From the rat-infested trenches to the constant shelling and threat of poison gas, the horrors troops endured during the First World War are well known.
What is less well-known is the relative life of luxury enjoyed by some away from the front lines, even after being taken prisoner by the enemy.
A fascinating archive of pictures taken by British Lieutenant Charles Mayo documents the very civilised lifestyle inside two German POW camps.
Officers were given comfortable rooms complete with quilts on the beds and wardrobes to store their things, while common areas included entertainments such as a puppet theatre.
Performance seems to have been a big part of life in the camps, as amateur dramatists are pictured putting on two shows – including one where they are dressed in Arabic-style costumes and another dressed as women.
Ranking prisoners even had a gentleman’s agreement with their guards, meaning they were allowed out during the day provided they returned to the camp before nightfall.
While the horrors of the First World War are well-known, a new trove of pictures lifts the lid on another side of the conflict – the life of luxury enjoyed by some including British prisoners kept in German POW camps. Here, and officer is pictured in his room which includes a quilted bed, writing desk, and wardrobe to keep his things tidied away
These pictures were taken by Lieutenant Charles Mayo during his internment at two camps, first at Gutersloh and then at Crefeld Camp. Theatre seems to have played a large part in life at both of the camps, and amateur dramatics performers are pictured here in Arabic-style costumes ahead of a performance
Male officers dressed as women before taking part in an amateur dramatics performance at one of the PoW camps. Lt Mayo was captured during fighting in September 1915 at Hooge, in Belgium. The British had overrun the German lines when Mayo was wounded, and therefore unable to escape when the enemy counter-attacked
A letter sent by British commanders to Lt Mayo’s family is displayed left, in which they are assured he will be treated well by his German captors and will write to them soon. In fact Mayo managed to write to them just a month after his capture, from a hospital for wounded officers in Belgium. Right is a flyer sent to Lt Mayo informing him of an am-dram performance
Officers were issued with special ‘camp currency’ while being held prisoner which they were able to spend on luxury items at the shop. Lt Mayo also reported that officers had a gentleman’s agreement in place with their captors, and were allowed to leave the camp during the day – provided they returned at night
Lt Mayo is pictured left, and right with a fellow officer. Before the war he worked in the Audit Office at Paddington station, in London, and served in the territorial army. He was first sent to France in December 1914, before applying for and receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Scots
Lt Mayo (back row, third left) relaxes alongside other officers in one of their bunk rooms inside the German POW camp. Astonishingly the men were allowed to decorate their rooms with personal effects, continue wearing their uniforms, and were even allowed to smoke (Lt Mayo is clutching a pipe) during their time in captivity
Many of the communal rooms were well decorated with soft furnishings and pictures on the walls. Perhaps the most striking decoration in this one is the large puppet theatre up against the wall to the left. Lt Mayo was held by the Germans from September 1915 until some time in 1917, when he was released
As well as theatre, the men were allowed to enjoy a game of football during their captivity, with the ground pictured here. Lt Mayo has even annotated the photo, showing where his room was located, allowing him to watch the games
A postcard advertising one of the amateur dramatic performances is seen left, while right is the camp currency, issued to officers who were allowed to buy items from the camp shop with it
Lt Mayo was released some time in 1917, before being sent a letter from King George congratulating him on his release and an end to ‘your long sufferings’ – though life in captivity does not appear to have been particularly hard on him
Lt Mayo’s photo collection along with other artefacts from his time during the First World War will be auctioned at Bosley’s Specialist Military and Medal Auctioneers, in Marlow, on Wednesday