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Title: 13 Days - The Chronicle of an Escape from a German Prison
Author: Caunter, John Alan Lyde
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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    [Illustration: "WITH HIS BUNDLE SAFELY ON HIS HEAD HE TOOK TO THE
    WATER" (_page 205_).]



  13 DAYS

  THE CHRONICLE OF AN ESCAPE
  FROM A GERMAN PRISON

  BY

  CAPTAIN J.A.L. CAUNTER

  1ST BN. THE GLOUCESTERSHIRE REGIMENT

  ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR

  [Illustration]

  LONDON
  G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
  1918



CONTENTS


                                                             PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                                vii


  PART I

  CHAPTER

     I. CREFELD                                                 1

    II. THE MOVE TO SCHWARMSTEDT                               45

   III. SCHWARMSTEDT CAMP                                      65


  PART II

    IV. MY ESCAPE FROM THE CAMP                                87

     V. CROSSING THE FIRST TWO RIVERS                         108

    VI. I MEET FOX AND BLANK                                  125

   VII. THE CROSSING OF THE WESER                             134

  VIII. THE RAILWAY TRACK                                     155

    IX. CROSSING THE RIVER HUNTE, AND THE TOWN OF "DOGS"      164

     X. EXIT BLANK. SHEDS                                     175

    XI. TWO DAYS OF THE EMS                                   184

   XII. THE CROSSING OF THE RIVER                             198

  XIII. ACROSS THE FRONTIER                                   209

   XIV. CONCLUSION                                            222



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                      FACING PAGE

  "With his bundle safely on his head he took to
    the water"                                            _Title_

  Fancy Portrait of "The Crab"                                 16

  Section of a German Camp                                     96

  "At last the two Women got up"                              112

  "Face to face with a Flapper on her way to bathe"           128

  "Every dark corner seemed to contain a dog"                 160

  "Fox led them over the worst pieces of boggy
  ground he could find"                                       192

  "The German Relief passed within 200 yards of my
    hiding place"                                             208



INTRODUCTION


On placing before the public this account of my escape from Germany
and some episodes from my life in two prison camps, I feel that I must
make clear that it was only due to the fact that I had two definite
supplementary objects to attain, that I succeeded in making myself
launch out in the following pages.

The first of these objects is to add my quota to the information
before the public relating to the treatment and existence of those
who, in prisons in Germany, have suffered and are suffering for their
country.

My second object is to try to throw a little light on the marvellous
spirit of the prisoners as a whole.

Think what it means to be shut up for years under such conditions.

Let me quote the prisoner poet, Lieut. Harvey, who, in
_Gloucestershire Friends_, vividly describes what prison means in the
following lines:

    Laugh, oh laugh loud, all ye who long ago
    Adventure found in gallant company!
    Safe in stagnation; laugh, laugh bitterly,
    While on this filthiest backwater of time's flow,
    Drift we and rot till something set us free!

It is always a fight against this sort of thing that the prisoner of
war is waging. Some apparently find such a fight difficult, but the
majority do somehow keep a hold on themselves and retain their energy
and hopefulness.

"Barbed-wire" disease is now officially recognised, and internment in
neutral countries of those who have done the longest spells in prison
is the outcome of this.

It will readily be conceded that those who keep cheerful throughout
their cruel trials display wonderful moral courage. But what about
another class of prisoner? The prisoner who tries to escape--is
caught--does three months cells--is released--tries to escape
again--meets the same fate--and does another stretch of perhaps six
months this time--but only goes on trying.

There are some who have spent two and a half years out of three in
Germany in cells for attempts to escape. There are many who have made
six or seven attempts. I, who only had one determined attempt and
succeeded, am able to say it: "These men are of the salt of the
earth."

I have heard some chicken-hearted persons who say that nobody ought to
try to escape because it might make it worse for those left behind.
There is only one answer to that sort of person.

However, it is not a fact that others get punished for the escape of
individuals, although it was true on two occasions in 1914; so the
question hardly arises.

Very few people in this country seem to realise that the German, being
a bully, has the characteristics of a bully. If a strong attitude is
taken with him he immediately gives way. Collectively and individually
they cannot understand any argument but Force, whether it takes the
form of a reprisal or a great attack at the front.


GERMANY

Since my return to England I have often been asked what do the Germans
think of the war now and are they hard up for food, etc.

The Germans I talked to were thoroughly fed-up with the war and only
wanted peace. This does not mean that they will break out into
Revolution. That to my mind cannot come about until the military
defeat of Germany is a fact. The Kaiser, not too popular nowadays,
would immediately regain his former position in the minds of his
subjects could he but secure a peace even partially favourable to the
German people. The rulers of Germany know that defeat, or anything
like it, would be fatal for them; that is why they will stick at
nothing and spare no spilling of blood until they have either won or
lost irretrievably. What would a patched-up peace mean? It would mean
that Germany would begin building submarines by the hundred for use
against us within ten years' time. It would mean just an armistice for
a few years and then a renewal of the conflict without Russia and
probably many of our other exhausted allies.

The Germans with whom I spoke knew this and looked at the future with
open eyes.

I wonder if it is realised how much the British are hated by the
Germans? Their hate of us is "Kolossal," to use their own expressive
word. Somebody in Germany said that should the Germans ever get into
England they would make "Belgium appear like a Garden of Eden in
comparison with what England would look like after they had done with
her."

It is a German boast that the war has never touched the sacred soil of
the Fatherland. The few occasions on which our aeroplanes bombed
German towns during my stay there, gave me an excellent opportunity of
judging how sensitive they are to this particular form of punishment.
The bombing of Karlsruhe and Freiburg caused a scream throughout the
west of Germany. I heard the echo of it in the canteen at Crefeld.

When I suggested that London had also been bombed and innocent lives
lost, they simply said that that was different. Thus in their minds
there are two kinds of law, one for England, the other for Germany. I
was very pleased to notice how much less was the effect of air-raids
on our civilian population than on the Germans. There is no doubt
whatever that the fear of air bombardments is much stronger in Germany
than over here.

There is only one way of touching the German mind and that is by the
employment of FORCE, Brute Force. It is what he believes in as the
medicine for his enemies, simply because he judges others by himself,
and knows that he respects that and that only, and therefore applies it
whenever possible to others.

It is a pity that our public does not know more of the German
mentality. It is a knowledge of this factor that should assist one in
having a correct view of things and in understanding German
aspirations and methods.

A word about food and supplies generally.

The Germans are extremely hard-up for food. In the Spring of 1917,
meat was practically unobtainable. The bread was disgusting and
scarce.

Potatoes had to be procured by standing in queues for hours. (This as
a matter of fact has been the rule for the last year and a half.)

Mangel-wurzels, swedes, black peas, and turnips form the greater part
of the food.

The town of Crefeld in February, 1917, was like a place of the dead,
absolutely deserted except at the hour when the workers went home. The
shops have practically nothing to sell in their windows. To get a
shirt or a towel or any such article, a permit had to be got from the
town authorities. Boots were a difficult problem. All the children
wore wooden shoes. Leather could not be got for love or money nearly
two years ago.

It is extraordinary how the German people put up with their hardships.

People ignorant of the true state of affairs in Germany have sometimes
asked me if the Germans are shorter of food and other things than we
are. I always have to laugh as the question is so ridiculous to me.
There is absolutely no comparison between the two countries.

I often see articles in the papers on the conditions that obtain in
Germany, written by persons who know, and I hear people doubt the
veracity of them. I can truthfully say that I have not yet seen the
article or item of news from Germany which I, from my point of
vantage, did not absolutely believe. It is a pity that people will not
believe what men who have been in Germany have to say on the
subject.



PART I



CHAPTER I

CREFELD


I was taken prisoner at Gheluveld, 31st October, 1914, and arrived at
Crefeld prison-camp on the evening of 2nd November with ten other
officers brought in from various parts of the Ypres front.

It was the same old story every time that one heard, on asking what
had happened in any particular sector of the battlefield.

The impression we got from the sum total of these descriptions led us
to think that a German break-through to Ypres and beyond was a
certainty during the evening of the 31st.

We had been taken through the German reserves while being transported
to the rear, and had seen the thousands of fresh men they had got
massed behind their fighting armies. Menin, Wervicq, and other places
were packed with troops. Every farm and cottage held its full
complement of armed Boches. On the railway, trains passed westwards
every few minutes crammed with troops, destined for the Ypres battle.

It was not surprising that we prisoners, who knew the exact strength
of the British army, and also the fact that all units were having hard
fighting, and that nothing was left in reserve, should feel depressed
and wonder if it was possible that the Germans would fail to use their
great opportunity.

I have often been asked how our prisoners are treated in Germany. The
only correct answer to this is that the treatment varies according to
the time and place, and the type of German who comes into contact with
them.

In 1914 it was generally the same throughout Germany. In those days
the treatment was exceedingly bad. Every prisoner taken then has seen
or experienced some brutality or insulting behaviour on the part of
Germans.

For my part, I, on first becoming a prisoner, was spat at and called
all the choice names their musical language can provide. I saw a
British soldier, with a shrapnel wound in the back, made to carry a
heavy German pack which bumped up and down on the open wound. This
fact was remarked upon by a German private soldier, who, more humane
than the rest, protested against this treatment. But the
Unter-Offizier would not alter his order and the wounded man had to
carry his burden for seven miles or more.

When asked for water at Aix-la-Chappelle railway station, by prisoners
who had hardly had a drop to drink for two days, and scarcely a scrap
of food to eat, I heard the Red Cross "Ladies"! reply--"For an
"Engländer"? Nein!"

At Cologne station I saw the brute beasts of German officials haul
three or four of the most miserable British private soldiers they
could find, out of the cattle trucks and place them on the platform to
be baited by the populace, comprised largely of women. There were
German officers on the platform, so there was no excuse; it could have
been stopped instantly by them.

There were many other incidents too numerous to mention, but similar
and worse stories will be told by the thousand after the war. The
treatment of prisoners has steadily improved since those days. No
longer do the Germans openly insult and knock prisoners about to the
same extent, except in out of the way places and when they have a
particularly cowed and defenceless lot to deal with.

I have heard from officers taken prisoners in 1916, that they were
reasonably treated when captured. It is much changed now according to
general report.

While waiting at Cologne station for our train for Crefeld, we were
locked in a cell under the stairs of the station. Although expecting
to receive food here and being told that it was with that object that
we had been put in this place, nothing of this kind materialised.
However, we had the great honour of being visited by a German general
and a young female of high rank, who could speak a little English.

This she aired, and asked us several silly questions. She was much
taken with S----'s height, comparing him to some Karl or other. It was
a kind of private show of the wild beasts at the Zoo in which we acted
the parts of the animals.

On arrival at Crefeld station a hostile crowd was ready to receive us,
and we were hurried as quickly as possible into the trains waiting
there, in order to get us away from the attentions of the populace. As
it was, two of the eleven officers in my party were hit with sticks,
the wielders of which had pushed their way through the escort of
German soldiers accompanying us.

We were not sorry to reach the barracks and get away from these
demonstrations of the unpopularity of England in this town. Crefeld, a
great centre of the silk industry, had suffered heavily by the entry
of England into the war.

Once inside the camp we had time to spare for anything we wished to
do, which naturally meant food first, sleep next, and after some time
a wash and shave.

The barracks of the Crefeld Hussars, now wired in and used as a prison
camp, are large and strongly built. The prisoners occupied three large
buildings and a fourth smaller one provided mess rooms and canteen,
etc.

There was a gravel parade square in the middle of the ground between
the buildings; this we used as a place for exercise. This square was a
hundred and forty yards long by about eighty yards wide. It made an
excellent association football ground when cleared of big stones, and
in the summer, by dint of hard labour, we turned it into a number of
tennis courts.

Until he got command of Belgium, Von Bissing--the brute responsible
for the death of Nurse Cavell--was the general in charge of the
particular army command which included Crefeld in its jurisdiction.

On the walls of the prison camp an order signed by Bissing was posted,
which informed all the prisoners that they were the inferiors of all
Germans, whatever rank they might hold.

The order also warned us against trying to "evade our fate by
escaping." It continued, "The guards are earnest men, knowing their
duty." This caused the nickname "earnest men" to be given to them.

I wish Bissing could have known how we laughed at his special order.
The Boche has no sense of humour or he could never have put a thing
like that on the walls for Englishmen to laugh at and ridicule
generally.

For the first year or so, only seven officers were allotted to the
smaller rooms and fourteen to the larger ones. But these numbers were
eventually increased, first to eight and sixteen respectively, and
then to nine and eighteen.

At first we had a cupboard each, but later four had to do duty for
seven officers. The beds were iron with wooden planks supporting a
hard mattress, sometimes filled with straw or wood shavings, which was
changed on one or two occasions.

During the first few months we had only small oil lamps for lighting
purposes, at a scale of one per seven officers. It was impossible for
everyone to read at the same time. We used to sit over the fire for
warmth and the three nearest to the lamp could manage to see
sufficiently in the evenings to read the few Tauchnitz editions we had
been able to purchase through a tradesman, who was allowed into the
barracks twice a week.

As nearly all great-coats and waterproofs had been taken away from
prisoners at the time of their capture, we felt the effects of the
cold pretty considerably. Roll-calls took place at 8 a.m. and 9.30
p.m., generally out of doors. We often went on these roll-calls in the
early days with our blankets over our shoulders. A welcome supply of
soldiers' great-coats was sent through the American Embassy about
Christmas time. During the first winter there were about 250 Russians,
200 French, 120 English and a few Belgian officers in the camp.

That first winter was by far the worst of the three I spent there. We
had not got to understand the true nature of the German official
reports, and for some time they depressed us.

Parcels began coming in December, but the Germans made us pay duty on
them for a time, and as we had very little money in those days, they
were not so welcome as they became at a later date, when the duty was
removed.

As time went by, conditions in the camp improved, but until the summer
of 1915 we had great difficulty in getting permission to do anything
to make ourselves more comfortable. In the early summer of 1915,
thirty-five British officers were sent to Cologne to be imprisoned in
cells as a reprisal against the alleged maltreatment of German
submarine crews. The majority of this number went from Crefeld. After
two months or more, the reprisal having ended, they came back, looking
very white and ill.

Sometime in the month of June of this year a successful escape was
made by three Russians, and three others who got out of the camp the
following night were re-caught. Apparently they crossed the Dutch
frontier but got tied up in swampy ground and had to return across the
frontier into German territory again, in search of a way out of this
bad stretch of country. It was while attempting this that they were
seen by a German patrol and re-captured.

The whole affair was badly managed. The theory which many prisoners
held and worked upon, consisted of allowing each small party
twenty-four hours start, so that they might have a good chance of
getting across the frontier, some eighteen miles away, before the next
lot tried, who if caught at once would cause the Germans to discover
the departure of others at the nominal roll-call always held after an
attempt to escape. If anyone is missed at these roll-calls the
frontier guards are warned by wire.

The frontier is guarded just the same, whether an escaped prisoner is
reported "out" or not, so getting away unknown is not a necessity. Of
this I am absolutely certain from after knowledge of the conditions,
but of course nobody knew definitely what was the best course of
action at that time.

The mentality of the Boche, on the subject of escape, is curious. In
the early days, anyone who tried to escape and was caught was the
subject of particular dislike among the Germans, besides suffering his
usual term of punishment in cells.

I suppose becoming accustomed to these attempts altered their point of
view, as latterly indifference towards evil-doers of this nature was
displayed by them and the punishment term of cells was administered
and given with the same lack of interest or emotion as the matron of a
boys' preparatory school displays on dosing her charges all round with
medicine.

During the first winter in prison we built up a library, which
eventually became a large affair with a librarian and a room to
itself.

Some prisoners managed to continue playing cards from their first days
in prison until I left, and I suppose will continue to do so without
ceasing until the day of their release. Personally, after the first
year I spent in captivity I hated the sight of a card and played very
seldom.

The orchestra, from modest beginnings, grew into a really excellent
institution. Most of the instruments were hired from the town of
Crefeld.

By dint of asking repeatedly, we persuaded the Germans to allow us to
run a theatre, which also developed from an extremely crude state into
what was really quite a respectable affair.

The main difficulty with which our theatrical manager had to contend,
was the lack of material for "girls" in the caste. However, practise
and hard training turned out some passable ones in time. The French
were more fortunate in this respect than the English. They are all
born actors it seems, and they found two or three really excellent
male "actresses." The Russians also produced theatrical displays, but
were not so persevering in that respect as the French and British.

Periodically the camp used to be visited by German officers on leave
from the front. We used to stare at them and they at us, and beyond
the necessary salute, took no particular notice of each other.

One thing about the uniform of German officers drew our attention.
Although the top half of them appeared smart enough, they always
looked sloppy about the legs. Often one would see a German officer
with a reasonably well-cut coat, but his breeches would be perfectly
impossible. His leggings were worse than his breeches and looked as if
they must have been picked up at a second-hand clothes dealer's. They
never fitted, and besides giving their wearers legs the same shape all
the way down, generally ended off with their edges half an inch clear
of the boots all the way round.

The leather of these leggings looked as if it was made of
papier-maché. Being generally of a light yellowish-brown colour they
at any rate matched the boots, for the latter were nearly always of
that particularly aggressive tone of yellow often seen in the
shop-windows in England. The German officer seems to like this colour
and has it preserved by his servant, whereas we get rid of it at once.

I suppose these officers in their new uniforms criticised the
generally unkempt appearance of the English officers in prison
extremely unfavourably, not realising that anything is good enough for
a prison, and the less new stuff we got from "home" the less
unimportant work we gave to the hard-worked tailors endeavouring to
cope with the millions of uniforms required by our growing armies.

In the Spring of 1916 we were allowed by the British Government to
give our "paroles" for purposes of "walks" and other recreation.

This enabled us to go to the dentist in the town. This dentist,
although extremely short-sighted, did not do such bad work, provided
you found the hole for him. He did his best for us and his charges
were extraordinarily reasonable. These visits to the dentist were
naturally very popular, as they enabled us to see new sights and get
away from the horrible prison for a few hours. The dentist scored
heavily, as he always had a waiting-list and continuous work to do for
the prisoners.

As a man he was about as unfit for war as anyone could imagine, and
yet they called him up eventually. Being a weedy specimen, small and
pasty-faced, with such short-sight that he had the greatest difficulty
in seeing anything, he had been returned as totally exempt time after
time by the army doctors. But during the winter of 1916-1917, the
weeding-out committee of Germans arrived at Crefeld and once more he
was examined. To everyone's surprise, and to his most of all, they
passed him fit, and off he had to go. It cheered one up to see them
need such a man in their armies.

    [Illustration: FANCY PORTRAIT OF "THE CRAB" (_page 28_).]

The commandant, who, together with the vast majority of Germans,
believed in a great German victory over the whole world in 1914, began
his career as our chief gaoler as an autocrat of the Prussian type.
Various objectionable things were done by his orders. Not the least
objectionable of these was the stopping of smoking, when Major
Vandeleur escaped in December 1914. After a fortnight we regained our
tobacco and were allowed to smoke until a similar episode occurred,
when the same penalty was imposed.

Sometime in the Spring of 1915, three French officers attempted to
escape, but at the last minute, having already gained the outside of
the camp, came back into the prison, and in so doing were fired upon
by a German sentry who saw them. As the names of these officers were
not known to the German authorities, they ordered a roll-call and
demanded their names from the senior French officer. Naturally the
request was not granted, so the commandant said that all smoking
would be stopped for all officers of the camp, unless the names were
forthcoming at once. Again he was disappointed, and the tobacco was
once more collected. This time most of the parcels of tobacco were
filled with lumps of coal and other unimportant trifles, while we
smoked, like schoolboys, on the sly. Up the chimney was the favourite
place for this.

During the summer of 1915 the commandant changed his tone a bit, and
steadily improved from that time forward. Eventually there arrived a
time when we could consider him a fair and just commandant, and
although no friend of England or the English, he managed to get on
very well with his English prisoners.

The French, however, were never able to satisfy their consciences on
the subject sufficiently to look upon him as anything but one of the
worst. This was too severe. The commandant complained that when he
passed them, they would turn their backs on him, in order to avoid
having to salute him.

Relations between the English and the allies were always of the best.
About half the English preferred the Russians, while the other half
preferred the French.

There were many amusing incidents constantly occurring, if one could
raise sufficient sense of humour to enjoy them.

One typical example of the way in which we got some amusement out of
our guards happened one morning when a German fatigue party was in the
barracks loading up a wagon. One of the men had taken off his uniform
cap and hung it up by the entrance to one of the buildings. Along came
a certain English officer, interested in anything which might assist
him to escape, saw the cap, snatched it up and hid it inside his coat,
while passing into the building.

Ten minutes or so later, the work being finished, the German soldier
looked round for his cap. Meanwhile, the story of the annexation of
the cap had gone the round of the prison, so, when the wretched Boche
passed along the front of the building with his bald pate shining in
the sunlight, he had to run the gauntlet of a crowd of heads peering
from all the windows and roaring with laughter at him.

For a long time, I, like the majority of Englishmen, was in a room
half-English, half-French. We really got on very well together, but
the usual rock upon which French and English split, cropped up in our
case. We English wanted a fair proportion of the windows open; the
French on the other hand wanted them shut, complaining of "les
courants d'air mortels" (draughts).

A compromise was the only possible solution of this universal trouble.
On one occasion our allied friends received a consignment of live
snails from France, which they proceeded to cook with garlic on a
small spirit stove in our room. The smell was appalling. I had to
bolt from the room, although I am not over particular. The odour of
snails hung about for days afterwards.

These same friends of ours took up fret-sawing as a hobby. Have you
ever tried to live in a room in which five or six fret-saws are
working for hours at a time? They used to commence work before
breakfast sometimes. However, we stuck it without complaining for
months.

We had a most extraordinary prison companion, in the person of a
Russian, who received the nick-name of "Cuckoo." This Russian was not
really an officer at all, but during the great Russian retreat from
Poland was a transport driver. Finding, or otherwise coming by, an
officer's great-coat, he was dressed in it, when taken prisoner with
many thousands of others. The Germans, who were not able to prove
whether all officers were genuine, naturally concluded that he was
one, and took him to an officers' internment camp in Germany. During
his wanderings from camp to camp, he one day came to Crefeld. The
Cuckoo grew his hair long, abnormally long, so that it fell in a
matted mass, reaching to his shoulders. It was said that he had vowed
never to cut his hair until the Germans had been kicked out of his
village. He was called the Cuckoo, because when one day he had climbed
a tree he was asked what he was doing by some officer, and replied
that he was a cuckoo. This extraordinary person was not allowed to
feed with the Russian officers, as they objected to having him with
them. So he had to have his meals between the two services, which were
normally within an hour of each other. The English officers belonging
to the first service were always late in leaving the table, and so
were frequently in the large dining-room when the Cuckoo was fed. It
was a sight never to be forgotten. His manner of eating was truly
marvellous.

On some occasions dried smoked fish were part of the meals, and the
Cuckoo would pounce on these like a vulture and gnaw one, holding it
by the head and tail with both hands. This was not his only stunt.
Another good one was the way in which he shovelled food down. His
hands worked absolutely feverishly to supply his insatiable appetite;
great gulps of tea were rapidly interspersed, for lubricating
purposes, I suppose. For all that, I can say that I saw him at the
bath, which is more than can be said for all the prisoners in the
camp.

A really plucky, but at the same time comic attempt to escape was made
one Spring by a certain officer, who went by the soubriquet of
"Peeping-Tom."

The refuse heaps and dust-bins were cleared out daily by an old German
man and a boy, who removed the rubbish in a heavy two-wheeled cart
drawn by an old ox. This rubbish-cart in these days used to leave the
camp without being carefully searched and was emptied some distance
from it. This fact was naturally well known to the prisoners, but the
question, which most people took to be unanswerable, was how to remain
hidden in the rubbish and yet be alive at the end of the unpleasant
journey. It remained for "Peeping-Tom" to think of a gas-mask in
connection with this scheme. Borrowing one from an officer, who had
been lately brought in from the front, and had retained possession of
this article of equipment, he dressed himself in it, and choosing a
moment when the German boy was looking the other way, and the old man
had departed on some other business, he rushed to the cart and got
inside. A well-trained batch of English soldier-servants then arrived,
each armed with a bucketful of rubbish which they threw over the top
of him, successfully hiding him from view. All would now have been
well, had not fate cruelly intervened, in the shape of an old German
who worked the bath-house furnace, and who occasionally came out for
a breath of fresh air.

Seeing this extraordinary looking object disappear into the cart, the
old Boche fetched his cap and went off to the commandant's office to
report the strange event. Remarking this, another officer who had been
assisting the attempt, walked past the cart and warned "Peeping-Tom"
that he had been seen and must get out. Suddenly a horrible looking
object rose from the middle of the cart sending a shower of empty tins
and other rubbish in all directions. For a moment his peaky masked
face peered round, and then leaping from the cart, he went like the
wind for the room of a friend in the nearest building. The German boy
nearly fell flat on his back from fright when he saw this apparition,
and could do nothing to hinder its escape from the cart. The Germans
arrived in force shortly afterwards, but their bird had flown. From
that day onwards, the rubbish was pierced with spikes every time it
passed through the main gate, so that this scheme never had another
chance.

During the earlier days of our captivity, impromptu sing-songs
sometimes used to take place. On one particular occasion this led to
trouble with our prison authorities. Empire-day was a day which could
be made something of by the English, as a set-off to the numerous
Saints-days and fêtes of the French and Russians.

This particular Empire-day, which we had decided to celebrate as a
"jour-de-fête," happened to be the day of the declaration of war
between Italy and Austria.

The noise made by the Empire-day celebrators was quite appreciable,
and sufficiently loud to reach the ears of the many town-people
promenading up and down outside the camp. As these Germans had just
heard that their so-called ally and friend, Italy, had declared war on
Austria, thus upsetting German calculations, they were very angry and
depressed. On hearing these sounds of cheerful voices and other
manifestations of joy they naturally concluded that our Empire-day
celebrations had been especially arranged in order to celebrate the
entry of Italy into the war, which fact, combined with their feeling
of depression and indignation at what they termed Italian treachery,
made them wild with rage, and complaints were sent in to the
commandant, who believed also that the noise had been due to a
celebration in honour of Italy. It was only after most persistent
declarations on the part of the British senior officers, that it was
at last satisfactorily explained to the commandant.

On the whole we were exceedingly fortunate in our German officers at
Crefeld. One of them, however, was a most ludicrous person. He was
nick-named the Crab, on account of his gait. He wore cuffs, which
always asserted their independence from his shirt, when he raised his
hand to the salute.

This Crab was a fool in his dealings with the prisoners, and various
little incidents occurred between him and his charges. On one occasion
the order against smoking on parade was re-read to the prisoners, and
then the German officers kept their eyes open for smoke for a time
after this.

The Crab one day saw an English officer smoking and took his name,
with the result that the victim got three days cells. In the course of
his campaign against smoking, he next came up against the French.

One of these was observed to be smoking and accused of it. However, he
declared his absolute innocence and the Crab was non-plussed. On
looking round he found that the whole crowd of Frenchmen were smoking,
and roaring with laughter at him. This was too much for him to tackle
and he gave it up.

Occasionally our allies received him with a chorus of coughs or
suppressed cheers if he came on parade late.

A very fine attempt to escape was made by a naval officer, who used
the Crab as his model. One evening, knowing that the Crab was busy in
the camp and would not be passing out of the Commandantur gate for a
few minutes, the Naval officer, dressed _à la Crab_ to the last
button, presented himself at the first barrier and got easily through
without causing any suspicion. At the next gate, however, the sentry,
as a matter of form, asked him for his pass, but unfortunately, not
being conversant with the language, he was unable to understand what
was required of him, otherwise a word in answer and the production of
anything at all resembling the pass might easily have sufficed to
allay the man's suspicions. Instead of which the sentry had to repeat
his question several times, each time becoming more suspicious of this
strangely silent German officer.

It wasn't very long before they discovered the trick which was being
played on them and arrest quickly followed. The commandant, it was
said, was extremely amused over the whole affair, and made the naval
officer show him how he had copied the Crab walk.

He then sent for the Crab, who came to his office to find his double
staring at him. The commandant roared with laughter, but the Crab only
vouchsafed "very clever" in English as his remarks on the subject,
looking very fed-up the while.

All the German employees in the prison used to laugh at the Crab, so
this little masquerade caused a good deal of amusement among them.

We were always hearing rumours from someone who claimed to be in the
know, about the mobilisation of the Dutch army and a rapid attack on
Germany.

This interested us very much of course, as we had visions of being
released by Dutch cavalry. However--cheering as these rumours were at
first--they became decidedly unpopular when nothing ever happened
according to the programme of the rumour.

Sometimes we heard of misgivings in the town when our offensives were
stretching the German armies to cracking point. The people didn't
believe their official reports without applying a grain of salt to
them first, on many occasions. The _Times_ was largely read in the
town, and I have heard it actually said by a German that he read it so
as to get news of the war,--the German papers containing nothing but
stuff entirely favourable to the Fatherland.

There was an official report issued by the Great Headquarters every
afternoon and this appeared in the _Extra Blatt_, a yellow sheet of
paper specially printed. This _Extra Blatt_ used to be carried past
the prison by an old Boche, who always shouted the same thing--"heavy
losses of the English, French and Russians." At last, after hearing
him daily for two years or more, the prisoners began to assert
themselves, and he was received with cheers, which daily grew louder,
until the commandant ordered that the old man should not come past any
more and give opportunities for the prisoners to practise their
sarcasm at the expense of the communiqués of the Great Headquarters.

The reports about the Jutland battle sent the Germans into a great
state of excitement. At first they were very happy, while we said very
little to those Boches we met about the camp. A day or two later their
joy was rather more assumed than real, until nearly a week afterwards,
the sudden marvellous discovery by the German authorities that they
had lost some more ships, and the consequent admission of this
unfortunate little fact, finally wiped out altogether the dreams of a
German domination of the seas, which many deluded people seemed to
consider a "fait accompli" after that battle. It was then our turn to
smile and drop insinuations and hints that probably their authorities
could tell them more if they liked.

Of course we were told what would happen to England when the submarine
campaign began. The Unter-Offizier in charge of the parcel room
informed us with great glee that the English would be unable to
receive any more parcels. Although pooh-poohing his suggestions many
prisoners had secret fears on the subject.

There was great excitement in Boche circles when the first batch of
parcels bearing postmarks of a later date to that of the first day of
the unlimited submarine campaign arrived in the camp. This did not
look a all like a complete blockade of England!

After careful thought a satisfactory explanation was forthcoming from
the "under officer." "Of course the English postal authorities must
have faked the postmarks in order to cause these very misgivings to
arise in the minds of true Germans"! Again he and his satellites were
able to look on the bright side of things. But not for long did their
joy last. The steady stream of incoming parcels continued and joy
gave way to sulkiness and then disillusionment in the minds of those
Germans who saw with their own eyes. Depend upon it these men told
others what they had seen and so it spread. All the same they still
imagined, in May, 1917, that we had far less food in England than was
really the case.

Talking about food reminds me of the behaviour of the Crefeld children
when we prisoners went out for walks on parole. Although undoubtedly
brought up upon ideas of hate against England, and presumably
thoroughly informed of the odious natures of all Englishmen, these
children very soon forgot their lessons and rapidly became great
friends with the prisoners--English, Russians, French, Belgians and
Arabs alike. Of course to a certain extent their behaviour was due to
their hopes of getting odd bits of chocolate or a biscuit or two from
their enemy friends. It was not unusual to see the "Walk," generally
consisting of about forty prisoners, returning with a crowd of kids of
all kinds and description hanging on to its edges. Their usual
practice was to get hold of a prisoner's hand and trot beside him,
asking sometimes for chocolate and occasionally for old tennis balls.

These children's disregard of the attitude, which the war lord has
decided must be displayed against the English, was not allowed to
continue unchecked. I expect the children were the subject of a
special army order, as they suddenly ceased to join us in our walks,
and the usual crowd of urchins who stood for hours in the road outside
the barracks in the hopes of having something thrown out to them, were
chased from their points of vantage and silence once more reigned in
the one time noisy road.

On special occasions the schools were given holidays by orders from
headquarters. A victory or the occupation of a town was always
commemorated in this way. On these occasions, the headmaster or
mistress would march the school past our prison and order the kids to
sing patriotic songs. We always laughed at them, and the girls would
sometimes forget to sing and would wave their handkerchiefs to us
instead, causing their bear-leaders to get wild with rage. Eventually
when the Germans got tired of victories and wanted food instead, their
holidays ceased and we no longer had to listen to shrill voices
shrieking "Die Wacht am Rhein" or "Deutschland über Alles," time after
time _ad nauseam_.

It was extraordinary how the feelings of the German people changed
towards us while at Crefeld. At first nothing was too bad to say or do
to the captives of the Kultur nation, but it is marvellous what a good
blood-letting and perpetual food shortage has done for them. So tame
did they get that our windows, at first only open at the very top and
all covered with white paint, were eventually made so that one could
sit and look out quite easily. No fist shaking or gestures of hate
were made by the time the windows were allowed open, so prisoners and
Boche civilians simply stared at each other quite peaceably.

There was one thing that specially worried us in the camp. By some
means or other all attempts to escape by digging tunnels were
discovered. Although the foundations of the prison buildings were
literally honey-combed with tunnels and attempts were made without
number, never once did one succeed.

Most ingenious efforts were made, but despite the most rigid secrecy
and the utmost caution, sooner or later in would come a search party
and go straight to the scene of the excavation and often catch the
diggers red-handed. It was believed that there were spies among the
prisoners; at any rate everything that went on was known in the
commandant's office sooner or later. The members of one party on being
caught were actually complimented on their fine work by the Boches,
who were full of joy naturally at having found the tunnel.

For many months before we left Crefeld the Germans used to search the
ground floor rooms and cellars daily. Not infrequently they would pay
two or three visits to the cellars in one night. Their searching
included tapping the walls, ceilings and floors for hollow places.
Periodically a search for the earth excavated from these holes and
hidden away, would lead to the Boches discovering many hundredweights
of sand and rubble stowed away safely.

Searches were sometimes made in our rooms for articles of contraband.
Civilian clothes, and maps, compasses and various tools were the chief
objects of interest to them. These searches on some occasions were
extended to the persons of the prisoners, especially after an order
forbidding the possession of real German money had been issued. Of
course none of us liked being searched and we showed our searchers
pretty clearly what we thought of the whole affair. I must say that
the commandant did not order many searches and probably those that did
occur were due to the orders of a superior.

These searches were usually carried out by the under-officers and men
of a different unit from that which guarded the camp, in order to
prevent those who were quite friendly to us among the prison guards
letting us off too lightly.

During 1915 we were all inoculated and vaccinated against a number of
diseases. In all we were each punctured seven times. Many prisoners
objected to these measures and did their utmost to avoid being done.
The German authorities caught the majority and treated them to these
unpleasant attentions however.

The inoculation was a comic sight. One after the other the prisoners
filed past the doctors, who worked automatically at their pricking
job. It often was a case of almost leather punching when the tough
skins of some of the rougher types of prisoners had to be pierced. The
needles were far from sharp, and I believe had to be constantly
changed.

Small parties of prisoners were constantly leaving and arriving at the
camp. This was done, so it was generally thought, to let the people
see prisoners being taken about and make them imagine that the German
armies were always taking new batches.

New arrivals from the front were sometimes brought in, and we would
generally worry the lives out of them for their first few days, asking
for news of all kinds. Hardly ever were they able to tell us anything
we did not know from the newspapers, but it often happened that all
sorts of wild rumours arose from the remarks of fellows who were
simply badgered into saying things they did not really mean or had not
thought over thoroughly.

Early in the Spring of 1917 the Germans brought a hundred odd
mercantile marine officers and men from Karlsruhe to our camp at
Crefeld, with what object nobody rightly knew. These men had been
through a very bad time and were very pleased to get to a camp where
there were English army officers. The majority of them had been
captured by the _Moewe_, and some of them had been in her for weeks
while she cruised about sinking other ships. They had been
half-starved and had very little clothing with them. In several cases
the Germans had sunk their ships so quickly that the wretched crews
had had no time to put on any of their clothing and had had to take to
the boats in whatever garments they were wearing at the moment.

When they arrived at Crefeld they were received by the military
officers and had a breakfast given them at once. They were
extraordinarily pleased to get some decent food, and we so arranged it
that they never lacked English food with which to augment their camp
rations while at Crefeld.

In connection with this, the Germans were very amusing. They expressed
their astonishment that officers of our army should take so much
interest in British mercantile marine common seamen as to provide them
with food and actually wait on them at the first decent meal they had
seen for months.

A collection of clothes of all descriptions was made, and most
extraordinary sights were to be seen as the result of this. Stokers
promenading in the uniforms of Guards officers, and ship's boys in
huge "British Warms."

I think the Germans had hoped to annoy us army officers by this
introduction of merchant seamen. If this was so they failed utterly to
achieve their object. The greatest good feeling existed between the
two lots in the camp, and after three or four weeks the merchant
sailors were removed to another camp where I am afraid they were less
comfortable. The Germans were not the only surprised people over this
affair. The French, although Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity is
their national motto, were very astonished at the way in which good
fellowship and camaraderie was fostered between army officers and
merchant seamen.

When the Russian revolution broke out, we all wondered how the
Russians in the prison camp would take it. The majority of them seemed
to have very little decided opinion on the subject, but were generally
inclined to think it a good thing for their country. It was then that
we were told that the Russians were all to be sent to another camp,
which made the whole camp think furiously as to the reason for this
move of the German authorities. Was it peace in sight and the
prisoners were to be concentrated in camps by nationalities near the
frontiers of neutrals bordering their own countries preparatory to the
general exodus at the end of the war? Did it mean a separate peace
with Russia?

These and other theories were discussed backwards and forwards.
Eventually the Russians went and many of us were very sorry to lose
them, as it meant a loss of all means of continuing to learn the
language from their Russian friends. Two hundred English arrived from
Gütersloh in their place, and then the departure of the French began.

The leave-taking between the French and English was very cordial and
annoyed the Germans very much, as while the former went from us we all
sang the "Marseillaise." The English continued to sing it until the
French were out of sight along the road to the station. Then we became
an all English prison-camp. There seemed to be no room to move, as
everyone was out of doors, and a great percentage of the Russians and
many of the French had kept to their rooms a great deal.

We were only about six weeks in this state, as in May once again the
Germans turned the camp upside down, this time ordering its complete
evacuation by all the English.



CHAPTER II

THE MOVE TO SCHWARMSTEDT


Many and varied were the aims ascribed to the Boches when the news of
the move from Crefeld, ordered in May, 1917, reached the ears of the
prisoners.

We were divided into parties of varying sizes. My party was the
strongest, consisting of four hundred officers and about seventy
soldier-servants.

The greatest secrecy was displayed as to our destination by the
Germans, and all sorts of places were mooted as possible by the
prisoners themselves.

Shortly before we had heard the news of our impending departure, a
strange thing happened. A battalion of young German soldiers marched
into the German half of the camp, and very soon after their arrival
we were astonished to see another line of sentries posted round the
camp outside the barbed-wire fence.

These sentries were only twenty yards apart and were dressed in active
service uniforms. In addition to these, machine guns were posted at
each corner of the camp so as to command the roads running past it.
These precautions were taken a day or so before May 1st, the day when
the Social Democrats were to have labour demonstrations throughout
Germany.

We were naturally extremely interested and wondered what was to
happen.

These German soldiers were far from being on the best of terms with
our old Landsturm men, who continued to carry out the usual guard
duties as they had done previously.

Nothing else happened beyond the arrest of five civilian Germans who
were hanging about the entrance to the prison. Why they were suddenly
seized and flung into cells no one rightly knew, but we concluded
that it had to do with these same May 1st demonstrations.

The preparations for the great exodus from the camp were full of comic
and sometimes almost tragic incidents.

Some prisoners, who had taken the trouble to try to make their rooms
comfortable when the camp became all English, were particularly savage
over the move, and took care that nothing which they were unable to
take away should be left to be sold again to another batch of
prisoners at a later date. There was a considerable quantity of live
stock of various kinds in the camp, and measures for the
transportation of these furred and feathered belongings had to be
undertaken. The rabbits had to have special boxes made for them so
that they could be carried by hand.

These rabbits had been in existence some six months at Crefeld and
were very prolific breeders. They provided many an excellent meal for
their owners and were objects of great interest, being watched by a
small crowd of the prison inhabitants every day.

Quite a number of canaries, a dog or two and a cat, were also in the
camp, and would have to be taken away by their owners.

We were told that our heavy baggage might in due course follow us to
the new prison camps and that we could take one box each, which was to
accompany us. Of course we all had accumulated much more stuff than
would go into one box, and much grousing and desperate thinking was
the result of this order.

The commandant promised to have our special boxes of tinned food sent
on to us as soon as possible after our departure. Although many of us
never expected to see the things again, he kept his promise, greatly
to the delight of everyone. These food boxes arrived some three weeks
after we had got to the new camp.

On the last evening at Crefeld, definite "move" orders were issued and
our names were called by parties. I was detailed for No. 2 camp, which
was to have over half the 750 officers at that time at Crefeld.
Another party consisted approximately of three hundred officers, and
the remaining fifty or so were distributed among two or three other
new camps.

Owing to finding out that five or six officers were missing at the
final roll-call, another nominal roll-call was ordered that evening in
order to ascertain the names of those who were missing. The Crab was
in charge of this roll-call, and he stood at the opening of a wire
netting fence dividing two tennis courts, while the English officers
answered their names and filed past him. Muddles very soon occurred,
and what with officers who had already answered their names wandering
back among the uncounted ones, so as to answer to the names of those
missing, and the mistakes which naturally occur in calling over the
names of 750 officers of another nationality, the Germans were
bamboozled, and had no idea what they were doing. This roll-call was a
fearfully slow one, and it became dark before two thirds of the
officers had passed through the opening.

Now, of course, no certainty of keeping those counted from those
uncounted could possibly be assured, unless a large number of soldiers
were employed to prevent persons slipping from the counted crowd to
the uncounted crowd. Accordingly a strong force of German soldiers was
sent for, and for some reason or other they made matters worse instead
of better.

This state of affairs continued for some time, until someone applied a
match to an old broom found on a tennis court. It made an excellent
torch and others quickly emulated his example. This was followed by a
wild throwing about of these flaming missiles, and it not infrequently
happened that one of them pitched extremely near a German soldier
forming one of the cordon round us. This sport gave place to bonfires.
In a moment some old benches were torn up and three or four fires
started. This roused the Boches and they cleared the bonfire stokers
away and proceeded to trample out the flames, amid the laughter of all
the prisoners. The alarm was sounded on a bugle, and yet another small
army of soldiers arrived on the scene, but they did not tackle the
largest bonfire which burnt merrily on undisturbed.

It was a weird sight. The red flames lit up a wide area, in which the
greater part of the prisoners were strolling about surrounded on all
sides by German soldiers in field gray uniforms and carrying rifles.
However, the whole affair was only due to over-boisterous spirits, and
there was no bad feeling displayed towards the Germans, who very
wisely did not interfere to any great extent. When the order to
disperse to our rooms was given the prisoners went off quietly enough
and the whole affair died out without any trouble occurring. However,
at times it had been touch and go, whether the Boches would fire at
us.

The hour for parade next morning was extremely early, and we had to
wait for hours before we eventually moved off. Prior to leaving the
camp our personal baggage, which we were to carry by hand, had to be
searched. A large number of young German officers and _Feldwebels_
were brought into the camp to carry out this task. They were quite
civil and polite and got through their job fairly quickly.

My party was the first to move out of the camp. We then found we had
to walk to the station, a mile or so away. It was now that many
discovered what a quantity of baggage they had got with them. Everyone
had been under the impression that we should go by trams to the
station, and consequently had much more to carry than they would have
had if a walk to the station had been expected.

It was an awful procession. Every fifty to a hundred yards the column
had to halt while bags were changed to the other hand or bundles
re-adjusted. We walked four abreast and on both sides of each four was
a German soldier.

It was an absolute nightmare. Some prisoners threw some of their
belongings away, and a few sat down unable to move a yard further
without a rest. At last, after an absolutely agonising time, we
reached the station. We were put in the carriages four at a time, with
three to four German soldiers in each carriage with us. In my carriage
there were four Germans, one of them an Unter-Offizier. The Germans
appropriated the corner seats, to prevent us being near the doors.
This of course allowed the four of us to play bridge in the middle of
the carriage.

Eventually the train moved out of the station and we saw our last of
Crefeld. Extraordinary as it may seem, we were positively annoyed at
leaving; far from being keen on seeing new places and settling down in
new environments, the majority would have preferred to remain in the
same old groove for the whole term of their imprisonment. Time seems
to go by much more quickly when nothing happens to mark its flight.
The two and a half years spent in that prison had slipped by without
milestones and it was extremely hard to realise what the two and a
half years really meant. One sometimes felt that life previous to the
war was really the invention of a dream. It often seemed to one that
"prison" was the natural state of existence and anything outside of it
unnatural. Perhaps the animals at the Zoo have the same impression of
the outside world.

On settling down for our journey to that unknown destination, we had
an opportunity of studying our guards. They were men of about thirty
years of age and had all been to the front for long spells. For
several hours they were very sulky and only answered our remarks and
questions in monosyllables.

When we reached Essen they expanded a little in order to point out to
us what a wonderful place it was. It certainly was wonderful. Miles of
workshops and factories, and in many of them one could see guns, new,
old, and damaged, lying about. The Germans in our carriage were
evidently proud of this place and talked quite a lot about it, using
many adjectives of the "kolossal," "wunderschön" type. We, of course,
told them that we had hundreds of places in England of a similar
nature and that they would one day see their wonderful Essen burnt to
the ground. We thought naturally of air raids on Essen, and in view of
the bombing of this place early in the war, we carefully examined it,
and came to the conclusion that a bomb would be bound to hit
something of importance there, so close together are the various
workshops jammed.

At Gütersloh station we slowly passed a train conveying a German
battalion towards the West front. We were able to examine the men
well. This particular battalion consisted of very fine looking men,
but there was no "Joy in the War" expression, as the German papers
call it, on their faces, and they were not singing or shouting the
incessant repertoire of the front-going German soldier. In fact they
looked resigned to their fate, and took very little notice of us. Of
course we talked to each other about "Kanonen Futter" for the benefit
of the guards in our carriage.

On clearing out of Gütersloh we decided to have a meal. As we had
prepared for two or three days in the train if necessary, we had
plenty of food with us. It was with great curiosity that we covertly
watched our German guards when we produced white bread and tinned
beef sent from England. It was evidently a great surprise for them,
and they could not help showing their astonishment in their faces. It
did not look to them as if England was starving if white bread could
still be made, and as for the meat, they had not seen so much during a
whole week as we each proposed to eat at one meal.

They had had a meal themselves just before we began ours, so we had
been able to estimate what had been given them as their rations. It
was very scanty and the small quantity of bread was exceedingly poor
looking. In the hopes of getting them to talk a bit, we offered them
some beef and a little bread. They accepted with alacrity and became
friendly from that moment, telling us all sorts of things that
interested us exceedingly.

Apparently, they in common with the majority of Germans, had
mistrusted and even feared their English prisoners up till then. Very
probably they had all been warned to be suspicious of us, and given to
understand that we might overpower them at any moment and escape from
the train. There must have been some such fear in the minds of the
senior German officers, as there were machine guns on the train in
addition to four hundred armed soldiers.

The under-officer told me that he had been wounded twice and been on
the Russian front for a very long spell. He had also been on the West
front in 1914, and I discovered that he had been in an attack on the
very trenches occupied by my brigade near the Chemin des Dames on the
Aisne. He had no hesitation in saying which was the nastiest front. He
was absolutely fed up with the war, as were the others in the
carriage. They asked us when we thought the war would end, and out of
principle we said in a year to two years' time. I was often asked the
same question while at Crefeld and always answered--"a year or more."
This seemed to depress them and they used to blame England for being
the cause of the war going on so long. Nearly every day I went to the
canteen, and, according to my usual custom, talked to the German
soldiers doing duty as salesmen there.

The war was always the subject of conversation and I generally asked
them, laughingly, when the great promised defeat of England was going
to come off. One day, one of them became quite serious and leant
across the counter to me and said in a low tone so that only I could
hear--"Germany will never defeat England." As an afterthought he
added, "but England can never defeat Germany." I laughed and told him
to wait.

It was extremely interesting to observe the gradual taming of the
Boche.

In 1914 he was intoxicated with victories actual and prospective;
1915, confident but a little more calm; the big talk of capturing
London, etc., had died down by then; 1916, general depression, and
towards the end of the year actual and open fear for the future and
hate of the war was to be observed among the soldiers and civilians of
the lower orders.

By the Spring of 1917, real anxiety about the coming summer's fighting
began to be evident, which was partially relieved by the events in
Russia and the great promises and hopes held out to them by the
submarine warfare.

Their behaviour towards us followed the same gradual scale. At first,
bullying, truculent and brutal, they became more docile as time went
on, until when we left Crefeld in May 1917, their behaviour was not so
far removed from what one had a right to expect from prison guards and
officials towards their officer prisoners.

Although the guards in our railway carriage had become quite friendly
by now, they did not relax their vigilance, and it was quite evident
that they would not sleep all at the same time during the night which
was approaching.

I watched very carefully that night, but never once did I catch them
all unconscious at the same moment.

There can be no doubt whatever that they had had very stringent orders
on the subject, owing probably to the escape of nine British officers
from trains in the last three months.

The same watchfulness was displayed by the Germans throughout the
train, as we found out on comparing notes afterwards.

The journey continued throughout the next day and we passed through
Minden in the late afternoon.

We had now made up our minds that Stralsund, one of the rumoured
destinations, was to be our new "home." Great was our surprise when we
found that our train had stopped at a small town called Schwarmstedt,
in Hanover, and that our new camp was some eight miles from there. The
guards got out and formed a close cordon completely round the train
and we were told that we were not to be marched off till daybreak. The
German soldiers from our carriage not employed on this cordon duty
fetched us water at our request and we settled down to sleep for a few
hours until the time for moving came. We were turned out of the train
at 3 a.m. and after being formed up in fours we waited for an hour or
so.

We had a grand opportunity of studying the Prussian method of
enforcing obedience and smartness in the men during this wait. A
captain and a sergeant-major kind of man, fairly screamed at the
privates. On several occasions, livid with rage, one or other of them
rushed at some hapless wretch and roared at him in sentences
containing very choice German words--hardly of the endearment variety.

Our carriage guards had previously told us that the major, captain and
sergeant-major were "Schweine" of the worst type, but that the
lieutenant was liked well enough. We could now judge for ourselves.

At last we got the order to move off, our hand baggage being left
behind to be brought up by a miniature railway train especially
constructed for the purpose of supplying the prison camps.

The camp with several others, as we found out afterwards, was situated
on the Lüneburg Heide, some eight miles east-north-east of the town of
Schwarmstedt and five or six miles on the Berlin side of the river
Aller.

Crossing the river and leaving the valley through which it flowed, we
quickly entered a wild tract of country, through which the only road
was a rough cart track. The soil was peaty with a deep layer of sand
and black dust on the top of it. For the first two or three miles we
passed through several very fine pine forests interspersed with young
plantations and rough scrub.

This type of country gave way to a flat marshy-looking area covered
with rank vegetation and stunted fir-trees. Streams and ditches cut up
the land, and it struck one as being a very wet place even in the
summer, in winter it would probably be a swamp.

At last we reached the camp and found ourselves looking at a
collection of wooden huts with tarred felt roofs, surrounded by a
barbed wire fence, seemingly planted at random in the midst of the
wildness.



CHAPTER III

SCHWARMSTEDT CAMP


Our first sight of this camp hardly encouraged us to think that we
were going to a better place than Crefeld. An ominous silence fell
upon the incoming prisoners! And it was a particularly sulky lot who
faced the new commandant when he had them formed up in front of him.

He admitted the bad state of the camp in his very first speech, and
hoped that we would put up with it as he himself was powerless to
alter matters.

On being dismissed, we went off to our rooms and very soon found out
all about our new prison.

Imagine dirty sand, covering a layer of peat with water two feet
underneath it, enclosed with a barbed wire fence. In this area put
four long low wooden huts with tarred felt roofs, three much smaller
ones, three pumps, a long latrine, a hospital hut and some cells, and
you have the sum total of the buildings in the camp.

The three long low huts held 390 officers, each hut divided roughly
into eight to ten rooms. Many of the rooms held sixteen officers, and
so crowded were the beds in them that three pairs had to touch in many
instances, despite repeated and varied ways of re-arrangement being
tried.

The latrines were very close and handy, so much so in fact, that their
ends came to within ten paces of the living-rooms at the end of two of
the huts. As the latrines were never cleared out, the atmosphere in
these near huts was something too appalling for words, especially if a
west wind was blowing.

The drinking-water had been passed as fit for human beings by the
German sanitary authorities. For all that, the majority of us only
drank tea and coffee, etc., requiring boiling water. The water was
brownish and smelt abominably.

We became expert laundry hands, as we had to wash our own clothes, and
so learnt the art from experience.

Many of the prisoners were able to see the comic side of life in this
place fortunately, and so made the best of a bad job.

As the bath-house was outside of the wire fence, we could only get to
it by going on parole, or by being marched out in groups. This
naturally meant that the turn for baths did not come round too often.
If one refused to give parole for this purpose, a bath could be got
twice a week with luck.

The natural outcome of this was that everyone used to bath under the
pumps which were situated between the living-huts. It was a common
sight to see between twenty and thirty naked figures throwing water
over each other round the pumps.

It was absolutely impossible to play tennis or football in this camp,
as there was no space in which to do such things. The little ground
lying between the living huts had been planted with vegetables by the
Germans before our arrival. It was against all orders to walk across
this ground. A Belgian private soldier, acting as officer's servant in
the camp, did so once, and was banged into cells for his offence. No
officer was put in cells for this, but that was not due to the lack of
opportunity. I think the Germans did not want to cause trouble with
their English officer prisoners, so refrained from rash acts of this
nature.

As we had been allowed to take only one box with us from Crefeld, some
officers had purchased huge baskets in the canteen into which they had
crammed great quantities of luggage.

When these baskets were unpacked, the German authorities decided that
they were too big to remain in the rooms and so ordered that they
should be removed from the camp to a store shed outside the wire
fence.

Three officers availed themselves of this fact and hid themselves
inside the baskets, arranging that strong English soldiers should
carry them out, pretending that they were empty and put them with the
other large boxes in the shed. Thus the officers would get outside the
camp and eventually get away from the shed by night.

All went well at first. The baskets were outside the gate, and merrily
moving off towards the shed, when the Boche officer called upon the
soldiers to halt, and decided that as the soldiers were needed for
other work the baskets were not to be put in the store room till after
five o'clock. Down went the baskets on to the ground and were then
massed near the German sentry on gate duty. As it was only two o'clock
and fearfully hot, the wretched inhabitants of the baskets had a very
poor time of it waiting till five.

One of the three did not keep still and we could see the wicker-work
straining from his movements. Awful squeakings and scratchings came
from this basket, and although we tried to drown the noise by talking
and shouting near the gate, the German sentry must have heard
something and became suspicious, as he stood by them and looked
carefully at each in turn.

At last they were taken to the store. What really caused their
recapture I don't know, but it appeared to be due to one of them
showing himself at the window of the store-room some three hours
later. They had to be careful to arrange it so that one of the baskets
could be cut open from the inside, and the others could then be opened
with the keys that the occupant of this basket had on him.

At about eight o'clock the German officer arrived, followed by a
guard, went straight to the store-room and captured all three, who by
this time had been out of their baskets for hours. We next saw them
marched off to cells, where they were to do five months in solitary
confinement.

We had not been thirty-six hours in this camp before three officers
did get away. Crashing along a ditch, they cut the wire and got
through the hole which was in the fence opposite the nearest clump of
undergrowth to the camp.

How the Germans did not hear them crashing into these bushes I cannot
conceive, as I myself heard them seventy or eighty yards away. These
three were away about ten days before being caught. Not very long
after their exit the German sentry noticed the hole in the wire and so
that chance was spoilt for anyone else. The clump of bushes, which had
been so useful to the three escapers, was cut down by order of the
commandant, and after that a hundred yards of open clearing surrounded
the wire fence, making a good field of fire for the sentries.

Owing to the sandy nature of the soil, which had all the dirt-causing
propensities of coal dust and none of the advantages of clean sand, we
had to be constantly washing our feet if they were to be kept clean at
all. Many prisoners, realising what a lot of laundry work wearing
socks in this dusty place meant, discarded their use altogether and
simply wore football shorts and shoes, with an old shirt as top-wear.

Our rooms were perpetually in a filthy state. As soon as they were
brushed, in came more of this sandy dust. A wind made life unbearable.

These conditions are those of summer, winter will mean a different
tale. The open ditches, dry on account of the drought when I left, are
hardly there as ornaments, but in all probability are filled to
over-flowing with the surface water from the camp, when the rainy
months come along.

At the end of the camp was a space wired off from the rest of the
ground for the use of the soldier servants. There was a wooden hut
similar to those occupied by the officers, which did duty for the
housing of the men. In this wooden hut about 200 soldiers, of all
kinds and descriptions, were packed--Russians, French, Belgians, and
English, and not a few half-German half-Russian Jews.

These latter men were allowed great freedom by the Germans. There was
no fear of them escaping, so they walked in and out of the camp
whenever they wished to do so, as far as we could see. They were
hardly trusted by the rest of the prisoners, who had good reason to
know what useful sources of information these persons are to the
German camp authorities.

I went to these quarters of our soldiers several times, although
officers were not supposed to do so. But if no coat was worn, it was
impossible for a German sentry to tell who was an officer or a
private, so we used to adopt that plan if we wished to get into the
enclosure.

The crowded state of that soldiers' hut was beyond belief. The beds
were arranged as closely as possible, and then another layer fixed on
to the tops of the ground floor ones.

For the first three weeks of our life in this camp, we had to live
mainly on the rations provided by the German authorities, since many
of us had not been able to bring much in the way of tinned food along
with us when we left Crefeld. The parcels from England were also
delayed in their arrival, as the organization arranged for Crefeld had
to be altered for Schwarmstedt. The food provided by the Germans at a
daily cost to each officer of 1 mark 50 pfenning, comprised the
following: _Breakfast_, coffee, of the war variety, probably made with
acorns. _Dinner_, soup, always containing lumps of mangel-wurzel,
cabbage, black peas, and occasional pieces of potato. Twice or three
times a week, tiny shreds of real meat could be discovered in the
soup. There was often a liberal ration of grit in this soup, but no
extra charge was made on account of that. _The Evening Meal_, soup of
the sago or meal variety, generally exceedingly thin.

In addition to these daily rations, we were each allowed to purchase
two pounds of war bread per week at 60 pfs. This war bread was
exceedingly nasty and doughy. If pressed with the finger the
indentation remained, as it does in other putty-like substances.

Its color was a dark grey brown, and its smell and taste were sour. I
understood that it was mainly made of potato. It is amusing to hear
the talk about the English war bread in this country, to anyone who
has experienced the same commodity in Germany.

The German war bread most certainly has violent effects on the
interior economies of those who eat it for the first time, without
becoming gradually trained to stand the strain of such an ordeal by
eating the different grades of bread which have been given to the
Fatherland during the last two years.

Personally I cannot justly complain, as I was one of the few who did
not suffer from eating it.

It was a great day when the first consignment of re-directed parcels
arrived. By standing in a queue for two hours the parcel could be
obtained from the German censors. One of the first prisoners to draw
his parcel came back with it under his arm, and a disgusted expression
on his face. Nobody dared ask what he had got in his parcel, he looked
too savage for the risk to be taken. However, it soon got about that
he had got a dozen tennis balls! It was not surprising that he had
looked like murder, when one realised that no tennis was possible in
this camp, and that food was what he most wanted.

Fortunately our trials in this latter respect soon ended, as the
parcels began to come in as regularly as they did at Crefeld. In
addition the Crefeld commandant's promise, that the food boxes would
be sent on, was fulfilled, and once more we had plenty of provisions.
The soldiers also received their parcels now, and from what some of
them said, they generally do wherever they are, thanks to the untiring
energy of those who see to this for them in England.

One day we caught a specimen of the beasts which attacked us at night,
and took it to the German officer pinned on a board. He made excuses
and blamed the wooden huts, saying how impossible it was to deal with
vermin. However, our room was to be fumigated. We were ordered to
clear everything out of our room, and then the Germans arrived with a
blow-flame with which to run over the bedsteads and clear out the
cracks in the walls. Another German splashed creosote on to the floor,
and places too high up to be reached by the blow flame.

We realized that this was all "eyewash," as the gaps between the
partition walls separating the rooms were in some cases wide enough
to allow the passage of one's hand. Therefore the many footed beasts
of prey lurking in such places would easily avoid the strafing by
going a few inches next door via these cracks. Of course the other
rooms were not fumigated at the same time, so their preserves must
have been entered by the game driven out of ours. We all wrote home
for Keating's, but the letters never fetched up.

The censoring of our letters was done at a headquarter censor's office
at Osnabrück, after our removal from Crefeld. This meant endless delay
and often non-arrival of incoming letters, and practically a complete
suspension of the outgoing mail.

The reason for this latter fact is not difficult to explain. Of course
the prisoners described the new camp in these letters, and as the
place was bad from every point of view, the contents of these epistles
were not liked by the censors at Osnabrück. Consequently the letters
were either burnt or kept. Of course the non-arrival of letters in
England would do more to cause inquiries to be made at this end than
anything else, but the Germans don't see things in that light.

This camp, Schwarmstedt, was known as No. 2, but why a number should
be assigned and no name given to it, only a Boche could say; possibly
it was because the Germans did not want it visited by any interfering
inquisitive neutral country representative, since it was such a bad
camp. I was pleased to hear that it was visited shortly after, and a
full report made. I believe some of the grievances were attended to.

When we were at Crefeld some of us had taken up fencing as a form of
exercise and amusement. The sabres and épées were sent out from
England, but the Germans were very careful to take charge of them on
their arrival, and used to let us have them at specific times, locking
them up carefully at six o'clock every evening.

This care was continued for over a year, and then I suppose realising
at last that as weapons with which to attack the camp-guards they were
absolutely useless and that bed legs would be much more likely weapons
if anyone wished to do such an absurd thing, they suddenly ignored the
old fencing weapon and we were able each to have his own. When we
moved from Crefeld, I took mine with me, tied quite openly on to a kit
bag.

I hung it up in my room without thinking anything about it, until one
day we were told that we were to be visited by a Boche General, and
that everything had to be extremely tidy and in its correct place. As
the authorities here were much more fussy persons than those at
Crefeld, and the arriving general was rumoured a particularly
aggressive England-hater, I thought that I had better hide my sabre,
which I did almost entirely, only about three inches of it showing.
Naturally I was a trifle worried about this compromising thing, as I
had never realised before that it might get me into trouble in this
new camp.

Whenever there was a search I had to hide it; in fact I got to dislike
that sabre. I never got rid of it finally because I got rid of myself
instead and left it behind as a legacy to my room companions. I hope
they haven't claimed it and taken over its troublesome propensities.

At one end of the camp were three small huts known as machine-gun
houses, constructed originally so as to command the three streets of
the enclosure. In two of these the senior British officers lived, nine
in a room.

The other one was the orderly room. In addition to these three houses,
there were several machine-gun towers dotted at intervals outside but
close up to the main wire fence of the camp.

These also must have been designed originally as points from which
turbulent prisoners could be overawed. After a week or so of English
occupation of this camp, one of them was cunningly used to give cover
to an escaping party.

The exit from the camp was successful, but the actors in this drama
were caught and brought back after several days away. The offending
tower was promptly pulled down by the Germans and an extra sentry
posted in its place.

Near the soldiers' quarters was the building assigned to "cells." I
never saw the inside of them, but they were extremely small and hot in
the summer. Officers in cells were marched out to the "bath" twice a
week, and we could see them quite close, and sometimes even speak with
them, while this was going on. They looked very white after a
fortnight in these places, but that was due probably to the lack of
sunlight. Each cell had a barred window about eight feet from the
ground and occasionally we could see the faces of the occupants
staring through the bars.

Another wooden hut did service as a hospital. This building was the
best in the camp, being painted white on the inside and having quite a
clean appearance. There were not many officer prisoners sick in this
hospital when I left. Three or four bed cases was the total, on the
average day.

Owing to the great heat, the rough grass and bog myrtle became
extremely dry, and when a fire did break out it burnt merrily for a
long time in the surrounding country.

On several occasions the flames swept down on the camp, and the German
guards not on duty were turned out to prevent their too close approach
to the wooden buildings.

Once a fire was only stopped ten yards short of the nearest hut.

The smoke was very thick and drove across the camp, obliterating it.
Needless to say, some of us were watching the sentries very closely
during this, but nobody got an opportunity of attacking the barbed
wire perimeter by which we were enclosed. Rumour had it that a German
village a few miles away had been wiped out by one of these fires. The
German civilians of course blamed the prisoners, saying that they had
caused these fires when smoking on parole-walks. The commandant then
ordered no smoking except on roads, while we were out walking.

The German commandant of this camp full well realised what an
extremely unpleasant place it was and how unsuited for the
accommodation of officers or for private soldiers for that matter.
Evidently ordered to make the best of a bad job, and told to try and
smooth over the bad particulars of the camp by the skillful giving of
small privileges, he attempted to get the prisoners interested in the
building of a theatre and the making of playing-fields outside the
camp.

A strong section of the prisoners fortunately hung together and
declared themselves solidly against taking advantage of these
privileges until such time as the really important questions, which
had already been the subject of numerous complaints by the prisoners,
should be attended to, and action for the general welfare of the camp
population taken by the German authorities.

This camp was a miserable one if judged only from the details of
existence there, but fortunately, as so often happens, there was a
brighter side to it.

The uncomfortable and trying conditions made for unity and
co-operation among the prisoners themselves. The humorous side of life
seemed to come to the fore more easily than at the comparatively
comfortable camp of Crefeld.

Cliques and factions existing during the previous two years at Crefeld
were inclined to disappear, and a more general feeling of a common
cause in the face of an unpleasant period steadily grew, closing the
gaps in the ranks of the prisoners and tending to bring together
people who would hardly bear to see each other under previous
conditions.

It is surprising what a difference the effect of a long term of
imprisonment has on various people. To anyone gifted with the smallest
powers of observation, the constant changes and rapid transformation
of ideas and standpoints in the small world of prison necessarily came
with interest. It is a strange fact, but nevertheless true, that some
prisoners, forgetting that a prison-existence is only temporary and
entirely unnatural, seem to think that things matter in such a place,
and that the happenings and views of the outside world do not directly
concern them.

A long spell of such an existence changes a man more in character than
the same period spent in the ordinary course of life. Some are
tempered in the fires of such a test, while there are others....



PART II



CHAPTER IV

MY ESCAPE FROM THE CAMP


It may be wondered why it is that so few British officers have
succeeded in escaping from prison camps in Germany.

The Germans do not get very worried over the loss of a few private
soldiers in that way, but they are very careful to prevent our
officers from having too many chances of escape.

The men are taken out to work in the fields and woods, and as the
Germans have by no means too many men to spare, they cannot send a
very large escort with them. Consequently it not unfrequently happens
that men are able to slip away into thick cover without the Boches
seeing them or knowing of their absence until they count up their
charges, maybe some hours later.

The officers on the other hand never leave the barbed-wire enclosure
of the camps, unless on parole for walks, an arrangement countenanced
by our War Office, so they have naturally greater difficulties to get
over before commencing any dash for the frontier.

Many officers have tried and have had appallingly bad luck in numerous
instances. Early in the spring of 1917 the Germans warned all officers
and men that they would be liable to five months and three months
solitary confinement in a cell respectively, if caught attempting to
escape. This was as a reprisal for excessive sentences inflicted on
their prisoners who attempted to escape in England, under the Defence
of the Realm Regulations.

As the solitary confinement was automatic, and was given without
trial, we were also warned that after undergoing it, a transgressor of
this kind might be tried by court-martial for such offences as being
in possession of civilian clothes, a compass, German money, or
wire-cutters, etc. The charge was simple.... Disobedience of orders!
For this another three or four months could be imposed. I was very
glad to read in the papers that all this sort of thing had been done
away with by that excellent Commission which went to the Hague to meet
the German delegates in July, 1917. There were other great things done
by that same Commission, and the prisoners who benefit thereby will be
most grateful.

Of course it was natural that with this heavy sentence hanging over
the heads of would-be escapers some thought twice before trying, but
it is worth noting that since this German order was issued there have
been more successful escapes and more attempts to escape by officers
than in the whole previous period.

I spoke to some of our men when out on a parole walk. They were
working on a wild piece of heath-land with very few Germans to guard
them. I asked one whether any of them had tried to escape from there.
He told me that very few had done so, as there was such a long way to
go, and that when caught the men were put in the cells and were not
allowed their parcels.

This meant three-quarters starvation, as the German food provided was
bad and scanty.

Our camp, known as Schwarmstedt, although situated seven or eight
miles from the small town of that name, was on the Lüneburg Heide, an
expanse of marshy, waste ground, intersected by small streams and
dotted with little woods and stunted pine trees.

There were other camps on the same stretch of country. The notorious
Soltau lay some miles to the north of our camp. This district is some
hundred and seventy miles from the Dutch frontier as the crow flies.

In preparing my escape, I had to calculate the quantity of food
required to carry me through the journey. This would naturally be
considerable as I could not reckon on doing more than an average of
eight to twelve miles every twenty-four hours, as it was only safe to
march by night and the hours of darkness at that time of the year were
only about five and a half. Although the actual distance was a hundred
and forty-five miles, allowances to be made for detours and an
indirect line, as well as for delays occasioned by such large
obstacles as broad rivers and smaller, but more formidable ones in the
shape of German guards, would necessitate preparations for a greater
distance.

The food required would have to be carried, so a bag was necessary.

I will not say how I got the bag or what kind it was, nor how I got my
civilian clothes, for this is certain to be read by members of the
thorough race whose prisoner I was, and naturally any hints I drop may
be used against other prisoners.

What I say outright is all known to the Germans, or obvious to the
veriest fool of a prison-camp commandant.

My costume consisted of a long white cotton coat and a pair of white
cotton pants, both dyed a dirty light grey-brown with coffee. I had a
cap also, but that too must remain a mystery.

As the cotton coat had no pockets and was very thin, I wore an old
khaki coat underneath, which stood me in good stead when I had nearly
got to the end of my journey. A pair of rubber-soled shoes, white once
but made khaki-colour by my servant some time before, completed my
kit.

Although I had naturally discussed matters with others in the camp in
an indefinite way I had not arranged any collaboration in the scheme,
by which I succeeded. I told only one friend ten minutes before I
took the first steps in the carrying out of the plan.

When first we reached Schwarmstedt after our journey from Crefeld,
there were several weak spots in the "ring" of precautions against
escape which surrounded it. Within forty-eight hours of our arrival
three officers got out of the camp.

They had very bad luck, being caught after eleven days' travel, about
three-quarters of the way to the Dutch frontier. This loophole was of
course closed to further attempts by the measures now adopted by the
Boches.

However, two more got away from the camp not long afterwards and had
the same atrocious luck after going about the same distance. Another
individual attempt resulted in an officer getting out for some days
before the same Nemesis overtook him, and he too was brought back.

About ten days before my escape, yet two more got away, and were
still unaccounted for when I left the camp. They must have had the
same hard fate, as I heard nothing of them in Holland or England when
I arrived. After each of these attempts the Germans discovered fresh
weak spots, and the camp was rapidly becoming a stronger prison. One
effect they had was to make the Germans employ more guards for the
camp. Extra sentries were put on at several places, and every extra
sentry means reliefs, and it takes six men at least to permanently
provide one extra sentry.

These men might have been helping on the farms instead, so it is some
small comfort to think that even a failure to escape can do some
service to our country.

Of course when I left most of these unfortunates were back in the
cells, beginning their five months' stretch of solitary confinement.

Anyone looking at the map of Germany will see immediately that from
the Lüneburg Heide, north of Hanover, one has to cross the following
rivers before one can reach the Dutch frontier--the Aller, Leine,
Weser, Hunte and Ems.

These are all fairly large. The Aller runs along the western limits of
the Lüneburg Heide (Heath) and acts as a natural barrier around
prison-camps situated to the east of it. When we first arrived at this
camp, Schwarmstedt, the commandant had practically told us in so many
words that we might get away from the camp, but that we should never
cross the frontier. This meant that there was something which he knew
of to be passed besides the camp guards and those at the frontier.
Many of us promptly understood by his remarks that he had himself made
arrangements for the guarding of the bridges over the rivers.

Another fact generally well-known to every one is this. All bridges
over large important rivers are guarded in Germany, and even the
railway bridges over many of the smaller ones are provided with their
ancient Landsturm men.

On our arrival the commandant of our camp had spoken at once to us in
English, of which he knew a certain amount. We soon got to see how
proud of this knowledge he was, as he would address all the English
officers on some trifling subject every second day. Besides which he
would summon the senior English officer before him and all those
officers who had any particular department of the camp to look after,
such as kitchens, parcels, games, practically every day. The language
spoken was always English.

He was a fine-looking old man, covered with medals and iron crosses, a
veteran of the 1866 and 1870 wars. He loved being saluted, and
complained that the British did not salute him enough. He was told
that our officers do not salute when they are not wearing hats, and
that many had got no military caps since theirs had been taken from
them by the Germans at the time of their capture.

    [Illustration: SECTION OF A GERMAN CAMP (_page 97_).]

He promptly ordered the canteen to get caps and sell them to us. When
they arrived they were very comic to look at, dark blue with a stiff
peak.

Before describing my actual exit from the camp it is necessary that
the general plan of the enclosure and its adjacent buildings be
understood.

The camp was oblong in shape, and was surrounded on all sides by a
barbed-wire fence some eleven feet high. At every fifty yards there
was posted a sentry, whose orders included the shooting of any hapless
wretch found cutting his way through the fence, or climbing over it.
Opposite one of the corners of the camp, and outside of it, was
situated the parcel office. Here the prisoners' parcels were censored
by the Germans in front of them.

There was also a tin office here, where all tinned food not
immediately required by the prisoners was kept until it was needed,
when it could be taken away after being opened by a German. We often
used to try and make the German soldier jump by saying "Bomben" or
"Handgranaten" just at the moment when he punctured the tin with his
opener.

These two offices were open until 6 o'clock in the evening, and the
Germans had put up a barbed-wire passage from a gate in the wire wall
of the camp enclosure to the door of this office, thus enabling them
to permit the prisoners free access to these two rooms until this
hour. At 6 o'clock the offices were cleared of prisoners by the
numerous Germans employed there and cut off from the prisoners' part
of the camp by closing the iron gate in the main wire wall of the
camp.

It occurred to me that if I could hide in the parcel office or tin
room before 6 o'clock, and be locked in when the work of the day
ceased, I should naturally find myself outside the wire enclosure,
which was the first and principal difficulty to be overcome by a
would-be escaper.

It would then remain to be seen whether it was feasible to get out of
these offices by way of the skylights or other windows at a late hour.

The risk was worth taking, but another difficulty presented itself.
How was I to get my pack, full of food, boots, civilian clothes, etc.,
and all the rest of my paraphernalia, weighing fully fifty pounds,
into the parcel office without making the numerous Germans I should
have to pass suspicious. The solution to this question came two days
after I was ready.

At about 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 19th, a tremendous wind came down
on the camp, and the sandy dust rose in a huge cloud filling
everybody's eyes, noses, and mouths with fine particles.

This seemed to me a good opportunity, and I quickly put my pack into a
large wooden box, nailed down the lid, and carried it to the parcel
office.

The Germans were far too busy thinking about the dust in their eyes to
wonder why a box was being carried into the parcel-office, whereas
boxes were always carried "away" from there. I passed several Germans
without any trouble and got into the tin room, where I deposited the
box on the floor. I now had twenty minutes in which to hide. While
pretending to be extremely interested in what I was going to have for
my meal that evening, I looked round, and saw at once that the best
hiding-place without doubt was on the top of the pigeon holes in which
everybody kept their tins. These pigeon-holes, about two feet square
and two and a half feet deep, were made of wood and were ranged along
each wall, tier above tier for about twelve to fourteen feet. There
was a ledge at the top about two feet below the level of the roof. I
decided to get up onto that ledge, knowing full well that nobody
looks round a room at a much higher level than his own eyes, and that
a hungry German gaze would never wander farther than the level of the
nearest food.

This was a good start, but unfortunately there was a Boche painting
numbers on the lockers within six feet of the spot from which I should
have to climb up to my hiding-place. However, he did not look
intelligent, wore spectacles, and was very engrossed in his work, so I
thought I could risk his not seeing me. I had rubber shoes on, my
boots being in the bag, so I was not afraid on the score of noise.

I was lucky in choosing the right moment, and succeeded in climbing
slowly and quietly up and then putting myself into a lying position
along the ledge without either the Boche or three other English
officers getting out tins near by, being aware that anything strange
had happened.

I lay there hardly daring to breathe, with four slats of wood fixed
cross-ways in a vertical position, so that the sharp edges were
uppermost, catching me at various unprotected and tender points of my
body and legs. However, it did not last for ever. The officers left,
and no more came in; and then the German soldier packed up his tools.

He left, and very shortly afterwards in came the under-officer in
charge. He looked at the windows, walked round the office and then,
quickly slipping a tin from a handy pigeon-hole into his pocket, left
the room, locking the door after him.

I was locked in and was able to breathe again.

After giving my pilfering friend another twenty minutes in case he
should have under-estimated his appetite and should return for more, I
got down and rubbed my cramped legs. This done I had a meal and then
settled myself down to wait till 11 o'clock, which I deemed the
earliest hour for commencing operations with safety.

The skylights appeared to be the best exit from the room, and under
one of them there was a convenient beam. The other skylight proved to
be out of reach of anything.

Since the building was of wood, I had to exercise great caution in
moving about, so creaky were the boards. At 11 o'clock I climbed up to
the beam and then crawled along it till I was exactly under my
skylight. Then getting my shoulders well under it I heaved. Horror of
horrors; it gave an awful crack and would not budge a hair's-breadth.
This was a nuisance, only I called it something stronger than that! I
got down, afraid that the loud crack must have alarmed the sentries,
two of whose beats joined exactly opposite this tin room. However I
was able to thank my good luck again as they had heard nothing. I had
now to find another way out. I tried unpicking the lock with a bent
nail, but had no success. I then tried to take the screws out of the
lock with a table knife. One came loose but the others refused to
shift at all. Foiled here I tried the wooden partition between the tin
room and the passage beyond; but again I could make no progress, as
the carpenters had done their work too well. I sat down on my box and
sweated. The atmosphere of this closed room was simply appalling and
my clothes were wringing wet by reason of it. It looked now as if I
should be found next morning in this office, and get five months'
solitary confinement in the cells for trying to escape, and not even
have a run for my money. There still remained one chance, the most
dangerous and therefore left until desperation should drive me to it.
The side windows of the tin-office, some three and a half feet from
the floor, opened onto the sentry's beat, exactly opposite the point
where the other sentry, whose beat ran at right angles to the office,
joined in. In addition there was a large arc lamp within thirty feet
of these windows. My idea now was to watch until both sentries should
be walking down their beats away from me, and therefore naturally with
their backs turned, and then open my window, jump out, and run for it.

The windows were made in two halves hinging at the sides and opening
outwards.

I could always get the sentry opposite the window walking in the right
direction as a beginning. I had then to open the right-half of the
window three or four inches in order to see where the other sentry
was, as he walked up and down parallel to the windows and close up
against the building. Of course I was in mortal dread each time I
opened my window to find out his position, of discovering myself
looking straight into his face. I never got such a bad shock as that,
but neither did I ever get the two of them walking with their backs
turned at the same time.

_Wednesday, 20th June._ I had to shut the window every time I saw that
he was approaching, as he was certain to see it when he came close if
I left it open. Nine times I tried this experiment and had no luck. I
then sat down to think for a bit. Fortunately I remembered now that
the sentries were changed at 2.30 a.m., so I thought that I would try
to turn this fact to my advantage. Sentry changing consisted of twelve
Germans in file marching round the camp, clock-wise, picking up the
old sentry and dropping the new one.

I hoped that the noise caused by their heavy boots would drown all
noise made by me, and that this crowd of men rounding the corner and
marching towards my most difficult sentry would hide me from him. It
happened just as I hoped. They relieved the sentry opposite my window
well down his beat and he stood still, as they always do for a minute
or two after being newly posted.

Then on came the twelve Landsturm-men, rounded the corner, making a
fine noise and dust with their heavy boots. When the last of them was
about fifteen yards from my window, and all twelve were strung out
between it and the difficult sentry, I pushed open both halves of the
window, pitched out my heavy pack, which fell with a thud, and jumped
out after it. To pick it up, jump into the ditch, run along the path,
and round the corner away from the dazzling rays of the arc lamp did
not take many seconds. I was out. I listened for the excitement which
would tell of the discovery of my flight, but all was quiet, so I was
able to steal off in a westerly direction.



CHAPTER V

CROSSING THE FIRST TWO RIVERS


After walking steadily away from the camp in a westerly direction for
about a mile and a half, I found running water which was a God-send.
Here I filled my water bottle (an empty wine bottle bound round with
cloth and string) and had a good drink.

Pushing on to the south-west I continued along a rough track running
through marshy ground. By this time the dawn had spread its light
sufficiently to make objects clear a long way ahead. From the marshy
ground rose the cries of curlews and peewits,--the drumming of snipe
and the hoarse croakings of many frogs making an unearthly tout
ensemble. It was a strange feeling to be out and walking freely along
this quiet track, and the mist which hung about the ground on either
side of the road gave a weird shape to everything. For the first time
I was able to think of other things than the details of escape, and I
counted up my chances. At any rate I had got out, and if I were caught
I should at least have made a determined effort and would be able to
feel I had done my duty in attempting.

After an hour's walking I left the marshy country behind and struck
woods and clumps of young pine trees. At last at about 4.30 a.m. I
approached a metalled road which ran across my front. I advanced
cautiously to the edge of it and then heard German voices. Some boys
and women were milking and tending cattle not far away.

Thinking that to move forward at this hour, which is always one of the
most active in the day with the hard-working farmers of Germany, would
be to risk detection, I decided to rest where I was in hiding. I found
a thick clump of young firs within sixty yards of the road and
deposited my lumpy bag down in a place where the moss was thick and
soft. A drink of water followed by a few biscuits and a piece of
chocolate, sufficed for a meal, and then I lay down and tried to
sleep, which I found impossible to do, although I was tired enough.

It was bitterly cold lying still, and my clothes, wringing wet with
perspiration as they were, clung to me and took away all natural
warmth.

I suppose I got an hour's sleep before 11 o'clock, when it got so hot
that it became quite unpleasant in my hiding-place. These hours passed
very slowly and I felt the need of someone with whom to talk. At 3
o'clock I thought I would move forward and try to get up to the bank
of the river without being seen. After crossing the road I proceeded
for half a mile or so before leaving the thick cover which was
plentiful hereabouts and got into a grove of large trees at the side
of a field. Now I discovered that any further advance was out of the
question at that time, as all the fields in front of me were
hay-fields in the process of being cut, and I could see fourteen or
fifteen Germans working at the cutting. I stayed where I was until
about eight o'clock, when I saw that most of the workers had left the
fields and gone home. I pushed on a bit now, making a detour to the
north, and soon saw the main road bridge over the river.

By watching this I came to the conclusion that it had no guard posted
on it, at any rate by day, but many civilians were walking across, and
a hay cart passed every minute or so.

Pushing on again I crossed the main road and got into the thick cover
to the north of it and close to the river. As I was filthily dirty
from the dust storm I thought I would bathe at a safe spot well away
from the bridge, deciding to post myself in the bushes close up to it
as soon as it became dusk. The bathe passed off without incident, and
after all, as it struck me while I was swimming about, what better
disguise could I have than nakedness. If anyone came along I could act
the German very thoroughly, knowing enough of the language to answer
any question while swimming. The bathe was delightful and refreshed me
exceedingly. After dressing I found that it was practically dark, so
set off for my hiding-place close to the bridge. I got safely to it
and lay down in a ditch running through some bushes within ten yards
of the beginning of the wooden structure.

My plan was to cross as soon as it became quite dark.

I had been there scarcely ten minutes when I saw two German women come
out of the house at the other end of the bridge and cross over towards
me, followed at some thirty yards by a German soldier. He caught them
up just opposite me and all three, talking hard, went some forty yards
along the road, and then sat down in the bushes on my side of it.
Here they were soon joined by another soldier who came from the
direction of the camp, as I discovered on hearing his voice. I was now
so placed that I was actually between them and the bridge, but dared
not move, as I was certain to make the bushes surrounding my
hiding-place rustle and the dead sticks lying about crack. I waited in
hopes that they would go away, but it got quite dark and still the
giggles of the women and the low tones of the men continued.

    [Illustration: "AT LAST THE TWO WOMEN GOT UP" (_page 113_).]

At last, at about 11 o'clock, the two women got up, and after standing
talking for a few minutes I heard one of them say to the men, "You
must now remain quite quiet! Nicht?" And they answered yes, and I
heard them all say good-night and the women walked back along the road
across the bridge and went into their own house, leaving the two men
still in the bushes. I waited for them to go also, but they did not
budge. A silence as of the dead came over everything, and I knew then
that they were an ambush, and a very cunningly placed one too.
Naturally, anyone looking to see if a bridge was guarded or not would
expect to find the sentries on the middle or at either end of the
bridge itself and could then clear away from the place if it proved to
be unhealthy. However, this ambush was placed so as to catch any
wretch moving cautiously along the side of the road, straining his
eyes eagerly forward to see if the near end of the bridge was or was
not guarded, little thinking as he did so of any cunning ambush fifty
to sixty yards away from the bridge itself.

_Thursday, 21st June._ I now set myself to tire the Germans out by
waiting, and hoped that in the early hours of the morning they would
be less alert than usual.

I lay there, bitten all over by mosquitos, and having a very
uncomfortable time of it. I heard one of them cough, and then, after
an hour or two of silence, another cough. Altogether I waited about
four hours, and it was not till roughly three o'clock that I thought I
could risk a move.

Very cautiously I now began to crawl on all-fours towards the road,
carefully feeling all the ground as I did so in order to be able to
remove the dead sticks lying across my track. By pushing through the
bushes very slowly I avoided making much of a noise and gained the
embankment along the top of which ran the road, without causing any
suspicion. Here I had a breather and then continued my crawl upwards.
I reached the top of the bank which was the edge of the road, and,
knowing that I was well against the sky-line to the eyes of watchers
below, did not waste much time before turning towards the bridge, and
keeping well down, crawled steadily onwards, reducing the space of
time in which I risked being seen very rapidly. Another fifty yards on
all fours and I ventured to get on to my feet and walk, in my
rubber-soled shoes. Fifty yards more and I was safely off the planking
of the bridge and on to the road proper with plenty of cover all round
me.

As my clothes were of a light coffee tint they assimilated very well
with the colours of the dusty road and the white painted woodwork of
the bridge.

I felt inclined to roar with laughter at the ambush after gaining the
far side of the river, and would dearly have loved to have shouted
insults and gibes back at them, instead of which I continued my walk
quietly along the road, keeping well to one side under the trees which
so often border country roads in Germany. I soon came to a village,
and feeling that this one was too close to the bridge, which had been
guarded, to require anything for itself in this line, walked through
it without even causing a dog to bark. I continued for an hour before
anything else happened, and then I very nearly made a bad error. I
was sleepy I suppose and was not so sharp on the look-out as I ought
to have been, and I suddenly got an awful shock on distinctly seeing
in front of me in the first light of the dawn two men in dark clothes
approaching. I immediately turned about and walked away from them as
hard as I could go. Gaining on them rapidly I continued till they were
too far behind to be seen and then jumped into the corn on the right
of the road, and after running fifty yards into it, lay still. Sure
enough these two men had slowly continued their walk and now passed
me, carrying on for a hundred yards before they also stopped. Thinking
that it was time to be off, especially as it was getting lighter every
moment, I took a detour through the corn-fields and striking the road
about half a mile further on crossed it and took a turn in the corn on
the other side. Then after about a mile of making winding tracks
through their precious wheat, rye and barley crops, I again struck the
road and hurried along it to make up for lost time.

This wandering about I considered necessary in order to delay and
perhaps bamboozle any police dog put on my track. I had no doubt that
these two men were policemen and that they had only just caught a
glimpse of me which had made them curious. I am certain I again had to
thank my whitish suit for my immunity from determined pursuit.

After this little excitement I had to move very rapidly as it was
already nearly daylight, and I wished to get to the banks of the next
river before hiding.

Pushing along the road I struck a small town, and crossed the end of
it, taking a level crossing on the way. Seeing nobody at the station
near-by I gained more confidence again, and was not so upset as I
might have been when I found that I had to walk for a mile or more
along a road flanked on both sides with houses.

At last and by no means too soon I got to the river bank, had a drink,
refilled my water-bottle and set about looking for a hiding-place in
which to sleep during the day. This river, the Leine, is about seventy
yards broad and is deep and fairly sluggish. There was a bridge
crossing it about a mile downstream from the place at which I drank.

I found a hiding-place not far from the river, but after a short while
I began to think that it was a bad one, as although in this district
most of the hay had been cut, one field quite near had still to be
done. So off I went to look for a better place. I found a thick hedge
which looked likely, and then suddenly saw a girl bathing eighty yards
away. However, I quickly decided that she could never have seen me,
and began to pull aside some brambles with a view to getting in.
Suddenly without any warning I heard just behind me "Guten Morgen." I
turned in a second and found myself face to face with a flapper
dressed all in white, on her way to bathe.

I growled back "Good Morning" and she passed on. I expect she also got
a shock, for I must have been a wild-looking object. I decided now
that this was no place for me and began to make tracks as soon as she
had moved away. I hadn't gone a hundred yards when I heard a man's
voice and the yapping of a dog come from where I had spoken to the
flapper. He was speaking to the girls, so fearing that my girl might
have mentioned seeing an extraordinary apparition on her way, and so
arouse suspicions in the mind of the man, I cleared out and went
through the woods, which were fairly thick here for about a mile.

I was lucky now to find a deserted factory quite close to the bridge
which I had seen previously. By this factory was a thick patch of
small fir trees, into which I forced my way and found excellent cover
among the dense undergrowth and lower branches of the trees. I tried
to sleep, but had little success, and was again worried by flies and
heat at about midday. My watch had stopped, so I arranged some sticks
so that when their shadow pointed north by my compass I should know it
was roughly noon, and be able to set my watch.

I was keeping a collection of hieroglyphics which I cannot honour with
the title of "Diary." I purposely made it unreadable, and abbreviated
all the words so that it would convey nothing to the Boche if they
caught me.

Unless one keeps some sort of record it is very easy to forget the day
of the week, etc., and that is necessary knowledge, as Sunday is a
special day in Germany and must be treated differently by an escapee.

It had become very uncomfortable in my hiding-place and sleep was out
of the question for some reason, so I thought that as I had lost time
already by being delayed both nights, I must try to make up for the
delay, and what would help to do so more than anything else would be
the crossing of the Leine by daylight. The more I thought of it the
more I wished to get that river behind me as soon as possible. I
decided that at any rate I would scout the bridge and then make up my
mind.

This proved easier than I had hoped, because I found that the bridge
had no cover anywhere near it, so that I was able to see without any
trouble from quite a distance away that there was no sentry on the
bridge or in the neighbourhood. There being no cover, ambushes were
out of the question. I thought then that I might easily cross at once,
as at night there was always the possibility of finding that a sentry
had been posted simply for the hours of darkness, those being the
hours during which prisoners generally move, a fact that the Germans
know well.

Accordingly I got on to the road and walked boldly along it, reading a
German newspaper which I had found and kept the day before.

Just before reaching the bridge I met a very nice-looking German girl
carrying two pails of milk. She deigned to honour me, tramp though I
looked, with a sweet smile and a most encouraging "good-day." I
suppose the shortage of young men in the Fatherland was accountable
for this; it would hardly have been due to my personal beauty.
However, she didn't meet with much response beyond a surly "good-day"
from behind my newspaper. On the bridge itself I met an older woman
who just looked at me and didn't answer my good-day. That made me
hurry on somewhat. I got across without any trouble and didn't see a
sign of a sentry, and I was not surprised at that, seeing how near the
Aller and Leine are to each other.

It would mean many more men called away from farm work to arrange for
the guarding of the crossings of the Leine as well; a fact which
hardly recommends itself to the Boche authorities just at present.



CHAPTER VI

I MEET FOX AND BLANK


The fact that this bridge was left behind made me feel quite elated,
and I continued along a lane in a westerly direction with full
confidence in my disguise and my evidently unsuspicious appearance
generally.

The lane ending in a field made me take to working across country.
There were quite a number of Germans scattered about making hay. I had
to go very cautiously so as to avoid meeting anyone face to face, as
they might have asked me awkward questions relating to my work, etc. I
also could not walk across fields with long grass in them by day
without risking causing suspicions in the minds of any farmer who
might see me, as the Germans themselves are very careful not to damage
any crops in these times.

And now happened the most remarkable thing that could well have fallen
to the experience of anyone outside a novel.

I was walking along a hedge very slowly, watching a German in the
distance, when suddenly I thought I heard my name being spoken very
clearly and distinctly. Again I heard it and this time I was certain,
and immediately thought that I was imagining it and that I was really
going mad. I was told afterwards that I clutched my head with both
hands. It was an awful shock to hear this, after not having seen
anyone or been with anyone who knew me for two and a half days, and
having crossed two rivers and got miles from the camp in which my only
acquaintances and friends in Germany were locked up. I turned round
and then I heard it again coming out of the hedge, and not only my
name this time but an exceedingly English sentence which told me that
I was a something fool, and that I was to come back. I promptly did so
and found Major C.V. Fox, D.S.O., and Lieut. Blank lying at the
bottom of the hedge. I at once joined them, and I naturally thought
that all the officers from the camp had escaped and were spread far
and wide over Germany, and that I had found a couple of them without
being unduly lucky. However, that was not the case. Fox and Blank had
escaped sixteen hours after I did, but while I had been hung up
between the ambush and the first bridge for four hours, they had
pushed ahead and crossed both rivers and got to their present
hiding-place at daybreak.

It was a great relief to have somebody with whom to talk, and we set
to and discussed details in low whispers.

I then found out that I had not been missed at roll-call the night I
had hidden in the tin office.

Fox told me his adventures and I gave him an account of mine in
exchange.

Again our luck was well to the fore. On examining our supplies of
food, etc., I found that Fox had lost nearly all his biscuits and
chocolate in the crossing of the Aller, which they had had to
negotiate by swimming a raft across. This had got swamped, as its
buoyancy was poor, naturally with disastrous consequences to much of
the perishable food they had taken with them.

I had got a good number, and so would be able to supply them and in
exchange they gave me other things.

My compass was a good one, theirs poor; whereas my map was exceedingly
bad and theirs quite good.

We found that we had both the same ideas of the route to be taken
towards the frontier. The Germans had captured three other lots of
escapers in the district around Osnabrück.

Forest guards were active in the woods in this district, and this had
decided both of us on our line before we met.

Another fact which made us the more sure which route we should follow
was the nature of the ground as shown by the maps. The country which
we eventually traversed is shown as marshy, and we had both decided
that the great drought in Germany this summer would have dried this up
to a very large extent, and we hoped that the Germans might not have
taken this fact into consideration in allocating guards, so that this
district would be more lightly watched than others. As a matter of
fact the maps exaggerate the marshes, and I should think that even
after really wet weather it would be possible to follow the same line.

    [Illustration: "FACE TO FACE WITH A FLAPPER ON HER WAY TO BATHE"
    (_page 120_).]

The one disadvantage to this joining-up of parties lay in its greater
visibility and the loss of its elasticity, owing to the fact that we
were now three whereas two is the ideal number. It is naturally more
difficult for three to dive into hiding immediately on sighting a
German than it is for one or two.

However, the pros easily outweighed the cons. While we were thus
talking we got rather a scare. A man on a horse came along the road
and stopped immediately opposite the patch of brambles in the midst of
which we lay. The horse began tearing at the leaves of a small tree,
thereby making a noise which seemed to us, cowering under cover, as if
it might be caused by the man trying to force his way into our
hiding-place.

We lay absolutely still, but we felt very uncomfortable, especially as
the contents of our bags were mostly strewn about the ground drying.
We should never have had time to collect our belongings together and
bolt if an intrusion resulted in our hiding-place being exposed.
However, after two or three minutes of suspense on our part the horse
moved on down the road and we breathed again.

Up to this time I had been exceedingly sparing in what I had eaten. In
fact I had overdone my economy in this respect, as I had felt a bit
weak once or twice that day. The other two had fed well up till then,
and when I saw what they intended to eat that evening I also
increased my ration. From this time onwards we usually had a pound of
food each per day.

This we intended to augment when possible.

The details of Fox and his companion's adventures are outside the
scope of this narrative, but the broad facts which must be included in
order to account for their presence in the hedge are as follows.

On Wednesday afternoon, 20th June, they had left Schwarmstedt camp
with a fatigue party detailed for tree-felling, disguised as British
soldiers. The Germans of course did not realise that two of the party
were really officers, but they were naturally bound to find out the
deception which had been practised on them on the return of the
fatigue party to camp. The fatigue party broke up and scattered about
while working at their tree-felling job, and it was not possible for
the German escort to keep a watch on all and every soldier at the same
time.

Accordingly these two, nicely judging their chance, slipped away when
the Boches were looking in the other direction.

It did not take them long to get some distance away, and that night
they approached the river Aller with the object of effecting a
crossing.

On nearing the railway bridge they had discovered an ambush waiting
for them, and consequently cleared away from that area.

Striking the river some distance up-stream, they made a rough raft
from wooden palings, and putting their food and clothes on it swam it
across. It was here that Fox discovered that his companion was far
from being a strong swimmer. Therefore Fox, who had not entirely
recovered from the injuries he had received in a previous attempt to
escape by jumping from a train, had to swim the raft backwards and
forwards several times by himself until all the food and clothing had
been transported across. The raft was not a large one or very buoyant,
which resulted in much of the food being destroyed. Fox also assisted
Blank to cross, so had plenty of swimming to do.

After crossing this river, they had pushed rapidly on and crossed
another by a bridge, without apparently getting into any trouble.

They reached their hiding-place during the early hours of Thursday
morning and had remained there all day, drying their goods and
chattels.



CHAPTER VII

THE CROSSING OF THE WESER


We had decided to begin the night's march at 10 o'clock should it be
possible to do so. When we started it was not far off that hour, and
in consequence was still fairly light.

As there was an old well in the field at the side of which we had been
hidden all day, we went to it in hopes of finding water. This we were
fortunate enough to get. It was the kind of water that would only be
drunk by cattle and escaped prisoners.

After filling our water bottles we commenced our march westwards. Very
soon we struck a rather wild stretch of country and were startled by
the sight of fireworks not far from us. After various rockets and
Roman candles had fizzled themselves out, we came to the conclusion
that this display constituted no additional risk to us, and pushed
ahead. This stretch of rough country began to take a slope, and not
long after we began the ascent of this incline we debouched on to an
open plain. The weather had begun to look threatening about half an
hour previously. Now it was clear to us that we were in for a wetting.

Striking westwards across this plateau we soon got into difficulties.
Parts of it were decidedly boggy even after the great drought. Several
streams and dykes intersected the country and barbed-wire fences were
common and difficult to climb.

We had covered about four miles since our start, when suddenly the
rain began to descend. Mutterings of thunder and odd flickers of
lightning in the west boded ill for the coming hours. Soon the rain,
which had begun falling fairly gently, increased its unwelcome
efforts.

The thunderstorm very quickly established itself right over our heads
and lightning flashed every second or so. It had got exceedingly
dark, and in addition the rain, now descending in torrents, had made
the hitherto dry ground into a morass. We were absolutely unable to
make headway in the inky blackness which now reigned, so we got under
some thick trees and sat down. These trees did not shelter us much,
and it was not long before we were all soaked to the skin and
shivering from head to foot. It was an ideal moment for discussing our
future and its chances, and we did it, in a thoroughly depressed and
miserable way. We quite envied our late companions their warm if hard
apologies for beds at Schwarmstedt. However, all things have an end,
and the rain eventually ceased and the darkness lifted somewhat.

Owing to the sodden state of the ground now the swampy bits had become
really things of awe-inspiring proportions, which made us return
eastwards for a mile or so in search of a road or track along which
we could travel in the right direction. This we found and took, doing
some three miles or so before the storm returned once more and we were
again handicapped by the darkness. So dark was it in fact that we
never noticed a bend in the road, and we continued in the same
direction only to walk slap into a ditch bristling with barbed-wire.
This decided us to halt again for a time. The same misery repeated
itself, but this time tired nature asserted itself in the case of
Blank, who slept like a log in the soaking ditch. We waited in this
pretty state till the grey light of dawn gave us sufficient
seeing-power to enable us to continue without risk of falling into
ditches.

_Friday, 22nd June._ We naturally put on the pace after all this
delay, and we soon got warm from hard walking.

Passing through a village and striking across country afterwards for
lack of a track to follow, we hit a small river. This we waded through
and got to rough heath country on the other side.

It was drizzling at intervals now, and we very much wished to find a
dry and sheltered spot in which to lie up during the day.

We thought we had found something suitable in this line and called a
halt at a dense clump of bushes and undergrowth of all kinds. We were
disappointed in our place very soon, as the rain came through freely.
After boiling some water and drinking the coffee we made with it, we
decided to continue our trek, reasoning that an atrocious day like
this would effectually keep early risers in-doors until a later hour
at any rate. We were right in our conjecture, as, although we walked
along the roads which are not safe places at 6 o'clock in the morning,
we neither saw anyone nor any tracks in the mud which abounded
everywhere.

Striking more north-west after an hour or so, we again hit a wild
trackless moor. This we began to cross and soon came upon
peat-cuttings.

Shortly after this we spied three huts. These at first interested and
then fascinated us. At last, plucking up courage, we examined them.
Their dry interiors and the lack of all traces of recent visits from
human beings, decided us to do rather a risky thing, namely, to use
them. Having begun risking we went the whole way and made a wood fire
in the huts, from splinters torn from the benches, etc. Drying our
clothes and cooking hot food of the oxo variety occupied considerable
time. We took it in turns to sleep on the floor. This involved
practically lying in the fire, but it had the advantage of allowing
one to become thoroughly warm. There was a pond of excellent water by
the hut we had chosen, so we had quite a number of drinks of coffee
and beef tea, etc.

In the afternoon the sun came out to cheer us up a bit, but the
scudding clouds did not give us much hope of a dry night. We intended
to start at 10 o'clock, all being well. At about six I was suddenly
taken ill, and for half an hour or so felt extremely miserable. I
suppose it was a chill I had got, but fortunately it passed off fairly
soon and I was able to eat and have some oxo two hours later. At ten
o'clock we actually did start, but we were unfortunate in having
pitch-darkness again in which to negotiate extremely difficult ground,
as it had set in to rain once more in a thoroughly steady, lasting
manner.

We had a bad fright over my compass--the best one. When I was ill the
compass must have fallen out of my pocket, and although we searched
diligently everywhere, it was only by the merest chance that I saw a
piece of it showing up in the heather in which it was lost. Truly, a
marvellous stroke of luck.

We had done about an hour's hard work ploughing through the rough
boggy land, when we decided that we had better return to our hut once
more, and tackle the bog next morning.

This delay meant that we should lose the night's march, a serious
affair when food reserves are limited and long distances remain to be
covered. However, the night's rest we got as the result of this delay
was extremely valuable as a matter of fact, as we woke up in a much
fresher state after sleeping till 7 a.m.

_Saturday, 23rd June._ Comfortably smoking our pipes in the dry warmth
of our hut, after a breakfast of tinned beef, biscuit, and hot oxo, we
were able to look on the bright side of things, and our fears on the
subject of the crossing of the river Weser, to be undertaken within
the next twenty-four hours, dwindled in strength until we were able to
imagine it a trifling obstacle. We intended to make a raft and swim it
over, should no boat be forthcoming during a short search.

While we were discussing these and sundry other matters, Fox suddenly
saw two men in dark clothes running across the heath some thousand
yards away from us. Who could they be? On they ran, one about thirty
yards behind the other, until they both disappeared into a clump of
stunted pine trees.

After a minute or two's discussion we agreed that probably they were
also escaped prisoners.

If so, from what were they running? This question was answered shortly
afterwards. A cart driven by two men suddenly came into sight not very
far from the place where we had first seen the two running men.

This cart was coming towards our hut, and soon began to fill us with
something stronger than mere interest in its movements.

It came to within 150 yards of us and then stopped. The men got out
and began filling the cart with peat from the piles of this commodity
lying about.

We by this time were lying on the bottom of the hut, or squashed up
against the back of the door, not daring to move. We prayed that it
would not come on to rain heavily, as the men would be certain then to
take shelter in one of the huts, and ours was the nearest to them.
This suspense continued for about half an hour, and then, with the
cart filled, the two men departed the way they had come.

At about noon we made up our minds that we could safely attempt the
crossing of the moor by day. Accordingly, after clearing the hut of
all traces of our occupation we packed up our kit, shouldered our
packs and set off. We had torn up the benches and taken planks off the
back of one of the other huts, intending to carry them with us to
serve as material for our raft for the crossing of the Weser, but now
that we actually began our march we found that the weight of all this
wood was very considerable and so at the last moment left the whole
lot behind. We were fortunate in so doing, as the distance was much
greater than we had realised, and, as it turned out, it would have
been a case of carrying coals to Newcastle.

We proceeded to negotiate the same ground as that which we had
attempted to cross and failed over the night before, and now realised
how impossible a task it would have been in the inky blackness of the
night, proving as it did a sufficiently difficult task even by
daylight.

Two or three miles of boggy rough ground had to be covered, and during
the last few hundred yards of this, before we reached the lowest
slopes of a range of hills, we were continually going through the
spongy soil up to our knees.

Fox, who was brought up amidst Irish bogs, chose the line, and we
followed as nearly in his tracks as we possibly could. We were not
sorry to get off this bit of difficult country, and we wondered what
would have happened if we had continued our attempt the night before.

The range of hills we had now reached ran in a westerly direction for
a few miles before sloping down to the valley of the Weser. They were
covered with fine pine and fir woods, cut up every now and then into
squares by drives made through them.

We saw several deer, and the additional presence of things that looked
like shooting butts made us think that this area was probably some
special deer-forest. None of us felt very safe, as deer-forests mean
forest-guards. The lack of food in Germany has probably increased the
numbers of the poaching fraternity, and the German authorities are
sure not to have reduced the establishment of forest-guards. These
ideas caused us usually to feel very nervous in woods, fine cover
though they afford.

By 3 o'clock we had reached the western end of these hills and were
able to look out over the Weser valley. Our enjoyment of the scenery
was cut short by our hearing children's voices not far behind us. We
bolted into cover like scared rabbits. The place we chose was a very
thick plantation of young fir-trees. The shelter given us by this was
excellent and we afterwards endeavoured to find similar places for our
daily rests.

It had become pleasantly warm by now so we all got a little sleep and
were very comfortable till about 8 o'clock, when it got cold and we
naturally became anxious to move on again. I entered up my rough
diary, and we found that we had little reason to be pleased at the
pace at which we had travelled up to then.

Fox's right heel and my left ankle had got rubbed a day or so before,
and by now had begun to get really troublesome. Providentially we had
with us a small tin of boracic ointment with which we plastered these
sore places every daily halt. At this halting-place we had a thorough
overhaul of our possessions, and I mended my pack with string, as the
great weight of its contents had begun to tell on its seams.

The children's voices continued to make themselves heard all round us,
and one was forced to wonder what they found to scream and shout at
for such hours on end. Of course Germany is the land of children, they
are much more important in that country it appears than elsewhere. The
grown-ups seem to understand them better, and certainly the kids
themselves always seem to be extremely happy. This particular batch of
brats was just playing in the woods I suppose, but their laughter and
shouts caused us some alarm at first, until we got accustomed to the
noise.

At about 9 p.m. we decided to commence our march, as we were
particularly desirous of striking the Weser bank as soon as possible
after complete darkness set in.

Pushing forward through thick undergrowth we had travelled some
distance westwards, when we were forced to halt while several military
wagons passed along a road a short distance in front of us. After
they had left our immediate neighbourhood I went forward to
reconnoitre the main-road which we were bound to cross in the next
hundred yards or so. My costume lent itself better to this kind of
work than did the garb of either of my companions, being as it was of
a light brown colour whereas theirs was dark blue or black.

The road was all clear and we got across safely, and continued our
march until we reached another road which we crossed safely also, but
this time only just in time to avoid a woman on a bicycle.

Blank then went along the edge of the road to look at the sign-post
near by, and we two lay fifty yards from the side of the road, bitten
all over by the mosquitos which swarmed here.

He returned with his information, and off we went.

From this place we made our way so as to pass to the north of a
village and strike the Weser bank immediately north of a small town,
from which we hoped to steal a boat. We were now among cornfields and
got held up until it became quite dark by the presence of various
Germans in the fields. We had our evening meal while we waited and
felt that the local Germans were very inconsiderate in being in their
fields at this hour. However, it was a Saturday night, so it was not
so surprising after all that they kept such late hours.

When all was quiet we continued our advance, cutting across
corn-fields and getting nice and wet from the dew in so doing.

Striking a village, we walked through it and then took the wrong road
for a mile or so before finding out our mistake. On getting on to our
correct line again we crossed a level-crossing and began to pass
through the outskirts of a small town. Turning north to avoid this we
arrived at another level-crossing, where we halted to discuss our
route. Suddenly the door of the cottage by the level-crossing opened
and a man came out. He stood and stared at us, ten paces away.

We quietly moved off and got to the edge of a dense copse, where we
doubled on our tracks as quickly as possible, crossing the railway
some two hundred yards from the cottage. In crossing a railway one has
to be particularly careful not to trip over the signal wires in the
darkness. We made some noise on this occasion, as we did not know of
the wire's existence and naturally crashed right into it. We did not
wait to see if our noise had drawn anyone or not, but pushed ahead
rapidly. A few hundred yards and we were on the bank of the river
which flowed swiftly by, looking a pretty formidable obstacle in the
light of the moon.

We had agreed to have a rapid search for a boat, and then, if we had
no luck, to swim the river as soon as possible. Fortune favoured us,
however, and we found a large ferry-boat moored to a post within one
hundred yards of the place where we had first debouched on the river's
bank. It did not take us long to get aboard and push off into the
middle of the stream. Fox, an expert punter, took on the task of
getting the boat across, although his bad hands suffered somewhat in
the process. Enjoying our ride in the boat we let her drift
down-stream for a mile or so. We felt extremely happy at this piece of
good fortune and discussed quite seriously what we should have for
dinner the first night in town, when we got back. The banks fairly
flew past and it was not very long before we had left the farm, near
to which we had discovered our boat, a long way behind us. Our free
ride over, we chose a landing-place.

Fox brought the boat in towards the western side, and I agreed to go
up the bank first in order to make sure that there were no Boche
sentries patrolling the top of it. When the boat struck the bank where
it was covered with bushes, I jumped out and forced my way up to the
top, to find it all clear of Germans.

Now occurred what nearly proved to be a tragic episode, but it
fortunately ended more comically than otherwise.

Coming down the slope again I put my foot on a rotten piece of bank
which gave way, with the result that I went crashing into the bushes.
Fox, thinking that the Germans had seized me, and that the noise he
heard was made by my fighting with them, pushed the boat off into the
river again, he and Blank lying flat on the bottom of it. When I got
up I saw the boat swirling away down-stream, apparently empty and
absolutely out of control.

For an awful moment I imagined that Blank had fallen overboard and had
clutched Fox in doing so, and that now the two of them were drowning
each other in the mud at the bottom of the river. I shouted, softly at
first, and then louder and louder, but got no answer. The boat still
drifted down-stream until it was lost to sight round a bend.

Here was a pretty state of affairs; all the water bottles were in the
boat I knew, and my companions were Heaven knows where. Thinking it
over, I decided that they might still be in the boat and that they had
seen Germans or heard their voices. This decided me to remain still
and quiet for an hour in the hopes of something turning up.

After half-an-hour or so, I saw two figures coming along the bank
towards me and found on shouting to them, that it was indeed Fox and
Blank. They had heard me shout before, but had thought it was meant
for a warning to tell them to clear out. We were very relieved to have
this episode over. They had brought all the water-bottles on with them
and then turned the boat adrift, and watched it float down-stream. We
could afford now to laugh at the whole thing, but for all that it was
a far from pleasant experience.

However, the main thing which ran through our minds was the fact that
the difficult crossing of the Weser was a thing of the past, and we
could now reasonably hope to reach the frontier and have a chance to
compete with its special difficulties, whereas prior to crossing the
Weser it had been a presumption to do so.



CHAPTER VIII

THE RAILWAY TRACK


_Sunday, 24th June._ Leaving the Weser and travelling westwards for a
mile or so we were exceedingly surprised to find that we had come
close to the river again. For a moment we thought that perhaps we had
got off our bearing, but our compass showed that we were right, and
the stars checked the accuracy of the compass. In reality we had
struck a great loop in the river and our westerly route led us close
to it again.

Crossing cornfields and extensive areas planted with roots of all
kinds, we got thoroughly soaked with dew well above our knees.

Fox and I both suffered considerably from our sore feet, and it seemed
to me that my boots shrank a bit every time they got wet.

It had now begun to get fairly light and the coming day promised well
to be fine. Being a Sunday we had naturally to think of what
difference to our plans this might make. Germans we knew often go out
into the wilder parts of the country when they have a day off, and in
addition to scattering abroad the usual litter which always marks the
presence of holiday-makers in all countries they wander into all sorts
of out of the way places, and by so doing constitute a definite danger
to be guarded against by the fugitive.

Realising this we were desirous of finding a particularly safe retreat
for the hours of daylight.

Leaving the flat country immediately west of the river, we began
crossing an undulating stretch of heath-land, which gave place after
two or three miles to pastureland and corn.

Here it was that Blank, who had been in a prison camp situated in this
district, declared that he knew of a railway running from somewhere
close to our position at that moment.

We decided to try to find it before we hid for the day, in order to
know its exact whereabouts when we moved off that night.

Sure enough we came to a large cutting, and were able to get on to the
convenient road we found waiting for us at the bottom of it without
any great difficulty.

It was high time now to think seriously of a hiding-place. This was
not forthcoming. Instead we seem to have entered a district packed
with farms. This railway track had evidently been made with the
express object of tapping this rich farming district.

At about 4.45 we suddenly became aware of a man behind us, following
along the railway track some four hundred yards off. This drove us up
the southern side of the cutting we were traversing at the moment, and
away across country in a rapid search for good cover. Nothing turned
up to suit us for some time and we were beginning to feel fairly
desperate, as the Germans usually begin to milk their cows somewhere
about 5 o'clock.

At last, after travelling at top speed for nearly half an hour, we
found a thick plantation situated between two farms. Into this we
crawled not feeling at all satisfied with the cover. It proved to be
really dense, which was a blessing, and despite the cold, two out the
three of us were very soon asleep after a hot drink.

We took it in turns to watch here, each doing a two hour stretch of
sentry-go, and then four hours off. These hours of waiting were
fearfully long and tedious, one could not sleep for very many hours,
and then it was a case of sitting still till darkness fell, when
further desire to rest had been killed.

Towards the evening of this Sunday we were again badly scared, by
hearing dogs barking and the reports of shot-guns quite close to us.

Evidently the farmers were trying the hedges and small plantations
hereabouts for rabbits. What if the dogs were put into our copse?

We discussed several murderous schemes. Eventually we thought that the
remaining half of the tinned beef, which was to serve as our evening
meal, might be used with good effect as a means by which any
inquisitive dog's attention might be held while a dastardly attack
could be made on it from behind. Our lethal weapons consisted of a
pocket-knife of Fox's and a table knife of mine. Fortunately the dogs
never came into our copse, so murder was not necessary.

Intending to begin our night's march at 10.30 p.m. we cautiously
worked our way to the edge of our cover and Fox went on to scout. He
came back shortly afterwards to say that we must wait as several
Germans were still strolling about the fields.

It was not till 11 p.m. that the last of them went into a cottage some
four hundred yards away, leaving the ground clear to us. We soon got
back to our railway cutting and continued to walk rapidly in a
westerly direction.

We were now very much in need of water and were fortunate in hearing
the trickle of a small stream which ran at the bottom of the
embankment.

Much refreshed by our drink and with full water bottles we pushed on.

Nothing very exciting happened during the night's march, but again we
were badly rushed for a hiding-place in the morning.

_Monday, 25th June._ Not a sign of anything at all suitable presented
itself. We looked at a new station building, and wondered whether,
could we but get into it, it would prove a safe place for our nineteen
hours of waiting. However, it did not stand the test of our
discussion, so we moved on. It was now a case of going at top speed,
and leaving the railway. We tried copse after copse only to find them
all too open. At last, after considerably exceeding our time limit,
we found an excellent place in which to hide. A small densely planted
copse of trees of the Christmas-tree variety, situated in lonely
fields, seemed to offer as good a place as we could wish, but had the
disadvantage of being near no water.

    [Illustration: "EVERY DARK CORNER SEEMED TO CONTAIN A DOG"
    (_page 172_).]

The day passed off uneventfully, and we left our hiding-place at 10
p.m. striking the railway track shortly afterwards.

After a couple of hours' hard walking we rested for a few minutes, and
lit cigarettes from the few precious ones that remained to us. It
certainly was rather a risky thing to do, but as we carefully shaded
the match and this part of the track was very enclosed, we did not
fear very much on that score. On proceeding a mile or so Fox suddenly
discovered that he had left the box of cigarettes, with a dozen or so
still in it, on the stone on which he had sat.

He decided to go back, so we remained where we were and rested. Both
box and cigarettes had English words on them, which was the chief
reason of his return to search. Cigarettes with English names, etc.,
would mean "Englishmen" to the meanest Boche intelligence, which would
not take long to develop into "escaped prisoners," and might in turn
spell "search and pursuit."

He returned after being away nearly an hour, without the cigarettes.
They were nowhere to be found.

_Tuesday, 26th June._ Dawn. We left the railway-line at about 2.30
a.m., as it had turned towards the south-west and joined another line.

Striking across country we made good progress until we approached a
road. Here we had suddenly to dive into the nearest cover, as a trap
containing two men drove past.

The spot into which I dived was a patch of stinging nettles with a
hidden strand of barbed wire running through the middle of it! Blank
dived in the open but fortunately was not seen, although conspicuous
enough in all conscience.

The trap gone, we crossed the road and began to think of a
hiding-place. This we did not find easily. Village followed village,
and we could not get clear of this district of farms and cottages. It
had now become broad daylight and we began to feel the desperate early
morning sensation again. All the dogs in the country prowled around
the farm-yards we passed, or so it seemed to us. A barn in the process
of being filled with hay presented its inviting doors to us.
Fortunately, although much tempted, we steered clear of it and
continued our hunt.

Eventually, at about 5.15 we found a small copse of fir trees situated
in pasture land, and were not sorry to get into it. It was bitterly
cold, but we slept quite well.



CHAPTER IX

CROSSING THE RIVER HUNTE AND THE TOWN OF "DOGS"


After the morning's rest in the copse, and the great increase in
warmth due to the sun, which soon caused us to feel very thirsty, we
thought that a move during the afternoon would not be too risky as the
country was of a very wild deserted appearance hereabouts, and our
need of water was a matter to be dealt with as soon as possible.
Accordingly at 3 p.m. we moved out of our hiding-place and very soon
found a pump by a cowshed in a field. We drank and filled up our
water-bottles and then hid again in a wood close by.

We were much worried while drawing water by a large herd of cows. They
must have been very thirsty, as they crowded round us and whenever we
moved towards them would gallop off for a few yards and then return.

We were afraid lest this behaviour on their part had been seen and
would cause comment or even worse among any farm people who might be
within view of the shed.

While lying hidden in the wood the sound of axes being used near us
came to our ears. This was not very disturbing though, and we managed
to pass a peaceful evening talking in the sunlight; quite a restful
feeling stole over one; life for the moment was not the strenuous
thing it had been for so many days.

The songs of birds and the buzzing of insects combined to lend a
peaceful atmosphere to the surroundings. A deer appeared from the
interior of the wood and quietly went about its feeding as if we did
not exist. If only one could have known that the future was to be
favourable, and that success was to crown our effort, it would have
been even extremely enjoyable in that wood.

But misgivings and forebodings of evil were natural to us, and robbed
us of the full amount of pleasure we might otherwise have enjoyed in
such a pleasant entourage.

In the evening clouds began to drift up and eventually a slight
drizzle began to descend, but not sufficiently copious to make us
miserable.

At 10 p.m. we began our night's march, and worked forward to the
western edge of the wood; from here we were able to look out over a
wide stretch of pasture and cornland.

In the distance a railway line crossed the field of vision. A
beautiful wild sunset cast a golden light on the country-side. A road
ran close by the wood and we waited till the light should die in the
sky before crossing it.

At last we were well away, and reached the railway we had previously
seen, which we crossed a moment before two trains rumbled past. One
of these was a heavily laden munition train, the other much lighter.
After leaving the railway we took to a lane which eventually brought
us out into the main road. Just before debouching on to this, Fox and
I both heard a bicycle coming along the road, and we dived into the
long grass at the side of the road. Blank, however, did not hear it
and blundered straight into the cyclist, a woman, before he could
stop.

Fortunately his "Guten Abend" was sufficiently German to pass, and the
cyclist continued her way after answering him with the same words. We
caught him up some ten minutes later, and then cut across country. A
farm loomed up in front of us and we bore to one side of it, but not
before the ubiquitous dog made the night hideous with its barking, so
we passed on with as little noise as possible.

Soon after this a stream barred our way. A rapid search for a bridge
did not bring one to light, so there was nothing for it but to get
wet. However, Fox had a plan whereby two of us might be saved a
wetting. He being the heaviest was to strip and stand in the middle of
the stream while we crossed over, using his shoulders as a
stepping-stone. When he got into the stream he found the bottom very
muddy and the water came up to his chest.

I was to try the 'stunt' first. All the food bags, etc., were carried
across, and then Fox stood ready to do his part. Stepping well out
from the bank and placing one foot on his shoulder I reached down
until I could catch hold of his hands and waited for his signal. At
the word, I sprang, he simultaneously throwing me, and before I had
time to realise anything, I found myself rolling over and over on the
other side. The timing had been perfect and I had landed completely
dry.

Blank was also got across successfully, and then the two of us pulled
Fox out. But not without an effort, as one of his feet had got well
embedded in the mud. He told us then that a large stone had prevented
the other from getting similarly stuck.

Rapid marching was the order after this episode, and we covered a
great distance in an extraordinarily short space of time.

We had omitted to fill our water-bottles at the last stream, and this
burst of speed soon made us painfully aware of it. Finally we found
some appalling water in a ditch at the road side, but only by digging a
hole in the mud, could sufficient be got to fill a water-bottle. This
water was naturally very muddy and full of those little beetle things
that rush about the surface of stagnant pools--'water-boatmen'--I think
they are called. I know I felt them running about the inside of my
mouth when I drank.

_Wednesday, 27th June._ We were now approaching the Hunte river. This
river is not very large, but is sufficiently formidable to require
swimming if no bridge or boat is used. Therefore, finding on a map
that a bridge crossed it at a certain spot miles from anywhere of
importance, or anywhere at all for that matter, we had decided that it
would in all probability be unguarded.

It was clear now that we were getting near this bridge. A dense mist
overhung the valley through which the river ran, and made it easier
for us to approach. I, having the best coloured costume and the
lightest footwear, went a few yards ahead of the others to reconnoitre
the bridge.

Cautiously approaching it, I was delighted to find that no guards were
posted there, and we got across without difficulty. A few miles
further on, our westerly line would bring us to a small country town,
which must be nameless.

The country in this district was covered with corn, and knowing that a
detour through these corn-fields to avoid the town would mean an hour
or more of delay, we decided to run the risk and walk through the
streets of the town itself.

All went well at first. The town seemed absolutely deserted, and we
crept along in the shadows where practicable, choosing the dusty
gutters and grassy patches at the side of the road in order to make as
little noise as possible. We reached a kind of square towards the
centre of the town, when Blank stumbled over a cobble-stone, a not
unusual thing for him to do, which called forth various cryptic
whispers from Fox; at that moment, out of a dark shadow on the right
of the road, a great dog slowly emerged.

With hackles bristling and teeth bared he approached us, emitting
savage growls. The only thing to be done was to walk straight past him
making no noise. This we did, passing within two yards of the beast.
It seemed to scare him for he stopped and when we had got well past
began barking furiously.

Then it was that we discovered that the place was stiff with dogs. The
din made by their combined barking was absolutely awe-inspiring.
Every dark corner seemed to contain a dog.

Shapes flitted about near us, and one got the impression that they
were collecting for a combined attack. It was no use going quietly
now, so we put on speed and rushed through the place. Nobody came out
into the streets, however, but the blinds over a lighted window were
pulled aside, disclosing a face which peered out into the darkness at
us.

After ten minutes of apprehension we gained the outskirts of the town,
where the last of our doggy foes stood to meet us right in the centre
of the road.

He was a large bristly animal and had a particularly nasty note in his
growl.

We adopted the same procedure with him, and after waiting till we were
almost on top of him he turned tail and fled.

We were clear of that town now, but vowed never again to run such a
risk.

My experience of German dogs at night, by no means slight, causes me
to think that they bark so much and so often, generally at nothing,
that their owners take absolutely no notice of them. It is a case of
"Wolf! Wolf!" in real life.

Of course, the tired-out state of an over-worked and insufficiently
fed population must make rising in the small hours of the night, to
see what the dog is barking about, even less popular than is usually
the case. Anyway we profited.

Leaving the vicinity of the town at the same great speed for fear of
pursuit, we soon placed several miles between the scene of this, our
latest fright, and the wooded country we now struck.

It had become light by now, so we had to search for a hiding-place at
once. This we found in a hollow filled with undergrowth, an offshoot
of a wood surrounded by corn and potato fields.

We were very tired, but quite pleased with our progress, as we must
have done well over twenty miles from the time we began our march at
10 p.m. A day of sun and warmth made the drying of clothes, socks, and
boots an easy matter.



CHAPTER X

EXIT BLANK, SHEDS


A quiet day amid peaceful surroundings counteracted the effects of the
excitement of the previous night. We slept quite well by reason of the
good conditions, and but for the soreness of Fox's heel and my left
ankle would have felt extremely fit. We were guilty during the
afternoon of a piece of carelessness which nearly gave us away. Fox
and Blank were near the edge of our hiding-place, and went to sleep
with some of our kit spread about the ground round them. I was asleep
further inside our cover, but my boots were with theirs drying in the
sun.

Suddenly Fox woke up and saw a woman not fifty yards from them,
planting something in the field and gradually moving in our direction
as she worked. Waking Blank and seizing all the kit he could find he
crawled into the depths of our hiding-place, followed by Blank who had
got hold of other portions of our impedimenta. An hour or so later the
woman departed and we found that one of my boots had remained in the
open all the time. We decided that in all probability she had not seen
it, and so had no fears of discovery due to her.

The night's march began at 10 p.m., but it proved to be too early an
hour for such night-birds as we. Hardly had we moved two hundred yards
from our cover, when a youth with a shot-gun, prowling round in search
of rabbits, saw us from about sixty-yards away. We legged it and soon
left him wondering what three rough-looking men with heavy bags, and
of military age, were doing in that part of the country.

Making excellent progress that night, we crossed a wild stretch of
heath in the early hours of the morning, and then got back to more of
the abominable corn-land again. Crossing a railway and passing a
cottage by the level-crossing we were greeted with the usual barking
of a house-dog.

_Thursday, 28th June._ It was now high time to think of our
hiding-place for the day. Nothing presented itself and we carried on
with our rush westwards. Cover after cover we examined without finding
what we wanted, and at last, hearing German voices not far off, we
were forced to adopt the first thing which presented itself.

This proved to be a wood cut up with broad drives, with hardly any
undergrowth in it.

We had to make the best of a bad job, and by making a kind of zareba
of dead branches, some sort of cover from view from anyone more than
fifty yards away was possible.

The sound of voices on all sides of the wood, which was only about
200-300 yards wide, and the yapping of the ever-present dogs,
together with the fact that half-cut hay-fields touched the wood on
two sides, made it imperative that we should have a sentry all the
time. After a hot drink and a breakfast of beef and biscuits, which
made us feel a little warmer, Fox and I lay down to sleep. Blank, who
had asked for the first watch, for the two hours till 7 a.m., because
he said he was too cold to sleep, was to undertake the duties of
sentry. It is necessary to state here that, now we were so rapidly
approaching the Ems river, Blank had begun to have serious misgivings
about his ability to swim it.

We had fully made up our minds that there was to be no looking for
boats or building of rafts for that river. The Germans, we knew, were
certain to have this obstacle well guarded, and the only chance of
success, and that but a slight one, lay in dashing through the
watchers and swimming it. Blank had spoken of trying to find a boat in
order to tackle the Ems on his own.

Well, Fox and I went to sleep feeling fairly secure with a sentry to
warn us in time to get away should we be discovered. After about an
hour we both woke up, instinctively feeling something was wrong. Blank
had disappeared. On looking out of our hiding-place I saw him lying
fast asleep in the full sunlight, right in the middle of the drive
some fifty yards away.

We woke him up by throwing some pieces of wood until we hit him.

He came back to our hiding-place, and naturally Fox and I felt much
annoyed that the trust we had put in his watching should have been
betrayed. This incident, combined with Blank's fears for the future,
when in all probability he would have to swim the Ems, made it
imperative for us to come to some arrangement. It was decided that
Blank should go on by himself from this point. We arranged to divide
up our supplies and equipment so that he should have a third.

Accordingly, after I had copied the map for him, all was ready by noon
for his departure. Taking a third of the food, a water-bottle,
compass, and a copy of the map, he left us, determining to push on by
day as he was unable to find his way at night by himself. The line he
decided to follow involved his following the main-road through ----, a
large military centre. However, he hoped to get through this place,
trusting to his luck, civilian clothes and a fair knowledge of German
to assist him.

Leaving us lying in our hiding-place, he was soon out of sight, and we
saw or heard nothing more of him.

At about 10 o'clock we, Fox and I, began our march. We struck
northwards now in order to get off the line taken by Blank in the
morning, in case he had been caught and had thus made the Germans more
wide-awake.

Proceeding at a decent pace we soon came in sight of some sheds which
lay directly on our line of march. Being curious and feeling much
more confident, as we were now only two, we decided to go as close to
the sheds as we dared in order to get a good look at them.

We were able to see them excellently, although we never got very close
to them. What prevented us from approaching any nearer was the sound
of a concertina issuing from a hut a hundred yards from us. German
voices could also be heard, so we considered that we had done all that
could be done and left the place exceedingly rapidly, feeling that we
should be safer when we had put a few miles between these sheds and
ourselves. A very wooded country now lay before us, and we made good
progress by walking along the fire cuts and drives, which conveniently
ran east and west. We soon struck a main-road, which we followed for
some time. While proceeding along this a cyclist dashed past us making
practically no noise, so we had no time in which to take cover. He
looked at us when passing, but it was so dark under the trees, that he
could not have got any impression of our appearance.

By now both of us were suffering very much from our feet, and on
leaving the main-road and taking to rough tracks over wild country we
suffered intensely owing to the inequalities of the ground.

_Friday, 29th June._ At about 4.30 a.m., thoroughly tired out, but
pleased with the distance travelled that night, we found a place in
which to hide.

A rest till noon, and then feeling that we had barely sufficient food
for the distance still to be covered, we decided to try and push
forward a mile or so during the afternoon in the rough country of that
distance. Leaving our hiding-place at about 3 p.m. we cautiously
crossed a road and continued slowly working forward till about 6
o'clock. Here, finding excellent cover in a very thick fir plantation,
we halted until dark.

We were well north now of our original route, and we must have been
more than twelve miles away from the east and west line Blank had
taken.

At first we had been worried over the idea of his probable capture
affecting us also. But remembering that the Germans did not know that
the parties had amalgamated, and were looking for one single man and
two in a separate party, for the original report from the camp must
have started the existence of two separate escapes, we felt much
reassured. If they caught Blank they would naturally conclude that
they had re-captured me, and that the original party of two might be
anywhere, and nowhere in particular.



CHAPTER XI

TWO DAYS TO THE EMS


Leaving our secure hiding-place at 10 p.m. as usual, we made good
progress until we came to a stream which had evidently been widened
artificially, as it had the appearance of a canal at the point at
which we struck it. It was quicker we thought to strip and cross at
once than to hunt up and down, perhaps without avail, for a possible
bridge.

I took to the water first. It was up to my shoulders and the bottom
was muddy. I went across to try it without any of our possessions with
me. It was lucky I did so, as at the other side of the stream I got
into very bad mud and had a hard job to get out of it. By dint of half
swimming, half clambering among the thick reeds on the edge of the
river I managed to get over, but I had found out the best way to
tackle it, and went back to the other side quite easily.

Taking the bulk of our possessions tied roughly together on the big
bag with me, I got safely across and deposited them on the other side
by my second trip.

Another journey, and all our gear was across. Fox being a heavy man
could naturally do none of this work as the mud was too treacherous.
As it was, in attempting to cross himself, he got badly stuck near the
bed of reeds on the other side.

With my hand to help him and by making use of the reeds with arms and
body, he struggled clear at last, by no means sorry to be on firm
ground again.

Quickly dressing ourselves we got away in very little time, and made
rapid progress.

Our map was very faulty in its description of this part of the
country. Villages had sprung up lately perhaps, and as it was an old
map they were not included in it.

The main result of this to us was that we discovered here at
unexpected moments villages and collections of farms in front of us.
We took them all as they came, driven to great speed by the threat of
having to reduce our food rations. As usual our canine foes advertised
our movements everywhere, but we had become thoroughly used to them by
now, and took little or no notice of them.

The sign-posts at the road-junctions in this particularly old-world
district were very ancient, often written in old German characters. To
read them it was frequently necessary for me to mount on Fox's
shoulders in order to get a closer look at blurred and faded words.

These villages, seen as they were by the light of a nearly full-moon,
gave one the impression of being extremely beautiful. The houses were
all old. Bulging walls, practically all containing supports and
cross-pieces of old timber, and low eaves were common.

It was a very out-of-the-way track we had chosen, and one wondered
whether we had unwittingly come across a collection of something quite
out of the ordinary in the way of old-fashioned villages. I should
like to have seen them by day. I expect some of these old places could
produce a very fine collection of really old furniture if they were
searched by a connoisseur.

While creeping through a village we got a bad fright in the early
hours of the morning. Without warning we heard the ringing of a
high-noted bell quite close to us.

The mystery of this was rather alarming until we solved it.

A few yards farther on we passed an old church in the side of the
road; from the windows of this a faint light was shining. The bell
rang again, and we located the sound as having come from the church.
Evidently an all-night mass for the dead must have been in progress.

On clearing the village we seemed to leave civilisation behind us and
entered an area of wild moorland. At first here and there
quaint-looking houses were dotted about, but even these we left behind
in our rush westwards over this moor.

_Saturday, 30th June._ By this time it was fairly light and we had
covered a great distance in a very short space of time. A hiding-place
was forthcoming when we decided to rest, and with a plentiful supply
of water not very far away we managed at last to get a good hot drink
before sleeping.

The wildness of the country and the need for speed moved us on again
at about 3 p.m. Excellent water was abundant in all the low land in
this undulating moorland district, and after a good drink we felt very
strong in preparation for what we decided must be a great march before
we rested again.

While following a rough track over the heather-covered slopes, a young
hare foolishly sat down in a tuft of heather a short distance ahead of
us. This we proceeded to stalk, and thinking of the possible food
supply in front of us we went very carefully for it. I took a detour
round it so as to occupy its attention, while Fox, armed with a
water-bottle held by the strap, warily approached it direct. He got to
within two yards of it before up it got.

A wild swipe with the water-bottle missed it by six inches. The hare
galloped off, while our water-bottle let its valuable contents run out
rapidly. However, Master Hare had not apparently had enough of it, for
he again squatted in a tuft some two hundred yards farther on. The
same plan of attack was carried out, and again Fox got to within
striking distance.

This time, feeling that the strap had only retarded the attack, he
hurled the whole thing at the hare, narrowly missing it, but this time
scaring it so much that it disappeared in the distance at a great
pace.

At about 10 p.m. we got near a village we had been making for, with
the object of striking a road. This village, although nothing very
important, proved to be the point of concentration of roads and tracks
crossing the moor. In making a careful detour round the northern
outskirts of it we suddenly came upon three men in dark clothes,
standing on one of these tracks. Turning sharply to the north we made
for a wood a mile or so away, and watching them carefully out of the
corners of our eyes we slunk along rapidly. They did not really follow
us, although they took a few paces in our direction.

Having gained the wood we made a circle through it and were able to
come back to the vicinity of the village well away from the three men.
We could still see them, but then we knew where to look and they would
have had to be visual marvels to see us, peeping as we were over the
top of the corn, which was plentiful all round this village. At last
we got on to our right road, which led us to the end of the moorland
and eventually landed us in a swampy bottom cut up with dykes and
small streams. Here we floundered about in a hopeless manner in the
darkness. Feeling thoroughly tired and cold owing to the rain which
had begun to descend an hour or so previously, we got into a cowshed
and decided to have as many hot drinks, etc., as we could manage, and
push ahead as soon as we could see sufficiently well to do so without
wasting time. I think we had about three brews each. It was marvellous
the effect this had on us. We both felt absolutely fresh again, and
quite strong enough for another long stretch before sleeping.

_Sunday, 1st July._ When sufficiently light we set off, passing a
village in the daylight, the track leading out of this difficult
country being easily found now, though it had eluded all our efforts
during the hours of darkness.

A large hill lay before us, and we decided to go to the top of it so
as to get from there a view of the country which lay before us. It
was a stiff climb and we reaped our reward. A magnificent view greeted
us. It was indeed a sight of the promised land, as we remarked at the
time.

This hill was the last piece of high ground, or for the matter of that
of any ground not dead flat, on the way to the frontier.

We could see the valley of the Ems and the funnels of a steamer which
we knew must be on the river itself.

The flat country had an almost sea-like appearance, spreading as it
did to a regular horizon, where the country became a misty grey line.

A twenty minutes' rest here, and on we went.

We were feeling our feet badly again now, and decided to rest on the
lower slopes of the hills. On the way down we put up a fox. We had
been extremely surprised all along at the scarcity of game in the wild
country we had traversed.

    [Illustration: "FOX LED THEM OVER THE WORST PIECES OF BOGGY
    GROUND HE COULD FIND" (_page 211_).]

Beyond a few deer, our hare, a black-cock, and a few duck which we
heard in a corn-field, absolutely nothing else showed itself or gave
any sign of its existence. As we had gone quietly for the greater part
of the distance, it was astonishing that we should have surprised no
rabbits out feeding in the early mornings.

We came to the conclusion that, from an English standpoint, there is
little or no game in these parts of Germany.

At 5 a.m., finding a good thick copse of small fir-trees, we lay up
for a rest. We were now about six miles from the river Ems, which
again was some ten miles from the frontier. We decided that the Ems
and the frontier itself should be crossed on the same night.

Therefore, in order to allow enough time for such a large programme,
we must cross the Ems at the beginning of the night; this meant that
the six miles which lay before us now before arriving at the river,
had to be done before dark. We proposed to move forward at 5 p.m. A
good rest and a large meal worked wonders on our tired bodies, and we
felt fit for our last great effort by the hour selected.

Before moving off, however, we decided to make a "cache" of all our
superfluous luggage, taking with us only food for twenty-four hours,
with a bottle of milk each as an emergency ration, and the
water-bottles. The remainder, which was not much now, we hid carefully
in case we failed and had to come back for reserve food.

The bag we also left, as that stamps the escaped prisoner more than
anything else. We each now had a bundle done up with a coloured
handkerchief.

The wild country still stretched westwards until it gave place to a
wet valley cut up into rough hay-fields and meadows of rank grass.
While walking quietly along a rough grass road here, we suddenly saw a
cart with two men in it come out of a field behind a hay-stack some
four hundred yards from us. Deciding that to avoid them, when they
must have already seen us, would be a very suspicious act, we walked
straight ahead. When level with them the old man driving shouted out
something to us; we stopped and he repeated his sentence. For the life
of me I couldn't make out a single word he said. He had a squeaky
voice and spoke a vile patois, but it sounded like no language I had
ever heard.

His third attempt to make us understand something had no more success,
but Fox, who hardly knew a word of German, walked two paces towards
him and shouted "Yah"! "Yah"! With that we walked off, leaving the old
man and his youthful companion gaping at us.

We discussed the matter as we walked away, and both came to the
conclusion that he had used the word "Landsturm." From this we made up
a nice theory. We imagined that the old man had thought that we had
been called up for Landsturm service, and were trudging off to the
nearest town with our bundles in our hands to join up. They still
stood and looked at us, and we had our beautiful theory badly smashed
a minute or two later. We suddenly came to the end of the cart-track
and found a ditch full of water bordered with a barbed wire fence in
front of us. As they were still looking at us, we followed the ditch
down for a short distance and then crossed it without hesitation,
hoping to give the impression that we knew what we were about.

They drove on then, and we turned our thoughts to other matters. Some
distance further on we came across a youth of about sixteen who was in
charge of a flock of sheep. When we were quite close to him his dog
must have done something to upset the youth's Hunnish temper, as the
beast got a fearful hiding.

Blow after blow, accompanied with torrents of Hun oaths, were rained
on the wretched animal's back by this child of Kultur, who was armed
with a heavy stick. To interfere would have been madness on our part,
so we passed on. For the next mile we could hear the poor beast's
howls.

A swampy mile or so had now to be covered, and then we got on to the
edge of a fir wood, which ran down to a road and railway. These we
reached and crossed safely, finding ourselves once again in farmland
and a country of hedges and dykes. When we judged that we had still a
mile or so to do before striking the river we halted and had our last
meal, hidden under a good thick bush which constituted part of a hedge
at the side of a rough track.

Setting out at 10 p.m., before it was really dusk, we followed a grass
track westwards and very nearly got ourselves caught by a piece of
carelessness.



CHAPTER XII

THE CROSSING OF THE RIVER


The river winds about considerably. It was into a canal that we
suddenly walked on turning a corner of a rough track. A bridge lay
right before us, with a sentry on it, who must have seen us at the
same moment as we saw him. Turning back we retraced our steps, but not
before we had seen two German patrols walking along the canal bank.
Leaving our track we got back to our previous hiding-place, intending
to wait until it was quite dark before attempting to cross the river
some distance to the north. Hardly had we got into our bush when a
cyclist soldier passed along the track along which we had been walking
a minute or two before. This alarmed us somewhat, but we deemed it
best to remain hidden till it should be darker.

While waiting we found and finished off our tin of milk, and discussed
plans in a whisper. We allowed half an hour or so to elapse and then
started off again; this time following a track running parallel to the
river, northwards. We had done a mile or so, when, just before
crossing another grass-road which led to the east, I saw the spiked
helmet and rifle of a German soldier silhouetted against the sky, and
moving rapidly from west to east. This turned us back, and we hoped
then to be able to get eastwards across country until we could make a
detour further northwards and regain the river bank.

Entering a field we got half-way across it when two horses, taking
fright at something, galloped away from the far corner straight
towards us. We now lay down and discussed matters. Germans were north
of us, east of us, and south of us, we knew, and the river to the
west of course would be guarded.

A quarter of an hour later, a weird cry, something like that of a
curlew or peewit, but not exactly either, came to our ears from the
north-west near the river. It was repeated from immediately north of
us, and then north-east. From there the cry seemed to come from the
east, moving southwards, until at a point south-east of us it was
repeated time after time for two or three minutes, until taken up
again further to the south, eventually ending again at the river, to
our south-west.

I had heard rumours and talk about a system the Germans are supposed
to have for guarding their frontiers from fugitives, while I was in
prison. This system had been called a "fan" or "cordon." It now
occurred to me that these bird-like cries had been all round us in a
ring. It did not take much thinking to connect the Germans we had
seen, the imitation cries, and our known presence in this district.
The more we thought the more certain we felt that these Germans we had
seen hurrying eastwards had been sent out expressly to form a fan-like
formation, in which they hoped to hold us against the river till
daylight should allow them to search the ground for us. The bird-like
calls would be just the thing to indicate to the commander of this
formation the exact whereabouts of his men and the continuity of the
cordon, without being a suspicious fact to any hapless wretch caught
inside, who did not happen to know the real notes of the birds
imitated.

What was to be done? Should we try and break through the cordon,
northwards or eastwards, by striking across country? This plan did not
commend itself to us, as we should have had to get through thick
hedges and wade through dykes innumerable without making any noise at
all, an impossibility on a still moon-lit night such as it was. We
decided to wait till 1.30 a.m., to give them time to get sleepy. An
hour's sleep in a ditch, and then do something, was our plan.

_Monday, 2nd July._ Moving westwards a little, we came to a farm close
by, and got the idea of hiding somewhere in a hay-loft and waiting
till the next night, when perhaps no cordon would be round us, before
attempting to cross the river. The farm was quite deserted, except for
the cattle and horses, etc., which we could hear in the buildings. We
tried now to open the doors of the barns and sheds, without avail.
They had no locks, but open them we could not. We tried everywhere for
a long time without the slightest success. At last our combined
efforts forced a door open, and we got a nasty fright. A great pig
galloped out past us and went off grunting into the darkness of the
field. The inside of this building was no good, as it was a piggery
and only held bare stalls, nearly all of which were already
populated.

A cart of the kind used to convey pigs to market next attracted Fox,
and he got into it to try it as a hiding place.

It was by no means a good place, as, although the cart was an ancient
one and the farm people would probably not require it, the possible
arrival of dogs with the men who would undoubtedly turn up in the
morning to see to the animals in the farm, would lead to a
nerve-racking experience, if not to actual capture.

While Fox reposed at the bottom of the cart I searched round for
water, so as to fill the bottles against our possible stay of eighteen
hours in the cart. There were two pumps in the yard, but both were
broken.

I could find no water anywhere. The whole farm was a mystery which we
never solved.

Returning to the pig-cart I was told by Fox that it would never do, as
he had already got cramp after only ten minutes in it. He got out and
we noticed then that it was threatening to become light.

Deciding to risk all we left the farm, making for the river in the
hopes of avoiding the Germans. Our marvellous luck again came to the
rescue. From the farm ran a narrow path which we had not noticed
before. This we took, and after going only a short distance along it
suddenly struck the bank of the river proper long before we expected
to do anything of the kind.

This path was so small and unimportant that it must have been
overlooked and considered too unimportant to require guarding, as we
saw no Germans thereabouts.

It did not take us long, now that we were on the bank of the river, to
get on to a point of land jutting out into it, and taking cover in the
long grass and bushes there.

The Ems flowed sluggishly at this point, and appeared to be about a
hundred yards across.

We had made up our minds to leave all the not absolutely essential
articles of clothing, etc., behind us here, and tie the things we must
take with us to the tops of our heads and then swim.

Knowing that anyone found moving about the frontier line is a
suspicious character to German frontier guards, and therefore asked to
show his papers, although he might be in civilian clothes, I left my
long coat of cotton stuff behind, preferring to rely on my old khaki
coat which I wore underneath to make me less visible.

Fox had made the suggestion of the tying our clothes to our heads
scheme, and I thought he knew all about it, so had not asked anything
more about it. Now, taking our boots and coats off, we tied them into
bundles, and Fox got his safely on to the top of his head and took to
the water at once.

He looked a weird sight, swimming slowly on his chest.

I tied my boots to my waist-belt and then tried to balance my coat on
to the top of my head. This would not work. Time after time it rolled
off on to the grass. I suppose the top of his head is flatter than
mine, but on mine the bundle would not stay. At last, desperate at
seeing him on the other side of the river trying to land, I tied my
coat on to my left shoulder with a large handkerchief to hold it
there, knotted round my neck. Then I also took to the water, swimming
on my right side, so as to keep my coat and its contents as dry as
possible.

I had noticed that Fox was still stuck at his point of striking the
other bank, and was evidently hung up by the dense bushes which hung
well over the river at that point. This made me strike a little
up-stream so as to make for a clearer place on the other bank.

This I reached and got ashore without difficulty.

Fox had found it extremely hard to get out of the river at all; in
fact he had got to the other side to find that he could not get his
feet on to solid ground, and had tried to pull himself ashore by
clutching at the over-hanging branches with his hands. It was now that
the bundle on the top of his head, well-behaved till that moment, came
adrift and fell into the water, and getting under a submerged branch,
while the big handkerchief which held it still remained round his
neck, practically pulled him under. In this predicament he could not
yell for me at the other side of the stream to come to his assistance
for fear of giving our position away to the German river patrols.
After a hard struggle he managed to pull himself into the bank and was
able to get ashore.

This episode cost him his boots, as they became unhitched in his
struggles with the bundle, and sank.

On his telling me this I was able to help him in his problem of
footwear. Although leaving all unnecessary kit behind, I had by error
put a spare pair of thick woollen socks into the pocket of my khaki
coat and was now able to produce them.

He put them on over his own and we proceeded on our way towards the
frontier, running and walking, both for the sake of warmth and also to
make the best use of the hour or so of half-light that remained to
us.

    [Illustration: "THE GERMAN RELIEF PASSED WITHIN 200 YARDS OF MY
    HIDING PLACE" (_page 215_).]



CHAPTER XIII

ACROSS THE FRONTIER


During our rapid march we passed a few houses, and shortly afterwards
began to cross an open moor which spread flat and wide in front of us.
Our map showed a canal bordering the frontier itself, and it was along
this canal that we anticipated having to avoid the line of actual
frontier watchers.

We were desperately anxious to make the frontier line within the next
half-hour, in order to avoid having to lie waiting for the next night
within a mile or so of it, as so many unfortunate escaped prisoners
have been caught while hiding near the frontier itself. This anxiety
on our part was now the cause of our making an appalling error, which
nearly ended disastrously for us both. When within a mile of a line of
trees, which we decided must be along the canal bank and must
practically define the frontier line, we suddenly saw two German
soldiers advancing some thousand yards in front of us. Had they seen
us? We dived to the ground and lay still, in the hope that we had not
been seen. Soon there was no doubt whatever that we had been observed,
as the two Boches came straight towards us at a steady walk.

We decided that by separating one or both of us might succeed in
getting away from them, and so I crawled towards the north while Fox
went off southwards towards a peat observation hut.

Fox was dressed in his dark blue suit still, and I had now got my
khaki coat as my outside garment. The value of the khaki coat now came
out.

They evidently saw Fox crawling and not me, as they very soon changed
their direction slightly in order to go after him. Fox and I had
crawled two hundred yards apart when he must have had no doubt that
they were definitely after him, and I suddenly saw him get up and run
off, away from the frontier direction.

He seemed to me to be keeping the hut between him and his German
pursuers. The latter, probably oldish men, or wounded and not
absolutely recovered, had no idea of running after him, and I suppose
they knew that their shooting was not good enough to score a hit at a
running-man four hundred yards from them. However, they followed his
course at a brisk walk, passing me at some hundred to two hundred
yards distance.

I saw them go to the hut, look in, and not finding anything in it of
interest to them, continue their pursuit. Fox led them over the worst
pieces of boggy ground he could find. Having no boots and very light
footwear, by reason of the two pairs of socks being his all, he was
able to do excellent "time" over the peaty soil.

The Germans got others to help them, and eventually had quite a number
of Boches after him. Finding a hole in the ground which satisfied his
requirements, Fox got into it and covered himself over with peat and
heather.

The "field" now included dogs and cyclists. When the dogs had got
sufficiently near him to cause real alarm a marvellous stroke of luck
came to his assistance. A flock of sheep, grazing on the moor,
wandered right across his track, drowning all scent and completely
defeating all the efforts of the dogs to follow his line.

After lying shivering in his hole all day he commenced his final dash
for the frontier at about 11 p.m., and crossed a mile or so to the
north of the place at which I passed through the German frontier line,
without seeing any sentries.

After the Germans had gone well past me in their hunt after Fox, I
began to crawl again; but I made slow progress, as going on all-fours
was out of the question, the vegetation being seldom more than
eighteen inches high and in places considerably less. It was a most
tiring game this sort of land-swimming, and I continued as long as I
could each time I did a crawl, and then rested a space. In three hours
I covered five hundred yards and then considered that I was far enough
from the scene of our discovery to be safe, should the Germans return
to see if anything of interest had been left at the place where they
had first remarked Fox crawling.

I then lay still and began to feel fearfully cold on account of the
soaking wet clothes clinging to me. I had a meagre meal. I had no
water, so soon began to feel thirsty as the day began to warm up.

Sleep was out of the question, firstly on account of the cold and
afterwards on account of the great heat when the sun got high.

I lay and thought of many things, mostly of that line of trees I could
see ahead of me which I knew must be practically along the frontier
line. The fear of recapture now became haunting. Up till then I had
been fully prepared to find myself rounded up and then taken back to
five months' solitary confinement, and I had managed to think of that
probability with complete calm, as so few of the many who try to
escape have the luck to get right through with it.

But now it was different, to be so near and know that twelve or
fourteen hours of inactivity lay in front of one before the last great
effort could be attempted, in which time one was powerless to move in
the midst of this "Frontier" zone, was a nerve-shattering experience.

It would have been much better with a companion, as a whispered
exchange of thoughts makes all the difference.

I wondered whether Fox had been caught and whether either of us would
get over, but never dreamt that we should both have the marvellous
luck to do so. While lying there waiting for night good luck again
came to my assistance. The German relief for their posts actually on
the frontier, marched across this open moor every two hours, and they
passed along a track within 200 yards of my hiding-place, so that I
could time their passing and was able to make plans accordingly.

They passed me regularly at half-past-five, half-past seven,
half-past-nine, etc., and those that were relieved and had to return
across the moor generally came by about three-quarters of an hour
afterwards.

I was also able to watch them until they disappeared every time in a
clump of bushes under the trees I had already noticed and conjectured
must be along the frontier. Thus, I could fairly well assume that the
position of one post was fixed. The afternoon wore on and I managed to
pass some of the time by drying the compass, which had got full of
water during the previous night's swim. With the exception of the
regular passings of the Boche sentry-relief, the only other human
being who showed himself was a shepherd, some five hundred yards away.
I had an anxious time for a spell as he drove his sheep towards me,
and I feared that if they came past me the dog might give me away.
Fortunately he turned the flock homewards when still some three
hundred yards from me. Evening slowly came, and the long hours of
twilight gradually gave way to partial darkness. I cannot call it a
stronger darkness than that, as the moon rose at once and the north
never lost its weird light all night. I felt the want of sleep badly,
but had not been able to sleep for even a quarter of an hour all day
and now could not run the risk of waking too late, so had to do
without it.

At 10.30 I came to the conclusion that I could move at last, and very
pleased I was to stand up and rub my legs after my enforced
uncomfortable position all day.

Setting out cautiously towards the frontier post that I had been able
to more or less mark down, it was not very long before the mile or so
of open that had to be covered was completed.

I thought that, were I to pass close to the post of which I knew the
position, I must necessarily be as far from the unknown one on my
right as possible.

At about 200 yards distance from what I judged to be the line of
posts, I got on all fours and worked forward noiselessly. My khaki
coat again stood me in good stead, as I must have been an extremely
difficult object to see, even in the light which was at that time
quite strong.

Once more my luck held good. When about midway between the posts, the
Boche sentry on duty on my right, about whom I knew nothing, very
obligingly chose that moment to stand up against the sky-line and
begin singing "Die Wacht am Rhein." It was a fine night, which
perhaps caused him to be jovial, but probably it was the result of
smuggled spirits.

After singing a bit, my friend the sentry began shouting to his
companion next beyond him.

This made matters easier for me, and I was able to crawl forward in
full confidence. A dyke, at the bottom of which was a little water,
had to be crossed, and then some rough fields.

Shortly after this I heard a patrol which I easily avoided in the
corn. Several more dykes, the deepest water in any of them only
reaching to my knees, had to be crossed, and I was once more on arable
land. I must now have been two miles inside Holland, but now again I
heard a patrol. This time a cyclist dashed along the road on hearing
me, I suppose, and once again the same curlew noises began to spread
themselves around me.

However, this time I knew about them and pushed on extremely rapidly,
cutting across country and keeping to the cornfields where I knew I
should never be followed and be very difficult to catch.

I soon left this danger behind, and then struck a pavé road and a
railway line. The sleepers were wooden, whereas in Germany they are
iron.

I felt now that I was across, but continued steadily on my way. Seeing
a great number of powerful lights in front of me I made for them, and
eventually reached them, to find that they belonged to a factory
working at top pressure. Around this factory straggled a large
village.

_Tuesday, 3rd July._ Here I found no guards and sat down to wait for
daylight to show me the language of that village as indicated on the
advertisements in the shop-windows. I had got in here at 3.30 a.m. and
at 4.30 knew that the words in the shop-windows were Dutch and not
Boche. What a great feeling of relief and rest it was!

The first man I saw was a soldier on a bicycle, to whom I made myself
known. He was very quick to find me breakfast at the cottage of a
fellow soldier of his. The latter refused all payment, and was an
excellent fellow. Later I reported myself to the local policeman, and
while talking to him heard Fox's voice. He had arrived two hours after
me, after crossing the frontier a mile to the north of where I had
passed the line. We were delighted to see each other, but at the time
were not so tremendously struck by the fact that we had come together
again. Of course it was an extraordinary thing to happen really, but
we only realised that later.

At the moment we only thought of the fact that we were both safely
across and would be home in due course, and that we had had the most
marvellous luck that could well have come our way.

Fox had covered this distance, roughly a hundred and seventy miles as
we did it, in twelve and a half days, and I had taken thirteen days
and a few hours.



CHAPTER XIV

CONCLUSION


Breakfast was given us by the Dutch police official who had been our
welcomer. They were very kind to us at his house, and we managed to
get a small wash and we attempted to make ourselves look a little more
respectable before going on to Rotterdam.

It was the first time I had seen a mirror for fourteen days, and when
I saw what it told me I got a fright. A filthy, scrubby object met my
gaze, and I was not sorry to get a shave that afternoon at the town
before proceeding, and we stayed for the night and got baths.

We met nothing but kindness here.

Arriving at Rotterdam at noon next day, we said goodbye to our Dutch
policeman and came under the excellent care of the British Consul
there.

We landed in England after an uneventful voyage.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are a few remarks to be made in conclusion.

Our phenomenal luck was the prime factor in making our attempt
successful. Without that all-important item, attempt after attempt may
be made without anywhere nearly approaching a success.

Our officer-prisoners, as a whole, by continuing their numerous and in
many cases desperate attempts to escape, are doing a service to the
country, and although nominally counted out of all useful work are
doing valuable work, by causing the Germans to employ more guards to
watch them than might otherwise be the case.

Prisoners are bound to be taken from all armies, and the unfortunates
who have to undergo years of captivity should have the sympathy of
all thinking persons. I myself feel great sympathy with those Germans
who did two hundred miles in an open boat in their attempt to regain
their country, and whom we brought back to more durance vile.

It is hardly sporting on the part of those people who declare that we
should deal harshly with Germans who break away from their camp in
this country. Fortunately, by agreement with the German Government,
all heavy punishments for attempted escapes have been removed, so
"the" one great pastime of prisoners of war will not cost so dear in
future.


  PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. LTD.
  AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, GLASGOW.

       *       *       *       *       *

    +-----------------------------------------------------------+
    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page  39: innoculation replaced with inoculation          |
    | Page 178: warner replaced with warmer                     |
    |                                                           |
    | Note: On page 183 the word 'started' in the sentence "the |
    | original report from the camp must have started the       |
    | existence of two separate escapes" would mean proposed in |
    | this context (see Webster's Revised Unabridged            |
    | Dictionary, 1913 online).                                 |
    |                                                           |
    +-----------------------------------------------------------+

       *       *       *       *       *





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