The lot of a prisoner of war, whether he be a captured foe or a detained reservist, need not be altogether an unhappy one.
He must, of course, be maintained properly by the State which detains him, but over and above that a number of chivalrous rules have been made at The Hague for relieving even the anxieties of his position, and by these rules all civilised nations are bound.
For example, he may send or receive letters, money orders, or parcels free of all postal charges through all countries. Presents or relief sent to him pass through all countries free of Customs duty and carriage free on all State railways.
A captured officer is paid by the capturing country at the rate usual for his rank in his own army. Every civilised country undertakes to keep a strict record of every prisoner of war and all that happens to him, and to render a full account of him to his own government after peace is concluded. This duty is in the hands of an information bureau, which every country has to form immediately upon the outbreak of war.
This bureau receives and answers all inquiries about the prisoners. It also takes charge of all valuables, letters, etc found on the field of battle, and endeavours to get them into the hands of those who have a right to them.
If these arrangements work properly, they should put an end to much of the anxiety of friends and relatives of soldiers captured in war.
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It was in warfare that the idea was evolved of soldiers having this chins clean-shaven to enhance their fighting power. In olden times, when fighting was encountered at closer quarters than now, soldiers’ beards offered a very ready means of seizing one another, and it was the man who first succeeded in seizing his opponent’s beard who usually had the best of the bargain.
The early races are said to have effected a compromise in order to retain a fitter military appearance, and the ancient Egyptians who had cut off or could not cultivate or had been forcibly deprived of their beards often wore heavy false beards when they went into battle. When an enemy seized hold of their beard, it came off instantly, and the ancient Egyptian was enabled to despatch his quarry while in a trance of stupefaction and horror.
Our soldiers, for instance, have not always worn a moustache. The Worchestershire Militia lay claim to first introducing the moustache, they adopting it in 1798.
In the year 1815 the cavalry commenced to wearing moustaches, and forty years afterwards the custom became general throughout the whole service.