Starved To Death by the Germans - Charles Hurt 1915

The following report appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in Apri1 1915

STARVED?

RESERVIST'S DEATH IN GERMAN CAMP

SHEFFIELD MAN'S END

The death of a Sheffield soldier in one of the interned camps in Germany just recently points very much to the fact that food is extremely scarce in the country, or that the Germans are carrying out another of their fiendish threats, namely starving British soldiers who have had the misfortune to be captured by them.

On Friday last Mrs. C Hurt of 55 Mount Road, Parkwood Springs, Sheffield received a letter from the Commander of the camp in which her husband had been interned saying that he had died on April 8th. No further information has been received and Mrs Hurt is wondering whether the news is reliable or whether the Germans have resorted to the method of sending false information with a view to causing pain to Englishwomen. One point is quite clear and that is that her husband has been inadequately fed. Mrs Hurt has got in touch with the War Office in order to end the terrible state of suspense if possible

A Sheffield Daily Telegraph representative yesterday made inquiries into the case and elicited the following information regarding its history. Private Charles Hurt was a reservist, and previous to the war a carter employed by Messrs. Longbottom's Sheffield. He was 31 years old and immediately war was declared he joined his regiment King's Royal Rifle Corps. He was amongst the first to cross the water to France, and took part in most of the early fighting. In September he was wounded in the arm and was in hospital for a time. He returned to the lines and in November was again wounded and taken prisoner.

He was interned at Gustrow in Mechlenbuurg . He wrote home to his wife, telling her not to trouble about his second wound as it was not serious. Two noticeable facts are however gathered from his communications. One is that although he wrote a number of letters, some of which reached his wife, yet he received only very few of the letters she sent to him, and many of the parcels were so long in reaching the camp that the contents were all bad and quite useless as food. Great care was taken by his wife and his mother to address the parcels correctly, and they were sent almost weekly.

The second fact is that practically in every letter Private Hurt begged for food to be sent to him. He complained that there was a shortage of food: he never had sufficient to eat from the day he was interned. They only got bread once a day and very little then. His letters seemed to hint that they got nothing else but this short supply of bread and he was always appealing for food.

He wrote in one letter "that when he went there he was over ten stones in weight, and that he was now only six. He was nearly starved and was clammed to death and it was very cold too"  Another letter ran " Don't forget to send the parcel as usual with eatables". In still another missive he asked her to send even "dog biscuits" and a stone of ordinary biscuits if possible. Mrs Hurt and her mother forwarded a number of parcels but judging by the letters her husband did not appear to receive many of them

On Friday last the wife received a letter from the Commander of the camp at Gustrow written in German. Fortunately she was to get it translated at the works of Messrs J H Andrew and Co. at Neepsend and she was shocked to hear that he husband was dead. She had not the remotest idea up to that time that anything was wrong with him except that he had been short of food, and she could give no reason whatever for his death apart from the question of the lack of food. He had always been a healthy man and as a consequence she is much troubled as to his end.

On 17th November he wrote " I have written three letters and two cards to you asking you to send me a parcel of something to eat in it and I have had no reply. It is awful I tell you. I am alright (meaning his wounds) only I'm short of something to eat.

Again he wrote "I have sold my watch for grub and I lot of my things too, so you can tell how I'm fixed" Later he says "It is horrible and cold out there". Mrs Hurt has sent all this information to Winchester, the depot of the King's Royal Rifle Corps for the War Office, and most likely inquiry will be made

Private Hurt has three brothers in the army. One has done all he can in helping to mete out just punishment to the Germans - Private Bert Hurt of the West Yorks - and he is now on the totally disabled list. Private Laurence Hurt of the same regiment is at the present moment in the trenches whilst Private Sidney Hurt is in Kitchener's Army and is expected to go to the front very shortly"

Well the German Commander certainly sent the correct information to Mrs Hurt - her husband Charles did die on 8th April 1915 as the record on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website shows

HURT, CHARLES

Rank: Rifleman
Service No: 5910
Date of Death:08/04/1915
Age: 32
Regiment/Service:  King's Royal Rifle Corps 1st Bn.
Grave Reference In South-East part of TINGLEV CHURCHYARD DENMARK

Charles' Last Resting Place

Tinglev is a small town in southern Jutland approximately 15 kilometres north of the German border. The church is located in Kirkevej, which is a turning off Hovegaden, the main road through the town. From the main entrance to the churchyard follow the path up past the church and the graves can be seen on the right hand side, the row being marked by a Commission sign.
Historical Information Tinglev Churchyard contains nine Commonwealth burials of the First World War. All were prisoners of war from the German camps at Bajstrup.

Charles Hurt (Sheffield Newspapers)

I must admit that I know very little about the conditions of British Prisoners of War in the First World War. But Charles was obviously one of the first to be captured in November 1914, and the impression I get from the reports and the letters is that the authorities, on both sides of the conflict, were ill-prepared to deal with the influx of POW's. The winter of 1914 - 1915 was a particularly harsh one throughout Europe, Charles' remark that "It is horrible and cold out there" was probably an understatement. But the fact that Charles lost over four stone in weight in just a few months seems to point to something more sinister. Food may well have been scarce in Germany at the time, but I can find no reports of starvation amongst the German population until much later in the war. I wonder if the German Command did gave their tacit approval to the with-holding of food and nourishment from Allied POW's? Of course any further information would be welcome 

Less than a month after I posted this article I received the following e-mail from a researcher in Denmark

"I came across your blog yesterday with the Charles Hurt article. Just what I wanted to find without knowing it! Wonderful.
I am researching information for an article about the pows at Bajstrup camp. I live in Denmark and have recently  been in touch with the Tinglev local history society.
They haven’t much info but one of the documents they have is Charles’s death certificate which I attach for you.
I have accounts from other POW's who were at Bajstrup at the same time as Charles.
I will be putting my article on my website, but it probably won’t be ready until Christmas."

And here is a copy of Charles's death certificate - Charles died on the morning of 8th April 1915 


     
 

In the newspaper article that detailed the suffering and hardship Charles was enduring as a prisoner of war, a brief mention was made of Charles' three brothers who were also serving on the Western Front. In February 2014 a descendent of the four brothers kindly sent me information about the other brothers

" Bertie married in 1907. He served in the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment, qualified for a clasp and roses on 8/9/1914 (medal rolls index cards) and survived the war. He died aged 38 and is buried in Harehills Cemetary Leeds, information from the National Burial Index and the Leeds Indexes Register. 

George Laurence enlisted in 1908 and served in the West Yorkshire Regiment. He lived in Walkley, had 3 daughters, 4 son's, was a postman after the war and lived to be 72 years old. My mother and father visited them on odd occasions  but I only have a vague  recollection of them. George's wife Gladys made the newspapers too. She was one of seven of Sheffield's first clippies on the trams during the first world war, unfortunately the newspaper clipping does not show the year. 

Sidney enlisted in the Royal Defense corps in 1916, was discharged unfit for service on 12/3/1918. Invalided (left forearm) . In Ypres 7 Jun 1917 he was struck with shrapnel and was in hospital for 3 months. I obtained this information from army records. I have no further information about Sydney.

Unfortunately I have searched in vain for both Sydney and Bertie's military service records"

And so if anyone can help with further information, please contact me 

Notes

Charles' widow re-married

Name Charles Nelson Hurt
Sheffield
Where Enlisted Sheffield
Where Resided Husband of A Bramer (formerly Hurt) of 94 Vale road, Parkwood Springs, Sheffield.

Births Jun 1885 
Hurt Bertie Ecclesall B. 9c 374 
Marriages Mar 1907 
Hurt Bertie Sheffield 9c 771 
Deaths Sep 1923
Hurt Bertie 39 Wakefield 9c 49 

 

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This page was last updated on 12/12/15 15:53