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Herbert Timmins


Harrogate Herald - 24th January 1917


Private Will Smith writes : 

Just a few lines to let you know my present address. If you will forward your valuable paper to me I shall be much obliged. I am sorry to see that so many of my pals have been killed and wounded, including Second Lieutenant D S Bell VC (killed), Herbert Timmins (wounded), etc. I am looking forward with eager desire to the papers being forwarded onto me from Egypt. I wish I was back in Egypt now. It is far better than this place, as others have told you. Do you know any Harrogate lads in Salonica? If so, would you kindly let me know through your paper, as I would like to see some if I can? Wishing you and your very valuable paper every success.


Harrogate Herald - 25th April 1917


In a joint letter, Private H Timmins and Private H Webster say : 

Just a few lines to you, hoping you are in the best of health, as we are at present. We received your parcel with razor and cards all right, and were very much pleased with them. You must excuse us not writing, as we have been on the move - and so has "Will". We thank you very much for the parcel, as we have enjoyed ourselves at nights with the cards, both packs going; and the time does not seem so long, especially where we are. We must conclude, as the candle is about "nappo", and get down to it. Wishing your paper every success, and once more thanking you very gratefully.


Harrogate Herald - 1st January 1919

Wednesday Gossip

I have had a lot of boys on leave and repatriated prisoners in to see me during the festive season, and the experiences of some of the latter will be found in another part of this issue. Germany appears to be in sore straits as regards everyday necessities, and had recourse to paper for the manufacture of clothing, boots, etc. I heard that one Harrogate man had suffered a good deal through wearing the paper clothes. Mr and Mrs R Leeming's son, who has been a prisoner in Germany from early on in the war, reached home on Christmas Day. We can imagine the joyousness of such a reunion. Private H Timmins, son of Mr and Mrs Timmins, East Parade, I hear, has also returned, and Private J F Wilson, 12th West Yorks, son of Mrs Wilson, 23 West Cliffe Grove.


Harrogate Herald - 8th January 1919

"Some things that happened are hardly believable", said Private H Timmins, 1/5th West Yorks, when he told how Englishmen were singled out for worst treatment. He had been a prisoner with the Germans since March 27th, and four years in the Army. It was four months before his friends heard from him. He was with Corporal Lince part of the time at Villiers and verified all that soldier says in the letter we published last week. He is the son of Mr and Mrs Timmins, East Parade, Harrogate. After capture he was four months behind the lines and then broke down with dysentery. He was sent to hospital at Halle, near Brussels. He was hardly able to crawl about, and the patients were doped with a kind of opium which sent them to sleep for about 24 hours, to wake up worse than ever. Their treatment whilst at work was similar to many others, the men being butted with rifles and sticks for the most trivial affairs.

An incident that occurred whilst Timmins and Lince were together shows the dreadful condition they were in. about 20 of them were ordered to parade at 5.30 in the morning. One dropped down dead and another completely collapsed. So weak were the rest that they could hardly walk the 20 or 30 yards they had to go. Everything possible was done, said Timmins, to make the English suffer.

Private Timmins next went to a place near Douai, where there was a camp with 3,000 prisoners. Here he saw Ellis who was formerly employed at Mr J R Ogden's. they were nearly starved to death there, having only 1/8th of a loaf, about the size of a 2d brown loaf in England, morning and night, and thin barley water at noon. From this place they were sent to Baden and then to work in a wood yard at Freiburg, where again he collapsed through weakness. At the hospital there the Englishmen were picked out and received the worst treatment. He saw a Russian prisoner brought in having something the matter with his hand, and four fingers were taken off without any anaesthetic, and his shrieks were heartrending. Timmins and a chum were condemned to the cells for five days for some trifling offence, but the former escaped by falling sick. By way of punishment they were sent to a camp where the Germans were treating sick horses from the firing lines and Russia. Then they were transferred to Metz to do work on the borders of Lorraine.

Here they heard of the signing of the armistice, when they were set free and were fortunate to get a good meal. Later, 50 were sent by rail to Bavaria to work unloading food trains, the German soldiers receiving their rations therefrom. After a week's work they were liberated again, and after being sent so far by train they were dropped and left to fend for themselves. They walked about 30 kilometres, and then obtained their first square meal during their captivity at Metz. From there they travelled in a hospital train to Nancy and Calais, crossing to Dover. Timmins reached home on December 9th. He was very weak from his privations, but now is beginning to feel better.

Although several parcels were sent from home he never got one. The Germans made the prisoners send an address, but it was not the true one, and this will account for the parcels. If they had been there much longer he felt sure they would have all died. Whilst in hospital, Timmins saw several Englishmen with arms off and other injuries, which wee only dressed with paper bandages, and these were only renewed when the matter was coming through.

With Timmins at the interview was a younger brother, who was in a low category and has been on farming for 18 months, an occupation he had found agreeable.


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