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Grandfather Saved by German Surgeons
POW in Altdam, Stettin
Cpl Joseph Henry Morgans, 267340, Platoon 16, 2/6th Glosters, 61st Division Joseph was sent to France in March 1916. He fought with the Artillery in the trenches and was shot on 2nd December 1917 at La Vaquerie, during the battle of Cambrai, the Somme. This was the first battle in which tanks were used. Joseph, wounded in his right knee, was left to die by the BEF and was captured by the Germans on 3rd December. Skilled German surgeons saved his life. Joseph was sent to a POW camp at Altdam, Stettin, (a camp affiliated to the German battalion which captured him), and sent home a postcard on 29 December 1917 stating he was still alive. Conditions at the camp were poor, neither guards nor POW’s receiving sufficient food. The camp held 18,500 Russian prisoners, and only 55 British POW’s. Jo brought home a picture of the British War Memorial at the camp cemetery – engraved with the names of 46 British soldiers who died at Altdam. Their story has never been told. Unlike most POW’s, Jo was literate and numerate, and worked in the camp’s busy Post Office. He helped others write/read letters, but no letters got through to him until 18 April 1918 - his family had been informed he was missing, presumed dead. Jo was overjoyed to receive a letter from his cousin Catherine in April 1918. He saved grains of tea from Red Cross Parcels received at the Post Office. At the end of the war, the gates of the camp were opened, and prisoners told to fend for themselves. Jo walked to Denmark, where he and others received a rapturous welcome. He sailed to Leith on 14 December 1918, and then went to a POW Reception Camp at Ripon. He was de-briefed there and made it home to join his family for Christmas in 1918. Jo never spoke to his children about his war experiences but his daughter, Nest, remembers that he couldn’t walk in cold weather due to frostbite suffered at the camp. She and her brother would collect wool left by the sheep on the mountain behind his home so that he could put it in his shoes, enabling him to walk. Joseph Morgan died in 1953 from a brain haemorrhage. His collection of postcards and pictures sent from Altdam give a unique insight into daily life at the camp. The originals are now stored at the Imperial War Museum. It was known that the camp existed, but it was not known that British POW’s were held there.