An estimated 8 million men became prisoners during the Great War. Jessie Chisholm, historian, researcher and archivist recently retired from The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, and Dan Duda, a map librarian with the Queen Elizabeth II Library at Memorial University, are working together to shine some light on this chapter of Newfoundland’s First World War history, as well as share it with a wider audience.
This presentation explores the international legal status of POWs under The Hague Conventions while focusing on the experiences of the 170 Newfoundland POWs, revealed through first-person narratives, family letters, photographs and post-war claims for pensions and reparations. Themes include “reprisal camps“; the diverse experiences of the officers and other ranks (ORs); cultural and linguistic isolation; near-starvation, inadequate medical care, and harsh labour conditions.
POWs frequently suffered life-long physical disabilities and emotional trauma (“barbed wire disease“). By incorporating statistical analysis, mapping, and archival sources, hopefully this collaborative work and subsequent discussion will provide new insights into the Great War.