University of Leeds student Harriet Purbrick writes of one of the most seriously injured prisoners brought to Skipton’s WW1 Raikeswood Camp.

THE discovery of a family photo album of a Raikeswood Camp prisoner during WW1 has given researchers at the University of Leeds insight into his life before his death from battlefield injuries in November 1918.

The prisoner, Otto von Kühlewein, arrived at Skipton as just one of five amputee POWs (out of a total of 916 to pass through Skipton) having had his arm amputated, presumably in a field hospital in France.

The photo album, compiled by his brother a year after Otto’s death, traces the course of his short life.

The photos begin in 1901, when von Kühlewein turned twelve years old, and show him during his schooldays until his graduation from Rossleben School (60 miles west of Leipzig).

We also see an eighteen year old Otto celebrating the Kaiser’s birthday in 1907.

The next section of the photo album reveals that von Kühlewein undertook officer training in Metz and Berlin from 1909 to 1912, reaching the rank of second lieutenant. Photos from this time document multiple aspects of his training.

We see von Kühlewein posing for the camera in full uniform and out in the fields with horses practising the ‘Kaiser manoeuver’ drill but there is downtime too and von Kühlewein can be seen dressed up for a formal social occasion.

Von Kühlewein was stationed at Bonn from 1912 until the outbreak of the war. The photographs from this time also show a holiday in England in summer 1913.

From 1914 to 1918 he fought in various locations on the Western Front, including at the Battle of the Somme.

Red Cross records state that he was captured at Andres on 13 April 1918 and that he held the rank of Hauptmann or captain.

His injuries were listed as ‘gunshot wounds to the left arm (amputated), side and neck’.

Analysis of the records reveals that over a quarter of the Skipton prisoners had suffered gunshot wounds but von Kühlewein was one of only five men who had had an amputation.

Von Kühlewein spent several months in hospital in Dartford before he arrived in Skipton as prisoner number 656 on 16 August 1918.

Von Kühlewein’s journey from Dartford to Skipton was not an easy one: he was travelling by train with five other wounded officers and had to change four times.

He informed the German authorities of his treatment on the journey and the German Foreign Office in turn requested via the Swiss Legation that a protest be made to the British Government.

This ‘note verbale’ can be seen in The National Archives in London.

Von Kühlewein claims that the wounded officers had to carry their entire baggage including some heavy pieces, and although a man with a cart and a British Sergeant accompanying the party offered their assistance, the officer in charge would not permit the proffered aid to be availed of’.

He added: “On one occasion we had to load up our luggage on a cart and drive it ourselves.

“Lieutenant Jung (amputated foot) had to hang a fairly heavy cardboard box on each crutch and Lieutenant Johrol, notwithstanding the wound in his neck, had to carry on his shoulder a sack of clothing standing at least 1m high.”

The German Foreign Office sought a statement from the British government, ‘to the end that a repetition of alleged occurrences may be prevented.’

Von Kühlewein’s health declined further in October 1918 and he was taken back to hospital, this time to Brocton Military hospital.

Although he was repatriated to Germany six days after admission he died shortly afterwards, aged 29.

His death occurred on November 12, just a day after the Armistice.

His funeral was held at the Heroes’ Cemetery in Aachen.

Raikeswood Camp was originally a training camp for Bradford Pals and other regiments.

Huts were given names like “Buckingham Palace” and “One Step Nearer”, pathways were given familiar names like “Downing Street” and some were given derogatory names. The camp was built to hold 1200 people.

When it later changed to a Prisoner of War Camp, at its height, it held 564 officers and 137 orderlies (686 Prisoners of War).

The total number of admissions was 989.