Thursday 6 June 2024 at 7.30pm

“Dropped from hell into heaven”: Internment of sick and wounded prisoners of war in Switzerland during World War One.

Lord Mayor Dr Susan Barton will talk about her work on Switzerland and World War I - with a Leicester angle. This is an extra talk for our programme.

Between January 1916 and September 1919, around 67,000 sick or wounded prisoners of war from Britain, France, Germany and Belgium were sent to neutral Switzerland to be interned in hotels devoid of tourists, thanks to diplomatic efforts. This talk will explore the daily lives of these prisoners and their impact on Switzerland. Internees were warmly welcomed by the Swiss and given education, training and employment. Leading relatively free lives, they were able to engage in leisure activities and develop new relationships. Mothers, wives and girlfriends were also able to join them. Officers could rent properties with their families. Women could visit ordinary soldiers for a holiday, paid for by their local communities. Some even married in Switzerland. One such couple, married in Switzerland, were from Leicester. Their story is typical of many others. The internees contributed to the country's economy, helping to keep Swiss tourism alive at a time when businesses were struggling and alleviating Switzerland’s labour shortage as Swiss men were conscripted to defend their borders and preserve the country’s neutrality.

Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, New Walk, Leicester. 19.30.

Entry to the talk is free of charge.