Thanks to the excellent "German Prisoners of the Great War" (edited by Anne Buckley, published by Pen & Sword), for having a transcript of the memorial in its original German gothic script, and Appendix II which holds the details of all the prisoners at Raikeswood - this information combined with the CWGC database has given a definite identification of each mans grave at Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery. The buried men used to receive regular visits and memorial services - hopeful they can now be honoured together again as a group.
47 men had all died over a few short weeks during the Spanish Flu Pandemic in early 1919 whilst being treated at Moreton Banks Hospital, Keighley. They were buried together in groups of five, placed one on top of the other at Moreton Cemetery Keighley. The graves were united by a single memorial which held the men's names, units and place of birth.
The monument consisted of a wall made from local stone which contained a curved alcove with a bronze memorial plaque. Small trees and shrubs were planted on either side. A central lawn was surrounded on its remaining three sides by low walls.
Sadly the memorial was demolished and placed in the empty graves as the bodies were exhumed and moved to Cannock Chase (on the instruction of the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge). From that point on they could no longer be identified as a group of comrades, thankfully though they were laid to rest at Cannock Chase together on two rows (see name list and map).
It's been a unique opportunity to research a lost German memorial built on British soil, one that fellow researcher Andrew Bolt and myself have gained a lot of satisfaction from. Thanks to Andrew's site visits and painstaking archive research, we know where at Moreton Cemetery the Germans were buried in Yorkshire soil for 40 years.
Further to this we know something about these men that were interred and died together, these are some of their surprising an eventful stories that continue to this day:
Oberleutnant zur See, Walter Eduard Alexander Schmitz of UC-75 on his third cruise in command.
His U-Boat had sunk the HMAPV Dirk off Flamborough Head in the early hours of 29th May 1918.
On 31 May 1918, while HMS Fairy was escorting an East Coast convoy, the German submarine UC-75 was sighted and rammed by the steamer SS Blaydonian. The U-boat surfaced within the convoy and was attacked and rammed by HMS Fairy. Schmitz and another submariner leapt onto the destroyer's forecastle as their submarine sank. Fairy, however, had sustained heavy damage and sank a short time later about 10 miles (16 km) south of Flamborough Head. She was awarded the battle honour "Belgian Coast 1914–17" for her service.
Schmitz was interrogated at Cromwell Gardens in London he was then sent to the POW camp at Raikeswood in Yorkshire.
There's a bit of controversy over the Fairy's actions on the sinking, Schimtz felt that they murdered most of the crew when they were incapacitated.
The propeller screws from UC75 (a war grave) were confiscated from a salvage diver 3 years ago, restored and one of the propellers has been handed back to the German Navy in Plymouth, while the other will go on display at the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth.
Lieutenant Franz Schulte - German Army Flying Corps
Kampfgeschwader der Obersten Heeresleitung more commonly known as Kagohl 3 or the "English Squadron", was a renowned Gotha heavy bomber pilot - reputed to have "dropped the most bombs on London"
"December 7th 1917: A Canterbury Red Cross official was held at gunpoint yesterday by a German aviator while his comrade set fire to their Gotha bomber which had just crashed. It came down in the marshes adjacent to Broad Oak Road, injuring two of the crew who were eventually taken into custody by the Rev Philip Somerville, acting in his capacity as a special constable. Before the arrest, however, a most dramatic scene unfolded. The Gotha of Kagohl 3 was on a raid of the area when it was hit by antiaircraft fire and subsequently crash landed in a field after just missing a mill and several houses.
First on the scene was Mr J.B. Wilford of Mandeville Road, Canterbury, an orderly in the Red Cross. He noticed that two of the three German crew were injured and offered to render first aid. One of them promptly produced a revolver and held Mr Wilford at gunpoint while his comrade fired the aircraft. He is almost certainly the first man to face a German at gunpoint while on English soil. Mr Wilford was joined by the Rev Somerville, Rector of St Stephen's Church and another special, Mr G.W Haimes from Sturry who said: "The plane was alight when we arrived.
The Germans were not hostile and one was able to understand some English. They surrendered their equipment and arms to the Rev Somerville without protest:' The Rector said when he arrived on the scene the men were standing by the wrecked aircraft which was in flames with machine gun cartridges exploding right and left. "They asked me in broken English for a policeman to whom they could surrender and I assured them I was a special constable. An ambulance waggon conveyed the men to Canterbury police station and the two who were injured were then taken to hospital where they were well treated and most profuse in their thanks to the hospital authorities for the attention they received." During the day the burnt out Gotha was inspected by thousands of people who flocked to Broad Oak. The Red Cross took full advantage of the situation and made a collection; £32 was realised."
Report compiled by Alan Roberts
Lieutenant Schulte died in hospital on the 2nd March 1919. His brother Paul was also a pilot but later joined the Catholic Church. He found a novel way to commemorate his dead brother in 1936, by diverting the Zeppelin 'Hindenburg' over Yorkshire to fly over Keighley whilst celebrating mass. Flowers and a silver crucifix from Pope Pius XI were dropped from the aircraft with a note - these were placed on Franz Schulte's grave.
“Father Paul Schulte, of Aix-la-Chapelle, known as the “flying padre,” celebrated the first mass in the air, for which the Pope had granted special permission. Schulte erected an altar in the salon, where all the passengers gathered. The candles were not lighted because of danger of explosion. Fr. Schulte’s Mass intention was for the repose of the soul of his brother, Lieutenant Franz Schulte, who died in 1919 of influenza while a prisoner of war in England."