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Military Prisoner Exchange

Military Prisoner ExchangeEarly in 1917 Grace found that her help was most needed amongst the military Prisoners of War, so as the Quakers repudiated any connection with the military she left them in September 1917, and working under the War Office concentrated on the wounded and special exchange military prisoners from Germany who were taken to Holland to be interned there. Lord Newton had been appointed Controller of the newly established Prisoner of War Department in October 1916, and is thereby credited with negotiating the release of thousands of British military prisoners of war. But Newton’s reputation among the prisoners was of an unhelpful obstructionist. Grace Vulliamy meeting the first prisoners to be exchanged. December 1917The exchanged prisoners were at first only officers and NCOs; privates were ignored until Grace Vulliamy started urging their immediate release. She wrote ‘Lord Newton seems to do so little to help’. Grace now acted as Red Cross and YMCA representative in Holland. On 31 August 1917 she proposed that Major General Sir John Hanbury Williams should be in ‘complete charge,’ ‘that the YMCA and British Red Cross would have their offices in the same building and refer to [him] on all important matters.’ It was therefore officially ‘at his request’ that she organised the first temporary Hospital for sick or wounded POWs. An agreement was at last made with Germany and the first batch arrived on December 29 1917. Miss Vulliamy was Sir John’s representative, making all arrangements and meeting all POWs at the frontier, taking particulars during the journey, very often of over 300 men, and telegraphing them to England to warn of their arrival the same day! British prisoners of war who had been interned in Germany, landed at Boston, Lincolnshire, on 16 January 1918. Grace Vulliamy met these men at the Dutch frontier on 12 January 1916Now she heard from the severely wounded how much the men who had been prisoners since 1914 were suffering mentally, which as a mental nurse concerned her greatly and she took steps to set them free. To manage this she went as high as it was possible to go, and obtained interviews with King George V and Queen Mary, and then with Lloyd George, which took place in July 1918. Grace said that Lloyd George began to listen to her proposals when she told him that the enfranchised prisoners-of-war hated him and would never again vote for him!’ The Germans now realised she was English and they no longer allowed her to travel on the train with the wounded. ‘The German wireless stated that on no account was she to proceed to the Dutch frontier to take over the exchanged prisoners of war.’ However, the war was nearly at an end and at the Armistice in November 1918, Miss Vulliamy was asked by the War Office to stay in Holland, to help the repatriation of all British POWs, until March 1919. Among her awards was the Medaille de la Reine Elisabeth, for service to Belgians, the Dutch Red Cross from the Queen of Holland and on 14 November 1919 the CBE by the King, the only woman to be so honoured at that particular investiture.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Who was Grace Vulliamy and what kind of person was she? Chapter 2. Her war work – Women’s Emergency Corps.Chapter 3.‘Last lap from Nurse Cavell’ Grace, Edith Cavell and Escaped PrisonersChapter 4. Helping the Quakers help Refugees Chapter 5. Civilian Prisoner ExchangeChapter 7. Post-war WorkChapter 8. ConclusionHome Page