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Title: My Escape from Donington Hall - Preceded by an Account of the Siege of Kiao-Chow in 1915
Author: Plüschow, Gunther, Chary, Pauline de
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: KAPITÄNLEUTNANT GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW]



                     MY ESCAPE FROM DONINGTON HALL



                            MY ESCAPE FROM
                            DONINGTON HALL

                     PRECEDED BY AN ACCOUNT OF THE
                      SIEGE OF KIAO-CHOW IN 1915

                      BY KAPITÄNLEUTNANT GUNTHER
                      PLÜSCHOW, OF THE GERMAN AIR
                    SERVICE. TRANSLATED BY PAULINE
                               DE CHARY

                    JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD.

                          LONDON      MCMXXII



     PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY MORRISON AND GIBB LTD., EDINBURGH



                       CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                             PAGE

     I. THE JOYS AND SORROWS OF A FLYING-MAN           1

    II. BEAUTIFUL DAYS IN KIAO-CHOW                   20

   III. THREAT OF WAR—MY TAUBE                        30

    IV. SOME JAPANESE JOKES                           56

     V. MY WAR RUSE                                   63

    VI. HURRAH!                                       72

   VII. THE LAST DAY                                  79

  VIII. IN THE SLIME OF THE CHINESE RICE-FIELD        91

   IX. MR. MACGARVIN’S PTOMAINE POISONING            100

    X. CAUGHT!                                       128

    XI. BEHIND WALLS AND BARBED WIRE                 142

   XII. THE ESCAPE                                   184

  XIII. BLACK NIGHTS ON THE THAMES                   193

   XIV. STILL AT LARGE                               208

    XV. THE STOWAWAY                                 233

   XVI. THE WAY TO FREEDOM                           236

  XVII. BACK IN THE FATHERLAND!                      240



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  KAPITÄNLEUTNANT GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW                        _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

  FACSIMILE OF NOTICE IN THE _DAILY CHRONICLE_ AFTER
  THE ESCAPE                                                         204

  FACSIMILE OF NOTICE CIRCULATED IN THE PRESS A WEEK
  AFTER THE ESCAPE                                                   208

  GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW IN THE DISGUISE OF A DOCK-LABOURER, IN
  WHICH HE ESCAPED                                                   230



                     MY ESCAPE FROM DONINGTON HALL



                     MY ESCAPE FROM DONINGTON HALL



CHAPTER I

THE JOYS AND SORROWS OF A FLYING-MAN


IT was in the month of August of the year 1913 when I arrived in my
native town, Schwerin. I had stayed several weeks in England, where
I had devoted days to the visit of museums and the beautiful art
collections, as well as to excursions in the vicinity of the capital.
At that time I did not foresee how useful the latter would prove to me
two years hence.

During the whole journey I was labouring under an inner excitement and
disquiet which I could not throw off, and when I arrived in Schwerin
one question only burned on my lips, and yet I did not dare put it to
my uncle who fetched me from the station. For the new Naval List of
autumn promotions and appointments might be issued any day, and I was
on the tiptoe of expectation as to whether the wish I had cherished for
years was at last to be gratified.

My uncle’s question: “Do you know where they’ve put you?” gave me an
electric shock.

“No.”

“Well, then, hearty congratulations—Naval Flying Corps!”

I was so overjoyed that I would like to have turned a somersault in
the middle of the street, but I refrained from fear of upsetting my
fellow-citizens.

So I had got my wish after all!

The last days of my leave passed in a flash, and I gaily returned
to the Naval College in order to complete my course of a year and a
half as Inspecting Officer; but I never packed my trunks with greater
pleasure than when bound for my new destination.

Just a few days before my departure one of my brother officers called
out to me: “I say, have you heard the latest news where you’re off to?”

“Yes; Flying Corps.”

“Good Lord, man! You don’t know your own luck—why, you’re off to
Kiao-Chow.”

I was speechless, and probably looked as stupid as I felt.

“Yes; Kiao-Chow! And in the Flying Corps! You lucky devil—to be the
First Naval Flying Officer at Kiao-Chow!”

It is hardly surprising that I refused to believe this until I received
the official confirmation. But it was true. I had tremendous luck!

I had to wait three months longer at Kiel; but at last, on the 1st of
January 1914, I found myself in my beloved Berlin. But there was no
holding me; I was at Johannisthal on the 2nd of January already, and
thought I could start flying on the spot. My experience, however, was
that of the majority of flying-pupils. I learnt for the first time the
time-honoured principle of flight: “Keep cool; who wants to fly must
above all things learn to wait.”

Wait, wait, and once more wait. Eighty per cent of the science of
flying consists in waiting and holding oneself in readiness.

Winter had come and covered the aerodrome with a deep, white carpet,
making flying impossible. For weeks every morning I had the hope that
the snow would melt at last, and every afternoon I returned home
disappointed.

In February at last the weather changed. On the 1st of February I sat
happily in my Taube, and for the first time rose into the glorious
clear winter air. It was beautiful now; and every day our schooling
progressed.

Flying suited me, and I grasped it quickly. And I was very proud that
on the third day I was allowed to fly alone. Two days later, on a
beautiful Saturday afternoon, my untiring instructor, Werner Wieting,
asked me whether I would not care to create a nice little record by
passing my examination as pilot. I enthusiastically agreed.

Ten minutes later I sat in my machine, circling gaily in the prescribed
curves. It was a real joy to keep going in the lovely winter air. And
when I achieved a perfect landing, which concluded my examination, and
my teacher proudly shook me by the hand and congratulated me, I felt
extremely happy and filled with a sensation of inner satisfaction.

At last I was a pilot. The school-stage was over, and from now onwards
I could fly daily on one of the big 100 h.p. machines.

One particular undertaking was to be the source of much pleasure to me.
Rumpler had just completed a monoplane which was specially designed
for climbing. It now became our aim to achieve a high-altitude flight
record. The famous pilot, Linnekogel, was to fly the machine, and he
asked me to accompany him as observer. It was only natural that I
accepted with delight.

On one of the last days in February we started on our first trial trip.
Warmly wrapped up against the severe cold, we sat in our machine, and
many eyes followed us with envy as our bird rose in the air with the
lightness of a dragon-fly. Watch in hand, I noted the altitude, and
after fifteen minutes we had already reached 2000 metres, which at that
time was considered an extraordinarily good performance. But after that
we only progressed slowly. The atmosphere became bumpy, and we were
flung about like feathers by violent eddies or bumps. After an hour we
had at last reached 4000 metres, when with a popping and spluttering
noise the motor began to run irregularly, and stopped altogether after
a few seconds. We now descended in spirals towards the earth, and some
minutes later the machine stood unharmed on the flying-ground.

The cold had been too great, and the motor was simply frozen—a
circumstance which nobody had foreseen. New improvements were promptly
added. After a few days we started again on the same adventure, but
this time better luck seemed in store for us. We climbed steadily and
securely 4000 metres, 4200, 4500 metres. Thank God, our last record was
broken! The cold was well-nigh unbearable, and I am convinced that the
thickest hide would have been no protection against it.

4800, 4900 metres! 400 more and our object was attained. But the
machine seemed bewitched, and refused to climb another metre! All our
attempts to induce an extra effort failed. We were running short of
petrol, and the engine gave out completely this time.

An altitude of 4900 metres! We landed, without a single drop of petrol,
nearly frozen to ice. We had not achieved _all_ we had set out to do;
however, it was a good result. We had won, and won brilliantly, the
German high-altitude record.

But success made us ambitious. At the beginning of March weather
conditions again improved sufficiently to allow us to try our luck
once more. More warmly clad than last time, and fitted out with
thermometers, though without an oxygen apparatus, we started on our
third attempt.

We reached the first altitude with ease. The sky was covered with huge
clouds, the air icy. When we rose through the bank of clouds into the
glorious sunshine we had a beautiful experience. We suddenly saw a
radiantly shining Zeppelin, which was likewise attempting a flight at
high altitude.

What a marvellous meeting—3000 metres up in the air! Far away
from toiling humanity, high up above daily strife and pain, the
two birds of the air—striking evidence of Germany’s strength and
enterprise—saluted each other.

We flew several times round our big brother, and waved our hand to him
in friendly greeting.

But after that we had to apply ourselves seriously to our task and work
strenuously in order to attain our objective. After an hour we had
gained an altitude of 4800 metres, after that 4900, my barograph soon
showed 5000, and the propeller hummed its monotonous melody. Linnekogel
veered quietly and methodically. The thermometer rose to 37 degrees
Celsius; but we paid no attention to the cold. Only the air became
rarefied. A slight sensation of drowsiness came over me, and my lungs
only functioned in quick, short gasps. Every movement became irksome.
Even to turn round towards the pilot who sat behind me seemed a huge
effort.

The sky had cleared and looked glorious. The cloud-banks had vanished,
and we could distinguish our capital lying far below us in the blue
distance like a black spot, on which, however, we could still note the
straight line of the Charlottenburger Chaussee, culminating in the
thoroughfare Unter den Linden.

I was so carried away by this view that for some time I paid no
attention to either watch or barograph. But I suddenly realized my
omission with a start. Twenty minutes had passed since I had registered
my barograph at 5000 metres, and by now we should have beaten our
record. But I was terribly disappointed to see that the needle still
indicated 5000. At the same time, Linnekogel began signalling to me to
look for the aerodrome, pointing downwards with his hand. That was too
bad. I turned away disgustedly, and, when Linnekogel failed to notice
it, I kicked his shin with none too much gentleness. I likewise spread
out my five fingers and pointed upwards. This meant: Higher, higher! We
have only got to 5000 metres!

Linnekogel only laughed. He gripped my hand, shook it hard, and opened
and shut the five fingers of his right hand twice. I really thought
he had gone dotty. And what confirmed me in my opinion was that
Linnekogel throttled the engine. We were just above Potsdam, and glided
towards the aerodrome of Johannisthal. It was now my job to find the
landing-place. And sixteen minutes later we stood safe and sound before
the Rumpler-hangars, joyfully acclaimed by crowds of spectators.

We had done it! The world’s record was broken with 5500 metres.

The flight had only lasted an hour and three-quarters in all. We stood
proudly amongst our less fortunate fellow-mortals who had remained on
terra firma. Linnekogel was right. My barograph had frozen, whilst
his—better protected—resisted the high temperature.

The days passed, and the time came when I had to leave my country.

My Taube, which had been specially constructed for Kiao-Chow, neared
its completion, and with a curious feeling I took it out on its trial
flight, after it had fulfilled the requisite conditions for acceptance.
I was conscious that it was the most beautiful flying-machine in the
world.

But my ambition was not yet realized. It seemed imperative that before
I left for the Far East I should carry out an important overland flight
in Germany.

I was lucky. My request met with ready response from Herr Rumpler,
and he kindly allowed me the use of one of his aeroplanes for a
several days’ flight over Germany. I quickly passed my examination as
field-pilot, and at the end of March, one fine morning at 7 a.m., I
sat in my well-equipped Taube, and in the seat in front of me, tall
and slim, my good friend Oberleutnant Strehle of the War Academy as
observer.

It was the first time he had ever been in an aeroplane. But I think he
will never forget his first flight as long as he lives.

We started brilliantly. And proudly I took off, until having reached
an altitude of 500 metres I proceeded in a northerly direction.
Everything went well. We passed over the Havel lakes, sighted Nauen;
but suddenly the atmosphere became thick and murky and our bad luck
set in. We were wrapped in a thick fog and could see nothing of the
ground. For the first overland flight of my young life it was a tall
order. But, with the fine confidence of the novice, I consoled myself
with the thought that courage was everything—even if things couldn’t
help getting worse! And I flew calmly into the thick fog, directing
myself by my compass towards the north, as our objective was Hamburg.
After two hours we could make out the ground again at a distance of 300
metres below us, and who can describe our joy on espying a beautiful,
large, ploughed field! I glided down gently, just as though it were an
aerodrome, and landed safe and sound in the middle of the field. People
came running from all sides, and my joy was great when I learned that
we were on good Mecklenburg soil, and exactly where, according to my
own and my observer’s calculations, we had expected to find ourselves.
It was a holiday, and we afforded the villagers a free entertainment.

As soon as it cleared up, we decided to depart. But the soft soil
held the wheels fast, and it was impossible to rise. With shrieks of
merriment, and many a rough jest which we had to accept, the willing
spectators trundled the giant bird over the field.

After we had cut down a few trees, we had to negotiate a ditch and
another field. Though we now intended to depart, we were only allowed
to do so after partaking of most excellent coffee and pound-cake.

After a mighty hand-shaking all round, and shouting themselves hoarse
with endless “Hurrahs,” with much waving of handkerchiefs, we started
off on a northerly course.

But our joy was short-lived, for fifteen minutes later we were again
in the midst of grey fog-banks. After two hours I found the situation
getting unpleasant, for the confounded motor began to choke and spit,
and was either 500 revolutions short or registered 200 too many.

I examined my landing-gear and valves, and noticed to my horror that my
provision of petrol was diminishing with hideous rapidity. I kept my
machine balanced as well as possible, and glided down to a height of
300 metres.

But, oh, Lord! The mist lifted a little and I could see where I
was—exactly over the river Alster at only 300 metres’ altitude, and
this with a motor that was running dry, and with no idea where to look
for the aerodrome of Fuhlsbüttel. There was only one thing to do—and
that was to keep calm and cool! Above all, to get away from the town
and thus avoid imperilling human lives. I pencilled these words on a
scrap of paper and passed them to my observer: “We must land within
five minutes or we shall take a cold bath, as we have no more petrol.”
He peered about him and suddenly pointed joyfully to a cemetery which
lay right under us. Good old chap! He had no idea of our predicament
and could not guess what unconscious irony lay behind his gesture.

We had already dropped 200 metres. The engine was working by fits and
starts; the level of the petrol showed 10 litres. But I was pleased.
For we had now left the town behind us, and though a smooth landing was
impossible, amongst all these suburban gardens, at least I hoped to
avoid killing anyone. At such times every second seems an eternity, and
my thoughts chased each other across my brain. But more than ever I had
to show iron determination and self-control.

My observer suddenly started waving his hand and pointing forwards.
And even now I can see his sparkling eyes shining at me through his
goggles.

The sheds of the Fuhlsbüttel aerodrome, shimmering in the rays of the
setting sun faintly encircled by the mist, lay before us.

Hurrah! We were saved.

Who can describe my joy? With my last litre of petrol I described a
loop round the aerodrome and, gliding down in a steep spiral, landed.

I nearly fell on my observer’s neck, so happy did I feel. The dear old
chap had no inkling of the danger in which we had been, and was very
surprised when I told him about it. Even now, when I know what flying
means, I go cold when I think of this first flight. I soon found out
what had happened. The lower part of the carburettor was damaged, and
the petrol leaked through the fracture with each throb of the engine.
This also explained the rapid sinking of the petrol and the irregular
working of the engine. To this day I cannot understand why there was no
fire.

After spending three days with dear friends in Bremen the new
carburettor arrived in Hamburg. Now, we wanted to move on to our next
destination—Schwerin in Mecklenburg.

On a rainy, stormy afternoon we settled ourselves in our fully equipped
aeroplane. I started the engine and took on full throttle.

To-day I would only fly in such weather if I absolutely could not
help it. But at that time I was still imbued with all the _naïveté_
and enthusiasm of a young pilot. But we had not long to wait for new
developments. The machine, which was too heavily freighted, could not
rise—gusts of wind threw it from side to side like a ball—and I would
have turned back with pleasure. But at that height it was impossible.

And now came the first houses of Hamburg—it was impossible to rise
above them. I was flying at 60 metres when I saw a small field.
Throttling my engine, I got ready to land, but at the same moment I
was caught in a squall and felt the aeroplane slide away under me. The
thought went through my mind, “Careful, you are falling!” and I opened
up my engine momentarily in order to weaken the shock. But at the same
moment I felt a sharp jerk, and the machine stood on its head as if
some one were tilting it downwards.

What followed only took seconds. I pulled at my lever, shut off the
petrol, and at the same time received a sharp, heavy blow. I clutched
convulsively at my steering-wheel, and flew into the air, hitting my
head against some part of the machine.

A deathly silence reigned around me.

Deep darkness; from which I was only roused by feeling a stream of
pungent liquid pouring over my face.

I lay motionless, my head pressed forward, my body huddled together,
feet sticking out. But suddenly I realized my position with a start,
and, obsessed by the fear of the machine catching fire at any moment,
I tried to free myself from my cramped position, until I succeeded
in switching off the ignition. At last I gradually regained complete
consciousness of my surroundings, and my first thought was for my
poor observer. I felt sure that as he sat in front he must have borne
the brunt of the first shock and was probably crushed to a pulp, as
the fuselage had splintered under the impact. As no sound broke the
silence, I gasped at last—for I was so squeezed in that I could hardly
breathe:

“Strehlchen, are you alive?”

A dreadful pause; no answer.

On repeating my question, I heard at last: “I say, what has happened?
It is quite dark here—something _must_ have happened!”

Ah, how glad I was! I shouted with the rest of my strength:
“Strehlchen, man, you are still alive—that’s all that matters! What
about your bones? Are they whole?” But the poor chap was lying so
huddled up that he was only able to gasp: “I don’t know. We’ll see
later on.”

Again silence supervened. The petrol flowed in a rich stream from the
tank, which held its full capacity of 170 litres; but after a time,
which seemed an eternity, somebody knocked outside, and a far-away
voice floated to where we lay:

“Well, anybody still alive?”

“Rather,” I called out, “but hurry up, or we shall suffocate in here.”

We heard the machine being lifted, then the grating of spades, and at
last a current of fresh air blew in on us.

“Hold hard!” shouted Strehle. “Try the other way round or you’ll break
my arm.”

Our helpers followed my instructions, and at last I was lifted clear
from my seat, and I lay softly and at ease on an odorous manure heap.
Long-legged Strehle promptly clambered out of the debris, and I have
rarely shaken hands with more pleasure than with my faithful observer.

Dash it all! Things did look bad. The machine had completely toppled
over, and was deeply embedded in the soft manure. The fuselage was
broken in three places; the planes had turned into a tangled mass of
wood, fabric and wire.

But we two were safely out of it. Strehle had sprained his back
slightly, and I had only broken two ribs. That was all. Never again
have I despised a manure heap. May that one and its like flourish for
ever. Sadly and limpingly we covered the rest of the return journey by
train. After that, however, we enjoyed many days of sunshine and light,
full of happy doings and happier memories, which we collected like
flowers of rare beauty and bloom.

And then duty called, and the real voyage began.



CHAPTER II

BEAUTIFUL DAYS IN KIAO-CHOW


FOR days the train took me farther and farther through the steppes and
desert spaces of Russia towards my destination—the Far East.

Mukden at last! We soon passed Peking. Then—Osinanfou! The first
German sounds again smote upon my ear. And then for ten hours we passed
through a beautifully cultivated country full of gardens, fields and
flowers; and at last the train slowly steamed into the station of
Kiao-Chow.

I thus saw it again after six years! Once more I stood on German soil,
in a German city of the Far East!

My brother officers met me. The Mongolian ponies pranced off and
carried me to my new home.

At first we went to Iltis Place, which was our race-course, and was
at the same time destined to become my aerodrome. It was festively
decorated, for all Kiao-Chow had foregathered to watch a big football
match between German sailors and their English comrades from the
English flagship _Good Hope_.

The latter was on a visit at Kiao-Chow, and the game was brilliant and
ended in a draw—one all.

Who could have foreseen this? A short six months hence these same
adversaries opposed each other in a terrible game, which admitted but
of two issues—victory or death. At the battle of Coronel the German
bluejackets sent the English flagship _Good Hope_ to her doom at the
bottom of the Pacific in twenty-seven minutes.

But on that day none knew of the events to come and, united by bonds of
sincere friendship, the German sailors invited their English guests to
their cantonments. Two days later the English Squadron left our port
followed by our Cruiser Squadron under Admiral Count von Spee.

The flags fluttered gaily in the wind, conveying the signals of the two
admirals in command: “Farewell—until we meet again!”

Who could foresee that it would be at Coronel?

Immediately after my arrival, and after I had reported myself
officially, I looked round for my aeroplane, in hopes of being able to
show the amazed citizens of Kiao-Chow my beautiful giant bird. But——!
I had to curb my eagerness, for my machine was sailing jauntily round
India and the steamer only due in July. “What can’t be cured must be
endured,” I said to myself, and now had plenty of time to look round
Kiao-Chow and to choose a house. A delightful little villa, quite close
to the flying-ground, stood vacant, and I promptly took possession of
it with my new comrade, Patzig. I had everything now to make me happy:
my excellent billet at Kiao-Chow—this paradise on earth—work after my
own heart, and, to cap it all, this charming residence, perched high
on an eminence, with a lovely view on to Iltis Place and the distant,
dark blue sea. Apart from this, I belonged to the Cavalry Detachment,
and three happy years lay before me. Who could be more contented
than I? I now set about arranging my house. I had a great number of
plates on interior decoration, and with these I visited a Chinese
cabinet-maker and ordered the furniture. It is marvellous with how much
skill the Chinese are able to imitate our models, in what a short time,
and how cheaply. When, four weeks later, everything was shipshape,
the different pieces standing in their proper places, and the whole
house shining with cleanliness, the masters of the house proudly took
possession of their new abode. Nothing was lacking. Even servants were
provided. If a European wishes to stand well with the Chinese, he must
surround himself with a considerable number of Chinese servants; and
one may affirm it is practically the moral duty of every European to do
so.

Maurice, the cook, in his lovely blue silken Ishang; Fritz, the Mafu
(groom), a perpetual grin on his face, but very concerned about the
welfare of his horses; Max, the gardener, as lazy as a slug; and
August, the pert little “boy,” composed our staff.

To this must be added “Herr” Dorsch and “Herr” Simon.

These two gentlemen were our batmen, who took the fullest advantage of
the custom of the Far East, that a European must do no manual labour in
the presence of a Chinese.

Our house was surrounded by a big garden, which also contained the
stables, the coach-house, the garage and the huts of the Chinese. To
me the most important was my hen-coop. As soon as I arrived I bought
myself a sitting-hen, gave her a dozen eggs to hatch, and when we
entered our house we already had seven chickens.

Poultry is cheap in China. The hen cost fourpence, a duck or a goose a
shilling, and in a short time I had a poultry-yard of fifty birds.

And, as I had also become a cavalryman, I had, of course, acquired a
horse. One of my friends had a ripping little roan. We soon clinched
our bargain, and “Fips” was transferred to my stables. “Fips” was a
delightful animal, a good service-horse, yet excellent for hunting and
polo, which did not prevent him from leaving me in the lurch at the
beginning of the Kiao-Chow siege. I had ridden out into the territory
the day before we were shut up in the fortress, and he took fright at
some shrapnel which burst close to us, and so ran over to the enemy.

Life in the East was very monotonous for the Europeans. Very little
socially, no music, no theatre—things one misses. One’s only
consolation is that one lives better than at home, and sport makes up
for a great deal. I took up polo with enthusiasm, and as soon as I had
accustomed myself to the unusual pitching and tossing to which my horse
subjected me I was very successful.

In mid-July my longing was stilled by the arrival of the steamer
which brought the aeroplanes. As soon as the huge crates stood in the
quay, my men were already engaged in freeing from their dark prisons
my poor birds born for sunshine and air. As they were too heavy, the
unpacking had to be done on the spot. The Chinese crowd stood around us
and gaped. When we had got everything out of the crates, a triumphal
procession was formed, bearing the two aeroplanes, then three vehicles
with the planes and another two with the component parts. The horses
started, and we proudly passed through the streets of Kiao-Chow, and
entered in triumph the aerodrome of the Iltis Place.

Now there was an end to peace. Day and night we worked at the erection
of the machine, and two days later, in the early dawn, with no one
awake, my aeroplane stood ready on the aerodrome, and, opening up the
engine full, I shot into the clear sea-air.

I shall never forget my first flight at Kiao-Chow. The aerodrome was
extraordinarily small, only 600 metres long and 200 metres wide, full
of obstacles surrounded by hills and rocks. I was only to learn later
how very difficult starting and landing were made hereby. My friend
Clobuczar, an Austrian ex-aviator—who now served on the _Kaiserin
Elisabeth_—once said to me: “Do you call this an aerodrome? It is at
best a children’s playground. I have never seen anyone who could fly in
such a confined place.” I felt the same way about it. And in Germany I
should have only used it for an emergency landing.

But nothing could be done. It was the one place in the whole
Protectorate; all the rest was composed of wild mountains cleft by
deep ravines. But on that glorious, sunny morning I only thought of my
flight, and frightened the placid inhabitants of Kiao-Chow out of their
beauty-sleep with the humming of my propeller. But, when it came to
landing, I certainly felt a little queer, for the field was decidedly
small, and I slowly circled round, getting gradually lower—thus
putting off the critical moment. However, I could not stay up in the
air for ever, so I pulled myself together, shut off the engine, and
stood on the field a moment later after a secure landing. Now I knew
where I was. And the rest of the morning was spent in my aeroplane.

After that more work was in store for me. The second machine, also
a Rumpler-Taube, which was to be flown by my colleague, Leutnant
Müllerskowski, of the battalion of Marines, had to be erected and got
into working order. After two days, on the 31st of July 1914, it was
ready in the afternoon. Müllerskowski entered his aeroplane and, after
receiving my parting instructions based on my previous experience of
the flying-field, he took off.

But fortune did not smile on him.

His machine was only a few seconds in the air, and had just reached
an altitude of 50 metres—the critical spot where the aerodrome and
solid earth end in a steep cliff with a sheer drop into the sea—when
it suddenly turned over on the wing, and we could watch it nosing down
with appalling rapidity towards the rocks.

We hastened as fast as we could to the spot. Matters looked bad. The
machine was completely wrecked, and between the fragments we found
Müllerskowski. We brought him, seriously injured, to the hospital,
where he had to lie until shortly before the end of the siege. Of the
aeroplane nothing remained.

In the meanwhile July had come, and brought with it the loveliest
weather, most radiant sunshine, and the bluest of skies. It was
Kiao-Chow’s best month.

The bathing season was at its height. There were many charming ladies,
mostly from the European and American settlements in China and Japan,
visiting the “Ostend of the Far East” and enjoying the beauty of
Kiao-Chow.

Amusement was the order of the day. Motor drives, riding-parties, polo
and tennis filled the free hours, and in the evenings dancing held
undisputed sway. There were many Englishwomen amongst the women, and
our relations were most pleasant and cordial.

For the beginning of August we had challenged the English Polo Club at
Shanghai to a match when, on the 30th of July—like a bolt from the
blue—came the order warning us of “Danger of war!”



CHAPTER III

THREAT OF WAR—MY TAUBE


I REMEMBER it as if it were yesterday. In the early hours of the
morning an orderly arrived at our villa and brought Patzig and
myself the order to report at once to the Divisional Commander, as
“Protection” had been ordered. We naturally imagined this only to be
a manœuvre, and grumblingly repaired to our rendezvous. But there we
received confirmation of the hardly credible news. And, with doubt
still in our hearts, we hastened to our batteries and began the
necessary preparations.

The order, “Threatening danger of war,” which arrived next day, brought
us certainty at last. It was followed on the 1st of August by the
mobilization, on the 2nd by the declaration of war against Russia, and
on the 3rd by that against France.

It is impossible to describe those days. And for this reason: here we
were, a German Colony, a German fortress, the greater proportion of
the Kiao-Chow population consisting of officers and soldiers. Moreover,
to judge by externals, Kiao-Chow had become international. Russians,
French and English lived with us as our guests. It was a cross-current
of opinions and feelings, such as could hardly have been found
elsewhere.

The main question—I should like to say _the_ question—which occupied
all our minds was: Will there be war with England? Only those who have
lived in the East can judge what this question meant to us.

On the 2nd of August we were informed of our offer to England. I rode
out that day with an English lady, and it was natural that this subject
should form the chief topic of conversation. My companion’s opinion, as
that of all her friends, was that a war between England and Germany was
unthinkable, as it would sound the death-knell of the prestige of the
white race, and give the yellow Jap the opportunity of gathering the
fruits of our dissension.

Our minds, of course, were filled with this contingency. The tension
was even worse than during the first days of mobilization. And when,
on the 4th of August, we got the news that war had been declared
against England, it came as a deliverance—the die was cast in Europe!

It is impossible to pretend that we felt particularly happy: quite
the contrary. Again and again we remembered that we were far away
in Kiao-Chow, whilst at home those lucky devils, our brothers
and comrades, were rejoicing to the full in the glorious days of
mobilization. _They_ were going to war against a world of enemies,
_they_ were to be allowed to defend our holy and beloved Fatherland,
their wives and children, whilst we sat here, powerless to help! The
thought alone was enough to drive us mad. For we knew that neither
English, Russian nor French, by whom we were so greatly outnumbered,
would find the courage to attack us here. However, the hope persisted:
“Perhaps they will!” Oh, what a warm reception we would have given them!

Of course no one for a moment thought of Japan!

In the midst of all the work which the days of mobilization brought
in their wake, we did not forget our guests. Nearly all of them were
enemies, but they remained our guests.

Their excitement was comprehensible. The more so, as news of the
absolutely brutal treatment of the Germans by the English in the
British Colonies was already reaching us.

It was natural that we should break off our relations with the
foreigners, but it was also a matter of course—and I should
particularly like to point this out to the English—that all foreign
subjects were treated with a consideration to be expected from “Huns”
alone.

The foreigners were informed that they could stay on or depart from
Kiao-Chow without any let or hindrance, and that the Governor would
give them due warning at what time they would be expected to leave
the Colony. It was only requested that no one should move beyond
the confines of the city, go near the fortifications, or carry on
espionage. Let who will compare this with the behaviour of our dear
cousins at Hong-Kong and so many other places in the world. All who
went through these experiences could write volumes about them. One
consolation remained to us: the Daily Wireless from home!

It is difficult to depict the delight with which we received this news.
Usually the telegrams arrived in the evening, when we sat in our little
casino, our only conversation, the war. When the glorious news of
victory reached us, our jubilation knew no bounds. But in spite of this
we felt an immense sadness—for we were not with our home armies!

The 15th of August arrived, and with it a communication of such
enormity that we doubted the truth of what we read.

It ran as follows:

 EXTRA EDITION

 “We consider it most important and necessary, with the object of
 maintaining a secure and lasting peace in the Far East, in accordance
 with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty, to take at the present moment
 every necessary measure to eliminate all causes likely to endanger
 peace.

 “First, to withdraw the German warships at once from Japanese and
 Chinese waters, also armed ships of any description, and to dismantle
 those which cannot be withdrawn.

 “Secondly, to surrender the whole Protectorate of Kiao-Chow
 forthwith—not later than by the 13th of September—to the Imperial
 Japanese Authorities without conditions or claims of indemnity, with
 the prospect of eventually returning the same to China.

 “The Imperial Japanese Government announces at the same time that
 should it receive any but an unconditional acceptance from the
 Imperial German Government up to the 23rd of August 1914, to all the
 above-mentioned conditions, it will consider itself obliged to take
 such measures as the situation necessitates.”

Our Governor had written below:

 “It is a matter of course that we can never consent to surrender
 Kiao-Chow to Japan without drawing the sword. The frivolity of the
 Japanese demand admits but of one reply. But it implies that we must
 reckon on the opening of hostilities at the expiration of the date
 fixed. It will be a fight to the finish.

 “Having regard to the gravity of the situation, we must proceed
 without further delay with the evacuation of women and children. Our
 Government will therefore place at their disposal a steamer prepared
 for the reception of 600 passengers, in order to convey them to
 Tientsin this day, Friday morning. It is urged that all who do not
 wish to stay here should take advantage of this opportunity, as well
 as of the trains, which are still running on the Shantung line.

 “Kiao-Chow clears for action!”

We now knew exactly where we were. We had no illusions either as to
the bitterness or the outcome of the coming fight. But never was work
done in a higher or more indefatigable spirit. A titanic task was
completed in these weeks. And, from the oldest officer to the youngest
fifteen-year-old volunteer motorist, one and all combined in placing
their knowledge, their ability, and endeavour at the service of their
love for their country, in order to put Kiao-Chow in a state of defence.

I had experienced particularly bad luck. Three days after
Müllerskowski’s fall I rose in wonderful sunshine to my first important
reconnaissance, and returned in a happy frame of mind to Kiao-Chow,
after having explored the whole Protectorate for hundreds of miles.

I was at an altitude of 1500 metres, and in consequence of the
atmospheric conditions the landing was a particularly difficult one.
When I was about 100 metres over the place, and putting on full engine,
with the object of flying round once more and landing to back, the
engine started knocking and then stopped altogether. I only took a
second to examine my altimeter, but it was sufficient to ascertain that
the machine was no longer capable of landing on the aerodrome.

But I could veer neither to the right nor to the left. On the right
hand there was the Polo Club and a deep ditch, on the left the hotel
and villas.

I knew there was nothing more to be done, but I thought only of one
thing: to keep the engine from harm.

In front of me lay a small wood, and I hoped to be able to negotiate
it. I pulled at the altitude lever, but in the hot, thin air of
the tropics the machine sagged heavily. I just managed to keep my
head clear of the telegraph poles, then drew up my knees, pressed
my feet unconsciously forward, and suddenly I felt a mighty shock,
heard cracking and splintering noises, and collided heavily with the
tank, after which all was silent. But when I looked around me, having
miraculously escaped unhurt, I perceived my Taube with its nose in
the ditch, its little tail high up in the air, and its wings and
under-carriage forming a confused mass of broken wood, wires and canvas.

Oh, my poor little Taube! Would it had not happened exactly on the
third day of the mobilization! I felt quite hopeless. Yet, without
entirely losing courage, I carried the debris to the hangar. Luckily I
had received some reserve propellers and planes from home.

My only hope was that the motor had escaped! I did not possess any
spares, and it would have been impossible to procure them. I made my
way towards the boxes in which the spares were kept, and first opened
those which contained the planes. But, oh, horrors! A foul smell of
decay was wafted into our faces, and, fearing the worst, we prised open
the inner zinc lining.

The sight which met our eyes was perfectly horrible. The box was full
of mouldy lumber. The covering of the planes had rotted. The wing ribs
and the different wooden parts, which had been carefully packed, lay in
a disorderly heap and were covered with a coat of mildew. It was a sad
spectacle. We now opened the case in which were the propellers, where
we found the same conditions. The five propellers had simply ceased to
exist, and had shrunk to such an extent that they could no longer be of
any use. It was a hard nut to crack!

But, without losing courage, my splendid rigger, Stüben, the chief
mechanic, tackled the job, and the same afternoon I sat with Stüben, my
two stokers, Frinks and Scholl, and eight Chinese from the dockyards,
hard at work on the wings.

Thereafter I took the least damaged propeller to the wharf, and was
helped out of my quandary, thanks to the excellent patternmaker K.
who, with the Chinese, constructed a new propeller. This was a real
masterpiece, for it was hewn out of seven thick oak planks which had
been glued together with ordinary carpenter’s glue. The Chinese used
their axes, and fashioned a perfect propeller, copying a model which K.
had set up for them. Though done by hand, their work showed the utmost
care and precision.

It is this propeller I used for all my flights during the siege of
Kiao-Chow.

But we had not remained idle in our sheds. We worked day and night with
the utmost energy, and already, on the ninth day after my accident, my
little Taube stood ready to run out on the aviation field at sunrise.
It is not difficult, though, to understand that my expectations of a
successful flight were not very high. My planes had been reconstructed
from a mass of musty material, and we had to rig them the best we
could, as we had no flat spaces. I have described the erection of the
propeller, which, by the way, made about a hundred revolutions less
than it should have. Besides this, the conditions for flying on this
particular aerodrome were so unfavourable that the choice lay between a
clean start and an irremediable fall.

But I had no business to think of that. We were in the midst of war. I
was the only aviator and had to carry on. And I had luck!

In order to lighten my machine I had scrapped every bit which I could
do without. Therefore in the beginning my bird rose unwillingly to do
my bidding, but soon I had regained full control over it. Hereafter I
flew proudly, and dropped a message in front of the Governor’s house:
“Aircraft again in perfect order!”

I then began my long reconnoitring flights. I traversed the whole
Protectorate, and flew hundreds of kilometres beyond it over the
distant country, watching the ways of approach, and spying out the wild
rocks of the coast, in order to see whether the enemy was near—or
landing. These were the most beautiful expeditions of my life.

The air was so clear and transparent, the sky of such a pure azure,
and the sun shone divinely and lovingly on the beautiful earth, on the
cliffs and mountains, and the deep sea which hemmed the coast. My soul
was athirst for beauty, and revelled in the marvellous sights of Nature
for hours on end.

But I was not wholly without care. Already on my second flight I
was able to ascertain that the glued grooves had split, and that
by a miracle alone the propeller had not been torn asunder. It
had, therefore, to be disconnected and freshly sized. This little
performance had to be repeated after every flight. As soon as I
returned, the propeller was taken off, I drove with my car to the
wharves, there it got a fresh coat of mastic, was screwed under a
press, and in the evening I fetched it, fixed it on the machine, and
started afresh the next day.

But, as the propeller insisted on splitting regularly, I pasted the
whole leading edge with canvas-covering and sticking-plaster, which
helped a little towards holding it together.

At Kiao-Chow, over and above my regular duties, I was also in charge of
the captive-balloon section, which I jokingly called my “swelled-headed
competitors!”

Before I left Berlin I had passed through a training course for
dirigibles, learning to pilot airships, in addition to some practice
with an observation balloon, and different practical exercises like
mending balloon-covers, etc.

The section, which was brand-new, consisted of two huge balloons of
2000 cubic metres each, a balloon-bag and all the necessary accessories
for producing gas and for the service of the airships.

A petty officer, who had also had some experience with airships, was
the only person, besides myself, who knew anything about it. After we
had unpacked all the cases, we went very carefully about filling the
balloons. And we were extremely proud when the first fat yellow sausage
lay stoutly lashed to the ground. I, personally, fastened every line
with my petty officer, and soon after this the yellow monster was
swaying lightly under the blue canopy of the sky. We hauled it down,
and I clambered alone into the gondola for the first ascent. On this
occasion I very nearly started on my complicated voyage to Germany,
for, when the order “Let go!” was given, the rope, which had been
measured out too generously, suddenly stiffened and got mixed up with
the cable, whilst the balloon shot out perpendicularly 50 metres into
the air. The thought that it was going to break away flashed through
my mind. A violent jerk nearly threw me out of the gondola. But as
the steel cable was also quite new it luckily held. So I was none the
worse, except for having gained some fresh experience.

I then started drilling and instructing my crew, and soon the show was
being run with the efficiency of old hands.

Our Governor expected great things of the observation balloon. It was
hoped that it would be of great service in reconnoitring the approach
of the enemy and the disposition of his artillery. These hopes were
doomed to disappointment, and my fears that the erection of the
balloons would serve no useful purpose proved only too justified.

Though I was able to send up the kite balloon to 1200 metres from the
ground, we did not succeed in visualizing the range of hills which lay
behind our fortified positions, thus observing the enemy’s movements
and, above all, the emplacement of his heavy siege artillery. And this
would have been of capital importance to the defenders of Kiao-Chow.

The Protectorate of Kiao-Chow lies on a narrow strip of promontory
which stretches out into the sea, with the town of Kiao-Chow framed
on three sides by the sea and partitioned off from the mainland by a
chain of mountains which has the form of a semicircle. They are the
Moltke, Bismarck and Iltis Mountains. Our chief position nestled among
their crannies, and at their foot lay the five infantry works with the
barbed-wire entanglements. Next came a wide valley, which was bisected
by the river Haipo, and next a new range of hills, which also stretched
from sea to sea and were doomed to bring disaster upon us. Behind them
there was another broad valley surmounted by the wild rocky tips of the
Lau-Hou-Schan, the Yung-Liu-Chui and the Lauchau.

It was most important for us to ascertain what was happening in the
open country, as since the 27th of September we had been completely
shut off behind our barbed wire. We were, above all, anxious to find
out _where_ the enemy kept his siege artillery and, as we had been
disappointed in the reliability of our observation balloon, nothing
remained but an occasional smart reconnaissance and—my aeroplane!

The days of August sped by in ceaseless labour. Kiao-Chow and its
approaches became unrecognizable, and defensive positions for artillery
were opened. To our sorrow the delightful little wood, which had been
planted with so much care, the pride of Kiao-Chow, was felled by our
axes to clear the zone of fire. How sad to destroy at one blow the
loving work of “Kultur”!

The 23rd of August, the day on which the Japanese ultimatum expired,
broke at last, and it is comprehensible that no answer was vouchsafed
to the yellow Jap. The password was: “Go for them!” And this was our
dearest wish.

I remember that, on the following morning, as I looked out from my
balcony over the wide blue sea I noticed at a distance of some nautical
miles several black shadows which slowly moved to and fro. I was even
able to distinguish torpedo-boat destroyers through my telescope.
Patzig, who came at a run to join my observations, also convinced
himself of this. Of course—was it not the 24th? So the gang was
blockading us! And the Japanese had actually dared to attack the German
Empire!

The fight of a yellow race, abetted by a handful of Englishmen, against
_one_ German regiment on a war footing had begun.

Immediately on the expiration of the ultimatum a troop of one thousand
men moved into the extreme outposts of the territory, in order to
protect it as well as the roads of approach. This little detachment
admirably fulfilled its task. It had to defend a tract of land which
was 30 kilometres wide, and then another one of 10 kilometres, with
quite insufficient artillery. A thousand men had to replace two army
corps! They fought stubbornly and courageously, sometimes only able
to oppose flying patrols to enemy battalions, retreating step by step
before the fearful odds. Only on the 28th of September were they pushed
back behind the principal retrenchments, which now definitely closed
upon us until the end of the combat.

During the early days of the siege I must say that aeroplanes as well
as aircraft generally were held in small esteem by the responsible
authorities of the Kiao-Chow garrison. This, one must admit, was only
natural, considering our luckless exhibitions. However, a swift change
soon took place. One day I again flew over the south coast of the
Shantung peninsula, on the look out for enemy ships or landing troops.
The coast appeared deserted, and there was nothing to be seen. Much
relieved that we were safe from that side at least, I flew home. Quite
accidentally I went to Government House in the evening to see a comrade
there. There I encountered by chance the head of the General Staff, who
was in a tearing hurry as he had left an important conference at the
Governor’s in order to fetch a book.

He called out to me as he was passing: “Well, Plüschow, did you fly
again?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “I have just returned. I searched the coast for
enemy landing troops for several hours, but there is no sign of them.”

I can still see the astounded expression on our Chief’s face.

“What do you mean? Searched the coast? And only tell us now? Here
we have been deliberating for the last two hours how we can ward
off the large convoys which have been sighted by our scouts in the
Dsin-Dsia-Kou Bay. And you have just come from there, and can produce
such unimpeachable evidence? In you go to the Governor and report at
once!”

The whole conference was now settled in a few words. The scouts’
reports were, of course, inventions. But I was happy, for I had saved
the reputation and the honour of aviation!

And now began my most difficult, but also most beautiful, flights.

I was soon to receive my baptism of fire. It was during the first days
of September, on a Sunday, at an altitude of 1500 metres, far out over
the territory, basking in the sunshine. I suddenly caught sight below
of a fairly important detachment of Japanese, which greeted me with
volleys of infantry and machine-gun fire. I returned home, exhibiting
ten bullet holes in my planes. But, in future, I did not descend below
2000 metres, thus avoiding unnecessary risks to my engine and my
propeller.

But the baptism of fire on land promptly followed.

Shortly afterwards, I motored to Shatsy-Kou, where we had advanced
outposts. I stopped before the house without thought of danger. I was
astonished to notice that all the officers and men were lying flat on
the ground, along a stockade which was erected seawards. They waved
their arms, which I naturally regarded as a greeting, answering them
promptly in the same fashion.

I still sat in my car, when I heard a sibilant whistle sounding close
to my head, followed by an ear-splitting crash not 10 feet away. A
shell had exploded in the masonry of the house, and before I could
recover from my surprise other projectiles followed the first.

I threw myself out of the car and took cover with the others. My
brother officers were splitting with laughter, for, however serious the
situation, I must have looked a funny sight.

We then learned what had happened.

A Japanese destroyer-flotilla lay in front and was trying to destroy
Shatsy-Kou by her fire. We spent the next two hours under shell-fire,
in our cramped and exposed position, without being able either to see
or to move. At midday the Japs made a pause, probably in order to
enjoy their dinner. While we examined the damage done to the house, the
Chinese boys were already eagerly collecting shell-splinters. And, as
we sat down for a moment to a cup of coffee, three small Chinks arrived
with radiant faces, and planked three unexploded shells down in front
of us. It would have made a fine mess if they had gone off then!

We started soon after on our return journey; but as we entered the
first valley new shells exploded behind us—the bombardment was resumed.

A little later Shatsy-Kou had to be evacuated with the whole
Protectorate, and on the 28th of September we retreated behind the
principal retrenchments, and at the same time the first bombardment on
a large scale was started from the sea.

“Some” noise!

In the early morning of that day I sat in my bath in the best of
spirits, refreshing myself before a long flight, when I heard the most
appalling noise. As our artillery had been active day and night, I did
not pay much attention to this additional racket, but attributed it
to the firing of our 28-centimetre howitzer of the Bismarck battery,
which lay at the foot of my villa, and had so far kept silent to
economize our ammunition.

I sent out my batman to see that my aeroplane was kept in readiness.
But after a very few minutes he returned breathless and a little pale,
and reported: “Sir, we must leave the villa at once; we are being
bombarded by four big ships. One of the heavy shells has just landed
near the sheds, but, thank God, the aeroplane is not damaged, and no
one is hurt. But I burnt my fingers. I saw such a beautiful large
splinter, and wanted to carry it away as a souvenir; it was _so_ hot,
but I got it, all the same!” And he beamingly showed me his singed
pocket-handkerchief, which held the huge splinter of a 30-centimetre
shell! But I was already out of my bath, and in two minutes had reached
the aerodrome where, with combined efforts, we pushed my aeroplane into
a more sheltered corner of the field. After that I ran to look at the
bombardment from the Shore-commander’s guard-house.

The latter lay on a hill, from which one had an ideal view of
Kiao-Chow. One could follow the flight of every shell, and from now
onwards, whenever I was not flying, I sat up here during the next
weeks, watching the fight.

The first bombardment of Kiao-Chow took place on the 28th of September,
and was particularly impressive.

The crashing and bursting of the shells, with their accompanying
roar, was accentuated by the echo from the surrounding mountains.
Crash followed upon crash, and we had the impression that the whole
of Kiao-Chow was being turned into a heap of ruins. It was a weird
feeling, but we soon got used to it. One is completely helpless in the
face of exploding shells, and can but wait until all is over, whilst
hoping that one may be mercifully far away from the spot on which they
fall.

How despicable the English must have felt during this bombardment and
those that followed!

The enemy ships stood so far out that our guns could not reach them.
Therefore, they were quite safe. In the van steamed three Japanese
battleships, and under Japanese command, at the rear, the English
battleship _Triumph_.

I wonder whether the English felt proud of their rôle as executioners?

Thank God, the damage caused by the bombardment was not of much
consequence, and from then on we awaited their cannonading with the
greatest calm.

In the evening I witnessed a particularly sad performance. Our
gunboats, _Cormoran_, _Iltis_ and _Luchs_, were sunk by us after they
had been dismantled.

It was a tragic sight. The three ships were fastened together and
towed by a steamer into deep water and there blown up and burnt. It
seemed as if the three ships knew that they were being dragged to their
doom. They looked infinitely sad and helpless, with their bare masts
sticking up heavenwards, and their frames writhed in the fire, as if
they were unwilling to turn into ashes, until the waves swept over them
and put an end to their torment. Our sailors’ hearts were wrung with
pity. These three were followed by _Lauting_ and _Taku_, and, shortly
before our surrender, by the little _Jaguar_ and the Austrian cruiser,
_Kaiserin Elisabeth_, after these two ships had rendered us invaluable
service. Their work fills one of the most glorious pages in the history
of the fight and death of Kiao-Chow.



CHAPTER IV

SOME JAPANESE JOKES


WE were greatly puzzled by the activity of the Japanese besieging army.
After the first bombardment we all thought that the Japanese would try
to carry the fortress by assault, as they could not fail to know how
weak we were, and that but a single wire entanglement stood between
them and us.

The wildest rumours were circulated in our midst: “The Japanese dare
not attack us, as things are going so well for us in Europe!” or “The
Americans are sending their fleet to our assistance, and will force the
Japs to retire!” And then again, “The Japs only want to starve us out;
they want Kiao-Chow to fall into their hands with as little damage as
possible!”

But we never got beyond mere conjectures. Quietly and systematically,
and without our being able to prevent them, the Japanese landed their
troops, constructed roads and railways, brought up heavy artillery and
ammunition, entrenched themselves before our entanglements and slowly
worked towards our defence-line.

I now started on my principal job—to reconnoitre the position of the
enemy’s heavy batteries.

Every day, whenever the weather permitted—and the propeller!—in the
early dawn, as soon as it was light, I started on my travels into
the unknown. And when the sun rose I hung like a silver speck high
up in the ether, circling for hours round the enemy’s positions,
and overlooking the whole of our beloved Protectorate invaded by an
impudent enemy, who meant to corner and destroy us.

My work was hard, but I enjoyed it, and it was crowned with success,
and the enemy’s unceasing efforts to shoot me down convinced me that I
_was_ successful.

As I mentioned before, I was now the only aviator at Kiao-Chow—“the
Master-Bird of Kiao-Chow,” as the Chinese called me. Also I had
but a single Taube at my disposal. I had to be careful and take no
unnecessary risks, otherwise there would have been an end to my job.

This was the way I carried out my reconnoitring.

As soon as I was flying right over the enemy I throttled my engine in
such a fashion that it kept the altitude of its own accord. I then hung
my map on the stick, took a pencil and a notebook, and observed what
was happening below through the space between the planes and the tail.
I let go the stick, and steered solely with my feet.

I then circled round a position until I had thoroughly mastered its
details, made a sketch of them, and entered them in my notebook. I
soon acquired such proficiency that I was able to write and draw
uninterruptedly for an hour or two. When I felt the back of my neck
getting stiff, I turned round and looked down on the other side. I
did this until I was satisfied with my notes, and sometimes I was so
carried away by my work that I had to be warned by a glance at my
petrol-recorder that it was high time I went home.

I always returned the same way. I flew round the wharves and the town
in proud circles, and when I reached my aerodrome I shut off the engine
and shot down to earth in a steep, gliding flight, which landed me safe
and sound in four minutes. For it was necessary to be quick. Infantry
and machine-gun fire were continuously directed at my aeroplane while
it flew over the enemy’s positions; when this proved of no avail, the
enemy used shrapnel, and this was most objectionable.

The Japanese always had new surprises in store for me. One day, for
instance—a day of blue sky and glorious sunshine—as I was returning
from a reconnaissance and about to land, I saw a great number of fleecy
white clouds, which looked perfectly delightful seen from above,
hovering over my aerodrome at an altitude of about 300 metres.

But I soon noticed that the Japanese were trying on one of their
little jokes, for these pretty cloudlets were caused by the firing of
10½-centimetre shrapnels!

There was nothing to be done but to grind one’s teeth and fight one’s
way through. Four minutes later my machine dropped from an altitude of
2000 metres, and I pushed it as quickly as I could under a shed, whose
roof was protected by earth.

I had now to resort to ruse.

Sometimes, when still hovering over the enemy camp, I suddenly shut
off my engine and swooped down perpendicularly on to a corner of my
aerodrome, so that the Japs were convinced that they had winged me. By
the time they recovered from their surprise I was already pushing my
machine into safety, their shrapnel bursting much too late.

But, as I tirelessly returned, the Japanese retaliated by posting two
of their 10½-centimetre batteries so far behind and so much on the side
that their shrapnel easily reached me whilst I was circling over their
heads. It was very unpleasant, and my fate would often have been sealed
but for my nimbleness in taking a sharp turn and thus evading a hit.

The shrapnels then burst so near that in spite of the noise of the
engine I could hear the ugly bark of the explosion and feel the violent
air-pressure that sent my aeroplane rolling like an old barge at sea,
which made observation extremely difficult.

I must say that each time I landed safely I felt an overwhelming pride
and satisfaction in my achievement, and halloed joyously with the full
power of my lungs.

After hours of the greatest exertion and danger, I again felt solid
earth under my feet, and in spite of guns and shrapnel.

As soon as I touched ground my four helpers came on the run, fearless
of danger from the hail of shrapnel, and helped me to stow away my
machine. My faithful dog, Husdent, jumped around them, barking joyously.

And whilst the four were busy getting my aeroplane ready for the next
flight, I already sat at the steering-wheel of my car, all my maps and
reports in my pocket, with Husdent at my side, and again raced along
the road under shrapnel fire to Government House, where my reports were
being eagerly awaited.

I believe anybody will sympathize with my joy and pride when I was
allowed to present my drawings and observations. For on some days I
had been able to discover as many as five or six enemy batteries, and
often my observations filled four pages of the report forms.

The warm handshake with which the Governor and the Head of the Staff
thanked me for my work was reward enough.

And whilst I drove homewards, in order to lunch and take a much-needed
rest, I already heard the thundering of our guns as they hurtled their
iron hailstones into the positions of the enemy just discovered by me.



CHAPTER V

MY WAR RUSE


HOW sad and desolate it now looked in my little house!

Immediately at the beginning of the siege, my good Patzig was obliged
to leave me and to rejoin his 21-centimetre Battery-commander. He had
only luxuriated for four weeks in the possession of our beautiful
little home, and now he sat in his redoubt and fulfilled his duty
until he had fired his last shell and the Japanese, with their heavy
howitzers, had levelled to the ground the whole of his battery.

As soon as the first shot was fired, my Chinese cook, Moritz,
faithlessly left me in the lurch, and one evening I found that also
Fritz, Max and August had vanished without trace.

After a few days a new Chinese cook—Wilhelm—appeared on the scene,
and recounted with emphatic gestures:

“Kind Master, me plenty good cook; me no lun away like bad fellow
Molitz; me havee no fear; me makee plenty good chau-chau.”

I believed him, promised to give him five dollars and more. Things went
fairly well, until one day the first enemy shells burst close to my
house, and Herr Wilhelm as promptly disappeared as his predecessors.

I now sat alone in my deserted home with my faithful batman, Dorsch. We
were the only inhabitants of the whole villa quarter of Iltis Bay.

Not exactly a safe or pleasant spot, for the villas were built on
the hill which carried our chief batteries, and the enemy shells
which whizzed past them landed straight in our midst. But we were
very cautious. That is to say, we left our top floor and settled down
comfortably and safely on the ground floor. As a further precaution we
placed our beds in a corner, in such a way that they were far from a
window, and thus we secured sufficient immunity. It was, however, lucky
that no heavy shell challenged this position.

But I did not remain for long in sole control of the air.

On the forenoon of the 5th of September, under an overcast sky, with
low-hanging clouds, we suddenly heard the purring of a motor, and I
ran home to see what had happened. I was hardly there when an immense
biplane shot into sight close over our heads. I was speechless, and
peered dazedly at the apparition. Soon, however, the first explosions
rent the air, and I now perceived the round red balls under the planes.

It was a Jap!

I must say that I felt rather queer on beholding my huge enemy
colleague floating so near us in the sky. A bright outlook for the
future!

Kiao-Chow regarded the advent of the enemy airman as a most
disagreeable surprise, for no one had expected that the Japs would be
equipped with aircraft.

On the whole, they eventually produced eight aeroplanes, amongst them
four gigantic seaplanes, for whose possession I heartily envied the
Japs. How often in the ensuing weeks did I gaze longingly at them, as
they circled round the town, and wish for one!

The Japs flew well and with extraordinary pluck. It is lucky, however,
that their bomb-dropping was not on a par with it, otherwise it would
have been a bad look out for us. The Japanese bombs were heavy, of
recent construction, and most destructive.

The enemy seaplanes also had a tremendous advantage over us. They
were able to take off at a great distance, without consideration of
the wind, with as much space for turning out as they could wish for;
and when they had ascended with the greatest security to the altitude
of 3000 metres they swooped down upon us, and simply jeered at our
shrapnels and machine-guns.

One of the chief aims of the enemy was to destroy my hangar. Soon
matters became so unpleasant for my aerodrome that one fine day I
decided that it was time to stop my enemy colleagues’ little game.

My real shed lay at the northern end of the ground; it made a splendid
target, and the Japanese knew its location by heart. I now built
unobtrusively a new shed on the opposite side, close to a mountain
slope, covering it with clods of earth and grass, so that nothing of it
could be noticed from above. We then proceeded with deep cunning and
malice to the erection of a bogus aeroplane, with the help of planks,
sailing canvas and tin. From above it looked exactly like my Taube.
And after that, the moment an enemy aviator was in sight, we played a
little comedy.

On some days the doors of my old shed were wide open, and my imitation
Taube sprawled in front of it on the beautiful green grass. On others
the shed was closed and nothing to be seen. Another day my sham machine
sat in a different place, where it could be spotted at once. Now the
enemy aviators arrived and dropped bombs and bombs in their endeavours
to hit the innocent bird. Whilst this was going on we sat in the real
aeroplane, well protected by our roof, holding our sides with laughter
as we saw the bombs seeking their bogus victim.

Once when we had been specially deluged with them, I picked out a fine
splinter from a Japanese aviation bomb, affixed my visiting card to it
and wrote:

 “Kindest greetings to the enemy colleagues! Why do you shy at us with
 such hard objects? If you aren’t careful you will end by hurting us!
 It isn’t done.”

I took this letter on my next flight and dropped it in front of the
Japanese seaplane station.

But this was only to announce my visit.

In the meantime one of our men had been preparing bombs for me. Simply
marvellous specimens! Huge tin boxes of 4 lb. each, on which could
be read in big letters: “Sietas, Plambeck & Co., best Java coffee.”
They were filled with dynamite, horseshoe nails and scrap iron, a lead
spar fixed to the bottom and a fuse at the top. It was exploded by
a sharp iron point which hit the percussion-cap of a cartridge. All
these things seemed pretty uncanny to me, and I handled them with the
greatest caution—always happy when I had done with them. But they
never caused much damage. Once I hit a torpedo boat, and even then it
did not explode; on several occasions I just missed a convoy. And once
I learned through Japanese reports that I had dropped a bomb into the
midst of a Japanese marching column and sent thirty yellow ones to the
nether regions!

I soon got over the first pleasant emotion of bombing. My time was
fully occupied apart from it, and the results did not justify the time
I lost.

I often met my enemy colleagues in the air. I did not hanker for these
meetings, for I could do little with my slow, laboriously climbing
Taube against the huge biplanes which carried a crew of three men.
Above all, I dared not forget that my chief object was reconnoitring,
and after that to bring back my machine to Kiao-Chow in good condition.

Once I was busily engaged on my observations, when my aeroplane began
to pitch and toss. I thought this was due to bumps in the air, caused
by the many steep and rugged mountains of this country which made
flying extraordinarily difficult. Without even looking up, I went on
taking observations, only grasping the control-lever with one hand in
order to keep the aeroplane steady.

After my return I was informed, to my great surprise, that an enemy
plane had flown so closely on top of me that they thought I should be
shot down.

Next time I was more careful. And on sighting one of my enemy
colleagues I followed and shot him down with my Parabellum pistol,
after firing thirty times.

A short time afterwards I nearly shared his fate. I was only at an
altitude of 1700 metres, and in spite of the greatest efforts I could
not get any higher. I was just above the enemy seaplane station as one
of the great biplanes started. I now carried out my reconnaissance,
thinking to myself: “Well, he can bestir himself until he gets up as
high as I!”

But after forty minutes, when I looked on my left over the plane, I saw
the enemy already gaining on me at a distance of only a few thousand
metres. This meant to be on guard and climb higher. But my Taube simply
refused to budge, and I could not gain another yard. A quarter of an
hour only elapsed before the other chap had outdistanced me, and was
coming diagonally across my trail, trying to cut me off from the road
to Kiao-Chow.

It was now a matter for betting who would first reach Kiao-Chow, but I
won the race. When I returned to my aerodrome I simply dived down, and
no sooner did I reach the ground than bombs were bursting all around
us.

It is extraordinary how they sometimes find their mark!

Strict orders had been given at Kiao-Chow that everybody should make
for cover as soon as an enemy airman was sighted. We had only two
casualties—a non-commissioned officer and a Chinese. And that was
quite marvellous enough. On my aerodrome I had about one hundred
coolies, and they always sped to safety. One day, however, a native
remained standing in the middle of the ground, all on his lonesome,
staring at the large bird. Bang! A bomb hurtled through the air and
exploded but a few paces away. The poor devil was badly hit. To have
really bad luck there is no easier way than to be on the spot where
shells and other heavy missiles are flying about.



CHAPTER VI

HURRAH!


HOW did things look at Kiao-Chow in the meantime? The bombardment from
the sea had become a daily occurrence, and soon the land batteries
added their boom to the hellish discord. There was no longer any
safety apart from the bomb-proof redoubts and localities. The firing
became heavier and heavier, and on some days from the sea alone
several hundred 30-centimetre, half-naval shells were shot into little
Kiao-Chow.

On the 14th of October our naval fortifications of Hu-Chuin-Huk were
directly under fire. The enemy ships were far out at sea, and after
the second volley the little outpost was submerged beneath a deluge
of heavy shells. Now volley followed volley. The whole fortifications
disappeared from sight behind the columns of water, flames and smoke,
and the rumbling and crashing of the bursting shells set the earth
a-tremble.

As usual, I stood that morning on the Coast-commander’s look out, about
1000 metres from the fort, and so witnessed this terrifying spectacle
at first hand.

Sometimes the yard-long shell splinters flew whirring and hissing
weirdly over our heads, without our paying any attention to them, as we
were so engrossed by what we saw, which was so stupendous that no words
could fittingly describe it.

We thought with deep sorrow of the brave garrison and of their sure
destruction; but suddenly, in the midst of the heaviest fire, our
old 24-centimetre gun fired one shot, and our field-glasses were
immediately fixed on the enemy ships.

Suddenly a joyful and triumphant “Hurrah!” burst from our lips, for one
of our explosive shells had hit the English warship _Triumph_ plumb in
the middle of her deck. _Triumph_ veered at once and ran away for all
she was worth, and when our second shell sped after her a little later
it was only able to hit the water about 50 metres from her stern.

_Triumph_ steamed away after a few signals, which she exchanged with
the Japanese flagship, and went off to Yokohama for repairs.

The three Japanese ships continued their bombardment—now at a more
respectful distance—so that it was useless to fire any longer with our
old guns, which could not travel half as far.

At midday the bombardment ceased at last, the enemy being justified by
that time in assuming that the fort was destroyed and all its inmates
killed.

The staff of the Coast-commander at once hurried to Fort Hu-Chuin-Huk;
and I also followed in my motor-car.

Still under the impression of the terrible spectacle of the
bombardment, we were most surprised on our arrival to see the whole
garrison merrily tearing round, collecting splinters and admiring the
huge craters which the enemy shells had dug in the ground.

What luck! Not a man wounded, not a gun injured, not a hit on the
bomb-proof rooms!

The whole result of the heavy bombardment amounted to a broken
biscuit-tin and a soldier’s shirt, which was hanging out to dry, and
was torn to shreds! It was strange to think that 51-and 30½-centimetre
guns were used to such purpose!

A heavy shell had passed clean through the thin steel turrets, and lay
peacefully near the gun on the iron plates!

Now we learned the secret of our lucky hit—our guns had in reality
only a carrying range of 160-100. But the gunners had with infinite
pains succeeded in raising the gun several sixteenths of a degree
higher, and so it carried 200 to 300 metres farther.

Having loaded the breech at its highest angle, the brave gunners and
their gallant Battery-commander, Oberleutnant Hasshagen, had quietly
stuck to their guns under the heaviest shell-fire, until at last one
of the ships came within hitting distance. And the best of it was that
it hit the right target! It is a pity that the _Triumph_ ran away so
quickly, otherwise she would not have escaped her fate on that day.
But, for all that, it overtook her a little later.

What we could not achieve was accomplished in the spring of 1915 by our
friend Hersing, when he, with his U-boat, sent this same _Triumph_ to
the bottom of the sea in the Dardanelles, thus avenging the garrison of
Kiao-Chow. We owe him a debt of gratitude for this service.

Ties of sincere friendship bound me to the officers and the garrison of
Fort Hu-Chuin-Huk.

I did not really belong to them, for in the first place my aerodrome
lay close to the fort, and, in the second, they regularly watched my
start, and, above all, my endeavours to get clear of their guns. And
more than once the men stood ready to jump into the sea and to save me,
for they thought I was falling into the water with my machine.

But as often as I was a guest of the remarkable Commander of the Fort,
Kapitänleutnant Kopp, we painted our triumphant return to Germany after
the war in the most glowing colours, and had of course decided that I
should march in with the garrison of Fort Hu-Chuin-Huk.

On the 17th of October, late in the evening, a group of officers
assembled on the Coast-commander’s stand and waited in breathless
suspense for her commander, Kapitänleutnant Brunner, to run the
blockade with his torpedo-boat destroyer S.90.

Two evenings before he had been out in a gallant endeavour to lay mines
on the track of the Japanese ships. To-day he was going to fulfil his
last and most difficult task—to break through the line of the enemy
torpedo-boat destroyers and attack one of the enemy ships. It was a
clear night, and there would be no moon after ten. The time came. Ten
struck, then 10.30—the tension became unbearable. Nothing could be
seen of S.90. Suddenly—it was eleven—we perceived a narrow, grey
shadow which carefully moved on the water under the Pearl Mountains.
And soon our sharp sailors’ eyes recognized the shape of the torpedo
boat. “Good luck to your brave men!” Our hearts accompanied them with
our warmest wishes. The boat disappeared from our sight, and soon the
dangerous moment was at hand, when they would have to break through
the enemy lines. Our eyes were glued in fascination on the open sea,
expecting the flashing of the searchlights and the thunder of the guns
at any moment.

But all was silence.

It was midnight. Another half-hour sped by—we breathed more easily,
for the enemy was still in ignorance of the coming attack. By this time
our boat must have reached the bulk of the fleet. The minutes turned
into hours. No one spoke.

Suddenly at 1 a.m., far away towards the south on the open sea, a huge
fire-column, and then from all sides the lurid, groping fingers of the
searchlights and a distant muttering and vibrating.

Hurrah! That was the work of S.90. And already at 1.30 we received the
following wireless:

 “Have attacked enemy cruisers with three torpedoes, registered three
 hits. Cruiser blew up at once. Am hunted by torpedo-boat destroyers,
 return Kiao-Chow cut off, trying escape south, and, if necessary,
 shall explode boat.

  BRUNNER.”

This wire is sufficient praise for Commander, officers and crew.

A few weeks later, without premonition, I met the S.90 at Nanking—but
that is another story.



CHAPTER VII

THE LAST DAY


THE siege progressed according to plan. The Japanese dug themselves in
ever closer; they brought up more and more heavy guns, and on several
occasions large bodies of Japanese infantry made night attacks on our
infantry positions—to be, however, repulsed each time. After this they
subjected the latter and the wire entanglements in front of them to
continuous fire, which ceased neither by night nor by day. Our guns,
too, were never silent, but unfortunately we had to go slow on account
of our remaining ammunition. The extraordinary length of the siege, the
never-ceasing artillery fire, and the terrible tension under which we
lived, began to tell on us. My own nerves were getting out of hand.

I could no longer force myself to eat, and sleep had become impossible.
When I shut my eyes at night I immediately saw my map, and below me
the Protectorate with its enemy trenches and positions. My head swam,
and my ears ached from the whirl of the propeller, and I could hear,
over and over again, the words of the Chief of Staff:

“Never forget, Plüschow, that you are now of more value to Kiao-Chow
than our daily bread. Don’t fail to return and keep the machine
going! And don’t forget that our shells are few, and that we use them
according to your indications. Remember your responsibilities!”

God knows I was in no danger of forgetting them. I had no other thought
but the enemy positions in my mind, visualizing time and again the
fortifications over which I had flown, trying to remember whether I
had actually _seen_ what I had reported, and figuring out whether the
few shells which we still possessed had not been squandered at my
instigation.

When I had racked my brain fruitlessly for hours I sometimes fell
asleep about three in the morning, tired out in body and soul. But no
sooner had I dropped off than duty called, and my mechanic stood at my
bedside to report that my machine was ready for another flight. This
meant prompt action, and I was soon standing next to my Taube, testing
all her parts.

Sometimes I felt queer and rather jumpy; but as soon as I was settled
in my pilot’s seat and held the throttle in my hand, after nodding
to my helpers, I had only one thought, and that was to carry out my
task with iron determination and calmness. And when I had got over the
start, and safely reached an altitude of a few hundred metres, I felt
quite at ease again.

One circumstance depressed me particularly—the absolute loneliness,
the eternal solitude of my flights. If I had only had a comrade with
whom I might have exchanged occasional signs, it would have helped me
enormously. And another cause for despondency was the impossibility of
any flights for several days on end, owing to the rain or to my faulty
propeller. And when I started again I found so many changes in the
enemy’s positions that I very nearly gave way to despair. What could I
do in the face of this tangle of trenches, zigzags and new positions?
Often the map dropped from my nerveless fingers. But this was not a
lasting phase.

I pulled myself together, picked up my pencil and gazed downwards. And
soon I had no eyes for anything happening round me—my entire attention
was focused on the enemy and my notes.

The 27th of October was a fête day for us. The following telegram was
received from His Majesty the Kaiser:

 “Both I and the whole German nation look with pride on the heroes of
 Kiao-Chow, who carry out their duty faithful to the word of their
 Governor. Rest assured of My gratitude.”

There was hardly anyone in Kiao-Chow whose heart did not beat the
faster for this praise. Our supreme War Lord, who had so much heavy
work on hand at home, did not forget his faithful little band in the
Far East. Each of us swore to do his duty to the end, in order to
please his Kaiser.

Soon the 31st of October—the Mikado’s birthday—was upon us. We had
ascertained, through our scouts, that the Japanese had fixed on that
day for the capture of Kiao-Chow. It is impossible to describe it.

The Japs had planted all their land-batteries in readiness for the
night, and at 6 a.m., on the 31st of October 1914, the bombardment
started from land and sea.

Their first hits exploded the petrol tanks, and a thick, huge column of
smoke reared skywards like an ominous signal of revenge. The Japanese
were shooting from the land with heavy 20-centimetre shells, and the
ships had trained their heaviest guns on to us. The whizzing of the
descending howitzer shells, the whistling and the exploding of the
grenades and their detonations on bursting, the barking of shrapnel,
and the roar of our own guns resulted in a din as though hell itself
had been let loose.

The outworks and the whole surrounding country were also heavily
damaged; hill-tops were levelled, deep craters opened in the ground.

By the evening we experienced a slackening of the enemy’s fire. He was
convinced, and so were we, that all our defences had been razed, for
they looked like a mass of ruins. But when our gallant lads in blue
hurried to their guns, to dig them out of the mass of earth and stone,
they found nearly all the batteries comparatively undamaged.

Suddenly in the dead of night, when we were able to note the formation
of the storming columns, from every cannon’s mouth issued a stream of
fire, which must have caused endless casualties to the Japanese.

There was no attack, as had been planned, and the next day the enemy
artillery directed a half-hearted bombardment on us. At the same time
it was vigorous enough to register fifty successful hits on our small
fort of Hu-Chuin-Huk.

The Japanese profited by the experience of that night. Eight terrible
days and nights followed, for their artillery thundered without a break.

It might well have been assumed that not one of us could have escaped
this ghastly, thunderous fire; but, as if by a miracle, we had very few
casualties. The Japanese artillery shot with great precision, which is
not surprising, as many of their artillery officers had been trained at
our gunnery school at Juteborg. But their ammunition was rotten. And
that proved our salvation.

They never once succeeded in penetrating any of our redoubts or
bomb-proof localities. To this, as well as to their blank shooting, we
owe our insignificant losses.

I would like to point out to the cavillers in Germany, who grumbled
that our fight for Kiao-Chow could not have been serious if we suffered
comparatively so little, that we held but one single line of defence,
composed of five infantry works, a parapet and a miserable wire
entanglement. This line was 6000 metres long and held by 3000 men. We
had neither a second line nor a second position, and, above all, no men
to spare for their defence, for our whole garrison comprised but 4000
men.

When after a week of heavy continuous artillery fire our wire
entanglements and parapet had been shot to pieces, it was an easy job
for the 30,000 Japanese—whom we had held at bay for weeks—to rush
through and force the surrender of Kiao-Chow.

In the early days of November we prepared for the end. On the 1st, our
loyal ally, the Austrian cruiser _Kaiserin Elisabeth_, was blown up by
her gallant crew after she had fired her last shot. A few days later
she was followed by our last ship, the brave little gunboat _Jaguar_.

Our deck and crane followed, and then came the turn of our wharves.

We no longer had much help from our guns. A few were out of action,
others had been destroyed by enemy artillery, the greater number we
blew up ourselves.

On the 5th of November 1914 I myself was forced to undertake the
destruction of my biplane. I had succeeded, assisted by an Austrian
ex-aviator, Leutnant Clobuczar, in the construction of a wonderful,
large two-seater hydroplane. It lay in readiness, and it had been my
intention to reconnoitre with it, as it was no longer possible to use
our aviation field, which was only 4000 to 5000 metres distant, but
held under the steady fire of the enemy.

Nothing was to come of my biplane, and all our labour was in vain, for
that afternoon our Chief summoned me and said:

“We are expecting the Japanese main attack at any hour now. See that
you leave the fortress by aeroplane, though I fear the Japs will give
you no time to do so. And now, God speed you, and may you come through
safely. I thank you for the work you did for Kiao-Chow!”

He gave me his hand. I said, standing at attention:

“I report myself obediently as leaving the fortress!” And with this I
was dismissed.

I took leave of my superior officers and of my comrades, and was
entrusted with a large bundle of private correspondence. Then I went
back to my villa for the last time, and said good-bye to my rooms
and to the many objects to which I had become attached. I opened my
stable door, freed my little horse and my chickens, and went down to my
aeroplane to prepare it for its last flight. After that I sat poring
over my map, learning it by heart, and making my calculations.

At night I went up to the hill-top, where my friend, Oberleutnant
Aye, had been holding out for weeks, with his small battery, under
most severe shell-fire. From there one had a magnificent view of
Kiao-Chow and its surroundings. I sat for some time on the highest
peak, fascinated by the panorama at my feet. Below us a sea of fire,
with flashes of lightning from the guns thundering across space, and
like a golden thread stretched from sea to sea the yellow rifle and
machine-gun fire. Right over my head screamed, swished and whistled
thousands of shells, sweeping closely over the hill-top, bent on
reaching their targets. Behind me our heavy howitzers roared their
last message, and in the distance from the farthest southern point of
Kiao-Chow the 29-centimetre guns of Fort Hstanniwa poured out their
swan song.

Harrowed to the depths of my soul, I returned to Aye, and after taking
a hearty leave of him, carrying with me all his good wishes for my
venture, I left him, after shaking him warmly by the hand.

I was the last officer in Kiao-Chau to do so, for he fell a few hours
later in the heroic but unequal fight against the Japanese, he and his
gallant little band preferring death to surrender. A truly shining
example of noble heroism.

I spent the remaining hours with my four brave helpers, waiting in
readiness near my machine so as to be able to carry out my orders at a
moment’s notice should the Japanese break through.

On the 6th of November 1914, in the early dawn, with the moon still
shining, my aeroplane stood clear for the start, and my propeller gaily
hummed its morning hymn.

There was no more time to lose. The aviation field had become extremely
uncomfortable through the continuous shell and shrapnel fire.

Once more I examined my machine, shook hands with my men, stroked the
head of my faithful dog, then I opened the throttle and my Taube shot
like an arrow into the night.

Suddenly, as I was just about 30 metres above the centre of the
aerodrome, my machine received a fearful jar, and I was only able
to prevent her crashing downwards by putting forth all my strength.
An enemy grenade had just burst, and the air-pressure caused by the
detonation nearly sent me to the ground. But, thank goodness, a big
hole in my left plane caused by a shell-splinter was the only damage.

The usual hail of shrapnel followed—my last farewells from the Japs
and their English Allies.

When I was high enough I turned round once more to look at our dear
little Kiao-Chow, which had suffered and was still to suffer so much.
Our beloved second country—Paradise on earth.

Two lines of fire, facing each other, were clearly distinguishable,
and the faint roar of guns could be heard—sure forerunners of renewed
attack and desperate defence.

Would we be able to ward it off for the third time? I waved my hand
towards Kiao-Chow! Farewell, my faithful comrades, fighting down there!

This leave-taking was infinitely bitter, and I struggled for composure.
I flung my machine round with a swift wrench, and steered it towards
Cape Taschke.

When the sun rose in all its glory, I was already floating in the blue
ether, high over the wild southern mountain peaks.

I had run the blockade in true modern fashion.



CHAPTER VIII

IN THE SLIME OF THE CHINESE RICE-FIELD


THE enemy fleet lay at anchor behind the Pearl Mountains. I could not
resist the temptation, and flew round them once again. Then I wended
my way farther and farther towards South China, an unknown land and an
uncertain fate. I passed over rugged mountains, over rivers and wide
plains, sometimes crossing the open sea, then again high above towns
and villages.

I guided myself by map and compass, and at 8 a.m. I had already put 250
kilometres behind me, and reached my destination—Hai-Dschou, in the
province of Kiangsu.

I peered into the plain below in search of a suitable landing-place;
but my prospects were not too promising.

The torrential rains of the past weeks had turned the ground into
a veritable swamp. The only dry spots were covered with houses or
Chinese burial-mounds. Finally I discovered a small field, 200 metres
long and 20 metres wide, which was bounded by deep ditches and high
walls on two sides, and by the river on the others.

Landing was confoundedly difficult, but there was no help for it, for
I could not stay up for ever. Besides, I was in China, not in Germany,
and could count myself lucky to have found this spot at all.

I descended in wide curves. And after a steep spiral, during which
the machine sagged heavily in consequence of the depression in the
atmosphere, I landed in the middle of the swampy rice-field at 8.45 a.m.

The clay was so soft and sticky that the aeroplane sank into the
mud and the wheels were held fast; my machine landed on her nose,
nearly turning turtle at the last moment. The propeller shivered into
fragments, but luckily I escaped without hurt.

The silence which reigned struck me as uncanny after the incessant
crash and turmoil of war of the last weeks. My little Taube rested
calmly and peacefully in the bright sunshine, with her little tail
up and her nose embedded in the mud. I could distinguish a crowd of
Chinese in the distance—men, women and swarms of children—pressing
forward in awed wonder. They, together with all the other Chinese over
whose land I had flown, could not account for my presence, for I was
the first aviator they had ever seen, and they were all convinced that
I was an Evil Spirit bent on their destruction. So when I clambered
out of my machine and tried to signal to them, there was no holding
them. They all fled, howling and screaming, the men first, leaving the
children who dropped behind as peace-offerings to the devil. I do not
think my appearance could have caused greater consternation in darkest
Africa.

With prompt decision I ran after them, hauling three or four of them by
their pigtails to the machine, so as to convince them that the big bird
was harmless.

This helped after a little, and when I presented them with some gold
pieces they averred that by a lucky chance they were in the presence of
a Good Spirit; therefore, they willingly helped to place the aeroplane
in a horizontal position once more. When the others saw this, they
gathered round in such crowds that I was surprised the machine was not
crushed.

How the Chinese marvelled! How they touched and examined everything!
How they laughed and chattered!

Only those who know the Chinese and their childlike disposition can
gauge the amusing situation in which I found myself.

I sat in my pilot’s seat, over the tin box containing the secret
papers, with a Mauser-pistol close to my hand, surrounded by a horde
of Nature’s children, whom it was impossible to get rid of, though I
repeatedly made the attempt. The creatures merely grinned joyously and
made fun of me.

I was at last freed from this predicament by a “Good morning, sir,”
boomed into my ear. A gentleman, who introduced himself as Dr. Morgan
of the American Mission, stood before me. We greeted each other warmly,
and I informed Dr. Morgan of what had happened, and asked him to use
his knowledge of the Chinese language, which he spoke fluently, to help
me. I soon saw that I was in good hands.

My huge Chinese passport, which I had brought with me from Kiao-Chow,
was immediately sent to the Mandarin; an hour later a detachment of
forty soldiers arrived from the barracks situated a short distance off,
to keep guard over my machine.

I gladly accepted Dr. Morgan’s invitation to breakfast, and, laden with
all the movable objects in my aeroplane, I set off with him to the
Mission.

I was welcomed most charmingly, and made the acquaintance of Mrs.
Morgan, also of Mrs. Rice, the wife of the American missionary, and of
a Mr. G., who all took the warmest interest in me.

I had just sat down to breakfast when a Chinese officer appeared,
with the announcement that a guard of honour, consisting of a company
of soldiers, had been placed before the house, and that he was under
orders from his Mandarin to ascertain my wishes, and how I was. The
Mandarin himself, however, would call on me in half an hour.

I was delighted at so much courtesy.

After another ten minutes new visitors arrived; this time the civic
authorities of Hai-Dschou, who desired to greet me in person.

The situation was unique. I sat in the midst of these venerable
old Chinese, having exchanged numerous bows and obeisances. The
conversation soon become animated, Dr. Morgan acting as interpreter.

There was no end to their questions: Whence did I come? How were things
in Kiao-Chow? Was it really true that I had come through the air? How
long had I taken for my flight? What magic had I used to be able to
fly? It was hardly possible to answer all their posers, and, though our
interpreter took infinite trouble, I am sure that the Sons of Heaven
were not much the wiser.

Soon there was a slight break.

While we sat talking, visitors were announced for the lady of the
house, and ten or twelve delightful little Chinese women, swathed in
wonderful silken garments and trousers, tripped past us. Two or three
of them lingered near the door of the room in which we men were seated,
and stared at us in awed fascination with big, round eyes and small,
half-opened mouths. Mrs. Morgan called to them from the adjoining
room, and they gave a frightened start and ran away. I only learnt the
reason for their strange conduct later. It seems that it is a social
_faux pas_ for a Chinese woman of gentle birth to offend a male visitor
by her curious glances.

The three sinners received a severe reprimand. I must admit I did
not care for this custom, for I should have liked a good look at the
elegant little ladies.

My hostess confided to me that she, too, had been pestered by questions
from her guests. Above all, they wished to know who this Evil Spirit
was which had threatened their town, yelling and growling. When they
were informed that it was a mere man who came from Kiao-Chow, they
laughed and declared that they were not fools enough to believe _that_!

Mrs. Morgan assured me laughingly that everything that might happen to
go wrong in the next two years, such as bad harvests, miscarriages,
mishaps of any description, would be put down to my account, and prove
of invaluable service to the Medicine-Men.

The Mandarin arrived about eleven, preceded by an uproar of tom-toms,
drums and whistles. He advanced with great dignity, an imposing
figure of rotund proportions, with a carefully shaven head, clad in
magnificent silken garments. Our salutations were extremely formal, and
the deep bows to the ground seemed endless.

The Mandarin inquired thoughtfully after my health and wishes, and
assured me of his aid and protection. He took leave with the same
ceremony.

As soon as I had returned this official visit, and had been invited to
sup with the Mandarin, I proceeded to dismantle my aeroplane.

But this was more easily said than done. I only possessed a spanner,
and had now to hunt for tools. Moreover, I was in China, and in a part
of the country where the last thousand years had brought no changes.
Wrenches or screw-drivers were unknown quantities.

At length I discovered an axe in the American Mission, and a miserable
object that looked like a saw.

I set to work with these implements, and, as I wished at least to
save my faithful 100-h.p. Mercédès motor from destruction, I sawed
and hacked it away from the body. Proof enough of the thoroughness of
German handiwork, for it took me fully four hours to detach it.

In order to conform to Neutral Laws, I handed over the motor to the
Mandarin for safe keeping.

Then came the saddest part. As the rest of my machine, even minus
planes, could pass through none of the streets or gates of the town,
I had to surrender it to the flames. I poured petrol over it, set it
alight, and saw it turn to ashes before my eyes.

And as I stood by, watching the holocaust of my poor, brave Taube, I
felt as if I were losing a dear and faithful friend.



CHAPTER IX

MR. MACGARVIN’S PTOMAINE POISONING


IN the evening the Mandarin held his reception.

When I stepped out of my door the whole courtyard was ablaze with
torches and countless large Chinese lanterns. The guard presented arms,
the drums beat and the musicians gave us some tunes—hardly pleasing
except to Chinese ears. The Mandarin had even sent me his own palanquin.

I shall never forget that evening. I sat in a litter upholstered in
blue silk, with curtained windows, which was carried by eight sturdy
fellows. In front, on the sides and behind the palanquin, marched
soldiers with fixed bayonets and dozens of runners with paper lanterns.
The palanquin swayed gently to the tread of the bearers. Every ten
minutes the man at the head gave a loud signal by rapping with his
stick on the ground; the litter halted, the bearers moved the carrying
poles to the other shoulder, and on we went like the wind.

After forty minutes we reached the Mandarin’s palace. Ear-splitting
music, shouted orders and the light of many lanterns and torches
greeted us. The centre doors of the gigantic portals flew open before
me, and in front of the last one the Mandarin himself came forward to
receive me.

Several high dignitaries and generals had already assembled, and after
ceremonial greetings the ordinary green, thinnish tea was handed
round as a sign of welcome. I took advantage of this to present to
the Mandarin my Mauser pistol, plus ammunition, as a token of my
gratitude. He was visibly pleased, and we sat down to our meal in high
good humour. A huge, round table, covered with some fifty dishes, in
which swam the daintiest Chinese delicacies, awaited our pleasure. As a
specially honoured guest I was handed a knife and fork, and the feast
began. I added up the courses, but lost count at the thirty-sixth! But
what about the menu? From the delicate swallows’ nests to the finest
sharks’ fins; from sugar-cane salad to the most perfect chicken
stews—nothing had been forgotten. I had to sample everything, and the
Mandarin was tireless in his attentions, and even sometimes lifted a
particular titbit from his own plate to place it with his own fingers
on mine! We drank bottled beer from Germany! And German Schnaps.

Mr. Morgan’s was the hardest task, for he had to interpret the
conversation, which was not devoid of comic aspects.

The battles round Kiao-Chow, the losses of the Japanese and the English
and the flying interested the Chinese most of all. Their questions
never ran dry.

I took hearty and grateful leave of my Mandarin, and the next day I did
the same of my amiable hosts.

When I landed with my aeroplane I had only a tooth-brush, a piece of
soap and my flying-kit, _i.e._ my leather jacket, a scarf and leggings.
I had also taken a civilian suit with me. I now donned the latter.
The five-year-old daughter of our missionary presented me with her
old, shabby little felt hat to replace my sports cap, which a Chinese
had stolen whilst I was dismantling my machine. And in the evening I
was again conducted with ceremony to the junk, which was placed at my
disposal.

My suite, and at the same time guard of honour, during the coming
journey consisted of the Chinese General Lin, well known as a fighter
of pirates, of two officers and forty-five men, apart from the crew of
the boat. I was terribly worn out after all I had been through, and
went to my small wooden room, where to my joy and surprise, instead
of the plank-bed, I found a beautiful sleeping-bag with mattress and
blankets, which the attentive wife of the missionary had sent on board
for me. Without these I should have come off badly in my thin sports
clothes. It was bitterly cold, the wind whistled through the gaps
and crannies, and I could see the starry sky through the awning. And
whilst my thoughts lingered with my brave comrades in Kiao-Chow, and I
gratefully recalled the many battles and dangers I had come through in
order to fulfil my task to the end, sleep overtook me and enfolded me
in its arms.

The journey proceeded by slow stages. The junks were dragged upstream
by two coolies, by means of a rope which was fastened to our masthead.
It took us a day and a half to cover the first stage to Bampu, which I
had flown in twenty minutes with my aeroplane. Later on we went faster,
especially with a favourable wind filling our sails. But it was only
five days later that we arrived at Nanking.

Our progress interested me immensely, for we traversed a criss-cross
of rivers to the famous Emperor’s Channel, and through this we reached
Nanking by way of the Yangtse-kiang. The country was famous for its
pirates, and we passed towns where no European had set foot. During the
day, whilst the junk was being towed along, I walked on the bank with
the General and some of our guards, and watched with great interest the
active and crowded life of these cities, as yet untouched by Western
civilization. Chinese men, women and children came running out of
their houses, stared in astonishment at the sight of a fair man, with
blue eyes, who wore no hat. And they sometimes touched my garments to
convince themselves that I was really human.

My walks and my life on the junk took a quiet and rather silent course.
My courteous General, though he wore European attire, had the typically
Chinese bands wound round his ankles, and he sported a fine, long
“tail” which was coquettishly tucked under the belt of his jacket. The
good man knew not a word of any language but Chinese, and I knew none
of that. During our meals, which were of the richest description, but
reeked terribly of onions and garlic, we sat opposite each other, and
grinned amicably at one another—and that was our whole conversation.

At last, on the 11th of November, we arrived at Yang-dchou-fou, and one
can imagine with what avidity I threw myself on the first newspaper.

Full of excitement in the expectation of hearing at last about the
fate of Kiao-Chow, I devoured the pages of the _Shanghai Times_. There
on the second page—the name Kiao-Chow. But what was that? Could such
treachery exist in the world? For with disgust and loathing of the low
English-lying brood, this is what I read:

  “THE COWARDLY CAPITULATION
  OF
  KIAO-CHOW.

  THE FORTRESS TAKEN WITHOUT A BLOW.

  THE GARRISON DRUNK AND LOOTING.”

And after that so much mud, such low-down lying, that I threw the
paper aside in disgust. And this was what the English, who had behaved
with so little valour before Kiao-Chow, dared assert about our brave
defenders!

Ah, but I did not know the English papers then! Later in Shanghai, and
also in America, I had to get used to much worse from the American
Press, to say nothing of the English. But now, at least, I was certain
as to the fate of Kiao-Chow, which was inevitable from the first. I
saw also how opportunely I had left the fortress, on the very eve, so
to speak, of her forced surrender. We arrived safely at Nanking on the
11th of November 1914.

I was warmly welcomed at the station by Kapitänleutnant Brunner,
Commander of the torpedo boat S.90, and his officers.

We drove in a carriage to the buildings which had been allotted to the
officers and crew of the S.90, and where, to my astonishment, a room
was already prepared for me. When I amazedly inquired the reason of
this, my comrades told me that I was to be interned, and that they all
rejoiced to have a fourth at Skat. I protested loudly that I did not
play cards; also, I held my own views on the question of internment,
but these I kept to myself.

So I repaired with my General Lin to the palace of the Governor of
Nanking. Unfortunately, or rather luckily, we could not see the
Governor, and an old Chinese doctor received us very kindly in his
stead, and expressed the hope that I should be very happy in Nanking.

I thanked him profusely, though I had no such intention!

I now took leave of my General Lin, who seemed obviously relieved at
having concluded his mission; but, when I stepped into my carriage, a
fully armed Chinese soldier followed me.

When, astounded, I asked for an explanation, he told me in fairly
intelligible German that he was my “Guard of Honour,” and had been
attached to me for my _protection_ and would henceforward accompany me
in all my comings and goings.

That was _too_ bad! Had I not been formally assured in Hai-Dchou that
my removal to Nanking was a pure formality, and that I should be
absolutely free?

So they wanted to intern me?

In that case I had to act promptly, before I gave the Chinese the
chance to announce this fact to me and rob me of my freedom. The “Guard
of Honour” was a nuisance, but I hoped to find means of getting rid of
him.

The same evening we were all bidden to the house of a German friend.
I had settled on my plan. After a few pleasant hours, during which I
had to recount time and again the last days of Kiao-Chow, the other
officers took their departure at ten o’clock, followed by their
faithful sentries. I stayed on, but after half an hour decided that it
was imperative for me to depart, if I still wanted to make my escape.

But when my host stepped out from the house whom did he see? My yellow
guardian! We were in a fix; but with prompt decision I sent our “boy”
to ask him what he meant by waiting, as all the gentlemen had been gone
for a good while, and he would be punished for his carelessness if he
did not catch them up.

And whilst the poor devil ran off in their wake, a closed carriage
was taking me to the station at breakneck speed. I was just in
time to secure the last berth in the newly run express train. The
sleeping-compartment was already locked, and a tall Englishman opened
the door unwillingly and with a furious face, in answer to my spirited
knocking. I simply ignored him, jumped into the upper berth, and,
turning off the light, pretended to undress. In reality I crept under
my pillows and blankets, resolved not to wake up under any provocation.
But during the next eight hours I never slept. As often as the train
stopped, I felt cold shivers running down my back, saying to myself:
“Ha, they will fetch me now!” And, when loud voices sounded outside, I
felt convinced that my last train-trip during this war was over.

But nothing happened. The Chinese did not yet seem to have thought of
telegraphing in connection with arrests, so, according to schedule, at
seven in the morning we arrived in Shanghai. After successfully passing
the ticket-collector, I promptly bowled along in a rickshaw through
the Chinese quarter—where the Chinese authorities still had a hold on
me—and at last reached the European side, where I felt safe and free
from interference.

I went straight to a German acquaintance, who received me with open
arms, and whose guest I remained during the next three weeks.

For it was fully that before I was able to continue my journey; and in
the meantime how many adventures, perils, and games of hide-and-seek!

For what was more natural than that Oberleutnant P. should not be known
at all at my quarters, and that Herr Meyer, who had stayed there for a
few days, should already have left?

That Mr. Scott had come on a visit to his kind friends, of course, was
no one’s business. But prudence was essential, especially as I knew
a great number of people in Shanghai, many of whom were English, met
previously in Kiao-Chow before the war.

I assumed four or five different names, and stayed with different
friends in succession.

But the greatest difficulty still lay in finding ways and means to
get to America. Once I nearly got away on an _English_ ship, thanks
to the introduction which a German friend procured for me. An English
ship-owner introduced me as a Swiss, who did not know _one_ word of
English. I listened to the whole conversation, but was able to suppress
my jubilation when I heard that I was to sail on the steamer _Goliath_,
bound direct for San Francisco. It was, alas, of short duration,
for the ship had weighed anchor two hours earlier on account of the
tide—and we came too late!

I could have tried another steamer, but they all went by way of Japan,
and I feared to risk that.

Fortune, however, smiled upon me. One day I accidentally met a friend
with whom I had spent many a gay night in the haunts of the Far East;
he was at once ready to help me. And after only a few days I held the
necessary papers, and had received all the needful instructions. From
a Mr. Scott, Meyer or Brown, I turned suddenly into a distinguished
Englishman, rolling in money, who bore the beautiful and dignified name
of MacGarvin. This gentleman was representative of the Singer Sewing
Machines Company, and on his way from Shanghai to his factories in
California.

What was more natural for Mr. MacGarvin than to travel on one of the
first outgoing American Mail Steamers!

There were only two luxurious state-rooms aboard this boat. The one was
allotted to an American multi-millionaire, the other to Oberleutnant
Plüschow—no, I mean, Mr. MacGarvin. One difficulty still remained: to
escape unobserved from Shanghai.

But there my friends again came to the rescue. Three days before the
ship sailed I took official leave, and spread the report that I no
longer felt safe in Shanghai, and was going to Peking, in order to work
there at the German Legation. At eleven that night I left in a carriage
for the station. How could I be expected to know that the coachman
turned off a few minutes before, and drove sharply out of the town in a
southern direction? What did I know about Shanghai?

After we had rolled along the Wusung River for nearly two hours, we
stopped. Two men armed with revolvers came up, a brief countersign
was exchanged; with deep respect and gratitude I kissed a woman’s
slim, white hands which were extended to me from the interior of the
carriage, and it wheeled round and disappeared. My two friends took me
in their midst, I also drew my revolver, and we stepped silently into
the waiting junk.

The night was black as pitch, the wind howled, and the dirty, dark
water gurgled dismally as it flew by, driven by the tide.

The four Chinks bent to their sculls with the utmost exertion, and
after an hour we reached our destination, which lay many miles
downstream on the opposite shore!

Soundlessly we landed, soundlessly the junk disappeared; and in the
same fashion we made our way towards a dark building which stood in the
midst of a small garden near some huge factories.

My eyes were blinded by the glare of many electric lamps, once the door
had been carefully locked after us.

I soon noticed that we were in comfortable bachelor’s quarters. The
table was spread, and we courageously attacked the many delicious
dishes. Over this meal we decided on our tactics.

The apartment belonged to the two young men who worked during the day
at the factory. The servants were pure Chinese, which was all to the
good.

My visit had to be kept secret in any case, especially as a
disagreeable individual, who belonged to the “Entente,” also lived on
the premises.

It was our intention to take advantage of the fear which the Chinese
profess for evil spirits, and especially of their superstition in
regard to mad people. Therefore, my problem was to act the part of a
madman for three days.

I was given a tiny room, where I was locked in. The “boy” received
detailed and sharp instructions from his master, and so I felt secure
that I should not be betrayed.

Dash it all! I never thought it would be so difficult to feign madness.
For three days I remained shut up in this room, raved and stamped
about, sometimes dropping into a chair and staring stupidly in front of
me.

As soon as the “boy,” who was on guard outside, noticed these symptoms,
he carefully opened the door and pushed through his tray with food like
greased lightning, then withdrew his arm, and I could feel with what
relief he turned the key on me on the outside. When I sometimes burst
out laughing, because I felt in such high spirits, the poor chap must
have thought I had a fresh attack.

At last, on the evening of the third day, we left the house silently
and cautiously.

A large steamer lay near the landing-place, we took brief but warm
leave of each other, and off we went in the direction of the Wusung
Roadstead.

The weather was bad, the sea rough and the gangway was not even let
down. After calling and yelling loudly, at last somebody appeared and
helped Mr. MacGarvin to board the ship with his solitary trunk.

Nobody even looked at me. The deck was in half-darkness, and at last I
went up to several of the officers and inquired as to the whereabouts
of my cabin. Something unintelligible was growled at me, but when the
gentlemen looked more closely at my ticket a sudden change took place.
Bowings and scrapings and fluent excuses. A blast from the whistle of
an officer, and several stewards appeared as by magic, headed by the
white head-steward. The deck-lamps gleamed. The stewards fought over
the possession of my trunk, and the head-steward conducted me with
_empressement_ to my state-room. He simply exuded politeness.

“Oh, Mr. MacGarvin, why do you come to-day? The steamer only leaves the
day after to-morrow, and it was known all over Shanghai at midday!”

I looked furious, and expressed my indignation that the owner of a
state-cabin should not have been warned in time.

He was followed by my fat Chinese cabin-steward, who was repose and
distinction personified. But he put me into a fix. One of his “boys”
was ordered to bring my trunk, whereupon he asked me, in doubting
tones, whether this represented all my luggage.

“Yes,” I said.

He supposed my other trunks were in the hold.

“Of course. My heavy luggage was brought on board yesterday, and I hope
that my valuable belongings were carefully handled.”

Oh, if the good Chink had guessed how proud I was of that _one_ trunk,
even though it was suspiciously light!

At last, on the 5th of December 1914, the steamer _Mongolia_ weighed
anchor.

In spite of the lovely weather and good food, on the very next day Mr.
MacGarvin was suddenly taken ill. He himself did know what it was.
Probably severe ptomaine poisoning, and the ship’s doctor was quickly
sent for. He was a brilliant man, a thorough sportsman and ready for
any joke. His concerned face took on an astonished expression when,
instead of a patient at death’s door, he beheld my florid and sunburnt
countenance.

I had confidence in him, and in a few words I explained my situation.
I have seldom seen anyone’s eyes gleam with such pleasure as his did
after I had confessed my sins to him. His uproarious laugh and warm
handshake convinced me that I had chanced on the right man. The steward
knocked at the door.

The ship’s surgeon assumed an anxious mien, whilst I groaned. The
steward flitted in, and the American said to him in hushed, impressive
tones: “Look here, Boy! This Master plenty ill, don’t disturb him,
can’t get up before ten days; give him plenty good food, chosen by
cook; always bring to him in bed. If Master want anything, you call me!”

During this speech I already held one end of the blanket in my mouth,
and if it had lasted longer I would have swallowed the whole. Once more
I took the centre of the stage.

Three days on the sea, and then came the first of the three Japanese
harbours which I dreaded. The steamer ran peacefully into Nagasaki,
and immediately a flood of custom-officers, policemen and detectives
inundated the boat. The bell rang through the ship, and summoned
passengers and crew for examination. And now the whole procedure
started. The passengers were assembled in the saloon. Each was called
by name; man, woman and child questioned by a commission consisting of
police-officers and detectives; their papers closely examined; and they
themselves overhauled by the Japanese doctor with regard to infectious
diseases. Above all, they wanted to know which of them came from
Kiao-Chow. The thirty-fifth name called was that of MacGarvin. Every
one looked round, for, of course, no one had even seen him. Whereupon
the ship’s surgeon approached, looked very serious, and whispered some
dreadful news into the ear of his Japanese colleague.

Some fifteen minutes later I heard a hum of many voices before my
cabin. The door was carefully opened. In walked the American ship’s
surgeon, and in his wake crept two Japanese police-officers and the
Japanese doctor. The poor victim of ptomaine poisoning lay in a huddled
heap, moaning softly, and with nothing to be seen of him but a crop of
hair.

The American came close to the bed and lightly touched my shoulder,
which apparently called forth horrible pain. He immediately stepped
back and whispered: “Oh, very ill, very ill!” The Japs, who had from
the first contemplated the beautifully furnished cabin with shy
admiration, seemed happy to get out of these unwonted surroundings.
They kow-towed profoundly, hissed something through their teeth, which
was meant to express particular deference, a softly murmured “Oh, I beg
your pardon!” and the entire Yellow Peril disappeared from my sight.

I believe that during this whole scene, and just before, I did feel a
slight attack of the shivers—but it did not last.

In the afternoon I risked getting up for a moment as I wanted to catch
a glimpse of Nagasaki, which I already knew.

But the sight that met my eyes sent me scuttling back to my bunk. The
harbour was filled with countless steamers, richly festooned with
flags. Extraordinary animation reigned aboard the ships; troops, horses
and guns were being put ashore continuously. The soldiers were in gala
attire, and the houses of the town nearly disappeared under the load
of garlands and flags; a huge crowd flowed through the streets to
the parade-ground, where a review was to be held. So these were the
conquerors of Kiao-Chow!

The whole of Japan fêted to-day the defeat and humiliation of the
German Empire. I read that night in the Japanese papers, which appeared
in English, that Japan had achieved that which the English, French
and Russians had tried in vain—to defeat Germany; and that from now
onwards their army was the best and the strongest in the whole world.
But enough of this, the Americans and the English have not shown
greater restraint on other occasions.

Twice more the steamer ran into harbour during the next days. Both
at Kobe and Yokohama my cabin witnessed the same procedure as at
Nagasaki—Mr. MacGarvin remained ill and unmolested.

We stayed five days in all in Japan. At last, after I had kept to my
bunk for a whole week, we left those dangerous shores. And when they
disappeared on the horizon a young man on the steamer is said to have
danced with joy and frantically waved a small hat, which had belonged
to a little girl in far-away China, shouting laughingly: “Good-bye,
Japs! Good-bye, Japs!”

The days passed pleasantly enough amidst the recreations which are
usual on board an ocean-going steamer. I met several Germans, whom the
war had thrust forth from their adopted country; also a brother officer
who had been lately busy at Shanghai, and a war-comrade; the American
war correspondent, Mr. Brace, who was the only foreigner to take part
in the whole siege of Kiao-Chow.

Neptune took care to provide us with a change. Shortly before Honolulu,
we were caught in a typhoon, which lasted nearly two days and
threatened our ship with dire peril.

When we arrived in Honolulu the sun was shining brightly, and I had to
look twice before I dared trust my eyes. For did I not see the German
war flag!

And as we dropped anchor there lay alongside, like a tiny cockleshell,
the small cruiser _Geier_, which, coming from the South Seas, had run
the blockade and had just been interned. What a curious meeting! I met
dear comrades again from whom I had heard nothing for a long time, in
the midst of war, far from our country, after momentous happenings. We
talked and talked without end.

At the beginning of the war the _Geier_ lay far away to the south
amongst the coral-reefs. She only heard of the Russian mobilization,
then her wireless went to pieces, and she swam about without news in
the Pacific. Only fourteen days later, the _Geier_ heard something
of the war with England and later with Japan. This meant caution.
Surrounded and hunted by a score of enemies, the small cruiser achieved
a voyage of many thousands of sea miles to Honolulu, either taken
in tow by a small steamer or sailing on her own. And when the huge
Japanese cruiser, which lay on the watch for her at the mouth of the
harbour, one fine morning beheld the cockleshell safe in port, with the
German flag flying at the masthead, the yellow monkey had to slink off
homewards with its tail between its legs.

After our departure from Honolulu I had a bone to pick with my war
correspondent. Beaming with joy, he brought me the _Honolulu Times_
and proudly showed me the first page, on which my name, my profession
and my nationality were recorded in immense letters, followed by
several columns of close print, which recounted all my misdeeds during
and after the siege of Kiao-Chow.

Truly American this—to be judged according to what the papers said.

But the whole business was extremely painful to me, for I had every
reason to fear that the American authorities would arrest me on my
arrival at San Francisco on the strength of this report. However, all
the Americans on board reassured me and expressed their opinion that
I would be allowed to go my own way without hindrance. For what I had
done was “good sport.” On the contrary, people in America would be
delighted at my adventures, and if I only behaved sensibly, and gave up
my foolish German militarist ideas, I could make a lot of money there.
The thing for me to do was to apply to the right kind of newspaper.
It would take the matter in hand, arrange for the needful publicity,
and then I could travel from town to town—possibly preceded by a
band—and collect “plenty dollars.” Those Americans were truly gifted
with fine feelings! One of these gentlemen, a jolly old man, who had a
charming daughter with him, came to me one day and took me seriously in
hand.

“Now look here, Mr. MacGarvin, I like you; I take an interest in your
career. What are you going to do now? You have probably no money. You
are unknown in America, and it is difficult to find a job there!”

“Well, I want to return to Germany and fight for my country, as I am an
officer.”

He smiled with pity.

“You will never be able to get out of America. And with all respect
for your confidence in your country and your enthusiasm—believe me,
I have good connections over there—in a few months Germany will be
annihilated, and then you will neither get work nor be allowed to live
there. England will allow no German officer to remain in Germany when
the war is over. They will all be deported. The German Empire will be
divided, and the Kaiser deposed by his own people. Do be sensible; try
to make a new home for yourself and stay in America. I am quite ready
to help you.”

But that was too much. My patience was exhausted, and I gave the
gentleman an answer which taught him many new things about German
officers and the real state of affairs in Germany. In the end he was
quite converted to my ideas, and showed himself still more amiable
towards me. Subsequently I was often his guest in San Francisco and New
York.

On the 30th of December we cast anchor in San Francisco.

A typically American reception.

Dozens of newspaper reporters and photographers swarmed over the deck,
filled the saloons, and even invaded the cabins. The fellows had
already got on my scent. They surrounded one on all sides; cameras
clicked everywhere—it was simply revolting. At last I took refuge in
the only expedient that is of any use. I became rude and shouted: “I
have nothing to say, and if you molest me any further I shall fetch the
police.” My war correspondent from Kiao-Chow had taught me beforehand
to treat his colleagues in this manner.

Only a tiny yellow Japanese crept up to me like a cat, made a deep
obeisance, hissed through his teeth and said, with a false smile, that
he came from the Japanese Consulate (of all places!) to greet me and to
wish me happiness on my leaving Kiao-Chow with such luck. He assured
me I had nothing to fear, as I was on American soil; but that he would
be only too charmed to send a short account to his paper in Tokio, to
delight his Japanese brethren.

I ordered my Chinese steward to throw the yellow Jap out.

San Francisco!



CHAPTER X

CAUGHT!


SAN FRANCISCO! Oh, huge, marvellous city!

What I enjoyed most was my freedom from arrest. Officialdom did not
take the slightest notice of my presence, and I remained there for
several days, in spite of the frantic anxiety of the German Consulate,
which expected me to be led into captivity at any moment. I have rarely
in my life enjoyed a madder, more delirious New Year’s Eve than in San
Francisco! Nothing that I had heard about it approached reality. It
was a pleasure to look at the people—thoroughbred, every one of them.
The men tall and strong, the women captivatingly beautiful in their
blonde fairness. My friends invited me to one of their biggest and most
beautiful night clubs. Exorbitant prices and the smartest society of
San Francisco. During that night everything seemed permissible.

The music and the dancing carried one away with their beauty and
wildness. It was the night of San Francisco.

On the 2nd of January 1915 I took my departure, and by chance I met in
the same railway carriage one of my comrades, and also several Germans
with whom I had previously travelled by boat. We had a most enjoyable
journey, the more so as the papers brought good news from Germany. As
several of the elderly ladies and gentlemen were bound for home, we two
officers also firmly believed that we were not far from attaining our
object.

We stopped at the Great Cañon of Arizona to admire the mighty wonders
of Nature, which enfolded themselves in their glorious beauty. On the
following days our train sped through the prairie, recalling to our
minds boyish recollections of Fenimore Cooper and the Mohicans. At
Chicago we separated, and I travelled thence to Virginia on a visit to
dear friends of mine, and in the hope of finding out how I best could
reach Europe.

After two or three days I sped to New York to try my luck there.

I had to hang about in New York for fully three weeks, and during these
I had many opportunities of studying its people and their customs.
Three weeks, in which time after time I nearly burst with fury. It
was the climax of all I had endured until then. Hardly a picture,
hardly a newspaper, hardly an advertisement that did not incite hatred
against Germany, that did not pour abuse on the brave German soldiers.
“Tipperary” seemed to have become the National Anthem of New York.

Was there no one who could open the eyes of these people? Did they
really not _wish_ to see and hear the truth? But the majority knew
Germany only from hearsay—they hardly even knew where Germany was;
and in spite of this they were ready with their judgment. Here one
could gauge the monstrous power of the lying English Press, and the
crass stupidity with which the Americans swallowed the bait. I did
what I could. I talked, and explained, and tried to convince, but met
everywhere the same answer: “Of course, _you_ would not commit these
atrocities; but your countrymen, Huns and Barbarians, do nothing else.
Here it is, black on white in the _Times_—a paper of that importance
does not tell lies.” My greatest consolation during that time was the
touching manner in which I was treated and received by my friends and
their acquaintances, and I remain truly grateful to them. One night I
was particularly enraged. I had been to the Metropolitan Opera House,
where I had listened to one act from _Hänsel und Gretel_—German music,
German words and German songs! My heart was bursting with frantic,
aching longing for my beloved country; my soul drank in long draughts
of German melody. Still bemused and carried away by my feelings, I
stepped into the street and found myself at once recalled to reality.

The big space in front of the theatre held a huge crowd, as it did
every night, and a cinema projector threw the newest war bulletins in
garish letters across a blank wall. As was to be expected, Russia had
again achieved one of her famous victories. The English had annihilated
the army of the Crown Prince! The crowd was yelling with delight.
Battle pictures followed. First some English and French warships, then
suddenly, the German cruiser _Goeben_. The people raved, whistled,
hissed, shouted—the din was endless. So much for the _neutral_
Americans, so anxious to uphold the rights of men and the ends of
Justice!

Until now all my efforts to reach Europe had been fruitless. I had
imagined that my task would be easier. Once I nearly succeeded in
sailing on a Norwegian boat as an ordinary sailor; but was dissuaded,
as there were several Englishmen in her crew. At last I got what I
wanted. By chance I made the acquaintance of a man who had led a
rather stormy existence. He had been all over the world, and had
lived for a long time in New York. I was never really quite able to
ascertain his real occupation. However, he was very successful at one
particular job—which consisted in polishing up old passports. We
quickly concluded our bargain. In a few hours I had my papers with my
photograph neatly pasted in, and all the proper police notifications
entered according to existing regulations. And in this wise the Swiss
traveller, locksmith, Ernst Suse, went on board the neutral Italian
steamboat _Duca degli Abruzzi_ on the 30th of January 1915, and
disappeared into the steerage.

Two hours later we passed the statue of Liberty. Five sea miles out of
New York two English cruisers were watching the mouth of the harbour. A
shining example of the Freedom of the Seas! The journey was abominable.
Though I had been trained in a rough school as a naval officer aboard
a T.B.D. I had never dreamed of anything like it. The ship was
heavily overweighted, and pitched and tossed to such a degree that I
was convinced that she would capsize under the impact of the heavy
seas. And the bugs! But I shall go into that later. On the morning of
the third day of our journey I stood on deck and gazed longingly at
the first-class railings over which two charming little faces were
looking down at me. A gentleman approached them, and with difficulty I
suppressed the name which sprang to my lips. For I knew him; it was——

Doubt was impossible. It was my brother officer T., who had come with
me from Shanghai. He saw me at the same moment, but only recognized me
after he had exchanged some very loud remarks with the ladies about the
filthy fellow down below (meaning myself). Suddenly he stopped, stared
hard at me, smiled knowingly, after which he suddenly turned away and
disappeared.

In the evening, when darkness had completely fallen, I had an
opportunity of a short talk with him. He was travelling as a
distinguished Dutchman (of course he did not speak a single word of
Dutch), and his destination, like mine, was Naples, and from thence
homewards. Though we had both met daily in New York, each intent on
getting home, we had been obliged by our respective helpers to keep
what we did a dead secret from each other. And we now learned that we
had both been to the same man!

Some days after leaving New York I suddenly went down with a high
temperature, and had to take to my bed. I did not know what was the
matter with me, but presumed malaria, and so did the Italian doctor,
who gave me a ridiculously large dose of quinine. I did not have to
wait long for the result, as I promptly grew worse, and my temperature
rose to 103°. These days were indescribable. Our cabin, a veritable
hole, was shared by four passengers. Above me lay a Frenchman who only
stopped gabbling and cursing when he was sea-sick. The lower berth was
occupied by a pale and resigned Swiss (his nationality at once awoke my
suspicions). This man was so sea-sick that it was my opinion he would
never reach Europe alive. In the upper, left-hand berth a perfectly
rabid Englishman smoked his pipe of Player’s Navy Cut unremittingly
day and night, in spite of the closed portholes. He was nearly always
drunk and unable to cease his abuse and revilings against Germany
for one moment. It is easy to imagine how much rest I got! To cap it
all, my berth lay close to the engines, and the bugs were the worst
item of the programme. And these dreadful pests did not come singly,
but in battalions. Oh, what were the noises, the horrible smells and
the sea-sickness compared to this plague! In spite of my exhausting
weakness I tried to destroy or to drive away the loathsome insects. But
I was soon forced to give up in despair.

After that I relapsed into complete indifference. I told myself that
the voyage would be over in a few days, and as soon as we had reached
beautiful Italy, and I had given myself a short rest, I should be back
in my beloved Fatherland. I fought off my illness with the utmost
energy, and the thought of Germany aided my convalescence, so that when
the ship reached Gibraltar on the 8th of February I was able to be up
and about.

Gibraltar!

How many times already had I sailed past this Rock, how often had I,
returning from foreign parts, tendered joyous welcome to the grey
stones, the sign-post, in these straits to the faithful homeland! What
was in store for me this time? In spite of the fact that the time-table
made no provision for calling at Gibraltar, the ship entered the port
for examination, without even awaiting a request to do so, and dropped
anchor. To this extent had the Italians already become the slaves of
the English! As soon as the ship lay to, two pinnaces descended upon
us, from which emerged an English naval officer and sundry policemen
and sailors armed to the teeth. A bell was sounded all over the ship,
with the order that all foreign passengers, who were neither English
nor Italian, should assemble on the pilot bridge. The Italian stewards
went below, inspected the ship’s hold and all the cabins, and drove
us like a herd of sheep to the upper deck, where we were closely
surrounded by them and the English sailors. I cannot pretend that I
felt particularly happy! In spite of this I experienced a certain
amount of confidence, as I soon found out that I was the only one
equipped with a genuine passport and photograph. On the other hand, I
established the fact that we were five Swiss, three of whom had already
excited my suspicion on account of their shy and retiring disposition.
There was only one whom I had not noticed at all, and he looked so
dirty and repulsive that I took the precaution of moving away when he
placed himself beside me. After an hour, during which the first-class
passengers were examined—casually, and with great politeness—our turn
came. We stood there like six miserable sinners. The first one was an
Italian-Swiss workman, who had lost his right arm. His wife, a typical
Italian, prostrated herself wailingly at the Englishman’s feet. She
was accompanied from the steerage by her whole tribe, and they _all_
wailed. The Englishman looked contemptuously at those people, and after
a short examination the man was dismissed and free to go. We had now
to advance. The tallest amongst us Swiss stood on the right wing. The
English officer went up to him and said: “You are a German officer.”
Violent and indignant protestations naturally followed; but the English
officer, whom they left quite cool, ordered him aside and turned to
us—we seemed more like the genuine article in his sight. We pointed
to our passports, and each one of us dished up a wondrous yarn. After
a short pause he said: “All right; these four can go, but I will keep
that one.”

My heart was throbbing with joy, but, alas, then appeared the Judas.
A young fellow, in perfectly fitting civilian clothes, went up to
the officer and spoke to him in raised tones. “It is quite out of
the question that these people should be allowed to leave without
having all their belongings thoroughly searched. I am convinced they
are Germans.” We exclaimed loudly at this, but to no end, though the
English officer obeyed this blackguard with evident reluctance and
contempt. However, the examination took place. Everything was turned
upside down. The rascal ferreted about everywhere, but seemed unable
to find any incriminating marks on any of our belongings. Suddenly he
whipped round, tore open my coat, turned out my breast-pockets and said
triumphantly to the officer who stood at his side, “You see, there is
neither a name nor a monogram. It is a sure sign that he is a German,
and that he has destroyed all initials.” Oh, if I could but have
brained the reptile!

As we were soon to learn, this civilian was the representative of the
firm of Thomas Cook Brothers in Gibraltar, and acted on the ships in
the dual capacity of d—— spy and interpreter. His German was so
pure that he must have enjoyed our hospitality in Germany for many
years. How many wretched creatures probably owe their undoing to this
busybody!

Once more we five were driven on deck like cattle. At this moment Judas
number two appeared, who had been fetched by Cook’s agent. This was a
first-class Swiss passenger, and at the instigation of the arch-sneak
he was to try us in Swiss dialect. Of course we all failed miserably.
Our protests were useless. Not even when I told them the wildest tales
about knowing no German, as I had left Switzerland with my parents when
a child of three, and had settled with them in Italy, and that after
that I had drifted to America. I talked nineteen to the dozen in good
Italian and American, and I nearly succeeded; but the snake hissed
again—and my hopes were dashed to the ground.

The English officer refused us any further hearing; but only remarked
that more Swiss had passed through Gibraltar than there were in the
whole world. Bursting with a frenzy that bordered on madness, I was led
away. I quickly gathered my few traps and was able unobserved to slip
a scrap of paper into a German lady’s hand, which she later faithfully
delivered to my relatives. A sailor rudely propelled me down the
gangway into the pinnace, where the other poor wretches already sat,
completely crushed. On the arrival of the English officer with his
minion we started.

The Swiss traitor stood at the breast-rail of the ship and grinned
gloatingly at us. Thereupon I was unable to contain myself any longer,
but jumped up and shook my fist at him, yelling out an invective.
Hysterical, treacherous laughter sounded back.

But a pair of German eyes sent me a sad farewell from starboard.

Good-bye, oh, happy comrade! Greet for me the Fatherland you will see
again in a few days.



CHAPTER XI

BEHIND WALLS AND BARBED WIRE


THE English officer reassured me. “Be assured,” he said, “that you will
be able to interview your Swiss Consul at Gibraltar to-day. You will be
free the moment he confirms that your passport is in order.”

I was only too soon to learn how matters stood in regard to this. The
steam-launch churned its way through the water, and soon we disembarked
in the inner part of the war harbour.

Ten soldiers with fixed bayonets stood ready at the landing-stage.
A few curt orders and, with our few belongings on our backs, we had
to fall in in two files. The ten soldiers took us into their midst,
and at the word “Quick march” the sad procession set out on its way.
Everything around me seemed part of a dream. I was so horribly downcast
that I was hardly able to think. A prisoner! Was it true? Was it
possible?

It was horrible, incomprehensible! We were being led along like
malefactors, and the population seemed to regard us as such. The
soldiers told us to hurry up. I was so weak that I could hardly move,
as the fever still held me in its grip and I had taken nothing except
quinine for the last three days. The sun beat down on our backs, and I
had never felt more desolate or more hopeless.

We climbed higher and higher, through narrow, hot streets. Soon the
houses gave place to bare rocks on either side. After an hour we had
reached the highest summit of Gibraltar. Orders rang out, barbed-wire
fences and iron doors opened and clanged to, chains and bolts rattled.

A prisoner!

We were first brought to the police-station, and there subjected to an
examination. I protested with energy and demanded to be taken at once
to my Consul, as I had definitely been promised this by the English
officer. But they laughed regretfully. We were not the first, alas,
that had been brought before them and had made this same request! How
many had probably stood in the same place and been obliged to bury
their hopes in the same way!

After that examination we had to submit to being searched.

“Have any of the prisoners got money?”

Of course no one answered. We were ordered to undress, and every
garment was closely searched for money, cameras and especially letters
and papers. I came third, and was allowed to keep my shirt on.

“Have you got any money?”

“No.”

The sergeant-major passed his hands all over my body. Suddenly
something chinked in the left-hand pocket of my shirt.

“What is this?”

“I don’t know.”

He now plunged his paw right in, and what did he extract? A beautiful
twenty-dollar piece of the best American gold, and also a small
mother-of-pearl button, which had betrayed me by knocking against
the coin. This comes of being too tidy! Had I thrown it away two
days before, instead of hoarding it carefully, this would not have
happened. The English soldier rejoiced, for such finds did not occur
every day. But now he examined me more thoroughly. And to my distress
he extracted from my other breast-pocket, as well as from each of
the two trouser-pockets, a lovely golden piece and my small Browning
revolver, which had been my faithful companion all these months.

When I had been completely despoiled I was allowed to dress again and
to rejoin my comrades in misfortune in the prison yard. After that we
took possession of our quarters. About fifty German civilian prisoners
greeted us uproariously. They had been in captivity ever since the
beginning of the war, and seemed to have recovered their sense of
humour. Our new friends invited us at once to share their meal. We
threw ourselves like savages on the bread pudding which they had
prepared for themselves.

Then we started on our work.

In the first place, we were made to carry coal and water. We were
detailed according to height, and accidentally I fell in with the dirty
Swiss whom I had already regarded with such repulsion on the ship.

In the meanwhile we went on dragging sacks of coal, and we were careful
not to fill the bins to their full capacity. Were we not too weak to
do so properly? After we had carried on this job for some time we were
allotted our soldiers’ mattresses, consisting of three parts, and as
hard as stone; also two blankets. We were allowed to rest that evening.
But the first thing was to get a wash. I well recall the scene.

My filthy colleague placed his basin near mine, and stripped with
the utmost placidity. Hang it all! I had not expected so much
cleanliness, and inspected him critically. A perfectly shaped body
and clean—spotlessly clean! But head, neck and hands! I shuddered.
And then I stopped in the midst of my ablutions. My eyes opened wide
in astonishment. The water of my colleague was coal-black; but he was
completely metamorphosed. His black, oily hair had turned into shining
blonde, his face looked fresh and white, and showed delicate features,
the hands were slim and elegant. And was it possible? Across the cheek
and the temple ran the honourable scars of students’ duels—real German
scars! Such an explosion of joy! Such a cross-fire of questions and
answers! My comrade had been a _real_ German student, was now at the
head of a good motor-car business in America, and had left it all to
serve his country as an officer in the Reserve. We chummed up quickly,
and remained faithful, inseparable friends through all the weeks of our
captivity, until fate separated us once more.

The last post sounded at ten—lights out followed.

I had placed my mattress near a French window, so that I could easily
look through it whilst lying on the floor. The day had brought many
changes, and only now was I able to reflect on them.

The barracks in which we were quartered lay at the very top of
Gibraltar, on the south, where the rocks drop straight into the sea.

Through the window I saw, deep below me, the wonderfully blue waters
of the Straits of Gibraltar; quite far away on the horizon, the coast
of Africa, a fine and shining strip of land. Down below was Liberty,
ships wended their way to and fro, carrying men, free and unfettered,
who could travel where they liked and—who did not appreciate how
marvellous and precious it was to be free!

But that way madness lay!

The thoughts and events of the day raced through my brain, and when I
remembered that, with luck, I might have been on one of these boats I
nearly burst with rage. And it was my birthday too! Well, I had planned
it otherwise.

Like a madman I rolled about on my couch. When I thought of how
different things might have been, of all I had hoped for, and how I
had pictured my future, I gave way to utter despair, and helpless fury
brought the tears coursing down my cheeks without my being able to
check them.

Oh, longing for home—dreadful longing! But during that night I was not
the only sufferer.

Pale faces with wide-open eyes stared at the ceiling, and suppressed
sobbing was smothered in the blankets. The next morning, at four
o’clock, we were suddenly awakened. The English non-commissioned
officers went through the rooms and yelled out an order that all German
prisoners had to get ready to march off in twenty minutes’ time to
sail by the next boat to England.

To England! But that was impossible! Were we not Swiss? Had we not to
see our Consul on that very day? All our efforts broke against the
stolid, imperturbable calm of the English. We quickly collected our
property and, exactly half an hour later, the civilian prisoners,
numbering fifty-six, surrounded by a hundred heavily armed English
soldiers, were marched out into the bright morning.

But we wanted to prove to the English that our pride was unbroken. With
a clear and ringing sound, intensified by the anger that was burning
within us, we poured forth “The Watch on the Rhine,” flinging its notes
up to the skies.

A huge transport, filled to overflowing with English troops, awaited
us below. We had to run the gauntlet through a narrow passage that was
formed for us in the great crowd of travellers and those who had come
to see them off. But I must admit that nobody molested us, and that
no word of disparagement reached our ears. Room for us was made in
silence, in silence we were allowed to pass, even here and there we
encountered a look of commiseration and regret. On board, in the front
part of the cargo deck, a space had been partitioned off and sparsely
furnished with benches, tables and hammocks.

There stood two sentries with fixed bayonets; there was another couple
near the hatch over our heads. When the latter was closed down from
outside, we sat as in a trap. The portholes of our habitation were
blinded by iron shutters, so that none of us should be able to look out
or flash signals. After a short time a slight tremor ran through the
ship, the engines started, and our swimming prison, rising and sinking
slightly, drifted out into the open sea.

The journey lasted for days. We sat, closely guarded, shut up in our
room. Once a day we were allowed on deck to get a breath of fresh air.
A most primitive lavatory had been erected on the fore-deck with a
few boards, and whoever wanted to use it had to report himself to the
sentry. Only one person at a time was allowed to appear on deck for
this purpose. The food was good—real sailors’ rations—especially the
bread, the butter and the abundant supply of excellent jam. We beguiled
the time away by reading, story-telling; above all, we discussed
our future from all points of view, and what lay in store for us in
England. The two sentries, who always kept watch below, soon became
quite friendly, and we often frightened the poor Tommies into fits by
tales of what happened on the Western Front.

Rough weather greeted us in the Bay of Biscay. It was a dreadful state
of affairs for the fifty-six of us shut up in that restricted space,
without light or air, and the majority sea-sick. The sentries, and the
English soldiers who brought us our food, however, suffered most, and
presented a pitiful spectacle. But when we got into the Channel the
crew was seized with general nervousness and agitation. Drills with
life-belts were held daily, our recreation-hour on deck was suspended,
and the English soldiers never stopped questioning us fearfully in
regard to our U-boats! And didn’t we make it hot for them!

At last, after ten days, we landed at Plymouth. When the chain cable
rattlingly uncoiled itself, and we knew that we were safe in port
and had escaped U-boats, we watched through the bulkhead the English
soldiers falling on their knees and singing hymns of praise and
gratitude for their salvation from the German submarines.

Immediately after our arrival a tender came alongside and conveyed us
to terra firma—of course under imposing escort.

The English authorities were evidently unprepared for such a _large_
consignment of prisoners. They simply lost their heads. No one knew
what to do with us, no one what to advise.

At last we were packed into a train. I got a compartment to myself,
flanked on either side by a non-commissioned officer, and with another
one sitting opposite me, with fixed bayonets. They had been given
strict injunctions to watch me carefully, for the following reason:
when I saw that it was quite impossible that I should be set free or
recognized as a Swiss, I had reported myself to my Commanding Officer
in my true colours, the others doing likewise. He assured me that he
would transfer me at once to the first class, if I would give him
my parole never to try to escape or to fight again in the war. As I
naturally rejected this demand with the utmost indignation, I was sent
back to the cargo-deck, the only result being a stricter surveillance.

In the evening, at dusk, we reached Portsmouth. At the station and
elsewhere this huge quantity of prisoners (we were fifty-six in all)
seemed to bewilder everybody completely.

At last we were marched off to the lock-up. There also we found great
bewilderment and confusion. The lock-up usually affords a temporary
domicile to drunken soldiers and sailors who are picked up in the
streets, and who have an opportunity of sleeping off their intoxication
until the next day, when they are sent back to their platoon after a
sound thrashing [_sic_]. An old, obnoxious jailer, and two elderly
but jovial and kindly soldiers, were in charge. We were disposed of
in three rooms. They were totally empty, and lit by a miserable gas
jet. The window-panes were mostly broken, it was bitterly cold, and
there was, of course, no fire. We had eaten nothing all day, and were
looking forward to our supper, but there was no supper. Thereupon
we approached our two old soldiers and promptly sealed our pact of
friendship. A small tip acted miraculously—the old fogies simply
scampered off on our errands. We gave them money, and in half an hour
they returned, groaning under a load of bread, butter and cold meat.
Two huge pots of tea, mixed with milk and sugar, made their appearance.
We got some charcoal ourselves, and soon the three fireplaces were
ablaze. The provisions were excellent, and so abundant that even we,
famished as we were, could not deal with the lot.

Our spirits reached their zenith when the soldiers slipped us in a
few English newspapers. Our mental hunger had been greater than our
physical needs, as for weeks we had heard nothing whatsoever about the
happenings of the outer world. We did not mind reading exclusively of
English, French and Russian victories, as long as we at least knew
something of what was going on.

Alcohol was forbidden; but even in England rules seemed made only to
be broken. One of our warders belonged to a masonic lodge, members of
which were widely distributed over England and America. My colleague,
the locksmith, happened to be Master. When the soldier saw the
Freemasons’ sign in my friend’s buttonhole, their pact was sealed. A
small canteen flourished in the basement of our prison, and one after
another we were led down by the kindly brother, and returned thence
fortified, with pockets bulging with beer bottles.

The joke was that our sentries, who stood on guard before our door,
allowed us to go away quietly, and even begged us to bring them up
a few bottles of beer. At 9 p.m. our sentries had become so chummy
that we practised rifle exercises together, and at 11 p.m. one sentry
dropped his rifle altogether and tumbled backwards, with the coal-box,
on which he had been sitting, atop of him.

If I had possessed the experience which was mine after five months’
captivity, I should have escaped even then.

In this prison, as well as in all other camps where we foregathered
with the English Tommies, their first request, after we had become
better acquainted, was for a little note with our address and possibly
the address of friends in Germany, and an attestation that the English
soldier So-and-so had treated us well. These notes were treasured by
them as relics, to be produced at the Front, or in case of capture by
the Germans.

We were given tiny camp palliasses, which were so short that our legs
projected from the calves downwards, and so narrow that it would have
taken an ingenious circus performer to balance his back on it. We also
had two blankets each. We slept like logs, though, it is true, the next
morning found us all on the floor alongside the mattresses.

On the following morning—it was Sunday—we received the visit of an
Army officer of high rank. He inquired after our wishes. I pointed out
repeatedly that I was an officer, and had the right to be treated as a
prisoner of war. He was most charming, and promised me many things when
we should arrive at our destination—but kept none of them.

At last, on the Monday, we were allowed to leave our prison. As usual,
closely guarded by our escort, we were marched to the harbour, where
we boarded a small steamer, and after an hour’s journey reached a huge
ship which was used as a prisoners’ camp. After a long palaver we were
obliged to put out to sea again, for the Commandant declared that he
had no information about us, and no room either. Though this comedy
was re-enacted on the next steamer, the Cunard liner _Andania_, the
fluency of our Major’s vituperations probably surpassed that of the
Camp Commandant’s; anyway, we went on board after half an hour’s delay.
A fat, bumptious, English Lieutenant, who filled the post of Camp
Commandant and interpreter on this boat, received us.

When my turn came to be inspected I politely presented my request,
and forcibly demanded that, according to regulations, I should be
taken to an officers’ camp. The answer of this gentleman was quite
unprecedented, and showed up his vulgarity.

“I shall treat you with special severity, as I have already heard about
you. You bolted from Kiao-Chow, and have several times broken your
parole. If I hear another word, I shall lock you up, and will keep
you on short rations until you are unable to talk at all. Our English
officers are being so badly treated in Germany that I will make you pay
for it.”

It was a happy prospect. What could I do?

There were more than one thousand prisoners on board ship. The
accommodation was the most appalling that I have ever witnessed.
Without light or air the men sat huddled together under hatches,
and their only physical exercise consisted in running up and down
the narrow fore-deck. When we were led into the room which had been
prepared for us, I was horror-struck. I think I should have gone mad
had I been obliged to stay there for long. Our English non-commissioned
officer seemed a sensible man. Through his kind offices I was able to
secure for my friend, the locksmith, and myself a small cabin which
even boasted of a porthole. Life on board was very monotonous. We rose
at 6 a.m., and lights went out at 10 p.m. In the mornings and the
afternoons we had to stand about for two hours on the upper deck,
and roll-call was at noon. We took our meals in the huge dining-rooms
of the steamer. Twelve sat at one table, and I had to take my turn at
waiting, fetch the food from the caboose for the mess, and wash the
dirty crockery with the others.

M——, our Commandant, as a civilian, had travelled for a whisky firm,
and had made so much money in this capacity that he was able to buy a
commission. One circumstance had especially enraged him; as soon as we
arrived we were asked which of us wished to pay 2.50 marks daily, for
which consideration we would be allowed to take our meals separately,
get better food, and be excused from washing our crockery. Of course
we all saw through this rank swindle, and it made M—— specially mad
that we did not accept. On the second day I finished my report for the
English Government, and presented myself with it to Mr. M——. He burst
into offensive sniggering.

“You know very well that I will not pass on your petition, and you can
imagine what I shall do to it. In Germany our English Generals are
forced to drag ploughs over the fields; _you_ are going to pay for it.”

It was hopeless to persuade him of the absurdity of his allegations.
Every evening, when making the rounds at bedtime, he made a special
point of entering my room as well, turned on the light and said: “Still
here?” Too childish!

One day fifty civilian prisoners were ordered by Mr. M—— to scour the
first-class deck and clean the portholes. Of course we went on strike.
When we persisted in our refusal we were punished by being twice
deprived of our dinner and having to go to bed at 9 p.m. Moreover,
M—— was such a coward that he did not dare muster us and order our
punishment himself, but remained at a safe distance and sent his
non-commissioned officer as official delegate.

M—— foamed with rage.

“Of course,” he said, “it is again the fault of this ‘flying-man’; he
is at the root of the whole trouble, and one of these fine days he will
incite the whole crew to mutiny. But I will teach him a lesson, and
bring him before a court martial.”

I got fed up with this state of affairs, for I was totally innocent, so
I wrote M—— a very energetic letter, in which I expressed a hope that
he was only a “temporary Lieutenant,” not a “temporary gentleman.”

M—— declared that he would have nothing further to do with the
“flying-man,” and as early as the next day a steamer came alongside and
took me and some of my companions in misfortune from the _Andania_ and
its vulgar jailer.

How relieved I felt! The train carried us westwards for many hours. Of
course I was again alone in my compartment, accompanied not only by
three non-commissioned officers, but by an officer as well.

In the evening we reached Dorchester, where I was greeted by a totally
different atmosphere. An English Captain (whose name was Mitchell) from
the prisoners’ camp approached me and asked politely whether I was an
officer.

“Yes.”

“In this case I am surprised that you should have been brought to a
soldiers’ camp. Please forgive me if I cannot have you escorted by
an officer. But my senior sergeant-major will come with you. Will you
kindly walk alone behind the other prisoners.”

I was speechless.

As we were marching through this delightful, clean little town, I
suddenly heard “The Watch on the Rhine” being sung behind us loudly,
gaily, and with zest, followed by the most beautiful soldier songs,
and then “O Germany, high in honours!” We thought we were dreaming,
but when we looked round with amazement we saw a troop of about fifty
German soldiers who had been commandeered from the camp to the station
to fetch our luggage.

Oh, how our hearts beat! In the midst of enemies, in spite of wounds
and captivity, this flaming enthusiasm, this rapturous singing! I
must confess that the English were extraordinarily tolerant, and the
population always behaved in exemplary fashion. Silently, closely
pressed together, they stood on both sides of the street. From all
the windows fair little heads peeped at us, but not one contemptuous
gesture, not one abusive word. They even seemed to enjoy listening to
the old German melodies.

In camp thirty civilian prisoners were allotted a small wooden hut,
which combined our bed, dining and sitting-room. A tiny palliasse,
which lay on the floor, and two blankets made up our sleeping
accommodation. My Captain begged me to put up with existing conditions,
as he was unfortunately unable to give me a special room to myself.

The camp at Dorchester contained 2000 to 3000 prisoners and consisted
partly of old race-horse stables and of wooden barracks. A hundred
years ago German Hussars had been quartered in these same barracks, on
the occasion of the visit of Field-Marshal Blücher!

The prisoners were extremely comfortable, as the food was good
and plentiful, the treatment irreproachable, and there were many
opportunities for sport.

Captain Mitchell and Major Owen especially deserved praise for the
treatment of our men. Both were true old regulars, had been through
many campaigns and battles, and knew how to handle troops. These
two and the English Medical Officer presented the men with games,
gymnastic outfits and a band, and did whatever they could for them.
Special praise is due to the senior German prisoner, a Warrant
Officer, from Munich. He was a merchant, and spoke English fluently.
A most remarkable personality. He was really the soul and veritable
guardian angel of the camp. Nothing was done without his approval and
directions. He was the English Camp Commandant’s right-hand man, and
without him I do not know what would have become of the English, who
did not possess the slightest vestige of talent for organization. It
was simply extraordinary how this Warrant Officer looked after our
people and acted as go-between with the English. The English officers
knew full well what a help he was to them. By the way, after my arrival
in Dorchester, I had already sent in my petition to be transferred
to an officers’ camp, for I knew that Mr. M—— had kept back my
former one. After a fortnight it was returned from the War Office with
the remark that the name of some one in England who knew me must be
given. This was most unwelcome; but finally I wrote to my English
acquaintances, and in as soon as three days I received their answer
that they would willingly vouch for my identity. The papers again went
to the War Office, and I patiently waited for my transfer.

But time passed, and I still remained at Dorchester, and when, a
fortnight after our arrival, the other civilian prisoners were again
moved to another destination, I was able to arrange that I should
remain in the soldiers’ camp at Dorchester. However, I left my hut and
moved into a small room over the stables, where I was warmly received
by Sergeant-Major N.

Life in this small room was unique and full of intimate comradeship. My
colleagues were, apart from N., a huge Bavarian infantry soldier of the
Body Guards Regiment, whose nickname was “Schorsch,” and who acted as
our cook; a nimble and clever private in the Hussars from Lorraine, a
policeman by profession; and also two splendid rifle guards of gigantic
stature, genuine blond Frisians. After a week we received a seventh
guest. This was the sub-lieutenant H., the observer whom the English
had fished out of the North Sea with his pilot, after they had been
drifting about on the wrecked machine for over forty hours.

The comradeship in this room was ideal. The men had all been taken
prisoners at the great retreat of the Marne, and, as was to be
expected, these splendid fellows had only fallen into the enemy’s hands
when severely wounded. They were of such fine disposition, and showed
such burning love for their country, that my heart filled with pride
and satisfaction. The evenings were especially pleasant. We contrived a
rough game with a board and some pieces of cork, and gambled on _petits
chevaux_ regularly every night with childish delight.

But the real fun began when we started exchanging experiences.
Everything was new to me, and I was happy to learn at last from
first-hand information of our splendid battle and triumphs.

Every afternoon 300 to 400 prisoners, of course closely guarded by
English soldiers, were led out for their exercise, which took them
into the lovely open country. I often accompanied them. All the time
our soldier songs were sung; but with particular force and ecstasy
when we marched through the town, going and returning, “The Watch on
the Rhine” and “O Germany, high in honours!” Imagine 300 or 400 of
our picked men, our victorious troops under General von Kluck! The
English population behaved even then with the utmost restraint, and
never uttered a word of abuse or a threat. The sergeant-major told
me of a very nice episode. When Major Owen and Captain Mitchell were
appointed to the camp, their wives implored them not to go among the
“Huns” without escort and without being heavily armed. The two old
soldiers, however, kept their own counsel, and were—not devoured!
After a time they suggested to their wives that they should visit the
camp and convince themselves that the German soldiers were quite normal
people and not monsters as portrayed by the press. Naturally, at first
the ladies fainted away. But after much persuasion, and being assured
of a bodyguard, they ventured upon entering their husbands’ offices
and watched the doings of the German soldiers. The news of the visit
got about, and silently our male choir assembled under the windows
and warbled forth its finest songs. I am told that the ladies were so
deeply moved that they were unable to speak, and could not hold back
bitter tears. From thence onwards they often came and showed much
kindness to our men.

Another story also is very typical.

A new Colonel came to the camp. On his first round he was armed to
the teeth, and walked about between two soldiers with fixed bayonets,
one in front and the other behind him. When he met the Major and the
Captain, absolutely unarmed and unaccompanied, he reproached them
severely for their carelessness.

But he soon improved.

One day this new Commandant sent for these two gentlemen, and said to
them in a tone full of horror:

“Can you imagine this? We have been sent some new prisoners, and it has
been reported that they are full of lice! Such dreadful things can only
happen to the Germans.”

Captain Mitchell turned calmly to the Major:

“Do you remember, Owen, that we were so covered with lice during our
last campaign that we simply could not move?”

The Colonel was aghast. I must point out that though the Colonel _was_
a Colonel he had never in his life had anything to do with military
affairs. But that can only happen in England!

About the end of March I at last received news from my people. It
was nearly nine months since I had heard from them. It is easy to
picture my feelings when I held in my hands my first letter from home,
hesitating to open it, for all my brothers and male relatives had been
at the Front since July 1914. It informed me that they were still safe;
but, on the other hand, my beloved little sister, my best pal, had died
from the effects of the war.

Towards the end of March the order came that I should be recognized as
an officer, and transferred to an officers’ camp. My small bundle and
my hockey-stick were soon collected, and after a warm farewell to my
comrades I marched to the station with Major Owen.

I found the fine tact of the old gentleman a very particular blessing.
After a journey that lasted several hours we reached Maidenhead, near
London, where I was received by another English officer. And here, oh,
miracle, I also met dear old friends. Five shining gold coins which had
been taken from the locksmith, Ernst Suse, were handed over to my new
companion, and the latter was able to return them at once to me, as I
was an officer once more. Oh, the joy of our reunion! A motor-car took
us to the Officers’ Camp, Holyport. The sentries presented arms, the
wire fences were opened, and I found myself in the midst of a joyous
crowd of comrades. Who could have imagined this change!

I again met those I had last seen at Kiao-Chow—the victors of Coronel,
the few gallant survivors of the Falkland Islands. It is impossible to
imagine our joy. The questions and answers! the excitement! And then
the miraculous happened, for I was conducted to my dormitory, and there
I actually saw six or eight beds, made up with white, clean sheets. I
had been a prisoner for eight weeks, and these were the first beds I
beheld. Can one understand the shy reverence with which I laid myself
to rest that night?

In the beginning, I thought myself in Paradise, the more so as I was
again being treated as a human being. I was once more amongst my
comrades, and found my old friends, and was greatly stimulated thereby.

The treatment in the camp was good. The English Commandant was a
sensible man, who tried to ease our existence. The building was
an old military school, and 100 officers were imprisoned in the
camp—eight to ten shared a dormitory, which was at the same time a
sitting-room. Apart from this, there was a number of mess, reading
and dining-rooms, in which we spent most of our time when we were
not in the fresh air. The food was purely English, therefore hardly
palatable to the majority of the Germans, but more than sufficient and
of good quality. At the beginning we managed our own mess; but this,
unfortunately, was forbidden later on by the War Office. During the day
we were left comparatively alone. We were allowed to move freely among
the buildings, and in the garden. At ten in the morning there was
roll-call, and at ten in the evening “lights out” and rounds.

Of course we were not allowed to approach the barbed-wire entanglements
which surrounded the whole place, and which were strictly guarded and
illuminated night and day. Twice a day the gates were opened, and we
passed between a lane of English soldiers to the sports ground, which
lay about 200 yards away. Our games were wonderfully organized. Two
splendid football, and, above all, some perfect hockey-fields, stood at
our disposal, and we displayed such amazing form that even the English
were impressed. It is superfluous to add that these fields were also
surrounded by barbed wire and sentries.

A very pleasant feature was the bi-weekly appearance of an excellent
tailor, and also of a haberdasher, who provided us with excellent
hosiery and gave us the opportunity of renewing our wardrobe.

Our monthly pay amounted to 120 marks, of which sixty was put aside for
our keep. We were permitted to spend the rest; also to receive money
from home. The post worked without a hitch. Letters from Germany, as
well as parcels, took from six to eight days, and arrived regularly.
Conditions were less fortunate in regard to our own correspondence. Our
weekly allowance consisted of two short notes, and how gladly would
we have filled reams to our dearest at home! The post was the Alpha
and Omega of our existence. We divided our whole day according to its
delivery, and the temper of the camp was regulated by it.

Every morning saw the same spectacle. When the interpreter arrived with
the letters everything was abandoned and forgotten. The English officer
was surrounded by a silent crowd of waiting people. Each one’s heart
was filled with the burning wish to receive some token, some loving
message from home. What joy when one’s hopes were fulfilled, how great
the sorrow and disappointment when they were shattered. In the latter
case, we always said: “One more day lost.” When, two months afterwards,
I was back in Germany, and was asked on many sides what one could do to
give pleasure to the prisoners, I always said: “Write, write as much as
you can. What the prisoner longs for most are letters.”

We lived in very close comradeship. In the evenings we sat in groups
round the beautiful, large fireplaces, in which burned huge logs of
wood. The conversation touched upon battles and victories, sorrow and
death, and wild, adventurous happenings. We had many good books, and a
string quartette as well as a choir added much to our entertainment.

We played many a joke, and when we had had a jolly good laugh we felt
relieved for a time from the terrible oppression which captivity
exercised on our spirits.

At the end of April our quiet existence was suddenly broken up.

One evening the order was received to transfer fifty officers to the
Officers’ Camp at Donington Hall. Excitement ran high, for no one
wanted to leave; but neither entreaties nor opposition prevailed. We
had to pack our trunks and march off. I was the only naval officer of
the party, and that, unfortunately, because the English Commandant of
the camp considered the proximity of London too dangerous a temptation
for me. My devoted friend, Siebel, an army flying-officer, followed me,
so at least we two of the same service remained together.

On the 1st of May, therefore, we moved off again. Motor-cars took us
to Maidenhead Station, where two reserved carriages were waiting for
us. We remained undisturbed in our compartments; but the carriages
themselves were strictly guarded.

For many hours we rolled northwards. At the stations people looked into
our windows curiously, but preserved a quiet demeanour. Sometimes an
old woman, probably a suffragette, put out her unlovely tongue at us.
At last in the afternoon we reached the station, Donington Castle, near
Derby, where we had to fall in in squads. Guarded by sixty or seventy
soldiers, we were marched off on the order “Quick march.”

Outside the station we were greeted by a howling mob, composed of women
and undersized lads and children, but few men. In France many of us had
been accustomed to this undignified behaviour of the populace, but in
England it was a new experience. The women and the girls, belonging to
the lower classes, behaved like savages. Yelling and whistling, they
ran alongside and behind us, and occasionally a stone or a lump of dirt
hurtled through the air. But the majority were splitting with laughter
and seemed to enjoy their antics tremendously. At the first turning a
car came hooting behind us. At the wheel sat our Interpreter-officer,
Mr. M——, a fat and supercilious individual, whom we were to know
exhaustively later on. Mr. M—— was out to create an impression, and
he at once proceeded to do so by running over one of his own soldiers,
who belonged to our escort. General uproar followed, in which every
one took part. Lastly, two of our “Huns” sprang forward and rescued
the unfortunate Tommy from under the wheels. Thereupon the fury of the
women turned upon Mr. M——, who would have had a poor time of it if he
had not speedily driven off. It is most regrettable that he was able
to do so! However, this incident was quickly forgotten, and the crowd
went on yelling. It became more and more unruly and dirt more and more
plentiful, when suddenly four or five cows, placidly chewing, came
ambling along and tried to pass us on both sides. What followed was so
comical that we, as well as our Tommies, stood still and roared with
laughter. On beholding the peaceful cows the brave Amazons shrieked
despairingly, gathered up their skirts and ran! Ruthlessly the strong
trampled on the weak, and in the twinkling of an eye a confused mass
of women lay screaming and kicking in the ditches on both sides of the
road.

After that we were left in peace and were allowed to proceed rapidly on
our way.

All the time I sharply scrutinized our surroundings and noted different
landmarks, which might possibly prove useful some day.

The sun burned down on us unmercifully, and we were bathed in
perspiration when we at last reached our new home—Donington Hall.

Discipline held sway there.

The portals and wire fences opened before us; the whole guard turned
out and presented arms; the Officer in Command and two Lieutenants
stood at the right wing, their hands raised in salute.

After we had been received by the Camp Commandant, we were distributed
over the rooms, and I was lucky enough to secure, with four other
comrades, amongst whom was my _fidus Achates_ Siebel, a very nice
little den.

Here, also, I met a large number of old friends. Some of the survivors
of the _Blücher_, some from torpedo-boat destroyers and small cruisers,
and several flying-men from the Army and Navy.

Donington Hall was the model prisoners’ camp of England. To go by all
we had read about it for weeks in English papers it should have been
Paradise. Daily, long-winded columns abused the Government for the
luxury with which the German officers were housed. As usually happens,
the strongest attacks were launched by women, and they even turned our
ejection from Donington Hall into a feminist issue. Even Parliament
had to take up this matter repeatedly. It was rumoured that the place
was lavishly furnished, that we had several entertainment and billiard
rooms, a private deer park; and even indulged in fox hunts, especially
got up for our benefit.

None of this was true. Donington Hall was a large, old castle
dating from the seventeenth century, surrounded by a lovely old
park; but its rooms were completely bare, and its accommodation as
primitive and scanty as possible. There was no trace of the other
items—entertainment-rooms or hunting. After our arrival the inmates
numbered 120, and we were packed together like pickled herrings. One
cannot imagine what would have happened if the camp had held its full
complement—400 to 500 officers—as our mess, kitchens and bathrooms,
etc., were far from sufficient even as it was.

We loved the beautiful park most. Our residence was divided into two
zones—_i.e._ in the so-called day and night boundaries. These areas
were marked off by huge erections of barbed wire, which were partly
charged with electricity, illuminated at night by powerful arc-lamps,
and guarded sharply by sentries both day and night.

At six in the evening, after the principal roll-call, the day-boundary
was closed, and only reopened the next day at eight. Life at Donington
Hall was practically the same as at Holyport, with the difference
that, thanks to the park, we had greater liberty of movement, could
indulge in more sport, and had three tennis-courts. The food here also
was English, so that many did not like it; but it was very good. The
English Colonel was reasonable, and, although he often grumbled, and
was at times rather inclined to make us feel his authority, he was a
distinguished, intelligent man, and a perfect soldier, and that was the
principal thing. He did all that lay in his power to lighten our hard
lot, and took a special interest in our sports—which was all to the
good.

He had a most obnoxious substitute in the person of the interpreter,
Lieutenant M——, the motorist, who was a worthy counterpart of my
friend M—— of the _Andania_—not only “temporary Lieutenant,” but
also “temporary gentleman.” His family came from Frankfurt-on-the-Main;
he was director of a strolling troupe before the war, and he did
nothing to disguise his base disposition. I believe the English Colonel
regarded him with the utmost contempt, and the English sergeants, with
whom we occasionally exchanged a few words in the canteen, begged us to
believe that all English officers were not like this Mr. M——.

One evening, towards the end of June, we had a delightful adventure.
Outside the barbed wire a herd of wild deer—roebucks and fawns—used
to assemble in their hundreds, and ran about as tame as goats.

That evening, a darling little fawn, which had lost its mother, ran
past the wire fence, and, attracted by our alluring calls, it cleverly
wriggled through the defences into the camp. The fawn was surrounded
and petted (the huntsmen growled), and lastly it was carried in triumph
in the arms of a Lieutenant into the batmen’s room, where we intended
to rear it.

God knows how M—— heard of it. At any rate he sent for the German
Camp Adjutant, and said in a voice that shook with anxiety:

“Lieutenant S., is it true that there is an animal in the camp?”

“Yes, sir; an animal.”

“Has it come in through the wire entanglements?”

“Yes; it simply crept through.”

“Oh, this is dreadful!” remarked Mr. M——, and he seemed to lose his
voice altogether. “I must at once see the hole through which the big
beast has crawled. I am convinced that the German officers have cut the
wire in order to escape. The animal must also be at once removed.”

And so it happened.

And—this is no joke—twenty men from the guard with fixed bayonets
were sent for. The solitary German soldier with the innocent tiny
fawn was taken into their midst. On the order “Quick march” the whole
procession moved to the inside door of the fence. The latter was
opened, the twenty men with the German soldier and the fawn stepped
into the intervening space, the so-called “lock,” the inner portal,
was carefully shut. Only then was the outer one opened, the soldier
liberated the fawn, and after that the whole procession wended its way
back. Oh, Mr. M—— what a laughing stock you made of yourself!

After that all the entanglements were carefully examined, and, though
it was impossible to find the smallest cleft through which a man could
have crept, M—— could not quiet down for days.

Apart from the post, the arrival of newspapers represented the chief
interest of the day. We were allowed to receive the _Times_ and the
_Morning Post_, and, though they were nearly exclusively filled with
Entente victories, we knew them so well after a short time that we
could read between the lines, and were able to conjecture the real
state of affairs with approximate correctness.

But what rage in the newspapers at the sinking of the _Lusitania_,
and what anger when the Russians had to retire—of course only for
strategic reasons! We had manufactured for ourselves several huge
maps of the theatres of war, which were correct even to the slightest
details, and each morning at eleven our “General Staff Officers” were
hard at work moving the little flags. Often the English Colonel himself
stood in front of them and thoughtfully shook his head.



CHAPTER XII

THE ESCAPE


IN time captivity became unbearable. Nothing relieved my gloom—neither
letters, parcels forwarded from home by loving hands, the company of my
friends, not even hockey, to which I devoted myself so strenuously that
in the evenings I used to drop asleep, half-dead from fatigue.

It was all of no avail. At last the prisoners’
disease—home-sickness—held me in its grip, as it had held so many
before me. The apathy of most dreadful despair, of entire hopelessness.
Hopeless!

For hours I lay on the grass and stared with wide opened eyes into the
sky, and my whole soul longed fiercely for the white clouds above, to
wander off with them to the distant beloved country.

When an English airman soared quietly and securely in the blue
firmament, my heart contracted with pain, and a wild, desperate
longing set me shivering. My condition grew steadily worse. I became
irritable and nervous, behaved brusquely towards my comrades and
deteriorated visibly, both mentally and physically. This was quite
unreasonable on my part, for I should have been satisfied that at least
I had seen something of the hostilities, and had had many interesting
experiences! So many fell wounded into the enemy’s hands during the
very first days of the war; but the most to be pitied were those who
had come from America at the beginning of the war, forsaking all their
goods and chattels, all they held dear, to serve their Fatherland, and
had been made prisoners through English treachery, before they had had
a chance of drawing the sword.

We were greatly depressed owing to our being deprived of war news from
German sources, and, though we naturally gave no credence to the lying
reports of the English, yet, after a while, we felt the oppression
of reading, week after week, nothing but abuse of Germany, tidings
of defeats, revolution and famine over there. Uncertainty was our
worst trial, and the announcement of Italy’s mean betrayal hit us
particularly hard.

What triumph in the English papers!

At last I was no longer able to bear it. Something had to be done if I
were to be saved from despair.

Day and night I planned, brooded, deliberated how I could escape from
this miserable imprisonment. I had to act with the greatest calm and
caution if I hoped to succeed.

For hours together I walked up and down in front of different parts of
the entanglements, whilst I unostentatiously examined every wire and
every stake. For hours together I lay in the grass in the vicinity of
some of those spots that seemed favourable, feigning sleep. But all the
time I was closely watching every object and noting the ways and habits
of the different sentries. I had already fixed upon the spot where I
had decided to climb the barbed wire. Now the question remained how
to make headway after this obstacle had been overcome. We possessed
neither a map of England nor a compass, no time-table, no means of
assistance of any kind. We were even ignorant of the exact location of
Donington Hall. I knew the road to Donington Castle, for I had fixed
it in my memory on the day of our arrival. I had also heard through
an officer, who had been taken by car to Donington Hall from Derby,
that the latter lay about 25 to 30 miles away to the north, and that
he had passed a long bridge before the car turned into the village.
Next I made friends with a nice old English soldier, whom I presented
occasionally with a few cigars, and invited to a glass of beer in the
canteen. After we had met several times I asked him whether he did not
find it very tedious to be tied to Donington, and whether he sometimes
had a change?

“Oh yes,” he said, now and then he cycled to Derby to the cinema.

“What! Derby?” said I. “But that is too far for you. You are far too
old for that!”

“Too old? I? No, sir! You don’t know an English Tommy if you can say
that. When I am on my bike, I can race any young fellow, and in three
to four hours I am in Derby!”

I had learned enough for that day. The next week I again met my old
friend. We exchanged greetings, and I pressed into his hands a couple
of cigars which I always carried about with me, though I do not smoke.

“Hallo, Tommy!” I began suddenly. “I was talking yesterday with a
brother officer. I swore that Derby lies to the north of us, and he
insists that it is to the south. If I win, you will get a good big jug
of beer.”

My friend’s eyes glistened joyously, and he assured me on his sacred
oath that I had won, and that Derby most certainly lay to the north of
Donington Hall.

Now I knew.

And then and there I resolved to make common cause with a
Naval-officer, Oberleutnant Trefftz, who knew England and spoke English
remarkably well.

The 4th of July 1915 had been chosen for our escape. We had rehearsed
it in every detail and made all our preparations.

On the 4th of July, in the morning, we reported ourselves sick.

At the morning roll-call, at ten o’clock, our names were entered on the
sick-list, and on its completion the orderly sergeant came to our room
and found us ill in bed.

Everything was working well.

With the afternoon came the decision.

About 4 p.m. I dressed, collected all that I considered necessary
for my flight, ate several substantial buttered rolls, and bade
farewell to my comrades, especially to my faithful friend Siebel, who,
unfortunately, I could not take with me as he was no sailor and did not
speak English.

A heavy storm was in progress, and rain poured in torrents from grey
skies. The sentries stood wet and shivering in their sentry-boxes, and
therefore nobody paid any attention when two officers decided to walk
about in the park, in spite of the rain. The park contained a grotto,
surrounded by shrubs, from which one could overlook its whole expanse
and the barbed wire, without oneself being seen.

This is where Trefftz and I crept in. We took a hurried leave of
Siebel, who covered us with garden chairs, and we were alone. From now
onwards we were in the hands of Providence, and it was to be hoped that
Fortune would not forsake us.

We waited in breathless suspense. Minutes seemed like centuries, but
slowly and surely one hour passed after another, until the turret-clock
struck six in loud, clear chimes. Our hearts thumped in unison. We
heard the bell ring for roll-call, the command “Attention,” and then
the noisy closing of the day-boundary. We hardly dared to breathe,
expecting at any moment to hear our names called out. It was 6.30
and nothing had happened. A weight slipped from our shoulders. Thank
God, the first act was a success. For during roll-call our names had
again been reported on the sick-list and, as soon as the officers
were allowed to fall out, two of our comrades raced back as swiftly
as they could through the back entrance and occupied Trefftz’s bed
and mine. Therefore, when the sergeant arrived he was able to account
satisfactorily for the two invalids. As everything was now in order,
the night-boundary was closed, as every night, and even the sentries
withdrawn from the day-boundary. Thus we were left to our own devices.
The exceptionally heavy rain proved a boon to us, for the English
soldiers generally indulged in all kinds of frolic in the evenings, and
we might have easily been discovered.

The hours followed each other. We lay in silence; sometimes we nudged
each other and nodded our heads joyfully at the thought that up to now
all had gone so smoothly.

At 10.30 p.m. our excitement came to a head. We had to pass our second
test. We clearly heard the signal “Stand to,” and from the open window
of my former room “The Watch on the Rhine” rang out sonorously. It was
the concerted signal that all were on the alert.

The orderly officer, accompanied by a sergeant, walked through all the
rooms and satisfied himself that no one was missing. By observations
carried on for weeks I had made sure that the orderly officers always
chose the same route in order to return to their quarters, after their
rounds, by the shortest way. So it was to-night. The round began with
the room from which Trefftz was missing. Of course his bed was already
occupied by some one.

“All present?”

“Yes, sir!”

“All right! Good-night, gentlemen.”

And so forth. As soon as the orderly officer had turned the corner, two
other comrades ran in the opposite direction and into my room, so that
here also all could be reported “present.”

It is difficult to conceive our excitement and nervous tension whilst
this was in progress. We followed all the proceedings in our minds, and
when suddenly silence supervened for an unconscionably lengthy period
we feared the worst. With ice-cold hands, ears on the alert for the
slightest sound, we lay, hardly daring to breathe.

At last, at 11 p.m., a lusty cheer broke the stillness. It was our
concerted signal that all was clear!



CHAPTER XIII

BLACK NIGHTS ON THE THAMES


ALL was silent around us. The rain ceased. The park lay wrapped in
darkness, and only the light of the huge arc-lamps, which lit up the
night-boundary, streamed faintly towards us. The dull sound of the
sentries’ footsteps as they paced up and down in front of their boxes,
and their calls to each other every quarter of an hour, sounded uncanny
in the stillness. At midnight the guard was changed, and I followed it
with strained attention. Upon this, the orderly officer flashed his
lamp over the day-boundary, and at 12.30 a.m. quiet reigned again.

The moment for action had arrived. I crept softly as a cat from my
hiding-place, through the park up to the barbed-wire fence, to convince
myself that no sentries were about. When I saw that everything was in
order and had found the exact spot where we wanted to climb over, I
crawled back again to fetch Trefftz. Thereupon we returned by the same
way.

When we reached the fence, I gave Trefftz my final instructions and
handed him my small bundle.

I was the first to climb over the fence, which was about 9 feet high,
and every 8 inches the wire was covered with long spikes.

Wires charged with electricity were placed 2½ feet from the ground.
A mere touch would have sufficed to set in motion a system of bells
that would, of course, have given the alarm to the whole camp. We wore
leather leggings as protection against the spikes; round our knees we
had wound puttees, and we wore leather gloves.

But all these precautions were of no avail, and we got badly scratched
by the spikes. However, they prevented us from slipping and coming in
contact with the electric wires. I easily swung myself over the first
fence. Trefftz handed over our two bundles and followed me with equal
ease.

Next we were confronted by a wire obstacle, 3 feet high by 30 feet
wide, contrived according to the latest and most cunning devices. We
ran over it like cats. After this we again came to a high barbed-wire
hedge, built on exactly the same lines as the first, and also
electrically charged. We managed this too, except that I tore a piece
out of the seat of my trousers, which I had to retrieve, in order to
put it in again later.

But, thank God, we were over the boundary!

Trefftz and I clasped hands and looked at each other in silence.

But now the chief difficulty began. Cautiously we went forward in the
darkness, crossing a stream, climbing over a wall, jumping into a
deep ditch, and at last slunk past the guard-house which stood at the
entrance to the camp. Only after that were we in the open.

We ran without stopping along the wide main road which led to Donington
Castle. After half an hour we stopped and took off our leggings and
gloves, which had been slashed and torn by the wire. The palms of our
hands, our feet, to say nothing of other parts of our body, were in a
pretty condition. The barbed wire left us souvenirs which stung for
weeks.

We now opened our bundles, took out civilian grey mackintoshes, and
walked down the road in high spirits as if we were coming from a late
entertainment. When Donington Castle came in sight, we had to be
particularly careful. We had agreed upon all we would do in case we met
anyone.

Suddenly, just as we were turning into the village, an English soldier
came walking towards us. Trefftz embraced me, drew me towards him,
and we behaved like a rollicking pair of love-birds. The Englishman
surveyed us enviously, and went on his way, clicking his tongue. Only
then, something in the stocky, undersized figure made me realize that
it was the sergeant-major of our camp! We stepped out briskly, and
after passing the village we were favoured by chance, and came upon the
bridge about which we had been told. But we were at once confronted
with a critical proposition. The highway branched off here in three
directions, and it was impossible to get any farther without knowledge
of the road. At last, in spite of the darkness, we discovered a
sign-post—an extreme rarity in England. Luckily it was made of iron,
and, when Trefftz had climbed it, he was able to feel with his fingers
the word “Derby” traced on it in raised letters.

We now fell into a quick step, and, taking our bearings by the Polar
star, swung along vigorously. Whenever we came across pedestrians and
cars, and especially when the latter drove behind us, we hid in the
ditch and waited until the danger was past. It was quite natural that
we should surmise the presence of a messenger of Nemesis, ready to
swoop down upon us, in any car that came along. When we were hungry
we ate a little of the ham and chocolate we had brought with us.
Unfortunately, the one was too salt and the other too sweet, so that we
were plagued by an unquenchable thirst which soon became so unbearable
that we could hardly advance. Matters were made worse as we had
perspired freely during our exertions, and now we could find no better
means of slaking our thirst than by standing in the ditch and licking
the raindrops from the leaves, until we found a dirty little pool, on
which we threw ourselves with avidity. And wasn’t it good!

Gradually dawn came. About four in the morning, when we arrived within
sight of the first houses of Derby’s suburbs, the sun rose in majestic
splendour, like a crimson ball on the horizon. We stood enraptured by
this glorious spectacle, and we again shook hands and joyously waved to
the sun.

For he came from Germany, straight from our country; he had caught his
red hues from the red battlefields, and brought us faithful messages
from our beloved ones. A good omen!

We now crept into a small garden and made an elaborate toilet. A
clothes brush performed miracles, and a needle repaired the damage done
to my trousers. The lack of shaving soap was remedied by spittle, after
which our poor faces were subjected to the ministrations of a Gilette
razor. We each sported our solitary collar and tie, leaving the brush
as well as other unnecessary impedimenta behind us. We entered Derby,
looking veritable “Knuts.”

Our luck endured, and not only did we soon find the station where we
separated unobtrusively, but we also learned that the next train for
London was leaving in a quarter of an hour. I took a third-class
return ticket to Leicester and, armed with a fat newspaper, boarded
the train. At Leicester I got out, took a ticket to London, and when I
entered the compartment I discovered, sitting opposite me, a gentleman
clad in a grey overcoat, whom I must have met previously, but of whom I
naturally took no notice. I believe his name began with a T.

About noon the train reached London. When I passed the ticket collector
I must admit that I did not feel quite comfortable, and that my hand
shook a little. But nothing happened, and after a few minutes I was
swallowed up in the vortex of the capital.

It was extremely fortunate that I had spent some time in London two
years previously, and knew my way about. I visited four different
restaurants in turn, where I stilled my hunger by eating moderately
in each, so as to avoid comments on my ravenous appetite. After that
I walked along the Thames, recalling all the streets, bridges and
landing-stages which I knew of yore, and took special note of the
localities where neutral steamers were moored.

I had fondly imagined that conditions would be more favourable, and
that I should at once be able to find a boat. But I now saw that all
the wharves and the majority of the neutral steamers were strictly
guarded, and lay in the middle of the river. At this moment everything
contributed to my depression: the strange surroundings, my insecurity
at the start, when I imagined that every one knew who I was, and could
guess that I had escaped from Donington Hall; also the fatigue and
excitement of the night before, and the feeling of utter loneliness in
the immense, inimical city. I had also failed to get a newspaper with
the shipping intelligence, and this was a bitter disappointment.

Was it to be wondered at that at seven o’clock in the evening I stood
weary and downcast on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, waiting for
Trefftz? I waited until nine, but no Trefftz appeared.

Convinced that Trefftz had already managed his escape on a friendly
steamer, I dragged myself, totally exhausted, to Hyde Park which, to
my further discomfiture, I found closed. What should I do now? Where
should I sleep? I could not stay in the streets if I were to remain
unnoticed, and I did not dare go to an hotel as I had no passport,
which, even for English people, had become compulsory, and without
which no hotel proprietor was allowed to receive visitors.

In a miserable bar, which I had entered to fortify myself, I was only
able to get warm stout and one piece of cake. Everything else had been
consumed, and when the bar closed I was again on the street. I turned
into an aristocratic lane where beautiful mansions were surrounded
by carefully tended gardens. I was hardly able to stand on my feet,
and at the first favourable moment I jumped with quick decision over
one of the garden fences and hid myself in a thick box hedge, only
a foot away from the pavement. It is difficult to describe my state
of mind. My pulses were hammering, and thoughts raced wildly through
my tired brain. Wrapped in my mackintosh, I lay in my hiding-place,
stealthily—like a thief.

If anyone had found me here in this dreadful situation—me, a German
officer! I felt like a criminal, and in my heart I was firmly resolved
never to disclose to anyone the details of my despicable adventure. Oh,
had I known then where I should soon have to hang about at night, and
even find nothing odd in it, I should have felt my position less keenly!

After I had lain for about an hour in my refuge, the French window of
the house, leading to a beautiful veranda, opened, and several ladies
and gentlemen in evening dress came out to enjoy the coolness of the
night. I could see them and hear every word. Soon the sounds of a piano
mingled with those of a splendid soprano voice, and the most wonderful
songs of Schubert overwhelmed my soul with longing.

At last total exhaustion prevailed, and I slept heavily, seeing in my
mind the most beautiful pictures of the future.

Next morning I was awakened by the regular heavy tread of a policeman
who marched up and down the street, quite close to where I lay, with
the bright, warm rays of the sun shining down upon me.

So after all I had overslept—it behoved me to be careful. The
policemen ambled idiotically up and down without dreaming of
departure. At last fortune favoured me. An enchanting little lady’s
maid opened the door, and hey presto! the policeman was at her side,
playfully conversing with the pretty dear.

Without being seen by either, with a quick motion I vaulted over the
fence into the street. It was already six o’clock, and Hyde Park was
just being opened. As the Underground was not yet running, I went into
the Park and dropped full length on a bench, near to other vagabonds
who had made themselves comfortable there. I then pulled my hat over my
face and slept profoundly until nine o’clock.

With fresh strength and courage I entered the Underground, and was
carried to the harbour area. In the Strand huge, yellow posters
attracted my attention, and who can describe my astonishment when I
read on them, printed in big, fat letters, that:

 (1) Mr. Trefftz had been recaptured the evening before; (2) Mr.
 Plüschow was still at large; but that (3) the police were already on
 his track.

The first and the third items were news; but I knew all about the
second. I promptly bought a newspaper, went into a tea-shop, where I
read with great interest the following notice:

  “EXTRA LATE WAR EDITION

  “HUNT FOR ESCAPED GERMAN

  “_High-pitched Voice as a Clue_

 “Scotland Yard last night issued the following amended description
 of Gunther Plüschow, one of the German prisoners who escaped from
 Donington Hall, Leicestershire, on Monday:

 Height, 5 feet 5½ inches; weight, 135 lb.; complexion, fair; hair,
 blond; eyes, blue; and tattoo marks: Chinese dragon on left arm.

As already stated in the _Daily Chronicle_, Plüschow’s companion,
Trefftz, was recaptured on Monday evening at Millwall Docks. Both men
are naval officers. An earlier description stated that Plüschow is
twenty-nine years old. His voice is high-pitched.

“He is particularly smart and dapper in appearance, has very good
teeth, which he shows somewhat prominently when talking or smiling, is
‘very English in manner,’ and knows this country well. He also knows
Japan well. He is quick and alert, both mentally and physically, and
speaks French and English fluently and accurately. He was dressed in a
grey lounge suit or grey-and-yellow mixture suit.”

[Illustration:

EXTRA LATE WAR EDITION

HUNT FOR ESCAPED GERMAN.

HIGH-PITCHED VOICE AS A CLUE.

Scotland Yard last night issued the following
amended description of Gunther
Pluschow, one of the two German prisoners
who escaped from Donington Hall, Leistershire,
on Monday:—

Height, 5ft. 5½in.; weight, 135lb.; complexion,
fair; hair, blonde; eyes, blue;
and tattoo marks, Chinese dragon on
left arm.

As already stated in “The Daily Chronicle,”
Pluschow’s companion, Treppitz,
was recaptured on Monday evening at
Millwall Docks. Both men are naval
officers. An earlier description stated that
Pluschow is 29 years old. His voice is
high-pitched.

He is particularly smart and dapper in
appearance, has very good teeth, which he
shows somewhat prominently when talking
or smiling; is “very English in manner,”
and knows this country well. He also
knows Japan well. He is quick end alert,
both mentally and physically, and speaks
French and English fluently and accurately.
He was dressed in a grey lounge suit or
grey and yellow mixture suit.

London Prisoner Recaptured.

August Arndt, who escaped from internment
at the Alexandra Palace, North London,
on Sunday, has been recaptured.

FACSIMILE OF NOTICE IN THE “DAILY CHRONICLE” AFTER
THE ESCAPE]

Poor Trefftz! So they had got him! I was clear in my mind as to what I
was going to do, and the warrant gave me some valuable points. First,
I had to get rid of my mackintosh. I therefore went to Blackfriars
Station and left my overcoat in the cloakroom. As I handed the garment
over, the clerk suddenly asked me: “What is your name, sir?” This
question absolutely bowled me over, as I was quite unprepared for it.
With shaking knees I asked: “Meinen?” (mine), answering in German as I
naturally presumed that the man had guessed my identity.

“Oh, I see, Mr. Mine—M-i-n-e,” and he handed me a receipt in the name
of Mr. Mine. It was a miracle that this official had not noticed my
terror, and I felt particularly uncomfortable when I had to pass the
two policemen who stood on guard at the station, and who scrutinized me
sharply.

I had escaped in a dark blue suit which had been made in Shanghai and
worn in quick succession by Messrs. Brown and Scott, by the millionaire
MacGarvin and then by the locksmith, Ernst Suse, then again falling on
better days when donned by a German naval officer, and now concluding
its existence on the body of the dock labourer, George Mine. Under the
coat I wore a blue sailor’s jersey which a naval prisoner had given
to me at Donington Hall. In my pocket I carried a tattered old sports
cap, a knife, a small looking-glass, a shaving-set, a bit of string and
two rags which represented handkerchiefs. In addition, I was the proud
possessor of a fortune of 120 shillings which I had partly saved and
partly borrowed; but never, either then or later, did I possess papers
or passports of any kind.

I now sought a quiet, solitary spot. My beautiful soft hat fell
accidentally into the river from London Bridge; collar and tie followed
suit from another spot; a beautiful gilt stud held my green shirt
together. After that a mixture of vaseline, bootblack and coal dust
turned my blond hair black and greasy; my hands soon looked as if
they had never made acquaintance with water; and at last I wallowed in
a coal heap until I had turned into a perfect prototype of the dock
labourer on strike—George Mine.

In this guise it was quite impossible to suspect me of being an
officer, and “smart and dapper” were the last words anyone could have
possibly applied to me. I think that I played my part really well,
and, after I had surmounted my inner repulsion against the filth of my
surroundings, I felt safe for the first time. I was in a position to
represent what I intended to be—a lazy, dirty bargee, or a hand from a
sailing ship.



CHAPTER XIV

STILL AT LARGE


“THE CHINESE DRAGON CLUE

“GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW, the German Naval-lieutenant, fugitive from Donington
Hall, has now been at large seven days. The Chinese dragon tattooed on
his left arm while on service in the East should, however, betray his
identity.

“Further particulars of the escape with Lieutenant Trefftz, who was
caught at Millwall Docks within twenty-four hours, show that last
Sunday evening a violent thunderstorm raged over Donington Hall when
the evening roll-call was taken. Instead of assembling with the other
prisoners within the inner of the two rings of wire entanglements, the
two hid within the outer circle. Their names were answered by other
prisoners. A wooden plank near the outer ring showed how they got
across the barbed wire.”

       *       *       *       *       *

[Notice circulated in the Press one week after the escape.]

[Illustration:

PLUSCHOW STILL FREE.

THE CHINESE DRAGON CLUE.

Gunther Pluschow, the German naval lieutenant, fugitive from Donington
Hall, has now been at large seven days. The Chinese dragon tattooed on
his left arm while on service in the East should, however, betray his
identity.

Further particulars of the escape with Lieutenant Treppitz, who was
caught at Millwall Docks within twenty-four hours, show that last
Sunday evening a violent thunderstorm raged over Donington Hall when
the evening roll-call was taken. Instead of assembling with the other
prisoners within the inner of the two rings of wire entanglement, the
two hid within the outer circle. Their names were answered by other
prisoners. A wooden plank near the outer ring showed how they got
across the barbed wire.

FACSIMILE OF NOTICE CIRCULATED IN THE PRESS A WEEK AFTER THE ESCAPE]

For days I loafed about London, my cap set jauntily at the back of my
head, my jacket open, showing my blue sweater and its one ornament, the
gilt stud, hands in pocket, whistling and spitting, as is the custom of
sailors in ports all the world over. No one suspected me, and my whole
plan hinged on this, for my only safeguard against discovery lay in the
exclusion of even the slightest suspicion directed against myself. If
anyone had paid even passing attention to me, if a policeman had asked
me for my name, I could only have given my own. Therefore, it was quite
superfluous that the warrants put such stress on the tattoo marks on
my arm as a clue to my identity. If matters had got thus far, it would
have meant that the fight was over.

On the second morning I had colossal luck! I sat on the top of a bus,
and behind me two business men were engaged in animated conversation.
Suddenly I caught the words, “Dutch steamer—departure—Tilbury,”
and from that moment I listened intently, trying to quell the joyful
throbbings of my heart. For these careless gentlemen were recounting
nothing less than the momentous news of the sailing, each morning at
seven, of a fast Dutch steamer for Flushing, which cast anchor off
Tilbury Docks every afternoon.

In the twinkling of an eye I was off the bus. I rushed off to
Blackfriars Station, and an hour later was at Tilbury. It was midday,
and the workmen were streaming into their public-houses. First I went
down to the river and reconnoitred; but my boat had not yet arrived. As
I still had some time before me and felt very hungry, I went into one
of the numerous eating-houses specially frequented by dock-labourers.
In a large room a hundred of them were gathered around long tables,
partaking of huge meals. I followed their example, and, by putting
down 8d., received a plate heaped with potatoes, vegetables and a
large piece of meat. After that I purchased a big glass of stout from
the bar, and, sitting down amongst the men with the utmost unconcern,
proceeded with my dinner, endeavouring to copy the table manners of the
men around me, and nearly coming to grief when trying to assimilate
peas with the help of a knife.

In the midst of my feast I suddenly felt a tap on the shoulder. Icy
shivers ran down my back. The proprietor stood behind me and asked me
for my papers. I naturally understood that he meant my identity book,
and gave all up as lost. As I was unable to produce them, I was obliged
to follow him, and saw to my dread that he went to the telephone. I
was already casting furtive glances at the door and thinking how I
could best make my escape, when the publican, who had been watching me
through the glass door, returned and remarked: “If you have forgotten
your papers, I can’t help you. By the by, what is your name? And where
do you come from?”

“I am George Mine, an American, ordinary seaman from the four-masted
barque _Ohio_, lying upstream. I just came in here and have paid for my
dinner, but of course haven’t got my papers about me.”

He remarked: “This is a private, social-democratic club, and only
members are allowed to eat here—you ought surely to know that—but if
you become a member, you are welcome to come as often as you like.”

Of course I agreed at once to his proposal, and paid three
shillings’ entrance fee. A bit of glaring red ribbon was passed
through my buttonhole, and thus I became the latest member of the
social-democratic trades union of Tilbury!

I returned to my table as if nothing had happened, gulped down my stout
to fortify myself after the shock I had just had, but also soon left,
for, to be quite frank, I had lost all my appetite and no longer cared
for my food.

I now went down to the riverside, threw myself on to the grass, and,
feigning sleep, kept a lynx-eyed watch.

Ship after ship went by, and my expectations rose every minute. At
last, at 4 p.m., with proud bearing, the fast Dutch steamer dropped
anchor and made fast to a buoy just in front of me. My happiness and
my joy were indescribable when I read the ship’s name in white shining
letters on the bow: MECKLENBURG.

There could be no better omen for me, since I am a native of
Mecklenburg-Schwerin. I crossed over to Gravesend on a ferry-boat, and
from there unobtrusively watched the steamer. I adopted the careless
demeanour and rolling gait of the typical Jack Tar, hands in my
pockets, whistling a gay tune, but keeping eyes and mind keenly on the
alert.

This was my plan: to swim to the buoy during the night, climb the
hawser, creep on deck and reach Holland as a stowaway.

I soon found the basis for my operations.

After I had ascertained that nobody was paying attention to me, I
climbed over a pile of wood and rubbish, and concealed myself under
some planks, where I discovered several bundles of hay. These afforded
me a warm resting-place, of which I made use on that and the following
nights.

About midnight I left my refuge. Cautiously I clambered over the old
planks and the litter strewn over the ground. The rain came down
noisily, and, though I had taken my bearings during the day, it was
almost impossible in the pitch-dark night to find the two barges which
I had seen near the lumber pile.

Creeping on all fours, listening with straining ears and trying to
pierce the surrounding blackness, I came closer to my object.

However, I perceived with dismay that the two barges which, in
daytime, had been completely submerged, lay high and dry. Luckily, at
the stern, a little dinghy rode on the water.

With prompt resolution I wanted to rush into the boat, but before I
knew where I was I felt the ground slipping from under my feet and I
sank to the hips into a squashy, slimy, stinking mass. I threw my arms
about, and was just able to reach the plank, which ran from the shore
to the sailing-boat, with my left hand.

It took all my strength to get free of the slime which had nearly
proved my undoing, and I was completely exhausted when I at last
dragged myself back to my bed of hay.

When the sun rose on the third morning of my escape, I had already
returned to a bench in Gravesend Park, and was watching the
_Mecklenburg_ as she slipped her moorings at 7 a.m. and made for the
open sea.

All that day, as well as later on, I loafed about London. For hours,
like so many other wastrels, I watched from the bridges the position
of the neutral steamers, the loading and unloading of cargoes, noting
their stage and progress, in order, if possible, to take advantage of
a lucky moment to slip on board.

I fed all these days in some of the worst eating-houses of the East
End. I looked so disreputable and dirty, often limping or reeling
about like a drunkard, and put on such an imbecile stare that no one
bothered about me. I avoided speech, and sharply observed the workmen’s
pronunciation and the way in which they ordered their food. Soon I
had acquired such facility and quickness—to say nothing of amazing
impudence—that I no longer even considered the possibility of being
caught. In the evening I returned to Gravesend.

This time a new steamer lay at anchor in the river, the _Princess
Juliana_.

I now proceeded to pay still more attention to the conformation of the
riverside, so as to safeguard myself against further accidents.

At midnight I found myself at the spot I had chosen. The bank was stony
and the tide just going out. I quietly discarded my jacket, boots and
stockings, stowed the latter, with my watch, shaving-set, etc., in my
cap, and put it on, fastening it securely on my head.

After that I hid the jacket and the boots under a stone, tightened the
leather belt which held my trousers, and, dressed as I was, slipped
gently into the water and swam in the direction of the boat.

The night was rainy and dark. Soon I was unable to recognize the
shore which I had just left, but could just make out the outline of
a rowing-boat which lay at anchor. I made for it, but in spite of
terrible exertions could not get any nearer. My clothes were soaked
through, and, growing heavier and heavier, nearly dragged me down. My
strength began to abandon me, and so strong was the current that other
rowing-boats which lay at anchor seemed to shoot past me like phantoms.
Swimming desperately and exerting all my strength, I tried to keep my
head above the water.

Soon, though, I lost consciousness, but when I recovered it, I lay high
and dry on some flat stones covered with seaweed.

A kind fate had directed me to the few stony tracts of the shore where
the river makes a sharp bend, and, thanks to the quickly outflowing
tide, I lay out of the water.

Trembling and shivering with cold and exertion, I staggered along the
river-bank, and after an hour I found my jacket and my boots. After
that I climbed over my fence and lay down, with chattering teeth, on my
couch of straw.

It was still pouring, and an icy wind swept over me. My only covering
consisted of my wet jacket and my two hands, which I spread out
protectively over my stomach so as to try at least to keep well and
going for the next few days. After two hours, being quite unable to
sleep, I got up and ran about to get a little warmer.

My wet clothes only dried when they had hung over a stove a few days
later in Germany! I again went to London for the day. I hung around in
several churches, where I probably created the impression that I was
praying devoutly; in reality I enjoyed an occasional nap there.

Another notice:

  “MUCH-ESCAPED FUGITIVE

  “_Plüschow’s Aeroplane Flight from Tsing-Tao_

 “By the Chinese dragon clue the authorities still hope to trace
 Lieutenant Gunther Plüschow, of the German Navy, who escaped from
 Donington Hall on Monday. The dragon is tattooed on the fugitive’s
 left arm in Oriental colours. It was probably worked by a native
 artist, for although but twenty-nine years of age, Plüschow has had an
 adventurous career in the Kaiser’s Navy.

 “He was in Tsing-Tao when the British and Japanese besieged that
 German fortress. Shortly before it fell, Plüschow escaped in an
 aeroplane, and some weeks later he was found on board a Japanese
 trading ship at Gibraltar.

 “He will probably endeavour to sign on as a seaman in a neutral ship
 sailing from a British port, and, with this in view, a very careful
 watch is being kept at all ports throughout the country. Plüschow is
 a typical sailor, about 5 feet 6 inches in height, with fair hair
 and fresh complexion. He would pass for a Dutchman with his broken
 English. Nothing he can do can remove the Chinese dragon from his left
 arm, and his recapture should be but a matter of time.”

On that day I nearly became an English soldier. On one of the
platforms, erected in the midst of a public square, I saw an orator
standing up and addressing the people—of course, angling for recruits.
In the most brilliant colours, and with the highest enthusiasm, he
depicted to the attentive crowd the _entrée_ into London of victorious
German troops. “The streets of London,” he said, “will re-echo to the
tread of the ‘Huns’; your wives will be ravished by German soldiers and
trampled on by their muddy boots. Will you allow this, free Britons?”
An indignant “No” sounded back. “Very well, then—come and join the
army now!”

I expected a general rush forward, for the man had spoken most
impressively; but no one budged, no one volunteered, or believed that
Kitchener specially wanted _him_. The orator now started all over
again, but his flaming words fell on deaf ears.

In the meantime, English recruiting sergeants moved about the crowd.
Everywhere people shook their heads. Not one of Albion’s valorous sons
was having any. Suddenly my turn came.

A sergeant as tall as a lamp-post stood before me and felt the biceps
of my forearms. He seemed very pleased with his examination, for he
tried to convince me by all the means in his power that to be a soldier
in Kitchener’s army was the most beautiful thing in the world. I
refused. “No,” I said; “it is quite impossible. I am only seventeen.”

“Oh, that don’t matter; we shall simply turn it into eighteen, and
that’ll be all right.”

“No, really, it’s quite impossible. Moreover, I am an American,
and have no permission from my Captain.” The persistent fellow now
produced an oleograph on which the English uniforms were depicted in
the gaudiest colours. He simply would not let me go. To get rid of him
I asked him to leave it with me, and promised to talk it over with my
skipper, and to tell him next day which uniform I preferred. It goes
without saying that I always made a great detour round this place.

I had by then acquired so much confidence that I walked into the
British Museum, visited several picture-galleries and even frequented
matinées at music-halls, without being asked questions. The pretty
blonde attendants at the music-halls were especially friendly to me,
and seemed to pity the poor sailor who had wandered in by chance. What
amused me most was to see the glances of disgust and contempt which the
ladies and the young girls used to throw at me on the top of the buses.
If they had known who sat near them! Is it surprising that I should
not smell sweetly considering my night’s work and the wet and slimy
state of my clothes? In the evening I was back at Gravesend. In the
little park which overlooked the Thames I listened quietly for hours to
the strains of a military band. I had definitely given up my plan to
swim to the steamer, for I saw that the distance was too great and the
current too strong. I decided, therefore, to commandeer unobtrusively,
somehow, a dinghy in which to reach the steamer. Just in front of me
I saw one which I deemed suitable for my purpose, but it was moored
to a wharf over which a sentry stood guard by day and night. But the
risk had to be taken. The night was very dark when, about 12, I crept
through the park and crawled up to the embankment wall, which was about
6 feet high. I jumped over the hedge and saw the boat rocking gently
on the water. I listened breathlessly. The sentry marched up and down.
Half asleep, I had taken off my boots, fastening them with the laces
round my neck, and holding an open knife between my teeth. With the
stealth of an Indian I let myself down over the wall, and was just able
to reach the gunwale of the boat with my toes. My hands slipped over
the hard granite without a sound, and a second later I dropped into the
boat, where I huddled in a corner listening with breathless attention;
but my sentry went on striding up and down undisturbed under the bright
arc-lamps. My boat, luckily, lay in shadow.

My eyes, trained through T.B.D. practice, saw in spite of the pitch
darkness almost as well as by day. Carefully I felt for the oars. Damn!
They were padlocked! Luckily the chain lay loose, and silently I first
freed the boat-hook, then one oar after the other from the chain. My
knife now sawed through the two ropes which held the boat to the wall,
and I dipped my oars noiselessly into the water and impelled my little
boat forward.

When I had entered the boat, it had already shipped a good deal of
water. Now I noticed to my dismay that the water was rapidly rising.
It was already lapping the thwart, and the boat became more and more
difficult to handle as it grew heavier and heavier. I threw myself
despairingly on my oars. Suddenly, with a grinding noise, the keel
grounded and the boat lay immovable. Nothing now was of avail, neither
pulling nor rowing, nor the use of the boat-hook. The boat simply
refused to budge. Very quickly the water sank round it, and after a
few minutes I sat dry in the mud, but to make up for this the boat was
brimful of water. I had never in my life witnessed such a change in the
water-level due to the tide. Although the Thames is well known in this
respect, I had never believed that possible.

At this moment I found myself in the most critical position of my
escape. I was surrounded on all sides by slushy, stinking slime, whose
acquaintance I had made two evenings before at the risk of my life.
The very thought caused me to shudder. About 200 yards off the sentry
marched up and down, and I found myself with my boat 15 feet from the
6-foot-high granite wall.

I sat reflecting coolly. One thing appeared a sheer necessity—not to
be found there by the English, who might have killed me like a mad dog.

But the water was not due to rise before the next afternoon. Therefore
it behoved me to muster my energy, clench my teeth, and try to get the
better of the mud. I slipped off my stockings, turned up my trousers
as high as I could, then I placed the thwarts and the oars close to
each other on the seething and gurgling ooze, used the boat-hook as a
leaping-pole by placing its point on a board, stood on the gunwale,
and, gathering all my strength to a mighty effort, I vaulted into
space—but lay, alas, the next moment 3 feet short of the wall, and
sank deep over knee into the clammy slush, touching hard bottom,
however, as I did so. Now I worked myself along the wall, placed my
boat-hook as a climbing-pole against it, and found myself in a few
seconds on top, after which I slid into the grass of the park, where
a few hours previously I had been listening to the music. Unbroken
silence reigned around me. Unutterable relief flooded me, for nobody,
not even the sentry, had noticed anything.

With acute discomfort I contemplated my legs. They were covered with a
thick, grey, malodorous mass, and there was no water in the vicinity to
clean them. But it was impossible to put on boots or stockings whilst
they were in that condition. With infinite trouble I succeeded in
scraping off the dirt as far as possible, and waited for the rest to
dry; then only was I able to resume a fairly decent appearance.

My first plan had miscarried, but in spite of this I felt I had had
such luck with it that I was ready to undertake a second venture.

I now made my way to the little bridge, which was guarded by my sentry,
and, impersonating a drunken sailor, I reeled about until I gently
collided with the good fellow. He, however, seemed quite used to such
happenings, for remarking pleasantly, “Hallo, old Jack! One whisky too
much!” he patted me on the shoulder and let me pass.

A hundred yards farther on, and I had regained my normal demeanour.
After a short search I found the place from which I had started the
night before on my ill-starred swimming attempt.

It was about 2 a.m., and in a trice I had undressed and sprang, agile
and unhampered—as God had made me—into the water. For the first time
the sky was covered with clouds, and the outlines of rowing-boats,
anchored at a distance of about 200 yards from the shore, appeared
vague and shadowy. The water was quite unusually phosphorescent, and I
have only observed it to that degree in the tropics. I swam, therefore,
in a sea of gold and silver. At any other time I would have admired
this play of Nature immensely, but now I only felt fear that my body
would flash suspiciously white in this clear golden light. At the
start, all went well. But as soon as I had passed the left bend of the
river, where the shore afforded some protection, I was seized by the
current, and had to fight for my life with the watery elements. As I
was losing my strength I reached the first boat, made a final effort
and hoisted myself noisily into it. Oh, persecution of a pitiless fate!
The boat was empty—no scull, no boat-hook with which I could have put
it in motion. After a short pause I again slipped into the water and
drifted on to the next boat. And this, too, was empty! And the same
happened with the three next. And when I reached the last one, after
I had rested a little, I again dipped into the glittering but now
unpleasantly cold water. Two hours after I had started on my adventure,
I again reached the place where I had left my clothes.

As I was trembling like an aspen leaf with cold and exposure, I found
it particularly hard to get into my sodden and sticky togs.

Half an hour later I was back in my sleeping-place amid the hay,
beginning to feel serious doubts in the existence of my lucky star!

Could I be blamed if my spirits fell a little, and if I became quite
indifferent to my interests? I confess I was so discouraged that the
next morning I did not find sufficient energy to leave my hiding-place
in time, and only escaped over my fence after the proprietor of the
timber-pile had passed close in front of my retreat several times. That
day I walked up to London on foot from Gravesend, and returned by the
other side of the Thames to Tilbury. All this, in order to find a boat
that I could purloin unnoticed. It was quite incredible that I could
not do so; several lay there, as if waiting for me; but they were only
too well guarded. I gave it up in despair.

That evening I went to a music-hall, with the firm intention of blowing
my last pound, and then staking everything on one card, and try to get
to the docks and hide there on a neutral steamer. And if this plan
miscarried—as it had with Trefftz—I decided to give myself up to the
police.

I stood in the upper gallery of the biggest music-hall in London and
watched the performance. An inner voice whispered to me: “Your place is
at Gravesend, working for your escape. Your duty is to throw off this
slackness, otherwise you are not worthy to be a German sailor!”

So when I saw the _tableaux vivants_, scenes from the trenches and
allegories of the coming Victory and Peace, in which the Germans
naturally figured as fleeing and conquered, when at last, in the chief
picture, Britannia appeared—a shining figure with the Palm of Victory
in her hand, and a field-grey German soldier lying prostrate beneath
her right foot—I felt consumed by a flame of righteous anger, and
in spite of the forcible protests of my neighbours I fled from the
theatre, and was able to catch the last train to Tilbury.

Only then did I feel happy again. And I felt so certain now that my
plan would come off, that no room was left for doubt.

After I had passed the first fishermen’s huts of Gravesend, I found
a small scull. I took it with me. In mid-stream, just near the
landing-place of the fishing-vessels, a little dinghy bobbed on the
water. Not more than twenty feet away sat their owners on a bench,
so absorbed in tender flirtation with their fair ones that the good
sea-folk took no heed of my appearance on the scene.

It was risky, but “Nothing venture, nothing have,” I muttered to
myself. And, thanks to my acquired proficiency, I crept soundlessly
into the boat—one sharp cut, and the tiny nutshell softly glided
alongside a fishing-boat, on whose quarter-deck a woman was lulling her
baby to sleep.

As there were no rowlocks in the boat, I sat aft, and pushed off
with all my strength from the shore. I had, however, hardly covered
one-third of the distance, when the ebbtide caught me in its whirl,
spun my boat round like a top and paralysed all my efforts at steering.
The time had come to show my sailor’s efficiency. With an iron grip I
recovered control of the boat, and, floating with the tide, I steered a
downstream course. A dangerous moment was at hand. An imposing military
pontoon-bridge, stretching across the river, and guarded by soldiers,
came across my way. Summoning cool resolution and sharp attention to my
aid, looking straight ahead and only intent on my scull, I disregarded
the sentry’s challenge and shot through between the two pontoons. A
few seconds after the boat sustained a heavy shock, and I floundered
on to the anchor-cable of a mighty coal-tender. With lightning speed I
flung my painter round it, and this just in time, for the boat nearly
capsized. But I was safe. The water whirled madly past it, as the
ebbtide, reinforced by the drop of the river, must have fully set in. I
had now only to wait patiently.

[Illustration: GUNTHER PLÜSCHOW IN THE DISGUISE OF A DOCK LABOURER IN
WHICH HE ESCAPED]

My steamer lay to starboard. I wanted to bide my time until the flow of
the tide made it possible for me to get across.

I was already bubbling over with cock-sureness when the necessary
damper was administered. Dawn was breaking, the outlines of the
anchored ships became clearer and clearer. At last the sun rose,
and still the water ran out so strongly that it was impossible even
to contemplate getting away. Anyhow, it was impossible to carry out
my flight just then. But at last, happy in the possession of the
long-desired boat, I slid downstream and, after an hour, pulled up at a
crumbling old bridge on the right bank of the Thames. I pushed my boat
under it, took both sculls with me as a precautionary measure, and hid
them in the long grass. Then I lay down close to them, and at eight
o’clock I saw my steamer, the _Mecklenburg_, vanishing proudly before
my eyes. My patience had still to undergo a severe test. I remained
lying in the grass for the next sixteen hours, until, at eight o’clock
that night, the hour of my deliverance struck.

I again entered my boat. Cautiously I allowed myself to be driven
upstream by the incoming tide, and fastened my boat to the same
coal-tender near which I had been stranded the night before. Athwart to
me lay the _Princess Juliana_ moored to her buoy.

As I had time to spare, I lay down at the bottom of my boat and tried
to take forty winks, but in vain. The tide rose, and I was once more
surrounded by the rushing water.

At midnight all was still around me, and when at one o’clock the boat
was quietly bobbing on the flow, I cast off, sat up in my boat, and
rowed, with as much self-possession as if I had been one of a Sunday
party in Kiel Harbour, to the steamer.

Unnoticed, I reached the buoy. The black hull of my steamer towered
high above me. A strong pull—and I was atop the buoy. I now bade
farewell to my faithful swan with a sound kick, which set it off
downstream with the start of the ebb. During the next few minutes I lay
as silent as a mouse. Then I climbed with iron composure—and this time
like a cat—the mighty steel cable to the hawse. Cautiously I leaned my
head over the rail and spied about. The forecastle was empty.

I jerked myself upwards and stood on the deck.



CHAPTER XV

THE STOWAWAY


I NOW crept along the deck to the capstan and hid in the oil save-all
beneath the windlass.

As all remained quiet, and not a soul hove in sight, I climbed out
of my nook, took off my boots, and stowed them away under a stack of
timber in a corner of the fore-deck. I now proceeded to investigate
in my stockinged feet. When I looked down from a corner astern the
fore-deck to the cargo-deck I staggered back suddenly. Breathlessly,
but without turning a hair, I remained leaning against the ventilator.
Below, on the cargo-deck, stood two sentries, who were staring fixedly
upwards.

After I had remained for over half an hour in this cramped position,
and my knees were beginning to knock under, there tripped two
stewardesses from the middle-deck. They were apparently coming off
night duty My two sentries immediately seized the golden moment, and
became so absorbed in their conversation that they no longer paid any
attention to what was going on around them.

The dawn was breaking, and I had to act at once if I was not to lose
all I had achieved at such a price.

I let myself down along the counter on the side of the fore-deck
opposite to the two loving couples, and landed on the cargo-deck.
Without pausing for a moment I stepped out gently, glided past the
two sentries, reached the promenade-deck safely, and, climbing up a
deck-pillar, found myself shortly afterwards on the out-board side of a
life-boat.

Holding on with one hand with a grip of iron, for the Thames was
lapping hungrily not 12 yards away, with my other, aided by my teeth, I
tore open a few of the tapes of the boat-cover, and with a last output
of strength I crept through this small gap and crouched, well hidden
from curious eyes, into the interior of the boat.

And then, naturally, I came to the end of my endurance. The prodigious
physical exertions, acute excitement, and last, but not least, my
ravenous hunger, stretched me flat on the boards of the boat, and in
the same moment I no longer knew what was going on around me.



CHAPTER XVI

THE WAY TO FREEDOM


SHRILL blasts from the siren woke me from a sleep which in its
dreamlessness resembled death.

I prudently loosened the tapes of my boat-cover, and with difficulty
suppressed a “Hurrah!” for the steamer was running into the harbour of
Flushing.

Nothing mattered any longer. I pulled out my knife, and at one blow
ripped open the boat-cover from end to end; but this time on the deck
side.

With a deep breath, I stood in the middle of the boat-deck, and
expected to be made a prisoner at any moment.

But no one bothered about me. The crew was occupied with landing
manœuvres; the travellers with their luggage.

I now descended to the promenade-deck, where several passengers eyed me
with indignation on account of my unkempt appearance and my torn blue
stockings, which looked, I must say, anything but dainty.

But my eyes must have been so radiantly happy, and such joy depicted
on my dirty, emaciated features that many a woman glanced at me with
surprise.

I could no longer go about like this. I therefore repaired to the
fore-deck, fetched my boots (my best hockey boots, kindly gifts from
the English), and, though a Dutch sailor blew me up gruffly, I calmly
put on my beloved boots, and wandered off to the gangway.

The steamer had made fast directly to the pier.

The passengers left the ship, bidding farewell to the Captain and the
ship’s officers. At first I had intended to make myself known to the
Captain, in order to avoid any trouble to the Dutch Steamship Company.
But more prudent counsels prevailed, and with my hands in my pockets,
looking as unobtrusive as I could, I slunk down the gangway.

Nobody paid any attention to me, so I pretended to belong to the ship’s
crew, and even helped to fasten the hawsers. Then I mixed with the
crowd, and whilst the passengers were being subjected to a strict
control I looked round, and near the railings discovered a door, on
which stood in large letters “Exit Forbidden.”

There, surely, lay the way to Freedom! In the twinkling of an eye I
negotiated this childishly easy obstacle, and stood without.

I was free!

I had to make the greatest effort of my life to keep myself from
jumping about like a madman. Two countrymen of mine gave me a cordial
welcome, though they would not believe that I was an officer, and,
above all things, that I had achieved my escape from England.

How horrible the water in my bath looked!

I also ate enough for three that night.

After I had bought a few small necessaries on the next day, I boarded a
slow train for Germany, wearing workman’s clothes.

As the train was going to start, a man came up behind me and tapped me
on the shoulder (how I did hate this manner of greeting!) and asked me,
“Where are your papers?”

“Who are you, anyway?” I said.

“I am Secret Service.”

“Anybody can say that.”

“Of course, sir; but here’s my badge.”

For a moment I felt dizzy. I explained to this gentleman with great
suavity that I possessed no papers, that I was on my way back to
Germany, and that I should give no trouble to the Dutch Government.

“So,” he remarked, “you come from England, and you have no papers? I
suppose that was a bit difficult?”

“Yes. Rather!” I said.

“Well, I wish you a further pleasant journey.”

We shook hands as the train moved off.



CHAPTER XVII

BACK IN THE FATHERLAND!


I WAS quite unable to sit still for long. Alone in my first-class
compartment I was overwhelmed by the thoughts and hopes which raced
through my brain. I ran about my railway carriage like a wild animal in
a cage.

At last! At last! It seemed an eternity; the train passed slowly over
the German frontier.

The black-and-white post greeted my eyes and, leaning out of the
window, I joyfully yelled “Hurrah!” twice.

But the third “Hurrah!” stuck in my throat, as carried away by
gratitude, happiness and delight I sobbed aloud, and could not prevent
the tears gushing from my eyes.

Was this sloppiness?

The train stopped at Goch. The first “field-greys” I had ever seen in
my life stood on the platform as I jumped carelessly out of the train.

A harsh grip seized me by the collar, and a huge Prussian cavalry
sergeant-major, with fierce eyes under a shining helmet, held me in his
iron fist.

“Ha! now we have got the young scamp!”

I would gladly have fallen on my dear “field-grey’s” neck, for never
had I felt safer in my life than at that moment.

I tried to explain who I was; but a smile which would have boded but
little consolation to anyone else was all the answer I got.

Two brave Landsturm veterans conducted me to Wesel under arrest next
morning.

No one was at the office yet to interview me. Small boys had followed
me, throwing stones and shouting: “They have got him; they have got
him—the spy!” The darling little blond heads!

An orderly received me!

“Sit down—you there. With people like you we don’t lose much time.
When the Herr Kapitänleutnant F. arrives, just a short examination—and
up in the air you go.”

After some little time the Redoubtable One appeared—of course a
comrade of mine. Indescribable astonishment and joy! But the stupid
face of my amiable orderly was good to behold. He had to run off
straight away and fetch my breakfast.

I derived special satisfaction while still at Wesel from reading an
English warrant from the _Daily Mail_, dated 12th July, when I was
already safe, which ended by declaring that I would probably try to
escape as a sailor on a neutral steamer and that:

“His recapture should be but a matter of time.”

An hour later I sat, still in my workman’s clothes, a passport in my
pocket, in the Berlin express—of course first class!

At last I had attained my goal! It had taken me nearly nine months to
break my way through from Kiao-Chow to Germany.

Germany, oh, my beloved country! I had come back to thee!

The sun was shining radiantly on the 13th of July 1915, and my elated
eyes were taking in the lovely pictures of my countryside.

I had settled down alone in my first-class carriage, and had spread
my belongings on both sides of the window, and begun to jot down my
report in pencil.

At Münster an old General in full uniform entered my compartment. I
stood up politely, cleared a seat, and said, “May I most humbly place
this seat at Your Excellency’s disposal?”

A furious look from his hard eyes, an outraged growl “Brrrr,” and the
door slammed to. I was alone.

If this little book should fall by chance into His Excellency’s hands,
may I be forgiven that I forgot, when addressing him, what clothes I
was wearing at the time.

At seven o’clock that evening the train entered the Zoo Station.

A pair of wonderful blue eyes swimming in tears, a gorgeous bunch of
crimson roses, and unable to utter a word through sheer happiness and
the joy of reunion we left the station.

I passed the next days as in a dream. When I entered the Admiralty, the
porter naturally would not allow me to come in; and also in the large
shops, where I had to buy things in double-quick time, as nothing
was left me but my workman’s attire, the commissionaires were bent on
ejecting me.

I only worked a few days at the Imperial Naval Ministry, and then I
received my Emperor’s thanks.

And with the Iron Cross of the First Class I proudly went home to my
people.

After a few weeks’ rest I received my greatest reward.

I became a “flying-man” again, and was allowed to co-operate in the
great work of Germany’s fight and victory.

And when, at the Eastern Front, my most gracious Emperor and Master
inspected the Naval Flying Station, under my command, and shook hands
with me and personally expressed his Imperial satisfaction, I looked
straight into his eyes, and pressed in burning letters graven in my
heart stood:

“WITH GOD FOR EMPEROR AND FATHERLAND.”


                                THE END



                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.





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