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A War to End Wars !!, some notes of interest, and more.

    German prisoners of war, first world war

    German prisoners of war queue up outside a hut where questioning takes place. Photograph: Sean Sexton Collection/Corbis

    1918: Thousands of Germans packed in cages

    There is so much to tell that one can only touch on the more salient incidents. The whole German front opposite the British Army, from the Somme to the Messines ridge in Flanders, is in a state of flux. It is difficult to say the enemy is holding firmly anywhere, though everywhere he is doing his best to cover his retreat with rearguard actions.

    How real is the defeat the Germans have suffered in the Drocourt-Queant line is best shown by the report that we took 10,000 prisoners yesterday. That was mostly on a narrow front of not more than 11,000 yards, in one of the strongest complications of defensive positions devised since trench warfare was invented. In a few short hours we had shattered all those defences and captured an enormous number of prisoners.

    I saw a vast crowd of something like 7,000 massed this morning. It was at the First Army cage, where already within the barriers there were over 4,000 men, making one huge, solid block of blue-grey against the yellow dun of the stubble and dry grass of the upland plain. It was like Epsom Downs, as dense and immobile. While I was there another column, numbering over 2,200, marched up in a column of fours – a great blue-grey snake trailing its length farther than the eye could see.

    There were all sorts of men; some very young, some ripe and stalwart, and some more than middle-aged. Prussians, Bavarians, Saxons, Guards, infantrymen and gunners, and all sorts of miscellaneous units. Five out of every six had his shoulder-straps cut off to avoid identification. Quite a number wore ribbons and iron crosses.

    As newcomers arrived, they were greeted with shouts of laughter by comrades already within the wires. Those inside were mostly eating, and held up bully beef tins and biscuits for the new arrivals to see; the latter cheered, for many are very hungry when we catch them. They were evidently very tired, but the whole scene suggested a trainload of revellers at an annual beanfeast being welcomed by fellow holiday-makers.

    • Manchester Guardian, Sept 4 1918

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