Gender & History ISSN 0953-5233
Brian K. Feltman, ‘“We Don’t Want Any German Off-Spring After These Prisoners Left Here”: German Military Prisoners and British Women in
the First World War’
Gender & History, Vol.30 No.1 March 2018, pp. 110–130.
‘We Don’t Want Any German Off-Spring
After These Prisoners Left Here’: German
Military Prisoners and British Women in the
First World War
Brian K. Feltman
At the October 1918 meeting of the Carmarthenshire Standing Joint Committee,
Aldermen J. L. Thomas and E. B. Richards asserted that the German prisoners of
war in Wales ‘constituted a very serious menace to the womanhood of this country’.
The aldermen warned that German prisoners in other locations had reportedly as-
saulted young girls and created an atmosphere in which women were afraid to ‘move
about the country where these prisoners were located’. Calling for stricter oversight,
Dr J. H. Williams reinforced the aldermen’s warnings and divulged his deeper con-
cerns, cautioning, we ‘do not want any German off-spring after these prisoners left
here . . . if we do not try to prevent it . . . it will be our fault if it happens; we shall be
The tone of the committee’s discussion suggested that it feared German
offspring would result from sexual assaults against British women rather than con-
sensual relationships. Nonetheless, the Carmarthenshire aldermen believed they were
responsible for protecting their country’s womanhood, and authorities across Britain
were equally concerned with preventing more amicable interactions between German
prisoners and British women on the home front.
Although it is impossible to determine with any degree of certainty, the German
prisoners held in Britain during the First World War do not appear to have left behind
any offspring when they were repatriated. Yet contact between women and German
military prisoners occurred. An analysis of these interactions offers a largely unex-
plored perspective on wartime efforts to ‘protect’ British women while controlling
their sexuality and morality.
Susan Grayzel has shown that despite their contributions
to industry and agriculture, women were viewed primarily as ‘mothers, wives, and
sweethearts’ during the First World War.
Their behaviour was closely monitored, and
fears that sexual immorality would contaminate the nation were widespread. Achiev-
ing victory on the battlefield required full social and cultural mobilisation. As Grayzel
argues, ‘transgressions of expected feminine morality’ threatened to hamper the na-
tional war effort. According to propaganda that portrayed the German army as a horde
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