Prisoners of Britain

German civilian and combatant internees during the First World War

This book recognizes three types of internees in First World War Britain. They are: civilians already present in the country in August 1914; civilians brought to Britain from all over the world; and combatants, primarily soldiers from the western front. Soldiers from the western front included naval personnel and a few members of zeppelin crews whose vessels fell to earth. These three groups faced different internment experiences, particularly in terms of the length of time they spent behind barbed wire and their ability to work. Many combatants viewed internment almost as a relief from the fighting they had experienced on the western front, while, for civilians, the spell behind barbed wire represented their key wartime experience. Throughout the narrative, from the first days behind barbed wire until the last, the book recognizes the varying experiences faced by the differing groups of prisoners. Nevertheless, one needs to consider all internees together because they became victims of one of the first mass incarcerations in history. While the prisoner of war has a long history, imprisonment on the scale practised in the First World War, by both Britain and the other belligerent states, of both soldiers and civilians, represents a new phenomenon.

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‘Panayi's book is a valuable addition to our understanding of the war...'
DAVID MONGER, University of Canterbury
The Journal of the Historical Association
December 2015

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