Reply To: Fate of Crew Taken as Prizes

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Peter Leech

    This depends as to the year.

    Originally, prisoners were exchanged as quickly as possible, occasionally simply with what amounted to IOU’s if one side had taken more POW’s than the other, and the arrangement was more or less a gentlemans agreement that the army/navy of the POW paid their captors reasonable expenses for bed and board.

    Very summarily, this system broke down during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars as the French came to the conclusion that they were capturing a small number of high value prisoners, whereas we were capturing a large number of low value prisoners. Therefore they refused to exchange anybody, and also refused to pay for feeding French prisoners being held in Britain thus transferring the economic burden of feeding a larger number of less valuable prisoners to UK PLC, so from that point then anybody captured on either side would have been thrown in prison for the duration unless they escaped.

    Paul Chamberlain is probably the expert, and has written a number of good books about POW’s held in Britain which are well worth a read if you are interested in the topic.