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swales1Fred Swales was born in Preston in 1895 and was one of four surviving children born to Arthur and Elizabeth Hannah Swales (nee Halliwell).

Fred`s parents married on Christmas Day in 1886 at St. Thomas`s Church in Preston. Fred had an older brother Arthur (1892) and two sisters Elizabeth Christina (1894) and Florence Victoria (1897).

In 1901 the family home was in Kent Street in Preston and Fred`s father was working as a sawyer.

By 1911 the family had relocated to 38 Linnet Street and Fred, now working, had found a job as an apprentice French polisher in a cabinet works. His father and elder brother Arthur were both working in a soap works, Mr. Swales as a wood cutting machinist and Arthur as an apprentice mill sawyer.

At some point after war was declared Fred went to the recruiting office in Preston and enlisted. He was allocated the service number 13458 and posted to the 10th Battalion. Unfortunately his service papers have not survived so any further information is limited.

Fred sailed from England on the evening of the 31 July, 1915 with the 10th Battalion and disembarked in Boulogne at 2am the following morning.

It seems that Fred served with the 10th Battalion throughout the many campaigns they were involved in which included the Battle of the Somme, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 and Passchendaele amongst others. He must have impressed his superiors along the way because he achieved the rank of Corporal at some point.

On the 21st February, 1918 the 10th Battalion was disbanded and the men were drafted into the 15th Entrenching Battalion.

On the first day of the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael (21st March, 1918) the 15th Entrenching Battalion were involved in the defence of the TERGNIER to QUESSY line. It was in this area that Fred`s direct involvement in the war ended when he was captured and taken prisoner on the 22nd March, 1918.

For Fred`s family it would have been an anxious time after being informed by the Authorities that he was missing and then not knowing whether he was still alive or what had happened to him.

During the Spring Offensive many thousands of men were killed, wounded or posted missing. A lot of those posted as missing had actually been taken prisoner. After they were captured they were very often put in “holding pens” directly behind the lines to await dispersal to the prisoner of war camps. The pens were apparently out in the open and most had no shelter from the elements and food was scarce.

A cross section of Officers and other ranks of repatriated POW`s were interviewed after they returned home and many recalled the harsh treatment they received after being captured.

The first indication of Fred`s whereabouts can be found in the recently released Red Cross Prisoner of War documents which say that by the 24 April, 1918 he had arrived at Dulmen POW Camp in Germany. There is no indication in the documents or in the newspaper article below to say whether he had been injured prior to his capture.

From the camp he would have been allowed to send a postcard home to his family to let them know he was still alive and a prisoner of war. Fred`s mother later reported this to the Preston Guardian.


After initially being in Dulmen camp Fred was moved on and by the end of May 1918 he had arrived at another camp in Limburg. Just over a week later he had been moved again, this time to Parchim Camp.

Unfortunately there are no further records to show what happened to Fred after Parchim Camp. However, he was eventually released at some point and repatriated back to England and was finally discharged to Class Z Reserve on the 14 April, 1919.

Fred later received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals for his services to his country.

He died in Preston in 1968 in his 73rd year.

Janet Davis
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