Use of German POW's for Agriculture and other trades


German POW hoeing a field in Essex 1917

Until 1916 no POW had any employment although of course some men with skills such as cooks worked within the camps on an official or unofficial based.

In 1916 the War Office allowed the use of some POW's in employment.

In practice the POW chosen were men with some existing skills who were judged to be trustworthy.

Employers who wished to use POW labour had to make an application and provide evidence that no other British labour was available to carry out the tasks.

The attraction to the POW's was in a small amount of pay but mainly in higher quantity and quality of food rations.

The attraction to employers was the availability of male manpower at a time when most men able bodied were in active service

The vast majority were employed in agriculture where there was a large manpower shortage although other men were employed in a variety of manufacturing industries.

In Essex most of these men came from the large Pattishall POW Camp in Northamptonshire and were then held in lightly guarded small camps spread though the rural community.

Locally the Essex Agricultural Executive Committee managed POW Labour and regularly published information as the below clips from the Chelmsford Chronicle show.