James Mc­Cracken from Perth was cap­tured by the enemy

Perthshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

“There were no splints on the bro­ken limbs, with the re­sult that ev­ery jolt of the train and move­ment of the men, who were sim­ply packed in like her­ring, caused them ter­ri­ble pain.

“We started off, and the jour­ney lasted three days and three nights!

“The only food be­sides a small por­tion of black bread which they had given us at De­nain [in France] was an old Swiss milk tin full of very dirty soup, which was handed in at 4am, and an­other serv­ing at 6pm.

“It was March, and the weather was bit­terly cold, and sleep at nights quite im­pos­si­ble.

“The stench of the wounds and the fact that there was no san­i­tary as­sis­tance for the men who were un­able to get up, were aw­ful ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Some of that train­load of men, to my knowl­edge, were prac­ti­cally dead when car­ried out of the train when we ar­rived in Ger­many.

“All were agreed that it was the most ter­ri­ble and try­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that they had ever un­der­gone dur­ing the war.”

Once he ar­rived at the POW camp, in­jured sol­diers were given pa­per to cover their wounds and had to wait up to eight days to get more clean pa­per.

The camp saw pris­on­ers di­vided into com­pa­nies of French, Ital­ian, Ser­bian, Ro­ma­nian, Rus­sian and Bri­tish and pris­on­ers were made to work on a nearby farm, in the camp it­self, or as grave-dig­gers.

Up to 30 pris­on­ers were needed ev­ery day to dig graves as so many from the camp were dy­ing.

There was some cen­sored en­ter­tain­ment on the camp, in­clud­ing week­end cinema nights and con­certs given by the pris­on­ers them­selves, de­scribed by Pri­vate Mc­Cracken as “cinema pic­tures, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of drama and com­edy, ac­cord­ing to the Ger­man idea”.

They also re­ceived parcels from home via the Red Cross, al­though added it would be months be­fore they got a hold of what had been sent to them.

His ar­ti­cle in the ‘peace edi­tion’ of the PA also re­counted the cruel pun­ish­ments handed down at the camp he was in dur­ing his stay.

The pa­per said: “In the camp where Pri­vate Mc­Cracken was, there was an English­man suf­fer­ing from heart trou­ble.

“He was in a con­va­les­cent com­mando, where light work is given, such as cut­ting brooms, etc.

“He had not been work­ing to the sat­is­fac­tion of the Ger­man sentry, who knew he was suf­fer­ing from heart trou­ble.

“With prac­ti­cally no warn­ing, that he must work harder, he was shot at from what must have been about three yards’ dis­tance and wounded.

“In an­other case a man came back to camp cov­ered in marks, hav­ing been se­verely beaten with heavy sticks.

“He was bruised prac­ti­cally from head to feet.

“The man ly­ing in the bed next to me, who had been a valet in civil life, was sent to a mine which was in a very bad con­di­tion, and was hit on the head with a fall of ma­te­rial.

“He was so changed in ap­pear­ance when he came back af­ter a fort­night away that I did not know him.” James Mc­Cracken was one of three broth­ers sent to fight dur­ing World War I.

His brother Alexan­der was in the Black Watch and at the time of the Ar­mistice was wounded and re­cov­er­ing in a hospi­tal in Eng­land.

And his other brother Wil­liam was serv­ing in the Royal Gar­ri­son Ar­tillery in France at the time.

The PA had called Pri­vate Mc­Cracken’s story a “re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ence” and said the re­porters had found it “of thrilling in­ter­est”.

His­toric copies of the PA in­clud­ing Pri­vate Mc­Cracken’s in­ter­view in the ‘peace edi­tion’ are housed in the lo­cal and fam­ily his­tory depart­ment at AK Bell Li­brary, Perth.

Some of that train­load of men, to my knowl­edge, were prac­ti­cally dead when car­ried out of the train when we ar­rived in Ger­many

Pri­vate Mc­Cracken de­scribed the hard­ships of be­ing in a Ger­man POW camp dur­ing World War I

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