots of Allied troops taken prisoner.

Mr. Pitcairn describes the general lack of enmity between the Canadians and German POW’s, and how, from his perspective, the surrendered Germans were well treated.

James Pitcairn

James Pitcairn was born in Kirkintilloch, Scotland on May 3, 1897. The second of four children, he moved to Vancouver with his widowed mother in 1911. At the age of thirteen, he was working as an elevator boy when a truancy officer sent him back to school, which he attended for five years. In Vancouver, Mr. Pitcairn was twice denied enlistment because of his small size; however, he joined friends in Kingston, Ontario and was accepted there as a member of the 50th Battery, Queens Artillery on March 7, 1916. He trained as a horse artilleryman at Petawawa. Mr. Pitcairn sailed for England aboard the SS Olympia in August, 1916. He had further training at Camp Whitley and was finally sent to France as a member of the 52nd Field Artillery, 5th Division. Mr. Pitcairn’s service saw him in action at Lens, Vimy, Hill 70, Amiens, Drocourt-Queant and Valenciennes as the layer on an 18-Pound artillery gun. One hundred and two at the time of his interview, Mr. Pitcairn’s clear voice and photographic memory offer some very informative descriptions of the Artillery’s role in the First World War.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Pitcairn
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
50th Battery

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