Tuesday. Dec 10. This morning Col. Corfe went to Danzig, leaving by train at 6.30 AM to explain in person our state as regards grub. He has just returned, with (to show that we’re not forgotten) an officer of H.M.S. Gloucester, at present stationed in Danzig. It does seems ripping really to have an Englishman here, in the enemy’s stronghold – not here as a prisoner, but a victor in the conquered territory. Several items of news he brings. The best is that another boat is expected Thursday. If this be so we may get away tomorrow, or Thursday at latest.
Sunday. Dec 8. Little did I think to make entries in my diary so late as this, when it’s nearly a fortnight since our first party left.
This is our state, no parcels are coming into the camp. We are reduced to our last few tins of meat. The German authorities have requested that we do not go into the town to lunch or dine. We have no food rations from the Germans now, for when we were getting our parcels, we had arrangements made that it should be sold to the civilian population. This is a garrison town, and many thousands of German soldiers are expected back on Wednesday or Thursday. They are supposed to be going to take over these barracks, and yet there is no word of our going. We are all fed to the teeth.
Our General (God save the mark!!) who at this rather critical time should be here in our camp, actually on the spot, has in fact taken rooms in a hotel in town, where he spends his days and nights (chiefly in a cabaret called the Germania) with wine and women. Yesterday he had a notice placed on the notice board to say that we should be leaving either Monday or Tuesday probably, and a rumour went round, emanating direct from him, that we were leaving in two parties, one on Sunday night, the other on Monday morning. It proves to be entirely fictitious. He has interviewed the officer for the Repatriation of Prisoners in Eastern Germany, and also the Representative of the Danish Commission for the same, yet he has no news, or if he has, he will not publish it.
Officers were stopped by a German Patrol late on Thursday and requested to give up their walking-sticks. On their refusal a disturbance was made and several civilians became very hostile. Seeing the menacing look of the crowd some officers gave up their sticks, and others broke them and threw them at them. All the action the General has taken in the matter is to publish a notice that officers to not carry sticks in the town and to state that ‹the German authorities regret the disturbances between English officers and German soldiers and civilians and request that, in view of the existing circumstances, no notice be taken of the incident›.
An officer, a Captain Greg was noticed to be missing about three days by his room companions, who became rather anxious about him. One night a woman came out of a house and shoved a note into the hands of a passing officer. It was to the effect that Greg had been enticed into, or had somehow entered into a house, and set upon by several ruffians, who placed him hors de combat, with several broken bones. Six of our fellows went down, got him out and took him to hospital.
The Danish Committee have advised us to hand them our surplus stocks of foods when we go. Comic idea of how much food we’ve got they seem to have. Today Whittaker, the Camp Adjutant, a Guards Captain and a boy of about 21, nearly as big a twinnick as the General, wired to Danzig to say ‹470 British Officers & men at Graudenz without food›. Might have some effect. Our fleet is supposed to be cruising about in the Baltic.
An alphabetical roll call was called this morning. Seven people were missing. No one knows whether they are in the town, or have tried to get off to Danzig on their own. Several Frenchmen have left the French Camp, chiefly those who speak German fluently, who have plenty of ready money, and are dressed as civilians. In view of the fact that the British Government has asked that we do not do so, it seems unwise but the reason given was that ‹it would only lead to suffering and privation, and delay your repatriation› – but it seems likely that, if we stay here, we shall endure the same suffering and privation, and then not have sufficient grub to carry us to Danzig or elsewhere in a belated attempt to get out of the country.
Nous avons le cafard – as the French say.
We’re damned well fed up. Looks as if we shall miss getting Xmas at home.
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›
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.
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.
Sunday. Nov 17th. Just 8 months since I left home coming back from leave, Sunday St Patrick’s Day.
The members of this camp and our hero in particular are feeling rather fed up today. The first rumour was that we were leaving here today, the next Tuesday, the next Wednesday; last night we had it officially that we would not be leaving for at least 8 days if then. Doesn’t sound very long I know, but at the end of 8 months (and such an 8 months) it seems interminable ages.
The camp is surrounded by hordes of school boys and girls and several grown ups and some Russians yelling England and Tommy &c. This starts about 7 in the morning and goes on till dark. We are always throwing out biscuits and stuff to them, but we’re getting a bit fed up with the unceasing noise. Sounds like the parrot house at the zoo.
Tuesday. Nov 12. General Bellingham posted this morning a notice stating definitely that the armistice terms have been signed and that the authorities have promised that we shall be repatriated immediately transport is available. Subsequently, at the R.F.C. dinner this evening he informed us that he had met the local representatives of the ‘soldiers and workers’ unions, who gave him greeting from the new government. They said that, while the government was still trying to confirm its stability, our guards would not be removed, but would remain, more as a protection to ourselves than for their original purpose. There was always the possibility of some madcap stirring up the mob to raid us, 600 defenceless officers, the cause of their misery. The General replied that he quite appreciated their point of view. They asked that no one should escape as they were responsible that the correct number of British officers were handed over. The General concluded by assuring them that we had fought against Prussian Militarism, and that, this being dead we were ready and eager to hold out the hand of friendship to the free German People.
The RAF dinner was quite a success. Various complimentary toasts &c. Divers people besotted. Got my menu-card signed by practically everyone there. It will make a very decent pair to the Flight one of last Xmas.
Hurrah for this Xmas!!
Sunday. Nov 3. Feel none too well. Thought I wouldn’t get up – decided to eventually. Lying on my bed all day with British warm on. Felt a bit faint before supper, but it passed off. Ate a good supper. Felt chronically rotten; went out with Duce into the cold corridor to get some air, and I knowed no more!! Later woke from perfectly glorious dreams of Arcady to find myself back in this hole and on my bed in the tender clutches of an English M.O. who ordered me to bed.
Wednesday. Oct 30. Lights suddenly fused at 6pm. Had a comic evening trying to cook stuff in the dark. Gerson improvised a torch composed of a tin filled with greasy paper and chips of wood, by the light of which we devoured our mess. I reckon we ate our peck of dirt last night all right. Went to bed at 8.