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THE RUHLEBEN STORY

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THE PRISONERS OF RUHLEBEN CIVILIAN INTERNMENT CAMP
 
1914 - 1918
 
 
"Although unable to fight for our King and country on the battlefield, we endeavoured to maintain the British ideal of patriotism, patience, courage and usefulness through four years".
 
Inscription on Union Flag presented to the King at the Ruhleben Exhibition in February 1919.
 
 
A Scotland's Greatest Story free genealogical research aid,
by Chris Paton BA (Hons), HND, PgDip Genealogical Studies

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INTRODUCTION

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Above: My great uncle, John Paton (seated), in Ruhleben, 1916, shortly after his internment.

In 1914, thousands of British civilians and merchant seamen, along with foreigners from other nationalities with British connections, were interned at the hastily constructed prisoner of war camp at Ruhleben racecourse by Spandau, near Berlin, Germany. Most would not see freedom from the camp until the end of the war, but managed to maintain a unique way of life for the four years of their unwelcome internment.

This site was constructed to try and tell the stories of as many of those civilians as possible, and to act as a memorial for those who found themselves as the unwitting victims of circumstance, caught up in a struggle that should never have happened.

Sources trawled for information on the inmates include Ruhleben based websites on the internet, printed publications, material from the National Archives in London, issues of Ruhleben produced magazines, sales on E-bay of Ruhleben related memorabilia, and many, many more.

If you have anything that might help further the story of the Ruhleben POW camp, I would be extremely pleased to hear from you! Please contact me by e-mail at christopherpaton @ tiscali.co.uk 

 

RUHLEBEN NEWS
 
28/1 2013: Marcus Bateman has a separate excellent project on the merchant seamen who were interned at Ruhleben, using records held under MT9 at the National Archives at Kew. Please note that his old site at www.wanborough.ukuhost.co.uk/POW/POW.htm is shortly to be replaced with a new site at www.spw-surrey.com/mt9/

Past:
BBC Scotland interviewed me in 2008 as part of a piece on the 90th anniversary of the return of Ruhleben POWs to Leith in 1918. The story can be viewed by clicking on the image below. Keep an eye out for footage of the internees disembarking, in case you recognise anybody!

Recent publications:
 
Sarah Paterson's Tracing Your Prisoner of War Ancestors: The First World War was published in 2012 and is an excellent guide for those wishing to do family history research into POWs. Thanks to Sarah for her kind comments on this site within the substantial section on Ruhleben.
 
John Yarnall's Barbed Wire Disease: British & German Prisoners of War, 1914-19, published in 2011, offers a useful overview on both military and civilian internment in Germany during the First World War.
 
Matthew Stibbe's book British Civilian Internees in Germany: The Ruhleben Camp, 1914-1918 was published by Manchester University Press on May 1st 2008, and provides the first major academic study on the camp in many years. I would like to thank Matthew for his kind words in the Acknowledgements section of his book in regard to this website project, and for past help with the project itself.
 
The People's University 1858-2008, by Christina Kenyon Jones, looks at 150 years of external assessment by the University of London. Published in 2008 it includes coverage of the education system at Ruhleben in its wartime chapter.
 

Ruhleben racecourse - home to some five and a half thousand civilian POWs in the First World War

  

This site currently contains the names of approximately 2083 out of 5500 prisoners who were interned at Ruhleben.

Please use the links on the top left hand side of this page to navigate your way around the site.

Last updated January 29th 2013

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