Skipton was an officers’ camp so the German prisoners did not have to work. To pass the time and create a sense of purpose they organised various cultural activities including a theatre group, a choir, an orchestra and a chamber music group.

Choirs were very popular in Germany at the time and the first men to arrive in Skipton founded a choir of 25 men the day after their arrival in January 1918. Their first performance was just over a week later at the camp celebrations of the Kaiser’s birthday.

The camp theatre

The camp theatre© Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, p.190

Programme of a performance of 'The Importance of Being Ernest'

Programme from ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’© Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg im Breisgau, MSG200/2709

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The orchestra obtained instruments and sheet music from the charity set up by Dr K. E. Markel in London in addition to those they purchased themselves from London and Germany. They put on a number of concerts in the camp which included works by Mendelssohn, Grieg, Puccini, Wagner and Saint-Saëns.

The theatre performances were important in raising the spirits of the prisoners. They created elaborate stage sets and spent weeks making costumes and props. They even translated some plays into German such as ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (Oscar Wilde). Other works they performed included  ‘Turandot’ (Schiller) and ‘The Doctor’s Dilemma’ (George Bernard Shaw).

programme of opera 'Turandot' performed by prisoners of war

Programme from ‘Turandot’, performed Christmas 1918© Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg im Breisgau, MSG200/1971

illustration of performance from 'Turandot' showing king on throne

Performance of ‘Turandot’ as depicted in the camp newspaper, 20 April 1919.© Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, Freiburg im Breisgau, MSG200/1971