This character occurs in another of Schmid’s drawings, which can be looked at in the Lincolnshire County Council Archives. This time it is a pencil sketch that gives the impression of a portrait. The sketch is entitled ‘Gefangnen König’ or ‘Prisoner King’. This time the figure is wearing two badges on his lapels that are akin to medals and that bear the legends ‘1917’ and ‘1919’, the dates when the prisoners first arrived and finally left the Sutton Bridge camp. The first avenue of inquiry for the research team was, therefore, to identify this important figure. Who was this ‘Kantin’, the ‘Prisoner King’ and why was he so important to camp life?

Our AHRC funded research project, under the auspices of the Every Day Lives at War Centenary Commemoration Centre, has several community partners, including Long Sutton and District Civic Society, so it was a local historian named Beryl Jackson who located a number of photographs of the prisoners and guards who worked at Sutton Bridge camp. These are now held at the Imperial War Museum in London. The photographs were taken or commissioned by a man named A. E. Price, the civil engineer in charge of building the sea defences that the prisoners worked on during their incarceration. It then became clear why Price was given his nickname: the canteen is where the prisoners purchased extra food with the hard earned wages they gained from their employment in land reclamation. The importance of these photographs was that the research team were now able to cross-reference Schmid’s cartoons for accuracy with an important body of primary source material. This revealed a number of factors about the cartoons that otherwise might have been missed. For example, Price, though quite large, was not an overtly obese man. This indicates that not only was Schmid prone to artistic and humorous exaggeration but also that his cartoons provided him with an avenue to be slightly rebellious in regard to figures of authority in the camp. Despite this, relations between the prisoners and Mr Price were generally congenial and this is indicated by the letters that the prisoners sent to him after their repatriation.

Life in the POW Camp in South Lincolnshire