The first German prisoners arrived in Skipton in January 1918. The German orderlies arrived on 11 January to set up camp in advance of the first wave of officers who arrived on 17, 19 and 21 January. They came from Colsterdale camp, near Masham and were sent by rail to Skipton, 50 men per day over the course of the 3 days. Most of these men had been captured at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917.

The German prisoners were made to march to the camp via Skipton High Street and Raikes Road. In their book, Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, the officers describe their mixed feelings of shame and defencelessness on one hand and defiance and pride in Germany on the other hand.

Arrival of new prisoners

Arrival of new prisoners© Kriegsgefangen in Skipton

 

Crowds of locals had turned out to watch the officers arrive and the Germans make an interesting observation about them:

These English men, women and children betrayed no signs of wasting away, quite the opposite: even in peacetime, nowhere in Germany are there so many fat representatives of the human race as here in Skipton.

Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, p.33

The Craven Herald report on the arrival of some of the prisoners provides an interesting comparison:

These particular German prisoners could certainly not be called a smart or a handsome lot. Numbering probably between 50 and 60, and mostly wearing dark grey uniforms with red facings and the familiar round German caps, they looked as if they would have been none the worse for a good wash. Some were smoking large curled pipes, others were laughing and joking, while few of them appeared to be in any way dejected by their misfortune. Standing about the height of an average Englishman they were inclined to be on the lean side; and one could not help comparing their sallow skins and low foreheads with the ruddy complexions and well-fed appearance of our “Tommies”. Standing somewhat apart from his comrades was a Prussian Guard, said to be 7ft in height, wearing a brighter looking uniform than the others.

The Craven Herald, Friday 18 January 1918

On seeing the camp for the first time the officers describe their desolation as they had hoped to be housed in stone buildings, rather than wooden barracks.