How Kaiser gave WWI prisoner permission to pop home to UK
Capt Robert Campbell was allowed to visit dying mother as long as he returned to PoW camp. He did
IN 1916, a British army officer languishing in a German PoW camp learned that his mother was dying at her home in England. Captain Robert Campbell did what any sensible chap would do: he wrote to the Kaiser asking permission to pop home.
Remarkably, Kaiser Wilhelm II agreed. The German leader wrote to Campbell granting him two weeks' leave to visit his stricken mother in Kent as long as he promised to return to the Magdeburg prison camp.
The only guarantee the Kaiser asked for was Captain Campbell's word as an army officer, reports The Times.
Campbell honoured his pledge. After arriving in England on 7 December, 1916, he spent a week with his mother at his family home in Gravesend. Afterwards, he dutifully returned to Magdeburg and resumed his life as a PoW. His mother died of cancer in February the following year.
Historian Richard van Emden who uncovered the story, told the Times it was a highly unusual agreement even by the more chivalrous standards of the day.
"Captain Campbell was an officer and he made a promise on his honour to go back," said van Emden. "Had he not turned up, there would not have been any retribution on other prisoners.
"What I think is more amazing is that the British Army let him go back to Germany. The British could have said to him: 'You're not going back, you're going to stay here'."
After he returned to Magdeburg, Campbell clearly felt he had paid his debt to the Kaiser in full. He joined an escape attempt the following year, but was recaptured near the Dutch border. He remained in Germany until the end of hostilities in 1918.
Campbell, who went on to serve in World War II, died in the Isle of Wight in 1966 at the age of 81. ·