Thursday. Dec 12th. Went into town all day with Miller. Fearful getting up this morning. Thousands of degrees of frost. Had lunch in town, went to a comfortable Weinstuber, read and drank liqueurs all the afternoon. Dined in town. Was visited in the evening by the Naval Officer, a doctor who gave us ripping and recent news of England. Felt no end cheered. Stayed up till two o’clock stewing in front of the fire and reading.
Wednesday. Dec 11th. I feel that a few words of prayer might be reasonably set down in this, my book of words, to counterbalance our forcible, but excusable language of this evening. After waiting about, and expecting to go all day we get a wire at 8 p.m. to say that the boat has been delayed by fog, and that we shall not be leaving before Friday. Since then our long suffering patience has been broken before a wave of the blackest pessimism. Some there are who speak vaguely of the likelihood of the Poles, who are in revolt, marching on Graudenz and putting the inhabitants (and us) to the sword; others opine that the large bodies of troops expected back from the front any day will fall in hungry masses upon the camp and mob the barracks (and us). The most optimistic speak darkly of the rigors of the Graudenz winter in February. We are a happy camp!!
Monday. Dec. 9. Great excitement today ending in hopeless bathos. This morning, as we were eating our frugal breakfast of biscuits and sardines, an interpreter, a very decent fellow named Fleming, rushed in to say that a telegram has been received to announce our departure tonight. Rousing cheers, gradually spreading all down the block as the rumour passed along. Everyone packed up. Great meetings in town to have a last drink ‹Bon voyage et pas de retour› Myself I drank half a large bottle of champagne and umpteen liqueurs at fabulous prices before I staggered gaily back to barracks. Since then we have been waiting, waiting, till at last came the news that a train cannot be supplied at present. Doubtless the boat waiting at Danzig will be filled from other camps. We are unlucky sods. Oh hell!
Balby suggests, in all seriousness, that we were sent this wire to stand by solely to cheer us up – and then he wonders why I laughed. ’Elp!!! Short rations seem to deprive some people of a sense of humour.
Wednesday. Dec. 4. Getting through gradually. The days pass by on leaden feet. The rumour is very persistent that we are going away on Sunday, sailing from Danzig on the Monday.
The French officers have plastered the walls of their room with such placards as ‹On les a› (We’ve got them beat) and large maps marking in Alsace & Lorraine as French territory.
Saw in a shop today various of the German substitutes for bicycle tyres (for they have very little rubber). The chief one was a system of springs enclosed between two circular bands soAnother was simply thin rope plaited into a kind of thick tyre.
Cox, a man I know here, whose weight is normally around 11 stone 4, told me yesterday that, at the height of our starvation here he just weighed 8 stone.
Tuesday. Dec 3. Went for a walk with Miller into the town. Thought it would be interesting to look at the price of some feminine articles of apparel. The average felt, velours or plush hat, plain and untrimmed cost between 60 and 80 marks. A jolly decent looking silk (or satin) blouse with lace insertion cost 148 marks. A jolly rotten imitation black fur coat cost 425 marks.
Everyone unbelievably fed up. It appears probable that we get away next Monday, but nothing is definite. Unofficially I hear that we should have gone tomorrow, but something happened to the ruddy boat and it had to put back for repairs.
We are getting quite short of food again and the matter is looking a bit serious, especially if we don’t get away as expected.
The General, who seems to have taken exceptional leave of his senses, has sold practically all our reserve of bread and biscuits to the Germans. (the money to go to the Red Cross.) Later, no, he has given it away.
Our hero will now go to bed.
By the bye, I frequently announce to my mess some such remark as ‹our hero will now shave›
to which Gerson ‹no, not yet, my hands are dirty›
and Miller ‹no, I shaved immediately after breakfast›
Monday Dec. 2. Getting fearfully fed with this place. On Saturday I found an excellent Weinstuber, where we sat in warmth, Miller & I, and read our books, sipping the whiles some excellent Cherry Brandy & Carthauser, stuff like Benedictine. Bought a bottle of Carthauser 24 marks.
Sunday. Dec 1. Heard from the Commissioner for the Repatriation of British Prisoners from Eastern Germany that we’re not likely to leave here before Dec. 8. Oh hell! Our patience is getting to its end, and our tempers wearing very thin.
Have recently taken a spare enamel pot (like unto the ones in which we cook porridge) to use as a jerry, to obviate my very painful necessity of traipsing down freezing corridors twice or three times a night. This I did, telling only Miller. This morning Gerson cooked a delightful and inimitable macaroni milk pudding in my jerry. Fortunately I wash it out pretty well. The pudding was very good.
Thursday Nov 28th. Gerson promised to be back from Graudenz for lunch, never appeared. I fraternised with his French friends all day, apologising for his unexplainable absence. He came back about 9 pm. I gather that he waxed very merry with the gay poison they call wine here and totally forgot his engagements. He finished up the day by getting a bath in town about 6, got out, lay on the couch tout nu, and slept solemnly till about 8.30. Wonder he wasn’t previously drowned.
Wednesday. Nov 27. Much news to relate. Last Sunday night Ardagh brought in three French officers. After a few minutes he took them off, and we rushed round and got dinner ready for 12, 8 of us, Ardagh and the three. Comic business stewing up the contents of six large tins of M&V. in a great washing bowl over our stove. Dinner a great success, carried on with fluent conversation with Ardagh & Gerson, painsworthy spasms on my part, interjections on the part of Miller, attempts at dirty stories on the part of Balby, and entente smiles and gestures from Towne and Baer. The Frenchman next to me was an awfully decent fellow name De Courville. Won his heart after dinner by a present of tobacco.
On Monday it was arranged that 30 French officers should come and see the last variety performance of our concert troupe. Due to a misunderstanding the Kommandant left without leaving instructions. Consequently the French were not allowed to enter. A large number of us charged out with British Warms (for now we are allowed out without giving parole cards any time we like) and returned without them, and presently the French entered disguised, much too late to have dinner however. We had a sort of ‘Passover’ meal in our room, and got to the show only to find that 200 officers were to leave for Blighty in 2 hours time, and that the show was off. Had a further spread in our room and a glorious washing up match afterwards. Found out that De Courville is a Count, and a son of the Old French aristocracy. Jolly decent fellow, gave me his address in the country and in Paris, and asked me to wire him any time I was in France.
On Tuesday Gerson and I lunched with the French officers in their camp. Strolled into the town, went into a Cabaret – not bad, went to the Cinema, appallingly bad, collected divers souvenirs &c. Returned to our Camp for dinner, getting the French in by borrowing British warms for them. Went out again – Gerson and I disguised as French men (not allowed to be out ourselves after nine). Went to a Café Chantant, not bad. Returned about 12.45 am. The French several times sang their heartfelt, if somewhat disgusting, rondel:
Pour les Boches – merde!
Le Boche dans la merde –
On Tuesday night we saw Major Hazard, rather tight and rather child-like, down to the station, a good time after the party went, but before the train left. Everyone disgustingly cheerful.
Harrington appallingly drunk.
Wonder when we’ll go. Sent a p.c. home by Duce to say we shall be home in a fortnight.
Wednesday. Nov 20. Great news! 200 of us are to leave here on Saturday; us, I say, but, as a matter of fact I haven’t the pleasure of being amongst the 200. They have chosen I believe, chiefly colonials and married men, quite justly of course. Still it won’t be long before the rest of us are out of the place I guess. Duce, Towne and Baer are going from this room. I’ve asked Duce to drop a line directly he arrives to say that I am quite well and likely to be home in a week or so. Gee willikins!
Great souvenir hunting these days. People swapping money and superfluous grub for swords, bayonets, badges, Iron Crosses &c &c.
Learnt how to play Kriegs Spiel. Won two games.
Certain (D.v.) of being able to get away with this diary now.
Our walks on parole have lately been curtailed, especially since the armistice, in case the people of Graudenz proved hostile. But the reverse has been the case, especially since the Allies have arranged to ration Germany, and today we took our first walk for a long time.