A long way from Tipperary…

Late May, 1940. British prisoners of war are being marched to Germany, guarded by German soldiers with mounted bayonets. They are close to the IJzer Canal near Ypres, where their fathers and uncles fought each other 25 years earlier. This time the German advance isn’t halted, and the British Expeditionary Force is forced to retreat towards Dunkirk. The gefangene Tommy, as the back of the photo calls them, don’t know that five years of captivity awaits them. The ordinary soldiers were put to argicultural or industrial work, and they were generally treated well, all but 3.5 % surviving the war.

Their captors are from the 13th company of Infanterie-Regiment 59 in the 19-Infanterie-Division. The Regiment was raised in October 1935 as the Wehrmacht was expanded. The Division took part in the attack on Poland in 1939, and then as part of the 6th Army in the invasion of Belgium, returning to Germany in September 1940 to be converted to the 19. Panzer-Division. It fought the rest of the war on the Eastern Front, eventually surrendering to the Soviets in Moravia in May 1945.

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