Armistice100: Leeds soldier's account of German POW camp in 1918

Dateline: September 24, 1918: On this day 100 years ago, a report in the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post illuminates conditions for prisoners of war in Germany. The account of one Leeds soldier makes interesting reading.

Sgt James Osborne, of the King’s Royal Rifles, whose wife lived at 42 Amy Street, Kirkstall Road, was a reservist called up at the outbreak of war and later captured.

In a letter to his wife, he spoke of the conditions he endured and upon being moved to a camp in Switzerland, likened it to “coming out of Hell into Heaven”.

After his initial capture, he was moved to barracks behind the lines in Belgium, where he spent 10 weeks.

“All we had to eat was a basin of soup - they called it soup but it was only cabbage water - and one thin slice of dirty black bread a day. We got so weak that we could not walk twenty yards without falling. We were eating leaves from trees, or anything we could get. At the end of this time, they allowed us to write home and this bucked us up a bit.”

He was later moved to another camp in Germany, after which he moved again to Bayreuth, Bavaria, a journey which lasted 36 hours and during which they were only given one bowl of soup.

Sgt Osborne writes that once in camp he and others were given “three biscuits a day for three weeks” by “Roumanian” prisoners “which no doubt saved our lives.”

After five months “hardship and starvation”, he says they received a Red Cross parcel, their first and shortly thereafter he was moved to Switzerland, adding: “I could not believe I was going to a place of freedom again.”