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Cottbus (Merzdorf) was primarily for Russian POWs, but it also had the ‘lazaret’, or quarantine area for Cottbus Sielow. There was a lot of deprivation, especially for the Russians. Click on the link below to read an translation of the Red Cross Report of visits on 18 and 29 December 1918. Matthew would have been moved out of here before long ,and would be back in England by March, or April 1919, so a relief in itself.
The report refers to barracks for the Russian which are half buried in the ground. The photos below are from Cottbus Brandebourg, but they seem to be similar. The uniforms suggest these are Russian POWs as well.
One of Matthew’s sons Stanley was in WW2, part of the 5 Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment, diverted en route to Egypt to defend Singapore in 1941. Stanley died out there, though Matthew would not have known what happened to him for some while.
They would be aware of the fall of Singapore on 15 Feb 1942, but the troops were not officially listed as missing until 20 April 1942. Although records were kept by the POWs, it is not clear whether any information about deaths or movements of POWs was made available in Britain until the end of the war, because access by the Red Cross was very limited by the Japanese. This must have been a terrible time for Matthew and his family.