Life of German prisoners of war on Cannock Chase told in new book

An historian has published a book chronicling the life of German prisoners of war on Cannock Chase.

Richard Pursehouse and his new book
Richard Pursehouse and his new book

Richard Pursehouse has pieced together their story from old letters written by a clerk who worked at the camp in the First World War.

The book, called Prisoners on Cannock Chase, was published in February and has already received five-star reviews on Amazon.

It has been published by Pen and Sword, the largest publisher of military books in the world, and has a recommended retail price of £19.99.

Mr Pursehouse stumbled upon the rare letters from Horace Thompson while researching about New Zealand troops.

The letters reveal what everyday life was like and includes tales of murder and escape attempts.

Mr Pursehouse, of Cannock, has carried out a lot of research into two First World War trainings camps, which were based at Brocton and Rugeley. This includes about Commonwealth soldiers from New Zealand based there.

However, this book offers an insight into a different part of life on the camps about German prisoners of war.

First-hand accounts

An advert for the book says it offers a "unique insight into what life was like inside a British Prisoner of War camp during the First World War."

"This book is about the prisoners from first-hand accounts, it gets down to the human level," he said.

"There was a British clerk there who wasn't well enough to fight.

"But he had library skills such as typing. I managed to find his letters at the Imperial War Museum [in London].

"You would think the Germans had camaraderie and would plan some sort of great escape.

"But they hated each other. They would steal off each other and beat one another up.

"Some had barbed-wire disease [a medical condition caused by long-term imprisonment] from being in social isolation like we are [due to coronavirus]. If you think we have got it bad, imagine what it is like for three to four years."

The book is available from Amazon, Waterstones and Pen and Sword. An e-book version is planned in the coming months.

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