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Private George R Cave

7554 1st Bn Northamptonshire Regiment

Son of Mr Henry and Mrs Mary Ann Cave
Husband of Mabel A (nee Wiggins)

Born at Rushden. Note: George was already a soldier when the 1911 census was taken, and went to France on 13th August 1914. He was listed as an 'Absent voter' in 1918. [Researched by Pete Inns] He was then living at 50 Glassbrook Road, his parents were in Oswald Road. We now believe he was held prisoner throughout the war.
The Rushden Echo, 27th November 1914, transcribed by Jim Hollis.

Rushden Man’s Sad End - Private G. Cave Killed
Wounded British Soldiers - Lanced by the Germans

Some weeks ago we published in the “Rushden Echo” that Pte. G. Cave, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Cave, of Rushden, had been officially reported as missing. The official document stated that he had not been with his regiment since Aug. 25th.

We regret to say that Mr. and Mrs. Cave have now received confirmation of his death, though not official. The sad news has been brought by a friend who lives near to Mr. and Mrs. Cave, and who was in the same regiment as Pte. Cave, and is now at home wounded. He states that Pte. Cave was killed in the first battle, his source of information being a drummer friend of Pte. Cave’s, who actually saw him killed. In this engagement we are told that the Germans spared none of the wounded, such of the British wounded as were alive when the Germans came past being run through with the lance as they lay.

The sympathy of the whole town will be extended to Mr. and Mrs. Cave in the grievous loss they have sustained by the death of their gallant son, and also to the deceased soldier’s wife. His mother told our representative, however, that she could not have wished a more glorious end for her son, he having died in the service of his King and country.

Prior to being called up as a reservist in the first week in August, Pte. Cave was in the employ of Messrs. G. Selwood and Co. He leaves a wife and one child to mourn their loss, and as a model and affectionate son he will be greatly missed by his parents. We are given to understand that the probable reason why Mr. and Mrs. Cave have not received official confirmation of their son’s death is because the British were compelled to retire from ... ... ... in this particular engagement, and such of the British as were killed were subsequently buried by the Germans, who did not take the trouble to remove the identification disks.

The late Private Cave had seen seven years’ service, five of which he served in India. He was captain of the regimental football and hockey teams, and was very popular with his comrades.

The Wellingborough News Friday 8 January 1915, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier a Prisoner
Private Cave, of Glassbrook-road, Rushden, who was reported unofficially as killed, is we are glad to say, quite well. He writes from Germany saying he is being fairly well treated as a prisoner of war.

Rushden Echo, 26th February 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden Soldier a Prisoner – Strict German Censorship
Letters, Parcels and Money – Sent But Not Received
Although it is known that private George Cave (Rushden) is safe and sound, he, being a prisoner of war, is not allowed to receive news from home. In a message received by his wife this week he says he is anxious to hear how things are at home. As a matter of fact, letters, parcels, and money etc., have been dispatched to him from home every week since it was first known that he was a prisoner. His friends are naturally pleased to hear from him again, but regret that they cannot, under the strict German censorship, reach him with news. There is evidently a great difference in the restrictions placed on prisoners of war from England, as other Rushden soldiers who are at other camps can write oftener, and one Rushden man in particular seems to receive letters and parcels sent to him. On the post card sent by private Cave he says:-

“It is with much pleasure that I write to let you know I am in good health at present. Avoid worry on my account as much as possible. But by all means let me know how you are situated, as I am anxious to hear from you. I wrote on Dec. 18 but have not received any answer yet. I expect you know I am a prisoner of war? You cannot send anything but letters, but a good letter would suit me. I cannot write what I like!”

The last sentence is very significant and is probably also meant to suggest that the less said about the war the better it will be for him. Some prisoners have instructed their friends at home not to mention the war. On the card that Pte. Cave sent were printed, in French, strict injunctions to address the communications sent to Germany “Prisoner of war,” in order that no delay would take place in the delivery. We understand, however, on official information, that the postal authorities accept no responsibility whatever for the delivery of communications from England to Germany. Hence the rule that no postage stamps need be placed on parcels.

The Rushden Echo, 26th November 1915, transcribed by Gill Hollis

This Terrible Calamity! - Cannot Last Much Longer
Pte. George Cave
Mrs. George Cave, of the Mill House, Glassbrook-road, Rushden, has received a letter from her husband, Pte. George Cave, of the 1st Northants, who has been a prisoner of war in Germany since twelve months last August. He writes under the date of Oct. 31st:- "I am in good health and spirits. God grant that I may return to you. Surely this terrible calamity cannot last much longer. There must be a turn in the lane somewhere, which I hope cannot be far distant. I have received all that has been sent me, and you cannot do more for me, also the clothes arrived safely and that is quite enough for the winter. I see Arthur (Pte. A. Cave, R.A.M.C. his brother) has gone, but good luck to him. May he return as well as he went, also Bill (Lce-Corpl. H. George, Rushden, of the Steelbacks). Tell them to cheer up as you cheer me up when you write. I hope George Mackness, of Rushden (in hospital wounded Ed. R.E.) will pull through. He is one of my old pals."

The Rushden Argus 10th January 1919, transcribed by Susan Manton

A Hard Time - Prisoner’s Sufferings in German Hands - Life saved by parcels

Pte. George Cave of the 1st Northants Regiment and whose wife and two children reside at Glassbrook Road, Rushden, has had some wonderful experiences during the war and whilst a prisoner, some of which he described to our representative in an interview.

Private Cave had served nearly seven years with the colours in India and at Aden when he came home and was placed in the Reserves in 1911. He was employed by Messrs. G. Selwood and Co., boot manufacturers, Rushden, and was called up as a reservist on August 5th 1914. On August 12th he went to France and fought in several severe actions. On August 26th he was posted as missing. On that date he was left behind with a sergeant and 15 other men, guarding the overcoats of the battalion in a small village. This the Germans entered and the men retreated, leaving the coats, which were burnt with the whole village by the Huns. The seventeen men came in touch with a number of the Connaught Rangers, about 100 strong, whom they joined and fought along side of.

They were all surrounded and all the farm buildings around were burnt down by the enemy. The officer in charge, Lieutenant Barker, who had been wounded two hours, rallied the men under a second lieutenant. There were now only 40 men left, all the others having been either killed or wounded, but the gallant remainder made a desperate effort to break through the surrounding Germans by a bayonet charge. This had to be made through a gap in a hedge, however, and when they reached the gap everyone was mown down by the German machine guns except Private Cave. The soldier, who was on the extreme left of the gap, escaped the flying bullets, and when he was through shouted to the other men. He was horrified to find that he was the only one left standing, and he received no answer to his shout. Private Cave then made his escape out of the field, returning back to a barn, in which were many wounded men, none of whom could walk.

A wounded corporal told him to try to get back to his regiment. With this intention he left the barn and walked along the river bank. After about halt an hour’s walking in the darkness he came across four unwounded men of the Connaught Rangers, whom he joined. Crossing the river by a ladder, which just spanned it, they got through the German lines, but after walking all night they found, when daylight came, that they had lost their way and were again advancing behind the advancing German armies. These were travelling very fast, and having no means of direction except the sun, the five men could not keep up with, let alone pass them. From that morning (August 27th) they had some very trying experiences and narrow escapes. They soon thought it best to separate, as food was harder to obtain for five than for two or three, and three left Private Cave and the other man to go together.

The two men kept on until Nov 5th when they reached Liesse, not far from Laon, and about 20 kilos behind the German lines. They were then taken prisoners. The officer who took them, a decent fellow who could speak English, told them that their three comrades had been taken a fortnight previously. The two prisoners were taken to Laon, where they stayed until Dec. 13th, when they were taken to Germany, to a prison camp at Wetzlar. After five days Private Cave was removed to Giessen where food was very poor and insufficient. At Giessen they were placed in a camp which was divided into several parts by barbed wire. If the men touched the wire or attempted conversation with those on the other side they were either bayoneted of hit with the butt end of a rifle by Prussian guards.

This brutal treatment was meted out especially to the French and Belgian prisoners and many were killed thereby. Others were more or less severely wounded. Food was again very bad and there was not much of it. On Feb. 15th 1915, the soldier was sent to a prisoners of war camp at Merseburg. This was in an awful condition, the sanitary arrangements being in a most disgusting state. On April 7th he, with several more, was sent to work in a coal mine. The men were in a terrible condition. They were weak from want of food and no clothing had been issued out to them. Naturally their own were in tatters. Private Cave’s shirt was gone, his trousers were in ribbons, and his tunic was very badly torn.

The coal mine was an open one, and they were forced to work in all weathers. When the men could not do the work wanted of them the Huns kicked them and struck them with rifle butts. The civilian taskmasters often fired revolvers in their faces and threatened to kill them if they could not do the work owing to their ignorance of the German language. The prisoners in such a condition were made to do the same amount of work as the German miners, and their working hours were from six o’clock in the morning to six o’clock at night on weekdays and from six o’clock until midday on Sundays. For a long time no one was allowed to see a doctor and sick men were worked until they dropped. Then they were taken back to the backs where they were allowed to rest for the remainder of the day, but no treatment was given.

On June 30th 1915 Private Cave received his first parcel, which was from his wife. In July he began to receive parcels from the Northamptonshire Prisoners of War Fund, and subsequently also from other sources. Soon after he received clothing and boots, which he was very thankful to have. Beginning to get such splendid parcels, Private Cave and his comrades began to pick up. He declared that if it had not been for the praiseworthy efforts of the County and the Rushden Prisoners of War Funds, the Park Road Baptist Church, the Windmill Club, the Brookfield and Glassbrook Road Roll of Honour, and the firm and shop mates with whom he worked, in sending parcels to him he would not be alive today.

The prisoners worked until December 9th last. When they learnt that the armistice had been signed, on Nov 11th, they all struck work, when they were offered the same food and money as the German miners to continue. Thus they refused, on which an armed guard of about forty men was brought down by special train and forced them to work. On Dec 9th the prisoners again went on strike. They were then sent back to Merseburg, and on Dec 22nd went by train to Copenhagen. They were warmly welcomed by the Danes and they spent a splendid Christmas. On Dec 29th they left for England on the S.S. Ajax. A thrilling time was in store for them, however. While going through the minefields they had several narrow “shaves” from being blown sky high. Eleven mines were fired at. The ship reached Leith on Jan 1st and Private Cave, after going to Ripon Camp, arrived home on two months leave.

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