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Title: Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons - Wesel, Sennelager, Klingelputz, Ruhleben
Author: Talbot, Frederick Arthur Ambrose, 1880-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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images generously made available by Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries
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      See 18131-h.htm or 18131-h.zip:
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Transcriber's note:

   The original printing contained gaps in the text, varying in
   size from a few words up to several lines. This appears to have
   been a deliberate act by the author, editor, or printer. These
   gaps are indicated in this version with [*gap] or [*large gap].]



SIXTEEN MONTHS IN FOUR GERMAN PRISONS

   WESEL
   SENNELAGER
   KLINGELPUTZ
   RUHLEBEN

Narrated by
HENRY C. MAHONEY

Chronicled by
FREDERICK A. TALBOT
Author of "The New Garden of Canada,"
"Conquests of Science," Etc.



London and Edinburgh
Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd.
1917



[Illustration: THE AUTHOR AS HE APPEARED ON THE DAY OF HIS RELEASE FROM
RUHLEBEN.

From an official photograph taken by the German Government for
attachment to the passport. The embossed imprint of the stamp of the
Kommandantur of Berlin may be seen.

_Frontispiece_]



  TO
  MY WIFE AND CHILDREN

  WHO WAITED PATIENTLY AND ANXIOUSLY
  FOR "DADDY," AND TO

  A FRIEND,

  STILL LANGUISHING IN RUHLEBEN, TO
  WHOM I OWE MY LIFE



PRISONER'S NOTE


It was whilst suffering the agonies of solitary confinement in the
military prison of Wesel that I first decided to record my experiences
so that readers might be able to glean some idea of the inner workings
and the treatment meted out to our unfortunate compatriots who were
travelling in Germany at the outbreak of war and who have since been
interned.

From the moment of my decision I gathered all the information possible,
determining at the first opportunity to escape to the Old Country. As
will be seen I have to a degree been successful.

Owing to the grossly inaccurate and highly coloured reports which have
been circulated from time to time regarding the life and treatment of
prisoners of war, the story has been set out in a plain unvarnished
form. There are no exaggerations whatever. Much of the most revolting
detail has been eliminated for the simple reason that they are
unprintable.

In nearly every instance names have been suppressed. Only initials have
been indicated, but sufficient description is attached to enable
personal friends of those who are still so unfortunate as to be
incarcerated to identify them and their present situation. Likewise, in
the cases where I received kind treatment from Germans, initials only
have been introduced, since the publication of their names would only
serve to bring punishment upon them.

H.C.M.

[Illustration: Statutory Declaration]



CHRONICLER'S NOTE


On Friday afternoon, July 31, 1914, I shook hands in farewell with my
friend Henry C. Mahoney. He was going to Warsaw and was full of
enthusiasm concerning the new task which was to occupy him for at least
three months. Owing to his exceptional skill and knowledge, practical as
well as theoretical, of photography in all its varied branches, he had
been offered, and had accepted an important appointment abroad in
connection with this craft--one which made a profound appeal to him.
Despite the stormy outlook in the diplomatic world he felt convinced
that he would be able to squeeze through in the nick of time.

Although he promised to keep me well informed of his movements months
passed in silence. Then some ugly and ominous rumours came to hand to
the effect that he had been arrested as a spy in Germany, had been
secretly tried and had been shot. I did not attach any credence to these
vague, wild stories. I knew he had never been to Germany before, and was
_au courant_ with the harmless nature of his mission.

A year elapsed before I had any definite news. Then to my surprise I
received a letter from him dispatched from the Interned British
Prisoners Camp at Ruhleben. As a matter of fact I learned subsequently
that he had previously written six letters and post-cards to me, but
none had reached me; most likely they had been intercepted and
suppressed by the German authorities.

The letter intimated that he had prepared a voluminous account of his
experiences. Two or three days later I learned from another source that
he had been "having a hard, rough, and exciting time," and that he
could relate one of the most fascinating and sensational stories
concerning the treatment meted out to our compatriots by the German
authorities. I also learned that a closely written diary and a mass of
other papers were on their way to me; that they were in safe keeping
just over the frontier, the bearer waiting patiently for the most
favourable moments to smuggle them into safety. This diary and other
documents contained material which he desired me to make public with all
speed in order to bring home to the British public a vivid impression of
what our fellow-countrymen were suffering in the German prison camps.

The papers never reached me. Why, is related in the following pages. In
prosecuting discreet enquiries to discover their whereabouts I learned,
early in October 1915, that "Mahoney will be home before Christmas." My
informant declined to vouchsafe any further particulars beyond the
cryptic remark, "He's got something smart up his sleeve."

Knowing full well that my friend was a man of infinite resource and
initiative I was not surprised to learn a week or two later that
"Ruhleben knew Mahoney no longer." He had got away. His plans had proved
so successful as to exceed the sanguine anticipations which he had
formed.

On December 9, 1915, the day after his return to his wife and children,
who had been keyed up to the highest pitch of excitement by the welcome
news, we met again. His appearance offered convincing testimony as to
the privations he had suffered, but I was completely surprised by the
terrible tale he unfolded.

When the story narrated in the following pages was submitted to the
publishers they received it with incredulity. After making enquiries
concerning Mr. Mahoney's credentials they accepted his statements as
being accurate, but my friend, to set the matter beyond all dispute,
insisted upon making a statutory declaration as to their accuracy in
every detail.

People in these islands were stirred to profound depths of horror by the
cold-blooded murders of Nurse Cavell and Captain Fryatt, of whose trials
nothing was heard until the sentences had been executed. A certain
amount of curiosity has been aroused concerning the Teuton methods of
conducting these secret trials. Henry C. Mahoney passed through a
similar experience, although he escaped the extreme penalty. Still, the
story of his trial will serve to bring home to the public some idea of
the manner in which Germany strives to pursue her campaign of
frightfulness behind closed doors.

  FREDERICK A. TALBOT.



CONTENTS


  PRISON ONE--WESEL

  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

      I. ARRESTED AS A SPY                                            11

     II. COMMITTED TO WESEL PRISON                                    29

    III. HOW GERMANY DRIVES HER PRISONERS MAD                         44

     IV. MY SECRET MIDNIGHT TRIAL                                     60

      V. WAITING TO BE SHOT                                           74


  PRISON TWO--SENNELAGER

  THE BLACK HOLE OF GERMANY

     VI. OUR "LUXURIOUS HOTEL"                                        91

    VII. BREAKING US IN AT SENNELAGER                                105

   VIII. BADGERING THE BRITISH HEROES AT MONS                        119

     IX. THE PERSECUTION OF THE PRIESTS                              136

      X. TYING PRISONERS TO THE STAKE--THE FAVOURITE PUNISHMENT      148

     XI. THE REIGN OF TERROR                                         165

    XII. THE REIGN OF TERROR--CONTINUED                              180

   XIII. "THE BLOODY NIGHT OF SEPT. 11"                              196

    XIV. THE GUARDIAN OF THE CAMP                                    209

     XV. THE AFTERMATH OF THE 11TH                                   225


  PRISON THREE--KLINGELPUTZ

    XVI. FREE ON "PASS" IN COLOGNE                                   237

   XVII. RE-IMPRISONED AT KLINGELPUTZ                                253


  PRISON FOUR--RUHLEBEN

  XVIII. THE CAMP OF ABANDONED HOPE                                  266

    XIX. ORGANISING THE COMMUNAL CITY OF RUHLEBEN                    280

     XX. HOW I MADE MONEY IN RUHLEBEN CAMP                           301



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  The Author as he appeared on the Day of his Release from Ruhleben
                                                         _Frontispiece_
                                                              FACE PAGE

  "The Bloody Night of September 11, 1914"                          198

  The Aftermath of the "Bloody Night"                               226

  Facsimile of the Pass issued by the German authorities to the
  Author on his leaving Sennelager for Cöln-on-Rhein                238



PRISON ONE--WESEL



CHAPTER I

ARRESTED AS A SPY


"_Start August First. Book tickets immediately._"

Such were the instructions I received at Brighton early in July, 1914,
from Prince ----. A few days previously I had spent considerable time
with this scion of the Russian nobility discussing the final
arrangements concerning my departure to his palace in Russia, where I
was to devote two months to a special matter in which he was deeply
interested, and which involved the use of special and elaborate
photographic apparatus, microscopes, optical lantern and other
accessories. I may mention that the mission in question was purely of
scientific import.

During the discussion of these final arrangements a telegram was handed
to the Prince. He scanned it hurriedly, jumped up from his seat, and
apologising for his abruptness, explained that he had been suddenly
called home. He expressed the hope that he would shortly see me in
Russia, where I was promised a fine time, but that he would instruct me
the precise date when to start. Meanwhile I was urged to complete my
purchases of the paraphernalia which we had decided to be imperative for
our purpose, and he handed me sufficient funds to settle all the
accounts in connection therewith. That night the Prince bade me farewell
and hurried off to catch the boat train. My next communication from him
was the brief instruction urging me to start on August 1.[1]

    [Footnote 1: I have never heard since from the Prince. A day or
    two after the outbreak of war, upon joining the Russian forces,
    he, with an observer, ascended in an aeroplane--he was an
    enthusiastic and skilled aviator--to conduct a reconnaissance
    over the German lines. He was never seen nor heard of again.
    Searching enquiries have been made without result, and now it is
    presumed that he was lost or killed.--H.C.M.]

Shortly after his departure there were ominous political rumblings, but
I, in common with the great majority, concluded that the storm would
blow over as it had done many times before. Moreover, I was so
pre-occupied with my coming task as to pay scanty attention to the
political barometer. I completed the purchase of the apparatuses, packed
them securely, and arranged for their dispatch to meet me at the train.
Then I remained at home to await developments. I was ready to start at a
moment's notice, having secured my passport, on which I was described,
for want of a better term, as a "Tutor of Photography," and it was duly
viséd by the Russian Embassy.

Although the political sky grew more and more ominous I paid but little
attention to the black clouds. The receipt of instructions to start at
once galvanised me into activity to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
I booked my passage right through to destination--Warsaw--and upon
making enquiries on July 31st was assured that I should get through all
right.

I left Brighton by the 5.10 train on Saturday afternoon, August 1st.
There was one incident at the station which, although it appeared to be
trivial, proved subsequently of far reaching significance. In addition
to many cameras of different types and sizes stowed in my baggage I
carried three small instruments in my pockets, one being particularly
small. I had always regarded this instrument with a strange affection
because, though exceedingly small and slipping into a tiny space, it was
capable of excellent work. As the train was moving from the station I
took two parting snapshots of my wife and family waving me farewell. It
was an insignificant incident over which I merely smiled at the time,
but five days later I had every cause to bless those parting snaps. One
often hears about life hanging by the proverbial thread, but not many
lives have hung upon two snapshot photographs of all that is dearest to
one, and a few inches of photographic film. Yet it was so in my case.
But for those two tiny parting pictures and the unexposed fraction of
film I should have been propped against the wall of a German prison to
serve as a target for Prussian rifles!

Upon reaching Victoria I found the evening boat-train being awaited by a
large crowd of enthusiastic and war-fever stricken Germans anxious to
get back to their homeland. The fiat had gone forth that all Germans of
military age were to return at once and they had rolled up _en masse_,
many accompanied by their wives, while there was a fair sprinkling of
Russian ladies also bent upon hurrying home. An hour before the train
was due the platform was packed with a dense chattering, gesticulating,
singing, and dancing crowd. Many pictures have been painted of the
British exodus from Berlin upon the eve of war but few, if any, have
ever been drawn of the wild stampede from Britain to Berlin which it was
my lot to experience.

As the train backed into the station there was a wild rush for seats.
The excited Teutons grabbed at handles--in fact at anything protruding
from the carriages--in a desperate endeavour to be first on the
footboard. Many were carried struggling and kicking along the platform.
Women were bowled over pell-mell and their shrieks and cries mingled
with the hoarse, exuberant howls of the war-fever stricken maniacs
already tasting the smell of powder and blood.

More by luck than judgment I obtained admission to a saloon carriage to
find myself the only Englishman among a hysterical crowd of forty
Germans. They danced, whistled, sang and joked as if bound on a
wayzegoose. Badinage was exchanged freely with friends standing on the
platform. Anticipating that things would probably grow lively during the
journey, I preserved a discreet silence, and my presence was ignored.

The whistle blew, the locomotive screeched, and the next moment we were
gliding out of the station to the accompaniment of wild cheering, good
wishes for a safe journey and speedy return, and the strains of music
which presently swelled into a roar about "Wacht am Rhein." The melody
was yelled out with such gusto and so repeatedly that I hoped I might
ever be spared from hearing its strains again. But at last Nature
asserted herself. The throats of the singers grew hoarse and tired, the
song came to a welcome end, and music gave way to vigorous and keen
discussion upon the trend of events, which was maintained, not only
during the train journey, but throughout the cross-Channel passage to
Flushing, which we reached at six o'clock the following morning.

At the Dutch port the wild excitement and hubbub broke out with
increased virulence. The report was circulated that the train now
awaiting us would be the last through express to Berlin. There was a
frantic rush for seats. Men, women, and children participated in the
wild mêlée. The brutal shouts of the men contrasted vividly with the
high-pitched adjurations of the women and the wails and cries of the
terrified children. Within a few minutes the train was packed to
suffocation, not an inch of standing-room being left, while the
corridors were barricaded with the overflow of baggage from the guards'
vans.

For two hours we stood there scarcely able to breathe. The heat of the
waxing summer's day began to assert itself, with the result that it was
not long before the women commenced to show signs of distress. Their
spirits revived, however, as the train commenced to move. There was one
solace--one and all were advancing towards home and the discomfort would
not last for long.

So keen was the desire to get to Berlin that the great majority of the
passengers had neglected to provide themselves with any food, lest they
should lose their seats or miss the train. But they confidently expected
that the train would pull up at some station to enable refreshments to
be obtained. They were supported in this belief by the withdrawal of the
usual dining car from the train. Those who trusted in luck, however,
were rudely disappointed. The train refused to stop at any station.
Instead, it evinced a decided preference for intermediate signal posts.
It was described as an express, but a tortoise's crawl would be a gallop
in comparison. It travelled at only a little more than a walking pace
and the stops were maddeningly frequent.

The women and children speedily betrayed painful evidences of the
suffering they were experiencing, which became accentuated as we
advanced. The close confinement rendered the atmosphere within the
carriages extremely oppressive. The weaker men and the women commenced
to faint but no assistance could be extended to them. One could move
barely an arm or leg. The afflicted passengers simply went off where
they were, sitting or standing, as the case might be, and prevented from
falling by the closely packed passengers around them, to come round as
best they could when Nature felt so disposed. The wails of the children
were pitiful. Many were crying from cramp and hunger, but nothing could
be done to satisfy them, and indeed the men took little notice of them.

The arrival--in time--at the frontier station at Goch somewhat revived
the distressed and drooping. Everyone seized the opportunity to stretch
the limbs, to inhale some fresh air, and to obtain some slight
refreshment. The Customs officials were unusually alert, harrying, and
inflexible. There was the eternal wrangling between the passengers and
the officials over articles liable to duty and it was somewhat amusing
to me, even with war beating the air, to follow the frantic and useless
efforts of old and experienced travellers to smuggle this, that, or
something else through the fiscal barrier.

The Customs were so far from being in a conciliatory mood as to be
absolutely deaf to entreaty, cajolery, argument, explanation or threat.
They cut the operations summarily short by confiscating everything
liable to duty. As may be imagined a rich harvest was garnered at the
expense of the luckless returning patriot. While the Customs were busy
the military officials, who appeared to be swarming everywhere, were
equally exacting. They boarded the train and literally turned it inside
out. Every man and woman and child was subjected to a close personal
investigation and cross-examination. Foreigners were handled with even
greater stress and with less ceremony. I saw four fellow passengers
sorted out and rushed under a military escort into the waiting room.

At last it was my turn for military inquisition. I presented all my
credentials, which were scanned from end to end, turned over, and even
held up to the light, lest there should be something interwoven with the
watermark. I followed the operations with a quiet amusement, confident
in my security, but could not resist remarking upon the thoroughness of
the search and the determination to leave nothing to chance. My passport
created the greatest interest. It was dated July 7th, 1914. The official
looked at me queerly in silent interrogation as he placed his finger
beneath the date. I nodded and made no comment.

With a slight smile of self-satisfaction the officer turned on his heel
and beckoned me to follow him. At the same moment two soldiers clicked
their heels behind me and I saw that I was already under severe military
suspicion. I was taken to a long-bearded individual sitting in state on
a pedestal. The officer handed to him the papers he had found upon me.
There was a hurried whispering, the superior individual eyeing me
narrowly meanwhile. They compared the date of the passport with August
2nd, Sunday, the day on which I was travelling, and also examined the
visé of the Russian Embassy in the corner.

Suddenly the long-bearded officer hurled a torrent of questions at me
and at such a velocity that I was quite unable to follow him. Observing
that his volcanic interrogative eruption was non-productive he slowed
down and repeated the questions.

"Why are you travelling at this time?"

"To take up an appointment in Russia. There is the name--Prince ----"

"Ah!" and his eyebrows were elevated so much as to mingle almost with
his hair.

"But why have you so much photographic apparatus?"

"It is necessary for the work I am taking up."

"Ah!" once again the eyebrows vanished scalp-wards.

"Have you a camera upon you?"

"No!"

"Ah!" another dance of the eyebrows.

He rapped out a short command and before I was aware of the circumstance
two pairs of hands were running rapidly over my body and in and out of
my pockets with the dexterity of men who had served a long
apprenticeship under an Artful Dodger. It proved a blank search. I gave
a sigh of relief, because had the searchers run their hands over the
lower part of my person they would have come across two cameras, and my
treasured little companion, wrapped in his leather jacket, alert and
ready for silent service, but concealed in a most unexpected corner. I
could scarcely repress a smile when I recognised that I was immune from
further search. Evidently the Pooh-bah was somewhat disconcerted at the
negative results achieved, because, after firing one or two other
desultory questions at me, he handed back my passport and other papers,
and told me I could continue my journey.

Desiring to disarm suspicion completely I did not hurry away but
lingered around the little court and even indulged in a short idle
conversation with my interlocutor, who, however, somewhat resented my
familiarity. I lounged back to the train, hugely delighted with myself,
more particularly as, quite unbeknown to the fussy individual with the
beard, I had snapped a picture of his informal court with my little
camera.

The frontier formalities at last concluded, the train resumed its crawl,
ambling leisurely along for some two hours, stopping now and then to
draw into a siding. On such occasions troop train after troop train
crowded with soldiers thundered by us _en route_ to Berlin. The sight of
a troop train roused our passengers to frenzy. They cheered madly,
throwing their hats into the air. The huzzas were returned by the
soldiers hanging out of the windows with all the exuberant enthusiasm of
school boys returning home at the end of the term.

But we were not destined to make a through run to the capital. Suddenly
the train was pulled up by a military guard upon the line. We were
turned out pell-mell and our baggage was thrown on to the embankment.
This proceeding caused considerable uneasiness. What had happened? Where
were we going? and other questions of a similar character were hurled at
the soldiers. But they merely shook their heads in a non-committal
manner. They either did not or would not know. Our feelings were not
improved when the empty carriages were backed down the line, the engine
changed ends, and we saw the train steam off in another direction. The
hold-up of the train had taken place at a depressing spot. We were
completely stranded, without provisions or any other necessities, and at
an isolated spot where it was impossible to obtain any supplies. The
passengers pestered the guard for information, and at last the officers,
to still any further enquiry, declared that they were going to do
something, to carry us "somewhere."

Some two-and-a-half hours slipped by when a loud cheer rang out at the
appearance of a train of crazy carriages which backed towards us. The
passengers scrambled in and made themselves as comfortable as they
could. But where was the baggage to go? The soldiery had overlooked this
item and they surveyed the straggling mass of bags and trunks littering
the embankment ruefully. But they solved the problem in their own way.
What could not be stacked within the trucks would have to go on top.

We forged ahead once more to pull up at a small station. Here there was
a mad scramble for supplies and the refreshment room was soon cleared
out of its small stock. On the platform an extortionate German drove a
brisk trade selling small bottles of lemonade at sixpence a bottle. More
excitement was caused by a newsvendor mounting a box and holding aloft a
single copy of the latest newspaper which he would sell to the highest
bidder.

Being ignorant of what had transpired since I had left London I resolved
to have that copy. I scrambled over a pile of baggage and came within
arm's length of the newsvendor. I threw down coins to the value of 2s.
8d., grabbed his paper and vanished before he could voice a protest. I
scrambled back to my car. Here the paper was snatched from me to be read
aloud to the expectant crowd thirsting for news. There was a tense
silence as the reader ran through the items until he gravely announced
the latest intelligence--Russia and Germany had declared war. The news
was official. For a second a profound silence reigned. Then there broke
out a further outburst of wild, maniacal cheering, above which, however,
could be heard hysterical screams and shrieks from women, especially
from those bound for Russia, which they now realised they would never
reach.

I saw at once that it was hopeless to get to my destination, as the
Russo-German frontier was now closed. But as it was quite as impossible
to turn back I decided to push on to Berlin there to await events. So
far Britain was not involved and might even keep clear of the tangle.
This I might say was the general opinion on the train. The remainder of
the journey to the capital was now far more exciting, and the animated
conversation served to while away the tedium of the slow travelling,
although the latter part was completed in darkness, the train running
into Berlin at 1.30 in the morning of August 3rd, the journey from
Flushing having taken about 18 hours.

The platform at Berlin was overrun with officials of all sorts and
descriptions, ranging from puny collectors to big burly fellows
smothered with sufficient braid and decorations to pass as
field-marshals. But one and all seemed to be entrusted with swords too
big for them which clanked and clattered in the most nerve-racking
manner. They strutted up and down the platform with true Prussian
arrogance, jostling the fatigued, cursing the helpless who lounged in
their path, ignoring the distress of the children, sneering at the
pitiful pleadings of the women--in fact caring about nothing beyond
their own importance. They disdained to reply to any question, and said
nothing beyond the terse statement that no more trains were going East
to Russia. At this intelligence the travellers bound for the latter
country collapsed, the majority, women, flopping upon their baggage and
dropping their heads in their hands in grief and utter despair.

Yet, although the authorities were fully aware that no more trains were
going East they made no attempt to cope with the influx of arriving and
stranded passengers. They were left to their own devices. The majority
of the women and children were famished, thirsty, and tired, but the
officials resolutely refused to open the waiting rooms and buffets
before the usual hour. Accordingly the travel-tired, grief-stricken
women either threw themselves prone upon the platforms, or crawled into
corridors, sub-ways, and corners to seek a little repose, using their
luggage as head-rests, or being content with the cold hard steps. The
few seats upon the platform were speedily occupied but the occupants
were denied more than a brief repose. At the end of 15 minutes officials
came round and emptied the seats of those in possession to allow other
parties to have a quarter of an hour's rest.

While the worn-out passengers slept the light-fingered German gentry
passed swiftly from bag to bag, the conditions offering favourable
opportunities for the light-fingered gentry. They appeared to suffer no
molestation from the officials, who could plainly see what was going on,
but possibly officialdom regarded the belongings of tired and exhausted
foreigners as legitimate loot to those who were prepared to take it.
Outside the station the heavier baggage was stacked in barricades in a
wildly haphazard manner with the heavier articles at the top. These,
crushing the lighter and more fragile packages beneath, spread the
contents of the latter in the roadway to serve as sport for gamins and
other loungers who prowled around.

The utter chaos was aggravated by the rain which pelted down with
torrential fury. Mothers with their little children drew closely into
corners or sat upon doorsteps seeking the slightest shelter. As I turned
out of the station my attention was attracted by a woman--she had come
up on our train--who was sitting on the kerb, her feet in the gutter,
the rushing water coursing over her ankles, feeding her child at the
breast, and vainly striving to shelter the little mite from the
elements. The woman was crying bitterly. I went up to her. She spoke
English perfectly. She was Russian and had set out from England to meet
her husband at Kalish. But she could not get through, she had very
little money, could not speak German, and knew not what to do, or what
would become of her. I soothed her as well as I could. There were
hundreds of similar cases around. Notwithstanding their terrible plight
not a hand was moved by the authorities on their behalf. They were even
spurned and roughly moved out of the way by the swaggering officials. It
was not until the British colony got busy the next day that they
received the slightest alleviation, and the majority, being strangers
in a strange land, were sent back to England, the Germans mutely
concurring in the task. The wild rush from the Continent may have
precipitated congestion at our ports and railway stations, but there
never could have been that absolute chaos which reigned at Berlin on the
fateful night of the 2nd of August. Humanity was thrown to the four
winds. The much-vaunted Teuton organisation, system, and scientific
control had broken down completely under the first test to which it was
subjected.

The terrific downpour caused me to decide to spend a few hours in the
comfort of an hotel. I hailed a taxi and jumped in. The car was just
moving when the door was flung open, I was grabbed by the coat-collar
and the next moment found myself skating across the roadway on my back.
I jumped up, somewhat ruffled at this rude handling, to learn that it
was an officer who had treated me so unceremoniously. I had no redress.
Berlin was under martial law. The uniform of the military came before
the mufti of the civilian.

Unable to find another vehicle I turned into the first place I found
open. It was an all-night café. It was packed to suffocation with German
soldiers and the feminine underworld of Berlin. There was a glorious
orgy of drunkenness, nauseating and debasing amusement, and the
incoherent singing of patriotic songs. The other sex appeared to have
thrown all discretion and womanliness to the winds. A soldier too drunk
to stand was assisted to a chair which he mounted with difficulty. Here
he was supported on either side by two flushed, hilariously-shouting,
partially-dressed harpies. He drew off his belt--his helmet had already
gone somewhere--and pointing to the badge he shouted thickly and
coarsely, "Deutschland, Deutschland, Gott mit uns"--(Germany, Germany,
God is with us). Metaphorically he was correct, because the words are
printed upon the belt of every German soldier, but if the Almighty was
with that drunken, debased crowd that night, then Old Nick must have
been wearing out his shoes looking for a job.

When the crowd caught sight of me, which was some time after my entrance
because I had dropped unseen into a convenient corner, they rushed
forward and urged me to participate in their revels. I declined. They
had been hurling distinctly uncomplimentary and obscene epithets
concerning Britain through the room. My decision was construed into an
affront to the All-Highest. A big, burly, drunken soldier wanted to
fight me. The crowd pressed round keenly anticipating some fun. We
indulged in a spirited altercation, but as neither understood what the
other said, words did not lead to blows. However, the upshot was the
intimation that my room was preferred to my company. This was received
with enthusiasm, the result being that I made the sudden acquaintance of
the pavement outside once more, being assisted in my hurried departure
by fisticuffs and heavy boots.

I picked myself up and walked until I caught sight of an hotel. I
entered, booked a room, and indulged in an elaborate wash and brush-up
of which I was sorely in need, following this with a substantial
breakfast. Then I sauntered into the vestibule for a smoke. Three German
officers and a squad of soldiers came clanking in. There was a short
sharp order. One officer remained at the door while the others
disappeared into the depths of the building.

I went over to the officer and entered into conversation with him. He
spoke English fluently and was fairly affable. We discussed things in
general and also the political situation, from which I gathered that
matters were rapidly approaching a climax, and that there was no telling
what would happen next. This was the first time I had been brought face
to face with the situation and my outlook was serious. The officer at
last turned to me, and with a friendly smile, remarked--

"Look here, my English friend, I would advise you to make for your
country at once. Don't stop for anything!"

"Why?"

"Don't ask questions. Do as I say! Can't you take a friendly warning?
Take to-day's train home! If you don't--well, you may be detained!"

His advice was expressed in such significant tones that I looked at him
sharply. He answered with another smile and a shrug which intimated only
too plainly that he had said as much as he dared.

I was debarred from prosecuting the conversation farther by the return
of his comrades with a crowd of waiters. They were all Russians and they
had been rounded up by the military. No opportunity was given them to
pack a few necessities. They were arrested at their tables, while
performing their duties, were corralled and now were off to prison. No
one possessed any more than he stood up in.

I followed them down the street, intending to proceed to the British
Consulate. The streets were full of soldiers and the air rang with
martial music. While proceeding to the Consulate I became aware that I
was being shadowed. An individual resolutely dogged me. I had seen him
previously but had taken no serious notice of his presence. Now he began
to get a bit irksome. I bought some picture post-cards and addressed
them to friends at home, announcing my immediate return, also
introducing brief comments on the condition of things in Berlin as they
appeared to me. A few hours later I regretted writing those
post-cards.[2]

    [Footnote 2: Upon my return to England I made enquiries and
    discovered that not a single one had been received. Undoubtedly
    they were stopped by the German military authorities and
    contributed somewhat materially to my subsequent
    troubles.--H.C.M.]

The Consulate was besieged by hundreds of compatriots thirsting for
guidance as to what to do. After waiting an hour-and-a-half I secured an
audience. I briefly explained my position.

"Get home at once. The train leaves 1.13 mid-day."

"But I've got luggage worth £400 at the station!"

"Get home!"

"But--"

"Leave your luggage where it is!"

"Do you think--?"

"You take the 1.13 train. Good morning."

Further enquiries convinced me that the 1.13 was very likely to be the
last train which would leave Berlin for Britain, so I scurried off to
the station to recover my luggage. Many of the photographic instruments
were exceedingly valuable because they had been made specially. I was
bandied from one official to another. At last I alighted upon one who
knew something. He led me to a huge building and flung open the door. It
was stacked from floor to roof with baggage, which had been packed in
without any semblance of order. I surveyed the pile ruefully. I asked
him if he could trace my luggage but he shook his head. I held out a
tempting pourboire. It was of no avail. If I wanted the luggage I could
look for it myself. Reflecting that some six weeks at least would be
required to complete the search I concluded that I should have to leave
it behind willy-nilly. So somewhat depressed I prepared to leave by the
1.13 train.

The express was heavily laden and to it was attached a carriage reserved
for the military, who were accompanying the departing Britishers to the
frontier. Curiously enough, not one of us knew definitely what had
happened. Rumour was busy, but it was inconclusive. The general feeling
was that Britain had taken some drastic action which must have serious
results, otherwise we should not have been bundled home so hurriedly.

We had been travelling some time when I noticed a lady sauntering along
the corridor vainly searching for a seat. I was comfortable, but I
instantly surrendered my place to assume a standing position in the
corridor where I chatted with several fellow-travellers. I may say that
slung over my shoulder was a black leather strap carrying a small camera
case in the manner frequently affected by tourists. Ever after I have
cursed that innocent looking camera case, and certainly when travelling
in the future will favour some other means of carrying photographic
apparatus.

About half-an-hour passed in this way. Then I observed a young German
ambling along the corridor. He came up to us and entered into an idle
conversation. One by one the others dropped away from him, not caring to
talk with a German. I would have done the same but the strange youth
would not let me. He pinned me to the spot with his conversation. At
first his questions were extremely innocent, but they soon became
somewhat inquisitive and searching, and were purposely directed to
discover why I was travelling, where I had been, how long I had been in
Germany, and so forth. As the conversation assumed this turn I came to
the alert. He was a typical German with all the inexperience of youth,
though he doubtless prided himself upon his powers of observation,
deduction, and cross-examination by apparently idle questions. But to
one and all of his interrogations I gave the retort courteous. His
pressing attentions did not escape the notice of my fellow-travellers
within earshot. Looking out of the corner of my eye I saw that they did
not regard this questioning of myself as being so innocent as it
appeared. Many were apparently familiar with German methods of
inter-espionage and they extended me silent warning, by sign, frown, and
wink.

The raw youth disappeared and I forgot all about him. But to my surprise
five minutes later I saw him returning along the corridor accompanied by
a military official whom he had evidently brought from the military
carriage attached to the train. They came straight up to me. The youth
pointing directly at me remarked,

"Here he is. See! There's the camera on his back!"

The officer looked at the strap and turning me round caught sight of the
camera case. He nodded in acquiescence.

"And I saw him using it," went on the youth triumphantly. "He has been
taking photographs of the bridges and sentries along the line!"

I was distinctly amused at this charge because it was absolutely untrue.
But I was somewhat impressed by the strange silence which had settled
upon my fellow-travellers and the inscrutable look upon the officer's
face. Something serious was evidently amiss. I turned to the officer.

"The accusation is absurd. Why! Look at the windows! They have been kept
closed all the time according to the military orders. And you could not
take a photograph through the closed windows even if you wanted to. They
are too begrimed with dirt."

The officer did not say a word but continued to eye me narrowly.

I began to feel uncomfortable before that piercing gaze, so I decided to
floor the aspiring detective working so zealously for the Fatherland and
to point out the danger of jumping at conclusions. I turned to him:

"You say you saw me taking photographs?"

"Yes, with that camera on your back."

"You are quite sure?"

"Yes!"

I swung the case which had been so offensive to his eyes round to the
front of me.

"Now I'll ask you again. You are quite certain you saw me taking
photographs?"

"Ach! I distinctly saw you take the camera out of the case, take the
pictures, and then put it back again!" was his rejoinder given with
great emphasis.

I did not attempt to argue any further. I clicked the catch of the case.
The lid flew open. Both the officer and the youth craned forward
expectantly, to draw back, the officer giving vent to a smothered
ejaculation.

_The camera case was full of cigarettes._

Being a heavy smoker I had stocked myself with cigarettes with which I
had filled the camera case. I turned them out into my hands leaving the
case empty.

The youth's face was a study. He was so completely trapped in his lying
that he went all colours, while his jaw dropped. My fellow passengers
who had been watching and listening in profound silence gave expression
to uproarious mirth at the complete manner in which the immature
detective had been bowled out. But their mirth was misplaced. A German
resents discomfiture. The officer, too, was not disposed to throw over
his subordinate, who undoubtedly had been acting in accordance with
orders. Looking me steadily in the face the officer placed his hand on
my shoulder and in cold tones said,

"_I formally charge you with being a spy in the pay of the British
Government!_"



CHAPTER II

COMMITTED TO WESEL PRISON


To say that I was completely dumbfounded by this accusation is to
express my feelings very mildly. But, with an effort, I succeeded in
keeping my _sang-froid_, which I am afraid only served to convince the
officer that he was correct in his charge.

He assailed me with interrogations, demanded my passport, and after
perusing it closely, enquired why I was travelling to Russia at such a
time. "Why!" he pointed out, "you only left England on August 1st, when
Russia and Germany were on the eve of war!"

I gave a detailed explanation of my mission, but I failed to shake his
suspicions. I had to surrender my ticket for inspection and this caused
him to frown more heavily than ever.

"Where is your camera?"

I produced two which were in my pockets, keeping my tiny companion in
its secret resting place.

At the sight of the two cameras he gave a smile of complete
self-satisfaction. He handed them to the guard together with my ticket.
Turning on his heel he remarked:

"You'll ask for these articles when you reach Wesel!"

As he strode down the corridor the serious character of my situation
dawned upon me. My companions had already formed their opinions
concerning my immediate future. All thoughts of the war vanished before
a discussion of my awkward predicament. I saw that the injunction to
make enquiry for my cameras and ticket at Wesel, which is an important
military centre, was merely a ruse to prevent my escape. My arrest at
Wesel was inevitable.

I was carrying one or two other articles, such as a revolver, about me.
I saw that although they were apparently harmless, and could be fully
explained, they would incriminate me only still more. I promptly got rid
of them. I had half-a-mind to discard my little camera also, but somehow
or other I could not bring myself to part with this. I thought it might
come in useful. Moreover there was very little likelihood of it being
discovered unless I was stripped. So I left it where it was. Afterwards
I was thankful I acted upon second thoughts on that occasion.

The outlook was certainly discouraging and when the train stopped at
Wesel--outside the station I afterwards discovered--I acted on the
impulse for self-preservation, darted along the corridor, found a place
of concealment and tucked myself in. Now I realise that this was the
worst thing I could have done, but then my thoughts were centred upon
effecting my escape, in the half-hope that the Germans, unable to find
me, would assume that I had surreptitiously left the train.

But I misjudged German thoroughness, especially when a suspected spy is
the quarry. Fifteen, thirty, fifty minutes slipped by and still the
train did not move. The other passengers were not being regarded kindly
at my non-appearance. So, stealing out of my hiding place I sauntered as
composedly as I could along the corridor to come face to face with the
officer, who with his guard was diligently searching every nook and
cranny and cross-questioning the other passengers. Directly he caught
sight of me he sprang forward, uttering a command. The next instant I
was surrounded by soldiers. I was under arrest.

The officer gave a signal from a window and the train pulled into the
station. I was hustled unceremoniously on to the platform, where eight
soldiers closed around me to form an escort and I was marched forward.
As we crossed the platform the locomotive whistle shrieked, and about
9.30 p.m. the last train to leave Berlin on the outbreak of war bore my
companions homewards.

Personally I was disposed to regard the whole episode as a joke, and an
instance of Teuton blind blundering. The gravity of the situation never
struck me for an instant. I argued with myself that I should speedily
prove that I was the victim of circumstances and would be able to
convince the military of my _bona fides_ without any great effort.

But as I reflected it dawned upon me that my arrest had been skilfully
planned. The youth on the train, whom I never saw again, had played but
a minor part in the drama of which I was the central figure. My
departure must have been communicated from Berlin. Otherwise how should
Wesel have learned that a spy had been arrested? The station was
besieged with a wildly shouting excited crowd who bawled:

"English spy! English spy! Lynch him! Lynch him!"

I was bundled into a military office which had evidently been hurriedly
extemporised from a lumber room. The crowd outside increased in
denseness and hostility. They were shouting and raving with all the
power of their lungs. These vocal measures proving inadequate, stones
and other missiles commenced to fly. They could not see through the
windows of the room so an accurately thrown brick shivered the pane of
glass. Through the open space I caught glimpses of the most ferocious
and fiendish faces it has ever been my lot to witness. Men and women
vied with one another in the bawling and ground their teeth when they
caught sight of me.

The excitement was intense and the chant "Bring him out! Give him to us!
Let us lynch him! Down with the English spy!" even began to grate upon
me. At the time it appeared to me to be somewhat extraordinary, seeing
that we were not at war with Germany, but it conveyed a graphic
illustration of the anti-British sentiment prevailing in the military
centre. Indeed, the crowd became so menacing that my guard became
apprehensive of my safety, and I was hurriedly thrust into an inner
room. My removal there was more abrupt than dignified. I was hustled to
the door. Then a German soldier, by an adroit movement of his rifle
which he held reversed, pricked my leg with the bayonet and at the same
time brought the butt against my head with a resounding thwack!
Simultaneously he let drive with his heavily-booted foot in the small of
my back. I discovered afterwards, from actual experience, that this is a
very favourite movement of the rifle by the Germans, and is used on
every possible occasion.

The outcome of this action was to send me sprawling headlong into the
room to pull up with a crash against the floor. The entrance was
rendered additionally dangerous to myself because I stumbled over the
legs of several sleeping soldiers. I felt inclined to remonstrate with
the officer-in-charge of the escort at the treatment I was receiving,
but the uninviting armed sentry at the door frustrated my efforts very
effectively.

It was an improvised guard-room. The soldiers sprawled upon the straw
littering the floor, striving to snatch a brief rest before going on
duty, sleepily raised themselves to ascertain the cause of the
disturbance. The sentry told them excitedly the charge upon which I had
been arrested, at which the men turned to blink wonderingly upon the
"Englandische Spion!" I was not sorry when they at last wearied of
gazing upon me as if I were a freak side-show, and sank down to finish
their two hours' rest before going on guard once more.

I had barely recovered my senses when the door again flew open and two
further prisoners were injected into the room in a manner comparable
with my own entrance. They were Hindoo students--young fellows returning
to England after a continental holiday, who had been detained. Both were
somewhat alarmed, but I speedily composed them. Later there was a
repetition of the performance to admit three more Indian students. We
all agreed that the German methods of introduction were decidedly novel
and forceful if informal and unpleasant. The latest arrivals, however,
were detained for only a short while. They were rich in funds and were
equally astute in their distribution of largesse to advantage. Money
talked in their instance to distinct effect. The three of us who were
left maintained a conversation in whispers and finally came to the
conclusion that the best thing we could do was to seek sleep so as to be
fit for the enquiry which was certain to take place.

I was dog-tired, but the authorities, as represented by the sentries,
were not disposed to let us enjoy what they were denied. The guard was
constantly changing and the clattering and rasping of orders and
commands repeatedly woke us up. Then again, at frequent intervals, the
sentry would enter. Seeing me asleep he would either give me a prod with
his bayonet or a smart rap with the butt-end of his rifle to wake me up,
the idea no doubt being to impress upon me the serious nature of my
position and to inflict upon me the utmost discomfort.

Being prevented from sleeping and commencing to feel the pangs of
hunger, having eaten nothing since lunch upon the train, I asked for
something to eat. The sentry was very sorry but related that food was
quite out of the question because none of the officers in charge of me
from whom he could obtain the necessary instructions were available.

[*large gap]

The absence of the officers was explained a little later. They had been
searching for an interpreter, so that I might be put through another
inquisition. This interpreter was about the most incompetent of his
class that one could wish to meet. His English was execrable--far worse
than Chinese pidgin--and he had an unhappy and disconcerting manner of
intermingling German and English words, while either through a physical
defect or from some other cause, he could not pronounce his consonants
correctly.

I was taken through the usual rigmarole such as I had at first
experienced at Goch. The evidence also, as usual, was committed to
paper. It was a perfunctory enquiry, however, and was soon completed.
Naturally upon its conclusion I considered that I would be free to
resume my journey. I turned to my interpreter.

"Now this is all over I suppose I can go?"

"Ach! nein zoo tant doh!"

His English was so vile that I thought he said and meant "ah! at nine
you can go!"

Seeing that it was about eleven o'clock at the time, I thought I had
better hurry in case there was another Flushing-bound train. So I
scuttled towards the door only to receive another heavy clout from the
sentry's rifle. What the interpreter really said was "Ah! No, you can't
go!" As I rubbed my bruised head I treated that interpreter to a candid
opinion of his English speaking qualifications, but he did not
understand half what I said.

As I realised nothing further could be done that night I lay down to
snatch another rest. But after midnight my trials and troubles
increased. Every few minutes the door would rattle and be clanked open
to admit an officer who had brought a number of friends to see the
latest sensation--the English spies. The friends, who were
brother-officers, regarded us with a strange interest, while the officer
who had charge of me strutted to and fro like a peacock drawn to his
full height, at the unique greatness thrust upon him, and dwelling at
great length upon the enormity of our offence related a weird story
about my capture.

Upon such occasions I and my two Hindoo companions were compelled to
stand at attention. At first I regarded the incident with amusement,
but after we had been through the circus-like performance about a dozen
times, it became distinctly irksome, especially as I was dog-tired. It
was with the greatest difficulty I maintained my self-control.

About four o'clock in the morning I heard voices in the adjoining room.
Evidently someone in authority had arrived. I decided to seize the
opportunity to secure an interview with one who at least would be able
to give me some satisfaction. I moved smartly towards the door. The
sentry lowered his rifle, but I evaded the bayonet, I saw a flash and
then all was darkness.

Some time later I woke up. I was lying at full length upon the floor and
my head was singing like a kettle, while it ached fearfully. I opened my
eyes but for some minutes could descry nothing but stars. As I came
round I made out the dim forms of the two Hindoo students bending over
me. They were extremely agitated, but their peace of mind became
restored somewhat when I at last sat up. Then they explained what had
happened. After I had dodged the bayonet the soldier had swung his rifle
round bringing the butt end smartly down upon my head and had knocked me
silly. From the pain I suffered and the size of the lump which I could
feel I tacitly agreed that I had received a pretty smart rap.

I felt round for the tin of cigarettes which I had extemporised to form
a pillow before the incident, but was suddenly reminded that smoking was
very much _verboten_. Regarding the tin longingly I absent-mindedly
opened it. To my surprise I found that the fifty cigarettes which it had
originally contained had dwindled down to one! I looked at the sentry
and smiled quietly to myself. Rising to my feet I held out the open tin
to him.

"You've been helping yourself while I have been asleep and I think you
might as well take the last one," I muttered sarcastically.

The phlegmatic sentry looked at me cunningly. His face lapsed into a
broad grin. Growling "danker!" (thank you!) he calmly took it and
lighted up. From this incident I discovered that even a thick-skulled,
dull-witted German infantryman has a bump of humour.

The din which still reigned around the station told me that the crowd
was impatient to see me. In fact Bedlam appeared to have been let loose.
The news of my capture had spread through Wesel like wildfire, and
public animosity and hostility towards me had risen to fever-heat.
During the night the crowd had swollen considerably, and it clung
tenaciously to the station in the hope of having some glorious fun at my
expense.

At six o'clock an officer entered with one or two subordinates and a
squad of soldiers. Certain formalities had to be gone through in which I
played a prominent part. These completed the officer stood before me
with all the pomposity he could command and delivered a harangue at high
speed in a worrying monotone. To me it was gibberish, but one of the men
who could speak English informed me that the gist of his wail was the
intimation that "if I moved a pace to the right, or a pace to the left,
or fell back a pace, or hurried a pace during the march to the Wesel
Arresthaus--Wesel Prison--I would be shot down immediately." I mentally
decided to obey the injunction to the absolute letter, and must admit
that never before or since during my life have I walked such a straight
line.

With four soldiers behind with lowered bayonets, four in front and two
on either side we moved out of the station. The clock was chiming seven,
but the droning of the clock was drowned by the howls of rage,
snarlings, screeches, shrieks and groans of fury which went up from the
mob the moment they caught sight of us. Despite my self-control I
winced. Directly we gained the roadway an ugly rush was made. I thought
I was doomed to be torn limb from limb, for I was overwhelmed by a sea
of itching hands, shaking fists, and gnashing teeth. The escort wavered
and was all but overwhelmed. Although it quivered ominously before the
mob assault it stood its ground. Swinging their rifles over their heads
the soldiers lashed out with the butt-ends. A sharp order rang out. We
turned about and hastily returned to the station. Here the officer
demanded a double escort, which was granted, and we made another attempt
to reach the Arresthaus.

But the increased parade of military power only served to infuriate the
crowd still more. They surged, swayed, and pressed, and howled, groaned,
and shrieked as if bereft. Baulked in their desire to snatch us from the
soldiers they began to fling missiles of all descriptions. Fortunately
they were too excited to throw with pronounced accuracy, although my two
Hindoo companions and I were struck several times with vegetables. Then
a bottle came singing through the air. I ducked, but it struck the
soldier beside me full on the side of the face to shatter into a score
of pieces. The blow was so terrific as to cause a gaping wound in the
soldier's face, extending from his temple to his chin. The blood spurted
out. The wounded man saluted, and requested the officer to permit him to
drop out to have his wound dressed. But the officer curtly refused, and
so the unfortunate soldier was compelled to walk, or rather to stumble,
beside me, the blood pouring from his lacerated face.

As we turned into the square immediately facing the entrance to the
prison I blanched. The mob which had gathered here was so dense, and was
lashed to such a high pitch of vicious fury, that I felt convinced we
should have to succumb to overwhelming numbers. The air was thick with
missiles, and the soldiers suffered severely, although we three
prisoners were not often struck. The soldiers tolerated the fusillade
with the best grace they could command for some time, but even their
endurance had its limits, and at last they turned. But the crowd was by
no means daunted. By hook or by crook they intended to prevent us
reaching the prison, and, they having closed behind us, we were
completely hemmed in.

"Our last chance! Give them to us! English spies! Seize them, comrades!
Lynch them! Lynch them!" were the coarse cries which rang out without
ceasing.

It was a thrilling and critical moment. The mass of screaming men and
women was now so dense that we could not move. The soldiers could no
longer even swing their rifles. The outstretched hands of the mob were
snapping and tearing within an inch or two of my coat. Had I swayed a
trifle they must have grasped me.

A shrill whistle rang out. The prison door was flung open and a number
of soldiers came out at the double with arms lowered, while the officers
were waving their swords. The crowd around the entrance fell back, and
the next moment a passage was being cleaved through the mass of raving
humanity. This sudden appearance of extra force created a diversion of
which our escort took advantage. We slipped through the gap which had
been cut in the crowd, and the next moment were in the prison. As the
gate closed with a resounding bang I gave a sigh of relief. We were safe
from mob violence whatever other fate might be in store for us.
Personally, although I passed through many exciting experiences
subsequently, and was often a victim of Prussian brutality, I regard
that march from the station to the prison at Wesel as the most dangerous
few minutes which I have ever encountered.

We were promptly taken into an office and subjected to another
inquisition. The questions were merely repetitions of those I had
already answered half-a-dozen times previously. Then I was submitted to
my second search. I was ordered to throw my hands above my head, a
bayonet point being held at my stomach to enforce the command. Searchers
went adroitly through my pockets, taking everything which they
contained. These included a batch of letters which I had received just
before starting from home, and which I had thrust into my pocket to read
at leisure during the journey.

These letters provoked a considerable amount of whispering,
head-shaking, wise smiles, and significant noddings. No one could read a
word of English--but that was immaterial. In the wisdom of their conceit
these inquisitors considered the communications to be fully
incriminating, and the frequent recurrence of the word "Russia" in the
letters convinced them that my guilt was now fully and truly established
beyond a shadow of a doubt. The various articles were carefully wrapped
up and tied with blue ribbon. Knowing the significance of red-tape at
home, I concluded that this was the Prussian analogue of our official
preference. Afterwards, however, I was told that "blue" ribbon was
employed for a specific purpose--the sealing of articles and goods
belonging to one arrested on the charge of espionage. How far this is
true I do not know, but I did observe that in every instance blue ribbon
was employed to secure the parcels belonging to spies.

My two cameras were regarded with reverent awe. As they were being
examined I urged them to be careful. I suggested that they should allow
me to develop the films, but this proposal was regarded with
consternation and emphatic negative head-shakings. The authorities would
see to that.

Suddenly there was intense excitement. One of the searchers had drawn a
watch-like contrivance from my waistcoat pocket. It was not a watch,
because it had no dial or works, but something which was quite foreign
to them. First they dropped it as if fearing it might explode. Then
finding that the fall brought about no ill-effects they approached it
warily, picked it up gingerly, and held it to their ears. It did not
tick. Then they shook it, banged it on the desk, studied it closely with
a wise, old-owlish look, and at last, shaking their heads quizzically,
consigned it to wrapping paper and sealed it with the blue ribbon.

Despite my serious predicament I could not refrain from indulging in an
outburst of laughter which only served to annoy them still further. The
mystery was not a new type of infernal machine as they imagined but
merely a home-made actinometer! It was contrived from an old cheap
watch-case, while the strange contents were merely strips of paper which
had been soaked in a solution of potassium bichromate!

These preliminaries completed, my two companions and I were paraded
before another pompous official who, like the majority of his ilk, was
smothered with decorations. Drawing himself to his full height he fired
a tirade at us for several minutes without taking the slightest pause
for breath. What it was all about I do not know. He spoke so rapidly,
and so in the style of a gramophone, that I came to the conclusion he
was in the habit of holding forth in this strain at intervals of every
few minutes. But his manner was so menacing as to lead me to apprehend
that no feelings of affection or hospitality were to be extended towards
us.

His speech completed, he shouted an order. Soldiers hurried in, and at
the word of command they commenced to load their rifles. I was quite at
a loss to understand this action, but my heart thumped and a queer,
indescribable feeling came over me. I felt sick and faint, especially
when I saw the men, upon completing loading, form up in two lines. Like
a flash it dawned upon me that according to German military form I had
been found guilty of the charge levelled against me, and that the
harangue of the pompous individual was no more or less than the
promulgation of my death sentence! For what else could these men have
loaded their rifles so ostentatiously? And why were there so many
soldiers? Their numbers plainly indicated the firing party.

My eyes grew dim with tears in spite of myself. Visions of my wife and
family at home, waiting and momentarily expecting "Daddy," who had
notified them of his return, flitted through my brain. A lump rose in my
throat and for the first time I was within an ace of breaking-down. But
smothering my thoughts, I pulled myself together. Assuming a bravado I
was far from feeling, I demanded to see the Commandant. To my surprise
the request was granted. This functionary was seated at his desk in a
corner of the room, and I was escorted to him. Seeing me he curtly
demanded what I wanted.

"Can I write to my wife?"

The officer who accompanied me explained the situation, and although I
did not understand what transpired I caught the words "Englische Spion!"
The Commandant glared at me.

"Where is she?" he roared.

"In England!"

"England!" and the word, full of venom and hate, burst out like the cork
from a pop-gun. "Nein! Certainly not! It is impossible! Get out!"

Assisted by a vigorous prod I was brought alongside my two companions.

The soldiers lined up to march. My head was swimming, but all thoughts
of my own plight were dispelled by an incident which was as unexpected
as it was sudden. At the command "March" one of the two Indian students,
positive that he was now going to his doom, staggered. I caught him as
he fell. He dropped limply to the ground, half-dead with fright, and
with his face a sickly green.

"Are we going to be shot? Are we going to be shot?" he wailed
agonisedly.

He clutched the sleeve of a soldier, who, looking down and evidently
understanding English, motioned negatively. Then he added as an
afterthought, "Not now!"

While his negative head-shake revived my drooping spirits, his words
afterwards sent them to zero once more. I hardly knew whether to feel
relieved or otherwise. It would have been far better had the soldier
curbed his tongue, because his final words kept us on the rack of
suspense.

We were hustled out of the room. As we passed out I glanced at the
clock. It was just nine o'clock--Tuesday morning, August 4. I shall
never forget the day nor the hour. Like sheep we were driven and rushed
downstairs, the guards assisting our faltering steps with sundry rifle
prods and knocks. We tramped corridors, which seemed to be interminable,
and at last came to a ponderous iron gate. Here we were halted, and the
military guard handed us over to the gaolers. We passed through the
gates, which closed with a soul-smashing, reverberating bang.

Over the top of this gate I had noticed one of those mottoes to which
the German is so partial. I do not recall the actual words, but I was
told that it was something to do with crime and punishment. It would
have been far more appropriate had it been inscribed "Main entrance to
Hell. No pass-out checks!" According to many accounts which reached my
ears during the succeeding few days, many entered those gates, but few
passed out alive. I can substantiate this from my own observations,
which are duly narrated, while my experience was sufficient to vouch for
its similarity to Hades.

This gate gave approach to a long corridor, flanked on either side by
cells. This corridor is facetiously nick-named by the prisoners as
"Avenue of the Damned," because it is in these cells that the tenants
await their doom. I was separated from my two companions, who were
already being treated more leniently than myself, the case against them
being obviously very thin, and was brought to a stop before cell "No.
11."

The massive door swung open, and accompanied by four soldiers I entered.
The door closed, there was a grating in the lock, and we were alone.
Even now I could not keep back a smile. Although I had been thrust into
the cell, together with four armed soldiers, and the door had been
bolted and barred, I turned at the sound of a slight click. The head
gaoler, who had ushered us in and had locked the door upon us, according
to the regulations of the prison, had opened the peep-hole to satisfy
himself that I was safely inside!



CHAPTER III

HOW GERMANY DRIVES HER PRISONERS MAD


The soldiers had accompanied me into the cell to complete the
preliminaries which comprised the final search. This involved my
transition to a state of nature. My frock coat was removed and all
pockets further examined. The seams and lining were closely investigated
while even the buttons were probed to make certain they concealed
nothing of a dangerous nature. In a few minutes they discovered my
silent companion, the tiny camera, which I had deftly removed from its
secret hiding-place to a tail pocket in my coat, as I did not wish to
have it found in its hiding-place, which would have been far more
incriminating. I had done this while coming down the steps to the cells.
Also I had extracted the exposed film and had placed this in a spot
where it was absolutely safe from discovery.

When the soldiers alighted upon the instrument they were sorely puzzled.
All my pockets had been turned inside out in the room upstairs and now
this camera had been brought to light. They shook their heads completely
baffled, and looked at me meaningly. But my face was inscrutable.

Every garment was subjected to a rigorous search. Yet beyond the camera
they found nothing. Certainly no papers were brought to light. There was
no mistaking their bitter disappointment; this was plainly written upon
their faces. My watch was prized open, and the works were turned out,
while a photograph of my wife and children was torn from the back case
to make certain there was nothing concealed behind it. My shirt was
turned over and over and held up to the light to be examined inch by
inch for any traces of secret writing. But all to no purpose. From their
mortification and behaviour I surmised that they had been promised a
monetary reward if they succeeded in finding anything in writing. And
now they were destined to go empty-handed. Thereupon, after laying their
heads together for a few seconds, they drew pencil and paper from their
pockets and commenced writing.

I was suspicious of this action. To me it was palpable that, animated by
the lure of money and foiled in their efforts, they were prepared to go
the length of concocting evidence against me. At least I thought so, and
summarily frustrated their action. I went to them and by the aid of
signs demonstrated that I wanted the paper torn up, or I would ring the
emergency bell and summon the head gaoler to explain matters. They
apparently did not relish my threat, because they instantly tore the
paper to shreds.

By the time their search was completed I was stripped to the skin. But I
was not permitted to re-dress. Evidently they concluded that I might
have pockets in my epidermis because they went over me, inch by inch,
resorting to actions which were wholly unnecessary and which were
revolting, degrading, and demoralising to the last degree--such actions
as one would hardly expect even from the lowest animals. During the
process they joked and gibed freely at my expense.

Although it was with the utmost difficulty I controlled my feelings, my
blood soon began to boil, rapidly rising to fever heat, when they
descended to familiarities and personalities which flesh and blood could
not stand. I suffered their indignities as long as I could. Then unable
to contain my rage any longer I threw myself at the leader of the party,
pitching into him with all the strength I could command. I pommelled him
unmercifully with my fists and he began to howl somewhat vociferously.
His comrades were too surprised at my unexpected rebellion to extend
assistance, until at last their dull wits took in the situation. I
caught a glimpse of one of the soldiers grasping his rifle. I saw it
flash in the air--I remembered no more.

When I awoke I was lying stark naked upon the floor of my cell. My head
was racking and throbbing like a hammer. Raising my hand to my forehead
I sharply withdrew it. It was quite wet, and as I looked more closely, I
saw that it was blood. I felt again and found my face clotted and my
hair reeking wet from a ragged wound on the head. Evidently the soldier
whose rifle I had seen swinging through the air, had brought it down
heavily upon my skull, felling me like an ox. How long I had lain
unconscious I never knew, but it must have been for some time, judging
from the quantity of blood I had lost, which was partially congealed on
my face, neck and shoulders. I shivered with the cold and collecting my
senses I commenced to dress my wound. For bandages I had to tear my
shirt to ribbons. I swabbed the ragged wound as well as I could, and
then bound it up. Weary and faint from loss of blood I dressed myself
with extreme difficulty and then proceeded to examine my present abode.

We are familiar with the cramped quarters at the Tower of London into
which our mediæval sovereigns were wont to thrust our ancestors who fell
foul of authority. Wesel Prison is the German counterpart of our famous
quondam fortress-prison. The cells are little, if any, larger than those
in the Tower, and are used to this day. My residence measured about nine
feet in length by about four and a half feet in width, and was
approximately ten feet in height--about the size of the entrance hall in
an average small suburban residence. High up in the wall was a window
some two feet square. But it admitted little or no daylight. It was
heavily barred, while outside was a sloping hood which descended to a
point well below the sill, so that all the light which penetrated into
the cell was reflected from below against the black interior of the
hood. In addition there was a glazed window, filthy dirty, while even
the slight volume of light which it permitted to pass was obstructed
further by small-mesh wire netting. Consequently the interior was
wrapped in a dismal gloom throughout the greater part of the day,
through which one could scarcely discern the floor when standing
upright. After daylight waned the cell was enveloped in Cimmerian
blackness until daybreak, no lights being permitted.

The bed comprised three rough wooden planks, void of all covering and
mattress, and raised a few inches above the floor. The other
appointments were exceedingly meagre, consisting of a small jug and
basin as well as a small sanitary pan. High on the wall was a broken
shelf. That was all. The wall itself was about two feet in thickness and
wrought of masonry.

The walls themselves were covered with inscriptions written and
scratched by those who had been doomed to this depressing domicile. Some
of the drawings were beautifully executed, but the majority of the
inscriptions testified, far more eloquently than words can describe, to
the utter depravity of many of those who had preceded me, and who had
passed their last span of life on this earth within these confines.

A few minutes sufficed to take in these general features. Then my
attention was riveted upon the floor, and this told a silent, poignant
story which it would be difficult to parallel. The promenade was less
than nine feet--in fact, it was only two full paces--and barely twelve
inches in width. Consequently the occupant, as he paced to and fro, trod
always upon the same spots. And the patterings of the feet in that short
walk had worn the board into hollows at the treads. I felt those hollows
with my hands, traced their formation, and despite my unhappy plight
could not refrain from musing upon the stories which those hollows could
relate--stories of abandoned hope, frenzy, madness, resignation,
suppressed fury, and pathetic awaiting of the doom which could not be
averted.

Those hollows exercised an irresistible fascination for me, and when I
started to walk they drew my feet as certainly as the magnet attracts
the iron filings. I would strive to avoid the hollows and for a few
seconds would succeed, but within a short time my feet fell into them.
Later I learned from one of my wardens that the pacings of the criminals
condemned to this and the other cells is so persistent and ceaseless as
to demand the renewal of the boards at frequent intervals.

In the United States the third degree has attained a revolting ill-fame.
But the American third degree must be paradise in comparison with what
can only be described as its equivalent in Germany. The Teuton method is
far more effective and brutal. The man is not badgered, coaxed, and
threatened in the hope of extorting a signed confession, but he is
condemned to loneliness, silence and solitude amid a gloom which can be
felt, and which within a short time eats into your very soul. Add to
this complete deprivation of exercise and insufficient, un-nourishing,
food, and one can gather some faint idea of the effect which is wrought
upon the human body. The German idea is to wear down a man physically as
well as mentally, until at last he is brought to the verge of insanity
and collapse. By breaking the bodily strength and undermining the mind
he is reduced to such a deplorable condition as to render him as pliable
as putty in the hands of his accusers. He is rendered absolutely
incapable of defending himself. He fails to realise what is said against
him or the significance of his own words.

His brain is the first to succumb to the strain, utter loneliness
speedily conducing to this result, aggravated by a sensation which is
produced by walking the cell, and which I will describe later.
Consequently he invariably achieves with his own mouth what his
persecutors desire--his own condemnation. To make their devilry
complete German justice resorts to a final phase which seals the fate of
the poor wretch irrevocably, as I will narrate.

I had been deprived of every belonging. I was denied paper, pencil and
reading material. Solitary confinement in Germany is carried out in
strict accordance with the interpretation of the term. One is left alone
with one's thoughts. At intervals of ten minutes the gaoler opens the
peep-hole and peers within. Consequently you are under constant
surveillance, and this contributes towards the unhinging of the mind.
Night and day, without a break, the peep-hole opens with mechanical
regularity. Not only is all mental exercise denied but physical exercise
as well. All that one can do towards stretching one's limbs is to pace
the tiny cell. The method is typically Prussian, and is complete in its
Prussian thoroughness and devilishness.

I sat down upon my bed with my bleeding, aching head in my hands, an
object of abject misery. Not a sound beyond the clanging of doors was to
be heard, punctuated at frequent intervals by the dull thud of blows, as
some hapless wretch was being clubbed, the shrieks and howls of
prisoners, and the groans of those on the verge of insanity. It was just
as if all the demons of the Nether Regions were at work worrying and
harrying their victims. While rocking myself to and fro I heard the
turning of the key. The gaoler entered with a bowl containing some
evil-looking and worse smelling soup. I ventured to speak, but he merely
glowered threateningly and departed without uttering a sound. The dinner
was revolting, but recognising that I was considered to be a criminal,
and as such was condemned to prison fare I ventured to taste the
nauseous skilly. I took one mouthful. My nose rebelled at the smell and
my stomach rose into my throat at the taste. One sip was more than
adequate, so I pushed the basin to one side. I threw myself upon the
plank bed. Ten minutes later the peep-hole opened. I took no notice but
started when a gruff voice roared "Get up!"

I ignored the command. The door opened and the guard came in. He gave me
a savage prod with his rifle. I sat up.

"Get up! Pace!" he roared.

I relapsed on to my bed without a murmur only to receive a resounding
clout which set my head throbbing once more with accentuated intensity.

"Get up! Pace!" came the roar again.

The guard pointed to the floor.

I saw what was expected of me. I was to walk to and fro up and down the
cell. I was not to be allowed to sit down. Wearily I got up and started
to "pace!" One--two--steps forward: one--two--steps back! Only that and
no more. The guard watched me for a few seconds and then went out.

I continued to do his bidding for a short while, but walking two paces,
then swinging round on the heels, taking two more strides, turning round
again, to make another two steps, soon brought on violent giddiness. But
that doesn't matter to the German. Within a few minutes I felt as if I
had been spun round like a top and stumbled rather than paced. But to
stumble was to court disaster because my ankles came into violent
contact with the plank bed. Again I had to keep my thoughts centred upon
the pacing. To allow them to stray was to essay a third step
inadvertently which brought my face into violent collision with the
wall. More than once I made my nose bleed copiously from this cause.

Within a few minutes my brain was whirling madly, my head throbbed from
my wound, while my face was bruised from colliding with the wall. I was
so giddy that I could not stand erect, while my eyes burned and ached as
if they had been seared with a red-hot iron. I fell upon the plank bed,
but open flew the peep-hole and again rang out the ominous growl,
"Pace!"

And this is what I was condemned to do hour after hour through the
livelong day. The only respite comes when meals are brought in and
during the night, when the prisoner is left alone. But throughout the
day, from 6.30 in the morning to about 7 at night one must pursue the
eternal round--two paces forward, right about, two paces back, right
about, and so on. The punishment cannot be escaped; it is not suspended
for illness until collapse comes to the relief of the hapless wretch. It
is a refinement of cruelty which probably is not to be found in any
other country. Little wonder that the continued dizziness and lack of
ability to stretch the limbs bring about a complete nervous prostration
and reduce the strongest man to a physical wreck within a very short
time. And if the hapless prisoner declines to answer the stern command
"Pace!" then bayonet prodding, clubbing and head-cuffing are brought
into action as a stimulant.

Ages seemed to have passed before the door opened again, although as a
matter of fact, there is only about 4½ hours between the mid-day and the
afternoon meals. I lost all account of time, even during the first day
of my incarceration. An hour's pacing seemed like weeks. This time the
gaoler brought me another basin containing a greenish liquid, very much
like the water in which cabbages are cooked, accompanied by a hunk of
black bread.

The method of serving the meals is distinctly German. The gaoler opens
the door. He places the food on the ground at the entrance and pushes it
along the floor into the cell as if the inmate were a leper. I tasted
this repast, but it was even more noisome than the dinner, so I placed
it beside the bowl which I had first received, and which with its spoon
was left with me. Even if one could have swallowed it I should not have
received a very sustaining meal, seeing that it had to suffice until
5.30 the next morning--13 hours without food. Moreover the food is
served out sparingly. It is not designed to nourish the frame, but is
just sufficient to keep it going though with depreciating strength.

Daylight waned to give way to the blackness of night and in my cell I
could not see my hand before my face. Yet darkness was not an
unmitigated evil. It did bring relief from the enforced pacing for which
I was devoutly thankful. Although torn with hunger I was so exhausted as
to jump at the opportunity to lie down. But the planks were hard, and
being somewhat slender in build my thighs speedily became sore. My brain
from the fiendish exercise refused to stop spinning. I was like a
drunken man and to lie down was to provoke a feeling of nausea which was
worse than pacing. Then as the night wore on I began to shiver with the
cold because I was denied any covering. How I passed the first night I
cannot recall, but I am certain that a greater part of the time passed
in delirium, and I almost cried with delight when I saw the first rays
of the breaking day filter through the window. They at least did modify
the terrible darkness.

At 5.30 in the morning along came the gaoler. The cell was opened and a
broom was thrust into my hands. To me that domestic utensil was as a new
toy to a child. I grasped it with delight: it at least would give me
some occupation. I set to sweeping the cell furiously. I could have
enjoyed the company of that broom for hours, but a prisoner is only
allowed two minutes to sweep his cell. Then the broom was snatched out
of my hands and to the droning of "Pace!" which rang out continually
like the tolling of a funeral bell, I knew the next day had begun.

I fell back on to my bed almost broken at heart at being deprived of the
humble broom. But by now the significance of German solitary confinement
had been brought home to me fully. I would not be broken. I would ward
off the terrible results at all hazards. So when the gaoler came with my
breakfast he found me in high spirits--assumed for the occasion I may
say. When he pushed in the basin of skilly I picked it up and set it
beside the others. Pointing to the row of untouched food I turned to him
cynically and remarked, "Don't you think you're making too much fuss of
me?"

"Ach!" he growled in reply.

"If you persist in going on like this I shall think I am in a nursing
home!"

"Ach!" he retorted sharply, "If you think you are in a nursing home
you'll soon change your mind," saying which he slammed the door with
extra vigour.

The only interlude to the daily round is shortly after sweeping cells.
The doors are thrown open and each prisoner, armed with his water jug
and sanitary pan, forms up in line in the corridor. They are spaced two
paces apart and this distance must be rigorously maintained. If you vary
it a fraction a smart rap over the head with the rifle brings you back
again to the correct position. The German warders never attempt to
correct by words. The rifle is a handy weapon and a smart knock
therewith is always forceful. Consequently, if you are dull of
comprehension, your body speedily assumes a zebra appearance with its
patches of black and blue.

We were marched off to a huge yard flanked by a towering wall studded
with hundreds of heavily barred windows--cells. Only those resident in
the "Avenue of the Damned" experience this limited latitude, the
ordinary prisoners being extended the privilege of ordinary exercise.
Not a word must be spoken; to do so is to invite a crash over the head,
insensibility being an effective protection against communication
between prisoners.

Reaching the yard we were lined up, still two paces apart and under the
hawk-eyes of the guard. Then the first man from one end advanced to the
pump, alongside which stood two soldiers with fixed bayonets with which
the man was prodded if he evinced signs of lingering or dwelling unduly
over his work. The duty involved cleaning out the sanitary pan, in which
by the way dependence had to be placed upon the hands alone, no mop or
cloth being allowed. Then the jug had to be refilled from the pump,
which was a crazy old appliance worked by hand. I may say that so far as
we prisoners residing in the ill-famed avenue were concerned we had to
depend upon water entirely for washing purposes--soap was an unheard-of
luxury--while a towel was unknown. Under these circumstances it was
impossible to keep clean. Shaving was another pleasure which we were
denied, and I may say that the prisoners residing in the salubrious
neighbourhood of the condemned cells had the most unkempt and ragged
appearance it is possible to conceive. When the man had finished his
task he marched to the opposite end of the line, his place being
immediately taken by the next man, and so on until the work was
completed, which usually involved about ten minutes.

Although intercourse was rendered impossible by the vigilance and number
of the guards yet I was able to take stock of my neighbours. We were a
small but cosmopolitan family, the French predominating. For some
inscrutable reason the Germans appear to have been unusually successful
in their haul of French spies, although doubtless the great majority
were as innocent of the charge of espionage as I was. Yet we were a
motley throng and I do not think any self-respecting tramps would have
chummed up with us. Many of my fellow prisoners bore unmistakable
evidences of premature old age--the fruits of solitary confinement, lack
of exercise, and insufficient food. Others seemed half-witted and dazed
as a result of the brutal treatment which they had received. Some were
so weak that they could scarcely manipulate the crazy pump. Many were
garbed only in trousers, being void of boots, socks, shirts and vest.
Unkempt beards concealed thin, worn and haggard faces studded with red
bloodshot eyes.

While I was waiting in the line my attention was arrested by one man,
who formed a member of our party. He was a German, but he did not
appear as if he had been guilty of any heinous crime--at least not one
of sufficient calibre to bring him into our Avenue. He was well built,
of attractive personality, and was well dressed in a blue suit complete
with clean collar, tie and other details.

Who was he? What was he doing with us? Was he a spy? My curiosity was
thoroughly aroused. I became interested in him, and strange to say the
sentiment was mutual because he could not take his eyes from me. I
keenly wanted to speak to him but this was frankly out of the question.
Yet we seemed to be drawing together.

I did not attempt to speak but contrived by sundry movements and
shuffling on one pretext or another to get closer to him. Then I
resorted to subterfuge. Standing with my hands in front of me I began to
twiddle my fingers rapidly. The action appeared to be natural and did
not arouse the slightest suspicion. Within the limitations available I
was forming some of the letters of the deaf and dumb alphabet with which
I am fully acquainted and dexterous. Did he understand the language? I
watched him closely. Presently I saw his fingers begin to move with
apparent equal aimlessness. I watched intently. He was answering me and
to my joy I discovered that he understood English.

Our fingers were now working briskly and we carried on a brief
monosyllabic conversation while the other prisoners were completing
their work. From him I learned that I was certainly in great danger. But
he urged me to cheer up. Then he asked me the number of my cell, which I
gave. He replied that he was directly opposite me, and he told me to
look out for him whenever I got a chance, which, needless to say, under
the stringency of my life, was not likely to be often. He had such a
frank open face that I felt as if I could trust him, although I had come
to regard every German, no matter how apparently innocent his
conversation might be, with the gravest suspicion. But a quaint, quiet,
suppressed smile which he gave restored my confidence completely.

The hours dragged along as during the previous day. It was wearying and
exhausting. I refused all my food and was making an imposing collection
of bowls of foodstuff. None was taken away. The gaoler merely observed
that I had not touched anything, but he made no comment. When night fell
I essayed to lie down, but this was impossible. The sores on my
projecting thigh bones had broken into large wounds which were now
bleeding and suppurating and were so painful as to render lying down
impossible. As a matter of fact more than two months passed before those
wounds healed and the scars are still visible.

I was lying as best I could upon my bed vainly striving to woo sleep. It
was about midnight. The key grated in the lock and a young officer
entered. He was gruff of manner, but according to the German standard
was not unkind. I found that his manner was merely a mask to dissipate
any suspicion among others who might be prowling round, such is the
distrust of one German of another. After he had shut the door his manner
changed completely and he was disposed to be affable. But I resented his
intrusion. Had he come to fathom me? Was he an emissary seeking to
induce me to commit myself inadvertently? Frankly I thought so. He spoke
softly and his voice was intentionally kind, while he spoke English
perfectly.

"I would like to help you," he began.

"Would you?" I retorted cynically.

"Yes, I am very fond of the English. I have lived in London several
years and have many friends over there."

"Well, it's a thousand pities we don't serve some of your blighted
countrymen the same as they are serving me," I shot back.

"Yes, I know. I am very sorry for you. But it is our way. Now I,
myself, don't think you are a spy. I think your story is honest and
straightforward."

"Then why in the name of Heaven don't they treat me so until they have
tried me?"

"Ah! That is the English way. Here, in Germany, a man is guilty until he
is found innocent!"

"Oh! So that's your much-vaunted German 'Kultur,' is it?" I laughed
sarcastically.

Seeing that I was a bit overwrought he sought to pacify me.

"Would you like a cigarette?"

At the thought of a smoke I nearly jumped for joy. There was nothing for
which I had been yearning so much as the solace of a cigarette. I took
one from his proffered case.

"H'sh! I cannot stay any longer now. The guard might get suspicious. But
I will do all I can for you. I will come to see you every night at this
time. I will make you as comfortable as I can as a return for the many
courtesies and kindnesses I received while in London. Now light up and
jump up to the ventilator to puff the smoke out. If they smell tobacco
in the cell you will get into serious trouble."

He bade me good-night and the next instant I was at the window to enjoy
the only peaceful few minutes of pleasure which had come my way since my
arrest. My smoke completed I settled down to sleep with additional
comfort.

At 2.30 in the morning I was once more awakened. The door flew open and
in rushed my friend the young officer. He was terribly agitated. He
grasped both my hands and I felt that he was trembling like a leaf. His
voice was so broken that he could scarcely speak.

"Good God! Do you know what has happened? Great Britain has declared war
on Germany!" Like a child he burst out crying. As for myself I knew
hardly what to think. I had been hoping against hope that the
circumstance of our still keeping friendly relations would facilitate my
speedy release. This hope was fairly blasted now, and I was certain to
meet with far shorter shrift and harsher treatment than had already been
meted out to me. I may say that this was the first intelligence I had
received about the outbreak of war with Great Britain.

Stifling his emotion the officer went on.

"I am very sorry it has happened. I shall not be able to see you again!"

"Why?"

"I have to leave for the front. I have ten minutes to say farewell to my
poor old mother." Here he broke down once more. "My poor mother," he
wailed. "It will kill her. She does not know a soul in Wesel. We are
utter strangers. I was summoned back from London only a week or two
ago." He gave vent to another outburst of sobbing.

"Cheer up!" I said soothingly, "you'll see her when you come back!"

"Come back?" he echoed bitterly. "No! I shall never come back. I shall
never see her again! Good-bye! Remember that I always thought kindly of
the English. But I won't forget you before I go!"

His fatalistic resignation somewhat moved me. He was inwardly convinced
that he was going to his death. But I appreciated his sparing a little
of his bare ten minutes to give me a parting visit. I also thank him for
remembering me as he had promised. Shortly after he had gone the gaoler
came to my cell with a sack of fresh straw to serve as a mattress. The
young officer had paid him to extend me this slight privilege. To me it
was like a Heaven-sent blessing, because it enabled me to seek a little
repose without subjecting my bleeding hips to further damage.

During the following day, Wednesday, I was enabled to snatch a peep of
the corridor without, owing to the gaoler paying me a visit in response
to my summons. To my utter astonishment, looking across the corridor, I
saw the mysterious prisoner with whom I had been talking by aid of the
mute alphabet, lounging at the door of his open cell smoking a cigar.
This discovery startled me, and I decided to be more than ever on my
guard. To my mind, which was becoming distracted, everyone appeared to
be spying upon my actions. The mysterious prisoner looked across the
corridor and saw me. Instantly his fingers commenced to move rapidly. I
was talking to the gaoler, but was looking beyond him at the prisoner
opposite, greedily taking in the signs. I almost jumped as I read off
the letters. "Be alert! Something is going to happen!"



CHAPTER IV

MY SECRET MIDNIGHT TRIAL


It was Wednesday evening. I should judge the hour was about eight,
although to me it appeared to be nearer midnight. I was lying upon my
planks thinking and wondering what the end of it would be. My head was
whirling with giddiness from the eternal pacing, and from the wound
which I had received, while I was faint from hunger, having eaten
nothing since the lunch on the train on Monday, save for the two small
rolls upon Wesel station. I had not refused the prison fare from
feelings of obstinacy, but simply because my stomach revolted at it. The
untouched basins were still standing beside me in a row, the one which
had been served first now commencing to emit distinct signs of its
staleness.

The door opened, but I ignored it. In fact I was in a semi-comatose
condition.

"Rouse! Get up!" growled the head gaoler.

I struggled to a sitting posture and looked up. Standing beside me was a
military officer. I could not repress a start. But the absence of
arrogance somewhat reassured me, and I struggled to my feet.

"Herr Mahoney," he commenced, "a serious view has been taken of your
case. However, as you have money the authorities are prepared to give
you every chance to prove your innocence. You can have counsel if you
choose. I can arrange it at once!"

I reflected for a moment. The crisis had been reached at last, and the
moment for which I had been longing for bracing myself up to meet the
supreme ordeal had arrived. I decided to maintain a stiff upper lip.
Yet, in all fairness I must admit that the authorities were treating me
justly. Here was I, an absolute stranger in their country, ignorant of
the language beyond a few colloquialisms, and in the most dangerous
situation in which a man could possibly find himself.

Yet I did not regard the offer favourably. I feared that it was a move
to trap me decisively. I should be at the mercy of counsel. This was the
thought which harassed me. However, subsequently, I discovered that
throughout that Wednesday the trials of other spies had been held, and
that in no other instance, so far as I could ascertain, had the
privilege of representation by counsel been extended. But I swiftly made
up my mind as to my course of action.

"Thank you for the offer," I retorted at last, "but I prefer to
undertake my own defence. Besides I am absolutely innocent and it will
not be a difficult matter for me to convince the Court."

"As you will," and the officer shrugged his shoulders.

He went to the door, and at his command four soldiers came up with
loaded rifles. They closed around me, their bayonets levelled, to run me
through should I make an attempt to escape. We marched out of the cell.
Up, up, up, we went, the steps appearing to be interminable. I walked as
if in a dream, and being faint and weary I moved somewhat slowly. But,
strange to say, my escort did not hurry me. I was certainly shown every
consideration upon this occasion. During the procession I was thinking
hard and swiftly, and with a superhuman effort pulled myself together
for the coming fight for life.

We entered a spacious, well-lighted room. At the opposite end was a long
table set transversely, around three sides of which were seated a number
of military dignitaries. That they were of considerable eminence was
evident from their prodigal array of decorations. They glanced at me as
I entered, but instantly resumed their low conversation and perusal of
documents and other material connected with my case. It did not require
a second thought to realise the importance of this court-martial, but I
felt somewhat perturbed at one circumstance.

_My trial was to be held in secret._

I was made to take up a position some distance from the table and
immediately opposite the central figure who was acting as chairman and
inquisitor-in-chief. The soldiers formed a semi-circle around me, the
only open space being immediately before me.

At this date I often reflect upon the strange and sorry sight I must
have presented. I was dressed in a frock coat which was sadly soiled, a
white waistcoat extremely dirty and blood-stained, and trousers sadly
frayed at the bottom where the searchers had ripped off the turn-ups. I
was without a shirt, having torn this up to bandage my head, which even
now was swathed in a dirty, blood-stained dressing, while the buttons
had become detached from my under-vest so that the soiled ends flapped
over my waistcoat. My face was none too clean, being besmirched with
smudges, since I had been denied the luxuries of soap and towel, and it
was covered with a stubbly growth. Altogether I must have been the most
sorry-looking, if not revolting specimen of a spy ever arraigned before
that immaculate Tribunal.

It is useless to relate the trial in extenso because there were so many
details which were completely void of interest except to me and my
judges. Although every word, passage, and scene is burned into my brain
I have only committed the most important episodes to paper. The
proceedings opened with the chairman holding forth in monotone German.
Seeing that I took no notice of his tirade he paused. We were soon to
come to grips. He fired at me in English:

"You understand German?"

"No!"

"Well, we think you do!"

"You are at liberty to think what you like, but the fact remains that I
don't!"

Seeing that I was not to be over-awed by his arrogance or to be
brow-beaten he modified his attitude. This spirited bout sobered the
tribunal, and the trial proceeded more smoothly, except for a few
outbursts now and again which were sharp and pointed while they lasted.

"Well, we will provide you with an interpreter," he continued in a more
placid tone, "but we still hold the opinion that you can speak and
understand German!"

There was delay for a few minutes. Then the door opened and a second
later my interpreter stood beside me. How it was I did not jump into the
air I do not know, because the man summoned to assist me was none other
than the mysterious prisoner with whom I had been talking in the mute
alphabet.

This _dénouement_ almost unnerved me. I was now more positive than ever
that he had been deputed to spy upon me in prison. I looked at him
askance, but received not the slightest sign of recognition. I had
refused to entrust my cause to counsel and now I was placed in the hands
of an interpreter who, if he so desired, could wreak much more damage by
twisting the translations from English to suit his own ends.

As events proved, however, I could not have been in better hands. He was
highly intelligent, and he interpreted my statements with a fluency and
accuracy which were astonishing. Only now and again did he stumble and
hesitate. This was when he was presented with an unfamiliar expression
or idiomatic sentence.

As the trial proceeded I gained an interesting side-light upon German
methods and the mutual distrust which exists. Ostensibly, and so I was
led to believe, none of the Tribunal spoke English with any fluency, but
when, on one occasion, my interpreter was floored by a particularly
difficult colloquialism which I uttered, the Clerk of the Court came to
his aid, and in a moment turned the sentence properly to convey my
exact meaning. This revelation placed me on my guard more than ever,
because it was brought home to me very convincingly that if my
interpreter tended to lean unduly towards me, he himself would be in
serious jeopardy. Later, during the trial, I discovered that the Clerk
spoke and understood English as well as I did. It was a telling
illustration of the German practice of spying upon one another.

The first part of the trial was taken up with a repetition of the
numerous questions I had already answered times out of number,
accompanied by a more searching cross-examination. As the trial
proceeded I saw that the authorities had collected every vestige of
evidence from every official who had questioned me and with whom I had
held any conversation.

There was one exciting moment. An officer, evidently of high rank,
entered the room. He looked at me in a manner which I resented. With a
sneering grin he enquired,

"Englander? Ha! Ha! Spion? What are you doing here?"

"I have come at the pressing invitation of four gentlemen with four
points!" I suavely replied.

This sly allusion to the four soldiers with their bayonets lashed the
interrupting officer to fury. The whole court indulged in a wild and
loud conversation. The chairman waved his arm wildly. Before I grasped
what had happened the soldiers closed round me, I was roughly turned
round, and to the accompaniment of liberal buffeting was hustled down
the steps to my cell.

A few minutes later my interpreter came to me.

"Listen to me, English friend. You must not annoy the Court. I am trying
to do all I can for you. I do not think you guilty. But if you are--what
do you call it--h'm----" and he snapped his fingers perplexedly.

"Sarcastic?" I ventured.

"Yes! That's it. If you are sarcastic you make my work very hard!"

"But that officer had nothing to do with the Court, had he? Why did he
interfere with a gratuitous insult?"

"Ah! I see. You don't understand. They will do that. But you must
remember the uniform!"

Further conversation was prevented by the reappearance of the soldiers.
I was to be taken back to the Court. I decided to take my interpreter's
advice, and although I was frequently roused intentionally, I bit my lip
at the insults and choked down sharp retorts.

"Do you realise the nature of the charge and the gravity of your
position?" asked the chairman, after proceedings had been resumed. There
was no trace of resentment at the recent incident in his voice.

"I do perfectly."

"Then do you not think it somewhat strange that a man like you should be
travelling to Berlin, on the way to Warsaw, on the very day when war was
declared against Russia? Is it not strange also that you should be here
after Great Britain has declared war?"

"When I set out for Berlin war had not been declared between Germany and
Russia. On Monday when I was arrested war had not been declared against
Germany by Great Britain. I was arrested on the flimsiest pretext and
upon the word of a deliberately lying youth before war had been declared
with my country!"

"Ah! we shall see. You do not think it strange to be travelling through
Germany at such a perilous time with so much photographic apparatus?"

"No! I was not using it!"

"So you took no photographs in Germany?"

"No!" And the lie flew out in spite of myself. But I felt perfectly
secure because I knew exactly where the film, which I had exposed, was.
It was beyond their reach!

"Then what is this?" And to my surprise he held up somewhat
triumphantly the length of photographic film from the camera with which
I had taken the two farewell pictures of my family.

Up to this point I had successfully maintained a stiff upper lip and
perfect composure. But at the sight of the film carrying the parting
pictures, my thoughts flew to home and its associations. I broke down.

The court was jubilant. My spontaneous outburst of weakness at memories
of home was misconstrued into a recognition of the fact that I had been
trapped.

Amid a silence which was soul-burning and which caused my voice,
quivering at first but rapidly regaining strength and its natural ring,
to echo strangely through the room, I narrated the history of that film.
As I had expected it provoked a fearful wrangle. The fight was sharp and
hot while it lasted, but I thanked my lucky stars that I was not only
well skilled in the technics of photography but the chemistry side as
well. The film in question was sufficient for six exposures. Three had
been made. In addition to the two pictures of my family's farewell which
corresponded to exposures two and three there was another picture, of
archæological interest, concerning a Sussex church, which was exposure
number one. The rest of the film, which would have corresponded to
pictures 4, 5 and 6, had never been exposed.

The film which was held up had been developed by order of the court. The
unexposed portion had been passed through the development processes, and
I experienced a thrill of joy. I saw that I was now on solid ground.

"How did you expose this film?"

"In the usual way. The church was taken first, followed by the two
pictures of my family. The rest of the film has never been exposed."

"That is what you say. But the Court thinks differently. Listen, the two
pictures of your family were taken first and this of the church
last--possibly, indeed probably, in Germany?"

"It was not. No photographer, even the tyro, would pass half a film
through his camera before making an exposure."

For ten minutes we fought tooth and nail over the way in which that film
had been passed through the camera. Then, seeing that they could not
shake my evidence, and doubtless impressed by my vehemence, they turned
round completely to return to the attack.

"Well, granted, as you say, that the church was taken first, the second
half of the film was exposed in Germany. But you, seeing the danger of
your position upon arrest, contrived to ruin these last three pictures
before the camera was taken away from you," snapped the Chairman.

In spite of myself I laughed.

"The second half of the film has never been exposed at all," I rejoined.

"How can you prove that?"

"Very easily. If I had ruined it by exposing it to the light as you
suggest, _the film upon development would have come out black! But it is
quite transparent!_" I replied in triumph.

My retort floored the Court. We were dipping into matters about which
they were completely ignorant. There was a hurried whispering and then
the Chairman commented:

"We'll soon prove that you are wrong!"

Proceedings were suspended. A clerk left the room to return a little
later with a civilian who proved to be a photographer in Wesel.

The problem was presented to him, but I saw at once that he knew nothing
whatever about the chemistry of photography. He was turned over to me
for cross-examination, and within three minutes I had so pulverised his
statements that he was quite bewildered, and he left the Tribunal with
his photographic reputation sadly shattered.

Another witness was summoned, the Court being determined to get at the
bottom of the problem which had been raised. They certainly recognised
the significance of my contention. This time it was a military officer.
He was examined by the Court, and then I was given the liberty to
cross-examine. My very first question was adequate to satisfy myself
that he knew even less about the subject than the previous witness. But
he was nervously anxious not to betray his ignorance. He had been called
in as an expert and fervently desired to maintain this reputation. He
did so by acquiescing in every statement which I put to him concerning
the action of light upon nitrate of silver.

"Now," I asked emphatically, when I had completely caught him, "under
these circumstances, and according to what you have been explaining to
the court, the second half of this film which is transparent has never
been exposed?"

"It has not."

His negative was so emphatic as to convince the Court. I had scored the
crucial point and felt, now my supreme difficulty had been subjugated so
conclusively, that all was plain sailing. It was only too evident that
everything had turned upon that short length of unexposed film, and I
felt devoutly thankful to Providence that the light had not accidentally
penetrated to the sensitised surface. Had the unexposed section been
black my fate would have been irrevocably sealed.

Now I was asked to present my defence.

"Can you give us a complete and detailed narrative of your journey, say
from the time you left Brighton by the 5.10 p.m. train, on Saturday,
August 1, up to your arrest."

I nodded affirmatively.

"Well, go ahead!"

Forthwith I launched out. I am naturally a rapid speaker and although my
interpreter was confronted with a gigantic task, he performed his work
magnificently. Only once or twice did he falter for a moment or two. But
I was never interrupted nor asked to repeat a statement, so that the
thread of my story remained unbroken. For two hours and a half I spoke
and I think the readiness and clearness with which I proceeded must have
impressed the Court. As I warmed to the subject my head grew clearer and
clearer. I knew I was fighting for my life, but the whole of the
episodes and scenes during the critical fifty odd hours passed through
my mind as if delineated upon a continuous cinematograph ribbon of film.

Midnight had passed before I had finished. The clerks of the Court had
been steadily writing during the whole period, and I knew that every
word I had uttered had been faithfully recorded. The Tribunal gave a
sigh of relief as I intimated that I had nothing more to say. I was
returned to my cell, accompanied by my interpreter, whom I thanked for
his assistance which I could never repay. The Court might decide what it
liked. I had put up a stiff fight and could do no more. I thought I was
to be left alone for the night. I was sorely in need of rest, and the
nervous tension under which I had been labouring now began to reveal
itself. The reaction commenced to set in. But there was no rest for me
yet. Hardly had I sat down upon my plank bed before I was re-summoned.
By this time I was so weak that I could hardly stand. The perspiration
was pouring out all over my body. Indeed, I had to be assisted up the
stairs.

To my utter surprise, when I entered the court, I found the record of my
defence completed. There it was in a pile of neatly inscribed sheets,
numbered, and secured together. The Chairman pushed the depositions
before me.

"Sign here," and he indicated the foot of the last page.

I picked up the papers. They were in German. I returned them unsigned to
the table.

"I decline!" I replied emphatically.

"But you must!"

"Well, I shall not. I don't understand German. I don't know what it's
about!"

"It's your defence!"

"So it may be, but I have only your word for that. I decline to sign
anything I do not understand. It may be my death warrant!"

"If you don't sign I can tell you that we have means of making you do
so," he continued somewhat menacingly.

"I don't care. You can do as you like, but I am not going to sign those
papers."

My determination provoked another animated discussion. Finally another
pile was pushed towards me, I could not curb a start. It was my defence
written throughout in English, and had undoubtedly been written
simultaneously with the German version. I eyed the Clerk of the Court
narrowly and he returned the gaze just as keenly.

I ran through the depositions. They were perfect. Picking up the pen I
signed my name without hesitation. The signature was inspected, and then
the original German papers were once more presented with the invitation
to sign. Again, I refused.

"But," expostulated the Chairman, "this is a literal German translation
from the English which you have signed!"

"So it may be, but the fact remains that I don't understand German," I
retorted.

Another storm burst, but the Tribunal saw that it was impossible to
shake my resolution. There was another brief discussion. Then the
Chairman turned to one of his colleagues, and in a despairing voice
asked, "Can you suggest a way out of the difficulty?"

"Yes!" I interrupted. "Give the interpreter the German and me the
English copy. Let him translate from the German and I will compare with
the English version."

The offer was accepted, but now another hitch arose. The interpreter
said he did not think he could read off the translation from the German
right away--at least, it would take time.

The Court was in a quandary. Seeing that this unexpected obstacle was
likely to prejudice my position I grabbed the English text and thrust
the German copy into my interpreter's hands. Telling him to go ahead I
remarked that we could make something out of it. We wrestled with the
translation, although it was a slow and tedious operation, but at last
we finished the task. The German depositions being quite in order, and
fairly translated I signed the papers without further ado.

Now I thought the ordeal was over, but it was not. Picking up my signed
depositions the Chairman proceeded to re-examine me on my defence. He
started from the moment I arrived at Flushing and traced my movements,
minute by minute, to Berlin, followed what I did in the capital between
1.30 a.m. the hour of my arrival and 1.13 p.m. the time of my departure.
The manner in which my movements had been dogged was astonishing and I
recalled the individual whom I had noticed shadowing me in the city. I
saw at once that everything turned upon the instant nature of my
answers, so I replied to every question without the slightest hesitation
and to such effect that I never once contradicted myself.

Only one interval, and that of ten minutes in Berlin, threatened to
engulf me. I could scarcely fill up this gap. It happened to be one of
those idle intervals which one can never explain away very readily or
satisfactorily. We disputed this ten minutes vigorously for about half
an hour, and by the time we had finished I do not think there was a
single second for which an account had not been rendered. My interview
with the Consul also precipitated a storm, especially as by this time I
was becoming bored and felt dead-tired. Every question, however,
sufficed to prove that I was firmly considered to be a spy, and a
dangerous one at that. But even the re-examination came to a close at
last.

Now my heart nearly jumped out of my body. The chairman, picking up the
papers which had been taken from my pocket, withdrew a little book. It
was my diary, which was full of notes. The moment I saw its familiar
cover I cursed the inspiration which had prompted me to keep a diary. I
knew what it contained and I knew the cryptic notes therein would bring
about further explosions and protestations. I was not disappointed.
Opening the little book the Chairman enquired innocently:

"What do you mean by things being 'lively' in Berlin?"

"It is a British expression," I retorted, my brain working rapidly to
advance a conclusive reply as I recalled the phrase which I had jotted
down. "We term things 'lively' when say, as in my case, one is first
thrown out of a cab by a officer and shortly afterwards is flung out of
a restaurant!"

"Rather an unusual phrase to use when one recalls the political
situation which prevailed in the capital last Sunday, is it not?"

"Possibly from the German point of view, in the light of events."

"Then you had an enlightening chat with an officer? What was it all
about? How did you open conversation with him?"

"In the usual British manner. We just chatted about things in general."

"Especially of the war between Germany and England?"

"No! Because we were not at war!"

"But the officer advised you to return home! Why?"

"Because I could not get through to Warsaw!"

Other incidents of a spirited character raged about other phrases in the
little book, but I was on the alert. The Chairman evidently considered
me to be a match for him in these wrangles because he speedily put the
diary down.

During the proceedings the Chairman made one frantic endeavour to trap
me, and to prove that I was more fully conversant with the language, as
he confidently believed, than I felt disposed to concede. Something was
being read over to me by the Clerk upon which my thoughts were
concentrated. Suddenly the Chairman roared out a terrifying word in the
vernacular. I never moved a hair. I behaved just as if the Chairman had
merely sneezed. My imperturbability appeared to convince him that I
really did not understand German, because no further reference was made
to the fact. Subsequently my interpreter told me that it was fortunate I
did not understand German or I would certainly have retorted to the
Chairman's sudden interjection. I should not have been human had I not
done so. He refused to tell me what the word was or what it meant, so I
was never a whit the wiser.

At last I was told the proceedings with reference to myself were closed.
I had been on the rack for several hours, and when the gate of my cell
clicked upon me for the last time that eventful evening the morning
hours were well advanced. As my interpreter left me to go to his cell I
enquired wearily, though with a trace of anxiety,

"When shall I know the result?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps to-morrow. Who knows?"

Personally I felt confident that a speedy release would be granted. It
seemed to me impossible to convict upon the evidence. But I was ignorant
of German ways and military court procedure. I was destined to receive a
greater surprise than any which had yet befallen me.



CHAPTER V

WAITING TO BE SHOT


I shall never forget the night of Wednesday, August 5th. After the
excitement of my trial which had left me well nigh exhausted, I threw
myself upon my wooden plank bed to recuperate with a well-earned rest.
But I had just made myself comfortable when a terrible uproar broke out.
The prison trembled and I half feared that it would tumble about our
ears. The emergency bells commenced to clang madly, while the building
was torn with the most terrifying shrieks and howls.

Then the deafening sounds of explosions burst on our ears. At the time I
wondered what was the cause for this din, but the next morning I was
told that during the night the French had made an aerial raid upon
Wesel. From within it sounded as if the whole Allied Army were pounding
the building. On top of the prison anti-aircraft guns were mounted and
when they were discharged, which was continuously and rapidly, they
shook the building violently. Indeed an earthquake could scarcely have
set up a more agitated oscillation of the fabric.

Although the bells rang madly they were not answered. Every gaoler had
left his post; gone no one knew whither. The prisoners thought they had
been deserted. They were haunted by the terror of the prison being set
in flames by the bombardment. The shrieks, cries, howls and wails born
of fright made my blood chill. Outside one could hear the muffled shouts
of officers giving orders, curses, and rapid firing by small arms. The
whole place appeared to have been afflicted with panic, as acute among
the soldiers without as among the prisoners within. For about an hour
pandemonium reigned. Even to me, shut up as I was in a narrow cell, it
was easy to appreciate the terrible and far-reaching undermining effect
which an aerial raid has upon the Teuton mind.

Within the prison next morning it was possible to see the dire effects
which the French aviators had caused. A few cells below me was a
prisoner. When I saw him on the Thursday morning I scarcely recognised
him. As a result of that hour of terror _his hair had gone completely
white!_ Other prisoners were sadly bruised and scarred from frantically
beating their hands and heads against the doors of their cells in the
desperate endeavour to get out. One poor wretch went raving mad.

Notwithstanding the ordeal of the trial, which had deprived me of my
normal span of rest, I was woke up at 5.30 to sweep out my cell. The
strain of the prolonged inquisition of the previous evening upon an
enfeebled physique and brain now commenced to assert itself in an
emphatic manner. I had eaten nothing, not even a crust of the black
bread, for fifty-four hours. Little wonder that I could scarcely keep my
feet. My gaoler observed my condition, but said nothing, although he
modified his customary boorish attitude towards myself.

When I had to make my daily visit to the yard to clean my utensils and
to re-charge my water-jug I staggered down the steps. I stepped out of
the line in my turn and grasped the pump-handle. But I was too weak to
move it. A fellow-prisoner, recognising my plight, dashed forward to
work the pump. As he did one of the guard raised his rifle to club the
man across the head, but thinking better of his action, dropped his
weapon, and permitted him to assist me.

How I crawled back to the cell I can scarcely remember. But I recall
being spurred forward with sundry jabs and prods by the rifle. Reaching
my cell I sank down upon my bed.

How long I lay there it is impossible to say, but presently I became
conscious of some one standing beside me. I wearily sat up to see an
officer. Had he brought me the verdict of the Court? At the thought I
rose to my feet. But no! He had nothing to do with the Tribunal. He eyed
me closely and then turning to the array of basins containing the
untouched food and hunks of black bread he remarked grimly:

"Do you know you will die if you don't eat your food?"

"I shall if I do, so what's the odds? Its smell is sufficient!"

"Do you know we can make you eat it?"

"You try, and I promise you that you will get it back in double quick
time," I retorted significantly and defiantly.

"Well, what would you like to eat?"

"Like to eat?" I repeated. "Why, I could do with a six-course dinner,"
was my sarcastic rejoinder, feeling confident that he had merely asked
the question to tantalise me. But seeing that he really meant what he
said I rattled off a complete menu, not forgetting the cup of black
coffee and an Egyptian cigarette. Feeling that the officer was in
reality the prison doctor I grew reckless and cynical.

"Well, I'm damned!" was his ejaculatory comment when I had finished. And
he gave a loud, long laugh.

My temper was rising, and I think my face must have betrayed my wish to
strangle him, because he continued, "You've got money, and you can buy
one meal a day from outside if you like. I'll grant you your gluttonous
feed to-day--except the cigarette--seeing that you've eaten nothing for
three days. The cigarette is impossible: it is quite against the rules
and regulations of the prison. But to-morrow you'll have to rest content
with a plate of meat and vegetables."

After he had left the cell I came to the conclusion that he had been
merely having a huge joke at my expense. But ten minutes later the
gaoler entered bearing two big trays upon which were arrayed the six
courses. My eyes glittered with a wolfish greed, but I restrained
myself. I sat down to the meal and proceeded with it very leisurely,
getting up now and again to pace a little while to assist my weakened
digestion. Indeed, by the time I had swallowed the last morsel the
gaoler entered with my tea. But that meal put new life into me.
Afterwards I easily subsisted upon the dinner from without; that was
adequate for the twenty-four hours. I think I paid sufficient for the
privilege seeing that the six-course dinner and three subsequent plates
of meat and vegetables cost me twenty-six marks.

While I was denied all conversation with any of the prisoners I saw them
at least once a day. But if I did not see much of them I heard them
frequently, especially when punishment was being dealt out. Then the
corridor would ring with dull thuds as blows by the rifle were
administered, followed by violent shrieking and wailing. The prison, at
least the precincts of the Avenue of the Damned, was ruled with a rod of
iron, and various brutalities were practised and often upon the
slightest pretext. It is only necessary to relate one revolting episode
which I witnessed with my own eyes. On Friday morning, August 7, my
cell-pacing was rudely interrupted by the appearance of the gaoler who
curtly ordered me to stand outside my cell door. I found that all the
cells--except one--along the corridor were wide open, and with their
occupants similarly standing at the entrances. Between each two cells
stood a soldier with his rifle ready to jab his bayonet to right or left
at an instant's notice.

I wondered what was the matter, and was told that we were to witness and
to profit from the punishment which was to be dealt out to a prisoner
who had broken one of the prison rules. Lying in the centre of the
corridor was the prone groaning form of a prisoner--a Frenchman, I
believe--who had been dragged from the cell before the open door of
which no one was standing. He was terribly weak and ill. Beside him
stood four hulking, burly and heavily-booted Prussians.

At the word of command these four men rushed forward and commenced to
kick the hapless prisoner for all they were worth. The man shrieked,
groaned and howled. We all shivered at the sight and at his terrible
cries. It sickened me. But the brutes never relented. The more he
writhed and the louder he howled the harder they kicked, face, body and
head receiving the blows indiscriminately. In a minute or so the man lay
still upon the floor, literally kicked into insensibility. Whatever any
of the prisoners around may have felt none could extend assistance or
interfere. Some strove to shut out the terrible sight by covering their
faces with their hands, but the bayonet point speedily induced them to
look as commanded. If any one of us had moved a step to proceed to the
poor wretch's aid we should certainly have been run through without the
slightest compunction.

The unconscious prisoner was picked up and thrown into his cell, while
we were likewise rushed in upon the conclusion of the disgusting
exhibition. Subsequently I enquired the reason for such a ferocious
outburst. Then I found that the prisoner, who was so ill that he really
ought to have been in hospital, had rung his bell, to summon the gaoler
for permission to respond to one of the calls of nature, but that he had
been unable to contain himself until the dilatory official arrived. I
might mention that I had heard the bell ringing for fully ten minutes
but without avail. Although scrupulous cleanliness is demanded from each
cell I know from experience that the gaolers are ever reluctant to reply
to a call of the emergency bell, and think nothing of causing the
hapless wretch terrible misery. It serves to bring home to the prisoner
that he is under confinement and not in a hotel to be waited on hand
and foot. Such is the German argument.

Next morning on our going into the yard the unfortunate prisoner who had
been punished so diabolically was not to be seen. More significant still
his cell was empty, and the door was wide open. I could only surmise
that his worldly troubles were over. If so he would be officially
declared to have "died in prison!"

Favoured prisoners are granted a sack of straw to serve as a mattress. I
had been denied this luxury but secured it later through the good
offices of the lieutenant who visited me on Tuesday night. I was lucky
enough to get new straw. Apparently the sacks are never renewed during a
prisoner's incarceration. He merely replenishes his stock when another
cell becomes vacant, irrespective of the period the straw therein has
been in use. There is a mad rush for the empty cell, and the prisoners
fight like wolves among themselves for the possession of the derelict
straw, each bearing away triumphantly the small dole he has obtained
from the struggle.

As may be supposed, under such conditions, the straw is not very
inviting. It soon becomes verminous, and this deplorable state of
affairs becomes worse the longer the straw is in use. In fact it becomes
alive with lice. In one instance I saw a dropped wisp so thickly
encrusted with the parasites that it actually moved along the ground
under the united action of the insects.

There is one inflexible law in German prisons. Under no pretence
whatever must one prisoner enter the cell of another while it is
occupied. This regulation is not to prevent conversation or
communication between prisoners, but is for reasons which it is not
necessary to describe. When one recalls the utter depravity which
prevails in German military centres the wisdom of the ordination is
obvious. The punishment is severe, the easiest being a spell of
confinement upon a black bread and water diet, but generally and
preferably clubbing into insensibility.

A few cells above me was a prisoner who had been incarcerated for
fifteen years. Whether the whole of this time had been spent in Wesel or
not I could not say, but when I came face to face with him for the first
time he gave me a severe shock. He was a walking skeleton. Every bone in
his body was visible, while his skin was the colour of faded parchment.
He looked more like an animated mummy than a human being. I stood beside
him one day in the corridor, and a bright ray of sunshine happened to
fall across his face which was to me in profile. I started. His face was
so thin that the cheek and jawbones were limned distinctly against the
light, producing the effect of the X-ray photograph, while the sun shone
clean through his cheeks. You could have read a paper on the off side of
his face by the light which came through.

This prisoner unnerved me. From morning to night, as he paced his cell,
he groaned dismally: not fitfully but continually. It was like the wail
of a dog suffering excruciating agony, only a thousand times more
irritating and nerve-racking. Even during the night he groaned,
apparently in his sleep. Another day, when similarly paraded beside him,
I asked if he would like a piece of black bread. He made no reply, but
turned such a wolfish look upon me that I hastily told him to dive into
my cell--No. 11. He watched the guard for a second, and while all backs
were turned he was gone and back beside me with the prize which he
clutched in his hand. I have never seen such a rapid movement. He slid
into the cell like a shadow and as stealthily and as quickly returned.
This poor wretch doubtless enjoyed this unexpected addition to his
quantity of food, since he was apparently being given just enough to
keep him alive, and no more. Otherwise he could never have become so
fearfully thin.

Once again I was to receive another shock from my mysterious prisoner
who had acted as interpreter. On Thursday he came to my cell in the
uniform of a warder. Consequently I saw a good deal of him, and, he
being friendly, we had many brief snatches of surreptitious
conversation. He was highly intelligent, well-educated and sympathetic.
I enquired as to how he happened to be in our unsalubrious avenue. He
informed me that he was awaiting the Kaiser's pardon. His offence was
not heinous. He had not responded to his country's call, upon
mobilisation, with the celerity which the officials declared he should
have shown. As a punishment he was committed to the cells for three
days. Upon the expiration of this sentence he had been made
under-gaoler. His name was M----, and he told me he had a prosperous
business outside Germany.

I was on the tip-toe of anticipation and suppressed excitement
throughout Thursday and Friday, hoping for news concerning the decision
of the Tribunal. But when Friday passed without my receiving any tidings
I commenced to get fidgety and anxious. My feelings were not assuaged by
hearing volleys ring out every morning, followed by a death-like
stillness. These reports appeared to stifle the cries and groans of the
prisoners a little while. To me the sounds presaged serious news.
Apparently there were several prisoners condemned for spying, and each
volley, I was told, signified the flight of one or more hapless souls.
My spirits were not revived by noticing the cells on either side of me
rapidly emptying, while the little party which went down into the yard
in the morning began to dwindle in numbers very rapidly.

When the head-gaoler came round on Friday night I decided to tackle him.
The suspense was becoming intolerable. By this time he had become
somewhat more friendly towards me, and if in the mood would talk for a
brief while.

"Were any other prisoners tried on Wednesday as spies?" I asked
innocently.

"Jah! All day!"

"How many?"

"May-be twenty-three!"

"How many have been shot?"

"Ach! I cannot give prisoners news of that kind. But I can tell you that
there are three left, and you are one of them!"

I smiled to myself at the gaoler's rigid observance of the letter of
German prison law to refuse news to prisoners, yet giving the desired
information in an indirect manner.

"When shall I hear the result of my trial?"

"Trial? You have not been tried yet!"

"What? You must be mistaken. I was tried on Wednesday night!"

"That wasn't the trial. That was the enquiry!"

"Then when will the trial come off?"

"You'll learn the _result_ of the trial soon enough!" and he slammed the
door to prevent further discussion.

I was completely flabbergasted. I scratched my head and endeavoured to
collect my thoughts. Surely I could not have heard aright. Yet the man
must know what he was talking about. The more I pondered the more
perplexed I became. Then the head-gaoler's stress upon the word
"_result_!" What did that portend? New fears crept into my mind. So when
M----, the under-gaoler, came round next morning, I badgered him, but he
would say no more than that the trial had not yet come off.

I was completely unnerved and now commenced to fear the worst. If the
ordeal I experienced on the Wednesday night was not the trial, then what
on earth was it? I made up my mind to find out. I rang the bell wildly
and demanded to see the Commandant. He sent down word to say he could
not see me. But I was insistent, and at last, to avoid further worry, he
conceded an audience.

As I entered the office of the Commandant I was surprised to see him
handling my little camera. At my entrance he slipped it into his desk.
He looked at me curiously, and then grunted,

"What do you want?"

"I wish to know when my trial is coming off. I thought I was tried last
Wednesday night."

"No! That was the enquiry. We'll let you know the _result_ of the trial
pretty quickly," and he grinned complacently, in which little pleasantry
at my expense the officer of the guard joined in.

"I don't want to know the _result_! I want to be there!"

"That is impossible. You gave all your evidence before the enquiry!"

"Then don't I appear at my trial?"

"Certainly not!"

I was completely non-plussed at this confirmation of the head-gaoler's
statement. It was a new way, to my mind, of meting out justice to a
prisoner to deny him the right to appear at his own trial. Truly the
ways of Teuton jurisprudence or military court procedure were strange.

"Then when will my trial be held?" I asked, determined to glean some
definite information.

"Ach! We cannot be bothered with a single case whilst mobilisation is
going on. We are too busy. You must wait," and with that he dismissed
me.

"But surely you can give me some idea when it will be held," I
persisted.

"Ach!" and he fumed somewhat. Seeing that I was not to be turned away
without satisfaction he continued, "Your trial will be on Monday. Get
out!"

My reflections upon gaining my cell may be imagined. I could not resist
dwelling upon the methods of German justice, and I commenced to conjure
up visions of the trial from which I was to be absent, and to speculate
upon the final result. What would it be? I saw the heavy disadvantage
under which I was labouring, and as may be supposed my thoughts turned
to the blackest side of things. I had another forty-eight hours of
suspense in solitary confinement to bear.

To take my mind off the subject I set to work sketching an ornate design
upon the prison wall with a safety pin which I had picked up unobserved.
In the perpetual twilight which prevailed during the day in my cell I
drew, or should it be engraved? a huge Union Jack intertwined with the
Royal Standard, surmounted by the crown of Great Britain and the Royal
Arms. It occupied considerable time, but I took a quaint delight in it.
It successfully moved my thoughts from my awkward position, although at
nights I kept awake for hours on end turning over in my mind my chances
of acquittal and condemnation, more particularly the latter.

On Sunday I applied for permission to attend church, but after a long
official discussion the request was refused. The prison had no
facilities for administering spiritual pabulum to a British prisoner.
This was a mere excuse, because several of the other prisoners attended
church. How I passed that day it is difficult to record. I paced my cell
in a frenzy until I could pace no longer. I completed my design on the
wall, fumbled with my fingers, and dozed. But the hours seemed to drag
as if they were years. By now I was so overwrought that I declined to
send out for my dinner.

Monday was worse than Sunday. Throughout the day I was keyed to a high
pitch of nervous expectancy. I could scarcely keep a limb still. Every
sound made me jump, and I kept my eyes glued to the door, momentarily
expecting to gain some tidings of how my trial had gone. When the gaoler
entered with my meals and stolidly declined to enter into conversation,
I grew more and more morose, until at last I can only compare my
feelings with those of an animal trapped and at bay, waiting and ready
to land some final, fearful blow before meeting its fate.

Early in the evening of the Monday I was pacing my cell, a bundle of
twitching nerves, when the door opened to admit an officer. I almost
sprang towards him. I was to learn the truth at last. But he had not
come from the Court.

"Do you feel hungry?" he asked, not unkindly.

"No." I answered feebly, my heart heavy within me. As a matter of fact I
was so overwrought with anxiety that I failed to feel the pangs of
hunger.

"Well," he went on, "you can have what you like."

Thump went my heart again. The verdict had certainly gone against me.
For what other reason had I been offered what I liked to eat? It sounded
ominous. It recalled our practice in Britain where a condemned man is
given his choice of viands on the morning of his execution. Most
assuredly I was going to be shot on the following morning, and daybreak
was not far distant.

"I should certainly have something to eat if I were you," suggested the
officer.

"Oh, very well," I replied resignedly, "I'll have a roll, butter, and a
black coffee."

Directly the officer had gone I rang the emergency bell. M----, the
under-gaoler, answered it. With a tremendous effort I pulled myself
together.

"So I'm going to be shot in the morning," I ventured, in the hope of
drawing some comment.

"Ach! What? Lie down and keep quiet!" was his stolid retort.

"Look here! I want to write to my wife. Can you get me a pencil and a
sheet of paper?"

"Impossible!"

"But I must write. She does not know where I am, and she will not know
what has become of me!"

[*large gap]

German military prisons hold their secrets tightly.

But the time crept on and no guard appeared as I had been dreading. My
drooping spirits revived because the hour of the day when prisoners were
customarily shot had passed. When I went out into the yard on the
Tuesday morning I chanced to meet the two Hindoos who had been arrested
with me. Then I realised that they were two out of the three remaining
spies. I was the third. They were in high spirits. When the guard was
not looking they told me they had been acquitted of the espionage
charge, and expected soon to be taken as far as the frontier to be
released.

I was the only one left, and I had not been told the result of my trial.
Yet these two Hindoo students who also had been before the Court on the
Wednesday had learned the verdict in their cases. But I had been denied
all communication. I regained my cell in a kind of stupor. To me it
seemed that all was lost, and I fell into the depths of despair. When
the friendly M---- came with my breakfast I pestered him with
questions.

"Has the court been sitting?"

"Yes, all day Monday and all last night."

"Have you heard the result of my trial?"

"No."

"But the two Hindoos have been acquitted. Have I?"

"I cannot say," he replied sullenly.

The manner in which he avoided my eager look served to confirm my worst
fears. I strove hard to draw something further from him, but he briefly
remarked that he was forbidden to speak to prisoners.

I scarcely knew what to think. To me it was extraordinarily strange that
the two Hindoos should have heard of their acquittal and yet no one
seemed to know anything about my case. No! There was only one
construction to be placed upon the situation. The Court had gone against
me. My thoughts throughout that day were most unenviable. I fretted and
fumed, wondering when it would all be over. My nerves started to twitch
and jump, and within a short while I could not keep a limb still. The
fearful suspense was certainly driving me mad.

Later in the day an escort arrived, and to my surprise and intense
relief the officer informed me that I was not going to be shot. I took
this for an acquittal, but I was speedily disillusioned. I was taken to
the office of the Commandant.

Reaching this official I was surprised to see among a stack of other
baggage my own belongings. The Commandant sharply ordered me to sort my
things out, and to run through them to see that everything was intact. I
could have danced for joy. Like an excited child I fell upon the
baggage, disentangled my belongings, and ran through the contents. Two
purses and a camera were missing. I reported my loss, and there was a
terrific hullaballoo. Who had touched a prisoner's goods? The purses
were brought in by the gaoler, who declared to me that, finding they
contained money, he had put them in his pocket for safety. I smiled at
his ingenuous excuse. Now I worried about the missing camera, but this
defied discovery. Suddenly I remembered where I had seen it last and
kept quiet.

After I had gathered my luggage together I was marched back to my cell.
Again my spirits drooped upon being asked to give my English address. I
saw it all! In my highly strung condition I took this latest expression
of Teuton methods to mean that my goods were to be sent home, but that I
would have to suffer some dire penalty. I nursed this dark imagining
because the prison treatment was not relaxed one iota. I passed a
restless half-hour. I was heavy-eyed from want of sleep, while my face
had assumed a sickly, revolting pallor from rapidly collapsing health.

Again I was summoned to the Commandant's office. My goods were exactly
as I had left them thirty minutes before.

[*large gap]

I was busily strapping up my goods when the door opened to admit the
Commandant, guard and four other prisoners, whom I had not seen before.
One tall, good-looking, sprucely dressed fellow impressed me. He looked
like a fellow-countryman. I went up to him.

"Are you English?" I asked.

"Holy smoke! What a treat to hear an Englishman. 'Put it there,'" and he
extended his hand. I proffered mine which he shook as if it were a pump
handle. He with others had been arrested, not as spies, and had been
detained in Wesel Arresthaus. But being wealthy he had experienced an
easy time.

"What are they going to do with us?" I enquired.

"Why, haven't you heard? They're going to send us to a hotel and then it
won't be long before we strike good old England once more!"

[*large gap]

The party were in high spirits. But I was not so elated. I had every
occasion to be suspicious of German bluff and inwardly would only
believe we were going home when I was safely out of the country. My
fellow-countryman, F---- K----, who is a well-known figure in City
commercial circles, was wildly excited, and was discussing his future
arrangements very keenly.

An escort appeared to accompany us to the mysterious "hotel" about which
the Commandant had been talking so glibly. We swung out of the prison.
Glancing at the clock I saw the time was 8.30 p.m. As the main gate
clanged behind me I pulled myself together, a new man. My eight days'
solitary confinement had come to an end.

We tramped the street, the people taking but little notice of us.
Presently we met a big party of tourists advancing and also under
escort. They proved to be the passengers of the pleasure steamer
_Krimhilde_, who had been detained. When they saw me, unkempt, ragged,
blood-stained, and dirty they immediately drew away. They took me for an
excellent specimen of the genus hobo. Within a few seconds however they
learned something about my experiences and became very chummy. F----
K---- communicated the fact that we were bound for an hotel, and the
spirits of one and all rose.

The escort who had accompanied us from the prison here handed us over to
that accompanying the tourists and we marched to the station. A train
was waiting and we stepped aboard at nine o'clock. There appeared to be
as many soldiers as passengers. The members of my party confidently
thought the train was bound for a point near the frontier or a
restricted area by the seashore. But I was not to be lulled into a false
sense of security. I questioned one of the officers and ascertained our
destination. Returning to the party I laughingly asked, "Do you know for
what hotel we're bound?"

"No! What is it? Where is it?" came the eager request.

"The military camp at Sennelager!"



PRISON TWO--SENNELAGER

THE BLACK HOLE OF GERMANY



CHAPTER VI

OUR "LUXURIOUS HOTEL"


Although it was 9.25 Tuesday evening when we boarded the train in Wesel
station, _en route_ for the "luxurious hotel where we were to receive
every kindness consistent with the noblest traditions of German honour,"
there did not appear to be any anxiety to part with our company. There
were about sixty of us all told, and we were shepherded with as
pronounced a display of German military pomp and circumstance as would
have been manifested if the All-Highest himself, had been travelling.
Wesel station swarmed with officers and men who apparently had nothing
else to do but to perambulate the platforms, the officers swaggering
with typical Teuton arrogance, and the humble soldiers clattering to and
fro in utter servility, merely emphasising their existence by making
plenty of noise with their cumbrous boots and rifles.

At midnight the train started. The majority of my companions were the
male passengers of military age who had been detained from the pleasure
steamer _Krimhilde_ while travelling up the Rhine. The military
authorities in charge of the train received bulky sheafs of papers, each
of which related to one passenger, and was packed with the most minute
details. I am afraid my record must have been somewhat imposing,
inasmuch as I commanded considerable and unappreciated attention from
the military, while my fellow prisoners regarded me with a keen
curiosity.

I must admit that my personal appearance was far from being attractive.
I looked even more ragged, un-cared for, and ill than I was when facing
my accusers at the midnight trial some days before. I was shirtless,
collarless, and tie-less. My hair was matted and clotted with congealed
blood freely mixed with dirt. My face, in addition to a week's growth of
hair, was smeared with black marks which I had not been able to remove
owing to my inability to get soap to wash myself with. My frock-coat and
trousers, frayed at the bottoms, were sadly soiled and contrasted
strangely with the fancy pattern tops of my patent boots. In fact, I
admitted to the party, that "I must have looked a 'knut' of the finest
type!" All things considered I am not surprised that at first I was
shunned by one and all, both compatriots and the military guards.

Although the distance from Wesel to Paderborn--Sennelager is three miles
outside the latter town--is only about 95 miles as the crow flies, the
railway takes a somewhat circuitous route. Owing to the extensive
movement of the troops we suffered considerable delay, the result being
that we did not reach our destination until about mid-day on the
Wednesday, the journey having occupied nearly twelve hours. The heat was
unbearable, and confinement within the carriages, the windows of which
were kept sedulously closed by order of the military, thus rendering the
atmosphere within stifling, speedily commenced to affect some of the
passengers. Each compartment carried seven prisoners, and the eighth
seat, one of the windows beside the door, was occupied by a soldier--the
guard of the compartment--complete with loaded rifle and fixed bayonet.

Sleep was out of the question, but this did not affect us seriously. We
were somewhat excited, and spent the hours of the night in conversation
and the exchange of experiences. In our party was an English gentleman,
Mr. K----,[3] who held an important position in a large business house
in one of the cities on the Rhine. Somehow he was attracted to me,
moved, no doubt by my general appearance, and because I was now showing
visible signs of my incarceration and experiences in Wesel prison. I may
say that to Mr. K---- I undoubtedly owe my life, and I never can express
my thanks sufficiently for his unremitting attention and kindness during
my subsequent illness, as I narrate in due course. Moreover, during his
sojourn among us he was a tower of strength, having long been resident
in the country, and thoroughly conversant with the language and manners
of the Germans.

    [Footnote 3: The names and occupations of fellow-prisoners who
    are still in captivity are purposely disguised, because if the
    German authorities should happen to read this narrative, and be
    enabled to identify any of my compatriots who participated in
    any of the incidents recorded, they would receive treatment
    which would be decidedly detrimental to their welfare.--H.C.M.]

It was during this tedious train journey that he related the experiences
of the passengers upon the unfortunate steamer _Krimhilde_. Many of the
Englishmen who happened to be upon this boat had been held up for a week
in various towns, owing to the stress of mobilisation. But at last
permission was given by the authorities to proceed, and the delayed
travellers were assured of an uninterrupted journey to England.
Unfortunately the passage down the Rhine was impeded by fog, and this
delay proved fatal. When it was possible to resume the journey, and
while the steamer was making a good pace, a river patrol boat dashed up
and ordered the captain of the steamer to stop, the reason being that no
intimation had been received of the vessel's coming.

The captain protested, but at the point of the revolver he was compelled
to turn round and return to the place which he had left only a few hours
previously. The re-arrival of the _Krimhilde_ at this point aroused
considerable interest, and the authorities demanded the reason. The
captain explained, but receiving a re-assurance that everything was in
order and as originally expressed, he was free to travel down the
river.

Again the journey was attempted and all went well until the boat was
approaching Wesel. Then another patrol boat fussed up, the officer of
which boarded the steamer. Again the captain presented his permit and
expressed his determination to go ahead.

"We don't know anything about that," returned the boarding officer,
referring to the permit. "My orders are to stop every vessel carrying
Englishmen!"

The boarding-officer turned and ordered all the male prisoners to
separate themselves from the ladies. Passports were produced upon demand
and closely scrutinised. Then the officer, stepping back a few paces,
beckoned the nearest man. His name was demanded to identify the passport
and then a brief hurried cross-examination proceeded, culminating in the
question:

"How old are you?"

"Thirty-eight!"

"Step this side!" retorted the officer, who proceeded to examine the
succeeding passenger, to whom the self-same questions were repeated, the
final interrogation being the passenger's age.

"Fifty-seven!" came the response.

The officer scanned the passport and finding the answer to be correct
remarked, "Step over there!" indicating his left.

By the time the officer had completed his interrogations the male
passengers were divided into two groups. Meanwhile the women and
children had gathered round, following the proceedings, which appeared
inexplicable to them, with a strange silence and a fearful dread.

"All you men of military age," continued the officer speaking to the
group of younger-looking men, "are to go ashore. You will be detained as
prisoners of war. You have ten minutes to pack your trunks and to say
'Good-bye!' So hurry up!"

At this intelligence a fearful hubbub broke out. The women and children
who were to be separated from their husbands, fathers, and relatives
gave way to lamentation and hysterical raving. While the men packed
their trunks under official supervision their wives and children clung
to them desperately. But the men realising that war is war, accepted the
situation philosophically, even cheerfully. They were buoyed up by the
official assurance that their detention was merely a matter of form, and
that they would soon be released and free to proceed to their homes.

I may say that this is a favourite ruse followed by the Germans in all
the camps in which I was interned, and I discovered that it was general
throughout the country. It is always expressed whenever the Teutons see
trouble brewing. Undoubtedly it is practised to keep the prisoners keyed
up to a feverish pitch of hopefulness. Certainly it succeeded for a
time, although such announcements at a later date, when we had seen
through the subterfuge, were received with ironical cheering and jeers.

At such a sudden and summary cleavage between families many distressing
and pathetic scenes were witnessed. On board there happened to be a
wealthy young member of the Russian nobility--Prince L----. He was
travelling with his sister and friends and was far from well.

The sister approached the officer and pleaded hard for her brother's
release. It was refused. Grief-stricken the Princess fell on her knees
and with tears streaming down her cheeks, kissed the officer's boots and
offered all her jewels--they must have been worth a considerable amount
of money--which she hastily tore off and held in her outstretched hands.

For the moment even the officer was somewhat moved. Then in a quiet,
determined voice he remarked,

"I am exceedingly sorry, but I cannot grant your request. I am merely
acting on my orders. But I can assure you that your brother in common
with all the others here, will be looked after. Not a hair of their
heads shall be injured. They will all be treated according to the best
and noblest traditions of German honour,[4] and the regulations which
have been drawn up among the Powers concerning the treatment of
prisoners of war." With these words the Prince was cast aside with the
others.

    [Footnote 4: The traditions of German honour were dinned into
    our ears at every turn.--H.C.M.]

In another instance the wife and child of an Englishman, Mr. C----,
refused to be parted. The wife clung round her husband's neck while the
child held to his coat. She expressed her determination to go with her
husband, no matter what might happen, and was on the verge of hysterics.
Every one was moved and strove to coax her into quietness, while an
officer even accompanied her off the boat with her husband. On the quay
efforts were repeated to placate her and to induce her to allow her
husband to proceed. But all in vain. At last, drawing the lady forcibly
away, though with no greater force than was necessary, the officer
himself attempted to console her.

"Do not worry. I will do all I can for you, and will see you do not want
during the time your husband is interned."

What became of Mrs. C---- and her child just then I do not know, because
at that moment the boat sheered off with a sorrowful and crying list of
passengers who waved frantic farewells. Alas! I fear that in some
instances that was the last occasion upon which husband and wife ever
saw one another, and when children were parted from "daddy" for life.

Such was the story related by Mr. K----. After the boat had left, the
detained prisoners, he explained, were formed up on the quay, and
surrounded by an imposing guard with fixed bayonets, were marched off.
It was a sad party. All that was dearest in life to them had been torn
away at a few minutes' notice through the short-sightedness of Prussian
militarism or the desire of the Road-hog of Europe to display his
officialism and the authority he had enjoyed for but a few days. Many of
these tourists, as one might naturally expect, were sorely worried by
the thoughts as to what would become of their loved ones upon their
arrival in England, many without money or friends to receive them. This
was the discussion that occupied their minds when they were marching
towards Wesel Station, and when the tiny party, of which I was one,
being marched from Wesel prison, met them in the street, as already
related.

As for ourselves we were soon destined to taste the pleasures of the
best traditions of German honour. No provisions of any kind whatever had
been placed on the train for our requirements. What was more we were
denied the opportunity to purchase any food at any station where we
happened to stop. At one point a number of girls pressed round the
carriages offering glasses of milk at 20 pfennigs. As we were all
famished and parched there was a brisk trade. But the moment the
officers saw what was happening they rushed forward and drove the girls
back by force of arms.

So far as our compartment was concerned we were more fortunate than many
of our colleagues. Our soldier warden was by no means a bad fellow at
heart. In his pack he carried his daily ration--two thick hunks of black
bread. He took this out and instantly proffered one hunk to us, which we
gladly accepted and divided among ourselves.

Those being the early days of the war the German soldier was a universal
favourite among the civilians. Directly one was espied he became a
magnet. The women, girls and elder men rushed forward and wildly thrust
all sorts of comestibles into his hands. Unhappily we did not stop at
many stations; our train displayed a galling preference for lonely
signal posts, so that the chances of our guard receiving many such gifts
were distinctly limited. But at one station he did receive an armful of
brödchen--tiny loaves--which he divided amongst us subsequently with the
greatest camaraderie.

But his comrades in other compartments were not so well-disposed. With
true Prussian fiendishness they refused to permit their prisoners to buy
anything for themselves, and to drive them to exasperation and to make
them feel their position, the guards would ostentatiously devour their
own meals and gifts. While we did not really receive sufficient to stay
us, still our guard did his best for us, an act which we appreciated and
reciprocated by making a collection on his behalf. When we proffered
this slight recognition of his courtesy and sympathetic feeling he
declined to accept it. [*gap] He was one of the very few well-disposed
Germans I ever met.

Upon arriving at Sennelager Station we were unceremoniously bundled out
of the train. Those who had trunks and bags were roughly bidden to
shoulder them and to fall in for the march to the camp. The noon heat
was terrible. The sun poured down unmercifully, and after twelve hours'
confinement in the stuffy railway carriages few could stretch their
limbs. But the military guards set the marching pace and we had to keep
to it. If we lagged we were prodded into activity by means of the rifle.

Sennelager camp lies upon a plateau overlooking the railway, and it is
approached by a winding road. The acclivity although somewhat steep is
not long, but we, famished and worn from hunger, thirst, and lack of
sleep, found the struggle with the sand into which our feet sank over
our ankles, almost insuperable. Those burdened with baggage soon showed
signs of distress. Many were now carrying a parcel for the first time in
their lives and the ordeal completely broke them up. Prince L---- had a
heavy bag, and before he had gone far the soft skin of one hand had been
completely chafed away, leaving a gaping, bleeding wound. To make
matters worse the hot sand was drifting sulkily and clogging his wound
set up untold agony.

Prince L---- made a representation to the officer-in-charge, showing his
bleeding hand, but he was received with a mocking smirk and a curt
command to "Move on!" The weaker burdened prisoners lagged, but the
bayonet revived them. One or two gave out completely, but others, such
as myself, who were not encumbered, extended a helping hand,
half-carrying them up the hill.

Reaching the camp the Commanding Officer, a friendly old General whose
name I never heard, hurried up.

"What's the meaning of this?" he blurted out in amazement.

"Prisoners of war for internment!" replied our officer-in-charge.

"But I don't know anything about them. I have received no instructions.
There is no accommodation for them here!" protested the General.

Our officer produced his imposing sheaf of papers and the two
disappeared into the office.

The feelings of the party at this intelligence may be conceived. The
majority dropped, in a state of semi-collapse in the sand, their
belongings strewn around them, utter dejection written on their faces.

After what I had experienced at Wesel I was prepared for anything. I had
already learned the futility of giving way. I felt no inclination to sit
or lie in the blistering sand. I caught sight of a stretch of inviting
turf, made my way to it, and threw myself down upon it. But I was not to
enjoy the luxury of Nature's couch. A soldier came bustling up and
before I grasped his intentions I was hustled off, with the intimation
that if I wanted to lie down I must do so in the sand.

The fact that no arrangements had been made for our reception was only
too obvious. It was about noon when the two officers disappeared into
the official building to discuss the papers referring to our arrival,
and it was six in the evening before they had come to any decision.
Throughout these six hours we were left lying on the scorching sand in
the broiling sun without a bite of food. Seeing that many of us had
eaten little or nothing since the early evening of the previous day it
is not surprising that the greater part were knocked up. One or two of
us caught sight of the canteen provided for the convenience of recruits,
and succeeded in getting a few mouthfuls, but they were not worth
consideration. I myself whiled away the time by enjoying a wash at the
pump and giving myself the luxury of a shave. I bought a small cake of
coarse soap and never enjoyed an ablution so keenly as that _al fresco_
wash, shave, shampoo, and brush-up at Sennelager. When I came back
thoroughly refreshed I had changed my appearance so completely that I
was scarcely recognised. Even the soldiers looked at me twice to make
sure I was the correct man.

Later a doctor appeared upon the scene. His name was Dr. Ascher, and as
events proved he was the only friend we ever had in the camp. He
enquired if any one felt ill. Needless to say a goodly number, suffering
from hunger, thirst and fatigue, responded to his enquiry. Realising the
reason for their unfortunate plight he bustled up to the Commanding
Officer and emphasised the urgent necessity to give us a meal. But he
was not entirely successful. Then he inspected us one by one, giving a
cheering word here, and cracking a friendly joke there. The hand of
Prince L---- received instant attention, while other slight injuries
were also sympathetically treated. The hearts of one and all went out to
this ministering angel, to whose work and indefatigable efforts on our
behalf I refer in a subsequent chapter.

At last we were ordered to the barracks near by. It was a large masonry
building, each room being provided with beds and straw upon the floor.
Subsequently, however, we were moved to less comfortable quarters where
there were three buildings in one, but subdivided by thick masonry
walls, thereby preventing all intercommunication. Here our sleeping
accommodation comprised bunks, disposed in two tiers, made of wood and
with a sack as a mattress.

Whether it is my natural disposition or ancestral blood I do not know,
but it has ever been my practice in life to emulate Mark Tapley and to
see the humorous aspect of the most depressing situation. The "luxurious
hotel," to which we were consigned according "to the best and most noble
traditions of German honour," moved me to unrestrained mirth, when once
I had taken in our surroundings. My levity fell like a cold water douche
upon my companions, while the guards frowned menacingly. But to me it
was impossible to refrain from an outburst of merriment. It was quite in
accordance with German promises, which are composed of the two
ingredients--uncompromising bluff and unabashed deliberate lying,
leavened with a sprinkling of disarming suavity. I had tasted this
characteristic at Wesel and frankly was not a bit surprised at anything
which loomed up, always resolving at all hazards to make the best of an
uncomfortable position.

Upon turning into our unattractive suite our first proceeding was to
elect a Captain of our barrack. Selection fell upon Mr. K----, as he was
an ideal intermediary, being fluent in the language. We turned in, the
majority being too tired to growl at their lot, but there was precious
little sleep. During the day, the heat at Sennelager in the summer is
intolerable, but during the night it is freezing. Our arrival not having
been anticipated, we had nothing with which to keep ourselves warm. A
few days passed before the luxury of a blanket was bestowed upon us.

The morning after our arrival we drew up an imposing list of complaints
for which we demanded immediate redress. We also expressed in detail our
requirements, which we requested to be fulfilled forthwith. Then we
decided to apportion this part of the camp for cricket, that for general
recreation and so forth. By the time we had completed our intentions,
all of which were carried unanimously, several sheets of foolscap had
been filled, or rather would have been filled had we been possessed of
any paper. This duty completed we set out upon an exploring expedition,
intending to inspect all corners of the camp. But if we thought we were
going to wander whither we pleased we were soon disillusioned. We were
huddled in one corner and our boundaries, although undefined in the
concrete were substantial in the abstract, being imaginary lines run
between sentries standing with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets.

One and all wondered how we should be able to pass away the time. We
could neither write nor read owing to a complete lack of facilities.
Idleness would surely drive us crazy. Our recreations were severely
limited, depending upon our own ingenuity. For the first few days we
could do nothing beyond promenading, discussing the war and our
situation. These two subjects were speedily worn thread-bare since we
knew nothing about the first topic and were only able to speculate
vaguely about the second. The idea of being made to work never entered
our heads for a moment. Were we not civilian prisoners of war: the
victims of circumstances under the shield of the best traditions of
German honour?

But we were not the first arrivals at Sennelager. We were preceded by a
few hours by a party of French soldiers--captives of war. They were
extremely sullen. Travel and battle-stained they crouched and stretched
themselves upon the ground. Whence they came I was never able to
discover. One or two of our party who were versed in the French tongue
endeavoured to draw them into conversation, but to no purpose. They
either replied in vague monosyllables or deliberately ignored the
questions. There is no doubt the poor fellows felt their early capture
very sorely, and had accordingly sunk into the depths of despair. Sulky
and morose they glared fiercely upon any approach, and when they did
anything it was with an ill-grace impossible to describe. Indeed, they
were so downcast that they refused to pay the slightest attention to
their personal appearance, which accentuated their forbidding aspect.

Killing time as best we could, doing nothing soon began to reveal its
ill-effects upon those who, like myself, had always led an active life.
I approached Dr. Ascher, explained that idleness would drive me mad, and
petitioned him to permit me to work in the hospital. I did not care what
the job was so long as it effectively kept me employed. He sympathised
with my suggestion and hurried off to the Commanding Officer. But he
came back shaking his head negatively. The authorities would not
entertain the proposal for an instant.

Suddenly we were paraded. Rakes and brooms were served out to every man
and we were curtly ordered to sweep the roads. We buckled into this
task. But the dust was thick and the day was hot. Soon we were all
perspiring freely. But we were not permitted to rest. Over us was placed
a bull-headed, fierce-looking Prussian soldier armed with a murderous
looking whip. I should think he had been an animal trainer before being
mobilised from the manner in which he cracked that whip. When he saw any
one taking a breather up he came, glaring menacingly and cracking the
whip with the ferocity of a lion-tamer. We evinced a quaint respect for
that whip, and I firmly believe that our guardian inwardly fretted and
fumed because he was denied the opportunity to lay it across our backs.
Several of us nearly got it, however.

We were sweeping away merrily when, suddenly, we gave way to a wild
outburst of mirth. One couldn't sweep for laughing. The guards around us
looked on in wonder.

"Christopher! boys!" I at last blurted out, "We were talking just now
about recreation, and were emphatic about what we were, and were not,
going to do. I reckon this wants a lot of beating for recreation!" The
oddity of the situation so tickled us that we had to collapse from
laughter.

But a warning shout brought us to our feet. Mr. Mobilised Lion Tamer was
bearing down upon us waving his whip. He lashed out. We saw it coming
and dodged. By the time the thong struck the road we were brushing up
dense clouds of dust, singing, whistling, and roaring the words,
"Britons never shall be slaves!"

The dust screen saved us. It was so efficient that the furious guardian
with the whip had to beat a hurried retreat.

One morning we were paraded at six o'clock as usual. The adjutant,
another fierce-visaged Prussian, astride his horse, faced us. With
assumed majesty he roared out an order. The guards closed in. What was
going to happen now?

Amid a tense silence he shouted spluttering with rage:--

"You damned English swine! Yes! You English dogs! You are the cause of
this war, and you will have to suffer for it. We could punish you
severely. But that is not the German way. We could make you work. But
the traditions of German honour forbid. Your Government has gouged out
the eyes of German prisoners who have had the misfortune to fall into
their hands. We don't propose to take those measures. While your
Government has stopped at nothing we are going to show you how Germany
fulfils the traditions of her honour, and respects the laws to which all
civilised nations have subscribed. But remember! We are going to bring
England to her knees. Aren't we, men?"

"Ja! Ja!" (Yes! Yes!) came the wild singing reply from the excited
guards.



CHAPTER VII

BREAKING US IN AT SENNELAGER


No doubt the pompous adjutant plumed himself upon his tirade and the
impression it had created among the guards. But at the time it was as so
much Greek to us. We wondered what it all meant and what had prompted
his strange speech.

It was not until my return home that I was able to appreciate the
reason. But the bitterness with which he delivered his harangue
certainly proved that he believed the stories which had evidently been
sedulously circulated throughout Germany relative to the alleged
mal-treatment and torture of German military prisoners by the British.
Unfortunately, no steps apparently were taken to disprove these
deliberate lying statements for which we had to pay the penalty.

But I was not reassured by the Adjutant's honeyed words concerning the
example which Germany proposed to set to the British. I guessed that
something which would not redound to our welfare and comfort was in the
air. It is the German method to preach one thing and to practise
something diametrically opposite. I had already learned this. Nor was I
destined to be mistaken in my surmise.

A little later there was another parade. The officer roared,

"All those who are engineers step out!"

A number, including myself, although absolutely ignorant of the craft,
stepped out, because here was the opportunity to secure some form of
active employment.

"You are engineers?" he shouted.

We nodded assent.

"Can you build a drain?"

Again we nodded affirmatively.

We were marshalled, and one of us, Mr. C----, who was a civil engineer,
was selected as leader. We were marched off and set to work to dig a
drain for the camp.

We built that drain, but it was necessity's labour lost. We were not
provided with proper drain pipes but made an open conduit. We had to go
to the quarry to get the stone, which we broke into small pieces, and
these were set out in concave form at the bottom of the trench we had
excavated after the manner in which cobble stones are laid. I believe it
was considered to be an excellent piece of work, but unfortunately it
was of little use. The first wind and rain that came along dumped the
sand into it with the result that it became filled up.

A day or two later there was another parade. Once more the officer stood
before us with a long sheet of paper in his hand.

"All those who can do wire-pulling stand out!"

Those who knew about what he was talking advanced to form a little
group.

"All those who are gardeners stand out!"

More men advanced and another group resulted.

The officer went right through his list calling out a long string of
trades and callings. The result was our sub-division into a number of
small units, each capable of fulfilling some task. A sentry was
appointed to each group and we were hurried off to the particular toil
for which we considered ourselves to be fitted, and about which I will
say more later.

If the accommodation at the "luxurious hotel" was wretched the routine
and cuisine were worse. We were under military discipline as it is
practised in Prussia, and it was enforced with the utmost rigour. We
were not permitted to speak to an officer under any pretext whatever.
Any complaints or requests had to be carried to the authorities through
our "Captain," who was also the officially recognised interpreter. If we
met an officer we were commanded to raise our hats.

[*gap]

The day started at 6.0 a.m., with parade. If we desired to have a wash
and shave we had to be astir an hour earlier because otherwise we were
not allowed to perform those essential duties until late in the evening.
After parade we had breakfast--a basin of lukewarm "coffee" made from
acorns roasted and ground, which we had to fetch, and with which neither
milk nor sugar was served.

At seven o'clock we started the day's work, which was continued without
respite until mid-day. At least that was the official order, but one or
two of the guards were far from being harsh towards us. In the middle of
the morning, as in our case, the warder, after a wary look round, would
ask if we would like to rest for ten minutes to snatch something to eat
if we had it. Needless to say the slight respite was greatly
appreciated. But it was by no means the general practice. One or two of
the sentries were so deeply incensed against England that they took the
opportunity to bait and badger the men in their charge without mercy.
They kept the prisoners under them going hard without a break or pause.

At noon we returned to barracks for dinner. Arming ourselves with our
basins we scrambled down to the cook-house for our rations. It was
red-cabbage soup, and it was never varied. But it was the strangest soup
I have ever seen made or tasted, more particularly during the early
days.

There was a big cauldron with boiling water. Alongside was a table on
which the cabbages were cut up. A handful of cabbage was picked up and
dumped into the cauldron. Directly it hit the water the cabbage was
considered to be cooked and was served out. Consequently the meal
comprised merely a basin of sloshy boiling water in which floated some
shreds of uncooked red cabbage. Sometimes the first batch of men
succeeded in finding the cabbage warmed through: it had been left in the
water for a few seconds. But the last batch invariably fared badly. The
cooks realising that there would be insufficient to go round forthwith
dumped in two or three buckets of cold water to eke it out. Sometimes,
but on very rare occasions, a little potato, and perhaps a bone which
had once been associated with meat, would be found in the basin lurking
under a piece of cabbage leaf. Ultimately some French and Belgians were
put in charge of the kitchen. Then there was a slight improvement. The
cabbage was generally well-cooked and the soup was hot. But although
these cooks did their best, it did not amount to much, for the simple
reason that the authorities would not permit any further ingredients
whatever.

At 2.0 p.m., there was another parade, followed by a return to work
which was continued without intermission for another four hours. At six
in the evening we returned to barracks for a third parade after which we
were dismissed for tea. This was another far from appetising meal,
merely constituting a repetition of the breakfast ration--a basin of
lukewarm acorn coffee without milk or sugar. In addition to the
foregoing we were served with a portion of a loaf of black bread on
alternate mornings. This supply, if you got it, had to last six meals.

It will be realised that our wardens were far from being disposed to
feed us up. We grumbled against the rations, their monotony and
insufficiency, but we received no amelioration of our condition. In
fact, our petitions were ignored. We were told that if we wanted more or
greater variety of food we must buy it from the canteen. We had to act
upon this recommendation just to keep ourselves alive.

The canteen was run by the most unprincipled scoundrel I have ever met.
He was a civilian speculator who saw the chance to fatten on the
British prisoners. He fleeced us in two ways. Not only were his prices
extortionate, but he gave a ridiculous exchange for British currency,
especially gold. After considerable persuasion and deliberation he would
change a half sovereign for 7½ marks--7s. 6d. We complained but could
get no redress for such a depreciation. Other coins were in proportion.

Brödchen in limited quantities were brought in every day. We could buy
these at 5 pfennigs--one halfpenny--apiece, or in the early days three
for 10 pfennigs. The latter practice was abandoned when the pinch of
flour shortage commenced to be felt. The brödchen came in during the
night, and owing to the totally inadequate quantity purchased to meet
our needs, one had to be about early to secure a supply. I, with others,
have often been up at four o'clock in the morning, lounging around the
canteen, so as to be among the first to be served when it opened at five
o'clock. The scenes which were enacted around the canteen in the early
morning are indescribable. Civilians strangely clad, and later badly
wounded, limping soldiers, sickly and white, waited patiently, no matter
what the weather, to buy a little bread.

The necessity to depend upon the canteen for a sufficiency of food to
keep us alive hit those who were blessed with little money extremely
hard. There was one man--he said he was an Englishman, although I have
my doubts about it--who was brought to the camp. He had not a farthing
in his pocket. He said his home was near the frontier, and that he often
slipped across it for a ride on his bicycle. He related that he had been
caught during one of these excursions, to find himself ultimately at
Sennelager. That man was a mystery. He was kept alive by the others more
or less, and he accompanied us to various prisons. But subsequently he
obtained his papers in a mysterious manner, and was seen no more. He
vanished in the darkness as it were, and the German guards were not
disposed to talk about him. It has always been our suspicion that he
was sent among us with an ulterior motive which it is impossible to
divine.

Those who could not purchase supplies from the canteen were assisted by
their more fortunate comrades. The lucky ones divided their purchases so
that the unfortunate individuals might not feel their position or suffer
want. This practice was tangibly assisted by one or two prisoners who
were well supplied with money, especially Prince L----, who became the
general favourite of the camp from his fellow-feeling, camaraderie,
sympathy, and sportsmanship.

One morning he came across a poor prisoner who looked very ill. He
appeared to be half starved, as indeed he was from his inability to buy
any food. After a short conversation the Prince slipped five sovereigns
into the man's hand and bolted before he could be thanked. Unfortunately
this poor fellow is still in prison, but he has never forgotten the
Prince's kindness.

The day after our arrival at Sennelager the Prince came to me and drew
my attention to my shirtless condition. I explained the reason for its
disappearance and that I could not get another as the authorities were
still holding my heavy baggage containing further supplies. He said
nothing as he went away, but a quarter of an hour later he returned with
a new garment from his own kit which he forced me to accept. Another
day, the party with which I was working were coming in to the evening
meal. He hailed us and invited one and all to accompany him to the
canteen to have a chop with him. That was the finest meal I had tasted
since my feast in Wesel prison. Some time later Prince L---- succeeded
in getting home. Although he was heartily congratulated upon his good
fortune, his absence was sorely felt by those whom he was in the habit
of befriending.

At nine o'clock we had to be in bed. Some of the more untameable spirits
rebelled at the order to extinguish lights at this hour, but in our
barrack Captain K---- rigidly insisted that the regulation should be
observed. He feared the antagonism of the officers might be aroused, in
which event we should be made to suffer for our fractiousness. The
disputes between the prisoners and the sentries over the lights were
interminable. The men would be ordered to extinguish their oil lamp. If
they did not respond with sufficient alacrity the sentry cluttered up
and put it out himself. At a later date, however, the hour for "lights
out" was extended to 10 p.m.

The German nation is ever held up as the world's apostle of hygiene and
sanitary science. However true this may be in regard to civic and rural
life it certainly does not apply to prison and military existence. We
were occupying the quarters normally assigned to recruits. Yet
Sennelager was absolutely devoid of the most primitive features of a
safe sanitary system. There was an open cesspool within a stone's throw
of the barracks, the stench from which, during the heat of the summer,
may be better imagined than described. No disinfectants whatever were
used, and at intervals of three days it was emptied by the crudest means
imaginable, on which occasions the barracks were not only untenantable
but absolutely unapproachable. In fact, the conditions were so primitive
and revolting that the outbreak of an epidemic was momentarily expected,
not only by ourselves but by the authorities as well.

This danger was brought home to us when we were compelled to submit to
the ordeal of vaccination. Even this task was carried out under
conditions which no other civilised country would permit for a moment,
for the simple reason that antiseptic precautions were conspicuous by
their complete absence. The order arrived that we were to be vaccinated
on such and such a morning "in the interests of the camp--both prisoners
and soldiers." We were ordered to line up in a queue outside a small
building which we were to enter singly in succession. We were commanded
to have our arms bared to the shoulder in readiness. Vaccination was not
carried out by Dr. Ascher, the official medical attendant to the camp,
but by a young military doctor who came especially for the purpose.

Whether it was because the temperature within the small building was too
sultry or not I cannot say, but the vaccinator decided to complete his
work in the open air, the fact that a dust-storm was raging
notwithstanding. The military doctor was accompanied by a colleague
carrying a small pot or basin which evidently contained the serum. The
operation was performed quickly if crudely. The vaccinator stopped
before a man, dipped his lance or whatever the instrument was into the
jar, and gripping the arm tightly just above the elbow, made four big
slashes on the muscle. The incisions were large, deep, and
brutal-looking. Then he passed to the next man, repeating the process,
and so on all along the line. He took no notice of the dust which was
driving hither and thither in clouds.

Whether by misfortune or mishap I received four striking gashes, and the
shape of the incisions made me wonder whether the vaccinator thought he
was playing a game of noughts and crosses with a scalpel upon my arm.
After we had been wounded in this manner we were in a quandary. Our arms
were thickly covered with the drifting sand. Our shirt sleeves were
equally soiled. Consequently infection of the wound appeared to be
inevitable whatever we did. In this unhappy frame of mind and dirty
condition we were dismissed. Unfortunately for me I proved resistant to
the serum, and had to submit to the operation a second time with equally
abortive results. One or two of the prisoners suffered untold agonies,
blood-poisoning evidently setting in to aggravate the action of the
serum.

The primitive sanitary arrangements which prevailed brought one plague
upon us. We suffered from a pestilence of flies which under the
circumstances was not surprising, everything being conducive to their
propagation. They swarmed around us in thick black clouds. They recalled
the British housefly, only they were much larger, and extremely
pugnacious. Life within the barracks became almost impossible owing to
their attacks and the severity of their stings, which set up maddening
irritation. We petitioned the authorities to allow us a supply of
fly-papers. After considerable demur they acquiesced, but we could not
use them, or rather they were used up too rapidly. The evening we
received them we decided to attach a few to the ceiling, but before we
could fix them in position their fly-catching capacities were exhausted.
They were covered with a heaving, buzzing black mass of insects within a
minute. So we abandoned fly-catching tactics.

This pestilence harassed us sorely during our meals. They settled
everywhere and upon everything. While butter or margarine were
unobtainable at the canteen we were able to purchase a substance which
resembled honey in appearance, colour, and taste. Indeed we were told
that it was an artificial product of the beehive. When we spread this
upon our bread the flies swarmed to the attack, and before the food
could be raised to our mouths the bread was not to be seen for flies. At
first we spent considerable effort in brushing the insects away, but
their numbers were too overwhelming to be resisted, so we were compelled
to run the risk of the flies, and I, in common with others, have eaten
bread, honey, and flies as well! It took considerable time and effort to
master such a revolting meal, but under these conditions, it was either
flies or nothing, so we ran the risk of the insects, although it cannot
be said that they contributed to the tastiness of an already indifferent
food, or our peace of mind, because we could not dismiss thoughts of the
cesspool which the flies made their happy hunting-ground during the
periods between meals.

Infraction of the rules and regulations were frequent, for the simple
reason that they were never explained to us. We had to learn them as
best we could--invariably through the experience of punishment. This
state of affairs placed us at the mercy of the guards. Those who were
venomously anti-British expended their savagery upon us on every
occasion. For the slightest misdemeanour we were consigned to the cells
for one, two, three, or more days. The cell recalled my domicile in
Wesel, and I must confess that I made the acquaintance of its uninviting
interior upon several occasions through inadvertently breaking some
rule. But the others fared no better in this respect. It was cells for
anything.

This prison was a small masonry building, fitted with a tiny grating. It
was devoid of all appointments, not even a plank bed being provided. To
sleep one had to stretch one's self on the floor and secure as much
comfort as the cold stone would afford. Bread and water was the diet.
All exercise was denied, except possibly for the brief stretch
accompanied by the sentry to fetch the mid-day meal of soup, assuming
the offence permitted such food in the dietary, from the cook-house.
Conversation with a fellow-creature was rigidly _verboten_. It was
solitary confinement in its most brutal form.

The method of punishment was typically Prussian. If one upset the guard
by word or deed, he clapped you in the cell right-away and left you
there. Possibly he went off to his superior officer to report your
offence. But the probability was that he did not. Indeed it was quite
likely that he forgot all about you for a time, because the sentry at
the door never raised the slightest interrogation concerning a prisoner
within. More than once a prisoner was forgotten in this manner, and
accordingly was condemned to the silence, solitude, and dismal gloom of
the tiny prison until the guard chanced to recall him to mind.

During my period of incarceration at Sennelager the number of civil
prisoners brought in to swell our party was somewhat slender. They came
in small batches of ten or twelve, but were often fewer in number. They
invariably arrived about two o'clock in the morning. Then the sentry
would come thumping into the barrack, his heavy boots resounding like
horse's hoofs and his rifle clanging madly. Reaching the room he would
yell out with all the power of his lungs, thus awaking every one,
"Dolmetscher! Dolmetscher!" (Interpreter! Interpreter!) "Get up!" That
luckless individual had to bestir himself, tumble into his clothes and
hurry to the office to assist the authorities in the official
interrogation of the latest arrivals. This was one of the little worries
which were sent to try us, but we soon became inured to the rude
disturbance of our rest, in which the average sentry took a fiendish
delight.

By the time the first Sunday came round, and having nothing to do--all
labour was suspended, although no religious service was held--I decided
to wash my solitary shirt. I purchased a small cake of cheap rough soap
from the canteen, got a wooden tub, and stripping myself to the waist,
washed out the article in question outside the barrack door to the
amusement of my colleagues. While I was busily engaged in this necessary
occupation I was attracted by tittering and chattering. Looking up I
found I was the object of curiosity among a crowd of civilians dressed
in their Sunday best. Together with my fellow-prisoners I hurriedly
retired to the sanctuary of our barracks.

Later we learned that on Sundays the residents of Paderborn and the
countryside around were free to enter the camp to have a look at the
British prisoners. Indeed they were invited. They stalked and wandered
about the camp in much the same manner as they would have strolled
through the Zoological Gardens in Berlin, looking at us as if we were
strange exotic animals, chattering, laughing, and joking among
themselves at our expense. We considered this an unwarrantable
humiliation, and we countered it by the only means within our power. We
resolutely stayed indoors until the gaping crowds had gone. This
diversion of the German public, if such it may be called, speedily fell
into desuetude, not because the novelty wore off, but because the
"Engländer" were never to be seen, so that the six-mile tramp from
Paderborn to Sennelager and back was merely wasted. It was a bitter
disappointment to the curiosity-provoked crowds, but we scored a
distinct success.

The first Sunday I had to wander about shirtless, the only garment of
this character which I possessed hanging upon the line to dry. But the
sight of a crowd of us, on Sunday mornings, stripped bare to our waists,
washing and scrubbing the only shirts to our backs, became quite a
common sight later, and I must confess that we made merry over this
weekly duty for a time.

We had not been in Sennelager many days before we discovered to our cost
that we were all suffering solitary confinement. We were completely
isolated from the outside world. We were not permitted to receive any
letters or parcels. Neither were we allowed to communicate with anyone
outside. Newspapers were also sternly forbidden. These regulations were
enforced with the utmost rigour during my stay at this camp.
Consequently we knew nothing whatever about the outside world, and the
outside world knew nothing about us. Early in September I did succeed in
getting two post-cards away, but I ascertained afterwards that they did
not reach their destinations until some weeks after I had left
Sennelager. We felt this isolation very keenly because one and all were
wondering vaguely what our wives, families, friends, or relatives were
doing.

About ten days after our arrival at this hostelry there was a parade.
The adjutant strutted before us with the pride of a peacock, and in his
pompous voice cried:

"All prisoners who reside in Germany because of their business
connections, or who are married to German wives, will be permitted to
return to their homes!"

This announcement precipitated wild excitement because it affected from
twenty to thirty prisoners. Needless to say they packed their bags with
frantic speed, as if fearing cancellation of the welcome news, and
emerging from the barracks hastened to receive their passes to make
their way to Paderborn. Among them was the head of our barrack, Captain
K----. A strong friendship had sprung up between him and me, and we
shook hands vigorously though silently. He invited many others and
myself, in the event of our being given permission to move about the
country, to come and stay at his house near C----.

While every man Jack of us who was left behind was heavy in his heart
and became sad because he was not numbered among the privileged few, we
were by no means cast down. As the small party of free men walked
towards the entrance we gave them a frantic and wild parting cheer. It
was the first time we had let ourselves go and we did it with a
vengeance. The German officers and men started as if electrified, and
looked at us in amazement. They thought we had gone mad. Beside us stood
one of the guards. He turned to us, his eyes and mouth wide open, to
mutter:

"My God! You English are a funny race!"

"What's the matter?" we returned.

"What? You cheer those fellows who are going home and yet you are being
left here!"

"Why not? Good luck to them!" and we let fly another terrific huzza to
speed them on their way.

The guard shook his head, thoroughly puzzled. He did not understand the
psychology of the British race any more than his superiors.

"But why do you cheer?" pursued the guard.

"Because we are English," swiftly retorted one of our party. The guard
said no more.

A day or two after the departure of our colleagues there was a change in
the command of the camp. The old General was superseded by a man whose
name will never be forgotten by the British prisoners of Sennelager
Camp. They will ever couple him with the infamous instigator of the
"Black Hole of Calcutta."

This was Major Bach. Upon his assumption of the command he inaugurated
what can only be truthfully described as a Reign of Terror. Tall, of
decided military bearing, he had the face of a ferret and was as
repulsive. With his sardonic grin he recalled no one so vividly as the
"Villain of the Vic!"

The morning after his arrival he paraded us all, and in a quiet suave
voice which he could command at times stated:

"English prisoners! Arrangements are being made for your instant return
to England. A day or two must pass before you can go, to enable the
necessary papers to be completed and put in order. But you will not have
to do any more work."

We were dismissed and I can assure you that we were a merry, excited
crowd. We jumped for joy at the thought that our imprisonment had come
to an end. Like schoolboys we hastened to the barracks and feverishly
set to work packing our bags, whistling and singing joyously meanwhile.

Suddenly the bugle rang out summoning us to parade again. We rushed out,
all agog with excitement, and half hoping that our release would be
immediate. The Adjutant confronted us and in a loud voice roared:

"English prisoners! You've been told that you are going back to England.
That was a mistake. You will get to work at once!"



CHAPTER VIII

BADGERING THE BRITISH HEROES FROM MONS


It was about a fortnight after my arrival at Sennelager. Our rest had
been rudely disturbed about the usual hour of 2 a.m. by the sentry who
came clattering into the barrack roaring excitedly, "Dolmetscher!
Dolmetscher!"

C---- who, after the departure of K----, had been elected Captain of our
barrack and who was also the official interpreter, answered the summons.
He was required to accompany the guards to the station. A further batch
of British prisoners had arrived. By this time we had grown accustomed
to this kind of nocturnal disturbance, so after C---- had passed out the
rest of the barrack re-settled down to sleep.

I was astir just after four o'clock. It was my turn to serve as
barrack-room orderly for the day, and I started in early to complete my
task before 5.30 so as to secure the opportunity to shave and wash
before parade.

I was outside the barrack when my attention was aroused by the sound of
tramping feet. Looking down the road I was surprised to see a huge
column of dust, and what appeared to be a never-ending crowd of
soldiers, marching in column. It was such an unusual sight, we never
having witnessed the arrival of more than a dozen prisoners at a time,
that, especially the moment I descried the uniforms, my curiosity was
aroused. Many of my comrades were astir and partly dressed when I gave a
hail, so they hurried out to join me.

The army, for such it seemed, advanced amidst clouds of dust. As they
drew nearer we identified those at the head as Belgian soldiers. They
swung by without faltering. Behind them came a small army of French
prisoners. We could not help noticing the comparatively small number of
wounded among both the Belgians and the French, and although they were
undoubtedly dejected at their unfortunate capture they were apparently
in fine fettle.

But it was the men who formed the rear of this depressing cavalcade, and
who also numbered several hundreds, which aroused our keenest interest
and pity. From their khaki uniforms it was easy to determine their
nationality. They were British military prisoners.

It was a sad and pitiful procession, and it was with the greatest
difficulty we could suppress our emotion. The tears welled to our eyes
as we looked on in silent sympathy. We would have given those hardened
warriors a rousing cheer but we dared not. The guards would have
resented such an outburst, which would have rendered the lot of the
British, both civilian and military, a hundred times worse.

The soldiers, battle-stained, blood-stained, weary of foot, body and
mind walked more like mechanical toys than men in the prime of life.
Their clothes were stained almost beyond recognition; their faces were
ragged with hair and smeared with dirt. But though oppressed, tired,
hungry and thirsty they were far from being cast down, although many
could scarcely move one foot before the other.

The most touching sight was the tenderness with which the unwounded and
less injured assisted their weaker comrades. Some of the worst cases
must have been suffering excruciating agony, but they bore their pain
with the stoicism of a Red Indian. The proportion of wounded was
terrifying: every man appeared to be carrying one scar or another. As
they swung by us they gave us a silent greeting which we returned, but
there was far more significance in that mute conversation with eyes and
slight movements of the hands than in volumes of words and frantic
cheering.

The brutal reception they had received from their captors was only too
apparent. Those who were so terribly wounded as to be beyond helping
themselves received neither stretcher nor ambulance. They had to hobble,
limp and drag themselves along as best they could, profiting from the
helping hand extended by a comrade. Those who were absolutely unable to
walk had to be carried by their chums, and it was pathetic to observe
the tender care, solicitude and effort which were displayed so as to
spare the luckless ones the slightest jolt or pain while being carried
in uncomfortable positions and attitudes over the thickly dust-strewn
and uneven road. The fortitude of the badly battered was wonderful. They
forgot their sufferings, and were even bandying jest and joke. Their
cheeriness under the most terrible conditions was soul-moving. No one
can testify more truthfully to the Tapley cheeriness of the British
soldier under the most adverse conditions than the little knot of
civilian prisoners at Sennelager when brought face to face for the first
time with the fearful toll of war.

The unhappy plight of our heroic fighting men, as we watched them march
towards what was called the "field," which was nearly a mile beyond our
barracks, provoked an immediate council of war among ourselves. It was
only too apparent that we must exert ourselves on their behalf.
Unfortunately, however, we were not in a position to extend them
pronounced assistance: our captors saw to that. But we divided up into
small parties and succeeded in giving all the aid that was in our power.

The soldiers were accommodated in tents. We had observed the raising of
a canvas town upon the "field," and had been vaguely wondering for what
it was required. Were German recruits coming to Sennelager to undergo
their training, or were we to be transferred from the barracks to tents?
At first we thought the latter the more probable, but as we reflected
upon the size of canvas-town we concluded that provision was being made
for something of far greater importance.

The Belgian prisoners were sent into the stables. These, however, were
scrupulously clean and empty of all the incidentals generally associated
with such buildings, because the civilian prisoners had been compelled
to scour them out a few days before. Consequently the Belgians had no
room for protest against the character of their quarters, except perhaps
upon the ground of being somewhat over-crowded. A number of the French
soldiers were also distributed among the stables, but the surplus shared
tents near their British comrades.

Upon reaching the field the prisoners were paraded. Each man was
subjected to a searching cross-examination, and had to supply his name
and particulars of the regiment to which he belonged. All these details
were carefully recorded. In the preparation of this register the German
inquisitors betrayed extraordinary anxiety to ascertain the disposition
of the British troops and the regiments engaged in the battle-line.
Evidently they were in a state of complete ignorance upon this point.
Nearly every soldier was requested to give the name of the place where
he had been fighting, wounded, and captured. But the British soldiers
did not lose their presence of mind. They saw through the object of
these interrogations and their replies for the most part were extremely
unsatisfactory. The man either did not know, could not recall, or had
forgotten where he had been fighting, and was exceedingly hazy about
what regiments were forming the British army. In some instances,
however, the desired data was forthcoming from those who were most
severely wounded, the poor fellows in their misery failing to grasp the
real significance of the interpellations. It was easy to realise the
extreme value of the details which were given in this manner because
the Germans chuckled, chattered, and cackled like a flock of magpies.
As may be supposed, owing to the exacting nature of the search for
information, the registration of the prisoners occupied a considerable
time.

[*large gap]

Later, during the day of their arrival, we civilian prisoners had the
opportunity to fraternise with our fighting compatriots. Then we
ascertained that they had been wounded and captured during the retreat
from Mons. But they had been subjected to the most barbarous treatment
conceivable. They had received no skilled or any other attention upon
the battlefield. They had merely bound up one another's wounds as best
they could with materials which happened to be at hand, or had been
forced to allow the wounds to remain open and exposed to the air.
Bleeding and torn they had been bundled unceremoniously into a train,
herded like cattle, and had been four days and nights travelling from
the battlefield to Sennelager.

During these 96 hours they had tasted neither food nor water! The train
was absolutely deficient in any commissariat, and the soldiers had not
been permitted to satisfy their cravings, even to the slightest degree,
and even if they were in the possession of the wherewithal, by the
purchase of food at stations at which the train had happened to stop.
What with the fatigue of battle and this prolonged enforced abstinence
from the bare necessaries of life, it is not surprising that they
reached Sennelager in a precarious and pitiful condition.

Among our heroes were five commissioned officers, including a major.
These were accommodated at Sennelager for about a fortnight but then
they were sent away, whither we never knew beyond the fact that they had
been condemned to safer imprisonment in a fortress. Among the prisoners
were also about 200 men belonging to the R.A.M.C., taken in direct
contravention of the generally accepted rules of war. They were treated
in precisely the same manner as the captured fighting men. There were
also a few non-commissioned officers who were permitted to retain their
authority within certain limits.

One of the prisoners gave me a voluminous diary which he had kept, and
in which were chronicled the whole of his movements and impressions from
the moment he landed in France until his capture, including the Battle
of Mons. It was a remarkable human document, and I placed it in safe
keeping, intending to get it out of the camp and to send it to my friend
at home upon the first opportunity. But ill-luck dogged this enterprise.
The existence of the diary got to the ears of our wardens and I was
compelled to surrender it.

The next morning the wounded received attention. The medical attendant
attached to the camp for the civilian prisoners, Dr. Ascher, was not
placed in command of this duty, although he extended assistance. A
German military surgeon was given the responsibility. The medical
arrangements provided by this official, who became unduly inflated with
the eminence of his position, were of the most arbitrary character. He
attended the camp at certain hours and he adhered to his time-table in
the most rigorous manner. If you were not there to time, no matter the
nature of your injury, you received no attention. Similarly, if the
number of patients lined up outside the diminutive hospital were in
excess of those to whom he could give attention during the hours he had
set forth, he would turn the surplus away with the intimation that they
could present themselves the next day at the same hour when perhaps he
would be able to see to them. It did not matter to him how serious was
the injury or the urgency for attention. His hours were laid down, and
he would not stay a minute later for anything. Fortunately, Dr. Ascher,
who resented this inflexible system, would attend the most pressing
cases upon his own initiative, for which, it is needless to say, he
received the most heartfelt thanks.

Before the duty of examining the wounded soldiers commenced there was a
breeze between Dr. Ascher and the military surgeon. The former insisted
that the patients should receive attention as they lined up--first come
to be first served, and irrespective of nationality. But the military
doctor would have none of this. His hatred of the British was so intense
that he could not resist any opportunity to reveal his feelings. I
really think that he would willingly have refused to attend to the
British soldiers at all if his superior orders had not charged him with
this duty. So he did the next worse thing to harass our heroes. He
expressed his intention to attend first to the Belgians, then to the
French, and to the British last. They could wait, notwithstanding that
their injuries were more severe and the patients more numerous than
those of the other two Allies put together. This decision, however, was
only in consonance with the general practice of the camp--the British
were always placed last in everything. If the military surgeon thought
that his arbitrary attitude would provoke protests and complaints among
the British soldiers he was grievously mistaken, because they accepted
his decision without a murmur.

The queue outside the hospital was exceedingly lengthy. The heat was
intense and grew intolerable as the day advanced and the sun climbed
higher into the heavens. To aggravate matters a dust-storm blew up. The
British wounded at the end of the line had a dreary, long, and agonising
wait. Half-dead from fatigue, hunger, and racked with pain it is not
surprising that many collapsed into the dust, more particularly as they
could not secure the slightest shelter or relief from the broiling sun.
As the hours wore on they dropped like flies, to receive no attention
whatever,--except from their less-wounded comrades, who strove might and
main to render the plight of the worst afflicted as tolerable as the
circumstances would permit. Dr. Ascher toiled in the hospital like a
Trojan, but the military doctor was not disposed to exert himself
unduly.

To make matters worse this despicable disciple of Æsculapius came out,
and, notwithstanding the drifting and blowing sand, ordered all the
British prisoners to remove their bandages so that there might be no
delay when the hospital was reached. The men obeyed as best as they
could, but in many instances the bandages refused to release themselves
from the wound. The military doctor speedily solved this problem. He
caught hold of the untied end of the bandage and roughly tore it away.
The wounded man winced but not a sound came from his lips, although the
wrench must have provoked a terrible throb of pain, and in some
instances induced the injury to resume bleeding. Finding this brutal
treatment incapable of drawing the anticipated protest he relented with
the later prisoners, submitting the refractory bandages to preliminary
damping with water to coax the dressings free.

With their bandages removed the soldiers presented a ghastly sight.
Their clothes were tattered and torn, blood-stained and mudstained,
while the raw wounds seemed to glare wickedly against the sun, air, and
dust. It was pitiable to see the men striving to protect their injuries
from the driving sand, in vain, because the sand penetrated everywhere.
Consequently the gaping wounds soon became clogged with dust, and it is
not surprising that blood-poisoning set in, gangrene supervening in many
instances. Under these conditions many injuries and wounds which would
have healed speedily under proper attention and which would have left
little or no permanent traces, developed into serious cases, some of
which resisted all treatment, finally demanding amputations. The
mutilation which ensued was terrible, and there is no doubt whatever
that many a limb was lost, condemning the wounded man to be a cripple
for life, just because he happened to be British, incurred the hostility
of the military surgeon, and was intentionally neglected. Matters were
aggravated by the military surgeon coming out of the hospital finally,
after the men had been standing uncomplainingly for several hours in the
baking heat, going a certain distance along the line, and then brutally
telling all those beyond that point that they could re-bind up their
wounds and come to see him the next morning. He had no time to attend to
them that day, he remarked.

I do not know how our wounded heroes from Mons would have got on had it
not been for Dr. Ascher, the R.A.M.C. prisoners, ourselves, and a
British military doctor who happened to be among those captured on the
battlefield. The latter was not discovered for some time because he
refused to reveal his identity. Subsequently, realising the serious turn
which matters were taking, and observing the intentional and systematic
neglect which was being meted out to his unfortunate fellow-countrymen,
he buckled in and did wonderful work. Prince L---- and K---- also toiled
incessantly in the attempt to ameliorate the plight of our wounded. Many
of the soldiers were absolutely without funds, but these two civilians
extended them the assistance so sorely needed out of their own pockets,
purchasing food-stuffs from the canteen, which they distributed together
with other articles which were in urgent request, with every liberality.

The lack of funds hit our wounded exceedingly hard. Although they were
on the sick list they received no special treatment. They were in dire
need of nourishing food suitable for invalids, but they never received
it. They were compelled, in common with ourselves who were in tolerably
good health, to subsist on milkless and sugarless acorn coffee,
cabbage-soup, and black bread, which cannot possibly be interpreted as
an invalid body-restoring dietary. As a result of this insufficient
feeding the soldiers commenced to fall away.

This systematic starvation, for it was nothing more nor less, rendered
the soldiers well-nigh desperate. In order to secure the money wherewith
to supplement their meagre and uninviting non-nutritious food with
articles from the canteen, they were prepared to sell anything and
everything which could be turned into a few pence. Khaki overcoats were
freely sold for six shillings apiece. For sixpence you could buy a pair
of puttees. Even buttons were torn off and sold for what they would
fetch. One morning, on parade, a soldier whose face testified to the
ravages of hunger tore off his cardigan jacket and offered it to any one
for sixpence in order to buy bread. Little souvenirs which the soldiers
had picked up on the battlefield, and which they treasured highly,
hoping to take them home as mementoes of their battles, were sold to any
one who would buy. As a matter of fact some of the soldiers were
prepared to part with anything and everything in which they were
standing in order to get food.

While we fraternised with the soldiers at the very first opportunity to
secure details of their experiences which were freely given and to learn
items of news, the German guards interfered. We had been kept in
complete ignorance of the progress of the war, and now we were learning
too much for our captors. I may say that all we heard about the war was
the occasional intelligence given when we were on parade. Major Bach
would stroll up with German newspapers in his hands and with fiendish
delight would give us items of news which he thought would interest us.
Needless to say the fragments always referred to brilliant German
victories and he used to watch our faces with grim pleasure to ascertain
the effect they produced upon us. At first we were somewhat impressed,
especially when he told us that Paris had been captured. But when he
related ten days later that it had fallen again, and that London was in
German hands, we smiled in spite of ourselves because we had trapped him
in his lying.

We were now separated from our soldier friends, from whom we had gained
a more reliable insight concerning the state of affairs. The German
guards also gave themselves away by relating that they were embittered
against the British soldiers because they had fought like devils and had
wrought terrible havoc among the ranks of the German army. Consequently
the only opportunity which arose for conversation was during the
evenings around the canteen. Even then we had to be extremely cautious.
If the guard saw one or two civilians associated with a group of
Tommies, he would come up, force us apart at the point of the bayonet,
and make us proceed different ways.

Our practice was to mingle singly and discreetly with the soldiers, and
then upon return to barracks exchange news we had gleaned. I may say it
became an unwritten law of the camp that, if a civilian took a soldier
into the canteen and asked him any questions, he was to reciprocate by
treating the Tommy to some little dainty which was obtainable. If we
asked nothing the soldier got nothing. This latter attitude was not due
to our resenting the idea of treating the soldier, but because many of
us were poor, or empty, in pocket ourselves. Although we did a
considerable amount of forced labour we never received a penny for it.

I had a tilt at my guard one day over the payment of prisoners of war.
Although I knew nothing about the International law upon the subject I
made a venture.

"Do you know?" I asked, "that as prisoners of war we are entitled to 60
pfennigs--sixpence--a day for what work we do?"

"Ja! Ja!" he grinned. "But as it costs us 90 pfennigs a day to keep you,
after deducting the 60 pfennigs, you still owe us 30 pfennigs a day!"

The idea of us being in Germany's debt for our board and lodging was
certainly humorous. If any one asked me how much it cost the Teutonic
Government in this direction I should consider a halfpenny a day a very
liberal figure.

The efforts of the prisoners to supplement their meagre and monotonous
official allowance of food by purchases at the canteen were handicapped
by the avariciousness and unprecedented rascality of the unprincipled
rogue who was in charge of this indispensable establishment.

When a soldier had secured a few pence, say a shilling, by the sale of
this or that personal belonging, and proffered the coin to the canteen
proprietor, this worthy would pick it up, shrug his shoulders, and
disdainfully push the shilling back with the remark, "English money? No
good here! I can get very little for it!"

At this pronouncement the soldier's face would fall. But dreading denial
of a "brötchen" of which he was in urgent need he would grow desperate.
He would push the coin across the counter again.

"It must be worth something! Now how much will you give for it?" he
would ask pleadingly.

With further demur, elevation of eyebrows, puckering of brows and
hesitancy the canteen proprietor would complete a mental arithmetical
sum in currency exchange. At last he would reluctantly quote a figure,
and as a rule it was about fifty per cent. below the face value of the
coin. Thus the soldier's shilling would only be valued at sixpence in
German money.

The soldier, satisfied at being able to get a "brötchen" even at such a
sacrifice, would submit. But although the unwarranted depreciation was
robbery it was not the worst feature of the methods of this greedy
money-changer.

The soldier would receive, not five English pennies or 50 German
pfennigs as his change but a French half-franc. Then the next time he
visited the canteen for another "brötchen" or something else, he would
put down the half-franc he had previously received. Again the soldier
received a rude surprise. The canteen proprietor would reluctantly say
that the French money was useless to him. There would be a repetition of
the previous bickering over the British shilling, and at last the
astonished soldier would learn that he could only change the French
half-franc at a discount of forty per cent. In this instance the change
would be the equivalent of twopence in English money, but it would be
given in Belgian coins. Upon the third occasion when the British soldier
visited the canteen to buy a "brötchen" and proffered the Belgian
coinage he would learn that this had also undergone a sudden
depreciation of fifty per cent. So that by the time the soldier had
expended his shilling he had really received goods to the value of about
threepence.

It was a cunning method of conducting business and the canteen
proprietor was a master in keeping the hated currency of the three
nations in circulation among themselves, and always exacted a heavy
charge for its acceptance.

With such a novel means of ringing the changes upon soldiers of the
three nationalities it is not surprising that the canteen proprietor
waxed rich within a very short time.

Such a state of affairs not only adversely affected the soldiers but the
poor civilian prisoners as well. At last things came to such a pass that
one of our interpreters, F. K----, the fellow-prisoner whom I had met in
Wesel prison, tackled the canteen proprietor upon his unfair method of
conducting business, and emphasised how harsh it was upon the prisoners
who were not flush in funds. For this attempt to improve our position F.
K---- had to pay the penalty. The canteen proprietor promptly reported
the interpreter to the Commanding Officer of the camp, who forthwith
sentenced our comrade to three days' cells for daring to interfere with
German organisation!

The Germans, in their determined intention to prevent the British
civilian and military prisoners from mingling, adopted the most drastic
measures. Guards were posted everywhere and we were sternly forbidden to
enter the soldiers' reservation. If we were detected the guards were
instructed to let drive with their rifles without giving any previous
warning. The anti-British sentiment was so acute that any one of our
guards would have only been too delighted to have had the chance to put
this order into effect, and that upon the slightest pretext. As he would
have been upheld in his action we decided to give these amiable wardens
no opportunity to turn us into targets.

There is no doubt that we were regarded as little less than desperadoes
of the worst type. Our troops had given the Germans such a severe
shaking up as to throw our guards into a state of wild panic. This was
proved only too conclusively by an incident which occurred one night.
After we had retired we were not permitted to put our heads out of the
windows. To do so was to court a bullet, also according to instructions.
On this particular night, after we had turned in, one of the prisoners,
unable to sleep owing to mental worry and the heat, strolled to the door
to get a breath of fresh air. As he stepped out into the dusty footway a
terrifying fusillade rang out and continued for several minutes. We all
sprang up wondering what was the matter.

The poor fellow had been spotted coming out of the door by the sentry
who, too excited to recognise the man, had fired his rifle at the
prisoner for all he was worth. Instantly the guard turned out. The
prisoner brought abruptly to his senses had darted back into the barrack
safe and sound but fearfully scared. Only the wild shooting of the
sentry had saved him from being riddled. The guard itself, upon turning
out, evidently thought that a rebellion had broken out or at least that
a prisoner had escaped. Seizing their rifles they blazed away for dear
life. They did not aim at anything in particular but shot haphazardly at
the stars, haystacks, and trees in the most frantic manner imaginable
and as rapidly as their magazine arms would let them. Undoubtedly the
Germans were half-mad with fear. It rained bullets around the barracks
and every man within crouched down on his bed, away from the windows
through which we momentarily expected the bullets to crash. None of us
dared to move for fear that there might be a collision with one or more
of the missiles which pattered around us.

The next morning we were paraded hurriedly. The guard ran about among
us, searching every corner of the barracks, as if bereft. The roll was
called with wild excitement. A prisoner had escaped! Had he not been
seen by every imaginative member of the guard? But when they discovered
that we were all safe and sound, and that we were perfectly composed,
they presented a sorry array of stalwart warders. Their sheepishness
provoked us to laughter when we learned the true reason for all the
bother. But it brought home to us the extreme danger of falling foul of
such a panicky mob.

The military reservation was fenced off from our quarters by barbed
wire. The rule ran that no prisoner on either side of the barrier was to
advance within a metre's distance--about one yard--of the fence. Guards
were on duty to see that this regulation was obeyed. One day a British
Tommy, in a moment of forgetfulness, ventured within the forbidden
distance. With a flash the excited guard standing near by raised his
rifle and jabbed fiercely at the soldier. The bayonet got home in the
luckless Tommy's shoulder and passed clean through from front to back,
the ugly point of the bayonet protruding about three inches.

This incident and unwarranted savagery, although born of "nerves,"
sickened and also roused those of us who had seen it. Seeing that the
soldier was quite unarmed the sentry might have used the butt end of his
weapon just as satisfactorily. But no! It was a swine of an Engländer
who had infringed the rule and the bayonet was the instrument for
correction, to be plied with the utmost effect.

Seeing the desperate condition of the British wounded and the inhuman
manner in which they were treated one might naturally conclude that they
would have died off like flies. Sennelager has the most evil reputation
among the German prison camps for systematic brutality and unprecedented
ferocity. But to levy such an accusation is to bring an immediate German
denial. In reply they turn to the official reports and retort that
conditions could not possibly be so terrible as they are painted,
otherwise the camp would be certain to reveal a high mortality. On the
other hand the death-rate at Sennelager is strikingly low, and the
German officials smile contentedly while the Press comforts itself
smugly.

The presentation of the low death-rate is even likely to arouse doubt in
the minds of the unsophisticated British at home. They are not versed in
German cunning. Sennelager camp carries a low death-rate for the simple
reason that a prisoner is not permitted to die there. When a man has
been reduced to a hopeless condition and his demise appears imminent he
is hurriedly sent off to some other place, preferably a hospital, to
die. By a slice of luck he might cheat Death, in which event, upon his
recovery, he is bundled off to another prison. But he seldom, if ever,
comes back to Sennelager! During my period of incarceration only one
man, B----, who was sent to Paderborn hospital to die as the Germans
thought, but who recovered, returned to Sennelager. When a man was
hastened out of the camp in this manner we never knew his fate. It
became a by-word that few men went from Sennelager but none returned.
Consequently, whenever we saw a sick case leave the camp we surmised
that the poor wretch was making his final journey to the Great Beyond.
We assumed his speedy _death from natural causes_--as the German
authorities would relate--to be inevitable.



CHAPTER IX

THE PERSECUTION OF THE PRIESTS


Although we British prisoners, both civilian and military, constituted
the principal butt for the spleen of Major Bach, we never raised the
slightest audible complaint or protest, although inwardly and in the
seclusion of our barracks we chafed at the unrelenting tyranny to which
we were exposed and against which we were completely helpless. In strict
accordance with the instructions of the Commandant we were always the
last to receive attention. If we ever had to go to the hospital to
receive any treatment and were the first to arrive at its doors, we had
to kick our heels outside and possess ourselves in patience as best we
could until all the prisoners of other nationalities had seen the
surgeon. As a rule we had a lost journey. The surgeon in his haste to
get away either would notify us that our cases could not receive enquiry
until the morrow, or he would treat us in a perfunctory manner.

As at the hospital so at the cook-house at meal times. We were never
given our rations until all the others had been satisfied. The
consequence was that we generally went short of food. The first to be
treated received liberal quantities of the cabbage soup. What was left
had to be eked out amongst us.

"The damned English swine can wait!" This was the dictum of those in
authority and the underlings were only too eager to fulfil it to the
letter. If there were the slightest opportunity to deprive us of our
food, on the flimsy pretext that we had not answered the summons with
sufficient alacrity, it was eagerly grasped. Under these conditions we
had to go supperless to bed, unless we could procure something at the
canteen or our more fortunate comrades came to our assistance by sharing
with us the comestibles they had purchased.

Some ten days after the appearance of Major Bach a new target for his
savagery and venom appeared. This was a party of Belgian priests. I
shall never forget their entrance to the camp. We were performing
necessary daily duties outside our barracks when our attention was drawn
to an approaching party surrounded by an abnormally imposing force of
soldiers. Such a military display was decidedly unusual and we naturally
concluded that a prisoner of extreme significance, and possibly rank,
had been secured and was to be interned at Sennelager.

When the procession drew nearer and we saw that the prisoners were
priests our curiosity gave way to feelings of intense disgust. They were
twenty-two in number and were garbed just as they had been torn from
prayer by the ruthless soldiers. Some were venerable men bordering on
seventy. Subsequently I discovered that the youngest among them was
fifty-four years of age, but the average was between sixty and seventy.

The reverend fathers with clasped hands moved precisely as if they were
conducting some religious ceremonial among their flocks in their beloved
churches. But the pace was too funereal for the advocates of the
goose-step. They hustled the priests into quicker movement, not in the
rough manner usually practised with us, but by clubbing the unfortunate
religionists across the shoulders with the stocks of their rifles,
lowering their bayonets to them and giving vent to blood-freezing
curses, fierce oaths, coarse jeers, and rewarding the desperate
endeavours of the priests to fulfil the desires of their captors with
mocking laughter and ribaldry.

The brutal manner in which they were driven into the camp as if they
were sheep going to the slaughter, made our blood boil. More than one of
us clenched our fists and made a half-movement forward as if to
interfere. But we could do nothing and so had to control our furious
indignation.

However, the moment the priests entered Sennelager we received a
respite. Officers and guards turned their savagery and spite from us to
visit it upon these unhappy victims by night and by day and at every
trick and turn. Clubbing with the rifle was the most popular means of
compelling them to obey this, or to do that. More than once I have seen
one of the aged religionists fall to the ground beneath a rifle blow
which struck him across the back. No indignity conceivable, besides a
great many indescribable, was spared those venerable men, and they bowed
to their revolting treatment with a meekness which seemed strangely out
of place.

After one more than usually ferocious manifestation of attack I
questioned our guard to ascertain the reason for this unprecedented
treatment and why the priests had been especially singled out for such
infamous ferocity.

"Ach!" he hissed with a violent expectoration, "They fired upon our
brave comrades in Belgium. They rang the bells of their churches to
summon the women to the windows to fire upon our brothers as they
passed. The dogs! We'll show them! We'll break them before we have
finished. They won't want to murder our brave troops again!"

The words were jerked out with such fearful fury that I refrained from
pursuing the subject. Later I had a chat with one of the oldest priests.
It was only with difficulty we could understand one another, but it was
easy to discover that the charges were absolutely unfounded, and were
merely the imagination of the distorted and savage Prussian mind when
slipped from the leash to loot, assault and kill for the first time in
his life.

A night or two later a few of us were purchasing food at the canteen.
Suddenly four soldiers came tumbling in, dragging with them one of the
most aged of the Fathers. He must have been on the verge of three-score
and ten, and with his long white beard he presented an impressive,
proud, and stately figure. But the inflamed Prussian has no respect for
age. The old man was bludgeoned against the counter and at his abortive
attempts to protect himself the soldiers jeered and laughed
boisterously.

One of the soldiers called for a suit of clothes which was served out to
prisoners, and for which we were supposed to pay six marks--six
shillings. The leader of the party of soldiers grabbed the suit and,
pushing the priest roughly, shouted,

"Here! You can't work in the fields with that garb you are wearing.
You've got to buy these. Six marks! Hurry up! You've got to put them
on!"

The priest, who did not understand a word of German, naturally failed to
grasp the meaning of the command. He promptly received a clout to knock
some sense into him, the soldier meanwhile shaking the prison-like suit
to emphasise what he meant.

In mute protest the priest shook his robes to indicate that he was quite
content with what he was wearing.

"Come on! If you don't change we'll do it for you!"

At this threat there was a wild outburst of demoniacal mirth, in which
the girl behind the counter, a brazen jade, joined uproariously as if in
anticipation of some unusual amusement. She reached over the counter,
craning her neck to secure a better view of an unexpected spectacle.

As the Reverend Father did not respond to the command, the guard
gathered round him. Before we could realise what was happening, his
crucifix and rosary had been roughly torn off, and with his watch and
chain had been thrown upon a table standing alongside. His robe was
roughly whisked away in the twinkling of an eye. But the prisoner did
not move or raise a hand in protest, even when he was bared to his
under-clothing in front of fräulein, who signalled her appreciation of
the sight by wildly clapping her hands, laughing merrily, and giving
expression to ribald jokes.

The proud manner in which the victim surveyed his tormentors only
exasperated them still further. By the threat of the bayonet he was
compelled to stand up in front of these degenerate members of the human
race and the girl behind the counter, whose laughter could now be heard
ringing above the frantic shrieks of the soldiers.

We, who were unwilling witnesses of this revolting spectacle, were
grinding our teeth in ill-suppressed rage. Never during my sojourn in
Sennelager, even when submitted to the greatest torment, have I seen the
British prisoners roused to such a pitch of fury. As a rule we
effectively maintained a quiet, if not indifferent, and tractable
attitude, but this was more than flesh and blood could stand.

But the priest never relaxed his proud composure and self-possession. He
looked so penetratingly at the laughing jade that I think it must have
penetrated into her very soul. Her wild mirth ended abruptly in a
strange semi-hysterical shriek as her eyes met his look of intense
scorn. She winced and was effectively cowed into silence.

I may say that the floor of the canteen was of concrete, but upon this
was a layer of mud, slime, grease, and other filth brought in from
outside upon the boots of those who frequented the establishment. This
was now a noisome muddy carpet some two inches in thickness. The
Germans, one may happen to recollect, have ever paraded their love of
cleanliness before the world, but this floor was the lie direct to their
vain boastings.

At the sight of the old man standing there erect before them, the victim
of unparalleled humiliation, but his spirit as strong and as unyielding
as ever, the fury of the soldiers knew no bounds. One, giving vent to a
fearful curse, placed his hand on the table upon which the crucifix,
rosary, and watch were lying. He gave a swift, fiendish glance at the
priest towering above him, and with a vile oath swept the articles to
the floor, where they ploughed through the greasy revolting slime.

It was then that the badgered and baited Father broke down. As he
watched his beloved and revered crucifix and rosary suffering defilement
and serving as the rude sport for the iron heels of the uncivilised
Huns, the tears coursed down his face copiously. He gave a slight start
as he saw the articles flash through the air, but suppressed the cry of
horror which sprang inadvertently to his lips.

But the soldiers were not yet satisfied with the agony which they had
created in the Father's heart. One grabbed his rifle and lowering the
bayonet in a threatening manner ordered the priest to pick up his sacred
treasures. The priest stooped down to obey the instructions, but this
was not sufficient for his persecutors. He was driven to his knees and
forced to grope among the repulsive mud for his revered religious
tokens. With great difficulty he recovered them, battered, crushed, and
covered with the filthy accumulation upon the floor. As the Reverend
Father drew himself once more to his full height, clasping his treasures
desperately, he brought his hands together, and closing his eyes, we saw
his lips moving in prayer.

This was the last straw. Grating our teeth, our faces white with
passion, and our fingers itching to seize those barbarians round their
throats to choke their lives out of them, we nearly threw discretion to
the winds. Had one of us made a forward movement we should have sprung
upon them with the ferocity of bull-dogs. Those four soldiers never knew
how near they were to meeting their deserts upon that day. As it was we
merely scraped our feet in impotent rage. It was this fidgeting which
aroused their attention. They turned and must have read our innermost
intentions written in our faces, for they instantly grabbed their
rifles and rounded upon us. With a motion which could not be
misunderstood, and uttering fierce curses, they ordered us to get
outside. We refused to move, although confronted by ugly pointed
bayonets. It was a tense and critical moment. The soldiers undoubtedly
saw that we were now thoroughly roused, and, strange to say, they
appeared to lose their heads, for they stood stock still, apparently
frightened by our determined appearance.

One of our party, although as enraged as any of us, yet had maintained
more complete control over his feelings. He saw the utter uselessness of
our making a display of physical protest. With a quiet "Come on, boys!"
he stepped towards the door. It saved an ugly situation; the movement to
the door and the crisis had passed. Fiercely glaring at the soldiers,
with our jaws ominously set, and our fists clenched we retreated. Our
action revived the courage of the guards. They at once sprang forward to
jostle us out, prodding and attempting to club us right and left.

As we hurried through the open door we gave a final glance at the
priest. He had turned his head and was looking steadily at us, and if
ever conversation were carried out by looks there were volumes in his
gaze. His eyes told us how impotent we were in the hands of these brutes
who were brave because they had their loaded rifles. They told us of his
appreciation of our sympathy in his hour of humiliation and torment.
They extended us heartfelt thanks for our willingness to come to his
assistance, combined with a mute instruction not to lift a finger on his
behalf since the plight of one and all would become infinitely worse. We
passed into the street and the door was slammed upon us.

Once outside we allowed our feelings to have full rein. We point-blank
refused to go away and fell to discussing the situation somewhat
fiercely. Evidently the tones of our voices persuaded the soldiers
within that they had gone far enough, because shortly afterwards the
priest re-appeared, and under escort was hurried away to his quarters.

When we next saw him we endeavoured by diplomatic questions to ascertain
the reason why he had been subjected to such torture and indignity. To
him the greatest humiliation was that his torment had occurred before a
woman. But otherwise he refused to refer to the episode. His retort, in
a placid, resigned voice, was, "I only trust that God will have mercy
upon them!"

The priests were denied all opportunity to move about the camp. There
were scores of co-religionists among us, but they were stedfastly
refused the comfort which the Fathers could have given them. The priests
were not permitted to minister to the spiritual welfare of their flocks.
As a matter of fact, by the strict instruction of Major Bach, no
religious services of any description were permitted in the camp, at
least not while I was under his sway.

To the members of the Roman Catholic persuasion the brow-beating,
badgering, baiting and buffeting of the helpless priests acted as a red
rag to a bull. But what could they do? Protest was merely so much wasted
energy. Communication with anyone outside the camp was absolutely
impossible. To have reviled Major Bach for his cruelty and carefully
planned barbarity would only have brought down upon us further and more
terrible punishment of such ferocity as would have made everyone long
for the respite of the grave.

But the priests could not be broken, no matter to what physical and
mental suffering they were subjected. Even Major Bach discovered to his
chagrin that his devilish ingenuity had encountered an insuperable
obstacle. To wreak his revenge he now compelled the Fathers to carry out
all the dirtiest and most revolting work in the camp--duties so
repulsive as to be beyond description. But the good men never murmured.
They did exactly as they were bidden, and even the guards at last
appeared to realise the fact that their fertility in torment was of no
avail in attempting to infuriate their meek charges.

Major Bach, however, was by no means cast down at his failures. One
morning he ordered the twenty-two priests to be paraded. They were then
loaded up with a variety of cumbersome and heavy implements--spades,
picks, shovels, and such like. Each load would have taxed the strength
of a young man in the pink of condition and strength to carry, and yet
here were old men, ranging between sixty and seventy years, compelled to
shoulder such burdens. But they did it.

An order was rapped out, the guard wheeled, and the tiny party moved
off. We discovered afterwards that they were marched three miles along
the sandy road in the blazing sun to a point where they were roughly
bidden to dig a huge pit.

Throughout the morning, and without a moment's respite, they were forced
to ply their tools, their task-masters standing over them and smartly
prodding and threatening them with their rifles if they showed signs of
falling from fatigue, or if they failed to maintain the expected rate of
progress. To such old men, who probably had never lifted the smallest
and lightest tool for many years, if ever, it was a back-breaking task.
However, they clung dutifully to their work until the hour of twelve
rang out.

Now they were re-marshalled, their tools were re-shouldered, and they
were marched back to camp for the mid-day meal. By the time they reached
the barracks all the other prisoners had consumed the whole of the
available soup. There was nothing for the priests. It was explained that
they should have hurried so as to have arrived at an earlier moment.
Then they would have received their due proportion. Meals could not be
kept waiting for dawdlers, was the brutal explanation of the
authorities. The priests must be made to realise the circumstance that
they were not staying at an hotel. This, by the way, was a favourite
joke among our wardens.

The priests bore visible signs of their six miles' tramp through
crumbling scorching sand and under a pitiless sun, as well as of their
laborious toil excavating the large pit. But their distressed appearance
did not arouse the slightest feeling of pity among their tormentors.
Being too late for the meal they were re-lined up, and under a changed
guard were marched back again to the scene of their morning's labour.

Naturally, upon reaching the pit, they concluded that they would have to
continue the excavation. But to their intense astonishment the officer
in charge ordered them to throw all the excavated soil back again into
the hole! This was one of the most glaring examples of performing a
useless task, merely to satisfy feelings of savagery and revenge, that I
encountered in Sennelager, although it was typical of Major Bach and his
methods. He took a strange delight in devising such senseless labours.
Doubtless the authorities anticipated that the priests would make some
demur at being compelled to undo the work which they had done previously
with so much effort and pain. But if this was the thought governing the
whole incident the officials were doomed to suffer bitter
disappointment. The priests, whatever they may have thought, silently
accepted the inevitable, and displayed as much diligence in filling the
pit as they had shown a few hours before in digging it.

Still the afternoon's shovelling caused them greater physical hardship
than the plying of the pick in the morning. They had been denied a
mid-day meal, and their age-enfeebled physique proved barely equal to
the toil. A basin of black acorn coffee and a small fragment of hard
brown bread cannot by any manner of means be construed into strong
sustenance for such a full day's work. During the afternoon one or two
were on the verge of collapse from hunger and fatigue. But their
indomitable spirit kept them up and the pit was duly filled.

By the time the labour had been completed the evening was advancing. For
the fourth time that day they shouldered their burden of tools and set
out on the three miles tramp to camp.

We saw them come in and our hearts went out in pity to them. They
tottered rather than walked, their heads bowed as if in prayer, and
their crosses of tools sinking them nearer to the ground. Seeing that
they had walked twelve miles and had put in some eight hours gruelling
work it was a marvel that the older members of the party had not fallen
by the wayside. Yet, although footsore, weary, worn, and hungry they
retained their characteristic composure. In silence they discussed their
frugal evening meal of lukewarm black acorn coffee and black bread. Some
of us, out of sheer sympathy, secured some "brötchen" for them, but they
accepted our expressions of fellow-feeling very sparingly, although with
extreme thankfulness.

They refused to say a word about their sufferings or the agonies they
had experienced during their labour and long walk. I got the story from
one of the guards who had accompanied them. But even these thick-skinned
disciples of "kultur" and brutality were not disposed to be
communicative. The stoicism, grim determination and placidity of the
Reverend Fathers constituted something which their square heads and
addled brains failed to understand. They had never experienced the like.

While Major Bach never repeated the senseless pit-digging and refilling
programme for the priests, his invention was by no means exhausted.
Direct incentive to rebellion proving completely abortive he now
resorted to indirect pettifogging and pin-pricking tactics, harassing
the unfortunate priests at every turn, depriving them of food or
something else, reducing their rations, giving them the most repulsive
work he could discover, and so forth. But it was all to no purpose.
Those twenty-two priests beat him at every turn. For Major Bach to try
to break their proud spirit was like asking a baby to bend a bar of
steel!

What ultimately became of these prisoners I cannot say. In fact, I do
not think there is any one who can definitely relate their fate. Other
prisoners now commenced to arrive in increasing numbers and the
breaking-in of these crowds to the tyranny and brutal existence of
Sennelager Camp appeared to demand the complete attention of the
authorities. Certainly the new arrivals provided Major Bach with all the
entertainment he desired.

Some say that the priests were distributed among other camps; others
that one or two succumbed to the persistent ill-treatment meted out to
them; and still more that they are yet at Sennelager. No one can say
precisely. Only one fact remains. For a time they occupied the sole
attention of every one in the camp because they constituted the most
prominent target for the fiendish devilry of Major Bach. Then they
suddenly appeared to slip into oblivion. The probability is that they
were swallowed up among the hundreds of French, British, Russians,
Poles, Serbians, and various other races who were now pouring in. Being
somewhat retiring in their nature the probability is that the priests
were overlooked and forgotten in that troublous maelstrom of outraged
humanity known far and wide as Sennelager Camp.



CHAPTER X

TYING PRISONERS TO THE STAKE--THE FAVOURITE PUNISHMENT


Until the coming of Major Bach at Sennelager confinement to cells
constituted the general punishment for misdemeanours, the sentence
varying according to the gravity of the offence. But mere solitary
confinement in a hole in which perpetual twilight prevailed during the
day did not coincide with Major Bach's principles of ruling with a rod
of iron. It was too humane; even the most savage sentence of "cells" did
not inflict any physical pain upon the luckless prisoner.

Major Bach was a past-master in the grim art of conceiving new and novel
methods to worry and punish those who were so unfortunate as to be under
his thumb. He was devilishly ingenious and fertile in the evolution of
ways and means to make us feel our position as acutely as possible. I
really think that he must have lain awake for hours at night thinking
out new schemes for inflicting punishment upon us, or else must have
been possessed of an excellent and comprehensive encyclopædic dictionary
dealing with the uncanny and fiendish atrocities devised by the Chinese.
I do not doubt for a moment that, if he dared, he would have introduced
some of the most ferocious tortures which for centuries have been
characteristic of the Land of the Dragon. We were absolutely helpless
and completely in his hands. He knew this full well and consequently,
being a despot, he wielded autocratic power according to his peculiar
lights as only a full-blooded Prussian can.

One evening the French military prisoners were being marched into camp
at the conclusion of the day's work. Among them was a Zouave.
Half-starved from an insufficiency of food he could scarcely drag one
foot before the other. At last he dropped out from sheer fatigue. The
guard struck him with the butt end of his rifle and roughly ordered him
to get up and keep step and pace with his comrades. The Zouave pleaded
that he really could not walk another step because he felt so weak and
ill. The guard thereupon pulled the wretched prisoner to his feet and
gave him a heavy blow across his back.

This unwarranted action stung the Zouave to frenzy. Clenching his teeth
he sprung towards his tormentor with his fist raised in the air. But
second thoughts prevailing he refrained from delivering the blow which
he had premeditated. The menace, however, did not fail to exercise its
effect upon the bullying guard who instantly became an arrant coward.
The Zouave's action was so unexpected that the soldier was taken
completely by surprise. He commenced to yell as if he had been actually
struck, and his vociferous curses, reaching the ears of his comrades,
brought speedy assistance. They rushed up, secured the Zouave, who was
glaring fiercely at his tormentor, pinioned his arms behind him, and
then marched him off to the Commanding Officer with all the speed they
could command.

The grave charge of insubordination and attempting to strike the guard
was proffered. Major Bach listened closely and when he had heard the
story, which needless to say was somewhat freely embroidered, curtly
sentenced the Zouave to "four hours at the post!" This was the first
occasion upon which we had heard of this punishment and naturally we
were somewhat agog with curiosity to discover the character of this
latest means of dealing out correction.

Escorted by four guards with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets, the
unhappy Zouave was led to a post just outside our barrack. One of the
soldiers stood on either side of the prisoner ready to run him through
should he make an attempt to escape or to resist. The other two guards,
discarding their rifles, uncoiled a length of rope which they were
carrying.

The prisoner's hands were forced behind his back and his wrists were
tied tightly together, the rope being drawn so taut as to cut deeply
into the flesh and to cause the unhappy wretch to shriek. He was now
backed against the post round which the rope was passed. His ankles were
then tied as tightly as his wrists and also strapped to the post, which
action drew another yell of pain from the victim. Finally another length
of the rope was passed round the upper part of his body, lashing him
firmly to the support to prevent him falling forward.

Trussed and tied the unhappy prisoner was left to undergo his four
hours' sentence of this ordeal. The soldiers returned to their quarters,
but as a preliminary precaution, as we were undeniably showing signs of
resentment against such torturing treatment, we were bustled into our
barracks. But we could not rest or sleep. The hapless man at the stake
was being racked and torn with pain. His shrieks, moans, and groans,
echoing and re-echoing through the still hours of the summer evening,
sounded so weird, uncanny, and nerve-racking as to make our blood run
cold. At each outburst we shivered and strove hard, though vainly, to
shut out the terrible sounds from our ears.

After the Zouave had been strung up for some time I decided to creep out
and up to him to ascertain from direct close observation the effects of
this treatment upon the victim. Stealing out of the barracks, thereby
running the risk of encountering a bullet from the sentry's rifle, I
stealthily made my way to the post. By the time I gained the spot the
weak wretch was in a fearful plight. The ropes had been drawn so tightly
round his wrists and ankles as to cause the circulation of the blood
through the hands and feet to cease, while the flesh immediately above
the knots was swelling up in a fearful manner. All sense of feeling in
the hands and feet having gone, the man was hanging limply, instead of
standing against the post. He writhed and twisted in frenzied efforts to
secure some relief while in this uncomfortable position, but each
movement only caused further pain and the unintentional utterance of
piercing shrieks. Upon the exhaustion of this spasm the upper part of
his body dropped forward slightly so that his head fell down upon his
chest.

For a few seconds he would stand or rather hang, perfectly still and
quiet. Then as he made another attempt to secure a change of position
shafts of pain would shoot through him, causing him to shriek again for
a few seconds in the most agonising manner, which made me start and
shiver. While his shrieks were terrifying it was the long-drawn out wail
and moan in which they ended which were more unnerving. They sounded
like the agonised howls of an animal caught in a trap and suffering
untold torment.

But each successive outburst grew weaker. The body dropped more and more
forward until it could fall no farther owing to the retaining rope. His
head dropped lower and lower upon his chest, which had the effect of
interfering with respiration. The man would throw his head wildly about
in frantic efforts to breathe, but to little purpose. His face commenced
to assume a ghastly bluish colour; his distended eyes almost started
from his head; while his mouth, now wide open, allowed his tongue to
loll and roll in a manner vividly reminiscent of a maniac restrained in
a strait jacket. The struggles and cries grew fainter until at last his
head gave a final jerk to hang limply to one side. He shrieked no more.
Insensibility had come to his relief.

During this period the guard never ventured to come to look at him. His
piercing shrieks, howls, and long-drawn out moans told them that he was
feeling the pinch of his confinement to the post. But when these cries
of agony ceased two of the guards came up. Seen to be unconscious, he
was immediately released to fall like a log to the ground. Buckets of
water were hurriedly fetched and the contents were dashed over the prone
figure until consciousness returned. When he had somewhat recovered,
although still inert and groaning piteously, he was propped up against
the post and re-tied into position.

Every time the man relapsed into insensibility he was released to
undergo drastic reviving by the aid of buckets of water, and directly he
came to he was again strapped up. The sentence was "four hours," and it
was fulfilled strictly to the letter, but only the actual periods of
being tied to the post were taken into consideration. It did not matter
whether the man fainted three or thirty times during his sentence. It
was only the instalments of time against the post which in the aggregate
were taken to represent the full term of the punishment.

As may be supposed, owing to the recurring periods of insensibility, the
duration of the sentence became prolonged. In about two hours after
being strung up for the first time the initial spasm of unconsciousness
would occur, although the intervention of insensibility obviously varied
according to the strength and physical endurance of the prisoner. But
after the first revival, and owing to the man being deprived of the
opportunity to regain his normal condition, the lapses into
unconsciousness occurred at steadily decreasing intervals of time until
at last the man was absolutely unable to battle against his torment and
Nature for more than a very short period.

The first demonstration of this punishment did not fail to exercise a
far-reaching influence upon the other prisoners. Major Bach was beside
himself with delight. Even he, steeped although he was in brutality, was
evidently somewhat surprised by the effectiveness of this penalty, and
he laughed loud and long at the shrieks and misery of the unhappy
Zouave. Henceforth committal to the cells was no longer to constitute a
punishment at Sennelager. Tying to the stake was the most complete means
of subjugating and cowing the prisoners.

As might be expected, one and all of us dreaded such a sentence, and we
were exceedingly diligent and painstaking in our efforts to keep in the
good graces of the Commanding Officer. The dread of being sentenced to a
spell at the post, and submission to the untold agony which it
precipitated, broke us in to all intents and purposes to a degree which
must have exceeded even Major Bach's most sanguine expectations. But now
we were faced with another and far more formidable danger. Most of the
guards enjoyed as enthusiastically as their lord and master the agony of
a luckless wretch who was condemned to this punishment. To them it
afforded amusement of the most exhilarating character. But the
prisoners, now thoroughly intimidated, took every precaution to deny the
guards an opportunity for which they were so much on the alert.
Consequently, being deprived of the chance to have any of us strung up
on legitimate grounds, they commenced to harass and exasperate us in the
hope of provoking some action which would bring us before the Commanding
Officer to receive a sentence to the stake. Then, being completely
foiled in this nefarious practice they did not hesitate to have us
arraigned upon the most flimsy charges. As the prisoner was denied all
opportunity to rebut any charge preferred against him, and as his word
was never accepted before the studiously prepared complaint of the
guard, who was always careful to secure corroborative evidence, the
chances of escaping the sentence were extremely slender.

The second victim of this brutal treatment was a Russian Pole, and no
man ever deserved it less. The Pole was entering his barrack and the
Russian orderly who had just washed and cleaned the floor, upbraided his
compatriot for entering the building with muddy boots. There was a
breezy altercation between the two men for a few minutes, but they were
separated on perfectly friendly terms by one of the soldiers. The
incident was closed and dismissed from the thoughts of one and all. At
least so thought all those who had witnessed it.

But one of the soldiers who had been a spectator saw the opportunity for
which he had long been searching. He hurried to the non-commissioned
officer in charge of the guard to report, exaggeratedly, that two
Russian prisoners had been fighting. The non-commissioned officer, one
of the most brutal and despicable Prussians in the camp, seized his
rifle and hurried to the Russian barrack. Here the two suppositious
delinquents were pointed out. He went up to the Pole, and grabbing him
by the shoulder, roared:

"You've been fighting!"

The Pole protested that he had not been fighting with anyone. He had
forgotten all about the spirited argument with the orderly. Certainly
the altercation was no more serious than thousands of other such
outbreaks which were incidental to the camp. Incidents of this character
occurred every few minutes in every barrack, which was not surprising
seeing that we were all keyed to a high pitch of fretfulness while
tempers were hasty.

"Don't lie to me," shouted the non-commissioned officer, who was
decidedly infuriated by the Pole's complacent attitude. "I say you've
been fighting!"

Again the Pole meekly explained that no such encounter had taken place.
At this protest the officer grabbed the inoffensive prisoner and marched
him off to the office of the Commandant. While hurrying along the main
road through the camp the Prussian, for no reason whatever, raised his
rifle by the muzzle, swung it over his head and brought the stock down
with fearful force upon the Pole's back. The man himself fell like an ox
before the poleaxe, but the rifle flew into two pieces. Seeing that a
rifle is exceedingly strongly made and of hard wood, the fact that it
snapped in twain testifies abundantly to the force of the blow.

The attack was witnessed, not only by several of us, but also by two or
three officers as well. The latter expostulated with the
non-commissioned officer upon his action. As for ourselves our gorge
rose at this savage onslaught, and we hurried to the Commandant with the
object of being first to narrate the incident. He listened to our story
of the outrage but refused to be convinced. We persisted and mentioned
that the officers had been present and could support our statements. But
the latter, naturally perhaps, declined to confirm our story. They
denied having seen the blow struck. Still, we were so emphatic and
persevering that Major Bach, in order to settle the matter, sent for the
non-commissioned officer to whom he referred the accusation we had made.

This worthy listened with a smile lurking round his mouth. When Major
Bach had completed his statement, the non-commissioned officer, with a
mocking laugh, denied the charge, and presented his rifle for Major
Bach's inspection. _The rifle was perfectly sound!_ At the production of
this rebutting evidence Major Bach gave us a queer look, insisted that
we had trumped up the charge, and refused to listen to us any further.
So we were compelled to go away crestfallen and yet amazed as to how the
guilty officer had surmounted his difficulty.

Subsequently we discovered that the non-commissioned officer, thoroughly
alarmed at his rifle snapping in twain, not knowing how he would be able
to explain the circumstance of his weapon being broken, and having heard
that we had hastened to the Commandant to lodge our complaint, darted
into the guard-room, concealed the conclusive evidence of his guilt, and
appropriated the sound rifle of a comrade. This was the weapon he had
produced before Major Bach so triumphantly. We never heard how the
non-commissioned officer ultimately explained away his broken rifle upon
parade when the trick was certain to be discovered, but bearing in mind
the iron method which prevails in the German army he must have been hard
put to it to have advanced a plausible excuse when arraigned. Doubtless
there was considerable trouble over the episode but we never heard
anything more about it, although we would have dearly loved to have been
acquainted with the sequel.

Foiled in our attempt to secure redress for an outraged prisoner we
considered the episode closed. But it was not. Directly we had left the
office Major Bach sent for the Pole who had been attacked. He related
his story which was naturally a confirmation of our charge. But he was
set down as an unprincipled liar, and one of whom an example must be
made. Forthwith he was condemned to four hours at the post on the charge
of fighting and endeavouring to impugn the probity of the German guard,
who can do no wrong.

The misery endured by this poor wretch is indescribable. In this
instance, in order to secure enhanced effect, according to the lights of
Major Bach, the prisoner was forced to stand on tip-toe against the
post, while the upper rope was passed around his neck. This rope was
left somewhat loose, and as nearly as I can describe, was looped in the
form of a double knot. Being on tip-toe the hapless wretch was speedily
transferred, by his toes giving way, to a hanging position. His head
fell forward, as he gradually lapsed into unconsciousness, until it
pressed against the restraining slip-knot. The consequence was that he
suffered the agonies of slow strangulation in addition to the searing of
his hands and ankles, while the weight of his body dragged his neck more
tightly than otherwise would have been the case, against the upper rope.
His face presented a terrifying sight, being quite blue, from his
inability to breathe, except with the greatest difficulty. His mouth was
wide open and his tongue, which protruded, was exceedingly swollen. His
eyes were half out of their sockets. But he had to serve the sentence of
four hours, and although he became unconscious time after time and had
to be released, water always brought him to his senses to undergo a
further spell upon the fiendish rack until the sentence had been well
and truly served.

On one occasion a poor wretch condemned to this torture, after having
become unconscious, was taken down, revived, and incarcerated for the
night in the guard-room. The next morning he was marched out again and
re-tied up to complete his sentence.

Major Bach, as if suddenly inspired, conceived a fiendish means of
accentuating the agony of a prisoner condemned to this punishment. The
man would be tied to the post about the middle of the morning. The
summer sun beat fiercely upon the post and the man's hat was removed.
Consequently, as the poor wretch's head dropped forward on his chest,
its crown became exposed to the fierce heat of the sun. Thus to the pain
of the torture inflicted by the tightly tied ropes, and the strangling
sensation produced by the throat pressing against the restraining rope,
was added the racking torment of intolerable heat playing upon a
sensitive part of the human body. The astonishing wonder is that none of
the unhappy wretches suffered sun-stroke or went crazy while bound up in
this manner, because the sun's heat intensely aggravated the agonies of
thirst. But the sun-bath consummated Major Bach's greatest ambition. It
caused the victim to writhe and twist more frantically, which in turn
forced him to shriek and howl more vociferously and continuously.

When a prisoner was in the height of his torment the eminent Commandant
would stroll up, and from a couple of paces away would stand, legs wide
apart and hands clasped behind his back, surveying the results of his
devilry with the greatest self-satisfaction. As the prisoner groaned and
moaned he would fling coarse joke, badinage, and gibe at the helpless
wretch, and when the latter struggled and writhed in order to seek some
relief, though in vain, he would laugh uproariously, urge the unhappy
man to kick more energetically, and then shriek with delight as his
advice was apparently taken to heart only to accentuate the torture.

Sunday was the day of days which the tyrant preferred for meting out
this punishment. In the first place it was a day of rest, and so a
prisoner's time and labour were not lost. Even if he were strung up to
the post all day he could be turned out to work on the Monday morning as
usual. But the governing reason for the selection of this day was
because it offered such a novel entertainment for the gaping German
crowds. The public, as already mentioned, were invited to the camp on
Sunday mornings to see the prisoners. Young girls and raw recruits
considered a trip to Sennelager on the chance of seeing a writhing,
tortured prisoner as one of the delights of the times, and a sight which
should not be missed on any account.

They clustered on the path on the opposite side of the road facing the
stake, laughing and joking among themselves. The recruits, who openly
manifested their intense amusement, cheered frantically when the trussed
wretch gave an abnormally wild and ear-piercing shriek of pain. At his
moans, groans, and desperate abortive attempts to release himself, the
girls would laugh as gaily as if witnessing the antics of a clown at a
circus, and were quite unrestrained in their jubilant applause. This was
the feature of the punishment which grated upon the nerves of the
prisoners who were unable to lift a finger or voice a word in protest.
That a fellow-prisoner should be condemned to suffer such hellish
torture as was inflicted was bad enough, but that it should offer a
side-show to exuberant Sunday German holiday crowds we considered to be
the height of our humiliation and a crown to our sufferings.

I shall never forget one prisoner. He was one of our loyal dusky
Colonials from the Gold Coast, who had been so unfortunate as to fall
into German hands and to be consigned to imprisonment at Sennelager. He
was a massive and imposing specimen of his race. He fell foul of
authority and incurred Major Bach's displeasure to such a degree as to
receive a sentence of eight hours bound to a tree. He was tied up, and
his pleadings for mercy, prompted by madness produced by the
excruciating pain and semi-consciousness, alternated with loud outbreaks
of long-drawn-out, blood-freezing groans, frenzied shrieks, and
nerve-racking wails.

As the torture increased with the passing of the hours he gave
expression to one solitary cry--"For God's sake shoot me!" The wail,
uttered with parrot-like repetition and in a tone which bored into the
soul, stirred the prisoners within earshot in a strange manner. They
clapped their hands over their ears to shut out the awful sound, and
shut their eyes to prevent the revolting spectacle burning into their
brains. The man's face was livid: terror such as it is impossible to
describe was in his face; the unrelenting clutch of the rope wearing
into his throat caused the veins of his neck to stand out like ropes;
while streams of perspiration poured down his face. As he became weaker
and weaker and the rope ground deeper and deeper into his throat his
fights for breath became maniacal in their fury. Indeed, the revolting
sight so moved some of the prisoners that the tears welled to their
eyes, and it was only by digging their teeth into their lips that they
refrained from succumbing to their emotion.

Subsequently, whenever I mentioned a word about the tying-post or tree,
this Colonial would look round, with the unfathomable fear of a hunted
animal, his nerves would jump and twitch, and the saliva would form like
foam around his mouth. He remarked that he was willing to face any
punishment. But the tying post! An hour in the bonds of those ropes! He
shuddered and entreatingly prayed that if ever again he should be
threatened with this punishment one of the guards would shoot him, or
run him through with the bayonet. I really believe that, if this penalty
had been pronounced on this man a second time, he would have done
something so desperate as would have compelled summary and drastic
retaliation by force of arms.

Major Bach was methodical in his sentences to the tying-post. He drew up
a regular code and the offender was always given a sentence in
accordance with this schedule. The slightest offence brought a sentence
of two hours. Then in stages of two hours it rose to the maximum of
eight hours. I heard that one man had been tied up for twelve hours, but
as I did not actually witness the case I cannot vouch for its
particulars. The instances I have mentioned came before my notice and
can be corroborated by anyone who had the misfortune to be incarcerated
at Sennelager after the coming of Major Bach. But knowing as I do Major
Bach and his inhuman and ferocious ways, I am quite ready to believe
that he did sentence a man to twelve hours at the post. Certainly he
would never have hesitated for a moment to exact such a penalty if he
had felt so disposed.

After a time the single post failed to satisfy the implacable
Commandant. Trees were requisitioned for the punishment, and I have seen
as many as three men undergoing the sentence simultaneously. Their
combined shrieks and agonised cries penetrated to every corner of the
camp. One could not escape them. On one occasion when Major Bach was
standing as usual before one of his victims, laughing and jeering at his
futile writhings and agonised appeals for mercy, a number of British
prisoners who were standing around in mute sympathy for the hapless
comrade could not control their feelings. Suddenly they gave expression
to fierce hissing of disapproval. Major Bach turned, but not with the
mocking triumph that one would have expected. His face wore the look of
the characteristic bully who is suddenly confronted with one who is more
than his match. He was taken completely off his guard, so unexpected and
vigorous was our outburst. But when he saw that he was merely threatened
by a few unarmed and helpless Britishers his _sang froid_ returned,
although it was with a palpable effort. He glared at us. There was no
disguising or possibility of misconstruing the expressions of loathsome
disgust and rage upon our faces. One and all wondered afterwards why he
did not sentence every man of us to a spell at the post. Possibly
anticipating that things might become ugly unless he manifested some
semblance of authority, he assumed an anger which we could easily see
was far from being real, and ordered us to barracks. We moved away
slowly and sullenly, but the guard coming up we were unceremoniously
hurried into our domiciles, although it demanded energetic rifle
proddings and clubbings from the soldiers who swarmed around us in
overwhelming numbers, to enforce the order.

This punishment was by no means confined to the civilian prisoners. It
was meted out whenever the opportunity arose to the British soldiers
with equal impartiality. But for some reason which we could never
fathom, unless it was to cause further pain, torture and humiliation,
mentally as well as physically, the revolting task of tying up an
unfortunate Tommy was entrusted to one of his own sergeants. He had to
perform the repugnant work against his will, but the sergeants eased the
poor fellow's plight as much as they dared by tying them up as leniently
as possible, while they maintained an ever-watchful, although
unostentatious vigilance, over them while suffering the penalty.

By the introduction of this fiendish punishment Major Bach completely
subdued the camp into a colony of crushed men. We all went in dire dread
of him, the fear of being the victim of such brutality cowing us far
more effectively than any other punishment we had encountered. Those
who had undergone the torture recited such harrowing stories of their
sufferings that we were extremely anxious not to incur the wrath of the
devilish Commandant in any way whatever.

One day three of us experienced a narrow escape, which serves to
illustrate how keen were our captors to submit us to this crucial test.
We three had been ordered to the field. We packed our few belongings,
including our tin pails and other indispensable utensils upon our backs.
We were marching abreast and a few paces behind a young German officer,
chatting merrily among ourselves, when we met a French soldier
approaching. He was unusually gay and as he passed he yelled out the
popular enquiry which he had evidently acquired while fraternising with
our Tommies in the camp.

"Air ve do'n harted?" he hailed, and he laughed gaily at the loads with
which we were struggling. To this we returned an emphatic negative to
which one of the party, S----, a schoolmaster who was fluent in French
and German, added a joke. Evidently the Frenchman saw the point of the
jest because he burst out in a fit of unrestrained merriment which was
so infectious as to compel us to participate.

The officer who was ahead of us, whipped round and vehemently declared
that we were laughing at him. S---- protested and explained that such
would be the very last thing we should ever think of doing. The officer
went on ahead quite unconvinced and in high dudgeon. That we should
select one of the myrmidons of the All-Highest as a target for our
banter was the offence of offences in his estimable conceit. When we
reached the entrance to the field we had to pass a small office in which
we were registered and we discovered the immature upstart loudly and
excitedly dwelling upon the enormous indignity to which he had been
submitted by us.

The officer in charge stopped us and repeated the accusation which had
been made. S---- gave a full explanation of the whole incident, but the
upstart who considered that his pride had been vilely outraged would
not listen to it. Then and there he ordered that we should be tied up to
the trees for four hours to give us something to laugh about. I can
assure you that we trembled in our shoes: our fate hung in the balance.
The officer-in-charge of the field, however, was more level-headed and
broader-minded, although he could not calm his excited colleague. At
last he point blank refused to mete out the desired punishment. He
turned to us.

"I accept your explanation. I don't think you would be guilty of such an
offence to German honour and dignity!"

We were more profuse than ever in our humble apologies to the young
cock-of-the-walk for any offence we might have committed unwittingly but
we assured him that our mirth had been entirely provoked by the gay
French soldier's joke.

"I believe you," was the officer's reply, "but be very careful. Don't do
it again. As you see it is likely to be misunderstood!"

With that he dismissed us. We scurried off like startled rabbits,
thankful for our narrow escape, but our last glimpse of the affair was
the two officers who had resumed wrangling. It was an extremely
fortunate circumstance for us that the officer-in-charge of the field
was one of the few reasonable Germans attached to the camp.

The wretches who had to suffer this punishment carried traces of their
experiences for weeks. I examined the wrists and ankles of the Russian
Pole some hours after his final release. The limbs were highly inflamed,
the flesh being puffed out on either side of the deep blue indents which
had been cut by the tightened ropes. The slightest movement of the
affected limbs produced a sharp spasm of pain and it was only with the
greatest difficulty that the poor wretch was able to use his hands and
feet for some hours after removal from the post. In the case of the
Russian Pole many weeks elapsed before all traces of the terrible weals
inflicted by the ropes had disappeared.

When we grasped the depths to which Prussian brutality was ready and
willing to descend, we could not refrain from dwelling upon probable
future tortures which were likely to be in store for us. We were
positive in our own minds that Major Bach would seek other novel and
more revolting and agonising methods to wreak his vengeance upon the
British. We were not left for very long in this maddening uncertainty.
Tying-to-the-stake was but a mild prelude to the "Reign of Terror" which
the ferocious Commandant shortly afterwards inaugurated.



CHAPTER XI

THE REIGN OF TERROR


Major Bach, in common with the average Prussian officer, who has
suddenly become invested with a certain degree of authority, evinced a
weird delight in emphasising his power at every opportunity. He was an
unbending apostle of steel-bound discipline, such as is practised in
Germany.

Until his arrival we were in the habit of parading once a day--at 6
a.m.--with evening parades, twelve hours later, upon occasion. But Major
Bach introduced the third mid-day parade. A little later he suddenly
thought that a fourth parade was necessary, the respective hours being
six, twelve, two, and six. Even this programme did not satisfy his love
of power and arrogance, because at frequent intervals he would suddenly
summon two additional parades and for no ostensible reason, except to
harass us.

Parade was probably the most irksome duty we had to fulfil inasmuch as
we were then treated to insults of every description. The Commandant was
a martinet of the worst type. We were supposed to trim ourselves up and
to look as spick and span as we could under the circumstances. This was
more particularly demanded when a notable visitor--visitors were few and
far between--came to the camp to perform a perfunctory inspection to
satisfy the authorities in Berlin that the prisoners of war were being
well and kindly tended. But some of us were not disposed to bow meekly
to the tyrant's despotic orders. Instead of parading upon such occasions
in the white convict-like suits, which by the way we were supposed and
indeed asked to purchase, so that we might present a smart uniform
appearance, we preferred to don our own clothes, although they were now
showing sad signs of wear and tear. Naturally the immaculate Major
resented our refusal to fulfil his bidding, thus producing vivid
blemishes upon the prim appearance of the lines, but we always succeeded
in producing an excuse which was so ostensibly reasonable as to escape
his wrath and consignment to some punishment.

The most irritating feature of these parades was the length of time we
were kept waiting in the scorching sun upon the convenience of his
"Excellency." To him it was nothing that we should be kept standing at
attention for an hour or more, while the guards, steeped in discipline
as they were, took a fiendish pleasure in keeping us up to the mark. I
recall one parade very vividly. The heat was intense: the thermometer
must have been at least 110 degrees in the sun. We paraded at two
o'clock as usual and were brought to attention. Major Bach was
momentarily expected, but he did not come upon the scene until 4.45. For
2¾ hours we were kept in the broiling sun, and none of us being in the
pink of condition owing to the wretched and inadequate food, we soon
commenced to betray signs of fatigue. On this occasion, even the German
guards could not adhere to the disciplinary rule. When we abandoned the
rigid attention attitude for others more or less comfortable they
followed our example, although they maintained a discreet alertness for
the coming of the Commandant so that we might be brought to attention
before he appeared upon the scene.

One of the prisoners had been a Japanese trapezist and juggler. He was
very old. He said, and we agreed, he was about 75 years of age. But the
German authorities arbitrarily assessed his age at 54 years, and such it
had to be so long as it suited their purpose. He had toured the
vaudeville theatres and music halls in Germany for over 20 years, but he
was rounded up, and despite all his protestations concerning his age
was interned at Sennelager.

The age of the poor old fellow was perfectly obvious. He was very weak,
and indeed, quite incapable of performing the most simple duties set by
our Lord and Master. K----, the captain of our barrack--the Jap formed
one of our party--recognising the old man's incapacity and infirmities,
eased his unfortunate position as much as he dared. One man had to be
detached from each party when it went out to work, to serve as orderly
for the day, and his responsibility was to keep the barrack clean and
tidy during our absence. At every available opportunity, especially when
confronted with a severe day's work, K---- told off the old man as
orderly, the light work pertaining to which was within his capacity.

Upon the day of this particular parade the old man, enfeebled with age,
weak from want of food, and debilitated, could not resist the merciless
blazing sun. From sheer fatigue he sank to the ground. We in our pity
left him there, although we closed around him to shield him from the
eagle eyes of the vigilant guard. When Major Bach appeared suddenly we
all sprang hurriedly to attention. But our aged Japanese friend was not
so quick. The Commandant saw him sitting on the ground at the same
moment as the guard, also catching sight of him, rushed forward. The old
fellow was unmercifully hustled to his feet, although it was with only
an extreme effort that he could rise. Then he was treated to an outburst
of bullying and cursing from the Commandant such as we had never heard
before. He was threatened with this, that, and some other frightful
punishment if he dared to disobey any order in future. The old man, his
legs bent and quaking beneath him, listened with a pathetically helpless
demeanour. The tears coursed down his face as he shivered beneath the
string of oaths, curses, and imprecations that were rained upon him.
Many of us feared that he would be condemned for four hours to the tying
post, so infuriated was the despot of the camp, but he escaped this
terrible ordeal.

About four weeks after we had entered Sennelager permission was extended
to those who felt so disposed to enjoy the luxury of an open-air bath.
Seeing that we never had the chance of more than a wash in the bucket at
the pump, and were in urgent need of a dip, we accepted the offer with
alacrity. We were escorted under strong guard to a stream some distance
from the barracks and were given a quarter of an hour for our pleasure.
We hurriedly tore off our clothes and took advantage of every minute to
have a roaring joyous time in the water. Thoroughly refreshed we were
marched back to camp and told off to our various duties.

By this time every man in the camp had been assigned to some particular
task. Major Bach did not encourage idleness; it only fomented brooding
and moping over our position, was his argument. But he was also a
staunch believer in forced labour, which was quite a different thing.
Consequently we found ourselves condemned to some of the most filthy
tasks conceivable. Incidentally, however, these duties only served to
reveal still more convincingly the hollowness of Germany's preachings
concerning the principles of health and hygiene to the whole world while
herself practising the diametrically opposite. We were commanded to
clean out the military hospital.

Now, if there is one building among others in which one would expect to
discover scrupulous cleanliness it is a hospital, but this accommodation
provided for the German recruits was in an indescribably filthy
condition. The conveniences for the patients were in a deplorable state.
They had neither been disinfected nor cleaned for months. Fæcal matter
and other filth had been left to dry, harden and adhere with the
tenacity of glue to the surfaces. Its removal not only taxed our
strength to the supreme degree, but our endurance as well. The stench
was suffocating and nauseating. Even the foul aroma of the strong cheap
German tobacco which we were able to purchase at the canteen and to
smoke while at this task, if our sentry were genial, failed to smother
the more powerful and penetrating foul vapours which arose directly
water was applied.

We were also assigned to the repugnant duty of cleaning out the
latrines, which were of the most primitive character, and which
coincided with the facilities which one might anticipate among savages
but not in such a boasting civilised country as Germany. Both these
duties were loathsome, but I am afraid no one engaged on the tasks would
be able to express a conclusive opinion as to which was the worse.

The duties being so varied, operations often took us a little way from
the camp. The chance to get away even for a brief period from our
depressing and monotonous surroundings was seized with avidity.
Unfortunately, we feared that this system of forced labour would
culminate in our being assigned to the work of tending the crops. But we
made up our minds irrevocably to do no such thing no matter how we might
be punished. The Germans had failed to nourish us in an adequate manner,
and we were certainly not going to enable them to secure a sufficiency
of food at our expense. Indeed, the one or two attempts which were made
to impress us to toil on the land, proved highly disastrous because
considerable damage was inflicted from our ignorance of agriculture and
gardening.

Some of us were given the garden which belonged to the old General who
had been in charge at Sennelager when we first arrived, to keep in
condition. This official was an enthusiastic amateur gardener and
cherished a great love for flowers. Seeing that during his régime we had
received considerate treatment within limitations, we cherished no
grudge against him. Again, the fact that his garden was to be kept going
led us to hope that the duration of Major Bach's reign over us was
merely temporary and that our former guardian would soon be returning.
We knew that in such an event our lot would be rendered far easier, so
we nursed his little plot of ground with every care and displayed just
as much interest in its welfare as if it had been our own. But the old
General never came back to Sennelager, at least not during my period of
imprisonment there.

There was one party of British prisoners whom Major Bach singled out for
especially harsh and brutal treatment. The invincible High Seas Fleet
upon one of its sporadic ventures into salt water during the very
earliest days of the war, stumbled across a fleet of Grimsby trawlers
unconcernedly pursuing their usual peaceful occupation. The whole of the
fishermen were made prisoners and were dispatched to Sennelager.

But Major Bach stedfastly refused to believe that they were simple
fishermen pursuing their ordinary tasks. To his narrow and distorted
mind a man on a trawler was only toiling in the sea for one or both of
two purposes. The one was laying mines; the other was mine-sweeping.
Consequently he decided to mark these unfortunate hardened sea-salts in
a distinguishing manner which was peculiarly his own, thereby rendering
them conspicuous and possible of instant recognition, while in the event
of an escape being attempted, no difficulty would be experienced in
identifying and catching the runaways. Each man was submitted to the
indignity of having one half of his head shaved clean, one half of his
moustache removed, or one half of his beard cut away. The men branded in
this manner presented a strange spectacle, and one which afforded Major
Bach endless amusement. In addition a flaming big "Z" was printed boldly
upon the back of the coat of each man. This letter comprises the initial
of the German word "zivil," and means that the wearer is neither a
criminal nor a military prisoner. It will be observed, however, that
the Commandant declined to recognise these fishermen as being naval
prisoners, which somewhat contradicted his assertion concerning their
alleged crime. At a subsequent date, I might mention, every civilian
prisoner was branded with the "Z" in a similar manner.

These fishermen were watched very closely, were hunted and harassed at
every turn without mercy, and all things considered, experienced an
abnormally hard time. Up to the day of my release from Ruhleben on
December 6, 1915, but one of those old salts had been released, and had
been returned to his country. We were informed at Sennelager that the
authorities were determined, at all hazards, to keep these "diabolical
fiends" as they were termed, in durance vile, until the termination of
the war. However, one of them fell seriously ill after his transference
from Sennelager to Ruhleben. His condition became so serious as to bring
about his hurried exchange, the authorities dreading that he would die
while in their charge, and thus adversely affect the low death-rate
reputation of a German prison camp!

Our hair was growing long, owing to the absence of cutting facilities.
Mine had almost reached my shoulders, but I was extremely careful to
submit it to a thorough wash every morning because I shared the fear of
many of my companions that, owing to the congestion of the camp, we
should be overrun with vermin. Undoubtedly Major Bach also anticipated
such a state of affairs, because one morning he appeared upon parade
with a pair of clippers which he had unearthed from somewhere and curtly
commanded every man to submit to a hair-cut.

The position of official barber to the camp was assigned to an
Englishman named L----, who I think might be accurately described as our
official humorist. Armed with this weapon, and although absolutely
ignorant of the new calling thrust upon him, delighted to secure some
change to the monotonous round of toil, L---- entered upon his work
with commendable zest. But he construed the duty into a form of
amusement, and played sorry tricks with the heads which came into his
hands. Some he shaved so clean as to present the appearance of a
billiard ball, but others he evidently considered to be worthy of French
poodle treatment. He took a humorous delight in executing some of the
most fantastic and weird designs it is possible to imagine, much to the
discomfort and chagrin of his unwilling clients. Still his quaint
expression of craftmanship and artistry contributed somewhat to the
restricted hilarity and mirth of the camp.

I, myself, sternly refused to entrust my head to L----'s hands. I
naturally thought that I should receive a smart punishment for thus
flying in the face of the autocratic order which had gone forth, but
strange to say I found Major Bach somewhat reasonable on this point.
This is about the only redeeming feature I can offer concerning Major
Bach's rule over us. I think, however, that he was somewhat more closely
observant than was generally supposed to be the case, because those of
us who escaped the hair-cutting precaution happened to be the very
prisoners who were unremitting in their efforts to preserve unassailable
personal cleanliness. No doubt L---- was disappointed to be deprived of
a few possible heads upon which to demonstrate his quaint skill, but we
succeeded in escaping from his clutches.

Although vermin did overrun the camps, not only of Sennelager, but of
other prisons of whose interiors I made the acquaintance, I can assert
truthfully that I was never troubled with the unsolicited company of
body lice, and only once or twice discovered one or two unwelcome
strangers in my hair. The coarse and harsh German soap effectively
rendered my hair untenantable. But some of the prisoners were
overwhelmed and presented terrifying spectacles. It was here that the
superiority of the Britisher in matters pertaining to personal hygiene
towered over all the varying races by which he was surrounded, not even
excepting the Germans. From our own experience and observation it was
only too palpable that the Teuton soldiers are quite as careless in this
connection as the less enlightened peoples of south-eastern Europe,
because they were as severely infested--if not more so--with vermin.

One of the jobs set to us was making hay in an adjoining field and for
the purpose of getting away from the camp for a few hours many of us
volunteered for this toil. The hay had to be laden upon huge waggons,
the load thus easily exceeding that incidental to British hay-making
operations, and this had to be hauled to Paderborn for storage in lofts.

Although I was on the sick list at the time I could not resist the
chance to secure a glimpse of new surroundings and a few strange faces.
It was on this occasion that I made my first, but abortive, attempt to
escape. The sentry was dozing in the hot afternoon sun, having found a
soft couch on a haycock. I slunk off towards the trees which surround
the camp. Presently I spotted a sentry. I passed him safely and still
keeping to the trees pushed forward, only to be surprised to discover
another sentry standing on watch with his loaded rifle. Him, too, I
eluded, and was congratulating myself upon my success when I was
disturbed by the clattering of approaching horses. I peered through the
trees and saw a squadron of cavalry trotting towards me. I slipped into
the undergrowth to throw myself prone under a sheltering bush. The
soldiers passed within twelve feet of me. I held my breath half-dreading
that perhaps one of the horses, scenting something unusual, might give a
warning. I kept to my cover until the soldiers had disappeared from
sight. Then I stole out to wander stealthily forward. But I speedily
discovered that the further I got away from the camp the greater the
number of cavalry I encountered. Moreover it was easy to see that
manoeuvres and training were proceeding upon an extensive scale.

I realised the hopelessness of attempting to break through such a
cordon, so with extreme regret I decided to make my way back to the
hayfield. But the return was more difficult than the outward journey. I
had to slip the guards, who seemed to be uncannily alert and who, if
they had caught the slightest glimpse of me, would have blazed away with
their rifles without first yelling a challenge. But I dodged them all
and regaining the field sauntered up towards my guard with perfect
composure. He had missed me and had been looking round to see if I were
at a remote part of the field. As I approached he eyed me quizzically
and subjected me to a searching cross-examination to discover where I
had been. But he secured no satisfaction, beyond the sly hint that he
had not noticed me for the simple reason that he had been stealing a
snooze. I know he did not believe the answers I vouchsafed, but I was on
safe ground. Had he hauled me before the Commandant for attempting to
escape he knew very well that I should have retorted with the
countercharge that he had been sleeping at his post, in which assertion
I should have been supported by my friends. I held the trump card and he
was wise enough to realise the fact. Consequently, beyond telling me to
get on with my work he never ventured another word, nor did his attitude
towards me change in any way.

Afterwards I congratulated myself upon having responded to second
thoughts to return to the camp. I learned that the chances of escaping
from Sennelager were most slender. Not only were we interned in the
centre of a big military centre, somewhat comparable to our Aldershot,
but special precautions had been observed to frustrate escape. Sentries
were thrown out at distances of a few hundred yards while the system of
overlapping these guardians was of the most elaborate character. Such a
gauntlet was far too precarious and tight to be run with any chances of
success. The hue and cry would have been raised, and have been
transmitted to the outer rings of sentries before one had covered a
fourth of the danger zone.

We had to bale the hay on the waggon and when a full load had been
stowed aboard it was hauled away to the lofts. But we had no horses or
traction engines to drag the vehicles; every available beast and machine
had been requisitioned for the army. Still this factor did not perturb
our captors. British muscle could be used as a substitute for animals
and engines. Accordingly, about 30 of the imprisoned British tourists
were harnessed up to tug the weighty and cumbersome load over the heavy
three miles of road, badgered and baited by the guards. When we slowed
down under the effort, which was pretty exhausting upon a basin of
cabbage soup, we were spurred into the normal pace by the imprecations
of the soldiers.

In addition to the men tugging at the shafts two had to ride on top of
the load to keep it in order. The road led through a long avenue, the
lower branches of the trees lining which swept the top of the hay. It
taxed all our ingenuity and agility to avoid a mishap. Indeed, my
companion was swept off and thrown into the road with considerable
violence, sustaining severe bruises. It was rather by luck than judgment
that I did not share his fate.

When we reached the outskirts of Paderborn the guards called a halt, in
order to secure refreshment. We were also permitted, within limits, to
purchase eatables from the shops, for which, needless to say, we had to
pay exorbitantly.

[*large gap] we were able to secure a highly appreciated relief to our
monotonous and insufficient fare.

While the guards were enjoying themselves my companion and I, perched on
the top of the load, became the target for the jokes and gibes of the
curious crowd which had collected round the vehicle. One fellow in the
crowd was particularly impertinent and offensive with the result that we
soon became riled. He came close to the side of the wagon to shout some
particularly insulting epithet. With a dexterous movement my friend and
I, who had been watching patiently, severed the band holding a bale and
as it flew apart we gave the bale a smart push. It toppled over the side
to fall upon the head of our tormentor with a crash, felling him to the
ground and burying him completely. The guard, whom it missed narrowly,
gave a savage curse, but the fall appeared to be so obviously accidental
that he never for a moment considered the incident to have been
premeditated. The bullying, raw-boned young Prussian was extricated with
great difficulty and somewhat battered. His mouth, eyes, nostrils and
ears were choked with the hayseeds and he spluttered, coughed and yelled
in a terrifying manner. But he who a minute before had been so ready
with gibes at our expense was now jeered at by his comrades, in which
our guards joined boisterously. We, on the top had to give way to mirth.
Although we were compelled to gather the hay, remake the bale, and
reload it upon the vehicle we were so satisfied with our complete
revenge as to perform the task with a light heart.

Whenever we visited Paderborn, or the village of Sennelager, we never
omitted to load ourselves up with whatever food we could purchase. Those
who did not accompany us invariably gave us the wherewithal to secure
victuals for them.

[*large gap]

At first the shop-keepers were not disposed to deal with us, no doubt
fearing that they would be charged with complicity in these
transactions. [*gap]

As our visits became more frequent all hesitation upon the part of the
tradesmen vanished, and they accepted our money without the slightest
demur. We speedily discovered that the most rabid anti-British and
wildly patriotic German shopkeeper always succumbs to business. When
patriotism is pitted against pounds, shillings and pence, patriotism can
go hang.

[*large gap]

One of Major Bach's most diabolical acts of savagery was the closing of
the canteens in the camp to prisoners. This was the last straw, because
now we were compelled to subsist upon the slender and disgusting fare
served from the official cook-house. This doubtless was the express
reason which influenced the Commandant in his action. But we were not
disposed to allow him to have things all his own way. He promulgated the
order but it had to be enforced by his myrmidons. We found that the
canteen was still available to the guards, so forthwith we resorted to
corruption to evade Major Bach's decree. The guards having us in their
mercy, bled us unmercifully, the most trivial articles being procurable
only at an extravagant price. I paid a shilling for a loaf which I could
always obtain before the closing order came into force for twopence!
Other articles were in proportion.

But closing the canteens drew the cordon round our stomachs immeasurably
tighter. It was not long before the fiendish decree betrayed its fruits.
Gaunt figures with pinched faces and staring wolfish eyes slunk about
the camp ready to seize anything in the form of food. Our physique fell
away, and those already reduced to weakness suffered still further
debilitation. Many failed to muster the strength necessary to fulfil the
tasks allotted to them. Gradual, systematic and deliberate starvation of
the prisoners was prosecuted in grim earnest.

Yet the British prisoners accepted the inevitable with a far more
cheerful resignation than the others. Undoubtedly it is a decided trait
of the British character never to be cast down when brought face to face
with disaster. Our boys were quite as resourceful as Major Bach,
although in the opposite direction--to keep ourselves alive. Whenever
any of us went out and came within reach of a field growing vegetable
crops we did not hesitate to raid it. Supplies of raw carrots, onions,
potatoes, turnips and any other roots in the edible line were smuggled
into the barracks. Late at night, after all lights had been extinguished
and we were supposed to be asleep, we were sitting up munching quietly
away at these spoils of war with as much gusto and enthusiasm as if
enjoying a _table d'hôte_ dinner in the luxury of a crack West End
hotel.

One day one of our party came in with a cucumber. Where or how he had
got it we never knew, and what is more we did not trouble to enquire.
The fact that we had come into possession of a dainty sufficed. We fell
upon it with a relish which it is impossible to describe. It was divided
among us in accordance with our accepted communal practice, and I do not
think any article which we secured in Sennelager was ever eaten with
such wholehearted enjoyment as that cucumber. But the incident was not
free from its touch of pathos. When we sat down to the cucumber we
carefully peeled it and threw the rind away. Two days later two others
and myself set out to recover that cucumber rind which had been
discarded, the pinch about the waist-belt having become insistent. We
found it, soiled and shrivelled, but we ate it ravenously.

Major Bach may have wondered why the British civil prisoners did not
reveal signs of semi-starvation so readily as those of other
nationalities. But we had long since discovered that it was useless to
go about the camp with long faces and the bearing of the "All-is-Lost
Brigade." We were almost entirely dependent upon our own ingenuity to
keep ourselves alive, and we succeeded. The methods adopted may be
criticised, but in accordance with the inexorable first law of Nature we
concluded that the end justified any means.



CHAPTER XII

THE REIGN OF TERROR--CONTINUED


While for the most part we had been compelled to labour upon sundry
duties, we were not hard pushed, being somewhat in the position of the
workmen toiling by the hour, except that our efforts went unrewarded in
a financial sense. But this system did not coincide with the ideas of
Major Bach.

He paraded us one morning and assuming his favourite attitude before us
treated us to a little homily. It was a characteristic tirade delivered
in the conventional Teuton gramophone manner. But it affected us
materially.

_Now we were to become slaves in very truth!_

The Commandant informed us point-blank that he was extremely
dissatisfied with our manner of working. We were too slow: we nursed our
tasks. Did we think we were being kept at Sennelager for the benefit of
our health or to make holiday? If so that was a fond delusion.
Henceforth he was going to estimate a certain time for each task which
would have to be completed within the period allowed, even if we had to
work every hour God gave us and, if need be, on Sundays as well.

Major Bach never minced matters: he meant every word he said. So upon
being dismissed we returned to our barracks looking decidedly glum.
Pressure was being applied at every turn now, and it was becoming a
pressure which could be felt.

We were soon notified as to the first task which we were to rush through
on "contract" time. A big fence was required to enclose a certain area
of the camp, and this was to be erected, together with the necessary
gates and other details within fourteen days. If we could complete it
within a shorter time no complaint would be raised. But he would not
allow another day beyond his limit. Major Bach must have been a
masterpiece in this particular phase of human endeavour, inasmuch as his
anticipated period, as we learned, could not have been reduced by a
single day.

The prisoners were divided into gangs, each of which was allotted to a
definite operation. Although the erection of this fence constituted the
hardest enterprise which we had ever taken in hand we did not flinch.
Somehow or other we considered that Major Bach had given expression to
an unwarrantable reflection upon our abilities. He practically
considered us to be no more nor less than slackers. Well! We would show
him what we could do, although prisoners, denied every possible comfort,
and half-starved into the bargain. Every man undertook to exert himself
to the utmost and to do his level best.

No facilities whatever were extended to us beyond the most primitive of
tools. One party was sent into the adjacent woods to fell suitable trees
to serve as posts, to trim them of branches, and to the required length
of 10 feet. Then they had to be carried by manual effort into the camp
where the butt was chamfered and charred in a wood fire as a protection
against too rapid decay.

While the posts were being prepared a second party was busily engaged in
digging the holes for them. Each hole had to be of a prescribed
diameter, by one metre--about 3 feet--in depth, and they were set a
certain distance apart. Tree-felling might have been, and undoubtedly
was, hard work to inexperienced hands, but hole digging! That was set
down as the unassailable limit. Driving the pick and shovel in the
rebellious ground was back-breaking in the hot sun and it had to be
maintained without pause or slackening.

When the post had been planted the wire-pulling gang came along. The
wire used for the purpose was galvanised netting such as is used to
enclose chicken runs, game preserves, and tennis grounds, reinforced by
one or two equidistantly spaced lines of ordinary wire. It had to be
stretched taut by hand and moving the heavy roll by manual effort and
uncoiling it as we advanced, demanded not only strength but dexterity.
At each post the wire was attached by the aid of a few staples.

Although we laboured zealously the task proved far more formidable than
we had anticipated. The fence was 7 feet in height, while I should think
that from 600 to 800 yards had to be run. The netting only enclosed
three sides of the desired space, the fourth side being fenced in by a
belt of trees. In order to get the work done on time and to avoid being
compelled to toil on Sundays, we had to labour long and hard. We started
shortly after six in the morning, but it was often about half-past six
in the evening before we knocked off for the day. We took a strange and
inexplicable pride in the enterprise. The fence was not built upon the
typical shoddy German lines, but strictly in accordance with substantial
British ideas. I may mention that we had good reason to regret this
display of zeal and excellent workmanship at a later date.

Seeing that the evening was well advanced before we ceased work we had
little time for relaxation. When we stowed our tools for the day we were
dog-tired and were hustled into barracks. It was work and sleep in
deadly earnest, but we were mighty glad we succeeded in avoiding the
threatened Sunday labour, because this was the only day we could devote
to our own duties such as mending and washing clothes.

While we were pushing ahead with this task we discussed its coming
purposes very animatedly. But none of the guards appeared to have the
slightest inkling of its projected application. However, this was
immaterial to us. A loud cheer of triumph went up when we had hung the
gates, which we had also fashioned at great effort, and the duty was
completed. We were beside ourselves with self-satisfaction and delight
because we had shown the implacable Major Bach what we Britishers could
do when we made up our minds to tackle anything. I very much doubt
whether even an equal number of skilled workmen would have completed the
fence within the stipulated time, and we for the most part were quite
foreign to the trades involved.

When we first entered the camp we were provided with a tolerably
satisfactory area of adjacent space in which to exercise ourselves. But
as additional prisoners came in this limb-stretching promenade became
gradually reduced until at last it was no more than a suburban chicken
run in area, being just as long as our barrack by one-half the space
between the two rows of buildings. These cramped quarters rather
exasperated us because we were denied the pleasure of a little stroll.
The exercise yard was also invariably obstructed by clothes hanging on
the lines to dry or to air, the result being that within a very short
time the British section of Sennelager Camp became vividly reminiscent
of a slum in the densely populated districts off the Mile End Road.

The speedy completion of the "big fence" unfortunately set a bad
precedent. Major Bach, flushed with the success of his first speeding-up
tactics, grew more and more inexorable in this connection. For every job
a rigid time-limit was now set, and he did not hesitate to reduce the
period to an almost impossible point. The cause was perfectly obvious.
He concluded that by setting us an absolutely impossible, though
apparently reasonable, enterprise, he would secure the opportunity for
which he was so sedulously waiting--to mete us out some new punishment.
But somehow or other we always contrived to cheat him in his nefarious
designs.

During this period our guard was changed frequently. Men would be
withdrawn to make up the losses incurred upon the battlefield. Thus we
were brought into contact with the various types of Germans which
constitute the Teutonic Empire. Some were certainly not ill-disposed
towards us. They mounted guard over us according to their own
interpretation of this essential duty. But others slavishly followed the
rigid instructions which were laid down, notably the Prussian guards,
who were about the most brutal and despicable blackguards it is possible
for the whole of Germany to have produced to mount watch and ward over
us. One set of guards was withdrawn to bring a Westphalian regiment to
fighting strength and proceeded to the front. Afterwards we learned that
every man had been lost--killed, wounded or missing.

The severe mauling which the German armies were receiving--we knew
nothing about it at the time--undoubtedly was partly responsible for the
harsh treatment extended to us. Unable to smash the "contemptible little
army," which was certainly proving capable of looking after itself,
vengeance was visited upon our defenceless heads.

One day a huge crowd of prisoners was brought in. Whether the Commandant
had been advised of their coming or not I am unable to say. But one
incontrovertible fact remains--he failed utterly to make any food
arrangements to meet the increase in the camp's population. The
prisoners reached the camp in the usual famishing condition and were
given a small ration. But they were satisfied partially at our expense.
The remaining food was only adequate to give us one-half of our usual
small dole, and we had to rest content therewith. The canteen being
closed we could not make up the deficiency even at our own expense.

My health was now giving way, as a result of my privations in Wesel
prison, accentuated by the indifferent and insufficient food and hard
work at Sennelager. I was assigned to various light duties. One of
these brought me into the cook-house, where I was ordered to cut up the
black bread--one brick loaf into five equal pieces, each of which had to
last a man through six meals. I was either unfitted for kitchen work or
else my presence was resented. At all events I soon realised that my
first day in the cook-house would undoubtedly be my last. I had to serve
out the bread, and ostensibly, either from lack of experience or
nervousness, I bungled my task. The men had to go by the boiler in
single file, passing on to the table to receive the bread, where serving
was carried out so dexterously that the moving line never paused--until
it got to my table. But there was method in my bungling. I was zealously
striving to double the bread ration to the British prisoners.
Consequently the pieces of bread persisted in tumbling to the ground,
thereby hindering and upsetting the steady progress and rhythm of
serving. But each man as he stooped to recover a fallen piece received a
second hunk surreptitiously, as was my direct intention. However,
unfortunately for me, the bread did not go far enough, the outcome being
an outburst of further trouble. As I had expected, my room was preferred
to my company in that kitchen and I was deposed.

While in Sennelager I had been sedulously keeping an elaborate diary in
which I entered details of every incident that befell the camp. I had
also recovered my original diary which had played such a prominent part
at my trial in Wesel prison.

[*gap]

Now diaries were the one thing in Sennelager which were rigorously
debarred. To have been caught with such a record of the doings and my
opinions of the German authorities would have brought me an exemplary
sentence of solitary confinement or penal servitude in a German prison,
if not something worse. Consequently I was compelled to post my diary in
secrecy. I discovered a hiding-place which would never have occurred to
the guards, even if they had gained an inkling that such a document was
in existence.

One of our party fell a victim to chronic asthma, and was isolated,
being given a room under the officer's quarters. Someone was required to
accompany him to extend assistance and constant surveillance, and
selection fell upon me. Locking myself in this room at night, with my
sick companion, I used to while away the time preparing some rough notes
which I was keeping for a specific purpose in addition to the diary
proper, which, however, I left in its original hiding-place.

By some means or other the guard suspected my engagement in some such
task. They made several surprise entrances but failed to catch me in the
act of writing. The heavy tread of their coming feet always gave me
ample warning so that I could get my notes into safe hiding. But one
night they burst open the door suddenly and I was caught red-handed. On
my knees was my pad at which I was writing feverishly. But the pad was
inscribed with notes which I regarded as of an emergency character.
Realising the object of their unexpected entry I clapped the pad on the
table, thus covering up the prepared and detailed notes which I desired
to keep. The guard sprang forward delirious with joy at having made a
capture, snatched the loose sheets from the pad, and went off in high
glee to report my heinous offence. But the man in his haste left the
proper notes on the table. He was too thick-brained to think for a
moment that I should ever trouble to prepare two diaries, one for myself
and one for capture if detected, so I still held the treasured original,
which I instantly hid away safely.

As luck would have it not a word was included in the captured notes to
offer written evidence of my private and candid opinion of my captors,
their methods and our life. The fact that I had written nothing
detrimental to the authorities apparently appeased the Commandant,
notwithstanding the enormity of my delinquency. At all events I received
nothing worse than a stern admonition and threats of severe punishment
if I were caught infringing the regulations again, to all of which I
listened humbly, but with my tongue in my cheek.

My diary was posted up fully in due course, and what is more to the
point I got the voluminous and incriminating evidence away from
Sennelager. At a later date I became somewhat apprehensive as to its
safety, and was anxious to get it to England. For some time I was
baffled in my efforts, but at last a friendly neutral offered to take it
and to see that it was delivered to my friend who has chronicled this
story, to whom I had addressed it. This diary wandered about Germany
considerably, the person in question preferring to make haste slowly to
disarm all suspicion. At last the neutral, after having been searched
several times without yielding anything incriminating, got as far as the
frontier. About to pass into the adjacent friendly country the carrier
was detained, and by some mischance the diary happened to be unearthed.

The neutral was arrested upon some trumped-up charge to afford the
authorities time to peruse the incriminating document. Cross-examined
the go-between protested ignorance of the contents: the parcel was found
just as it had been received from the consignor, the seals were all
intact, and it was under delivery to the person whose address was
written upon the outside. There was nothing attached to associate myself
with the document, although my friend at home would have known instantly
whence it had come. The upshot was that the diary was confiscated. I was
bitterly mortified to learn its fate when within a stone's throw of
safety, because it contained incidents of all descriptions set out in
regular sequence, and in a plain unvarnished manner. Its perusal must
have stung the Germans pretty severely since it was decidedly
unpalatable to Teuton pride. It was a comprehensive indictment of the
German treatment of the British prisoners, relative more particularly to
Sennelager, which the authorities were firmly determined should never
become known to the world at large, and to conceal which they used
unceasing efforts. Had that diary got home it would have created a
tremendous sensation. My vexation was completed by the thought that the
diary contained many episodes and incidents which I can now only recall
hazily, but I thanked my lucky stars that I had taken the precaution to
keep a précis of the contents which I myself brought away with me, and
which has proved of valuable assistance in setting forth this narrative.

A few days after having completed the famous "big fence" we were
paraded. Major Bach strode up, obviously in a terrible temper--it was
the six o'clock parade--and facing us, roared:

"You English dogs! Barracks are too comfortable for you! You should be
made to feed from the swine-tub! Bring all your luggage out--everything
you've got, and your sacks of straw! I'll give you ten minutes to do it.
Then you'll parade again! Hurry up!"

We were thunderstruck at this order. What was in the wind? Major Bach
was adept in springing surprises upon us, but this excelled anything to
which we had been treated hitherto.

Speculation was idle. We had only ten minutes to do as we were bidden,
and we bustled around to be on parade as demanded. The excitement was
intense. We collected every stick to which we could lay a claim, and
with all our worldly belongings, as well as our sack of straw, on our
shoulders, we trotted out and formed up.

As we paraded, the guards made a diligent search of the barracks to see
that we had left nothing behind. Also to make sure that no prisoner was
lurking in hiding.

We received the order to march. We tramped along under our bulky and
ungainly loads, and found we were being escorted to the enclosure which
we had fenced in. We swung through the gate, which was closed behind the
last man, and a soldier mounted guard over it. In a flash the truth
burst upon us.

_We were clapped into the barbed wire prison which we had built with so
much energy and in which we had taken such pride!_

The look of dismay which settled upon the faces of the more lugubrious
members of our party at this typical Teutonic illustration of adding
insult to injury was perfectly justifiable. Here were we turned into an
open field surrounded by netting, as if we were so many cattle, and in
which there were no tents or other buildings except a single small shed.
Some of us scurried to this little tumbledown shanty to stow our
belongings. We had to parade and were curtly commanded to empty the
straw from our sacks. We did so though our spirits dropped to zero at
this summary deprivation of our beds. We were told to keep the empty
sacks and to secure them against loss or theft, which injunction we did
not fail to take to heart.

Then we were left. No one appeared to know what to do with us. We were
informed that instructions would be given later. We kicked our heels
about in the broiling sun, sprawling here, and lolling there. The hours
passed but there was no further development. When noon came and we
received no summons for the mid-day meal we commenced to grow
apprehensive in spite of ourselves. Fortunately the weather was
glorious, although the hot sun, which we could not escape, proved
distressing.

As the time wore on we spurred our interpreters to exert themselves on
our behalf. They constituted our only means of mediating with our
superiors, and we urged them to go to the Commandant to enquire about
our rations.

The interpreters went off and succeeded in gaining an audience with
Major Bach, who was found in his office conferring with his juniors.
Directly he espied our interpreters he yelled testily:

"Dolmetscher! Dolmetscher! I cannot attend to any Dolmetscher now!"

"But," persisted one of the interpreters, "how about the food for--"

"Don't come worrying me now," was the savage interruption. "Get out!"

Our intermediaries came back and their doleful faces told us more
eloquently than words that their interview had proved barren.

Some of the prisoners were giving way. A basin of acorn coffee and a
small piece of black bread was all we had eaten for breakfast, and we
were commencing to feel the pangs of hunger disconcertingly.

In an adjacent field were some British Tommies from Mons. Some of us,
tiring of sprawling about on the grass, and with a queer pain gnawing at
our stomach, strolled off towards them to secure some distraction and
smother the call of "little Mary." The soldiers were hugely delighted to
see us and we were soon engrossed in a spirited conversation.

Suddenly our fraternising was observed by some officers who came
hurrying up in high dudgeon.

"Here! None of that," they bawled. "Military and civilians must not talk
together!" saying which they bundled the soldiers away and evidently
reported our offence. At least our guards came up shortly afterwards,
marshalled us, and led us through a small wood into a low-lying field.
It was apparently another fiendish inspiration of Major Bach to confine
us here, because the field was nothing but a swamp. It was not so
soddened as to allow the feet to sink ankle deep into the mire, but was
like a wet sponge. It was impossible to sit down or one would have got
wet through.

We were left standing in this uninviting quagmire for four solid hours.
The interpreters were pestered unmercifully to secure us something to
eat and to drink, but they were as helpless as ourselves. They were
well-nigh distracted at the ugly turn which things were taking. Matters
were certainly becoming alarming among the weaker prisoners, who were
now in a pitiable condition.

It was not until five o'clock in the afternoon that the authorities
suddenly remembered us. Then we were lined up to secure some food. But
we passed three hours in that queue only to receive a small dole of
filthy looking thin cabbage soup. This was all that had passed our lips
since the wretched black coffee served fifteen hours before!

Yet we were thankful for such a meagre mouthful. We were all so famished
that we took no heed of the noisomeness of the ration. Now we began to
grow anxious as to the arrangements for enabling us to pass the night.
Our interpreters had been questioning one or two of the younger officers
who were mounting guard over us in this field.

"Oh! That'll be all right," was the retort. "We're going to put you into
tents!"

"But where are the tents?" persisted the interpreters, looking around
wonderingly.

"Oh," was the evasive reply, "they have commenced to put them up. But we
find we shall not get all the tents for a few days. They haven't come in
yet! You'll be a bit crowded at first but it'll soon be straightened
out."

Again our faces fell. We had been turned out of our barracks before our
tents had been procured. This was a dismal look-out, but we hoped that,
as the officers said they were putting up tents, we should be able to
squeeze under cover, if in discomfort.

We were lined up again in the twilight to receive marching orders. We
were escorted into the field, which is set upon the side of a hill, and
as we swung into this space we could not suppress an exclamation. The
field was alive with men. All the other prisoners had been evicted from
their barracks, and had been turned into this open enclosure. The
hill-side was black, with a sullen, heaving, listless mass of humanity,
numbering over 1,500 all told, and of every conceivable enemy (to
Germany) nationality. We scanned the field for a glimpse of the tents,
but the only signs of canvas we could see was one large marquee which
was lying on the ground ready for erection upon the brow of the hill.

We stood wondering how we were going to spend the night when orders were
bawled out that we were to sleep in the open! This intimation was
received with a wailing and groaning which sounded ominous to me. But
the guard, which had been strongly reinforced, was in overwhelming array
so that all discontent and protest counted for naught. A bewildering
string of orders was yelled, the substance of which was that we were to
shake ourselves down upon the grass in long regular rows, with a narrow
passage between each two. I think this was the first occasion upon which
I had ever seen so many prisoners give way, since in the majority of
cases the men were devoid of any means of making themselves comfortable
for the night in the open air. Some of us, including myself, had taken
the precaution to bring our blankets with us: indeed, we considered the
blanket such an inestimable boon and companion that we never parted with
it even for a moment. We rolled ourselves in these, and although the
grumblings and growlings which rose and fell over the field recalled the
angry murmuring of the sea and were disturbing, I was so exhausted that
I soon fell sound asleep.

So far as I was personally concerned I was not particularly sorry that
Major Bach, in his devilish intention to exasperate us, had conceived
the idea of compelling us to sleep in the open. The weather was
intensely hot and the night became insufferably sultry. It must have
been about midnight when I awoke for the first time. For the moment I
could not collect my thoughts and sat up somewhat surprised at the
unusual brilliancy of the light playing upon my face, which was in
striking contrast to the dismal blackness of the barracks. Then I
realised that we were in the open and that a glorious full moon was
shining upon us from a cloudless sky.

I got on my feet and looked around. It was a strange, albeit
extraordinarily impressive sight. Guards were patrolling the lines,
their bayonets flashing sharply as they caught the glittering silvery
light of the moon. My guard came along and ordered me to lie down, but I
refused, and, in fact, walked along between the rows of prostrate forms.
The air was uncannily still, broken only by the twitterings of night
birds, the hooting of the owls, the subdued clanging of rifles, the
footsteps of the guards, and the groans of many of the sleepers who were
twisting and turning upon the ground. The hill-side was crowded with the
restless forms; they seemed so thick and densely packed as to cover
every inch of space.

As I surveyed the scene the loneliness and helplessness of our position
did not strike me. All was so quiet and apparently peaceful. Now and
again a sleeper would stir, mutter something in his sleep about his poor
wife and children at home, and would sit up to ascertain what light was
playing upon his face, would turn to the moon and then completely
satisfied would lie down and relapse into slumber. As I observed the
heavy dew which had dressed the grass and sleeping forms with beads
which sparkled like diamonds I could not repress a feeling of thanks
that the weather was kind to us. Supposing it had rained! I shuddered at
the thought.

At 4.30 we were all roused, lined up, and ordered to prepare to receive
our breakfast. We formed queues as instructed but we had to wait
patiently until eight o'clock before we received our rations--the acorn
coffee looking more sickly and watery than ever. Only a few basins were
available so we had to drink successively out of the self-same vessel,
as rapidly as we could swallow the liquid upon the spot. We closed our
eyes to the fact that a hundred or more people of all nationalities,
from Frenchmen to Poles, German recruits to Slavs, had drunk a few
moments previously from these basins which were not even rinsed after
use. The thought was revolting, but it was either drink with a blind
trust in the Fates or go without.

During that day the erection of the single marquee was hastened. It was
the only tent available, and there were sufficient of us on the field to
have packed it to suffocation ten times over! We were compelled to go
without our mid-day meal, but this did not disconcert us very
pronouncedly. Our peace of mind was being racked by another impending
aggravation of our predicament. Dark heavy clouds were gathering in the
sky. Was the weather which had been merciful to us during the previous
night now going to break?

When the marquee was completed a few trusses of straw were thrown in and
distributed thinly over the ground. Then ensued a wild stampede to
secure a place beneath the canvas, a rabble of several hundreds fighting
frantically among themselves to seek a couch in the absurdly inadequate
temporary canvas dwelling. The men stowed themselves in so tightly in
close serried rows that when lying down they were unable to turn over.
Once a position had been seized the tenant never dared to leave it for
an instant for fear it would be seized by some one else. The guards
demanded and succeeded in maintaining for a time a narrow gangway
between the rows, but the crush became so terrible that even this space
was soon occupied and the soldiers were prevented from moving within the
tent.

The marquee was packed to suffocation, and the fact that the greater
part of the seething mass of humanity was filthy dirty and thickly
infested with lice and other vermin from causes over which they had no
control caused the atmosphere within to become so hot and foetid as to
make one's stomach jump into one's throat.

One glance at the packed marquee sufficed to make up my mind for me.
Come what might it would never see me within its walls. Were a light
carelessly dropped among the loose straw a fearful holocaust must ensue.
Few if any could have got out alive. This thought haunted me so
persistently that I moved as far away from the tent as I could.

We received no further rations that day until the evening, when another
small dole of watery greasy coffee was handed round as in the morning.
But we never glanced at this noisome liquid. The terror which we had
been dreading so fearfully had burst upon us. It was raining hard! At
first only a gentle refreshing shower, it developed into a torrential
downpour, and gave every indication of lasting for an indefinite period.
Consider the situation--approximately two thousand human beings stranded
upon a bleak exposed field, absolutely devoid of any shelter, except the
solitary paltry marquee. Little wonder that our faces blanched at the
prospect before us. How should we be able to sleep? What horrors would
the dawn reveal? God only knew.



CHAPTER XIII

"THE BLOODY NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 11"


By ten o'clock in the evening the rain was falling in sheets and the
water coursing down the slope to collect in the depression speedily
formed a shallow lake at the bottom end of "the field." No one can form
the slightest impression of the wretchedness of those who were exposed
to the full fury of the elements through the ferocious and brutal
inhumanity of Major Bach. The little food which had been served out to
us so sparingly failed to keep our bodies warm, let alone fortify us
against the visitation by which we were now being overwhelmed.

The wind increased in fury until at last it was blowing with the force
of a gale. The trees creaked and bent beneath its onslaughts, and those
who had ventured to seek the slight protection afforded by the
overhanging branches, trembled with fear lest the trees should be torn
up by the roots or heavy limbs be wrenched free and tossed among them.

Those who had secured the shelter offered by the solitary marquee and
who, notwithstanding the irrespirable and filthy atmosphere, considered
possible suffocation and the danger of fire to be preferable to the
drenching rain, were confronted with a new and far more terrifying
menace.

The wind catching the broad surface which the tent offered commenced to
flap whatever loose ends of the canvas it could pick up, with a wild,
nerve racking noise. The whole marquee swung and reeled to and fro, the
sport of the boisterous gusts. The main poles creaked as they bent
beneath the enormous strains to which they were being put. The guy
ropes, now thoroughly saturated and having contracted, groaned fiercely
as if about to snap. Hurried efforts were made to slacken the ropes
slightly, but the wind, driving rain, and inky blackness of the night,
as well as the swollen hemp, hindered this task very effectively. Indeed
the tension upon some of the stakes became so acute that they either
snapped or else were uprooted.

As the supports gave way the ungainly marquee commenced to totter and
rock far more threateningly. The wind driving into the interior flapped
the roof madly. The herded humanity within feared that the whole of the
canvas above them would be blown off to be carried away by the gale. The
inmates who had fought so desperately among themselves for the shelter
it offered were now crouching and shivering with fear. Some highly
strung individual raised a cry of danger. The next instant there was a
wild panic which lasted a considerable time. There was a wicked combined
rush to get outside, the men fighting among themselves fiercely.

Outside, upon "the field," bedlam was let loose. The seething mass of
humanity was now soaked to the skin. The men walked up and down, their
teeth chattering madly, in a desperate effort to keep warm. Indeed it
was necessary for many of them to persist in unwilling exercise since
this was the only way to keep alive: to stop was to sink down from sheer
fatigue. In the darkness I had discovered and kept company with a South
African, Moresby White.[5] But it was almost impossible to converse,
since we had to shout with all the force of our lungs to make our voices
heard above the roar and rattle of the wind and rain. We were compelled
to tread warily, because in the Cimmerian darkness it was impossible to
distinguish the groaning forms crouching upon the ground.

    [Footnote 5: This gentleman has since been released and at the
    time of writing is recuperating in Great Britain.]

[Illustration: "THE BLOODY NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 11, 1914."

_From a rough sketch made on "the field," by the author during the
night._]

We linked our arms tightly together to form mutual support and
persistently plodded hither and thither. The spectacle was terrifying
and tested the nerves of the strongest among us. If ever humanity were
cast adrift and left to its own devices, it was that night upon "the
field." Some of the prisoners were rushing to and fro frantic with fear.
Others huddled together as if to keep one another warm. Some were on
their knees praying fervently, while other parties were singing hymns in
voices which made the strongest-hearted among us blench. Here and there
were men stamping furiously up and down cursing at the top of their
voices, hurling fierce imprecations to the wind and consigning the
Commandant, his superiors, and all their works to everlasting torment.
Some of the most exhausted prisoners had congregated together and
crouched with their heads bowed to the storm, shivering with cold,
afraid to speak, hungry and terror-stricken, yet completely resigned to
the fate which they felt convinced must be theirs and absolutely
inevitable. A few, whose nerves were highly strung, were striding up and
down laughing demoniacally, waving their arms madly, and gesticulating
as if their senses had indeed given way. A few of the rougher spirits
were blaspheming, and to such a tune that even the most hardened among
us were forced to turn our backs to escape their blood-curdling oaths.

As midnight approached the wind and rain increased in fury. Even the
guard failed to stand against it. The sentries were drenched from head
to foot. The conditions became so bad that an order was suddenly
circulated to the effect that the guard was to be changed every two
hours, instead of at four-hour intervals. The sentries were quite
powerless to assist us even if they had been disposed to come to our aid
to mitigate our wretched condition in any way. One guard, his compassion
evidently aroused by a scene such as he had never witnessed before,
secured some thin stakes and thrust them through the wire netting to
form a support to a large blanket. With this he thought that perhaps a
little shelter might be obtained. We crowded beneath this precarious
protection, but the first blast of the gale which swept the field after
its improvisation, whisked the blanket and the stakes into the air. They
were never seen again.

About twelve o'clock I was on the verge of collapse. My friend supported
me, but even he was faint from lack of food and exposure. We decided to
roll our soddened bodies in our saturated blankets, to lie down on the
ground and to strive to woo sleep. We stretched ourselves on the flat,
but the wind and rain beat unmercifully upon us. Although we were
dead-beat the angel of sleep refused to come to us. As a matter of fact,
when we stretched ourselves in the mud we did not care two straws
whether we ever saw the light of day again or not.

After lying about two hours upon the ground I put out my hand to
discover that we were lying in two inches of water. But not only this.
The floodwater, in its mad rush to escape to the depression at the lower
end of the field, had carved a course through the spot where we were
lying. The result was that the rushing water was running down our necks,
coursing over our bodies beneath our clothes, and rushing wildly from
the bottoms of our trousers. We were acting unconsciously as conduits,
but we did not serve in this capacity any longer than we could help.

We regained our feet, our clothes now so water-logged as to bear us down
with their weight. We tramped laboriously to the top of the field and as
the wind bore down upon us it carried upon its bosom a mad madrigal of
hymns, prayers, curses, blasphemy, and raucous shouting. Groups of men
were now lying about thickly, some half-drowned from immersion in the
pools, while others were groaning and moaning in a blood-freezing
manner. Small hand-baggage and parcels, the sole belongings of many a
prisoner, were drifting hither and thither, the sport of rushing water
and wind. At the lower end of the field the water had sprawled farther
and farther over the depression, and therein we could descry men lying
in huddled heaps too weak to rise to their feet.

It was a picture of misery and wretchedness such as it would be
impossible to parallel. I recalled the unhappy scenes I had witnessed
around the railway terminus at Berlin under similar conditions, but that
was paradise to the field at Sennelager Camp on the fateful night of
September 11. It appeared as if the Almighty Himself had turned upon us
at last, and was resolved to blot us from the face of the earth. We were
transformed into a condition bordering on frigidity from rain-soaked
clothes clinging to bodies reduced to a state of low vitality and empty
stomachs. Had we been in good health I doubt whether the storm and
exposure would have wreaked such havoc among us.

While my friend and I were standing on a knoll pondering upon the utter
helplessness and misery around us, singing and whistling were borne to
us upon the wind. We listened to catch fragments of a comic song between
the gusts. There was no mistaking those voices. We picked our way slowly
to beneath the trees whence the voices proceeded, glad to meet some
company which could be merry and bright, even if the mood had to be
assumed with a desperate effort.

Beneath the trees we found a small party of our indomitable compatriots.
They received us with cheery banter and joke and an emphatic assurance
that "it is all right in the summer time." They were quite as wretched
and as near exhaustion as anybody upon the field, but they were firmly
determined not to show it. A comic song had been started as a
distraction, the refrain being bawled for all it was worth as if in
defiance of the storm. This was what had struck our ears.

This panacea being pronounced effective a comprehensive programme was
rendered. Every popular song that occurred to the mind was turned on and
yelled with wild lustiness. Those who did not know the words either
whistled the air or improvised an impossible ditty. Whenever there was a
pause to recall some new song, the interval was occupied with "Rule,
Britannia!" This was a prime favourite, and repetition did not stale its
forceful rendition, especial stress being laid upon the words, "Britons
never, never, never shall be slaves!" to which was roared the eternal
enquiry, "Are we down-hearted?" The welkin-smashing negative, crashing
through the night, and not entirely free from embroidery, offered a
conclusive answer.

It takes a great deal to destroy a Britisher's spirits, but this
terrible night almost supplied the crucial test. We were not only
combating Prussian atrocity but Nature's ferocity as well, and the two
forces now appeared to be in alliance. The men sang, as they confessed,
because it constituted a kind of employment at least to the mind,
enabled them to forget their misery somewhat, and proved an excellent
antidote to the gnawing pain in the vicinity of the waist-belt. Once a
singer started up the strains of "Little Mary," but this was unanimously
vetoed as coming too near home. Then from absence of a better
inspiration, we commenced to roar "Home, Sweet Home," which I think
struck just as responsive a chord, but the sentiment of which made a
universal appeal.

But hymns were resolutely barred. Those boisterous and irrepressible
Tapleys absolutely declined to profane their faith on such a night as
this. It was either a comic song or nothing. To have sung hymns with the
swinish brutal guards lounging around would have conveyed an erroneous
impression. They would have chuckled at the thought that at last we had
been thoroughly broken in and in our resignation had turned Latter Day
Saints or Revivalists. These boys were neither Saints, Revivalists nor
Sinners, but merely victims of Prussian brutality in its blackest form
and grimly determined not to give in under any circumstances whatever.

When at last a suggestion was made that a move would be advantageous,
one shouted "Come on, boys!" Linking arms so as to form a solid human
wall, but in truth to hold one another up, we marched across the field,
singing "Soldiers of the King," or some other appropriate martial song
to keep our spirits at a high level, while we stamped some warmth into
our jaded bodies, exercised our stiffening muscles, and demonstrated to
our captors that we were by no means "knocked to the wide" as they
fondly imagined. Now and again a frantic cheer would ring through the
night, or a yell of wild glee burst out as one of the party went
floundering through a huge pool to land prostrate in the mud. When it is
remembered that some of us had not tasted a bite of food for forty-eight
hours, and had drunk nothing but thin and watery acorn coffee, it is
possible to gain some measure of the indomitable spirit which was shown
upon this desperate occasion. The attitude and persiflage under such
depressing conditions did not fail to impress our guards. They looked on
with mouths open and scratched their heads in perplexity. Afterwards
they admitted that nothing had impressed them so powerfully as the
behaviour of the British prisoners that night and conceded that we were
truly "wonderful," to which one of the boys retorted that it was not
wonderful at all but "merely natural and could not be helped."
Personally I think singing was the most effective medium for passing the
time which we could have hit on. It drowned the volleys of oaths,
curses, wails, groans, sobbings, and piteous appeals which rose to
Heaven from all around us. If we had kept dumb our minds must have been
depressingly affected if not unhinged by what we could see and hear.

Thus we spent the remaining hours of that terrible night until with the
break of day the rain ceased. Then we took a walk round to inspect the
wreckage of humanity brought about by Major Bach's atrocious action in
turning us out upon an open field, void of shelter, and without food,
upon a night when even the most brutal man would willingly have braved a
storm to succour a stranded or lost dog. As the daylight increased our
gorge rose. The ground was littered with still and exhausted forms, too
weak to do aught but groan, and absolutely unable to extricate
themselves from the pools, mud, and slush in which they were lying. Some
were rocking themselves laboriously to and fro singing and whining, but
thankful that day had broken. One man had gone clean mad and was
stamping up and down, his long hair waving wildly, hatless and coatless,
bringing down the most blood-freezing demoniacal curses upon the
authorities and upbraiding the Almighty for having cast us adrift that
night.

The sanitary arrangements upon this field were of the most barbarous
character, comprising merely deep wide open ditches which had been
excavated by ourselves. Those of us who had not been broken by the
experience, although suffering from extreme weakness, pulled ourselves
together to make an effort to save what human flotsam and jetsam we
could. But we could not repress a fearful curse and a fierce outburst of
swearing when we came to the latrine. Six poor fellows, absolutely worn
out, had crawled to a narrow ledge under the brink of the bank to seek a
little shelter from the pitiless storm. There they had lain, growing
weaker and weaker, until unable to cling any longer to their precarious
perch they had slipped into the trench to lie among the human excreta,
urine and other filth. They knew where they were but were so far gone as
to be unable to lift a finger on their own behalf. Their condition, when
we fished them out, to place them upon as dry a spot as we could find, I
can leave to the imagination. I may say this was the only occasion upon
which I remember the British prisoners giving vent to such voluble
swearing as they then used, and I consider it was justified.

In an adjacent field our heroes from Mons were camped and a small party
of us made our way to the first tent. We were greeted by the R.A.M.C.
Water had been playing around their beds, but they acknowledged that
they had fared better because they were protected overhead. The
soldiers, however, made light of their situation, although we learned
that many of the Tommies, from lack of accommodation, had been compelled
to spend the night in the open. Still, as they were somewhat more inured
to exposure than ourselves, they had accepted the inevitable more
stoically, although the ravages of the night and the absence of food
among them were clearly revealed by their haggard and pinched faces.

The men in the tents confessed that they had been moved by the sounds
which penetrated to their ears from the field in which the civilian
prisoners had been turned adrift. They immediately enquired after the
condition of our boys. Unfortunately we could not yield much information
upon this point, as we were still partially in ignorance of the plight
of our compatriots. But there was no mistaking the depth of the feeling
of pity which went out for "the poor devils of civvies," while the
curses and oaths which were rained down upon the head of Major Bach with
true British military emphasis and meaning revealed the innermost
feelings of our soldiers very convincingly.

Seeing that we were exhausted and shivering from emptiness the R.A.M.C.
made a diligent search for food, but the quest was in vain. Their larder
like ours was empty. In fact the Tommies themselves were as hard-pushed
for food as we were.

I witnessed one incident with an English Tommy which provoked tremendous
feeling when related to his comrades. He was walking the field soaked to
the skin, perishing from cold produced by lack of food, continuously
hitching in his belt to keep his "mess-tin" quiet, and on the brink of
collapse. He happened to kick something soft. He picked the object up
and to his extreme delight found it to be a piece of black bread,
soaked with water, and thickly covered with mud. He made his way to the
field kitchen where there happened to be a small fire under the cauldron
in which the rations were prepared. He slipped the soddened bread
beneath the grate to dry it. While he was so doing, the cook, an
insignificant little bully, came along. Learning what the soldier was
doing, he stooped down, raked out the fire, and buried the bread among
the ashes. Then laughing at his achievement he went on his way.

The soldier, without a murmur, recovered his treasure with difficulty.
He moved out into the open, succeeded in finding a few dry sticks, lit a
small fire, and placed his bread on top of it. Again he was caught. His
warder bustled up, saw the little fire, which he scattered with his
feet, and then crunched the small hunk of bread to pieces in the mud and
water with his iron heel.

The look that came over the soldier's face at this unprovoked
demonstration of heartless cruelty was fearful, but he kept his head.
"Lor' blime!" he commented to me when I came up and sympathised with him
over his loss, "I could have knocked the god-damned head off the swine
and I wonder I didn't."

I may say that during the night the guard announced an order which had
been issued for the occasion--no one was to light a fire upon the Field.
Even the striking of a match was sternly forbidden. The penalty was to
be a bullet, the guards having been instructed to shoot upon the
detection of an infraction of the order. One man was declared to have
been killed for defying the order intentionally or from ignorance, but
of this I cannot say anything definitely. Rumour was just as rife and
startling among us on the field as among the millions of a humming city.
But we understood that two or three men went raving mad, several were
picked up unconscious, one Belgian committed suicide by hanging himself
with his belt, while another Belgian was found dead, to which I refer
elsewhere.

At 5.30 we were lined up. We were going to get something to eat we were
told. But when the hungry, half-drowned souls reached the field kitchen
after waiting and shivering in their wet clothes for two and a half
hours, it was to receive nothing more than a small basin of the eternal
lukewarm acorn coffee. We were not even given the usual piece of black
bread.

The breakfast, though nauseating, was swallowed greedily. But it did not
satisfy "little Mary" by any means. During my sojourn among German
prisons I often felt hungry, but this term is capable of considerable
qualification. Yet I think on this occasion it must have been the
superlative stage of hunger. The night upon the Field had come upon my
illness from which I had never recovered completely. It was a feeling
such as I have never experienced before nor since, and I do not think it
can ever be approached again.

It is difficult to describe the sensation. I walked about with a wolfish
startled glance, scanning the ground eagerly, as if expecting Mother
Earth to relieve me of my torment. The pain within my stomach was
excruciating. It was not so much a faint and empty feeling but as if a
thousand devils were pulling at my "innards" in as many different ways,
and then having stretched the organs to breaking point had suddenly
released them to permit them to fly back again like pieces of elastic,
to mix up in an inextricable tangle which the imps then proceeded to
unravel with more force than method. My head throbbed and buzzed,
precipitating a strange dizziness which seemed determined to force me to
my knees. I chewed away viciously but although the movement of the jaws
apparently gave a certain relief from illusion the reaction merely
served to accentuate the agony down below.

As I reeled about like a drunken man, my eyes searching the ground
diligently for anything in the eating line, no matter what it might be,
I found a piece of bread. As I clutched it in my hands I regarded it
with a strange maniacal look of childish delight. But it was a sorry
prize. It was saturated until it could not hold another drop of water,
and I think there was quite as much mud as bread. I wrung the water out
with my hands and then between two of us we devoured it ravenously,
swallowing the mud as contentedly as the bread, and not losing a single
crumb. It was a sparse mouthful, but it was something, and it certainly
stayed the awful feeling in the stomach to a certain degree for a little
while.

No man passed through that awful night without carrying traces of his
experiences. Its memories are burned ineradicably into one's brain.
Whenever we mentioned the episode it was always whispered as "The Bloody
Night of September 11th," and as such it is known to this day. As we
became distributed among other camps the story became noised far and
wide, until at last it became known throughout the length and breadth of
Germany. Whenever one who spent the night upon the field mentions the
incident, he does so in hushed and awed tones.

That night was the culminating horror to a long string of systematic
brutalities and barbarities which constituted a veritable reign of
terror. It even spurred a section of the German public to action. An
enquiry, the first and only one ever authorised by the Germans upon
their own initiative, was held to investigate the treatment of prisoners
of war at Sennelager. The atrocities were such that no German, steeped
though he is in brutality, could credit them. The Commission certainly
prosecuted its investigations very diligently, but it is to be feared
that it gained little satisfaction. The British prisoners resolutely
agreed to relate their experiences to one quarter only--the authorities
at home. The result is that very little is known among the British
public concerning the treatment we experienced at Sennelager, for the
simple reason that but a handful of men who were confined to the camp
during the term of Major Bach's authority, have been released. The
Germans have determined to permit no man to be exchanged who can relate
the details until the termination of the war. Their persistent and
untiring, as well as elaborate precautions to make trebly certain that I
had forgotten all about the period of travail at Sennelager, before I
was allowed to come home, were amusing, and offer adequate testimony to
the fear with which the German Government dreads the light of publicity
being shed upon its Black Hole.



CHAPTER XIV

THE GUARDIAN OF THE CAMP


Although Major Bach wielded his power with all the severity and spirit
of a true-blooded Prussian Jack-in-Office, and notwithstanding that we
were forbidden all communication with the outside world, yet we were not
without our "protector."

Our guardian angel was Dr. Ascher, who was responsible for the clean
bill of health among the civilian prisoners. The soldiers were under a
military surgeon, as already explained, but owing to the arbitrary
manner in which this official displayed his authority, and with which
Dr. Ascher did not agree by any means, it was the civilian doctor who
ministered for the most part to Tommy's ills. The result was that his
services were in almost universal demand, and the strenuous work and
long hours which he expended on our behalf were very warmly appreciated.

A short, sturdy, thick-set man, fairly fluent in the English language,
and of a cheery disposition, Dr. Ascher was a true and illuminating
representative of his profession. His mission being frankly one of mercy
he emphatically refused to acknowledge the frontiers of races and
tongues, poverty and wealth, education and ignorance. He was sympathetic
to an extreme degree, and never once complained or proffered any excuse
when called urgently to exert a special effort on behalf of any man.

He became an especial favourite among the British prisoners. The fact
that he came among us immediately upon our arrival at the camp, seeking
to extend relief to the sore, distressed, and suffering; his cheery and
breezy conversation; and his grim though unsuccessful efforts to secure
the food which we so urgently needed upon that occasion, were never
forgotten. He became endeared to one and all. Indeed he was elevated to
such a pedestal of appreciative recognition as to be affectionately
christened "The English Doctor," which he accepted as a signal honour.
He was no respecter of time, neither did he emulate his military
colleague in being a clock-watcher. He informed us that he was at our
disposal at any hour of the day or night, and he never omitted to spend
hours among us every day. Seeing that the camp possessed no resident
medical attendant, either civilian or military, that Dr. Ascher resided
near Paderborn, some three miles away, his readiness to come to our
assistance at any moment, his ceaseless efforts on our behalf, and
repeated attempts to ameliorate our conditions, it is not surprising
that we came to regard him as our one friend in that accursed spot.

The British prisoners, both civilian and military, never failed to
reciprocate whenever an opportunity arose, and this appreciation of his
labours made a deep impression upon him. No attempts were ever made to
encroach upon his generosity and kindness, and if any man had dared to
deceive him he would have been drastically punished by his colleagues.
No man ever essayed to malinger or to shirk a duty to which he had been
allotted by the doctor. If the doctor desired a task to be done, no
matter how repugnant, it was shouldered lightly and cheerfully. Indeed,
there was always a manifestation of keen eagerness among us to perform
some duty as an expression of our heartfelt thanks for what he was doing
among us. It is not an exaggeration to state that had it not been for
Dr. Ascher, his perennial bonhomie and camaraderie, his patience, and
his intimate association with us, many of the weaker British prisoners
and others would certainly have given way and have gone under. But his
infectious good spirits, his abundance of jokes, his inexhaustible
fount of humour, and his readiness to exchange reminiscences effectively
dispelled our gloom and relieved us from brooding over the misery of our
position.

Although the medical officer was charged with the express duty of
keeping the camp healthy and sanitary, unfortunately Dr. Ascher was not
an autocrat in his department. His powers were limited, and he was for
the most part completely subservient to military decrees. Time after
time he protested energetically and determinedly upon the quantity and
quality of the food which was served out to us, and struggled valiantly
to secure more nourishing diet for invalid prisoners than the cuisine of
the camp afforded. But his labour was always in vain; the food which he
laid down as being essential could not be obtained, or else Major Bach
firmly refused to move a finger to get it. As the Commandant's position
was paramount, and nothing could be done without his authority, Dr.
Ascher was denied a court of appeal. At times there were some spirited
breezes between Major Bach and the medical representative, but the
former invariably had the last word. On one occasion, to which I refer
later, Dr. Ascher tackled the Commandant so fiercely upon the sanitary
arrangements of the camp, and was so persistent and insistent upon the
fulfilment of the orders he expressed, as to compel the inexorable
superior to relent.

When a man fell ill and became too weak to perform an exacting task to
which he had been deputed by the tyrant, Dr. Ascher did not fail to
intervene. He could not be deceived as to the true state of a sick man's
health and his physical incapacity. Thereupon he would issue what was
described as a "pass," which excused the man completely from the heavy
work in hand in favour of some lighter duty. The doctor's "pass" was
safe against the Commandant's savagery; even he, with his military
authority, dared not over-ride the doctor's decision. However, the
British prisoners were not disposed to trade upon the doctor's good
nature. They would refuse a "pass" until necessity compelled unequivocal
submission.

Dr. Ascher was also an effective buffer between a prisoner and any
soldier who was disposed to assume an unwarrantably tyrannical attitude.
If he detected any brow-beating which was undeserved he never hesitated
to bring the upstart down to his proper position by severe reprimand,
and a candid reminder that a guard was merely a guard and as such was
not invested with powers akin to those belonging to the Commandant. The
soldier would fume under the castigation, but it was more than he dared
to incur the doctor's wrath and hostility, inasmuch as the latter would
not have hesitated to make the rebellious soldier's life unbearable. In
this manner he undeniably saved us from considerable brutality, which
some of the soldiers would dearly have loved to have expended upon us.

One day Major Bach announced that the clothes of the prisoners
throughout the camp were to undergo a thorough fumigation. For this
purpose a special mechanical disinfecting apparatus had been sent to the
camp. I may say that the instructions were not issued before they became
downright urgent. Some of the garments--not those worn by the British
prisoners--had become infested with vermin to such a degree as to
constitute a plague and were now absolutely repulsive. Two of the
British prisoners, who happened to be engineers, were selected for this
unpleasant task, and it proved to be of such a trying nature that both
men narrowly escaped suffocation in the process.

But the disinfecting apparatus was delivered in what we always found to
be the typical German manner. The fumigator came to hand but without the
engine to drive it. Two or three days later we were informed that there
was a traction engine at Paderborn which was to be brought into
Sennelager Camp to act as the stationary engine to supply power to the
fumigator. But to our dismay we learned that the traction engine in
question could not be driven to the camp under its own power because
some of the vital parts constituting its internals had broken down, and
repairs would be quite out of the question until it reached the camp.
This we were told would demand the towage of the engine over the last
three miles. We learned, moreover, that as horses were absolutely
unobtainable at any price, the prisoners themselves would have to drag
it in. Forthwith thirty men were selected and, equipped with thick,
heavy ropes, were marched off to Paderborn to salvage the derelict.

Our engineering friends, upon discovering the defective engine, and not
appreciating the prospect of the manual haul, set to work feverishly to
see if they could not contrive to complete sufficient repairs to coax
the engine to run the three miles under her own steam. They probed into,
and tinkered with the dark regions of the locomotive, but to no effect.
The defective parts demanded replacement. No doubt the authorities had
declared the engine unfit for service in the army, hence its appearance
at Paderborn for service at Sennelager.

We were faced with a heavy problem; one which would require every ounce
of our combined physical effort, which was low owing to our deplorable
condition, while the sun, heat, and dusty roads would be certain to tax
our endurance to the utmost.

The guards bustled round, supervising the hitching of the towing ropes,
while the men were lined up like oxen with the ropes passed over their
shoulders. The order was given and off we went. But that engine was, or
at least appeared to be, exceedingly heavy, while the roads seemed to be
exasperatingly difficult, the wheels having a magnetic attraction for
the sand. Progress was maddeningly slow, and before many minutes had
passed every man was puffing and blowing like a spent horse. A cup of
acorn coffee and a fragment of brown bread could scarcely be declared
ideal fare upon which to pursue such energy-consuming labour. And we had
three miles to go!

We had covered about half the distance and were nearly done in. The
ponderous, ungainly engine was just moving, and that was about all. The
progress had so fallen that the guards were becoming somewhat alarmed
and doubtless considered that if they only badgered us sufficiently they
would be able to spur us to such a degree as to enable us to reach the
camp.

While tugging for all we were worth we descried a horse flying along the
road at break-neck pace towards us. As it approached we saw it was
carrying Dr. Ascher. When he drew up to us he stopped. The guards were
holding forth in their most truculent manner at the moment. The doctor
rapped out a few words, and the guards instantly dropped their hostility
and arrogance to become as meek as lambs. Turning to us the doctor
ordered every man to drop the ropes. We did so and fell into line at
once of our own accord.

The doctor surveyed us, and we must have looked miserable specimens of
humanity. Our faces were glistening with perspiration which had been
pouring out of us freely, and which, mixing with the grimy sand which
had been enveloping us, had formed runnels wrought into a wild and weird
variety of fantastic designs. One or two of the weaker boys stood
half-bent as if upon the verge of dropping.

Within a few seconds the doctor had taken in the whole situation, and
saw how completely we were played out. With a voice which cut like a
knife he ordered the guard to escort us to a wayside inn. The soldiers,
thoroughly cowed, obeyed his instructions silently. He strode along
beside us, distracting our thoughts by a dissertation concerning the
countryside, which was bathed in the full splendour of its autumn garb,
and which certainly presented a peaceful and entrancing aspect.

Reaching the inn we seated ourselves on the balcony. Then the doctor,
turning, remarked:

"Order what you like! Don't stint yourselves and take your time. Now
then have anything you wish to drink!"

If our guards had been sufficiently relenting, we would willingly have
paid them for permission to have regaled ourselves by the way at our own
expense. We all had money. At the doctor's instructions we dived our
hands into our pockets to extract our worldly wealth to ascertain what
we could afford. The doctor arrested our action.

"No!" he called out, raising his hand in protest. "Put your money back.
You will have this with me. I extended the invitation and I certainly
intend to pay for it!"

If any man had called for cheers for the doctor I think we should have
brought the house down about our ears. But we were so dumbfounded at
this first expression of a "white man's" action which we had encountered
in Germany, that we could not utter a sound. We merely sat like a party
of expectant school-children at a Sunday school treat.

The doctor busied himself seeing that each man received an adequate
quantity of refreshment, and that it was according to his fancy. I
myself being an abstainer, declined the beverage which was popular and
which was being keenly enjoyed. Observing that I was drinking nothing he
hurried over.

"Where's your beer?"

"Sorry, doctor, but I do not take alcohol!"

Without a word he swung on his heel, hailed the landlord, and enquired
for some home-made lemonade. Boniface was sorry but he was unable to
oblige. But the doctor was not to be put off. He curtly ordered the
landlord to prepare some instantly and what is more to the point he
followed him to see that it was brewed correctly.

After the meal he insisted that we should take a brief rest to assist
its digestion, which, owing to the weakened condition of our organs, was
no easy matter. Then, when we all felt fit, we returned to the traction
engine. You can imagine how we clustered round the doctor thanking him
for his kindness, but he would not listen to our expressions of
gratitude. Laughing good-naturedly, he maintained that he had done
nothing beyond what he considered to be his duty, and as we shouldered
the ropes once more, he gave us a parting cheer.

That meal put new life into us, and we towed the load with such gusto
that we covered the second lap of the distance in fine style. When we
reached the camp and were dismissed, the incident about the doctor's
munificence flashed through to its four corners like lightning. It
became the one topic of spirited conversation. We had always voted the
doctor a jolly good fellow, but now he was the hero of the hour. When he
next came into the camp he received such a thundering and spontaneous
ovation as to startle him, until at last the reason for this outburst
dawned upon him. But he turned it off with his characteristic laugh and
joke.

The privations which I had been suffering now began to assert their ill
effects. I felt I was breaking up rapidly, and in this every one
concurred and grew anxious. The doctor took me in hand, placed me on a
"pass" and at last ordered me to lie down in the barrack. Two of my
companions, Ca----, a breezy Irishman who had been arrested while on his
honey-moon, and K----, undertook to look after me. As the night advanced
I rapidly grew worse, until eventually my illness assumed such a turn,
so I was informed afterwards, as to cause my two friends the greatest
alarm. Ca---- went out to the guard with a message addressed to Dr.
Ascher, explaining that Mahoney was very much worse and they feared his
condition was critical. By some means or other the message was got
through to the doctor, possibly by telephone.

It was a vile night. A terrific thunderstorm was raging, and the rain
was falling in torrents. After dispatching their message my two friends
resumed their vigil beside my bed, hoping against hope that Dr. Ascher
would call early the following morning.

About midnight the mad galloping of a horse was heard faintly above the
wail of the wind and the fusillade of the mad downpour upon our
hollow-sounding roof. The sounds drew nearer to stop outside our barrack
door. A hurried conversation was heard, and the next moment, to the
surprise of my two friends, the door opened to admit Dr. Ascher. The
rain was pouring off him in tiny rivulets and he cheerily confessed that
he was soaked to the skin. But he pooh-poohed the idea that he had taken
too much trouble. A fellow-creature was in peril and he could not, as a
doctor, resist the call which had been sent. He stayed with me some
time, told my companions exactly what to do, and then went out again
into the rainstorm with the parting intimation that he would return
within a few hours, and would arrange for my instant transference to the
hospital.

At six he was back again. By this time I had recovered from my delirium
and felt somewhat better, although exceedingly weak. He chatted with me,
told me I was far worse than I either looked or felt, and insisted upon
my going into hospital. I demurred, as I preferred to be among my chums.
But he was not to be gainsaid, and so I had reluctantly to be carried
into bed. He came to see me frequently during the day, and even went so
far as to assume the responsibility of telegraphing to Berlin demanding
my instant release as my demise seemed very probable. But this request
was curtly refused, mainly, so I discovered afterwards, because I was
imprisoned upon the charge of espionage. The circumstance that this
charge was still hanging over my head came as an ugly eye-opener to me.
I thought from my transference from Wesel to Sennelager that I had been
acquitted of this accusation. Of course I had never received any
official intimation to this effect, but on the other hand I had never
received a sentence. This revelation worried me somewhat sorely because
I could see possibilities about which I scarcely dared to think, as well
as complications untold looming ahead.

I must have been in a very precarious condition the previous night
because a member of a well-known British family who had been interned at
Sennelager, but who secured his release about this time, very kindly
sought out one of my relatives upon his return home, to whom he
communicated particulars concerning my illness and serious condition. He
hesitated to notify my wife directly, preferring to leave it to my
relative to convey the unwelcome news in the manner considered to be the
most advisable. For this kindly action, of which I was apprised after my
transference from Sennelager, I have ever been extremely thankful, but
up to the present I have successfully evaded all the most insidious
attempts made by my German captors to secure my premature decease by
undermining my health.

Before leaving me in hospital for the night Dr. Ascher paid me a final
visit to make positive that I was comfortable. But that one night's
sojourn in the hospital almost completely unnerved me. I could not
sleep, and to my alarm I found that no one ever came in to take even a
cursory glance at the patients. I got up in the darkness and went to the
door. To my astonishment I found it to be locked! I turned to one cot.
It contained a French invalid who was jabbering away excitedly to
himself, but I could not understand a single word. I turned to the next
bed and its occupant was half-delirious. With such depressing company
around me I tumbled back into bed and went off to sleep again somehow.
In the morning I learned that there were three intercommunicating wards.
The two inner ones were reserved for patients, upon whom the key was
turned at night, while the third and outer room was occupied by a night
warder who turned in and slept the sleep of the just, although he was
nominally in charge of critical cases. But this was immaterial. If the
patient went under during the night to be found dead in bed in the
morning--well! it was merely a case of Nature having had her own way.

I was so alarmed that the instant the hospital was opened I hurried back
to my barrack. Dr. Ascher, upon reaching the hospital and noting my
absence, wondered what had happened, until at last he found me resting
in my bunk. I resolutely told him that under no circumstances would I
spend another night in that hospital. I had my own way. The crisis had
passed, and if I only took care of myself I would soon be out again, he
said.

Having always led an active life, confinement to bed in utter loneliness
during the day, except for a call now and again from a sympathetic
colleague, soon began to pall. So I dressed and went out to discover Dr.
Ascher. He did not upbraid me for so flagrantly disobeying his orders,
as I had been anticipating, but exhorted me with all the powers of
persuasion he could command, to take the utmost care of myself. In order
to give me something to occupy my mind he attached me to a few other
invalids, who were also on "pass," to light work in cleaning out the
hospitals for the recruits who were evidently coming to Sennelager
within the near future.

Cleaning hospitals might be officially described as light work, but it
was far from being so, although this was not the fault of the doctor but
of our far from amiable Commandant. The tables, beds, chairs and other
portable fixtures had to be taken into the open air to receive a
thorough scrubbing with water and soft soap. We were given buckets, and
were compelled to walk some distance to draw supplies of water from the
pump, to which place we also had to repair to throw away the dirty
liquid, so that we were assured of an exacting load upon both journeys.

The guard supervising us in this work was a despicable young cub. He was
short and stubby. By the way I must relate that this individual
illustrated one of the weird turns of the Wheel of Fortune as revealed
by the war. I have already referred to F---- K----, who had accompanied
me from Wesel prison to Sennelager. What was F---- K----'s amazement to
discover, upon entering the camp, that this man, who formed one of the
guards, had been one of his own van-men before the war. It was a
remarkable instance of the reversal of positions. The erstwhile van-man
was now the top-dog and he did not hesitate to extract endless amusement
and delight from ordering the prisoners, among whom was his former
employer, to despicable duties and harassing them right and left.

I had one bout with this impertinent little bounder which I do not think
he will ever forget. It was the result of exasperation and was
precipitated upon the spur of the moment with subsequent disastrous
results.

I was carrying a bucket of water back to the pump to throw away and to
secure a fresh supply. As I approached the pump, which was near an
adjoining field, and over the fence of which some young girls were
leaning talking to the sentry, I saw that they were having some fun at
my expense. I resented this laughter and merriment, more particularly as
I was feeling very seedy.

The guard, to parade his assumed authority before the girls, drew
himself to the full height of his fifty-four inches or thereabouts,
threw out his chest, and as I was about to empty the bucket, roared in
stentorian tones:

"Take that back again!"

"But I am going to fill the bucket with clean water!" I protested.

"Did you hear what I said? I told you to take it back again!" to which
he added an afterthought which I did not understand, but which induced
the girls to burst out laughing afresh with mad glee.

I ignored his instructions and was about to turn out the dirty contents.
My temper somewhat ruffled by illness and now very hasty was rising
rapidly. He moved forward and thundered:--

"Cannot you obey orders? Take it back again, I tell you!"

I picked up the bucket as if to comply and stepped back a pace or two.
Then lifting it up I shouted back,

"I'll see you damned first!"

With these words I hurled the contents over him. The water was filthy.
It caught him full in the face and smothered him from head to foot.

He was so surprised at this unexpected sequel to his arrogant order that
he merely stood still, spluttering and cursing. Then he grabbed his
rifle. At the same moment I threw the bucket itself at him, catching him
a nasty blow on the shoulder. The girls who had been laughing at me now
chaffed the discomfited sentry unmercifully. Foaming with rage and
swearing terribly he lowered his rifle to run me through with the
bayonet.

It was madness to argue with a bayonet in the hands of an infuriated
German sentry. I turned and fled. Being long of leg, thin, and agile, I
ran with the swiftness of a hare while my pursuer being short-legged and
thick-set came trundling after me like a cart-horse. I tore towards the
hospital, vaulted over the chairs and tables, and darted in and out,
with the sentry, now beginning to blow hard from his unusual exertion,
hot on my trail. In my mad rush I upset some of my companions, but they,
instantly guessing something unusual was afoot as they caught sight of
my flying coat-tails and the heavy-footed soldier chasing me, at once
entered into the spirit of the fun.

L----, our humorist, was one of the party. Jumping on a table he
commenced to yell frantically:

"Sennelager Derby! What's the odds? Twenty to one on Mahoney! Go it,
Tubby! Christopher, but you'll never stay the course!"

The cries were taken up by the other fellows and excitement grew
furious, which only served to exasperate my pursuer still more.

I was flying for dear life. I knew very well, if that sentry got within
bayonet reach of me, that my days were ended. He was seeing red with a
vengeance. Round the hospital, over the tables and chairs, I dashed as
if bereft. I was looking for the doctor. I had long since learned that
in the event of a disagreement with a sentry it was wise to be first
beside the ears of authority and to relate the incident. The first
version, whether from guard or prisoner, was almost certain to be
believed.

Once as I came tearing round the hospital calling for one of the medical
officers, L---- and his companions, now emulating the frenzied language
and manners of racecourse frequenters, and forming field glasses with
their hands, were bawling at the tops of their voices.

"Tattenham Corner! Hooray! Mahoney wins!"

At that moment I ran full tilt, not into Dr. Ascher as I had hoped, but
against a young military doctor. I almost upset him in this spirited
desperate obstacle race.

"What's the matter now?" he asked in surprise.

As this young doctor had always proved to be a decent fellow I stopped
and related my story. He listened very attentively.

"You had no business to do that!" he commented. "You should have obeyed
the order and then have reported it to me or some other officer to be
redressed."

"Well, he just about maddened me to the limit!"

"No matter! It may be a serious thing for you. You shouldn't have thrown
the dirty water over him. You've insulted the uniform!"

By this time my pursuer had arrived. He was puffing heavily and his legs
were bent. He could not have run another hundred yards even if a dozen
battle-maddened Kilties had been after him. Catching sight of the
doctor he pulled himself to "attention" as well as he could. I had to
turn away to laugh. He presented the most ludicrous specimen of a German
soldier that I have ever witnessed. His face was as red as a beet-root
from his exertion, his eyes were wide open, while his mouth was fully
agape. He could not utter a word as he had lost his breath, while being
soddened from head to foot he was commencing to steam merrily.

When he had partially recovered his composure he related his version of
the story in a meek tone, no doubt hoping to excite pity. But I noticed
that the young medical officer had to bite his moustache to maintain a
straight face and I think this practically saved the situation.

"Who gave you permission to give orders to prisoners?" asked the officer
severely.

The sentry's dismay at the officer rounding upon him was so complete
that he could not venture an answer.

"Don't let it occur again or I'll report you!" continued the doctor
sternly. "Don't you know your duty is to obey orders and not to give
them!" he thundered with an effort. The sentry dismissed so
unceremoniously slunk away miserably and absolutely crestfallen.

When the soldier had gone the officer turned upon me and lectured me
severely, though sympathetically, upon the enormity of my offence. While
he was speaking, Dr. Ascher sauntered up and the incident was related to
him. Turning to me with a gravity which I could see was assumed, he
remarked:

"Mahoney, if you get up to such tricks again you'll get into serious
trouble. You must never forget the uniform!"

As I turned to resume work I noticed the two medical men having a hearty
silent laugh over the whole affair, the younger man graphically
describing the blown sentry and race as he had seen it.

But Dr. Ascher did not let the matter rest there. He reported the sentry
for exceeding his orders, which was a serious offence because it
affected the doctor's discipline over prisoners who were under his
charge at the hospitals. All the reward and consolation the insolent cub
received for his parade of assumed authority before his audience of
girls was change to another duty, coupled with severe reprimand. Through
Dr. Ascher's intervention the sentry was deprived of all opportunity to
snatch a revenge upon me. Such actions, however, were characteristic of
Dr. Ascher. It was his love of fair-play which endeared him to every
Britisher in the camp. Whenever one of us left Sennelager there was no
man from whom to part was such a wrench as Dr. Ascher. We all grew to
like and admire him to such a degree that it seemed to be parting from a
very dear and old friend when we shook hands in farewell with him.



CHAPTER XV

THE AFTERMATH OF THE ELEVENTH


As the day of the 12th advanced without bringing any signs of official
intentions to improve our accommodation upon "the field," several of us
decided to do the only thing possible--to help ourselves. It was
perfectly evident that we were not to be taken back to barracks, even
for the time being, while it was equally apparent that no tents were
going to be set up for us. Also it was quite possible that we should be
exposed to another fearful storm, because the season was advancing.
Consequently it was just as well that we should improvise some kind of
shelter over our heads. The issue was where to discover the materials,
since the authorities were not disposed to extend us any assistance
whatever.

The more energetic among us set to work without delay. My South African
friend, Moresby White, and myself unearthed one or two poles lying
forlorn and forgotten among the grass and slush. We secured these, set
them up, and over them stretched our blankets, the improvised dwelling
thus obtained being a crude kind of wigwam. Others built little
domiciles somewhat reminiscent of an Eskimo igloo, and in this field of
endeavour I may say, striking ingenuity and resourcefulness were
displayed.

[Illustration: THE AFTERMATH OF THE "BLOODY NIGHT."

The prisoners not being provided by the German authorities with any form
of shelter rudely fashioned tiny huts with slabs of earth to secure
slight protection from the fury of the storm. The hut in the foreground
was built by the author and his South African colleague, Moresby White,
who has since been released. An extension was hurriedly made to give
shelter to three Grimsby fishermen.

_From a rough sketch made on "the field" by the author, September 14,
1914._]

My friend and I had scarcely finished our dwelling when along came some
officials. They saw what we had done, and then declared that we had
taken Government material, in the form of the neglected poles, to which
we had no manner of right. Forthwith they demolished the shelter.
Intensely disgusted at this turn of events we had another look round for
further material and obtained some tree branches. We fashioned these to
form the skeleton of a hut. The guard hurried up and ordered us to take
it down. For a second time our labour was in vain, but we were grimly
persevering and so ran up a third shelter. This shared the self-same
fate because we had committed a heinous breach of some one or other
official regulation of which we knew nothing.

As we surveyed the ruins of our third attempt to raise something over
our heads my South African friend became exasperated. It was merely
official spite which had provoked the destruction of our little homes.
He gritted his teeth and gave full vent to his innermost feelings which
were by no means complimentary to our German oppressors.

"I'm damned if we don't build something to which they cannot take
exception," blurted my companion. I concurred, but a survey of the field
for materials proving abortive we became somewhat glum. Then I suddenly
hit on an idea which I explained. We would build a mud or turf hut. It
would take a little time but surely they would not knock that to pieces!

We foraged round and happened upon a spade. With this we cut the sods
and built a small square-shaped domicile into which we were able to
crawl. We made it sufficiently large, not only to accommodate our two
selves but for the reception of company if necessary. It was not a
masterpiece by any means, while the interior had the rank aroma of
newly-turned earth, but it was preferable to facing the elements, should
they decide to be against us once more. Other workers in the camp, who
had been foiled similarly in their efforts to fashion a home from poles
and sticks, emulated our example. Consequently within a short space of
time, diminutive huts, some recalling large beehives, were rising all
over the field like mushrooms.

There was keen rivalry in the embellishment of these crude homes. Upon
completing ours I decided upon a "Tradesmen's Entrance" and carved this
out, together with a winding approach, the entrance being flanked by two
mounds on one of which I planted a small flag improvised from a piece of
cardboard which I unearthed. Directly I had set up the little flag I
fell foul of authority. The hated emblem was torn up by an officious
sentry whom it enraged.

These mud huts were speedily christened with high-falutin names. There
were "Sans Souci" villa and the "Haven of Rest" and others equally
wildly and inappropriately named. But we considered this an excellent
chance "to wax sarcastic," and we let ourselves go, although I do not
think that our task-masters, being by nature dense, grasped the purport
of our humour. Our residence rejoiced in the unpretentious designation
of "Camera Villa,"

[*large gap]

If the authorities had gleaned an inkling of the circumstance that this
mud hut harboured an incriminating eye they would have spared no effort
to discover it, while I as the unfortunate owner--well! I do not know
what would have happened to me for such a flagrant breach of official
regulations.

It also seemed as if the authorities were going to deprive us of food.
At all events noon passed without any sign of dinner. In the afternoon,
however, we were informed that we were to receive the mid-day meal, but
must go to the cook-house to get it. That was a mile away!

At two o'clock we were lined up, the British at the extreme rear as
usual, and marched off. Upon reaching the kitchen we were alarmed to
learn that there were insufficient basins. Several would have to use the
one utensil successively, and, needless to say, without being washed
after each use. Apart from this repulsive method of feeding us as if we
were dogs, the time occupied in getting one's ration proved maddening.
After one had swallowed the thin cabbage soup hastily, one had to
advance and join the group comprising those who had been served. The
result was that by the time the last of the British prisoners had been
supplied some three hours had passed. Yet this was the first meal which
some of the men had received for three days! I may say that one felt far
from satisfied after swallowing the noisome greasy wash.

In the evening, while working upon our hut to impart the finishing
touches speedily, because rain was falling, I stumbled across three of
the disgraced and disfigured fishermen. They were alone and forlorn.
They had no hut and did not know what would happen if another wet night
swept over them. One happened to be the skipper of one of the trawlers
which had been sunk and he vehemently denied the charge that they had
been guilty of laying or sweeping mines. They were attending to their
trawls when they were surprised and captured.

The skipper was an interesting, typical sea-dog from the waters of the
North Sea, and a thorough God-fearing man. He related a story which made
our blood boil. He said his two companions and himself were summoned by
the guards at mid-day, and instead of receiving the dinner ration had
been taken to a covered hand-cart. The guard told them to push it, and
at the same time handed them shovels and picks. Under escort they
dragged this mysterious load, which was carefully covered with a
tarpaulin, for about three miles to a very lonely spot. At last they
came to a deep hole. They were compelled to back the cart to the brink
of the pit, and were then curtly bidden to tip it sharply.

To the utter amazement of the skipper and his two colleagues the action
of tipping the cart shot into the hole, with considerable force, the
corpse of a Belgian. He was dumped into the hole in this rough and ready
manner, head first, and to the disgust of the Britishers the body was
clothed merely in a shirt! They were then commanded to refill the hole.
Thus, without the slightest burial ceremony, with a brutality which
would not have been shown to a dog, and without the slightest expression
of regret, save one of silence from the three Britishers, the unknown
Belgian was consigned to an unknown grave. Who the Belgian was, or how
he came by his death, no one ever knew, but it is surmised that he died
from exposure upon the field during the night of the 11th.

These three fishermen being friendless and homeless, my chum and I
decided to see what we could do for them. We proposed to attach a
lean-to shelter to our hut. Poles were driven into the ground, and to
these horizontal members were attached, the latter having the inner ends
sunk into our walls. For the roof we used our blankets. It was a
primitive shelter, but it protected the three men from the rain which
again broke over us and for this expression of camaraderie they were
extremely grateful.

Our transference to the field provoked the most spirited bout we had
ever witnessed between the Commandant and Dr. Ascher. The doctor could
do nothing towards securing us shelters: that was exclusively a matter
for Major Bach to decide. But he had control over the sanitary
arrangements, and he condemned these unequivocally. The stench rising
from the open latrines which swept over the field was indescribable. Dr.
Ascher flew into a fierce temper over the shortcomings and detestable
arrangements, which he maintained to be a serious menace to the health
of the camp. We strove desperately to escape the horrible effluvium, but
it could not be avoided unless we buried our heads. Dr. Ascher, by
taking up a firm stand, had his way on this occasion, although the
nature of the improvement I think caused him to despair of securing the
proper amelioration of the conditions. The military authorities did not
appear to know even the rudiments of sanitary science, which, as I found
for myself, are ever indescribably crude away from the show towns which
are patronised by tourists.

I had been hoping that I would be able to shake off my illness. But it
was not to be. The exposure and thorough soaking which I had on the
terrible night of the 11th completely undid all the benefits I had
received from Dr. Ascher's attention and treatment. I cracked up
suddenly. The doctor, seeing how badly things were going with me, gave
me a "pass" excusing me from all work.

But to me it was obvious that to remain on the field was to die from
starvation, especially bearing in mind my precarious health. Yet to get
out of the field was no easy matter. I pondered fretfully over this
issue, and at last resolved to attempt a desperate solution. I marched
boldly to the gate, waved an old, long-since expired "pass" and shouted
to the sentry that I had to go to the doctor's office immediately. Taken
unawares the guard opened the gate without scanning the "pass" and I
walked on to the main road leading to the barracks in which we had lived
previously. The little extra exertion demanded to pass the sentry
without creating any suspicions in his mind now told on me. Once I had
passed out of his sight the reaction set in, and I fell into a clockwork
pace. I was determined to fulfil my mission at all hazards, so plodded
along slowly. I could see nothing, and heeded nothing, being only
conscious of the fact that I was going to get something to eat and to
bring food back for my stranded companions on the field. Soon everything
seemed to grow darker and darker, then came perfect blackness. I
remembered no more.

When I came to my senses I found myself being borne carefully by two
fellow-prisoners--Ca---- and a chum--to the hospital. I was put to bed,
and looking round I saw that I was surrounded by twenty-five other
patients. One and all had dropped down from sheer exhaustion upon the
field during the "Bloody Night," and had been found by the guard in the
morning in an unconscious condition. I heard that there were seventy
such cases brought in--all caused by exposure and the rain. I cannot
testify to that number, but I can swear to the twenty-five cases because
I saw them in the hospital lying in the ward with me. They were then in
a terrible plight, not having recovered from the racking ordeal.

Presently a military doctor came in. I had never seen him before. He
approached my cot.

"Civilian or military?" he asked.

"Civilian!" I replied.

"Ach!" and there was intense disgust and unveiled hostility in his
voice. "Get up! Outside!"

"But he has been brought in unconscious!" persisted Ca----.

"Ach! No matter. Get up. Outside!" he repeated.

"I'll see you damned first!" exploded Ca----, his Irish temper now
roused to bursting point at the inhuman attitude of the military medical
official. Fortunately for my friend the individual in question did not
understand a word of English, or there would have been trouble.

But feeling somewhat better and realising the uselessness of argument I
persuaded Ca---- to obey instructions. Indeed I was bundled out of bed,
and hastily assisted in re-dressing, by the doctor's orders. Passing out
of the hospital I paused to lean against the door, feeling downright ill
and weak. Ca---- ran off to the barrack to fetch Dr. Ascher.

A young medical man came out of the hospital, and seeing my wan and
haggard face, came up to me. He was certainly sympathetic.

"Heavens, man! You look downright ill!" was his comment.

"I reckon I don't look worse than I feel!" I replied caustically. "I've
just been turned out of the hospital. What is going to happen?"

"Oh! You've got to go to Paderborn. You'll go into hospital there. The
van will be up in three hours' time!"

At this intelligence I sank on a wooden seat. I felt, and indeed could
no longer ward off, the belief that everything for me was rapidly
approaching the end. As I sat there a prey to my worst thoughts, a
soldier came out of the hospital and sat beside me. I looked up.

"Hullo! old man! From Mons?" I asked.

"Yes! Going to Paderborn. Says I'm sick," nodding towards the hospital.
The Tommy certainly looked as if the doctor had diagnosed a case
correctly for once in his life.

"What's the matter?"

"Don't know for sure. But I heard the doctor whisper to an assistant
that it was typhus!"

Despite my efforts to control myself I could not suppress a low whistle.
I looked at the soldier, and although my first inclination was to move
away, I felt that, owing to my condition, it really didn't matter, so I
spared the Tommy's feelings. In a few minutes another soldier came out.
He sat on the other side of me.

"Hullo! You from Mons too? You going to Paderborn?" was my query.

"Sure! Doctor says I've got typhus!"

This was alarming news, and I could not resist a feeling of extreme
apprehension. While I was turning things over in my mind a third soldier
came out whom I questioned, but he did not reply.

"He was blinded by a shell at Mons," commented one of the soldiers.
"Guess he's got it too. 'Strewth, isn't this a hell of a hole? I'd
sooner have fifty Mons's for a month than this hell for a day!"

I certainly shared the opinion. But as I sat there I reflected upon the
limited carrying capacity of the Paderborn hospital van, and the
circumstance that I was likely to be crushed in with a host of typhus
cases. I did not like the prospect a little bit. I made up my mind. I
would not go to Paderborn at any cost.

Proffering a palpable excuse I sauntered away, finally entering the
office in which the files of the registration of the British military
prisoners were being prepared. A young German who in pre-war days had
been a baker in Battersea, was in charge. I told him I was sick, but
enquired, if receiving the requisite permission from the doctor, he
would allow me to help him in the office. He agreed. I sought out Dr.
Ascher, explained that I had been consigned to Paderborn, but refused to
go, and explained that I had the offer to go into the office if he would
certify me for such work. After a little deliberation he acquiesced, and
I took up the appointment with the result I have explained in a previous
chapter. After a good night's rest I felt decidedly better. I returned
to the field, only to find that my companions had experienced no
improvement in their conditions, and that food was just as scarce as it
had been since we were turned out of our barracks. I was successful in
getting a little food to them, while another prisoner, now in England,
sent up a little.

Strolling across the field I met a fellow-prisoner, Lord J----'s
secretary. He looked so ill that I suggested he should take my place in
the office, as I was now feeling much better. He refused at first, but
at last I prevailed upon him to go. He would get a well-earned rest at
all events, while the work was light and easy. The exchange of clerks
was effected and with such success that the German in charge never
detected the swop, which proves how imperfectly I had been scrutinised,
and the laxity of the arrangements when you have learned how to
circumvent the pit-falls and red-tape of Prussian organisation.

I was now back upon the field. One night the officers came round bawling
out a request for the names of all prisoners who had friends in Germany.
Seeing that this question, together with a host of others, had been
asked nearly every day, while sheets of papers were filled up at
intervals of every few hours with a bewildering array of particulars, I
ignored the interrogation. But one or two fellow-prisoners recalled the
fact that K----, upon his release, had invited me to come to his home in
Cologne if I ever got the chance. At first I declined to listen to the
recommendations, but finally, in response to the incessant pesterings, I
consented. Then the matter slipped from my mind.

The following morning my attention was arrested by the guard going round
the camp singing at the top of his voice, "Ma-hone-i! Ma-hone-i!"

Surprised, and fearing that trouble was brewing because I had not gone
to Paderborn as ordered by the military doctor, I presented myself. I
was commanded to attend the office at once.

I sauntered off leisurely, and reaching the building, I supplied the
officer in charge with my name and a host of other minute details as
requested. Then turning to me, and holding a paper in his hands, he
remarked:

"Herr Ma-hone-i! You are a free man!"

"What?" I yapped, scarcely believing I had heard aright, "A free man?" I
almost cried with joy at the news. "Free to go home to England?" I asked
excitedly.

"Nein! Nein!! Nein!!! But you have friends in Germany?"

My jaw dropped. I thought for a few minutes, and then I replied slowly,
"Yes! I'll go provided I do not have to give my parole. That I will
never do!"

He glared furiously at me.

"But that is as good as saying you'll try to escape," he went on.

"Exactly!" was my curt retort, and I looked at him defiantly.

The officer informed me that under these circumstances I should be kept
back, but at this moment Dr. Ascher, who had been listening to the
conversation, intervened, and as a result of his mediation I was told
that I was free to go to Cologne, saying which a "pass" permitting me
to travel to, and to move about that city, was proffered. I took the
"pass."

"You've ten minutes to collect your belongings and to get out of the
camp!" was his final abrupt remark. Although I pleaded for a little
longer time in which to say farewell to my friends he was inexorable.

I rushed back to the field to communicate the news to my companions, and
the hand-shaking which ensued was extremely fervent. All the boys
congratulated me upon my good luck, but the tears were in their eyes.
The sympathy moved me, and I felt half-disposed to tear up my "pass" and
stay with them to see it through. But they pushed me off. I had a hearty
hand-shaking with Dr. Ascher, who wished me the best of luck, and
expressed the hope that I would soon get home. Although he never
admitted it I found out for a fact that he had been primarily
responsible for my release. It certainly was characteristic of him. He
cracked a parting joke, which restored the good humour and cheerfulness
of the camp, and with my few parcels under my arm I left the ill-famed
field.

The boys cheered like mad, but I was stirred more particularly by the
roar of cheers which burst from the Tommies, with whom I had fraternised
freely, and with whom a curious chumminess had sprung up. We were all
companions in misfortune, and when the news of my release reached their
field, they clustered along the fence to give me a parting rouser, which
they certainly let go for all they were worth.

I regained the office within the stipulated ten minutes and then to my
intense disgust learned that I had three hours to wait for a train. I
sold my watch to secure a little ready money, and as I moved across the
camps to be abruptly challenged by the sentries I was surprised to see
them change their demeanour when I showed my "pass." They shook hands
heartily and warmly congratulated me upon my good fortune. It was a
strange metamorphosis and it affected me strangely.

Before I left the camp I was ushered into the presence of our
arch-fiend, Major Bach. He rose from his desk and with a suavity and
civility which made my blood surge, he remarked:

"Herr Mahoney, good-bye! I trust you will not think our treatment in the
camp has been unduly severe!"

"I shall certainly not speak well of it," I retorted somewhat cynically.
"I shall never forget my experiences and I shall not omit to relate it
to others. But there! I think my looks are sufficient. I must have lost
three stone in weight during the past two months!"

"Well, I trust you will make allowances," he went on unctuously. "You
must remember the times; that we are at war, and that our arrangements
have not been organised for adequate accommodation!"

He extended his hand.

Shaking my head in a manner which he could not misunderstand I refused
to take it.

He shrugged his shoulders and resumed his work. I left his office
without another word.

Two minutes later I was striding rapidly towards the station,
accompanied by another prisoner, a schoolmaster named E----, who had
also been released on a "pass" and whom I have to thank for much
assistance subsequently offered.

At last I was free from the torment and brutality of Sennelager Camp.
But as I watched the incoming train on that morning of September 16th,
1914, I could not refrain from dwelling upon the lot of the many hapless
friends I had left behind, the agonies, miseries, the hopelessness of
their position, and their condemnation to unremitting brutal travail
which would doubtless continue until the clash of arms had died away. As
Sennelager vanished from sight my companion and I gave deep sighs of
relief. We felt that we had left Hell behind.



PRISON THREE--KLINGELPUTZ



CHAPTER XVI

FREE ON "PASS" IN COLOGNE


It was two o'clock in the afternoon when I saw the last of Sennelager
Camp as the train swung round a curve which blotted the Avernus over
which Major Bach reigned supreme from sight if not from memory. The
train in which we were travelling, of course, was wholly occupied by
Germans. I found it impossible to secure a seat owing to the crowded
character of the carriages, and as misfortune would have it I was
compelled to stand until I reached my destination.

Naturally being thrown among so many of the enemy I was regarded with a
strange interest by my fellow-travellers. They could see I was not a
German, and although they did not resort to any provocative word or
deed, it would have needed a blind man to have failed to detect their
uncompromising hostility towards me. We travelled _via_ Soest, and my
position was rendered additionally unnerving because train after train
labelled with the flaming Red Cross thundered by, bearing their heavy
loads of the German battered and maimed from the battlefields. It was
easy to see that the number of the train-loads of wounded was exercising
a peculiar effect upon the passengers, for was not this heavy toll of
war and the crushed and bleeding flower of the German army coming from
the front where the British were so severely mauling the invincible
military machine of Europe and disputing effectively their locust-like
advance over the fair fields of Belgium and Northern France? Is it
surprising under the circumstances that they glowered and frowned at me
in a disconcerting and menacing manner?

[Illustration: Facsimile of the Pass issued by the German authorities to
the author on his leaving Sennelager for Cöln-on-Rhein.]

As the hours rolled by I began to feel fainter and hungrier. I had had
nothing since the usual cup of acorn coffee at seven in the morning.
Although I became so weak that I felt as if I must drop, I buoyed up my
flagging spirits and drooping body by the thought that I should soon
meet and enjoy the company of K----. But I was aboard a fourth-class
train and it appeared to be grimly determined to set up a new record for
slow-travelling even for Germany. The result was that I did not reach
Cologne, or Köln, as the Germans have it, until one o'clock the
following morning, having stood on my feet for eleven hours and without
a bite to eat.

I fell rather than stepped from the train and turned out of the station.
Again my spirits sank. The city was wrapped in a darkness which could be
felt. There was not a glimmer of light to be seen anywhere. To pick
one's way through a strange city in a strange land and without more than
a bare smattering of the language under conditions of inky blackness was
surely the supreme ordeal. At every few steps I blundered against a
soldier with his loaded rifle and fixed bayonet, ready to lunge at
anything and everything which, to a highly strung German military mind,
appeared to assume a tangible form in the intense blackness. Since my
return home I have experienced some striking specimens of British
darkened towns, but they do not compare with the complete darkness which
prevailed in Cologne that night. Not a single faint gleam of light came
from a window. I am confident that if I had dared to strike a match I
should have been surprised by a volley of bullets from all directions.

Cologne was indeed a city of darkness and of the dead. Only the
footfalls of the guard and the clank of rifles were to be heard. To
proceed was impossible. I concluded that before I had gone very far in
my wanderings I should be arrested and find myself in the privacy of a
prison cell. Moreover I was absolutely exhausted. Sore at heart I
returned to the station, and walking up to the first officer I saw,
introduced myself as "Mahoney, late of Sennelager Camp."

At this revelation the officer stared as if confronted by an apparition
and sternly demanded my authority for being at large. I drew out my
"pass," together with the address of K----, for which I was searching so
vainly.

Thrusting my "pass" into his pocket the officer gruffly ordered me to
follow him. I demanded the return of the small piece of paper which
constituted my sole protection, but he rudely declined to accede to my
request. I followed him and we turned into a room at the station which
happened to be the sleeping quarters of the night guard.

Here I was again interrogated somewhat sharply, but taking the bull by
the horns I boldly declared that I was an Englishman and had been
arrested and imprisoned upon the charge of being a spy!

My candid statement amazed the officer, who appeared to consider that he
had made a most fortunate capture. An interpreter, who understood only a
little English, was summoned to my assistance, and we contrived to
understand one another. He was visibly impressed by my distressed and
sickly appearance and enquired if I were in need of something to eat. I
said I was famished and he explained the situation to the officer. The
upshot was that a few of those present gave me some bread and cold rice,
which I devoured ravenously.

I was handed over to a guard who was instructed to take me--somewhere?
We set out through the dark streets, and it was an eerie journey.
Sentries were stationed at intervals of a few yards and in crossing the
bridge we were frequently stopped and not permitted to proceed until my
guardian, although in uniform and armed, had given the password. In due
course we reached a towering building which I discovered to be the
Polizei Prasidium. Here I was handed over to the official in charge, my
military guard evidently explaining the whole circumstances.

The official scrutinised me closely. Bidding me to follow him he again
plunged into the darkness. After taking me to the address of K----,
which I had produced, and finding no one there, he led me to a
restaurant. The proprietor was roused and ordered to take me in for the
night. When he learned that I was an Englishman on "pass" he commenced
to swear and curse in a fearful manner, finally declaring he would not
shelter any such swine in his house. The official had a short way with
this individual. He drew his sword, drove the awakened and enraged
German into his restaurant, and in a tone which could not be
misconstrued demanded that accommodation and meals should be found for
me. The threatening attitude of the officer completely cowed the
proprietor, but I, fearing that the latter would round on me once I was
at his mercy, intimated to the guard that I was not going to spend the
night in this hotel.

There was a brief altercation, but at last we returned to the Prasidium.
Here I intimated that I was perfectly willing to sleep upon the floor of
the guard-room, but the official explained that this was a flagrant
breach of the rules and the idea could not be entertained for a moment.
We haggled for a few minutes and then a solution of the distracting
problem occurred to the officer. He would lodge me for the night in a
cell! I accepted the suggestion with alacrity and thereupon passed below
where I made myself comfortable, the official assisting me as much as he
could.

It seemed as if I had only just dropped off to sleep when I was rudely
awakened. It was six o'clock when prisoners had to be roused, and
although I was not a prisoner, but had slept in the cell from my own
choice, I had to conform with the regulations. I was turned out into the
street, without a bite of food, needless to say, to kick my heels about
for some two hours until the business offices opened. I seized the
opportunity to have a shave and hair-cut as well as a thorough wash and
brush up.

About 8.30 I presented myself at my friend's office. To my surprise he
responded to my ring himself and at once introduced me to his wife, who
had come into the city with him that morning. I was warmly greeted but
my thin and wan appearance affected them, especially Mrs. K----. I then
discovered why I had failed to rouse him in the early hours of the
morning when accompanied by the officer from the police station. He did
not live in Cologne but in a pretty and quiet little residential village
overlooking the Rhine some three miles out.

Taking pity upon me they insisted that I should at once proceed to their
home, but before this could be done certain formalities demanded
attention. My "pass" was only applicable to the city of Cologne and did
not embrace the outlying places. We had to return to the police
headquarters, corresponding to our Scotland Yard, for this purpose. Here
my papers were turned out and subjected to the usual severe scrutiny,
while I myself was riddled with questions. At last, through the good
offices of K----, who was well-known to the officials, I received
permission to proceed to his residence. This necessitated our being
accompanied to his home by two detectives who furthermore were to see
that I received the necessary local "pass" for the villa in question.

Notwithstanding the depressing company of the detectives I thoroughly
enjoyed that ride along the banks of the Rhine. It was a glorious
morning and the countryside was at the height of its alluring autumnal
beauty. Reaching the village I was taken before the Burgermeister, a
pompous individual, to undergo another searching cross-questioning, but
ultimately the "pass" was granted. At the same time my "pass" for
Cologne was withdrawn. I had either to live, move, and have my being in
one place or the other--not both--and was not to be permitted to travel
between the two places.

I must digress a moment to explain one feature of German administration
and the much vaunted Teuton organisation, which is nothing more nor less
than a huge joke, although it is unfortunately quite devoid of humour
for the luckless victim. In times of war, Germany is subdivided into
districts, each of which receives the specific number of an Army Corps.
Thus there is Army Corps No. 1, Army Corps No. 2, and so on. It is just
as if, under similar exigencies, the names of the counties in Great
Britain were abandoned for the time being in favour of a military
designation, Middlesex thus becoming Army Corps No. 1, Surrey No. 2, and
so on, the counties being numbered consecutively.

Each Army Corps has its commanding officer and he has absolute control
over the territory assigned to him, the movement of its inhabitants,
strangers and visitors. But the strange and humorous fact about the
whole system is that each commanding officer is a little autocrat and
extremely jealous of his colleague in the adjacent Army Corps. The
commander of Army Corps No. 1 issues a "pass" which entitles you to move
about freely in his district.

When Major Bach presented me with my "pass," he gravely warned me always
to have it upon my person, to show it upon demand, but never to allow it
out of my possession even for a minute, and if it should be taken for
inspection to insist upon its return at once. He assured me that the
mere production of the "pass" and the signature would permit me to go
wherever I liked, and to move to and fro throughout Germany. I firmly
believed his statement until I received my first rude shock to the
contrary. As a final warning he stated that if I happened to be stopped
by a soldier or anyone else and had not my "pass" with me, I should find
myself in an extremely serious position. Naturally I hung on to that
little piece of paper as tenaciously as if it had been a million pound
bank-note.

The Commanding Officer of an Army Corps always iterates this little
speech, I discovered. Naturally you leave the official, completely
relieved, thinking yourself virtually free. But the moment you cross the
boundary into another Army Corps you are held up. The official demands
to know why you are walking about a free man. You flourish the "pass"
signed by "A" in triumph, and with a chortle, point to the signature.
The official scans the "pass," shakes his head sagely, and with a curt
"Come with me!" orders you to follow him. You protest energetically, and
point to the signature. He shakes his head emphatically as he growls
"No! No!" and continues, referring to the owner of the signature on your
"pass," "we know nothing about him! You must see my Commanding Officer."
Reaching this official, who regards you as a criminal who has escaped,
you suddenly learn that the "pass" is not a passport for your movement
through Germany, but is valid only for the Army Corps in which it was
issued!

Consignment to prison is the inevitable sequel. You may protest until
you are black in the face, but it makes no difference. The papers which
you signed day after day until you became sick at the sight of them, but
which were necessary to secure your first "pass," commence their lengthy
and tedious trip through the German Circumlocution Office, the trip
occupying weeks. During this time you are kept in prison and treated as
if you were a common felon, until at last, everything being declared to
be in order, you receive a new "pass" for the Army Corps in which you
have been arrested. The moment you venture into another Army Corps, even
if you return into that from which you were first released, arrest
follows and the whole exasperating rigmarole has to be repeated. The
Army Corps are as arbitrarily defined as anything to be found in
tape-tied Germany.

I do not think that such a wildly humorous feature of organisation to
compare with this is to be found in any other part of the world. Had it
not been for the deliberate misleading, or to term it more accurately,
unblushing lying, upon the part of the respective commanding officers of
the respective Army Corps, the British tourists who happened to be in
Germany when war broke out would have got home safely. Being ignorant of
German manners, customs, and military idiosyncrasies, and placing a
blind faith in German assertion and scraps of paper, the unfortunate
travellers fell into the trap which undoubtedly had been prepared to
meet such conditions.

The British tourists who were caught in eastern Germany, after their
first arrest and release upon one of these despicable and fraudulent
passes, being reassured by the intimation that they were free to go
where they pleased, naturally thought they would be able to hurry home,
and straightaway moved towards the coast. But directly they entered the
adjacent Army Corps they suffered arrest and imprisonment until their
papers were declared to be in order to permit another "pass" to be
issued. Thus it went on, the tourists being successively held up,
delayed, and released. Under these conditions progress to the coast was
exasperatingly slow, and finally was summarily prevented by the drastic
order of the German Government demanding the internment of every
Britisher in the country. It was this senseless and ridiculous
manifestation of German scientific organisation gone mad which
contributed to the congested nature of the civilian internment camps in
the country, and one cannot resist the conclusion that the practice was
brought into force with the deliberate intention of hindering the return
of Britishers who happened to be in the country when war was declared.

At the peaceful residence of my friend overlooking the Rhine, of the
full beauties of which I still cherish a vivid and warm appreciation, I
mended very rapidly. To Mr. and Mrs. K---- I owe a debt of gratitude
which I shall never be able to repay. I entered their home half-starved,
extremely weak, and practically at death's door, but under the careful
nursing and unremitting attention of Mrs. K---- and her husband I
speedily recovered. I had been suffering considerable mental worry,
having received news that my wife at home was seriously ill, but [*gap]
I received a letter, the first since I had left home on August 1st,
which communicated the glad tidings that she had completely recovered
her health. The receipt of that letter banished all anxiety and
fretfulness from my mind. Indeed at the end of a month I felt capable of
tempting fate upon my own initiative once more. I felt that I was
encroaching upon the generosity and hospitality of my newly-found
friends, and this feeling commenced to harass me.

One morning I expressed to K---- my intention to go into Cologne to look
for work. He endeavoured to dissuade me, pointing out that my "pass"
would not permit me to move beyond the limits of the little village, but
I was not to be gainsaid. I felt I could not show sufficient
appreciation for what they had done on my behalf, or discharge the debt
of obligation which I owed to them.

I started off one morning, full of hope and energy, determined to get a
job at all hazards. But that search for work proved to be the most
heart-breaking quest I have ever attempted. I realised that my limited
knowledge of German would bowl me out. All that I knew I had picked up
colloquially while interned at Sennelager, and although it was adequate
to enable me to hold a general conversation, it was hopelessly
insufficient for commercial purposes. Consequently I decided to pretend
to be deaf and dumb.

I entered every shop in the main thoroughfare of Cologne in succession.
I was ready and willing to accept any position, irrespective of its
character. I blundered into an undertaker's premises, which I
subsequently learned to be the largest firm in this line in the city,
and patronised by the rank and fashion of Cologne. I endeavoured to
explain the object of my visit to the proprietor by mimicking
nail-hammering and pointing to a coffin. He invited me into his inner
office where, to my alarm, I descried an officer's uniform hanging
behind the door, and evidently belonging to the proprietor who was about
to join the colours. I decided to make myself scarce with all speed, but
I had to act warily to avoid suspicion.

The proprietor trotted out an elaborate catalogue. He thought I had
come to order a coffin! Being arrayed in a frock coat and somewhat
burnished up, I suppose I had the appearance of a possible customer. I
had led him to believe that I could not speak, but now I assured him
that my real infirmity was very acute stammering. I glanced through
the catalogue carefully so as to arouse no suspicions, to alight upon
a specimen of the handicraft which cost 1,000 marks--£50--and with
apparent effort stuttered that I would consult my brother upon the
matter. I left the shop with my heart in my mouth, but gaining the
street in safety, I put as great a distance between the shop and
myself as I could.

I offered my services indiscriminately to a boot-maker, grocer,
confectioner--in fact I can scarcely recall what trade I did not
strive to enter, but always in vain. Finally I entered a fashionable
hairdresser's establishment. By signs and with considerable labour I
finally made my mission known, and at last ascertained that an
assistant was required, and I could present myself the following
morning. I went off treading on air, absolutely delighted with my
success. In fact I was so elated as to omit to notice that this shop
was in one of the three streets forming a triangle and an island in a
"Y" formed by the two main thoroughfares.

The next morning I returned to the city with my solitary razor in my
pocket--I had been instructed to bring my own kit. I entered the shop
but was decidedly puzzled at the sight of strange faces. This I
attributed to the rush which was prevailing having brought men to the
front whom I had not seen the day before. I proffered my razor to
explain that I had come to start work as arranged. The assistant took
it, and told me it would be ready on the following morning. He thought
I wanted it to be ground and set! Not being able to make myself
understood I went outside, looked at the facia, and found I had gone
to the wrong address. The shop for which I had been engaged was on the
other side of the triangle. I hurried in, to be received with a scowl
by the proprietor, who pointed significantly to the clock to intimate
that I was very late.

However, the proprietor donned his hat and coat and took me to another
shop in a distant part of the city. It was one of his branches. I was
to be employed here, but I knew no more about hair-dressing than about
the fourth dimension. Still I thought I could fulfil the rôle of
lather-boy very effectively.

To my consternation, after lathering one or two customers, I was
ordered to complete the shaving operation. My heart thumped because I
wondered how the unfortunate German client would fare in my unskilled
hands. Bracing myself up I completed the task without a hitch,
although I do not think the customer looked any better after I had
finished with him than he did before.

But the succeeding customer encountered disaster. The razor made a
slip, inflicting a terrible gash in the man's ear.

Pandemonium was let loose. The blood spurted out, smothering my shirt
cuff. The customer raved and swore like a Fury, while the manager,
losing his head, dashed up with a handful of powdered alum which he
strove to apply to the wound, but made a sorry mess of the effort,
because it fell in a shower over the customer's immaculate clothes,
causing him to present the appearance which would have ensued had he
fouled a bag of flour. I surveyed the scene of the disaster for a few
seconds, but observing the customer to be absorbing the complete
attention of the manager I unconcernedly invited the next customer to
take the chair, which he politely declined.

In the course of a few minutes an unsuspecting individual entered and
took the empty seat. I lathered him well, and picked up a razor. But my
hand was now exceedingly unsteady. I caught a glimpse of my soiled shirt
cuff and decided to incur no further risks. I seized my hat and bolted
from the shop.

In my haste I inadvertently infringed another rigid regulation--I
boarded a tram-car in motion. For this misdemeanour I was rated severely
by the conductor. But as I emphasised my deaf and dumb infirmity he
ceased, doubtless feeling that his energy was being wasted. To my
consternation a friend of mine boarded this car, which was proceeding
toward his home, and he at once commenced a conversation. I was on my
guard, and by a surreptitious whisper, I told him of my deaf and dumb
subterfuge. When we reached our destination I related my adventure,
revealing my soiled and blood-stained shirt cuff as corroboration. As I
described the incident he burst into uncontrollable laughter, but then
his face became grave. He felt convinced that a complaint would be
lodged, and that investigation would follow. If I were detected in the
street trouble would ensue, so he urged me to return to my new home and
to lie low for a few days to permit things to blow over.

Another day I was alighting from a tram, when I heard a voice calling
quietly but firmly, "Mein Herr! Mein Herr!" There was no mistaking the
tones. They were so palpably official as not to raise a moment's
doubting. I refrained from looking round, proceeding as if I had not
heard the hail, although I did not quicken my step. But the "Mein Herr!"
continued to ring out persistently, and at last the speaker touched me
on the arm. I turned and, as I had anticipated, was confronted by an
officer.

He demanded to know why I was walking about Cologne. He saw that I was a
Britisher and so responded to the call of his inquisitorial duty. I
produced my "pass" without a word of comment. He looked at it and gave
me a queer glance, but I never turned a hair, and while he was looking
at me I calmly withdrew the "pass" from his hands and slipped it into my
pocket.

At this action there was an excited outburst, but I firmly and
resolutely told him that I could not surrender my "pass." I had been
told to keep it at all hazards, and I intended to do so. It was my sole
protection. Not being able to dispute the truth of my assertions, he
merely told me to come with him. I did not like the turn of events but
had to obey. He stopped short before a box, possibly a telephone,
outside which a sentry was standing. He said something to the sentry,
told me to wait outside, and disappeared within the box.

I waited patiently for a few minutes, thinking hard to discover some
ruse to get away, but retaining a perfectly calm and collected
demeanour. If I moved I feared the sentry would raise the alarm. Yet as
I stood there it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the sentry, with
typical Teuton denseness of thought, might consider that I was a friend
of the officer, and that I was only waiting for him. I glanced anxiously
up and down the street, listened at the box, and fidgeted with papers as
if fearing that I should miss an appointment unless my friend soon
re-appeared.

The sentry appeared to consider my actions quite natural. Emboldened I
withdrew a piece of paper from my pocket and hurriedly scribbled, as if
jotting down a hurried note. But I knew little German and far less how
to write it. After finishing the note I slipped it into the sentry's
hand, telling him to take it to my friend the officer in the box.

He laughed "Ja! Ja!" and I moved off to the tram which was just
starting in the direction I desired. I have often wondered what happened
when the officer came out and discovered that I had vanished! The sentry
must have experienced a rough five minutes, because the officer could
not have been mollified by what I had written, which was simply the two
words "Guten Tag!" (Good-day!).

I dismissed the incident from my mind but the following night I received
a terrible fright. I had promised some friends to accompany them to the
Opera. We boarded a car. As I entered the vehicle I nearly sank through
the floor. There, sitting on the seat, was the officer whom I had left
so abruptly and discourteously the previous day. In a low voice I
related my alarming discovery to my companions, but urged them to
proceed as if nothing had happened, so they maintained a spirited
conversation in German, discreetly monopolising all the talking. The
officer was glaring at me fiercely but I saw that he was in a quandary.
To him my face was familiar but he was cudgelling his brains as to where
he had seen me before. His inability to place me proved my salvation.
When we got up, both my companions and myself wished him "Good-night,"
to which he responded cheerfully. Whatever his thoughts concerning
myself might have been, my "Good-night" completely removed all his
suspicions.

About three weeks after my arrival at Cologne, K---- and I were
surprised to hear familiar voices in the hall of his home. We came out
and to our astonishment there were two fellow-prisoners from Sennelager.
They were R----, a British bank manager, and F----, both of whom at the
time of writing are still languishing in Ruhleben. They had been granted
liberty on a "pass," having mentioned K----'s name. He was delighted
they had accepted his outstanding invitation and gave them a hearty
welcome.

[Illustration:

Bürgermeißter-Aurt Greis

Polizeiliche Aufforderung im Exekutiv-Verfahren.

Auf Grund des § 20 des Geletes über die Polizeiverwaltung vom 11. März
1850 bezw. des § 132 des Geletes über die allgemeine Laubesverwaltung
vom 30. Jüli 1883 werden Sie hiermit aufgefordert

[Transcriber's note: portions illegible, struck through and added in
handwriting]

und zwar bei Vermeidung einer Greturgstrase von----Mart oder einer----
tägten Haftstrase----Geen diese Aufforderung kann immerhalb awet Wochen
nach Aushändigung bersetbeii Beschwerde bei dem KönigtichenBerrn Bonbrat
zu----angebracht werden.

----, den 22 September 1914

Die Polizeiverwaltung. Der Bürgermeißter.]

But before we could settle down, K---- had to accompany the two new
arrivals to the village Burgermeister's office to secure permission for
their residence in his home. K---- and this official were on friendly
terms, but I could not restrain a smile when the official, with a slight
trace of waspishness in his voice, enquired if it was K----'s intention
to establish a British colony in the village? I might mention that
within a stone's throw of K----'s home was a large factory where a
number of Germans were employed, which was managed by three Englishmen.
It was a highly prosperous and flourishing business and, the three
managers living in the village, it certainly did seem as if the little
place were to become colonised.

On the night of November 6th, while we were all making merry after the
evening meal, there came a peremptory knocking at the door. We looked at
one another wonderingly and our hearts fell into our boots as we heard
an ominous tramping of feet in the hall. Two police officers entered the
room and called out our names. We answered affirmatively.

"Gentlemen! You will accompany us to Cologne!" At the pronouncement we
blanched. We knew only too well what the imperative summons conveyed.
_We were under arrest!_



CHAPTER XVII

RE-IMPRISONED AT KLINGELPUTZ


My friend, being a well-known commercial man of Cologne, was acquainted
with the two gendarmes. He recognised the futility of attempting to run
against the decree of the Powers-that-Be, together with the fact that
these two officers were only doing their duty. He invited them to eat
and drink. They accepted the favour, our good spirits revived, and we
informally discussed the new situation and its portent.

The two officers, not wishing to hurt K----'s feelings more than was
absolutely necessary, and residing in the vicinity, suggested that they
should meet us at a certain point at a given time to escort us into
Cologne. The appointment being settled to mutual satisfaction they
departed and we at once busied ourselves with preparations for another
sojourn in prison, which we considered to be our certain fate. Our
hostess packed a huge reserve of dainties of all descriptions sufficient
to last us several days, by which time we fondly concluded that any
formalities demanded by the authorities would be completed, and we
should once more be allowed to go free on "passes."

We kept the appointment with the two officers who, out of respect for
our host, had discarded their uniforms for mufti. Consequently, to the
casual man in the street, we appeared to be only a little party going
into the city for a mild junketing.

We were told that the official fiat had gone forth that all Britishers
within the German Empire, both resident and touring, were to be
arrested. All sorts of reasons were advanced to explain this action but
they were merely speculative. There is one feature about the Teuton
Government which is far from being characteristic of the British
authorities. The Germans never do things by halves. What they authorise
to be done is carried out to the letter. What they say they mean and
there is no delay in executing an order once it is issued. The Teuton
system may have shortcomings but hesitation and vacillation cannot be
numbered among them. Directly the order concerning the re-arrest of the
British was issued, extreme activity was displayed in carrying it out.
Possibly it was a mere temporary measure, as K---- half hoped, but that
was immaterial. Every alien was rounded up within a few hours and placed
safely under lock and key.

We were not kept in doubt as to our future for many minutes. We learned
at the Polizei Prasidium that we were to be immured in Klingelputz
prison. Many of our number were gathered there, having once been
released on "pass," and from the circumstance that they were business
men in practice and residence in Germany the confident belief prevailed
that after re-registration all would be released. But we were speedily
disappointed. All of us without the slightest discrimination were placed
under restraint.

Directly we entered Klingelputz and had passed into the main building I
could not restrain my curiosity. This penitentiary was vastly dissimilar
from Wesel. It is a huge building not only covering a considerable tract
of ground, but is several floors in height, thus providing cell
accommodation for hundreds of prisoners.

But it was the method of securing the prisoners which compelled my
instant attention. Ahead of me I saw what I first took to be an
iron-railed barrier behind which a number of men were crowding as if to
catch a glimpse of us. But to my astonishment I discovered, as I
advanced, that this was not an iron barrier keeping back a
curiosity-provoked crowd but the cells and their inmates. I was startled
to hear frantic hails, "Mahoney! Mahoney! Hooray! Come on!"

I stepped forward to ascertain that I was being called by two or three
compatriots whom I had left behind at Sennelager, but who had afterwards
been released on "pass" and re-rounded up as aliens. I returned the
greeting hilariously, upon which one of the British prisoners, who was
remarkably agile, swarmed the bars, and poised thus above his comrades,
was emulating the strange and amusing antics of a monkey at the
Zoological Gardens, thereby conveying by his actions that he and his
friends were caged after the manner of our simian prizes at home.

The cells were indeed cages, as I discovered upon closer inspection, and
recalled nothing so much as parrot cages upon a large scale. All sides
were barred in the self-same manner so that from any point one could see
every corner of the cell and discover what the inmate or rather inmates
were doing, because each cell was really six cells in one. The cage was
rectangular in plan, each cell measuring about seven feet in length by
three feet in width, and fairly high. But it was the internal
arrangement of the cell which struck me. In plan it was set out
something like the following:--

[Illustration]

The middle gangway A not only served as the approach to the
sub-divisions or cells B on either side, but also constituted the space
occupied by the prisoners during the day. Each of the sub-divisions was
large enough to receive a bed and nothing else. There was only
sufficient space to stand beside the couch. Upon retiring for the night
the prisoner was compelled to disrobe in the central space or gangway A,
then, picking up his clothes he had to sidle round the door and climb
over his bed to get into it. In the morning, upon rising, he either had
to stand upon his bed to dress or to come out into the central gangway,
the space beside his bed being scarcely sufficient to permit free
movement.

Normally, I suppose, each cell or cage is designed to receive six
prisoners, one to each sub-division, in which event circulation in the
dividing open space would be possible. But the facilities of Klingelputz
were so taxed at the time that every morning further prisoners were
brought from the masonry cells below and locked in this open space for
the day. The result was considerable overcrowding, there being no fewer
than twenty-six men in one of the cages including some of our
fellow-countrymen from Sennelager upon the day I entered. But the men
from the latter camp happened to be some of the most irrepressible
spirits among us. They considered it to be huge fun to swing and climb
about the bars like monkeys, and their quaint antics and badinage kept
their comrades buoyant.

While I made application to be put in one of these extraordinary cells,
merely to experience the novelty, my four comrades expressed their
sincere hope that we should meet with superior accommodation. In this we
were not disappointed, if the quarters to which we were taken were
capable of being called superior. We were escorted down flights of steps
which appeared to lead to the very bowels of the State hotel. Finally we
were ushered into a long subterranean apartment, which was really a
cellar, and was evidently intended to house five prisoners at one time,
seeing that there were this number of beds. Except for the fact that it
was a cellar and very little light penetrated its walls, little fault
could be found with it. Certainly it was scrupulously clean, for which
we were devoutly thankful, while on the table an oil-lamp was burning.

Life at Klingelputz would have been tolerable but for one thing--the
prison fare. At six o'clock we were served with a basin of acorn coffee
and a small piece of black bread for breakfast. At twelve we were
treated to a small dole of skilly, the most execrable food I have ever
tasted even in a German prison camp. It was skilly in the fullest sense
of the word. Whatever entered into its composition must have been used
most sparingly; its nutritive value was absolutely negligible. At five
in the afternoon we received another basin of the acorn coffee together
with a small piece of black bread, and this had to keep us going for the
next thirteen hours.

Fortunately the food which we had brought with us served as a valuable
supplement to that provided by the State. It not only kept us alive but
enabled us to maintain our condition. The old fellow who was our gaoler
was tractable; indeed he was somewhat apologetic for having to look
after such estimable gentlemen, an attitude which was doubtless due to
the fact that he knew we should look after him! We endeavoured to see if
he could supply a little more "liberty and fresh air" but the old warder
shook his head sorrowfully.

[*large gap]

Lights had to be extinguished by nine o'clock, and it was the evening
which taxed our endurance. We had to while away the hours as best we
could. First we improvised an Indian band, using our basins as tom-toms
and singing the most weird music. As a variety we dressed up in our
blankets to resemble Red Indians and indulged in blood-curdling
war-dances. Such measures for passing the time may sound extremely
childish to readers, but it must be remembered that there was nothing
else for us to do unless we were content to sit down with our chins in
our hands, with the corners of our mouths drooping, and our faces
wearing the expression of undertakers' mutes. Had we not participated in
the admittedly infantile amusements we should have gone mad.

When we had demolished our food reserves and were utterly dependent upon
the prison diet, we speedily began to betray signs of our captivity and
deprivations. We petitioned for permission to purchase food from outside
but this met with a curt refusal. Eventually the prison authorities
relented and we were permitted to purchase our mid-day meal from a
restaurant, for which privilege by the way we were mulcted very heavily.

During the day we were permitted to stretch our limbs in the exercise
yard for about fifteen minutes. No steel-bound rules and regulations
such as I had experienced at Wesel prevailed here. We were free to
intermingle and to converse as we pleased. This relaxation was keenly
anticipated and enjoyed because it gave us the opportunity to exchange
reminiscences. We learned enough during this brief period to provide
material for further topics of conversation. This, however, was the
experience of our party. Others fared worse and were shut up in single
cells in which, as I had previously done at Wesel, they were compelled
to pace.

We only shared the large underground cell together at night because of
its sleeping accommodation. We were shut in separate cells during the
day, which prevented interchange of conversation and inter-amusement
during the day except in the exercise yard. But solitary confinement was
rare, and in the majority of cases we learned that the aliens were
placed in small parties of four or five in a single cell. After a few
days our party was swelled by five new arrivals from different parts of
Germany. We were a cosmopolitan crowd, comprising every strata of
society, from wealthy men down to stable lads. One boisterous spirit, a
Cockney, confessed far and wide that he had once suffered imprisonment
at home for horse-stealing, and he did not care a rap for anything or
anybody. He was always bubbling over with exuberant merriment and was
one of those who can project every situation into its relative humorous
perspective. Another prisoner was an Englishman who had been resident in
Germany for twenty-five years, and at the time of his arrest occupied a
very prominent position in one of the foremost banking institutions.

This man felt his humiliation acutely. He paced his cell from morning to
night, peevish and nervous, brooding deeply over what he considered to
be an atrocity. He was a well-known man and on intimate terms with many
of the foremost members of the Government and of the Services. He wrote
to every man whom he thought capable of exerting powerful and
irresistible influence upon his behalf, but without any tangible
results. The fact that this man, apparently more Teuton, from his long
residence and associations in the country, than British, had been thrown
into prison brought home to us the thorough manner in which the Germans
carried out their task of placing all aliens in safety. It was
immaterial how prominent the position of the Britisher, his wealth, or
his indispensability to the concern with which he was identified. Into
prison he went when the general rounding up of enemies order was
promulgated.

The Cockney who had been imprisoned for horse-stealing badgered this
superior fellow-prisoner unmercifully. He was incessantly dwelling upon
the man's descent from a position of comfort and ease to "quod" as he
termed it. He would go up to the prisoner, pacing the exercise yard, and
slapping him on the back would yap:

"Now then, old sport! Don't get so down in the mouth about it!"

The prisoner would venture some snappy retort.

"All right, Cocky! Crikey, you'd look mighty fine stuck up against a
wall with half a dozen bloomin' Prussian rifles looking at yer. Blime if
I don't believe you'd dodge the bullets by caving-in at the knees!"

A fierce look would be the response to such torment.

"Gawd's trewth! My fretful bumble-bee, I'd write to old Tight-Whiskers
about it if I was you. Get 'im to come an' bail yer out!"

At first we wondered who the personality so irreverently described as
"Tight-Whiskers" was, but subsequently we were enlightened. He was
referring to Von Tirpitz, "Th' bloke wot looks arter th' Germin Navy!"

When the Cockney, who appeared to be downright proud of his ability to
keep his "pecker up," found banter to be unproductive, he would assume a
tone of extreme sympathetic feeling, but this was so obviously unreal as
to be more productive of laughter than his outspoken sallies.

Once a week there was a sight from which, after my first experience, I
was always glad to escape. On this day the prisoners were taken into the
exercise yard to meet their wives and children. On these occasions when
supplies of food were brought in, some very heart-rending scenes were
witnessed, the little toddlers clinging to their fathers' coat-tails and
childishly urging them to come home, while the women's eyes were wet and
red.

The sanitary arrangements in Klingelputz were on a level with those of
other prisons. Two commodes, with ill-fitting lids, sufficed for ten
men, and in the underground apartment to which we were condemned, and of
which the ventilation was very indifferent, the conditions became
nauseating. To make matters worse the vile prison food precipitated an
epidemic of acute diarrhoea and sickness, so that the atmosphere within
the limited space became so unbearable as to provoke the facetious
Cockney to declare that "'e could cut it with a knife," while he
expressed his resolve "to ask th' gaoler for a nail to drive into it" to
serve as a peg for his clothes! But it was no laughing matter, and we
all grew apprehensive of being stricken down with some fearful malady
brought on simply and purely by the primitive sanitary arrangements.
Only once a day were the utensils subjected to a perfunctory cleansing,
a job which was carried out by the criminals incarcerated in the prison.

These criminals would do anything for us. The first night they tapped at
the door to our cellar, and, peeping through the cracks, we saw a number
of these degraded specimens of German humanity in their night attire.
They had heard who we were and begged for a cigarette. We passed two or
three through the key-hole. The moment a cigarette got through there was
a fearful din in the fight for its possession, culminating in a terrific
crashing. The gaoler had appeared upon the scene! Quietness reigned for
a few minutes, when they would stealthily return and whisper all sorts
of yarns concerning the reasons for their imprisonment in order to
wheedle further cigarettes from us.

We were "clinked" in Klingelputz, as the Cockney expressed it, on
November 6, 1914, and were kept in a state of terrible suspense. At
last one morning the prison officials entered and called out the name of
the three managers of the large works at the village in which K----
resided, who had been imprisoned with us. My friend and I naturally
expected that their order for release had arrived, and we waited
expectantly for their return to congratulate them, since their release
would be a happy augury for us. They returned shortly, laden with bulky
parcels of food which had been sent to them, and we all sat down to a
Gargantuan spread. But we had scarcely started the meal when the gaoler
entered and calling our names, ordered us to follow him to the office.
Here we had to answer to our names once more. Then the Governor, in a
sonorous voice, went on:

"Gentlemen! You are free men. Passes will be re-issued to you, but you
will have to go to the Polizei Prasidium to have the requisite papers
prepared."

At this intelligence we became wildly excited. K---- had been
anticipating such a development, but the process of deciding the issue
had been protracted from the slow pace and roundabout journey which such
matters have to take through the German Circumlocution Office. We
started off to the Prasidium, escorted, strange to say, by the two
officials who had arrested us at K----'s residence, and with whom my
friend was now conversing gaily. As we passed the cages the English boys
caught sight of me, and there were frantic yells of congratulation and
good wishes upon our good fortune.

Reaching the Prasidium we were ushered into an outer room, the two
officials proceeding into an inner room armed with our papers. While we
were waiting K---- turned to me and remarked:

"I hope they'll get us fixed up jolly quickly. Those two officers told
me that to-morrow all aliens are to be sent from Klingelputz to the
internment camp at Ruhleben. If we get our 'passes' we shall dodge that
excursion very neatly!"

While we were talking the two officials came out and hurriedly left the
building. They did not glance at us, and from their bearing I surmised
that something had gone wrong at the last minute. I turned to my friend.

"Did you notice those fellows' faces? They looked pretty solemn. I'll
bet you something's in the wind, and it won't be to our advantage."

At that moment we were summoned into the inner office. The official
called out our names, to which we answered, mine being the last.

"Ach! Ma-hone-i!" he exclaimed, "Englische Spion! Eh?"

I acknowledged the accusation. Although I was fully accustomed to the
repetition of these words by now, since they were hurled at me at every
turn, they were beginning to become somewhat irksome. Upon each occasion
when the interrogation was flung out for the first time by a new
official, it was delivered with a strange and jarring jerk.

"Well, you were to be free on 'passes,' but the papers are not in order.
They have been sent from the wrong place. They should have come from
Coblentz. So they will have to be returned to be dispatched through the
correct channel!"

How we cursed that German Circumlocution Office and this latest
expression of Teuton organisation. The papers were correct, but because
they had happened to come from the wrong office they were to be sent
back to be re-dispatched from Coblentz, although they would not suffer
the slightest alteration or addition in the process. Prussian red-tape
was going crazy with a vengeance.

We were escorted to a cell in the basement of the Prasidium. Were we
going to be kept here until the papers came to hand again? However,
seeing that the trip would take some days, this was scarcely likely
unless something extraordinary supervened. While we were discussing this
latest and totally unexpected _dénouement_ we heard the low rumbling of
heavy wheels. K---- cocked his ears with an acute tension.

"Hark!" he blurted out. "Damn it all, Mahoney, that's the 'Black Maria!'
We are going back to Klingelputz or somewhere else!"

It was indeed the Teuton "Black Maria," and we were hurried upstairs to
be tumbled into it. It was a dismal vehicle, there being barely
sufficient space to accommodate our party, which had been further
encumbered by two German demi-mondaines, who had been arrested for some
infraction of the German law as it affected their peculiar interests. We
were so tightly packed that we had to stand sideways, and I amused
myself by working out the allowance of air space per person. It averaged
about fourteen cubic inches!

We rumbled into the courtyard at Klingelputz, dejected and somewhat ill
of temper at our disappointment. We were worrying because apparently the
alien prisoners were to be dispatched to Ruhleben on the morrow. Unless
we received our "passes" in time the chances were a thousand to one that
we should be doomed to the self-same camp.

As we re-entered the prison we were greeted with a deafening yell. It
came from the caged British prisoners.

"Hullo, boys! What cheer, Mahoney!" they shrieked. "Have they dished you
again? Thought you were going home? Well, we're mighty pleased to see
you back at the 'Zoo'!" and there was another wild exhibition of simian
acrobatics upon the bars for our especial amusement.

But I had become so inured to the juggling tactics of Prussian
officialdom that I was far from showing my inner feelings of chagrin. I
entered into their banter as energetically, and with a parting "See you
to-morrow, boys!" vanished down the steps with their frantic hails
ringing in my ears.

The following morning we were marshalled, and as K---- had been
dreading, the worst had happened. We were consigned "British Prisoners
of War for internment at Ruhleben!" Home was now farther from me than
ever!



PRISON FOUR--RUHLEBEN



CHAPTER XVIII

THE CAMP OF ABANDONED HOPE


It was 4.30 in the morning of November 12 when the blare of the bugle
echoed through the long, dreary passages of Klingelputz Prison. To the
British prisoners--in fact to all the aliens--that crash was of fearful
import.

We were commanded to parade at 5 a.m. in one of the long upper corridors
flanked on either side by cells. We were formed in a double line, and as
our names were called we had to step forward. The roll-call was bawled
out, not once, but half a dozen times to make positive it had been read
correctly. Then we were counted, also some half-a-dozen times, to assure
the totals tallying.

These preliminaries completed, preparations for our transference to
Ruhleben were hurried forward. We packed up our belongings, together
with all the food upon which we could place our hands, and re-lined up.
Under a strong guard we were marched to Cologne station. On the way,
several of us, anxious to communicate with our friends and relatives,
notifying them of our new address, dropped post-cards into the roadway.
The idea was to attract the attention of the guards to them, and then by
bribe to induce them to place them in the post. But the officers were
too eagle-eyed. They evidently anticipated such a ruse and accordingly
kept the soldiers under severe surveillance. One soldier who picked up a
post-card, which I had dropped in this manner, was caught in the act and
received a terrifying rating on the spot. Thus we who dropped the cards
had to rely upon the tender mercies and good-natured feeling of whoever
chanced to pick them up to slip them into the post, but I fear very few
were dispatched.

We were huddled into the train at Cologne, but it was not until 8.30
that we steamed out of the station. We travelled continuously throughout
the day until we reached Hannover at 9 in the evening. During the
journey, those who had exercised the forethought to bring food with them
had every reason to congratulate themselves, because this was all upon
which we had to subsist during the twelve and a half hours' travelling.
The authorities did not furnish us with so much as a crust of bread or a
spoonful of water. Moreover, if we chanced to pull up at a station where
refreshments of any kind might have been procurable, we were not allowed
to satisfy our cravings. At one stop, owing to one of our comrades
falling ill, we asked the Red Cross for a drop of water. We paid a
mark--one shilling--for it, but after taking the money they merely
jeered, spat at us, and refused to respond to our request.

At Hannover we were permitted to buy what we could, but I may say that
it was very little because the buffet attempted to rob us unmercifully.
A tiny sandwich cost fourpence, while a small basin of thin and
unappetising soup, evidently prepared in anticipation of our arrival,
was just as expensive. Still the fact remains that throughout the whole
railway journey the German authorities never supplied us with a mouthful
of food.

After a wait of three hours at Hannover the train resumed its journey,
reaching the station adjacent to the camp at Ruhleben at 6.0 a.m. Thus
we had been confined to our carriages for 21½ hours, suffering intense
discomfort from the stifling atmosphere and our cramped quarters.

Our first impression of Ruhleben was by no means inspiriting. The camp
had been started some two or three months previous to our arrival on
November 14th, 1914, but it was in a terribly chaotic condition. German
method and organisation recorded a dismal and complete failure here.

Having reached the grounds, and registration completed to the
satisfaction of the authorities, we were marched off to our quarters.
The party to which I was attached was escorted to a stable which was of
the ordinary single floor type, characteristic of these islands, with a
row of horse-boxes and a loft for the storage of hay and other
impedimenta above. The horse-boxes measured ten feet square and had only
been cleaned out perfunctorily. The raw manure was still clinging to the
walls, while the stalls were wet from the straw which had been recently
removed. Indeed in some stalls it had not been cleared out.

The atmosphere had that peculiarly pungent ammonia smell incidental to
recently tenanted stables. The prisoners who were allotted to those
stalls in which the wet straw still remained were compelled to lie down
upon it so that they had a far from inviting or savoury couch. Yet there
were many who preferred the unsalubrious and draughty stalls to the loft
overhead, and prices for the former ruled high, as much as 100
marks--£5--being freely given for this accommodation. This speculation
in the quarters for the prisoners constituted one of the greatest
scandals of the camp during its early days, inasmuch as it acted
unfairly against those who were "broke." Who pocketed this money we
never learned, but there was a very shrewd suspicion that certain
persons were far from being scrupulous and did not hesitate to pursue
their usual shark tactics, even under such circumstances.

K---- and myself were compelled to shake ourselves down in the loft. It
was reached by a creaking and crazy wooden staircase. Gaining the upper
regions we nearly encountered disaster. The loft was practically void of
natural illumination, the result being a kind of perpetual dismal
gloom, which to us, coming out of the broad daylight, appeared to be
darkness until our eyes grew accustomed to it.

The floor was of stone or concrete and in the centre of the space the
height from floor to the highest point of the gable roof was about 7
feet, sloping to 4 feet 6 inches at the sides.

The authorities cannot be credited with being liberal in assigning us
space. The roof rafters were spaced 10 feet apart and between each two
of these five men had to shake down their beds. Thus each was given a
space 2 feet in width by 6 feet in length in which to make himself at
home and to stow his belongings. The quarters were so cramped that to
dress and undress it was necessary to stand in the centre of the gangway
which ran down the middle of the loft. Once in bed it was almost
impossible to turn over. To make matters worse the roof was far from
being watertight and when a heavy shower swept over us the water would
trickle and drip through, while the slits in the wall allowed the wind
to whistle and rush into the loft with ear-cutting force.

When we entered into possession the floor was perfectly bare, but we
were given a miserable allowance of trusses of straw, each of which was
divided up sparingly between so many men. This we threw loosely upon the
floor to form a couch, but the allowance was so inadequate that no man
could keep himself warm, because the cold from the stone drove through
the thin covering, while it was quite out of the question to find
comfort.

Only a few blankets were served out. I, myself, made eighteen distinct
applications for one, but was denied the luxury, if such it can be
called, until eleven months after my arrival at the camp. Had it not
been for the generosity of K----, who freely gave me one of his
blankets, coupled with one or two overcoats which I secured as a result
of my trading operations in the camp, to which I refer later, I should
have been compelled to face the bone-piercing, marrow-congealing wintry
weather without the slightest covering beyond the clothes in which I
stood. Those who, unlike me, were lacking a liberal friend, lay
shivering, depending purely upon the warmth radiating from one another's
bodies as they laid huddled in rows.

We protested against this lack of blankets to the United States
Ambassador, time after time, but it was of little avail. The authorities
persisted in their statements that a blanket had been served out to
every man. In fact it was asserted in the British papers, as a result of
the Ambassador's investigations, that each man had been served with two
blankets. But for every man who did possess two blankets there were
three prisoners who had not one! The authorities endeavoured to shuffle
the responsibility for being without blankets upon the prisoners
themselves, unblushingly stating that they had been careless in looking
after them, had lost them, or had been so lax as to let them be stolen.
If the Ambassador had only gone to the trouble to make a complete and
personal canvass he would have probed the matter to the bottom. If a
parade with blankets had been called, the German Government would have
been fairly trapped in its deliberate lying.

About ten months after I entered the camp, blankets were purchasable at
the camp stores. They cost us nine shillings apiece and they were not
our exclusive property. When a prisoner received his release he was not
permitted to take his blanket with him. Neither had it any surrender
value. It had to be left behind. If the prisoner could find a purchaser
for it he was at liberty to do so, but if no sale could be consummated
then it had to be presented to a comrade. The blanket was not allowed to
leave the camp because it contained a certain amount of wool!

The food supplied by the authorities did not vary very pronouncedly from
what I had received in other camps, but if anything it was a trifle
better, especially in the early days, when Germany was not feeling the
pinch of the British blockade. For breakfast there was the eternal acorn
coffee and a hunk of black bread. The mid-day repast comprised a soup
contrived from potatoes, cabbage, and carrots with traces of meat. One
strange mixture which the authorities were fond of serving out to us was
a plate of rice and prunes garnished with a small sausage! I invariably
traded the sausage with a comrade for prunes, this so-called German
dainty not appealing to my palate in the slightest. After a while,
however, this dish vanished from the limited menu. Tea was merely a
repetition of the morning meal.

Our first emphatic protest was in connection with our sleeping
accommodation in the loft. A representative came from the American
Embassy and we introduced him forthwith to our sleeping quarters. We not
only voiced our complaints but we demonstrated our inability to get warm
at night owing to the cold floor striking through the straw. He agreed
with us and ordered the authorities to provide us with sleeping
arrangements somewhat more closely allied to civilized practice. The
Germans obeyed the letter but not the spirit of the Representative's
recommendations. They sent us in a few boards spaced an inch or two
apart and nailed to thin cross battens. In this way our bodies were
lifted about two inches off the floor!

The straw when served out to us was perfectly clean and fresh, but it
did not retain this attractiveness for a very long time. The soil in the
vicinity of Ruhleben is friable, the surface being a thick layer of fine
sand in dry, and an evil-looking slush in wet, weather. As the prisoners
when entering the barracks were unable to clean their boots, the mud was
transferred to the straw. Not only did the straw thus become extremely
dirty but the mud, upon drying, charged it heavily with dust. When a
tired man threw himself down heavily upon his sorry couch he was
enveloped for a few seconds in the cloud of dust which he sent from the
straw into the air. Whenever we attempted to shake up our beds to make
them slightly more comfortable, the darkness of the loft was rendered
darker by the dense dust fog which was precipitated. Naturally violent
coughing and sneezing attended these operations and the dust, being far
from clean in itself, wrought fearful havoc with our lungs. I recall one
prisoner who was in perfect health when he entered the camp, but within
a few weeks he had contracted tuberculosis. He declined so rapidly as to
arouse the apprehensions of the authorities, who hurriedly sent him home
to Britain.

After lying upon this bare straw for three months we were given some
coarse sacking and were peremptorily ordered to fill these bags with the
straw. This task gave the sand and dust a spirited opportunity to
penetrate our systems. Had a stranger outside the building heard our
violent coughing he would have been pardoned had he construed our loft
to be a hospital for consumptives.

We had been lying for quite six months upon this straw when we were
suddenly paraded to receive the order to re-appear a quarter of an hour
later with our beds. Re-parading we were commanded to empty the sacks to
form a big pile, and it was a repulsive-looking accumulation. But we
observed this straw was collected and carted away very carefully,
although at the time we paid little attention to the incident.

Naturally we concluded that we were to be given a supply of new straw,
and not before it was wanted. But we were not to be treated as milksops.
We were marched off to the railway station where there was a quantity of
wooden shavings which we were told to pack into our sacks. When we
attacked the bundles we recoiled in horror. The material was reeking
wet. The authorities might just as well have served us with soddened
sponges.

What could be done? Visions of rheumatic fever and various other racking
maladies arising from sleeping upon a wet bed haunted us. However, the
day being fine we rapidly strewed the bedding material out in the hope
that the sun would dry it somewhat. This precaution, however, was only
partially successful. Our couches were damp that night.

We thought no more about the straw which we had been compelled to
exchange for the shavings until we learned that a German newspaper was
shrieking with wild enthusiasm about Teuton resourcefulness and science
having scored another scintillating economic triumph. According to this
newspaper an illustrious professor had discovered that straw possessed
decidedly valuable nourishing qualities essential to human life, and
that it was to be ground up and to enter into the constitution of the
bread, which accordingly was now to be composed of at least three
constituents--wheat-meal, potato flour, and straw. Some of us began to
ponder long and hard over the straw which had so suddenly been taken
away from us, especially myself, as I had experienced so many of the
weird tactics which are pursued by the Germans in their vain efforts to
maintain their game of bluff.

I asked every member of our party, in the event of discovering a foreign
article in his bread, to hand it over to me because I had decided to
become a collecting fiend of an unusual type. Contributions were
speedily forthcoming, and they ranged over pieces of dirty straw, three
to four inches in length, fragments of coke, pieces of tree-bark, and
odds and ends of every description--in fact just the extraneous
substances which penetrated into our loft with the mud clinging to our
boots and which, of course, became associated with the loose straw. I
cherished this collection, which by the time I secured my release had
assumed somewhat impressive proportions. I left these relics in safe
keeping near the border, and they will come into my hands upon the
conclusion of the war if not before.

From these strange discoveries I was prompted to make inquisitive
enquiries. I discreetly and in apparent idleness cross-questioned the
guards and any other sources of information which were likely to prove
fruitful. My interrogations were so seemingly innocent as to draw
immediate and comprehensive replies. Stringing these fragments of
information together, it was impossible to come to any conclusion other
than that I had formed in my own mind, namely, that the straw upon which
we had been lying for six months had been whisked off to the granary and
had re-appeared among us in the guise of the staff of life! It was not
conducive to our peace of mind to think we had probably been eating our
beds!

[*large gap]

During the early days, owing to the insufficiency of nutritious food,
we were hard-pressed. There were no canteens, but presently these
appeared and we were able to purchase further limited supplies of food,
at an all but prohibitive price I might mention, because the rascally
German speculators had paid heavily for the privilege of being able to
fleece the British. When, at a later date, we received a weekly
allowance of five shillings, the plight of everyone became eased
materially, although, unfortunately, this sum went a very short way
owing to the extortionate prices which prevailed.

One particularly atrocious scandal was associated with the arrival of
some big crates of comforts sent out to us by one of the philanthropic
missions at home. The local stores suddenly blossomed forth with a huge
and extremely varied stock of wearing apparel--mufflers, socks, and
other articles of which we were in urgent need. I, among others, did not
hesitate to renew my wardrobe, which demanded replenishment,
particularly as the prices appeared to be attractive. We were ignorant
as to the origin of this stock, but it did not trouble our minds until
my purchase of a pair of socks. This precipitated an uproar, because
within one of the socks I found a small piece of paper on which was
written, undoubtedly by the hand which had diligently knitted the
article, "With love from----. To a poor British prisoner of war in
Germany," followed by the name of the Mission to whom the articles had
been sent, doubtless in response to an appeal.

This discovery revealed the maddening circumstance that what had been
sent out to Ruhleben for free distribution among the prisoners was
actually being sold. There was an enquiry which yielded a more or less
convincing result according to one's point of view.

There was also an outcry over the crates in which these articles were
sent to us. The party of which I was a member had removed from the loft
to a horse-box beneath which had been vacated. When we entered this
attractive residence the walls were still covered with manure--they
were not given a dressing of whitewash until later--while lying upon the
bare floor, with only a thin sack of doubtful shavings between us and
the stone, did not heighten our spirits. But as we were becoming
reconciled to our captivity, we decided to make our uninviting stall as
homely as we could. We decided upon a wooden bed apiece. The
authorities, after persistent worrying, only partially acceded to our
demands by providing three primitive single beds for occupation by six
men.

As we could not persuade the authorities to serve us with a bed apiece,
we decided to build the three extra beds ourselves. But we were faced
with the extreme difficulty of procuring the requisite wood! The
authorities had none to give away and very little to sell. When we saw
these empty packing cases, which were of huge dimensions, we thought
luck had come our way at last, so we approached the proprietor of the
stores for permission to break them up. But to our disgust he informed
us that he had already parted with them--for a consideration we
discovered afterwards. Two had been secured by a German sentry in the
camp to be converted into wardrobes, while the others were in the hands
of the camp carpenter. We approached this worthy, but he ridiculed the
suggestion that he should give some of the wood to us for our intended
purpose. We could _buy_ the boards if we liked. As there was no
alternative source of supply we did so, and the price of purchase showed
that the carpenter cleared nine shillings on each crate! With much
difficulty we built our three extra beds between us, but the outlay for
materials alone was eighteen shillings!

The cold during the winter affected us very severely because the barrack
was absolutely devoid of any heating facilities. When the snow was
carpeting the ground to a depth of from six to eight inches, and the
thermometer was hovering several degrees below zero we lay awake nearly
the whole night shivering with cold. Indeed on more than one occasion,
I with others, abandoned all attempts to sleep and trudged the loft to
keep warm.

We appealed to the American Ambassador in the hope that he would be able
to rectify matters. When he came upon the scene there was another
outburst of indignation. He ordered the authorities to instal a heating
system without further delay. By driving through our sole protector in
this manner, we, as usual, received some measure of respite. But the
heating was useless to those living in the horse-boxes. The side
partitions of the latter were not carried up to the ceiling, but a space
of some two feet was left. To protect ourselves from the fierce
ear-cutting draught which swept through the stables we blocked these
spaces with brown paper. But the means which somewhat combated the
onslaughts of the draughts also shut out the heat, so that, in our case,
and it was typical of others, we really did not benefit one iota from
the "complete heating system" with which, so the German press asserted,
Ruhleben Camp was lavishly equipped.

Christmas Day, 1914, was an unholy nightmare. Our fare could not, by any
stretch of imagination, be described as Christmassy. We had several
pro-Germans among us--they preached this gospel in the hope of being
released if only on "passes," but the thoroughbred Prussian is not to be
gulled by patriots made-to-order--and they kept up the spirit of Yule
Tide with candles and what not, somewhat after the approved Teuton
manner. It was impressive, but so palpably artificial and shallow as
merely to court derision and mockery among the Britishers.

The great meal of the Day of Days was a huge joke! One barrack received
what might be excusably described as something like a chop, with
potatoes and gravy. The next barrack had a portion of a chop and
potatoes, but no gravy. By the time this barrack had been served
apparently all supplies had been exhausted, thanks to the wonderful
perfection of German method, organisation, and management. The result
was that a third barrack had to be content with a raw rasher of bacon,
while a further barrack received only potatoes swimming in a liquid
which was undoubtedly set down officially as gravy. But barrack six got
nothing! This barrack is occupied by members of the Jewish persuasion,
but only those who partook of Jewish food received anything to eat that
day. The Jews generally fared better, because they were tended by the
Rabbi, who indeed exerted himself untiringly upon their behalf. He drove
into the camp every day in his motor car, accompanied by his wife, and
they went diligently around the members of their flock, ascertaining the
requirements of each man, and doing all in their power to satisfy him so
far as the rules and regulations of the camp permitted. The Jews who
supported their Rabbi had no complaint to offer on the score of food,
because they received it in variety and plenty through the munificence
of their co-religionists in Berlin.

In the evening we attempted a sing-song to keep up the spirit and
atmosphere of the season as far as practicable within our modest
limitations, but this was promptly suppressed by our task-masters. We
were compelled to spend the evening in miserable silence or to crawl
into bed to muse over our unhappy lot. So far as Ruhleben was concerned,
the sentiment of "Good-will to all men" had sped by on the main line,
and had forgotten all about us poor wretches in the siding.

While in Cologne on "passes" I and my friends frequently learned from
the _Berliner Tageblatt_ and other leading newspapers that the foremost
artistes performing in Berlin paid visits to Ruhleben in the evening to
amuse the prisoners. At that time we were somewhat prone to envy the
good time our compatriots were evidently having at the internment camp
and the bed of roses upon which, according to the press, they were
lying. But when we entered the camp and made enquiries, we discovered
that the newspaper assertions were not merely gross exaggerations, but
unblushing fabrications.

To satisfy ourselves upon this point we went to the corner of the camp
where the delightful entertainments were said to be given, but the only
artistes we discovered were a dozen hungry prisoners trying to coax a
tune out of a rebellious mouth organ! Our belief in German statements
received another shattering blow. During my twelve months in this camp I
never caught a glimpse of or heard a note from an eminent German
impressario or artiste of any description. All the amusements we ever
obtained were due to our own efforts, and I am glad to say that they
evidently were vastly superior to any that the much-vaunted city could
offer to its estimable citizens. At least this was the only impression
we could gather from the statements of visitors who were occasionally
permitted to attend our theatrical and vaudeville performances and
concerts. We had nothing for which to thank the Germans in the way of
diversion than we had in any other direction.



CHAPTER XIX

ORGANISING THE COMMUNAL CITY OF RUHLEBEN


When I reached the internment camp it was in a wildly chaotic condition.
Every semblance of management was conspicuous by its absence, while the
German authorities never lifted a finger or uttered a single word
towards straightening things out. Some of the enlightened spirits among
us maintained that the Germans would not assist us, but it is my firm
impression that they could not: it was a problem beyond their
capacities. Such a state of affairs seems remarkable when one recalls
how persistently the Teuton flaunts his vaunted skill in organisation,
scientific management and method before the world at large. As a matter
of fact it is only when one secures a position behind the scenes in
Germany, to come into close contact with the Hun as he really is, when
he has been stripped of the mask and veneer which he assumes for parade
and to impress his visitors, that the hollowness of the Teuton
pretensions is laid bare in all its ghastly nakedness.

The result in Ruhleben camp was terrible. It was every man for himself
and the Devil take the hindmost. If one, in desperation, approached the
authorities for a word of suggestion to improve this or that,
officialdom merely shrugged its shoulders and candidly admitted
impotence to recommend a remedy. So we had to depend essentially upon
our own exertions and initiative.

Each barrack elected a captain, whose position was somewhat analogous to
that of the Governor of a State, while over the camp as a whole reigned
a super-captain. Seeing that there were several thousand prisoners at
the time of my arrival on November 12, 1914, accommodated in twelve
barracks, which presented a ghastly exhibition of congestion, and that
neither law nor order, except as interpreted and maintained by the rifle
and the bayonet of the unscrupulous German sentries, prevailed, the
necessity to turn the colony inside out and to inaugurate some form of
systematic control and operation was only too obvious.

In the early days we were entirely dependent upon the authorities for
our food supplies, and they were invariably inadequate, while still more
often the victuals were disgustingly deficient in appetising qualities.
There were no facilities whatever for supplementing the official rations
by purchases from a canteen such as we had enjoyed for a time at
Sennelager. At last a German _frau_, animated by desire to improve the
shining hour at the expense of the interned civilians, opened a small
booth where some extras such as we so urgently desired could be
procured. This booth, about as large as the bathing machine common to
our seaside resorts, was situate in the centre of the camp. The
diminutive dimensions of the "shop" prevented the woman carrying
extensive stocks, and, as a rule she was cleared right out before
mid-day. Her specialities were sweets, fruit, canned foods, herrings,
and such like, but in extremely limited quantities.

This shop became known throughout the colony as the "Pond-side" stores,
and the nickname was apt. Why, constitutes a little story in itself. It
virtually occupied the centre of the main thoroughfare, and certainly
became the busiest corner in the community. But at this point the land
made a sudden dip. Consequently, when we were visited by rainstorms, and
it _does_ rain in Germany, rendering a British torrential downpour a
Scotch mist by comparison, the rain water, unable to escape, gathered in
this depression, forming a respectable pond, with the booth or stores
standing, a dejected island, in the middle.

If the storm were unduly heavy this pond assumed imposing dimensions.
One day I decided to measure it, so arming myself with a foot-rule I
waded deliberately through its length and width with my crude measuring
device to find that it was 133½ feet long by 25 feet wide, and ranged
from 6 inches to 2½ feet in depth. While engaged in this occupation I
was surprised by an officer, who, catching sight of my rule, sharply
demanded what I was doing? I told him frankly, and there was a lively
breeze between us.

[*large gap]

Naturally one will ask how it was that such a pond could form in the
heart of the camp. To the British mind, saturated as it is with blind
faith in German superior abilities in every ramification of human
endeavour, it may seem incomprehensible, and the formation of the lake
may be charitably attributed to the rain-water drainage system becoming
choked, thus effectively preventing the escape of the water. But there
was no drain to cope with this water, and what is more to the point the
nuisance was never overcome until the British prisoners themselves took
the matter in hand.

When the water was lying in this depression a trip to the Stores became
an adventure. To obviate the necessity of wading through the noisome
water we secured a plank gangway upon boxes and barrels. The pathway
thus formed was only a few inches in width and precarious. The gangway
ran out from one bank to the stores, thence on to the opposite bank, so
that it was possible for the men to pass to the shop and to dry land in
single file. If one were at the extreme end of the queue one might
confidently expect to wait from two to three hours before reaching the
shop, only then to be disappointed because it had been cleared out of
everything edible.

When the water was up, the German _frau_, acting as shopkeeper, would
perch herself on a box or barrel with the murky fluid swishing and
snarling around her, because her stores always suffered inundation at
such times. Walking the plank to make a purchase was highly exciting and
mildly diverting. No little effort was required to maintain one's
balance, while time after time the crazy foundations, as represented by
the boxes and barrels, would give way, precipitating a long string of
patient customers into the dirty water.

The inadequacy of these stores was felt very severely. At last, after a
short and determined deliberation, it was resolved to run the colony
upon communal lines. This was the only feasible form of control in order
to protect the prisoners against scandalous robbery, extortionate
prices, and to ensure a sufficiency of the essentials which were in such
urgent demand. A simple, although comprehensive form of civic government
was drawn up, involving the formation of educational facilities, a
police force, a fire brigade, the establishment and maintenance of shops
and canteens, all of which were operated by the community for the
benefit of the community, the receipts being pooled in the camp
treasury.

Such a system was absolutely imperative. Some of the prisoners were
without money and were denied the receipt of contributions from home,
their relatives and friends doubtless being too poor to help them.
Naturally these luckless prisoners were speedily reduced to extremely
straitened circumstances and distress among them became very acute.
Furthermore parcels of clothing and other articles were being sent in
bulk, addressed merely to the camp as a whole, instead of to
individuals, the objects of the senders being the fair and equitable
distribution of the articles among the prisoners indiscriminately. The
handling of these supplies led to frequent and unblushing abuses, the
men who were not in need of such contributions receiving them at the
expense of those who sorely wanted them.

After our civic government had been reduced to practical application and
was working smoothly, the task of distributing these unaddressed bulk
supplies was entrusted to the captains of the barracks. The captain was
selected for this responsibility because he knew all the deserving cases
in his own party and was able to see they received the alleviation of
their distress. When a crate of goods came in the captain compiled a
list setting out the names and precise needs of every man in his party.
If you were in a position to do so you were expected to pay a small sum
for the articles, the price thereof being fixed, although you were at
liberty to pay more if you felt disposed. This money was paid into the
camp treasury. But if you were "broke," no money was expected.
Consequently every man was certain to secure something of what he
needed, irrespective of his financial circumstances.

The camp government also embarked upon trading operations. Shops were
erected, one or two at a time, until at last we had a row of emporiums.
The requisite material was bought from the Germans or from home with
money drawn from the camp treasury. It must not be forgotten that the
Teuton authorities resolutely refused to supply us with a single thing,
declined to participate in any improvements, and refused to contribute a
penny to defray the cost of any enterprise which was considered
imperative to ameliorate our conditions. Indeed they robbed us right and
left, as I will narrate later. By building shops in this manner we were
able to boast a Bond Street, from which in a short time radiated other
thoroughfares which were similarly christened after the fashionable
streets of London--we had a strange penchant for the West-End when it
came to naming our streets. The result is that to-day Ruhleben can point
to its Fleet Street, its Trafalgar Square, and so on.

Goods were purchased for the various departments according to the
specialities of the shops--boots for the bootshop, clothes for the
clothiers and groceries for the provision stores. The communal
government selected competent men to take charge of these establishments
at a weekly salary of five shillings. Every shop in the camp, with the
exception of a very few, such as mine in which I specialised in
engraving, the ticket-writers and so forth, belonged to the community
and were run by the community for the benefit of the community. No
prisoner was permitted to launch out upon his own account as a
shopkeeper if he intended to deal in a necessity. Only those trades
which involved no stock or might be described as luxuries were permitted
to be under individual management for individual profit.

As the inter-trading in the camp developed we were able to purchase
large stocks of essentials, and it was astonishing to observe the
prosperity with which our trading endeavours flourished. Great Britain
has always been contemptuously described by our commercial rivals as a
nation of shop-keepers, and in Ruhleben Camp we offered our German
authorities, right under their very noses, the most powerful
illustration of this national characteristic, and brought home to them
very conclusively the fact that our national trait is no empty claim.
Thousands of pounds sterling were passed over the counters every week.

While the shops dealt only in what might be termed necessities for our
welfare, we were able to procure almost any article we desired. A
"Special Order Department" was created to which we took our orders for
special articles not stocked in the camp. If the order, upon scrutiny by
the authorities, was deemed to be reasonable and did not infringe the
prohibited list, the arrival of the goods in due course was certain.

The value of this system of managing the colony may be illustrated from
one example, typical of many, which reflects credit upon the captains
and civic organising committee. Butter was a luxury and could not be
purchased in the camp for less than 3s. 2d. per pound. Yet this figure
was decidedly below that ruling in the shops of Berlin for this article
of food. Under these circumstances one might wonder how we were able to
sell butter at a cheaper figure than the native tradesmen, and readers
might be disposed to entertain the opinion that here, at all events, we
did receive a valuable concession from the German authorities. But it
was no such thing. The camp treasury secured a quotation for butter and
at once realised that the terms were far too high for the prisoners as a
whole. Consequently they decided to place this and margarine upon sale
at attractive and possible prices. The purchasing department was
allotted a certain figure for purchasing, but as this was insufficient
the difference in the prime cost was taken from the common fund. Hence
we never paid more than 3s. 2d. per pound retail in the camp, although
the price was soaring in Berlin, so long as the article was obtainable.
This division of the cost between the communal shop and the common fund
brought butter within the reach of those who otherwise would have had to
be content with dry bread, because very few of us could have afforded
the luxury had Berlin prices prevailed in Ruhleben. Incidentally the
price of butter serves to convey a tangible idea of the economic
conditions reached in Germany and that within nine months of the
outbreak of hostilities!

When the prisoners discovered that they could obtain the majority of
things which serve to make life bearable even under depressing and
oppressive conditions they commenced to launch out in the acquisition of
things for improving creature comfort. With the money drawn from the
banks and other institutions they purchased beds, cupboards, utensils,
electric reading lamps, clothes, and what not to render their living
quarters attractive and to improve their personal appearance and
conditions. This extra work threw a heavy strain upon the clerical
department which, within a short time, demanded organisation. The
position of auditor was assumed by J----, who gathered a competent
staff, and they worked like Trojans on behalf of the camp. Many times,
while on night patrol as a policeman, I found J---- and his assistants
burning the midnight oil at 1 a.m., straightening out the accounts and
posting the books of the treasury. He and his staff deserve the greatest
credit for the high-spirited manner in which and the hours they worked
on behalf of their fellow-prisoners.

The shop-keeping industry received a decided impetus when the British
Emergency Relief Fund was inaugurated. Under this scheme, five shillings
per week were paid regularly through the American Embassy to all
prisoners who were in need of financial assistance.

[*large gap]

Notwithstanding the elaborate precautions which had been brought into
operation to ensure that this relief should get only into deserving
hands, the fact remains that up to the day of my departure it was being
paid directly into the pockets of some of our enemies. The scheme had
been brought into operation some little while, when one morning, upon
parade, the authorities requested all those who sympathised with the
German cause to step out. Many, doubtless thinking that here was the
opportunity to secure preferential treatment or the golden chance to
obtain release from the Prison Camp of Abandoned Hope, answered the
call. The numbers were appreciable, but as they advanced from the lines
they were assailed by vicious hooting, groaning and hissing from the
others who were resolved to maintain their patriotism at all hazards.
Still it was an excellent move upon the part of the Germans. It
eliminated dangerous enemies from our midst.

But if the pro-Germans, now chuckling merrily and rubbing their hands
with childish delight, considered their release to be imminent they
received a very rude awakening. The German authorities are not readily
gulled. To them a pro-German is every whit as dangerous as an avowed
enemy. They merely marched these traitors to another part of the camp
where they were forced to re-establish themselves in their own isolated
barrack quarters. They received no improvement in treatment or food. The
only difference between the two divisions of what is now described as
the "split camp" is that whereas the true Britishers are free to sing
"Rule, Britannia," "God Save the King," and other patriotic songs, the
traitors have to while away their time singing "Die Wacht am Rhein,"
"Deutschland Uber Alles," and other German jingo melodies.

The position of the traitors became aggravated a little later, when they
learned that the German authorities were quite ready to release them
upon one simple condition--that they joined the German Army! I am
ashamed to say that some of them even took advantage of this infamous
avenue of escape. But the majority, after their dropped jaws and long
faces resumed their normal positions, thought they might just as well
change their national coat once more.

Some of these scoundrels, after openly enlisting under the German
banner, did not disavow their pension but coolly continued to draw the
five shillings per week. Moreover, in one instance at least, one of
these scapegoats after declaring his pro-German proclivities was enabled
to return to England as an exchanged prisoner. I could reveal
unpalatable truths concerning the laxity of our authorities in dealing
with the exchange of prisoners, but the moment is not opportune.

One day one of these renegades came to my booth to have some engraving
carried out. He asked me a price and I quoted half a crown. To my
surprise he urged me to make it five shillings. Somewhat astonished I
suggested that the work was not worth five shillings and that my
estimate was perfectly fair.

"Oh, it doesn't matter," he replied, laughing gaily. "I draw five
shillings from the British Prisoners' Relief Fund, which I never spend
because I don't want it, and one week's draw might just as well pay for
this job!"

I was so exasperated by this cool confession from the "P.-G."--our
colloquialism for a pro-German--that I whipped round my bench and
confronted the amiable traitor. We commenced to argue, I told him what I
thought about him, words grew hot and soon the fur commenced to fly. He
landed out at me and then I pitched into him unmercifully. It was
useless for him to appeal for help. We knew every "P.-G." among us and
he was now fairly in the hands of the Philistines. My colleagues merely
gathered round, jeering and cheering like mad as I got some stinging
blows home. The renegade subsequently slunk off rather badly battered,
only to act quite up to his traitorous principles. After being thrashed
in fair fight he crawled off to one of the German officers to whom he
explained in a wheedling, piteous voice that he had been assaulted and
went in fear of his life.

The officer came over to me and accused me of fighting. I explained the
whole circumstances, emphasising the fact that the sneaking, drivelling
humbug was drawing five shillings from the British Pension Fund and yet
was parading and voicing his anti-British sentiments far and wide, when
there were many admitted and honourable British prisoners walking about
and in greater need of the money. The officer was evidently impressed
with my point of view and undoubtedly concurred in my contention that my
attitude was perfectly justified.

At all events he unostentatiously and unconsciously betrayed his opinion
of a pro-German. He never uttered a word of reprimand to me; the
discomfited "P.-G." was advised to make himself scarce; and although I
had been guilty of the grave offence of fighting I never heard another
word about the incident. It is evident that the officer in his own mind
concluded that the less he said about the episode the better. Still I
had got satisfaction. I had given one of our enemies a drubbing which he
would not forget in a hurry.

Yet the one fact remains. At the time I left the camp there were several
of these whimpering, cold-footed, British Judas Iscariots still drawing
unblushingly their five shillings per week! I might add that this
constituted one of the greatest scandals of the camp, and precipitated a
feeling of smouldering rebellion, not against the German authorities,
but against the traitors who did not refrain from attempting to
fraternise with us after the diabolical repudiation of their
nationality. It was fortunate these back-boneless, long-faced and
drooping-mouthed Britons were forced to live away from us; otherwise I
am afraid there would have been some tragedies and endless fighting.

Another rule of the camp somewhat grated upon our nerves. We opened
several canteens which we stocked with our own goods, and operated upon
communal lines so that the prisoners might secure ample food-stuffs.
Naturally these articles were sold to the men at the lowest possible
prices. But to our dismay we learned afterwards that they might have
been sold at a lower figure had the German military not demanded a
commission, or perhaps it should be called a "royalty" upon the turnover
of 7½ per cent.! This applied equally to the "Special Order Department,"
and I am afraid, if the subject were probed to the bottom, it would be
found that every article sold in Ruhleben--fully ninety per cent. of
which probably would be construed as articles saleable from the canteen
if shops were unavailable--contributes its toll of seven-and-a-half per
cent. to the German authorities. When one recalls the thousands sterling
which pass through the shops and canteens during the course of the week,
the German officials must have derived a handsome revenue from this
iniquitous practice. If all the camps were mulcted in the manner of
Ruhleben, looking after the British prisoners must be an extremely
lucrative occupation.

This scandalous impost hit us at every turn. It meant that we had to pay
for every article and through the nose at that. For instance, the Camp
Committee laid down a house equipped with four large boilers to supply
boiling water, which we had to fetch, and with which we were able to
brew beverages and soups in the secrecy of our barracks. We purchased
this convenience, of which the Germans took a proportion, so that we
really paid a prohibitive price for the water which we consumed! _The
supply of hot water, no matter for what purpose, was construed by the
Germans as coming within the business of the canteen!_ Shower baths were
also introduced, the cost being defrayed out of the camp treasury. I
wonder if the British authorities follow a similar practice among the
German internment camps in this country? It is an excellent method of
making the prisoner pay for his own board and lodging.

The educational classes proved a complete success. Almost every language
under the sun could be heard among the prisoners. The classes were
absolutely free, of course, although you could contribute something, if
you desired. Individual tuition was given, but in this instance the
tutors were free to levy fees. The mastery of languages became one of
the most popular occupations to pass the time. I myself had a class of
dusky members of the British Empire, drawn from various Colonies, and
speaking as many dialects, to whom I undertook to teach English,
reading, writing, drawing, and other subjects. At the time the class was
formed, they could only muster a few English words, conducting
conversation for the most part by signs and indifferent German. But my
pupils proved apt and industrious, and by the time I left they had
mastered our tongue very effectively, as the many letters they sent me,
before leaving Ruhleben, striving to thank me for what I had done,
testify.

Camp life was not without its humour. Around the boiler-house stretched
a large wooden hoarding which served as a notice-board. Every day there
were posted the names of prisoners, set out in alphabetical order, for
whom parcels had arrived. The remaining space was covered with
advertisements of a widely varied order. The humour unconsciously
displayed upon that board probably has never been equalled in the pages
of a humorous journal yet printed. It is impossible to narrate every
quaint announcement as they were so prolific, but I have never
forgotten some of them. One I recall was an advertisement of a tutor
setting forth his terms for teaching English. But only one word in the
announcement was spelled correctly! Another, posted by a sailor, ran,
"_Talking Parrot for Sale._ Guaranteed _not_ to swear!" It remained up
for three days and apparently there was nothing doing. Such an article
was evidently a drug upon the Ruhleben market. After the bird prisoner
had been in the camp a while the advertisement re-appeared, but the word
"not" was blotted out! The advertisement disappeared almost instantly,
which led one to surmise that someone had purchased Polly to repeat
Ruhleben conversation at a later date, beside the fireside of an
Englishman's home, as a reminder of the times and the vernacular of a
German prison camp.

The various reports which have been published in the German and British
newspapers from time to time, relative to life at Ruhleben, have dwelt
at length upon the social amenities of that imposing colony. People at
home have read about the tennis courts, our football field, the theatre,
and other forms of recreation. Possibly they think that the Germans have
been very generous and sympathetic in this direction at least. But have
they? For the use of a section of the cinder track to serve as tennis
courts the German authorities demanded and received £50! We paid them
another £50 for the football field, while for the use of the hall under
the Grand Stand which had never been used since the outbreak of war, and
which we converted into a theatre, we were forced to hand over a third
£50. The camp treasury met these demands, and probably an examination of
the books would reveal many other disbursements of a similar character
for other facilities. The Germans have never spent a penny on our
behalf, and have never given us anything.

When the camp is broken up and the prisoners are released, there will be
a pretty problem for some person to unravel. By now Ruhleben has the
appearance of a healthy and thriving little town. The prisoners have
toiled unceasingly to improve their surroundings. When we entered into
occupation of our horse-box, its solitary appointment was the manger. We
needed a shelf, and had to pay heavily for the wood. As time went on our
ingenuity found expression in many other ways. We made tables, chairs,
wardrobes, sideboards, and other furniture. In some instances these
embellishments were purchased from German firms. The result is that
to-day some of the quarters are as attractive and as comfortable as a
flat. When the camp is broken up these articles will have to be left
behind. Although under the hammer prices will and must rule low, in the
aggregate many thousands of pounds will be realised. What is to be done
with this money? Who is to have it? Scores of buildings have been
erected with money drawn from the common fund. Is any compensation going
to be paid by the German authorities for the fruits of our labour and
ingenuity which will fall into their hands? We have paid for all the
materials used out of our own pockets, and the work carried out upon
these lines already represents an expenditure of tens of thousands
sterling. Are the prisoners to lose all that?

The community is run upon the most rigid business-like lines. Nothing is
given away at Ruhleben. This explains how we have built up such a
wealthy camp treasury. The Camp Authorities govern the concerts,
theatrical and vaudeville entertainments, troupes, band, newspapers,
programmes--in short everything. Individual enterprise has but a
negligible scope in Ruhleben. The initial outlays have admittedly been
heavy, but the receipts have been still larger, so that there must be a
big balance somewhere. It has not all been spent, and the question
arises as to what will be done with the accumulated funds.

To convey some idea of the possible and profitable sources of income it
is only necessary to explain the system of handling the prisoners'
parcels. These are sorted in a large building. I learned that a parcel
was waiting for me by perusing the notice-board. I presented myself at
the office window to receive a ticket which I exchanged for the parcel,
the ticket serving as a receipt for due delivery. But the ticket cost me
one penny! Seeing that the average number of parcels cleared every day
is 3,000, it will be seen that the sale of the necessary tickets alone
yields roughly £12 per day or over £4,000 a year. Recently the price of
the ticket has been reduced fifty per cent., but even at one halfpenny
the annual income exceeds £2,000. This one branch of business must show
a handsome profit, and there are scores of other prosperous
money-yielding propositions in practice in the camp.

No matter how spendthrift the treasury may be the accumulated funds must
now represent an imposing figure, because, with only one or two
exceptions, everything is run at a profit. Will the camp treasury carry
the precepts of communal trading to the logical conclusion? Will it
distribute the accumulated funds among the prisoners, pro rata according
to the term of imprisonment, at the end of the war? If that is done it
will serve as some compensation for the break-up of homes in Britain and
other countries which has taken place, because those who were left
behind were deprived--through no fault of aught but the German
authorities and their ridiculous regulations--of their wage-earners.

As the result of frequent representations the German authorities
permitted us to inaugurate our civil police force for the maintenance of
law and order throughout the camp. After this force came into being and
had proved satisfactory, the military guards were withdrawn, and we were
encircled only by the cordon of sentries outside. We suffered no
military interference whatever. The force, of which I became a member,
numbered forty all told. Our badge of office was an armlet--blue and
white bands similar to that worn by the British constabulary, and
carried upon the left wrist over our private clothes--together with a
button inscribed "Police. Ruhleben Camp." The selection of the police
force was carried out upon extremely rigorous lines to ensure that only
the most capable men were secured for this exacting duty. We patrolled
the camp night and day, the duty under the former conditions being two
hours, at the conclusion of which we reported ourselves to the police
station, and then proceeded to our barracks to rest, waking up our
successor on the way, who thereupon went on duty.

All things considered the camp was extremely well-behaved, the British
naturally being amenable to discipline. One or two thefts occurred, the
offenders, when caught, being handed over to the German authorities to
receive punishment. At times there were manifestations of rowdiness, but
they were speedily and readily quelled. The police required to be
unconscionably patient, tactful, and sympathetic, because we were all
chafing under restraint, and our nerves were strained, while tempers
were hasty. Indeed, the German authorities marvelled at the manner and
the ease with which we kept the camp upon its best behaviour, and I
think we taught them many valuable lessons concerning the enforcement of
law and order without the parade of any force or badgering, judging from
the assiduity with which they studied our methods. Even the
"drunks"--and they were not strangers to Ruhleben, despite the fact that
alcoholic liquor was religiously taboo, the liquor being smuggled in and
paid heavily for, a bottle of Red Seal costing fifteen shillings--never
gave us the slightest cause for anxiety.

One day there was a serious explosion of discontent. We had been served
at our mid-day meal with a basin of evil-looking skilly. We took it
back, and protested that we ought not to be served with prison fare.

"Skilly?" repeated the cook. "That isn't skilly. It's Quaker Oats."

"'Strewth!" yapped a sailor, "That's the bloomin' funniest Quaker Oats
I've tasted. Quaker Oats will keep you alive, but that bloomin' muck 'd
poison a rat!" saying which he disdainfully emptied the noisome contents
of his basin upon the ground.

We were told we should get nothing else, which infuriated us. We
gathered round the cook-house, and the discontented, grumbling sailors
and fishermen, unable to make any impression by word of mouth, commenced
to bombard the kitchen with bricks, stones, and clods of earth. The
fusillade grew furious, and the cat-calls vociferous.

The turmoil had been raging for some time when a mounted officer dashed
up. Securing silence he ordered us all into barracks. There was an
ominous growl. Then he told us he had brought a battalion of soldiers
and a machine gun section from Spandau, and if we did not disperse in
five minutes he would fire on us.

We looked round, thinking he was bluffing, but there, sure enough, were
the soldiers with their rifles ready, and we discovered afterwards that
the machine guns had been brought up to the gates ready for use at a
moment's notice. We shuffled for a few minutes, frowning, glowering,
mumbling, cursing and swearing, but as the Germans always mean what they
say, we sullenly moved off as ordered. Still the protest bore fruit; no
further attempts were made to serve us with that fare.

The highways of the camp were in a deplorable condition. They were
merely tracks trodden down by our feet and carts, heavily rutted,
uneven, and either a slough of mud and water, or a desert of dust,
according to the weather. We persistently urged the German authorities
to improve these roads, but they turned a deaf ear to all our
entreaties.

At last the Camp Authorities decided to carry out the work themselves.
There was a call for labourers, who were promised a steady wage of five
shillings per week. Although enrolled in the first instance to build
roads, this force was afterwards kept on as a working gang to carry out
any jobs which became necessary. These men laid out and built an
excellent road system, following the well-accepted British lines with a
high camber and a hard surface so that the water could run into the
gutters.

These roads aroused intense interest among our captors. They used to
come in and follow the men at work, studying the method of building up
the fabric, and upon its completion they inspected and subjected it to
tests. A little later they coolly sent in a request to the road-builders
to go outside to continue urgent work of a similar character. However,
investigation revealed the disconcerting fact that these men were
required to take the places of those Germans generally associated with
this task, who had been called up for service at the front. Needless to
say the suggestion met with a unanimous and determined refusal.

As time went on our conditions became worse. Bread became unobtainable
at almost any price. Pathetic advertisements commenced to steal upon the
notice-board, some of which I vividly remember. One in particular
revealed a poignant story of silent suffering. It ran "Good Swan
Fountain Pen. Will exchange for loaf of bread." Yet it was only typical
of scores of others couched in a similar vein. All sorts of things were
offered in exchange for food. Our treasury redoubled its efforts, but
food could not be got even at famine prices. This was early in March,
1915, so that the country was speedily being compelled to concede the
strangling force of the British blockade.

One morning we were paraded, and every man was ordered to produce any
bread he might have in his possession. Some of us had been storing the
official rations against the rainy day which we felt must come sooner or
later. This had to be surrendered. The guards also carried out a
thorough search to assure themselves that none had been left behind or
concealed under beds. When the bread had been collected the authorities
calmly cut it up and served us with a small piece each--that is they
gave us back a portion of what was already our property, and which we
had not eaten merely because we had been making ourselves content with
purchases from the canteens.

This proceeding brought home to us the vivid prospect of being reduced
to a perilous position within a very short time. So in our letters home
we emphasised the need to send us bread and other food-stuffs. As about
three weeks elapsed before we received a loaf after it had been
dispatched, we kept it another week, then soaked it in water and took it
to the cook-house to be re-baked, for which we were charged one penny.

Some of the unfortunate members of the party had no bread come from
home. But with true camaraderie those prisoners who were in the land of
plenty invariably divided their prizes, so that one and all were reduced
to a common level. In this way considerable misery and discontent were
averted. Of course, when stocks ran out, we had to revert to the
official rations. Here and there would be found a few hard-hearted and
unsympathetic gluttons. They would never share a single thing with a
comrade. A prisoner of this type would sit down to a gorgeous feast upon
dainties sent from home, heedless of the envious and wistful glances of
his colleagues who were sitting around him at the table with nothing
beyond the black bread and the acorn coffee. He would never even proffer
a spoonful of jam which would have enabled the revolting black bread to
be swallowed with greater relish.

There is one prisoner of this type whom I particularly recall. He had
plenty of money in his pockets, and was the lucky recipient of many
bulky hampers at regular intervals. Yet he never shared a crust with a
less fortunate chum. But this individual did not refuse the opportunity
to trade upon the hospitality of a fellow-prisoner when he himself was
in a tight place. He became the most detested man in the camp, and to
this day, with the rest of his selfish ilk, he suffers a rigid boycott,
and at the same time is the target of every practical joke which his
colleagues can devise. To quote the vernacular, we had "_Some_ jokes
with him," and often stung him to fury, when we would laugh mercilessly
at his discomfiture.

At the time I left the camp the outlook had assumed a very black aspect,
and now we hear things have reached a climax. Money is worse than
useless now because it can purchase nothing. The prisoners are reduced
to subsist upon what meagre rations the authorities choose to dole out
to them, and essentially upon what they receive from home. Starvation
confronts our compatriots suffering durance vile in Ruhleben. The dawn
of each succeeding day is coming to be dreaded with a fear which baffles
description because it is unfathomable.



CHAPTER XX

HOW I MADE MONEY IN RUHLEBEN CAMP


The aimless life, such as it was generally pursued in Ruhleben Camp,
became exceedingly distasteful to me. It conduced to brooding and moping
over things at home, to fretting and becoming anxious as to how one's
wife and family were faring? While recreation offered a certain amount
of distraction, it speedily lost its novelty and began to pall. There
were many of us who were by no means sufficiently flush in pocket to
indulge wildly in amusements, and yet money was absolutely
indispensable, because with the sinews of war we were able to secure
supplementary food from the canteen.

Some of the methods which were practised to improve the shining hour
were distinctly novel. There was a young Cockney who, upon his return
home, will undoubtedly blossom into a money-making genius, that is if
his achievements in Ruhleben offer any reliable index to his
proclivities. He would gather a party of seventy or eighty prisoners
round him. Then, producing a five-mark piece, he would offer to raffle
it at ten pfennigs--one penny--apiece. The possibility of picking up
five shillings for a penny made an irresistibly fascinating appeal. It
struck the traditional sporting chord of the British character and a
shower of pennies burst forth. The deal was soon completed, and everyone
was content with the result. Someone bought the five-shilling piece for
the nimble penny, while the Cockney chuckled with delight because he had
raked in some seven shillings or so for his five mark piece!

When I decided to experiment in commerce I was in some doubt as to what
would offer the most promising line. After due reflection I decided to
start as a launderer, specialising in washing shirts at ten pfennigs, or
one penny, apiece. A shirt dresser was certainly in request because the
majority of the prisoners, possessing only a severely limited stock,
were compelled to wear the one garment continuously for several weeks.
At the end of that time it was generally discarded once and for all. But
the shirts I found to be extremely soiled, and demanded such hard and
prolonged scrubbing, in which operation an unconscionably large amount
of soap was consumed, that I found the enterprise to be absolutely
unprofitable, while I received little else than a stiff, sore back and
soft hands. So this first venture, after bringing in a few hard-earned
shillings, was abandoned.

Then I undertook to wash up the table utensils, charging a party
twopence per meal. This would have brought me greater reward had I
adhered to my original intention. But one day the member of a party
genially suggested, "We'll toss for it! Twopence or nothing!" I accepted
the offer good-humouredly and--lost! By accepting this sporting
recommendation I unfortunately established a ruinous precedent. The
practice became general, and I, having a wretched run of bad luck, found
that, all things considered, it would be better for my hands and pocket
if I were to look farther afield for some other enterprise.

My third attempt to woo Fortune was to set myself up as a dealer in
cast-off boots and shoes, my idea being to buy, sell and exchange. To my
chagrin I speedily discovered that this calling demanded unlimited
capital, because it was easier to buy than to sell or to exchange.
Seeing that the average price I was prepared to pay was one shilling per
pair, and the state of excruciating depression which prevailed in this
field, I conjured visions of immense stocks of second-hand boots,
representing a heavy investment of capital, which would lie idle for an
indefinite period. So I retired discreetly from the second-hand boot and
shoe trade to seek more promising pastures.

While pondering over the situation a happy idea struck me. In my younger
days I had practised engraving, intending to adopt it as a trade. I
devoted some six years to the craft and had achieved a measure of
success and dexterity. Thereupon I decided to launch out in this
direction. Although I felt that my hand had lost some of its cunning
through lack of practice--I had not touched an engraving tool for about
thirteen years--I decided to take the risk, feeling sure that it would
soon return when I settled down to the fascinating work in grim earnest.

I confided my intention to one or two of my friends, but the majority,
except my bosom chum K----, who is a far-seeing business man, with their
innate shrewdness, wanted to know where I was going to get any custom in
such a place as Ruhleben Camp. I explained that my idea was to engrave
watches, coins, studs links, indeed any article which the prisoners
possessed, thus converting them into interesting souvenirs of their
sojourn in a German prisoners' camp during the Great War. But with the
exception of K---- they declined to see eye to eye with me. Still I was
not to be dissuaded, and consequently decided to commence operations
upon my own initiative.

I was in a quandary. I had not sufficient capital to buy the necessary
tools. However, K----, as usual, came to my assistance by financing me
to the extent of seven-and-sixpence! This money I laid out upon tools,
[*gap] Now I was confronted with another problem. How was I to keep the
tools in the necessary sharpened condition. The only stone I could
borrow was quite useless for engraving tools, while cutting plays such
havoc with the edges of the tools as to demand frequent recourse to
sharpening operations. However this obstacle did not daunt me. I found
that with a sufficient expenditure of energy I could get a passably
sharp edge for my purpose by grinding the tools on the floor and
finishing them off upon a razor strop which I borrowed.

Now I had to seek for eligible premises. I sauntered round the camp to
alight upon a tiny vacant building. As it appeared to have no owner, and
was fulfilling no useful purpose I entered into possession. Directly I
had installed myself the authorities came along and unceremoniously
ejected me, bag and baggage. As soon as their backs were turned I
re-entered into occupation. I was thrown out a second time, but still as
resolutely determined as ever to continue my project I cast around and
ultimately found an empty kiosk, standing forlorn and neglected, a
silent memory of the brisk racing days at Ruhleben in pre-war times. I
installed myself therein, not caring two straws whether the authorities
endeavoured to turn me out or not. They would have to smash the place
over my head before they evicted me this time, but they were scarcely
likely to proceed to such extreme measures seeing that they would have
had to break up their own property.

Numerous jealous individuals attempted to eject me time after time but I
sat tight. I remember one tender and amiable official who endeavoured to
convince me that the kiosk and other similar buildings were under his
charge, and that he was responsible for them. As he narrated the
situation I observed that he kept the open palm of his hand extended
before me. When he found this broad hint to be of no avail he ordered me
out of the building. Turning to him I suggested, in as suave a voice as
I could command, that he should accompany me to the "Wachter" to
ascertain the extent of his responsibilities and to have the matter
thrashed out once and for all. Needless to say he declined this
invitation, protesting that it was unnecessary. He invited me to retain
occupation of the kiosk. My bluff completely outwitted the official in
question, while I achieved my end for once without recourse to bribery
and corruption of the official Teuton mind.

Several subsequent attempts were made to coax me out of my tenancy, but
I may say that in sticking to the building I played the Germans at their
own game. When the guard came up and authoritatively demanded by what
manner of right or permission I had taken possession of the kiosk I
politely referred him to a certain officer in the camp. When the latter,
upon receiving the complaint, interrogated me in a similar vein, I
referred him to another official. When this third individual appeared
upon the scene I switched him off to another officer. By playing off the
officials one against the other in this manner I precipitated such a
tangle among them that no single official could say whether he had or
had not given me permission. While these tactics were being pursued I
was gaining the valuable time I desired, and took the opportunity to
entrench myself firmly in my position. The outcome was that when finally
the matter had been trotted through the Ruhleben German Circumlocution
Office, and my eviction was officially sealed, I warded off the fate by
announcing that I was overwhelmed with engraving orders for the military
officers of the camp. It was a desperate bluff, but it succeeded.
Officialdom apparently decided that I was better left alone, so I
suffered no further molestation.

The whole of the night before opening my engraving business I sat up
writing flaring signs and tickets to advertise my intentions far and
wide, and soliciting the favour of orders which under my hand would
convert this or that object into a priceless souvenir of our novel
experience. I also canvassed the camp to explain my ideas, and, as I
expected, orders commenced to flow in. The souvenir idea caught on to
such a degree as to compel me to take in two fellow-prisoners, who
evinced an aptitude for the work, as apprentices, and they speedily
blossomed into craftsmen. My first week told me I had struck the correct
money-making line at last. I found I had scooped in 200 marks--£10!
This was not bad for the first week's trading and I entertained no
apprehensions concerning the future. Out of this sum I was able to repay
many little debts I had incurred.

The business developed so rapidly that an extension of premises became
urgent. I rigged up an addition to the kiosk, but it had to be of a
portable character, so that it could be taken down every evening. As I
found my time was so occupied I reluctantly decided to keep only to the
kiosk. I dressed its interior with shelves and further improved my
premises by contriving show cases for attachment outside.

When I felt my feet I blossomed out in various directions. I bought a
small stock of odds and ends in the cheap jewellery line, which were
suitably engraved. Button decorations was one line I took up and these
sold like wildfire. There was plenty of money in the camp, some of the
prisoners being extremely wealthy, and this explains why my trade
flourished so amazingly. Indeed, the results exceeded even my most
sanguine anticipations.

One branch of my fertility nearly landed me into serious trouble. I
fashioned souvenirs out of German coins. I erased the Imperial head and
in its place engraved a suitable inscription. When the defacement of the
money was discovered there was a fearful uproar, but as usual I
contrived to escape the terrible punishment which was threatened.

Naturally one will wonder how it was I secured my supplies, seeing that
purchases outside the camp were forbidden except through the officially
approved channels. While it is inadvisable for me to relate how I did
secure my varied stocks I may state that I never experienced any
disappointment or even a hitch in this connection. Time after time I was
taxed by military individuals, eager to secure incriminating evidence,
but although they cajoled, coaxed and threatened I could not be induced
to betray my secret. Indeed, at last, I point-blank refused to furnish
any information upon this matter whatever, and with this adamantine
decision they were forced to remain content. Doubtless they had their
suspicions but it was impossible to bring anything home to me and so I
was left in peace.

From cheap jewellery I advanced to more costly articles. I purchased a
job lot of silver wrist watches from a Jew who had gone "broke," and
these I cleared out within a very short time. I always paid spot cash
and that was an overwhelming factor in my favour. Indeed, my trading
operations became so striking that my name and business proceeded far
beyond the confines of the camp. Within a few weeks of opening my shop I
was receiving calls from men in the camp who were acting as
representatives for some of the foremost Jewish wholesale houses in
Germany, and they were almost fighting among themselves to secure my
patronage. My biggest individual purchasing deal was a single lot of
jewellery for which I paid nearly 1,000 marks--£50! From this, bearing
in mind the difficulties which I had to overcome in securing delivery,
it is possible to gain some idea of the brisk trade I was doing.

Everything and anything capable of being converted into a souvenir by
the dexterous use of the engraving tool was handled by me
indiscriminately. I bought a large consignment of briar pipes. Upon the
bowls of these I cut a suitable inscription and filled the incisions
with enamel. These caught the fancy of the smokers and I soon found my
stock exhausted. As things developed I became more ambitious, although
not reckless, until at last I had articles ranging up to £30 in price
upon my shelves, in the disposal of which I experienced very little
difficulty.

My shop became my one absorbing hobby although it boasted no
pretensions. I contrived attractive show cases, some from egg-boxes,
emblazoning the exterior with striking show cards and signs which I
executed in the confines of my horse-box in the barracks after my
comrades had gone to sleep. Not satisfied with this development I
lighted the building brilliantly by means of electric lamps and a large
flame acetylene lamp.

I did not confine myself to any one line of goods, but handled any thing
capable of being turned into money quickly. In some instances I had to
resort to extreme subterfuge to outwit the authorities. On one occasion
I purchased a consignment of silk Union Jacks for wearing in the lapel
of the coat. I knew full well that if I placed these on sale in my shop
the stern hand of authority would swoop down swiftly and confiscate the
hated emblem without the slightest compunction. So I evolved a special
means of clearing them out and that within a very few minutes.

I went round to each barrack and button-holed a capable man to undertake
to sell a certain number of the flags among the prisoners domiciled in
his building. On the offer of a good commission the man was ready to
incur great risks, although there was no risk in my plan. Each man thus
received a territorial right as it were, and was protected against
competition. The price was fixed and the arrangements for effecting the
sale carefully drawn up. After the morning parade, the custom was to
dismiss us to our barracks a few minutes before nine o'clock. We were
compelled to stay within doors for some twenty minutes or so. This I
decided to be the opportune occasion to unload my stock. I enjoined
every vendor, when I handed him his stock overnight, to be on the alert
in the morning, and as the clock struck nine to pass swiftly from man to
man with his flags. The favour was a distinct novelty and I was positive
they would sell like hot cakes.

The scheme proved a howling success. Within five minutes after the
appointed hour every man had been cleared out. The flags were
triumphantly pinned to the lapels of the coats. When the prisoners
re-emerged from the barracks the guards were astounded by the brilliant
display of Union Jacks. The array was so imposing that the authorities
even realised the futility of stopping each prisoner in turn to rob him
of his prize. In this manner I got rid of several hundreds of the little
trophies in one swoop.

As may be imagined there was an enquiry to ascertain how these flags had
been introduced into the camp. The prisoners were interrogated, but no
prisoner appeared to know anything about the matter. He invariably
retorted that he had purchased it from "some fellow or other" and had
stuck it in his button-hole. Never for a moment did the authorities
suspect that I had anything to do with the transaction. It was out of my
ostensible line, so that I escaped suspicion. The chortling which took
place at the complete discomfiture of the authorities and the manner in
which they had been outwitted is recalled vividly to this day. It was
one of many incidents which served to vary the monotony of camp life.

[*large gap]

On August Bank Holiday, 1915, the authorities considerately permitted us
to have a day's junketting. We were to be at liberty to do exactly as we
pleased. Indeed, we were urged to enjoy ourselves thoroughly and we did
not require a second urging. The football ground was converted into a
fair. No restrictions whatever were imposed upon us. The authorities
themselves were so enthused with this concession to us as to give us
several days' notice of their intentions to enable us to make any
preparations we considered fit, while we were not faced with any
obstacles in the rigging up of side-shows, gambling halls and what not.

The concession was particularly attractive to me, as I recalled that it
was upon the previous August Bank Holiday I had been arrested on the
charge of espionage and consigned to Wesel Prison. The rivalry amongst
us was astonishing, while there were many wonderful manifestations of
fertility and ingenuity. One prisoner spent 1,000 marks--£50--in rigging
up his booth, which was somewhat reminiscent of an Aunt Sally at home.
My two friends, K---- and F----, contrived a golfing game which proved
a huge financial success. I myself rigged up a billiard table on which
was played a very unorthodox game of billiards, and which, because of
its departure from conventionality, created a sensation. It was really a
revival of a game or wheeze which I had learned many years before.

The billiard table was contrived from the wooden sides to my bed. I
secured them side by side to give a flat surface 6 feet long by 5 feet
wide. Over the upper surface I stretched and tacked down a sheet to form
the cloth. I bought a broomstick and with the assistance of the camp
carpenter shaved it down to form a passable cue, tipping the end with a
small piece of leather cut from my boot. The table was rigged up in the
open air, boxes and barrels serving as the legs, while it was levelled
as far as practicable. There was only one ball. At the opposite end--on
the spot--I placed two match-boxes set at an angle to one another and
just sufficiently far apart to prevent the ball passing between them.
The unusual game was to play the ball at the boxes in such a manner as
to knock both of them over together. It seems a simple thing to do, but
I would merely advise the reader to try it. Probably he will learn
something to his advantage.

I assumed fancy dress. I secured a big top hat, a pair of trousers much
too baggy and big for me, a swallow-tail coat with tails formed of white
and red strips--a regular Uncle Sam's costume--had a big flaming bow
about twelve inches in width and a ridiculous monocle. I think my
rig-out transformed me into a hybrid of Brother Jonathan, Charlie
Chaplin and an English dude. My dress was completed by a biscuit tin
suspended by a band from my shoulder and in which I rattled my money. On
the face of the tin I wrote--

    Come along! Come along!! Come along!!!
    Always open to make. Always open to lose.
      Come along B'hoys!

I then stood on a box and told the tale characteristic of a man at the
fair for the first time in my life.

Seeing that I was the only man attired in fancy dress I became the
centre of attraction as I desired and as much among the guards who mixed
and joked with us freely on this Great Day, as among my
fellow-prisoners. It also served as a striking advertisement for my game
of unconventional billiards, which was my intention. My terms were ten
pfennigs--one penny--a shot and round my table the fun grew fast and
furious. It seemed so absurdly easy to knock the two boxes down at once,
but when the billiard experts settled down to the game they found that
only about one shot in fifty proved successful. Indeed the ability to
knock the two boxes over simultaneously was found to be so difficult as
to be exasperatingly fascinating, and as a result of their repeated and
abortive efforts I made money quickly. The table was kept going hard the
whole day, by the end of which I found I had raked in several pounds in
nimble pennies.

The other side-shows also did excellent business, especially the
gambling tables where roulette was in full swing. At the end of the day
all the roulette boards and other gambling impedimenta were confiscated.
This was the arrangement. But between sunrise and sunset we did not
suffer the slightest interference with our enjoyment and merriment. This
unexpected spell of free action revived the spirits of the prisoners to
a remarkable degree, and we were all warmly grateful to the German
authorities for allowing us to do and to enjoy ourselves exactly as we
pleased for even one brief day. It was a Bank Holiday according to the
British interpretation of the term, and I, in common with all my
fellow-prisoners, must certainly admit that it was the jolliest day I
remember during the whole period of my incarceration, and the _only_ day
on which we were allowed to indulge in sport _ad lib._ and according to
the dictates of our fancies. I mention this concession because I am
anxious to give credit to the Germans where it is due.

[*large gap]

I was not only making sufficient money out of my various commercial
transactions to keep myself in clover within the camp, but I was
successful in finding means to remit some of my income, earned in
Ruhleben, to England "To keep the Home Fires Burning." This I considered
to be a distinct achievement, especially as I was making it at the
expense of my captors.

Only once did I have an acute shock. It was at the time when the Germans
were making such frantic efforts to rake in all the gold upon which they
could place their hands. In my stock was a certain gold article which
had cost me £30, as well as another item also of this metal which I had
secured at the low price of £20. An officer swooped down upon my kiosk
and went through my stock. I trembled as to what would happen when he
alighted upon the two valuable articles. He picked up the first named
article, examined the metal critically, and then asked me how much I
wanted for it.

"Three marks!" I ventured nonchalantly, with a view to taking him off
his guard.

"But it's gold," he persisted, staggered at the idea of being able to
buy such an adornment for the trivial sum of three shillings.

My heart thumped as he held the article hesitatingly. If he offered me
three shillings for it I should be bound to accept it in which event I
should be a heavy loser over the deal. So I went on desperately:

"Well, if you think it's gold why don't you buy it for three marks? I
will give no guarantee, so don't come back and say it's only metal!"
Then assuming a deprecating tone I continued: "It is got up only for
show. It looks very pretty, but you couldn't give it to a lady!"

He appeared to be quite satisfied because he replaced it, while when he
picked up the other item I pitched a corresponding yarn. After he had
taken his departure I promptly transferred the two articles to a place
of safety in case he should take it into his head to make another
examination.

It was on June 1 when I embarked upon my engraving venture, and my two
apprentices and myself were kept hard at it the livelong day, the
pressure of business being so great. My own working hours, so long as
daylight permitted, were from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. About September I
concluded the moment to be ripe to consummate my one absorbing idea--to
get home. I was now in a position financially to complete the plans I
had laid long since. I had to tread warily, but by the end of October I
was secure in my position. Still, although confident of success, I did
not relax my interest in business, because my plans were just as likely
to go wrong as to succeed at the last minute. Moreover at the end of
November I had the intense satisfaction of learning that my profit as a
result of five months' trading was £150! I considered this to be
extremely satisfactory. An average profit of £7 10s. per week exceeded
my rosiest anticipations, and it now seems additionally remarkable when
I recall the limited confines and the restricted clientèle of Ruhleben
Camp. But the greatest satisfaction I have is knowing that I completely
outwitted my oppressors, because I was not supposed to trade as I did.
It was a telling example of stolen fruits being the sweetest.



CHAPTER XXI

HOW THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR WAS DECEIVED


As is well known the British prisoners in Germany have only one person
within the Central Empires to whom they can appeal for protection, and
through whose good offices alone they are able to secure redress of
their grievances. This is Mr. Gerard, the Ambassador of the United
States of America to Germany. Mr. Gerard has toiled indefatigably and
unremittingly upon our behalf. In his magnanimity and determination to
give a square deal all round, he has made the signal error of
accrediting the Germans with being a highly-developed, civilised, and
cultivated race.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gerard's sense of duty the German does not accept
the principles of the precept, "Do unto others as you would others
should do unto you," but has evolved a code of his own construction
which is peculiarly Teutonic--"Do unto others as you know others will
not dare or deign to do unto you!" The American Ambassador has always
responded promptly to any calls for his intercession and has ever
listened courteously and patiently to tales of woe. Whenever he has
considered the complaint to be well-founded he has spared no effort to
secure an immediate improvement in conditions. Yet it is to be feared
that many of his recommendations have never been, or have only been
partially and indifferently, carried into effect.

In his determination to hold the scales of justice evenly Mr. Gerard has
been prone to accept the German at his own valuation. Every prisoner in
Germany to-day knows from painful experience that the Teuton's word
counts for nothing; it is not worth the breath expended upon its
utterance, or the paper upon which it is written. The German is an
unprincipled liar and an unmitigated bluffer, in which art, if such it
may be called, he has become a super-master.

The German has always laughed, and still is laughing up his sleeve at
the courteous American diplomat. The imperial authorities have never
hesitated to throw dust in his eyes and to outwit him when the occasion
suited their purpose. Indeed, they scheme deliberately and unceasingly
to side-track him and to prevent the true conditions and affairs
penetrating to his knowledge.

I had one striking instance of this carefully premeditated and
unscrupulous gulling and thwarting of the American Embassy. The
accidental discovery of the circumstance that the baseless charge of
espionage levelled against me was still hanging over my head somewhat
worried me. I ascertained one exceedingly disturbing fact which was
communicated to me within the camp. Had I committed any offence, no
matter how trivial, while in the camps, I should not have been arraigned
upon that particular delinquency, but, in all probability, would have
had the original charge retrumped up against me. I learned that this was
the German practice. Moreover, the old charge was liable to be trotted
out at any odd moment at the caprice of my oppressors. The authorities
had never acquitted me of being a spy. On the other hand they had never
pronounced me guilty. I was forced to accept the former interpretation
from my transference to the internment camps, as if I had been merely a
detained civilian. My reasons for believing that I had been acquitted of
the grave charge were supported by the fact that in Germany, a person
who has been found guilty of espionage, and who escapes the death
penalty, is condemned to solitary confinement in a military prison.

The charge of espionage being in a condition of suspended animation as
it might be termed, coupled with the fact that no one knew whenever,
wherever, and how it might suddenly be revived to my detriment, did not
conduce to my peace of mind. On one occasion I received a pretty rude
shock. I filled up an application for release upon medical grounds, but
upon being summoned before the authorities I was told point-blank that I
should be kept a prisoner until the end of the war, exchange or no
exchange.

The uncertainty became intolerable. I wrote a lengthy letter to the
American Ambassador explaining my unfortunate and doubtful position and
expressing the hope that he might be able to bring the matter to a
decision. In common with my fellow-prisoners, I had always cherished the
belief that a letter addressed to the American Embassy was regarded as
confidential and inviolable; at all events was not to be opened, except
with the express permission of the prisoner or the Ambassador. But my
faith was rudely dispelled. I dispatched my communication only to
receive a curt summons to appear before an officer, who bluntly informed
me that my letter could not be sent to the Embassy because it was
sealed. It was handed back to me with the injunction that the envelope
must be left open.

Now, if letters containing complaints and addressed to our sole
Protector are sent unsealed it is only logical to assume that the German
officials apprise themselves of the character of the "grouse." By so
doing they become as wise as the Ambassador--if the letter ever reaches
him. By having access to all communications, a letter is permitted to go
forward if it suits the officials, but not before they have made a note
of the grievance in order to be able to take the necessary remedial
steps before the Ambassador intervenes.

In my particular instance I prepared a lengthy explanatory
communication, requesting an audience if at all possible. The letter was
so worded as to compel an acknowledgment, unless the Germans were
disposed to suffer exposure of their methods and duplicity. In due
course a representative appeared. He seemed to have only a hazy
recollection of my communication so I related all the essential details
to him. I was more than positive that the German authorities had filed a
copy of my letter because their attitude towards me changed suddenly and
adversely, and by a strange coincidence this metamorphosis agreed with
the date on which I had dispatched my communication to the Embassy.

I urged the representative to ascertain whether I had, or had not, been
acquitted of the espionage charge. I particularly desired the official
acquittal in writing from Wesel, because it would be of far-reaching
value in the event of my being haled before the authorities upon some
other flimsy offence. He listened attentively and sympathetically,
appreciated the situation as it affected me personally and promised to
do everything he could on my behalf. But evidently, subsequent
conversation with the Teuton authorities exercised the desired German
effect. A few days later I received a curt acknowledgment saying that my
affair, which was somewhat unusual, was purely one for military
decision. I was also informed that the papers referring to my case were
at Wesel fortress, and I was advised to write direct to the Commandant
at the military centre for them. With this consolation, if such it can
be called, I had to rest content.

The fact that I have never heard another word upon the subject from that
day to this proves conclusively that the authorities, although doubtless
profuse in their apologies and regrets to the Ambassador over the delay,
and unctuous in their promises to settle the issue immediately, never
really intended to stir another finger in this direction. No one
disturbed the official serenity and forthwith the whole question was
permitted to slide and to be forgotten in accordance with German
machinations.

Upon the receipt of the ambassadorial letter I was inclined to stir up
the whole issue for all I knew how, but upon second thoughts I refrained
from pursuing the matter any further. I had thoroughly made up my mind
as to the course of action which I would take, and so concluded that it
would be far better from my point of view to "let sleeping dogs lie." I
think my attitude must have completely disarmed the Germans. To them I
assumed an air of complete resignation, but all the time I was working
silently and zealously towards my own salvation.

At frequent intervals the emissary from the Embassy visited us. He was
invariably received graciously by Baron von Taube, whom we facetiously
dubbed Baron von Facing-both-ways, and other members of his staff to
form as escort through the camp. The representative thus saw and heard
exactly as much as the authorities determined should be the case and
nothing more. Whenever he was disposed to become uncomfortably
inquisitive he was deftly steered clear of the troubled waters. We were
told that we were quite at liberty to speak to the Ambassador if we
desired, but unofficially we were warned to think twice before we took
such a step, the hint being thrown out that it would be better for us to
refrain from talking to him unless first questioned. The shallowness of
the official decree was vividly brought home to us when we were forcibly
confined to barracks, and this frequently occurred while the
ambassadorial visitor was in the camp.

On one occasion complaints concerning the living quarters were made. The
representative came and explained the object of his mission to the
Commanding Officer. Ostensibly this worthy was overwhelmed with surprise
at any such grievance having been formulated, although, as a matter of
fact he knew full well why the representative had called, owing to the
rule concerning all letters being posted unsealed.

The Commanding Officer protestingly laughed at the suggestion that the
living quarters were untenable. But there! The representative could see
for himself. With every semblance of complete complaisance the
representative was escorted into the camp. With unassumed unconcern, but
with deliberate intention, he was accompanied to Barracks 1 or 2, to see
with his own eyes a typical illustration of the living quarters provided
within the camp.

The situation was exceedingly ludicrous, although it was of considerable
moment to us who had lodged the complaint. The representative could not
have been taken to more convenient buildings from the German point of
view. They are the show-barracks of Ruhleben, and certainly are
excellent specimens of the prisoners' quarters. They indubitably served
as a powerful illustration of how prisoners could make themselves
comfortable. They were held up far and wide throughout Ruhleben as a
pattern for all others to copy. One and all of us would willingly have
emulated this attractive model--_if we had possessed the money to spend
upon luxuries!_ Barrack No. 2 is the domicile of the _élite_ and wealthy
of Ruhleben. The prisoners, flush of funds, have been permitted to
gratify every whim and fancy. They have expended large sums of money
upon the purchase of furniture and knick-knacks, the result being
favourably comparable with a smart and fashionable flat, that is if a
flat can be squeezed into a horse-box ten feet square!

The representative was solemnly assured that these barracks were only
typical of the other buildings in the camp. But had the American visitor
walked a few dozen yards upon his own initiative, to enter Barrack 3 or
5, he would have received a convincing demonstration of unprincipled
German lying. There the inmates were compelled, willy-nilly, to lie upon
the floor. At that time beds had not been served to more than one-half
of the prisoners.

During one of these visits the prisoners of Barrack 6 defied authority.
They had petitioned the officials incessantly to improve their quarters
but to no purpose. The cause for the greatest discontent was the
absolute lack of light. The loft was nothing more nor less than a "Black
Hole." On this occasion the tenants had been sent to barracks with the
strict injunction that they were not to come out again until the
ambassadorial inspection had been completed. But the prisoners were not
disposed to permit this deliberate hoodwinking of our protector to
continue indefinitely. The representative had been taken to a typical
[_sic_] barrack to observe the appointments and to satisfy himself
concerning the German efforts which had been made to render the tenants
comfortable. As usual he found no apparent justification for the
complaints which had been made.

He was being escorted to inspect some new latrines which had recently
been completed. To reach the latter point he had to pass Barrack 6, in
which the boys were on the alert to seize the opportunity for which they
had been waiting quietly. When the representative was but a few yards
distant up went the shout in unison, "Come and see our barrack! Come and
see our barrack!"

The guards endeavoured to smother the hail, but for once they were too
slow. The representative heard the cry, stopped, and doubtless impressed
by the vehemence of the invitation, expressed his intention to make an
investigation. I mention this incident to emphasise the point that the
Embassy was always ready to deal fairly with the prisoners, and to prove
that a great deal more would have been done on our behalf had the
visitors been given a freer hand.

The chagrin of the German entourage escorting the ambassadorial deputy
was amusing to observe. Behind his back they frowned, glowered, and
glared fiercely, shook their fists, and muttered stifled incoherent
curses, but when he turned to them they assumed a meekness and
pleasantry which quite disarmed suspicion. Still, their anger, as they
followed him into the building, was so intense as to defy being masked
and afforded us, who were witnessing the episode, the most complete
satisfaction and ill-disguised delight.

The expected happened. The representative entered Barrack 6. He climbed
the rickety staircase leading to the loft with difficulty to dive into
the "Black Hole." He condemned it in unmeasured terms. Apparently he
realised how neatly he had been hoodwinked, he became furious, and in
tones which brooked no argument or discussion, ordered the instant
removal of the prisoners to more congenial surroundings. The officials
were beside themselves with rage at the turn which events had taken, but
they hesitated to give offence. They were profuse in lame excuses and
pleaded that the accommodation in this loft was only temporary. The
German interpretation of the word "temporary" may be gathered from the
fact that this particular loft had been occupied for nearly six months.
But the representative gained the day. The loft was forthwith vacated
and subsequently, when certain improvements had been carried out, was
used only as a schoolroom.

About March, 1915, as previously narrated, we commenced to experience a
severe shortage of bread. We were not receiving sufficient of the staff
of life to keep us alive. The representative drove into the camp one day
to investigate some other matter. When he had departed upon his mission,
accompanied by the inevitable entourage, some of us gathered around his
motor-car which was covered with dust. While one or two were chatting
with the chauffeur one of the party slipped a letter, pointing out our
dire straits and describing how famished we were, beneath the
ambassador's seat, and in such a manner as to compel his attention upon
re-entering the automobile. Another prisoner, with his finger, scrawled
in the dust upon the rear of the tonneau, "We want bread!" while other
notices were chalked up in commanding positions, so as to arrest instant
attention, "For God's sake, give us bread!"

When the German guards spotted the flaming appeal upon the rear of the
car they fussed up in indignant rage. One advanced to obliterate the
damning words, but the chauffeur whipped round the car. He caught sight
of the mute request, and intercepting the officious sentry remarked:--

"You mustn't touch this car! It's the property of the United States
Government!"

The guard pulled himself up sharply, glaring fiercely and evidently
contemplating defiance of the warning. The chauffeur was a white man. He
eyed us quizzically for a moment or two. Realising from our faces that
we were not playing a joke, but ventilating a serious grievance, he
stood between the officious sentry and the vehicle until the
representative returned. The Embassy car drove out of the camp with the
letters still staring out in a gaunt appeal from the thick dust.
Evidently the chauffeur drew the representative's attention to our cry,
while it is only reasonable to suppose that the emissary from the
Embassy discovered the letter which we had secreted beneath his seat,
because an improvement in the allowance of bread immediately ensued.

And so it went on. No trick was too knavish or too despicable to prevent
our guardian learning the truth concerning our plight. He very rarely
walked about unaccompanied. Tongue in cheek, the Germans, who always
were cognisant of the object of his visit, and who had always taken
temporary measures to prove the grievance to be ill-founded, strode
hither and thither with him, throwing knowing glances and winks among
themselves behind the representative's back. Doubtless it was the
successful prosecution of these tactics which persuaded the Embassy to
believe that the majority of our complaints were imaginary and arose
from the circumstance that the inhabitants of Ruhleben would persist in
ignoring the fact that they were the victims of war and not pampered
pets.

One of the most glaring instances of the effective manner in which the
Germans sought to disarm and to outwit an official visitor was narrated
to me by a fellow-prisoner who had been transferred from Sennelager to
Ruhleben. I conclude that the incident must have happened, during the
interregnum when I was "free on Pass" in Cologne. I cannot vouch for the
accuracy of the statement, but I do not think there is the slightest
reason to doubt the word of our compatriot, because he was in Sennelager
at the time and actually passed through the experience. Furthermore it
is typical of Teuton methods in matters pertaining to the treatment of
prisoners.

X---- stated that, despite the havoc wrought during the "Bloody Night"
of September 11, all the prisoners were still herded on the field at
Sennelager until long after my departure. They were exposed to the heavy
rains and were all reduced to a miserable condition. Suddenly an order
came up commanding all prisoners to return instantly to their old
barracks. This sudden manifestation of a humane feeling upon the part of
the Commandant provoked widespread amazement. What had happened?

The surprise of the prisoners became accentuated when they regained the
permanent buildings which had formerly comprised our home. They were
hurried into their quarters and shaken down with incredible speed. Fires
were set going and the unhappy prisoners made themselves comfortable
confident that their trials now were over, and that they were destined
to prolonged residence under weathertight roofs.

The following day an august visitor arrived at the camp. Whether he was
an emissary from the American Embassy or not my informant was unable to
say, for the simple reason that no one knew his identity, and every
precaution was observed to prevent any information upon this matter from
becoming known among the prisoners. Be that as it may he made a detailed
tour of the camp, investigating the arrangements and accommodation
provided for the hapless inhabitants' welfare. Under no circumstances
whatever were the British prisoners permitted to speak to the mysterious
stranger. Any attempt in this direction was sternly and forcibly
suppressed by the guards who swarmed everywhere. Evidently, judging from
his demeanour, the stranger was deeply impressed--and satisfied--with
what he saw with his own eyes.

But the moment he had left the camp the prisoners were paraded and
re-transferred to the field. This story, if accurate, and I see no
reason to doubt its veracity, is interesting from one circumstance. When
we were summarily turned out upon the field by the inhuman Major Bach,
he advanced as his reason for such action that vast numbers of German
recruits were momentarily expected, and that the buildings were required
to house them. But according to the foregoing incident the barracks were
still empty. The lying Commandant of Sennelager Camp was thus condemned
out of his own mouth, while the minute precautions he observed to
prevent the mysterious stranger from learning a word about our
experiences on the field proves that he merely turned us out into the
open, herded like animals in a corral, to satisfy his own personal
cravings for dealing out brutality and torture.

But the most glaring example of German duplicity and astuteness in
throwing our protector off the track provoked Ruhleben to hilarious
merriment, despite the seriousness of our position. Leastways, although
the Teutons may have regarded the movement as one of serious intention,
we regarded it as a deliberate piece of hoodwinking. One morning we were
solemnly informed that the authorities had completed arrangements
whereby every prisoner was to receive a good substantial meat meal once
a week. It was to comprise a chop, potatoes, some other vegetable, and
gravy. It sounded so extraordinarily luxurious and appetising as to
provoke incredulity and caustic comment. Those who, like myself, had
suffered internment in other camps and who had become thoroughly
grounded in Teuton shiftiness and trickery divined that something
unusually crafty and cunning was afoot.

I might mention that by this time Ruhleben comprised a small town of
twenty-three barracks housing a round 4,000 prisoners. This represented
an average of 174 men to a barrack, although, as a matter of fact, some
of the buildings accommodated over 200 men. The culinary arrangements
were fulfilled by only two kitchens. Now, the problem which presented
itself to the minds of the more sophisticated and suspicious prisoners
was this--How would the authorities grapple with the preparation and
serving of 4,000 chops in one day with the cooking facilities available?
Were we to be treated to another staggering example of Germany's
wonderful powers of organisation and management?

The glamour of the proposition suddenly disappeared. We learned that the
"tuck-in" was not to be general throughout the camp on a certain day.
The delight was to be dealt out in instalments, and in such a manner
that so many men would be able to partake of the gorgeous feast upon
each successive day of the week.

So far so good. We in Barrack 5 were among the first to receive the
promised meat meal, which we had been anticipating with ill-disguised
relish. It reached us on the Tuesday. The meal was swallowed greedily
and keenly enjoyed, although the meat was of inferior quality. But I
never saw another chop in our barrack for a month! Crash went another
alluring Teuton promise.

We became inquisitive and to our amusement learned what the more shrewd
and doubting among us had suspected. Sufficient chops were being cooked
every day to ensure so many men regularly receiving the meat meal. Every
man received his chop as promised although he was perhaps compelled to
wait an inordinate time for his turn. As there were twenty-three
barracks with two kitchens to fulfil their demands meat dinners were
being prepared every day. Indeed, the Germans appeared to be always
cooking chops!

It was a masterpiece of German cunning. Whenever a visitor, animated by
desires to ascertain how the prisoners were being treated, visited the
camp he was piloted to the kitchen. There could be seen an imposing
array of chops sizzling and spitting gaily, and emitting an appetizing
aroma. Were prisoners of war ever treated so sumptuously as those at
Ruhleben? The visitor was gravely assured that the chops he saw
represented but a portion of what were being prepared for the prisoners,
in which statement the Germans were perfectly correct, but they artfully
refrained from saying that only a certain number of men received the
dainty dish each day, the idea being to convey the impression that this
was merely the daily routine for the whole of the camp.

It did not matter when the American representative or any other visitor
came into the camp--chops were being cooked. The visitors naturally
concluded that we were being treated in a right royal manner, and one
quite in accordance with the most noble traditions of the German nation.
It never occurred to these visitors, apparently, to make enquiries among
the prisoners to ascertain how they enjoyed their _daily_ meat meal? Had
they done so they would have been surprised.

The German explanations were so verbose and ostensibly so sincere as to
be received without the slightest cavil. Naturally our task-masters
studiously declined to extend any enlightenment upon the matter,
preferring to lull the visitors into a false haven of credibility.
Unfortunately we discovered that we had to pay indirectly for the
delectable dainty and Teuton liberality--the dinners upon the other days
steadily grew worse in quantity, quality, and variety!

We all admire the unceasing efforts which the American Ambassador has,
and still is exerting upon our behalf, and we are extremely thankful for
the many and far-reaching improvements he has wrought. His work is one
of extreme difficulty, demanding unremitting patience, tact, and
impartiality. It must be remembered that he was submitted to an
unceasing bombardment of complaints from 4,000 prisoners, overwrought
from their incarceration, and ready to magnify the slightest
inconvenience into a grievance.

Unfortunately his task is aggravated by the unprincipled lying,
bluffing, and crafty tactics of the German authorities. They have no
more compunction in fooling the American Ambassador than they have in
depriving the prisoners of sufficient food to keep body and soul
together. The task of Mr. Gerard in the immediate future is certain to
become more perplexing, intricate, and delicate, but we hope that he
will prove equal to the occasion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in November, 1915, my arrangements for leaving Ruhleben were so
far advanced that I could scarcely restrain my excitement. On December 6
I disposed of my business. It was of no further use to me. The day for
which I had been waiting so patiently and longingly had dawned at last
and--

_I got home safely!_

Although arrested and tried upon the false, frivolous, trumped-up charge
of being a British spy, I have never been acquitted of that indictment.
It still hangs over my head.

Shortly after reaching home I received a letter from a friend with whom
I had been interned. He secured his release some months before I shook
the dust--and mud--of Ruhleben from my feet. On the day we parted he
sympathised deeply with me at the prospect of being condemned to
languish in the hands of the enemy until the clash of arms had died
down. I did not seek to disillusion him, although, even at that time, I
had made up my mind to get away by hook or by crook.

This former fellow-prisoner had heard of my safe return to my own
fireside. The envelope contained nothing beyond his visiting card,
across the back of which he had scrawled, "How the devil did you get
out?"

But that is another story.



The London and Norwich Press Limited, London and Norwich, England





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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