Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War were to be classified as follows:

  • Airborne and paratroops – to be considered as army personnel
  • Air Force personnel – under operational conditions if conditions permitted, to be reported to as usual to the nearest RAF Station and prisoners would be dealt with by the RAF
  • Naval prisoners to be passed through the usual channels as quickly as possible to the Command cage.
    • Upon capture the following rules were to be observed:

      • Officers, NCO’s and men to be kept in separate parties
      • A quick but thorough search for weapons and documents – to include pockets, lining of cap and cloths and inside of boots.
      • No talking between prisoners or between guards and prisoners. No questions to be asked by untrained personnel. No fraternizations.
      • No cigarettes, food or water to be offered, but escorts must try and keep a badly wounded prisoner alive until he had been interrogated.
      • Collar badges, identification marks, pay books or identity discs were not to be removed from prisoners.
      • Pay books and identity discs to be removed from the dead and sent back (along with any other pay books, documents etc picked up on the battle field).
      • All other documents to be removed from officers and NCO’s and placed in separate labeled sandbags and sent back with the prisoners. Units were expected not to examine documents unless of obvious and immediate importance such as marked plans and maps.
        • Interrogations

          Preliminary Interrogations were to be carried out at Battalion / Brigade by trained or authorized officers and other ranks (the value of information gained by untrained and unskilled interrogators was considered to be useless). This was to be brief and confined to immediate tactical information:

          • Number of Regiment and Company.
          • Where and when captured (if not known).
          • How many other soldiers were with the prisoner?
          • What was his task?
          • What was his objective?
          • How many casualties had his unit had?
          • How long has he been in the line?
          • Any information regarding troops on the flanks or in the rear.
            • All information gained was to be forwarded to Division HQ either by priority telephone call or messages franked “Emergency Operations”.
              The Divisional Intelligence Officer or authorized representative would carry out interrogations at the Divisional cage.

              In 1941 GHQ issued the following letter with reference to German Air Force personnel:

              “1. German Air Force personnel who have landed in this country either by parachute, or by crashed aircraft, have been able to remain at large, sometimes for several hours, within the site of troops, Home Guard, and civilians. Sometimes they have voluntarily surrendered to totally indifferent bystanders.
              2. Once taken they have been treated as be nighted guests rather than enemies. They have been able to destroy documents and maps, which would have been of great value to the Army and R.A.F Intelligence, in the presence of their captors who made no attempt to prevent them doing so. Such treatment raises their morale so much, that very little can be obtained from their interrogation.
              3. This state of apathy prior to capture, and camaraderie after, must not be allowed to continue. The loss of documents and poor results of interrogation are serious handicaps to our achievement of air superiority.”

              Eastern Command stressed the importance of this letter. Prisoners were not to be treated with kindness or as guests by giving them cigarettes or chocolate, but troops were to “act tough” with unwounded prisoners - “kindness is wasted on GERMAN prisoners and is taken for weakness”. An aggressive spirit was required for the severe, but fair, treatment of prisoners. It was noted however this was not an authority to take no prisoners.
              One Field Regt issued instructions in response to this letter including the following : “No actual physical violence will be used on Prisoners of War, but they will always be treated with the maximum lack of sympathy……DO EVERTYTHING TO LOWER THE PRISONERS MORALE. GERANS DESPISE KINDNESS. HE IS AN ENEMY: TREAT HIM AS ONE”

                German Air Force personnel Prisoners of War - these would be dealt with
                by the RAF.

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