WWI



The 'Great War', or WWI as it now known was not only a terrible period in the history of modern man, but also was major turning point in the lives of many families in Europe. Indeed it is said that no family was left unscathed by the tragedy of this war. The Ient family were no strangers to war – two of Karl Ient's sons had already fought in India & the Boer War – but in 1914 it was the turn of Phillip & Thomas (Thomas) to put on the King's uniform. Frederick who had fought in the Boar War serve as a special constable.







Ient men


Wartime Picture: 4 of the brothers – left to right: Fred, Charlie, Phil & Thomas; taken in during or after the war. Fred wears the uniform of a Policeman (reserved occupation).

























This article tries to provide an insight into what happened to them. I hope you find this interesting ……. Please click the section of interest as below:

The Western Front
Internment in England
Charles Ient
Philip Jent
Thomas Ient
WWI & the Battles of Ypres
2nd Battle of Ypres
3rd Battle of Ypres, Also Known as the Battle of Passchendaele
Thomas Ient writes about Passchendaele
Prisoners of War (PoW) Camp in Germany 1914-1918

The Western Front

The map below shows the position of the opposing armies in the early part of 1917 after 3 ½ years of fighting:

Extract from the BBC WWI web site.

Internment in England

It is possible that during the First World War Karl (known as Charles by then) was interned in an Alien Detention Centre. Dennis Young recalled his grandmother, Julia – Karl's wife, saying that Karl had been held in Alexandra Palace, Musgrove Hill, London. The palace and the grounds were certainly used as an internment camp for German civilians.

Charles Ient

In the First World War, Charles, who had already served as a soldier in the Boer War and in the Indian Army, served as a special constable having completed most of his military service.

Margaretha (known as Margie or Rita) Alexander (daughter of Frederick and Florence) wrote to Thomas Ient on 2 July 1988 about her memories of the First World War.
She said, -"It was August 4th 1914. I was being carried by my Dad and we were on our way to catch a tram to the Zoo when we met Charlie and talked for a bit and he said he was on "reserve" and had been called up. I recall he spent the afternoon at the Zoo with us and the elephant pinched the bun I was eating and I cried."

Philip Jent

Philip served in the First World War and was repatriated home after suffering from severe 'shell shock'. I don't think he ever really recovered from this. After the war, he became a police constable and served in the Metropolitan Police Force, eventually leaving and becoming a lorry driver until he retired in the 1960s.

Thomas Ient

Thomas joined the Post Office Rifles in 1916. In January 1917 he was sent to Ypres (see below). In March of the same year he was taken to St George's Hospital and then to a convalescent home in Seaford, suffering from severe frostbite. (It is possible that this was The Seaside Convalescent Hospital, Seaford, Sussex).

Thomas returned to France in September 1917 and served at Passchendaele, the Somme and St Quentin. In March 1918 he was captured by the Germans and taken to Cassel (or Kassel) near Zurickaw-Kemnitz Capen, where he worked in an open-cast coalmine. I am told by my cousin Tony (his son) that at the end of the war there was no liberation of the camps, simply the prisoners noticed that the German soldiers had left and that they had no guards and were therefore free to walk out. In Uncle Thomas's case, he made his way home through Germany via Dresden, Frankfurt and Stellten, to Copenhagen and Edinburgh, arriving in Battersea on the 26th December 1918.

See also the biography of Thomas Ient

WWI & the Battles of Ypres

Ypres, a medieval town in Belgium, was taken by the German Army at the beginning of the war. However, by early October 1914, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was able to recapture the town. The first major German attempt to regain Ypres took place on 15th October. Experienced BEF riflemen held their positions but suffered heavy losses.

German attacks took place for the next four weeks but with the arrival of the French Army the line was held. With the weather deteriorating, the Germans decided to abandon the Ypres offensive on the 22nd November. It is estimated that about 135,000 Germans were killed or badly wounded during the offensive. The BEF lost around 75,000 men and was effectively destroyed as a professional army. There were two more major battles at Ypres: 2nd Battle of Ypres (April-May, 1915) and Passchendaele (July-November 1917) in which Thomas Ient took part. 

2nd Battle of Ypres

In April 1915, the Germans launched another major offensive at Ypres. After a brief preliminary bombardment, the Germans used chlorine gas against the French and Algerian troops defending the area north of the town. The troops fled in terror and left a 7km gap in the Allied line. Wearing primitive gas-masks, the Germans advanced cautiously into the gap. The arrival of the British Second Army blocked the German advance but the Allied forces had been disadvantaged by the loss of the high ground north of Ypres.

Heavy fighting and frequent gas attacks continued around Ypres until 25th May. The Allied line held, but the German Fourth Army was able to use its new higher position to bombard the town with heavy artillery. This inflicted heavy losses and Ypres was virtually demolished by the German shells during this period.

3rd Battle of Ypres, Also Known as the Battle of Passchendaele

The third major battle of Ypres took place between July and November 1917, fought for control of the village of Passchendaele in Belgium (see the BBC & Wikipedia websites for more information). General Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief in France, was encouraged by the gains made by the offensive at Messines in June 1917. Haig was convinced that the German army was now close to collapse and once again made plans for a major offensive to obtain the necessary breakthrough.

The opening attack at Passchendaele was carried out by General Hubert Gough and the British Fifth Army with General Herbert Plumer and the Second Army joining in on the right and General Francois Anthoine and the French First Army on the left. After a 10 day preliminary bombardment, with 3,000 guns firing 4.25 million shells, the British offensive started at Ypres at 3.50 am on 31st July.

The German Fourth Army held off the main British advance and restricted the British to small gains on the left of the line. Allied attacks on the German front-line continued despite very heavy rain that turned the Ypres lowlands into a swamp. The situation was made worse by the fact that the British heavy bombardment had destroyed the drainage system in the area. This heavy mud created terrible problems for the infantry and the use of tanks became impossible. Eventually Sir Douglas Haig called off the attacks and did not resume the offensive until late September.

Attacks on 26th September and 4th October enabled the British forces to take possession of the ridge east of Ypres. Despite the return of heavy rain, Haig ordered further attacks towards the Passchendaele Ridge. Attacks on the 9th and 12th October were unsuccessful. As well as the heavy mud, the advancing British soldiers had to endure mustard gas attacks.

A WWI photo of the battlefields of Passchendaele: 


Three more attacks took place in October and on the 6th November the village of Passchendaele was finally taken by British and Canadian infantry. The offensive cost the British Expeditionary Force about 310,000 casualties. Sir Douglas Haig was severely criticised for continuing with the attacks long after the operation had lost any real strategic value. The seeming futility of the prolonged campaign makes the battle all the more poignant.

Thomas Ient writes about Passchendaele

Thomas Ient, who fought at the battle of Passchendaele, had this to say about the devastation that war brings - see: Passchendaele 1917 - a soldiers view This is a factual and guarded, but compelling account of what Passchendaele meant to him; leaving it to us to read between the lines.

Prisoners of War (PoW) Camp in Germany 1914-1918

Unfortunately records of British Prisoners of War during the Great War period are few and far between and those records which do exist are widely scattered, mainly un-indexed, incomplete, and often difficult to access.

The only thing that we know at the present time is that Thomas was a POW in Germany at Cassel (Kassel?) - Zurickaw - Kemnitz Capen, an open cast coalmine.