A retired electrical engineer has shared memories of his father who was taken captive by the Germans in the First World War. Mike Hougham’s father Frank William Hougham was born in 1892, and grew up in Beltinge.
Frank Hougham was part of a Herne Bay football team which achieved cup-winning glory in the 1911/12 season, when he was aged about 18. He then served in the war which started in August, 1914, and was captured by the Germans in March, 1918, while serving with the 17th Manchester Regiment.
“I have got his active service pay book, which shows payments for one shilling per day. In 1917 he was being paid in francs. He rarely spoke of his experiences, so knowing exact details is quite difficult. He did tell me about life in the camp, that it was not too bad. The food must’ve been reasonable, otherwise I’m sure he would have had something to say about it.”
When the armistice was signed in November, 1918, Frank was released by his German captors and had to march from the Alsace region to the frontlines as the Kaiser’s armies went into collapse. Mr Hougham added:
“He told me there was a great deal of the prisoners together, and it got to the point where they were so hungry they were cooking rats to survive on the trek back to allied lines. They were hungry and needed to eat.”
It was quite a contrast to the special occasion he was then invited to on January 21, 1919. The Herne Bay Prisoners of War Committee set up a six-course meal on the seafront at the Connaught Hotel for those who had been captured. The meal consisted of dishes such as boiled turbot and shrimp sauce, roast leg of mutton, apple tart and custard, and macaroni cheese. Entertainment was supplied by Miss Gregg’s Amateur Orchestra and Friends. Frank met wife Lilian, and after the war set up Herne Bay’s first petrol engine car taxis. He lived near the Eastcliffe garage. Mr Hougham said:
“There were a lot of wealthy people living in Beltinge at that time, but none of them had cars, so my father was their driver. I was born in 1934, when mum and dad were 42, which was quite an exceptional age to be having children. During the Second World War he served as a police constable for Beltinge, where his regular evening patrol would take him past the Rising Sun and the Miramar Hotel.”
Frank died in the 1960s, while Mike went on to be involved in the coal mining and then oil industry as an engineer. He started as an apprentice in Chislet colliery, and later got the chance to work in Trinidad for Texaco.
Herne Bay Gazette, June 26th 2014