First World War: Chiselhurst man survived Prisoner of War camp in 1917 and lived to 92
PUBLISHED: 16:40 13 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:53 13 March 2014
An amazing story of survival from a German Prisoner of War camp during the First World War is rooted a lot closer to home in Chiselhurst.
Sitting in a prisoner of war camp deep in enemy territory, Alfred E Batchelor must have wondered whether he would ever see his family again.
The Chiselhurst soldier had been wounded in the head and suffered an agonising gas attack while serving on the Western Front against Kaiser Wilhelm’s German forces.
He had been wounded and sent home once before but his second stint on the front line saw him captured and thrown into the Dulmen prisoner of war camp in western Germany.
This was in 1917 and thankfully Alfred was allowed to send a postcard home to let his wife Connie know where he was.
Alfred’s note informed his family: “I am a prisoner of war and stationed at Dulmen. I am wounded in the head.”
Alfred managed to survive his time at the prisoner of war camp and returned to his home in Bromley after the end of the war in 1919, where he lived until the age of 92.
While reading a First World War feature in the Times, Sheila Aldred, left, decided to contact us and provide photographs of her grandfather, Alfred, and information about his story of survival.
“He must have initially gone to the war in 1915,” she said.
“He was in the 7th Suffolk regiment and was stationed in France.
“But he injured his shoulder and had to come home.
“He then went back and the family received a postcard dated December 5, 1917 informing them he had been captured and was being kept in the Dulmen camp.”
Thankfully Alfred was able to return home where he lived out his days quietly with his wife Connie.
The couple had two children, Nelly and Ronald, and Alfred was never more at home than when he was working at his award-winning allotment.
A true green-fingered gardener, Alfred loved spending time growing and tending to his plants and vegetables.
He also enjoyed going on family holidays to Bournemouth.
“He was a lovely, lovely man,” said Sheila of Alfred, who died in 1971. “But he never really spoke about his time in the war, he was very quiet like that.
“He was a gardener before and after the war, but when he wasn’t working he was a very smart man too.”
To see more photos of Alfred and his family, click the gallery on the right.
Did a member of your family serve in the first world war? Do you have stories or memories from the period that you would like to share? Have you uncovered little-known facts or researched a particular subject to do with the war. We would love to hear from our readers to shape our coverage of the centenary year. Get in touch through Twitter or Facebook, email reporter Beth Wyatt at Bethany.firstname.lastname@example.org , call 020 8477 3988 or write to Beth Wyatt, Romford Recorder, 539 High Road, Ilford, IG1 1UD, to take part.
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