Object of the Month - September

30 September, 2022

Sketches by Gnr George FW Cox

The sketches below are from a collection of 24 in our archive drawn by Gnr George FW Cox during his time as prisoner of war. He was captured in Tunisia in April 1943 – only a few weeks before the German surrender in North Africa.

The sketches, which are all dated between February and March 1944, give an insight into the hardships of camp life. They depict the restricted diet and the bare (and crowded) living conditions.  One with the title “Dreamland” shows things from home – a dog, an armchair, a comfy bed, a pleasant fireplace, a cinema and a girlfriend or wife.  Another titled “Those First Days” shows the despair of finding oneself a prisoner.   They also give an impression of the boredom of being a POW, and the ways people strove to overcome it. 

One sketch in particular, “The Concert Party”, shows detailed preparations for some sort of entertainment being put on by the prisoners.  

We don’t know much about the artist, but we know he spent time in both Lamsdorf and Thorn (Torun) Prison Camps in Poland, because he wrote locations on some of his sketches.  Indeed, one of them, with the title “One end of the Cattle Truck, Or, British NCOs in Transit” probably shows his movement between the two Camps in March 1944.  

Some allied prisoners of war, particularly those from prison camps further east such as those in Poland, were involved in forced marches during the last months of the War, as the Germans tried to keep them from the advancing Soviet Army.  These marches – during a particularly cold January and February – were made with poor clothing and limited food, and many POWs died as a result.  

We do know that George survived the War, and the sketches he left provide a better idea than many written records of the experiences that British soldiers went through in German POW camps.  

(Archive reference number: AL/471)