- Lille Hospital during the Great War -
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- Slater Frederick John Thomas. Pte.
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Pte. Frederick John Thomas Slater 1st Btn. Kings Own Scottish BorderersMy Grandfather on my father’s side, Frederick John Thomas Slater, was born at Eastney Barracks, Portsmouth on 20th July 1884. His father, John Slater, was a gunner with the Royal Marine Artillery. On 24th Sept 1915, he joined the Army as a private with the 1st Btn. King’s Own Scottish Borderers; his first posting was to the Balkans. Later, I believe he served in France, (area unknown), and was wounded, losing his left leg below the knee, due to shell-fire. He then lay out on no-man’s land for three days before being taken prisoner by the Germans. He was taken to German medical facilities, and operated on a total of three times due to gangrene infection. Eventually, he recovered, and remained a prisoner of war until the end of WW1.
The following statement is an account of Freds time spent as a prisoner of war with the Germans, Catalogue Reference: WO/161/100/455. This was given to a solicitor on his repatriation to England. It details his treatment after losing his leg and the time spent at Furstenfeldbruck Hospital as part of the Lechfeld POW Camp.
Name, Rank, No. and Regiment: Slater, Frederick John Thomas, Private, No. 21062. 1st KO. Scottish Borderers.
Home Address: 20, Newcastle Place, Brumley, Yorks.
Place and Date of Capture: Estaires, 13th April 1918.
Nature of Wound. if any: Left leg removed by shell. I am 38 years of age. I joined the army in June 1915. In civil life I was a joiner. On the 10th April 1918 I was at Estaires. I received a bullet wound in my leg in the morning, but it was not very serious, and I was able to get about. In the afternoon of that day a bursting shell took off my leg above the knee. I lay without receiving any attention until the 13th April 1918. On the morning of that day I Was found by the Germans. I was taken to an advanced dressing station, where the stump of my leg was amputated. I had a local amesthetic—a kind of freezing stuff. I did not lose consciousness, but I did not suffer any pain. I think the amputation was properly done. A few days after the amputation I was taken by motor ambulance to the hospital at Lille.
Lille Hospital. April 15—May 15, 1918: The hospital at Lille was under. two German doctors. One was decent, the other was rough and used to remove bullets and pieces of shrapnel without giving ame.'thetics. A few days after I arrived an English doctor who had been taken prisoner was brought in, and after that he looked after the English prisoners. The attendants were English R.A.M.C. prisoners with the help of some French women and occasionally two German women. They were changed about a good deaL They did all they could for us and I have nothing to complain of. The French women brought their own towels and soap to wash us. The bedelothing was dirty and verminous. The food consisted of the usual bread ration (about 6 oz.) and macaroni soup, with coffee in the morning. It was fairly good, but. I could not eat very much then. We were not registered. We were told we could write letters and I did write, but the letters were never delivered and I do not think they were dispatched.
Journey. May 15-19, 1918: On the 15th May 1918 I was taken with a number of other prisoners to Furstenfeldbruck. The journey took about 31 days. We were taken in a Red Cross train. We were well looked after on the journey and provided with food. At the frontier station between Belgium and Germany, some nurses met the train and dressed the wounds of some of the prisoners while the train was waiting.
Furstenfeldbruck Hospital. May 19—Sept. 12, 1918: At Furstenfeldbruck we were taken direct to the hospital. This. hospital is attached to the prison camp at Lechfeld, which is about three hours' journey by train from Fiirstenfeldbruck. I stayed at the hospital all the time and never visited the camp at Lechfeld, so I know practically nothing about the camp. I heard that their food at the camp was the same as ours at the hospital, but as the prisoners in the camp got parcels they were better off. A corporal from the camp who came one day to the hospital said we had better make haste and get well so that we could be transferred to the camp.
The food at the hospital was poor. At 7 a.m. we had some coffee and our bread ration for the day (a tiny loaf weighing nut more than 31: oz. I should think). At 11.30 we had some vegetable soup. This varied a good deal. Sometimes it was like barley water, sometimes it was full of sediment like sand, quid sometimes it was thick and full of spots and looked like frog-spawn. At 2 o'clock we had some more coffee and at 5.30 some boiled vegetables—cabbage, mangolds or potatoes. The potatoes were often diseased. I never had any parcels except three emergency parcels which were sent through the British committee at the camp, two in July and one in September. just. before I left. Two British officers in the hospital wrote to the camp several times or we should not have got these parcels. I have been told that parcels were sent out to me. but I never received them. I never received any letters. We were allowed to write two letter-cards and two postcards each month. No cards were supplied to us by the hospital authorities. We had to buy them from the French prisoners, and those who had no money to buy cards could not write home. I should think there were between 400 and 500 prisoners in all at Fiirstenfeldbruck. About 80 of these were British. The remainder were of various nationalities—Russian. French, Italian, Roumanian. There were 31 men in a hut. and men of different nationalities were not kept. separate. I never observed any difference in the way prisoners of different nationalities were treated. The French prisoners had parcels and biscuits supplied to them regularly. They had a store from which a ration of biscuits was issued to each new French prisoner on his entering the hospital. I do not know why no provision is made for British prisoners. I suppose the French organisation is better. The Italian prisoners had the easiest time on the whole. They used to get jobs in the kitchen, helping the cooks. I only saw one American prisoner. He was brought in two or three days before I left. lie was treated just like the others. A doctor from Switzerland visited the hospital shortly before I left. He came on behalf of the French Government and spent his time chiefly with the French prisoners. An English officer (Lieut. Gibson) complained to him of the food. The doctor said that complaints by English prisoners were really outside his province, but he would make a note of it. If anything the food got rather worse after this. There were four doctors at the camp—all Germans. I have no complaint to make of them. They treated us with respect and kindness. One of these doctors bad charge of all the operations. We were told that the supply of chloroform was very short. The sentries were oldish men—mostly men who had been hi the army since 1914 and had been released for guard duty. We had no trouble with them. The orderlies in the huts were boys of 18. They used to shove the men about sometimes. but it was only larking. There was no ill treatment. There were no recreations for the prisoners to my knowledge, and no library. There were services fm. Roman Catholic prisoners tone of the Italian prisoners was a priest), and one Sunday a Church of Englund service was conducted by a Captain Gibson who was a prisoner. One day a Church of England elerayman (who was formerly in charge of an English chaplaincy in Germany) came to the hospital and conducted service. I do not know his name. There were no epidemics at the hospital while I was there. The sanitation was good and the bedding• was very clean. If a man was put in a wrong ward by mistake, clean bedding was supplied on his removal. even if he had only occupied the bed for half an hour or so. We had two blankets and a coverlet, but we felt the cold considerably. There were very few punishments inflicted. If a prisoner swore at a German N.C.O., or made himself troublesome. he wits put in the bathroom at the end of the ward for 24 hours or more 'on brteld and water diet. This did not happen often. and the longest period of confinement was three days. The clothing supplied to prisoners was very thin, something like apron cloth or rough shirting. The socks and shirts were very thin and ragged. There was no warmth in them.
Journey. Sept. 12-15 1918: When 1 had been recommended for exchange, I was taken to Aachen by an ordinary train. It was a three dpys' journey. There was not much food on the journey. We had a big loaf given to us on starting, and a meal of macaroni once while on the way.
Aachen. Sept. 1918: The Board of Inspection at Aachen seemed to be entirely composed of Prussian doctors. They were all in German uniform. They passed me without difficulty, but many very had eases were turned back. I was able to get about on crutches before I reached Aachen. I think it was about a mouth before that I left my bed. The amputation wound had healed long before, but I was suffering from abscesses and diarrinea, probably due to the food.
Opinion of Examiner: The witness wag examined by me at the First London General Hospital on the 26th September 1918. He appeared to me to be an intelligent and truthful witness. He seemed disposed to treat his hardships as the fortune of war, but to be much concerned at the numbers of men returned from Aachen to their camps after being recommended for repatriation.
Herbert James Wady, Solicitor. 63, Queen Victoria Street, London, 27th September 1918.
After leaving the army, he lived with my Grandmother at a number of places, but in later years he lived in Bramley, Leeds, and then moved to Bedale in north Yorkshire, and from there, a few miles down the road to Snape. Granddad was a tall man, over six foot, and although he was on crutches, he could easily outpace my sister and me when we were children. In the last few years of his life, he lived at Marske in the north of England, where he passed away in 1970 aged 86. I can find no further information on his army career, as his records may be among those lost due to bombing during WW11.Derek Slater
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