The story of prisoner of war veteran Private Frederick Aubrey

Millions of soldiers on all sides were captured during the First World War and by the end of the hostilities over 185,000 British Servicemen had been prisoners of war for anything up to four years.

Private Frederick Aubrey and other soldiers
Private Frederick Aubrey (far left)


As the war progressed, the Germans found it increasingly difficult to accommodate and feed the over 2.4 million men housed in numerous camps across Germany and occupied territories and as the war drew to its conclusion in 1918 an agreement was reached between the British and German governments to facilitate the exchange of many wounded and older service personnel.

One of these men was Private Frederick Richard Aubrey who had enlisted in the 6th West Kent Regiment in April 1916 and was wounded in France in July 1918 by an exploding hand grenade resulting in the loss of sight in both eyes.

He had been a POW for only three months when he became part of the exchange programme and eventually came to St. Dunstan’s in early 1919. 

During his time with us he learnt many skills and took part in sports – winning the Light Novices Single Sculls rowing race at the Putney Regatta held in May 1919.

He was so proficient in mat making that he was appointed a Pupil/Teacher and received his First Class certificate in that skill which enabled him to eventually leave St. Dunstan’s in November 1920, moving to a house with workshop accommodation in Bristol.

His business did well with many individual orders from local people and larger orders from Bristol based businesses such as The Wills Tobacco Co.

He had two children, a son named Harold and a daughter called Joan and in a lovely co-incidence in 1955 Joan married another blind veteran – George Killingbeck who had arrived at St. Dunstan’s at the same time as her father.

As Frederick grew older, he moved from Bristol to live in Saltdean near Brighton with George and Joan Killingbeck until his death in May 1966.

To see more stories from our Historical Photography Project click here or check our Facebook page weekly for our #ThrowbackThursdays.