New Zealand prisoners of war 1914-1918

1916 Cchristmas card sent by Albert Jones

The Christmas card Albert Jones sent home from Ruhleben civilian internment camp. Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/8/19, Special Collections, Libraries and Learning Services.

After nearly three years in a German prisoner of war camp, Albert Jones was still making the best of things.  In a letter home in January 1918, he wrote:  ‘I call my bed my drawing-room because I with-draw into [it] at nightime, draw myself up in it when the days are cold & drawing-pin everything interesting on top & around it.’

Jones was writing from Ruhleben civilian internment camp where he was imprisoned alongside Horace Hunt, a musician who graduated from Auckland University College with a MusB in 1907. Both men were studying in Germany when war was declared and were detained as civilian internees.

In his wartime papers, which are held in Special Collections, Jones writes eloquently of the conditions faced by prisoners at Ruhleben, including food shortages and boredom and depression. He also gives fascinating accounts of the activities they organised to keep that boredom at bay, including lectures, theatrical performances, sports tournaments and producing their own magazine.

Parcels from home, Ruhleben, 1918.

Parcels from home arrive at Ruhleben camp, 1918. Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/16/15. Special Collections, Libraries and Learning Services.

A selection of photos, letters and ephemera from Jones’ papers features in a set of new stories about New Zealand POWs on the Special Collections First World War centenary website.  This includes stories about Hunt and Jones and two on Auckland graduates who were military POWs. Royal Flying Corps pilot Howard Ellis (BA 1910, LLB 1912) was taken prisoner after he was struck by anti-aircraft fire while flying over the Somme in July 1916 and was forced to land behind enemy lines. William Gray (BSc 1910, MSc 1911) was captured in August 1917 while serving with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade near Messines, Belgium.

As well as that online content, a selection of Albert Jones’ papers will be displayed outside the Special Collections Reading Room on the General Library ground floor until 23 January 2017.  Eventually, digitised copies of the entire set of his papers will be available online.

Jo Birks, Special Collections

Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, Special Collections, Libraries and Learning Services.