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Born: 1883, Bradford
Address: 18 Tower Street, Undercliffe
Parents: William & Mary Jane
Siblings: Herbert, Alfred, Edward, Janet, Cissie, Leah
Occupation: House painter (1911)
Rank: Pte
Rolls of Honour:
Regiment: Duke of Wellington’s
Harry Sagar
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The Shipley Times & Express reported Harry missing on 23 October 1914, just months after the start of the war. It was not until 3 January 1919 that we learn of the experience he had had as a prisoner of war for four years: One of the best stories gathered in this district from repatriated prisoners was that told to an Express man on Tuesday by Pte Harry Sagar, Duke of Wellington’s Regt, whose address is 18 Tower Street, Undercliffe. He had been in the hands of the Germans since 14th September 1914 when he was captured outside Bavey in Belgium. There were twenty others with him on outpost duty and in a night attack, eight of them were killed and several others wounded. The rest fell prisoners. The party were taken behind the lines and thence to Wesel Hospital. Bayonet wound Pte Sagar had sustained a bayonet wound in the left side that was sufficient to keep him in hospital a couple of months. He was taken from there to Freidrichsfeld and there he stayed till March 1915 being employed as a labourer at building a prisoners’ camp. A hundred and twenty men, including Pte Sagar, were removed from Freidrichsfeld to Wahn in Rhineland. There the prisoners were employed in various kinds of work. Some had to do tree felling and others road making. At tree felling Pte Sagar had served a fair apprenticeship, being engaged in that class of work for eight months. Then followed four or five months’ work in the prisoners’ post office. His work there consisted of handling parcels received from England. A change was made in February 1917 to Limburg in Hessen Nassau, a camp where the main body of Irish prisoners were kept in 1914 and 1915. It will be remembered that it was here that Sir Roger Casement endeavoured to stir the Irish to rebellion, an offence for which he was hanged. At Limburg Pte Sagar was employed on a small ‘clearing
lager’ or what we should describe as a sewage works. He had three months at this and then, with a party of eight Englishmen, he went to a village called Schonenbach and was put to road making. Here a month was spent and then in the summer of 1917 he was removed to a farm at Auf der Hardt. At this farm he enjoyed the only good three months of his whole career as a prisoner. On October 1917 he was transferred to a sugar factory in Bruhl about 12 kilometres outside Cologne, where he was put to stoking boiler fires. The work was day and night in 12- hour shifts and when changing shifts at the weekend, there was an 18-hour shift so that there were no days off. After six weeks of real hardship, Pte Sagar and a comrade in the West Yorkshires called Staniforth, made an attempt to escape. On a dark Sunday night, about 7 o’clock, two women brought the men’s washing back and the sentry forgot to lock the gate. Dash for freedom Sagar and Staniforth had made up their minds to make a dash for freedom and this opening was taken advantage of. Coolly walking out and closing the gate behind them, they strolled across the factory yard to the main road running through the works which was patrolled by a German sentry. They waited till the guard got to the far end of the factory then, crossing the road, they crept alongside the wall against the offices and reached a field and then got to the main road running through Bruhl. The churches were ‘loosing’ at the time and the two men managed to reach the open country where they got their subsequent directions by
means of a pocket compass and a map from a newspaper. They made up their minds to make for Roermond in Holland but at two o’clock in the morning it began to snow At that time they were crossing fields and two hours later they gained the cover of a wood where they stayed half an hour but as the snow continued they made a temporary shelter of a waggon for the day. At five o’clock in the evening they were on the road again. It was fearfully cold but they walked all night through towns and villages till at four o’clock they rested under a new straw stack. In the evening they set off again and walked through another night. At midnight they were resting in the old coach of a goods train but were startled ten minutes later when it set off. However, they got a ride of about 12 miles for nothing. It was about one or two o’clock in the morning when the train stopped outside a big station. The men took to the road again and were then about 30 to 35 kilometres from the Dutch frontier. They plodded on till three o’clock when they reached the boggy woods near the frontier. It was impossible to cross them in the dark and they had to wait until daylight. Then they were discovered by German soldiers and taken captive. It can be imagined how great was the men’s disappointment when it is stated that they were recaptured within an hour’s walk of Holland after having covered over 100 kilometres. They were taken to Aachen and placed in prison for four days. They were given plenty of food and found plenty of amusement from the other prisoners who consisted of German soldiers who had also been trying to escape to Holland.
Then the two were taken back to Limburg and until the Armistice was signed, Pte Sagar worked in the prisoners’ parcels post, spending his evenings painting the scenery for the British concert party which was run to make money for the upkeep of the prisoners’ graves. As a result of the concerts held in Limburg about 500 marks (£25) has been realised. On 11th November Pte Sagar and his fellow prisoners were informed that the Armistice had been signed and that they would be moved off any day. On Friday they were marched to the station and told that they were going to Coblenz and thence by boat down the Rhine into Holland. Instead of this they were taken by train to Metz, reaching that city two or three days before the entrance of the Americans. At Metz they were turned loose, a trainload of them, of all nationalities – French, English, Italians and Russians – and told to make the best of their way over No Man’s Land to the English lines. They had a walk of 25 to 30 miles before reaching the first American outpost. Several men died on the way from fatigue and hunger, three days on foot having proved too much for them. Baths The survivors were taken into the American lines where they were kept in quarantine for several days awaiting the arrival of the English Red Cross train to take them down to Calais. At Calais they were re- fitted and had much needed baths. Two days later they touched Dover where a warm reception awaited them. The same morning they entrained for Canterbury and after two days at that camp were sent home on two months’ leave, Pte Sagar reaching home on 2nd December after being absent four years and four months. He has had three brothers in the war. One of them, Driver Alfred Sagar of 21 Peterborough Road, was killed in action in France. Sgt Herbert Sagar is with the Tyneside Scottish and Gunner Eddie Sagar is in France with the Royal Field Artillery. They are the sons of Mrs William Sagar of 21 Peterborough Road, Undercliffe.
“Pte Sagar worked in the prisoners’ parcels post, spending his evenings painting the scenery for the British concert party which was run to make money for the upkeep of the prisoners’ graves.”