Search     Ancestors     Map     Descendants     Load Gedcom file

Photo showing German trenches in Latvia with British POWs

Cedric Septimus Ireland
Determine relationship to...
5 NOV 1888 Harper Hill, Derbyshire, England
John Hilton Ireland
Mary Helen Bowden
26 MAR 1917 Mitau Military Cemetery, Latvia aged 28
Name: Cedric Septimus Ireland
Service Branch: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Unit: Hawke Bn.
Rank: Able Seaman
Death Date: 26 Mar 1917
Cause of Death: Died whilst POW from Heart Failure after Rheumatism at Englander Kommando (EK) I, Mitau, Russia.
Burial: Nikolai Cemetery, Latvia, & Brookwood (Russia) UK Memorial (MR 70)
Service History: Enlisted 7/8/14 ; Hawke Bn. D/776 22/8/14-9/10/14 POW at Antwerp
Service Number: London 2/3465
Notes: 14/3/19 Reported by London 2/3565 AB H. Beavon as died from Exhaustion ; 28/1/20 Buried in Russian Cemetery, Mitau, at Bunker Chaussee, Russia, west of Chief Road, Grave No.4, Row 11. ; An Electrician & Wireless ; b.5/11/1888 ; Next-of-Kin & home address: Rev. J.H. Ireland, 5 Clarence Rd., (later of Camden House, Bankside), Southend-on-Sea ; 1914 Star issued to father, Rev. J.H. Ireland, 19/3/19.

In May 1916 the Germans formed three “Work Battalions”, which were titled Englander Kommando (EK) I, II and III. EKI was formed by approximately 1000 POWs from Doberitz POW camp and were transferred to the German-Russian front line near Jelgava, Latvia.

Testimony of German treatment of British Prisoners of War sent to Russia (modern day Latvia) in 1916, as a Reprisal for the Employment of German Prisoners in France.

(National Archives' reference WO 161/100/557)

Company Sergeant-Major A. Gibb, No. 6826, 2nd
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, having
been duly sworn, states :—

I was the senior 2nd class W.O. of a party Of
1,000 N.C.O.'s and men (25 per cent. N.C.O.'s) who
left Doeberitz Camp on 8th May 1916 for Russia. We
knew nothing at that time of our destination, or the
reason of the move, and as it was very warm weather
we left our warm clothing and half our food to follow
us. We arrived at Frankfurt-am-Oder the same day,
and by 11th May 1916 another 1.000 N.C.O.'s and
men from a number of camps in Germany, had also
come into Frankfurt.

On 11th May 1916, four parties
0f 500 each left for Russia. We had learned by this
time that Russia was our destination, but we knew
nothing of the reason for the move. I was the senior
British prisoner of war Of NO. 4 of these parties, and
we reached Libau by train on 13th May 1916. The
party commenced work on 14th May 1916 aud con-
tinued until February 1917, being employed for the
most part in the docks of Libau. At first the men
found the work very heavy, under the conditions of
short rations and bad accommodation, but on the
arrival of our parcels, which were forwarded fairly
regularly, we were able to carry out the heavy work
in better condition. We were informed on arrival at
Libau that we were here as a reprisal for the employ-
ment of German prisoners of war in France by the
British. On 20th February 1917 my party, which
had been brought up to the strength of 500 again, was
ordered to be ready to leave Libau for an unknown
destination. We were ordered to take with us only
such kit and food as we would require on the journey,
the rest being packed in separate waggons and carried
on the same train. We left Libau about 10 p.m. on
23rd February 1917, and arrived at Mitau the following
evening, being accommodated in a Russian prisoners'
camp. At 5 a.m. on 25th we were paraded and handed
over to a squadron Of Uhlans. We were cautioned
that we were under active service troops now; that noone
was to leave the ranks under any consideration ;
all orders must be at once obeyed ; no reports (com-
plaints) would be listened to. We marched along
the River Aa, in about 6 inches of snow, to the village
of Latchen, near Kelzien, which was then 5 or 6
kilometres behind the German front lines, where we
arrived about 5 p.m. The distance was about 28 kilo-
metres. The whole way lances and whips were freely
used upon us; anyone falling down was beaten to his
feet again, and many of the men abandoned their food
or blankets, which were looted by the rear guard or
by the German soldiers in the billets we passed. The
Uhlan escort gave exhibitions of "cattle driving" as
we were passing these billets all along the route,
encouraged by the cheers of the German soldiers. On
arrival at Latchen we numbered about 80 in the
column, the remainder being scattered over several
kilometres were being knocked along.

Lieutenant Prael, the new German commander, was waiting to
receive us, and kept us standing in the snow for two
hours until all the stragglers had come in. We were
then allotted quarters in one large tent, about 70 yards
by 7, which was pitched on a frozen swamp. There
were 10 small stoves in the camp, but no fuel for
them ; no light in the tent. A barbed-wire fence closely
encircled this tent. There was no drinking or washing
water; we had to do what we could with snow for
these purposes, nor were there any buckets or any-
thing to store water in. Cooking water was brought
from the river daily by a fatigue party in the field
cookers. Rations were just enough to keep us alive.
Coffee at 5.0 a.m., soup at 6.0 p.m., one-sixth of a.
1,500 gramme loaf of bread one day, one-fifth the
next day alternately. About one tablespoonful of
jam every four days, and two ounces of sausage weekly.
The soup was simply hot water with about 7 litres
of barley in it for 500 men. The meat in the soup
could not have been more than 20 lbs. in a week. The
German guard had the remainder. We remained in
this camp until 2nd April 1917. Russian shells
occasionally fell in the neighbourhood of it, but only
one man was hit by a spent splinter. A large number
of the men had no blankets. We slept in two layers
on wire netting stretched on poles, the lower one
about, 1 foot from the ground, and the upper one
about 3 feet above that. Loose wood fibre, which
had been lying in the snow and was all wet, was spread
over the wire netting. I asked for blankets to be
supplied to the men who had none, but was told there
were none to give us. I also reported the want of
boots by many men, and was told that these would be
supplied when they arrived from Mitau. They were,
however, never issued, and this the cause of most
of the frostbite.

The day after our arrival orders
were read to us. These stated that we had been
brought here as a reprisal for the employment by
Great Britain of German prisoners of war in the front
line in France, where they were being ill-treated,
starved, and made to work under fire. We were to
be subjected to the same treatment. Smoking was
prohibited, the punishment for this being 14 days'
arrest which consisted in being tied up with field
telegraph wire to a post outside the fence, but inside
the wire, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. after return from work.

We were ordered to write to England and tell our
people the situation we were in. Orders were issued
to the guard, of which we obtained a copy, and which
stated that no mercy was to be shown to us ; we were
the men who had, every one of us, assisted in stopping
the Kaiser's army from going to Paris, and they were
to think of their comrades who were being brutally
treated in France, and be strong. Any soldier failing
to carry out these orders was to be severely punished.
If anyone of us tried to escape he and two others would be

Hours of work daily, Sundays included, were
as follows:- Parade at 5.30 a.m., move off 6 a.m. Return
to the camp about 5.30 p.m. No food between these
hours. Two pauses of 20 minutes during the day,
10 to 10.20 a.m., 1.30 to 1.50 p.m. Any one reporting
sick had to do so after return to camp in the evening.

The work was felling and carrying timber, which the
pioneer troops used for the machine-gun emplace-
ments, road making, &c., ice breaking, trench
digging. The British N.C.O.'s merely accom-
panied the men everywhere ; they were not forced to
work. The trench parties were constantly under
Russian shell fire, and had to stop work frequently on
account of it. There was little rifle or machine-gun
fire from the Russian trenches during this period.

Our work lay within from 1.5 kilometres to 60 metres
distance from the Russian stockade. Everybody who
could be made to work had to go out daily.

The medical under offcer had a free hand in his
treatment of us, and was invariably brutal. If a man
could not rise from his bed, this under officer would
pull him out, draw his bayonet and strike him, and
kick him to his feet. On one occasion he spent about
20 minutes trying to get a man awake and out of bed,
and finally found that he had died in his bed during
the night. He had been dead for some hours. A man
fainting away on the march between the camp and
work, had to be carried by his comrades, and if a man
fainted whilst turning out in the morning, he was left
lying in the snow, and no one allowed to go near him.

The work as a rule lay from 4 to 5.5 kilometres from
the camp. Toward the end of March the party was in
a terrible state. The men were so weak from starva-
tion that they were simply crawling about, and many
were covered with sores, chiefly on the face and hands,
from frostbite. Several had died already. The house
used as a hospital, a peasant cottage outside the wire,
in which the night guard was also housed, with a
machine gun, and full of our sick. It only held about
20, and little or no medical treatment was given to
them. Any sick over this number were left in our
tent and treated like the rest of us. About 20th
March 1917 the Germans began sending the worst
cases to Mitau by sledge, a distance Of 26 or 30 kilo-
metres, where they were accommodated in temporary
hospitals, under German doctors, the personnel of the
hospitals being mostly Russian volunteers, probably
either deserters or prisoners. By the end of March
parties of from 3 to 10 daily were being moved to
Mitau hospital. About 25 per cent of the remainder
had to be assisted to their work in the morning, and
we had to carry most of them home in the evenings.
Seaman Ireland died on 26th while his comrades were
carrying him home.

On 28th March I had a party of 16 N.C.O.'s and
11 men, the last to be hunted out of the tent. We took
about three hours to cover the 3 kilometres to our
work, which was carrying fascines. After the first
pause at 10.20 a.m., 8 of the 16 were absolutely unfit
to work and almost incapable of walking. The work
feldwebel ordered the sentries to compel them to
and two were detailed to lead the
worst four or five of the men. I think we made about
eight journeys all day, the distance being about a
kilometre. Bandsman Smith, Scottish Rifles, and
Private Walker, Northumberland Fusiliers, were the
worst cases. I assisted to lead Private Walker all day,
and to carry him home at night. These two cases are
quoted as an example of what was taking place almost
daily about this time.

The interpreter repeatedly told
us to write home. After delaying for a fortnight to
see if matters would improve, I did so, and stated the
actual circumstances in which we were. The following
day I received the letter back with the words "five
days strong arrest" written across it. I was tied to
the pole daily, on return from work, from 7 to 9 p.m.,
in a temperature of many degrees Of frost, for five
consecutive evenings.

On 2nd April 1917, owing to the melting of the ice
on the swamp where our tent was pitched, we moved
across the Aa to a new ground about 4 kilometres off,
near the village of Pinner. The new tent was pitched
on a foot of snow, which had not been cleared away,
and the inside of the tent was soon under water, in
some places about a foot deep, in the shell holes still
deeper. This tent was also surrounded by a barbed-
wire fence, the enclosure being about 100 yards by 60.

There were German batteries on three sides of us, and
several times the Russian shells directed at these
batteries fell in and near our enclosure. The Russians
apparently knew we were there, as the day after we
left (10th June 1917) the whole place was blown to bits
by the Russian artillery. I heard this from a reliable
German under officer. None of us, however, were hit
during the period.

Sanitary arrangements were if anything worse than
in our old place. For water for cooking and washing
we simply removed the turf and dug a hole. When
the weather improved towards the end Of April we
were able to drain our enclosure into the big shell holes

On 6th April 1917 Private Skett, Coldstream
Guards, was shot under the following circumstances.
About 20 or 25 men, too weak to go to work, were left
in camp in the morning. About 10 a.m. some 10 of
them were taken outside by the Germans for fatigue.
This consisted in moving the guards' and officers'
property from the old camp at Latchen to the new one.
A hand cart was used for this purpose, and the road
was deep in mud. They completed one trip in the
forenoon, and while returning for a second in the
afternoon Private Skett collapsed several times from
weakness. At last he was quite incapable of rising,
and one of the German sentries went to him, put the
muzzle of his rifle close to his breast, and fired, killing
Private Skett where he lay. I was not a witness of
this. I heard the shot from our tent, and the case was
reported to me when the party came in 20 minutes
later, bringing the body on the cart. No. 645, Lance-
Corporal M. Purdon, Gordon Highlanders, was with
him at the time. The body of Private Skett lay
outside the enclosure for two days more.

Private Carruthers, 12th London Regiment, who had also been
left in that morning, too weak to go out and work, died
during the 6th April. His body was placed beside that
of Private Skett, and both covered with a sheet of tin.
I buried them both on the morning of the 9th about
100 yards from the hut. They were both simply
human skeletons. I saw the wound in Private Skett's
body just by the heart.

Men were still being sent away to hospital at Mitau,
and about the middle of April our strength was only
77 out of tbe original 500 ; 47 of these were marked
by the doctor not fit to leave their beds, and only 5
men and 11 N.C.O.'s were left available for work.
Every man of the party, except perhaps the N.C.O.'s
and two men who were always left in camp as cooks,
were absolutely at the end of their tether, and I am
certain that another 10 days of bad weather would
have killed the whole lot. I do not wish to give details
of the state that, some of us were reduced to in their
craving for food, or of what they picked up to eat.

About the end of April an improvement set in in the
weather; the ice was breaking up, and we were informed
that parcels would be allowed.
On 29th April the first consignment of parcels
reached us. They were opened by the Germans outside
the enclosure and not in our presence, all tins being
opened, and about one parcel being issued to each of
us every two days, after the contents bad been picked
over by the Germans.

A new German officer now took command of us and
a new medical under officer, and conditions improved
greatly. The officer visited our tent daily. I was
ordered to remain in camp with three or four men,
and we were able to improve the inside of our
enclosure. He did what he could for the sick, and
all ranks were marked "no work for 10 days."
Our men began to return from the hospital at Mitau.

On 20th May I was sent to Mitau with two sergeants
to sort out our heavy baggage. We had never seen
this since leaving Libau on 23rd February ; I found it
stowed in rooms of a private house. There had been
a German guard over it, and I found that most of
the boots and soap and a lot of clothes had been
stolen. On return to Pinner after four or five days
I reported this verbally to the German offcer, and
at his suggestion I sent in also a written report,
which he said he would forward to Headquarters
of the 8th Army. In these reports I mentioned my
reasons for suspecting Landsturmmann Logemann,
our interpreter, of being concerned in the thefts. I
heard no more about it.

While at Mitau, I also saw, I should think, about
20,000 parcels stored in two shops. These had arrived
from Libau for us during the last three months, and
had they been forwarded on and delivered to us
they would have saved every one of the lives that
were lost. All the deaths were due to starvation and
exhaustion and nothing else. In one of the shops
hundreds of wrappers showed that large numbers of
parcels had been stolen; in the other everything
seemed in order. All the perishable articles in these
parcels had of course been wasted.

The weather was now good, and the good supply
of food and clothing enabled us to pick up rapidly
and clean ourselves up once more. The arrival of
our parcels further had the effect of making the
German guard much more lenient with the working
parties. The work was much easier all round, and
the constant use of rifles on the men to drive them
about now ceased.

On 9th June orders reached us that we were to be
withdrawn. Smoking was again allowed, and on 10th
the party, which had now been made up again to 260
N.C.O 's and men moved by boat to Mitau.

At Mitau 16 men joined us from hospital, and we
left the same evening by train for Libau, arriving there
on 11th. The medical officer at once marked us all
"no work for 14 days," then "14 days light work," and
on 11th July we railed to Alt-Auz and district, where
we had light work and good quarters until November,
when we returned to Germany.

The following N.C.O.'s and men of my party (No. 4
Company, Englander Kommando I.) died during the
period of reprisals on the Russian front :-

Private Wilmot, Border Regiment, 17.3.17.

A. B. Rootham, R.N.D., 21.3.17 (on road to Mitau).

Seaman Ireland, R.N.D., 26.3.17 (in comrades' arms
while being carried back from work).

Bandsman Smith, Scottish Rifles, 29.31.7.

Private Leeson, South Lancs Regiment, 29.3.17.
" Barlow, West Yorks Regiment, 31.3.17
" Carruthers. 12th London Regiment, 6.4.17.
" Roberts, K. O. (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, 21.3.17

Lance-Corporal Mulholland, Manchester Regiment, 23.3.17.

Private Sturgeon. Norfolk Regiment, 29.3.17.
" Archer, K.O.Y.L.I., 29.3.17.
" Knill, Wiltshire Regiment, 30.3.17.
" Skett, Coldstream Guards, 6.4.17 (shot)
" Boyington. West Yorks Regiment. 22.4.17.
The above all died in the camp at Latchen and

The following were removed from camp to hospital
at Mitau and died there
Private Kingston, Norfolk Regiment. 1.4.17.
Walker, Northumberland Fusiliers, 13.4.17.
Farmer, Coldstream Gumrds. 15.4.17.
Bandsman Clarkin. Lincolnshires, 28.4.17.

Private Starling, Norfolk Reeiment (after return
to Libau. He had been in hospital at Mitau, and
rejoined us in camp before we left. Pinner).

Lance-Corporal Waterman, Hampshires, 5 4.17.
Private Harvey , Warwickshires, 12.4.17.
" McCulloch, Seaforth Highlanders, 17.4.17.
" Crockson, Somerset L.I. (In Shaulin Hopital, date uncertain.)


POW Mitau - Great War Forum:

British war graves Jelgava Blog:

Meeting The Enemy by Richard Van Emden

Christmas Battles:


Cemetery Entrance: 56.626862,23.7541414

WW1 front line and Museum:

Postcard sent to sister

Front of postcard showing funeral in Germany. C S Ireland may be in foreground.

Service History
State of POWs near Riga working in trenches - Birmingham Mail - 17 May 1917
Testimony of appaling conditions with little food and that C S Ireland died of exhaustion as POW. Ref National Archives WO 161/100/557
Old Map Showing River Aa from Mitau to Kalntsem (Kelzien)

German-Russian Frontline 1917 between Yelgava and Riga. Bottom of SA arrow is location of Lieiecems (Latchen)

Map showing Riga, Mitau (Yelgava) and Latchen (Lieicems) near Kelzien (Kainciems)

Map showing Lieicems (Latchen) to German Front line is 5km

Latvia WW1 Museum Map

Trenches at WW1 Christmas battle museum near Kalziems - 2024

Area near Lieicems in Feb 2024 with bridge crossing river Aa in background


Cemetery near Yelgava

Database: stanwardine   Bridge Family Tree
Contact: William Bridge