Sunday. April. 21st to Friday. May. 10th Rastatt
The camp was composed of about seven different blocks, of which two were occupied by British officers, and the remainder by French and Portuguese. In the two British blocks when I arrived were nearly 1500 British officers! In our block, No 2, were about 12 huts, each containing about 70 or 80 bunks in double tiers. We 800 had about 80 yards square to walk about in, in between the huts; for the first week of my stay there I could get no book to read, and since, at first the weather was bad, and we were were forced to stay indoors, the boredom was intolerable. Moreover, the quality of the food provided was very poor, and the only cooking appliances there would not permit of anything but boiling, so we lived entirely on soups, and meatless soup at that. At its best, it was a thick mixture of barley, bean meal, potatoes in their skin (of which fully a half were bad) and soup extract; though the changes were rung on such things as carrots (so called, but in reality mangel-wurzels) swedes; semolina, beans, and very occasionally a few scraps of meat; at its worst it was a mixture of chopped up bad potatoes, swedes, and mangels. We had soup twice a day, and in addition, a ration each of a fifth of a loaf of black bread. A very fair days meal was this
8.30. Coffee. Sugar. Bread.
12.30. Soup of Barley, Carrots (sic), Potatoes, Soup Extract
3.30 Tea or Coffee
5.30 Soup of Potatoes, Carrots, Beetroot
Great competition for ‘Buckshee’ soup
About once a week at tea-time, they issued a spoonful of jam or an ounce of some sausage of, I think, pigs-blood. We were all hungry there all of the time, and I myself used to feel very dizzy and weak at times. We occasionally were able to buy biscuits of some kind of meal from the canteen at 3d each but there was so great a rush on them, that a canteen committee was got up to ensure equal distribution. On a good day one might get four biscuits. Towards the end of my stay we were able to buy tins of sardines at 1/6 each, and bags of dried fruit (but very inferior to our English) at 5/- for about ¾ lb, but my money ran out after 10 days, and it took about three weeks there to get a cheque cashed.
We were vaccinated once there, and inoculated three times. It was difficult to avoid becoming lousy. After ten days I got a hot shower bath, had my hair clipped short, and had a sort of green chemical paste painted over my body, which took off all the hair. Looked, and still look, more like a convict than anything but feel rather happier.
My second day I ran into P.D. Rogers, of KRRs, who was in my section as a Cadet at Oxford. We had some long talks of the old times at Oxford, and succeeded, without much difficulty, in making each others mouths water very freely over past feeds. (While I am on the subject, I must say that my thoughts have so constantly harped upon food, that I am seriously thinking of editing a book – ‘Meals I have eaten’ by R.a.B.) We arranged a great platoon dinner to take place (please God) after the war, of all the survivors of No.14. platoon, Keble College, Oxford – or, if they are many enough, a sectional dinner. He met two of them in Captivity – Styles, of No. 5 Section and Taylor of No 7 section. I heard from him too that Cameron has followed Bennett to the Indian Army – good luck to him. I heard here too that poor old Battersby has gone west, gassed. It seemed difficult to realise that just a year ago I was a Cadet at Oxford. I little thought then, as I celebrated by 23rd birthday at the Clarendon with Brown, that I should spend my 24th here. Still, God knows, I’ve no right to grumble, I might easily have been ‘full fathom five’ by now.
There recurred very little there to make special mention of. What little country we could see was very fine and hilly; ranges of hills, stretching away into the distance, covered by the Black Forest, with stretches of vineyards in places. May 1st. Dad’s birthday.
Batches of officers were sent away to permanent camps every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, usually going to stay at the clearing camp at Karlsruhe for a few days first. You may guess what suppressed excitement there was before each list. On my second day at Rastatt I found out that an R.F.C. pilot named Hanna was in the other block, so I managed to get a note taken in to him. He came see me next day for an hour (you would have thought we’d not seen each other for years) and we solemnly recited our respective adventures since we parted. He left Rastatt on the Friday sending a note to say he thought he was going to Freiburg.
To cut a long and painful story short, after 3 weeks, feeling halfstarved, and fed up to the teeth (but not with food) 8 of us, R.F.C. officers were moved to Karlsruhe.