Once the war had started, Britain as with the other belligerent nations suffered a shortage of labour as men gradually left for the front.
During the early years of the Handforth camp, the aim was to ensure that the prisoners remained behind barbed wire.
Guarding the thousands of prisoners held in Handforth was clearly a massive operation. Yet surprisingly little is known about this aspect of the camp’s history.
Most of the officers in Handforth served in the camp throughout the war years, whereas the lower ranks tended to be more regularly circulated to other duties.
In the five years that the Handforth camp existed, there were four commandants in charge. The post tended to full to senior military personnel on the verge of retirement and thus coming to the end of long, often glorious, careers.
People from other countries, aside from the United States and Switzerland, also visited Handforth, generally for diplomatic or journalistic reasons.
Having such a large number of POWs on British soil meant that high ranking government and military officials had little option but to take an interest in the running of Handforth and the country’s other internment camps.
The Americans were the second largest group of foreigners to visit the Handforth camp on a regular basis. Like the Swiss, delegates from the American Embassy in London, made regular tours of Britain’s POW camps, inspecting facilities and ensuring the care of the internees.
None of the Prisoner of War camps across Europe existed in complete isolation. Each camp had been created by one of the belligerent powers, but they were still supposed to adhere to wider international agreements.
The prisoners in Handforth came from different countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey and beyond), different geographical regions and from different social backgrounds.
If the prisoners in Handforth had expected to be released with the ending of hostilities, then they were to be sadly disappointed.
Unsurprisingly not all of the prisoners in Handforth relished the thought of remaining in the camp, particularly as for a long time there was no clear end to the war in sight.
In 1921, two former German prisoners from Handforth published a history of the camp, which was based largely on their own experiences of internment.
Once Handforth had changed from a civilian internment camp to a military POW camp much of its previous diversity disappeared.
During Handforth’s first year, when it served mainly as a camp for civilian prisoners, it also housed a smaller number of military prisoners.
During the first year of the camp’s existence, German prisoners lived alongside Turks, Austrians and Hungarians, as well as those from South America, Africa and neutral Europe.
In the early weeks of the war, the Manchester Courier remarked with some excitement that “an Austrian gentleman of title is interned” in Handforth.
When the conflict first started in August 1914, the people of Handforth could never have imagined that their village would take on a central role in Britain’s war effort.
Sir Muirhead Bone was born in Glasgow on the 23rd March 1876 and died on the 21st October 1953.
Handforth Concentration Prison imprisoned Germans living in Britain, descendants of German immigrants, and Jewish men either from Germany, or simply having a German last name.
115,950 prisoners to be housed in Britain, that constitutes a lot of people and the troops to manage them but more importantly, where to put them.
Curator at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Andrew Choong Han Lin shares the story of Marcus Bailey, who served on HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland.
I am searching for relatives of Henri Joseph Borghys and Frans Buyssens.
Of the colonial nations which offered forces to the British effort in WWI, India was the nation who contributed the most; by 31st December 1919, over 877,000 combatants and over 563,000 non-combatants had been recruited from the country.
The Gypsy community in Cheshire currently has little academic writing about their involvement during the ‘Great War’, despite their presence in Cheadle being considerable.
Brunner Mond was established in 1873 by John Brunner and Ludwig Mond who were both leading figures in the chemical industry.
Brunner Mond chemical company flourished during the war effort by producing mass production employed a total of around 6,000 employees in the early stages of the war in 1914.
During the First World War, Armenia had a new meaning, it became a land defined by execution and tragedy.
Walter Keating was born in Chester in 1881 and lived with his family in William Street, Newtown, Chester. He was one of eight children, the three eldest were born in County Mayo, Ireland, the remaining five were born in Chester.
Thomas Heaney was born on 29th October 1867 and baptised on the 10th November of the same year at St. Werburgh’s Roman Catholic Church, Chester.
As the Great War went on, several articles about the Beatty family found their way into local newspapers. The Beatty family came to be regarded as an example of the type of patriotism displayed by the ordinary people of Chester.
Between the middle of the 19th and early part of the 20th century, the Irish came to England in droves, mostly because of the potato famine and lack of work in their homeland.
The discovery of a book belonging to a nurse who worked at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital during the First World War has provided an artistic glimpse into the lives of both soldiers and nurses at the time.
By the time the First World War began, life in Ireland had become a big struggle for the family, with his father having contracted tuberculosis, and his health rapidly declining. Sadly, he died in 1919 aged only 48 years of age.
World War one brought a flood of minorities from all over the world to Britain for employment opportunities or through involvement with the Allied Forces.
The Handforth camp exported many of its prisoners to a large network of working camps and also to local farms where they offered manual labour.
Running a camp the size of Handforth required a considerable number of military guards as well as a large number of general workers and administrators.
When placed together, all of these visits highlight how during the First World War Handforth became a hive of activity, where people from across Europe and beyond came to observe life behind barbed wires.
Military prisoners had been present in the camp from its earliest days, but only started to arrive in large numbers during the middle of 1916.
Civilian internees started to arrive in Handforth at the time of the camp’s opening in November 1914.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, instances of mental illness rocketed in the internment camps.
At first the enemy aliens in Handforth were interned principally out of a fear of spying. However, as time went on, the prisoners also arrived for their own protection.
In 1910, calico printers Symonds, Cunliffe and Co. added four very large sheds to their Handforth operations with the aim of expanding output of the Print Works, originally built in 1861.
Being of Jewish origin, the family were obliged to leave Eastern Europe in the 17th century, where opinion had turned against them. They were not alone, of course.
Hermann Hesse is, quite possibly, unique in the story of the British Army in the Great War, as he may well have been the only officer to have served in both the German and British armies.
On May 1st 1915 the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania left New York on her return journey back to Liverpool.
By 1916, the supply of volunteer soldiers was running out, with 420,000 British Servicemen having died in the first 18 months of the First World War.
Liam Parr was one of the two men from Stockport who travelled to Dublin in early 1916 to take part in the Easter Rising.
To be a soldier in The Great War was to be one of 8,654,467 men who fought and often died for king and country.
John Julius Jersey de Knoop was born on 6th March 1876 in Rusholme, Greater Manchester.
By the early 20th century the county of Cheshire had accumulated a small yet prosperous Jewish community.
Soldiers from the Isle of Man played a significant role in the Cheshire Regiment and consequently, in the First World War.
Prior to the outbreak of World War One, there were approximately 300,000 Jews living within Britain.
By the end of the war, 250,000 Belgians had come to the UK for safety, but it did not always work out that way.
Constant was born in Gent, Belgium on 25th Dec. 1888. His address on enlisting was Martelarenlaan 355, Gent.
Christened Joannes Francois Vermeulen and born on 13thJune 1892, JF Vermeulen was one of nine children, having 2 brothers and 6 sisters.
A fact that is not widely known is that a few hundred Belgian refugees found their way to mid-Cheshire in the first months of WWI.
Last week on 11th November, the University of Chester’s Dr. Hannah Ewence and Ann Marie Curtis of the St. Werburgh’s Great War Study Group, visited BBC Radio Merseyside to talk about the Belgian refugees and soldiers who lived, recovered, and died in Cheshire during the First World War.
This post features the biographies of a number of Belgian refugee families who resided in Nantwich during the First World War