In order to relieve the fighting troops of the administrative task of looking after prisoners of war, it was decided that in the initial stages, until PW camps were established, all prisoners would be evacuated to the UK as they accumulated day by day.
Escorts provided by the War Office from D+1 were based on SOUTHAMPTON and crossed to the beach-head in specified LSTs to collect prisoners.
The arrangement did not always work smoothly. This was due to the LSTs being unable to wait off-shore long enough to allow the escorts to land and locate their prisoners, and also to the fact that owing to the irregular arrival of LSTs, prisoners were not always ready to be embarked when required. In the early stages no documentation was carried out until the prisoners reached UK.
Six PW camps, each scheduled to accommodate 200 officers and 2,000 ORs were put at the disposal of 21 Army Group.
The first of these arrived on the beaches on D+1 and was employed under command of Second Army as a collection and transit centre.
Another arrived on D+5 and set up a transit cage at ARROMANCHES. When these‘ camps were established documentation was carried out on the Continent for those PW who were to be retained in the theatre for labour. The policy of evacuating prisoners to the UK continued.
Plans had been made to handle PW in the initial stages on the following scale :—
D to D+9 at 500 per day - 5,000
D+10 to D+29 at 1,000 per day - 20,000
Total of 25,000
This estimate however, far exceeded the total number of captured, which by 26 July amounted to only 12,153.
One unexpected problem arose when it was discovered that many prisoners were in possession of large sums of FRENCH currency, some having as much as 15,000 francs in their possession.
PW are usually allowed to retain all their property until they reach the base camps and are registered. It was undesirable to allow them to retain these large amounts because the money was a potential aid to escape and also tempted soldiers to trade with prisoners at exorbitant prices.
The bulk of this money was therefore withdrawn at army PW cages and handed to the field cashier for retention on behalf of the prisoner concerned.
The prisoners taken during this period were amenable to control, assisted in making their own cages, and made few attempts to escape. They included persons of nationalities other than GERMAN, with RUSSIANS and POLES predominating.