A stark figure released this week underlined the impact on Jersey of recent German offensives in France and Belgium. Since the first attack in late March 1918, more than 60 local soldiers have been taken prisoner and are now held in enemy POW camps.
Massive German assaults on Allied positions occurred in March, April, May and then June. Each managed to break through the frontline defences and carry the war into open country behind. Only determined fighting and skilful deployment of British, French and increasing American reserves prevented a complete and disastrous breakthrough.
Halting the enemy has come at an enormous cost in men however. In many cases, the German attackers were able to surround whole Allied units, forcing their eventual surrender. Most of those captured have been marched and entrained to camps in Germany, swelling numbers held there beyond breaking point.
Jersey’s Prisoner of War Bureau, led by its organising secretary Edith Haines, is busily engaged sending food parcels to these recently captured men along with more than 250 others from the island already held in enemy camps. Without this voluntary organisation’s support, it’s believed that many men would face starvation.
D/Z/H2/6 contains documents on the Jersey Prisoner of War Bureau, its organisation, function and approach to supporting islanders held in POW camps.