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Private George Miller

IWM Q23670 Temporary German PoW camp on the Western Front

King’s Own Scottish Borderers

He lived at Burns Court, Bainsford, Falkirk

He was taken prisoner at Kemmel in April 1918 during the German spring offensive and was held at a PoW holding camp in Halluin near Menin. PoWs from this camp were part of the 29th German PoW labour battalion (KAB 29) and they were guarded by a Bavarian unit while they worked in the German 4th Army area. The PoWs were employed within the thirty kilometres limit of the front line, this was illegal, the German command of the Gruppe Ieperen knew this and justified it by stating in an internal report that ‘..If all prisoners of war have to be removed to a distance of thirty kilometres then the Gruppe can no longer find work for them. The Gruppe requests 4,800 men to replace the prisoners of war..’ George Millar states that he was employed on unloading stones from barges from 3am to 3pm having to walk to and from their work place which he claimed was a walk of four hours. The men had breakfast which consisted of coffee made from burnt barley they kept their 1lb bread ration, to be divided by six men, for their dinner which was a thin soup and occasionally they had what Millar called ‘paint’ which was a so-called jam made from swedes or mangos.


George Millar spent two months at Halluin before being moved on to other camps and work details and tells of all day train journeys between camps during which all the food they received was a macaroni substitute made from flour and water and at one camp, he did not name it, he received a diet of shark’s flesh, and sea-lion and of seeing men scrambling for potato peelings, and of one prisoner killing and cooking a cat. For refusing to obey an order he was imprisoned for three days on a diet of bread and water. On another occasion, the Germans had found that a working party was one man short on its return. Miller had entered the German hut at which point he was set upon by the German Corporal in charge of the work party. The German was armed with a heavy whip which he proceeded to beat Millar with his clothing offering no protection as it was made from paper substitute. He recounted how when men reported sick they were accused of shamming and sent to work and in one camp six men died from dysentery within seven days of reporting sick.


For cigarettes, the men used the leaves from trees as tobacco and the cigarette paper was from the paper bandages that the Germans issued. The Germans sold to the men cigarettes priced at 2d each or a loaf of bread at 5s. On one occasion the Germans’ having robbed the Red Cross parcel of the valuable items, issued the remainder of the parcel to one parcel between three men. Each man was supposed to receive one parcel to himself, unopened. He was in France when the Armistice was announced with the first inkling that the fighting was over when the Germans gave them cigarettes and talked of their release. The Germans soldiers also had red ribbons in their caps, in support of the revolution at home. He was freed by American troops in Alsace-Lorraine and he recalled being dressed in rags and wearing clogs and the women of the Y.M.C.A. staying up all night in order to attend to them.

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