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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Prisoner of war

During Childeric's siege and blockade of Paris in 464,  the nun Geneviève (later canonized as the city's patron saint) pleaded to Childeric for the welfare of prisoners-of-war, and met with a favorable response. Later, Clovis I liberated captives after Genevieve urged him to do so.

St Geneviève 

In 1201, Francis of Assisi joined an Assisi military expedition against Perugia and was taken captive. He spent a year as a prisoner of war in a Perugian fortress.

Geoffrey Chaucer acquired a taste for French poems of courtly love whilst a prisoner of war in France. It was said he had a "downlook due to his habit of constant reading."

When the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Aztec Empire in 1519, they murdered many Aztec Prisoners Of War and made others into slaves.

The word 'Deadline' was originally used much more literally. During the American Civil War, prisoner of wars were confined and surrounded by a deadline, so called because if a prisoner were to cross it, he could be rightfully shot dead.

After Winston Churchill escaped from a prisoner of war camp during the Boer War in 1899, he had a £25 reward dead or alive placed on his head.

Maurice Chevalier,  the French star of Gigi, was sent to the front line in 1914, where he was wounded and captured. While in a prisoner of war camp, he learned to speak English from British cellmates.

Joseph Stalin refused a German request to swap prisoners in World War II. His son, who was captured during the war, died in a prison camp as a result.

In the ‘Great Escape’ of 1944, 76 Allied Prisoners of Wars escaped from Stalag Luft III camp through a 336ft long tunnel they’d secretly dug.


Alfie Fripp, the longest-serving and oldest-surviving British prisoner of war of World War II, "liberated" tools used in the excavation of the Great Escape tunnel.

For every 1,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers held prisoner by the Germans in World War II, 35 would die before hostilities ended. By contrast, for every 1,000 held by the Japanese, the figure was a savage 248.

During World War II British spies posed as fake charity groups to hand out special Monopoly games to allied prisoners of war. These games had compasses, maps, real money, and other useful tools for escaping.

American prisoners captured in Ardennes in December 1944

In 1941 the senior German officer at Colditz Castle was Major English. At the same time the highest ranking prisoner was Colonel German.

An English pointer named Judy was the only dog registered as a prisoner of war in the Second World War. She was captured by the Japanese in 1944.

Canada was so nice to their Prisoners Of War during World War II that almost 20% of them requested to stay after the fighting had ended.

Many of the sadistic details of Room 101 were developed from George Orwell's conversations with an ex Japanese Prisoner of war neighbor.

The last prisoner of war from World War II to be repatriated was a Hungarian soldier named Andras Toma, who was taken prisoner by the Red Army in 1944. He was discovered living in a Russian psychiatric hospital in 2000. Since he only spoke Hungarian, he was trapped there for over 50 years. He died a few years later.

American captives in the Vietnam war would authenticate a new prisoner's American identity by tapping the first five notes of "Shave and a Haircut", against a cell wall, and waiting for the appropriate response.

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