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.
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.
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.
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!!
Monday. Nov 11th. It’s come!! Germany is, in a quiet way, in a state of revolution. We noticed it here only yesterday evening when we heard that one of our Lager officers had been set on by the mob, deprived of his badges of rank, and clothed in civilian trousers. Today many of the guards have removed the eagle from the front of their helmets, all the officers and N.C.O.s have removed their epaulettes and badges of rank. The Commandant, a major, appeared this morning in civilian attire, and officially handed over to us the parcel room. We now get tins and parcels intact, and our letters uncensored. The General has posted a notice asking that, in brief, we maintain the dignity of British officers, especially during the next few days – so that we do not hinder the arrangements for our repatriation. The armistice terms have been agreed on; pretty stiff ones too, and one of them is our immediate repatriation.
Saturday. Nov 9th. Saw a comic chimney sweep yesterday. He walked along the dividing line between the two slopes of the roof as carelessly and as quickly as an acrobat. Once he made as though he had lost his balance just to amuse us down below. He must have been very gratified by the howl of laughter we sent up.
Rumours of the Kaiser having abdicated.
This monumental treatise on the life of a [Kriegsgefangener] would not be complete without a reference to Boarding. This unique method of punishment, invented by Room 80, is designed for the castigation of any member of the room by the will of the majority. For instance our Scotch friend Miller delivers himself thus ‹I wish some of you silly asses would learn to clean up the table after you› Those whose consciences are by sin accused wax indignant at the appellation. The fiat goes forth ‹Board him› Two seize him; he is borne howling and violently struggling, to a bed. One sits on his head, another on the rest of him. The other members of the room pile themselves one above one until the bed rocks. The topmost member has the duty of leaping into the air and crashing down on to the wriggling pile shrieking ‹All aboard›
It is better to be at the top than at the bottom. (Bright thoughts for Today)
Today I was boarded twice.
So many pieces of good news and improbable exciting rumours are coming in now that the place is full of unrest. We simply cannot work or concentrate in any way.
Sunday. Oct 27th. Great news! Turkey and Austria are supposed to have chucked in their hands.
The camp has lately been attacked by grippe, or Spanish grippe, a milder form of ‘flu’, which turns in serious cases to double pneumonia. I hear from home that both Dad & Mater have had it. I know it is rife in Scotland and in France. Looks as if it is all over Southern Europe.
Sunday Oct 20th. Great news coming through. We’re continuing to advance along the line. We’ve got Lille (Van den Broeck must be immensely pleased) and Ostend, and making huge strides in Belgium. Latest news is that we’ve got all the Belgian coast. Germany however is supposed to have broken off negotiations about peace, and to have decided to fight to the last.
Sunday. Oct 13th Latest news! Germany’s new socialist or democratic government has accepted Wilson’s terms, have consented to evacuate Belgium and France, prior to discussing peace terms, as a guarantee of good faith.
Have since had a most interesting and enlightening talk with a very decent interpreter. He confidently expects peace within a week. He told us with tears in his eyes of the way the German people had been led by the nose, how that, for the sake of their country and the cause which they had been taught to believe was right their armies had struggled in the field and their civilians had suffered at home; how that his wife and five kiddies had been nearly starving in Berlin for two years – living on the barest rations, existing in rooms with no fire throughout the winter, allowed gas for cooking for only an hour or so each day; how that theirs was no isolated case, but common to all Germany; how that they had all, soldiers and civilians stuck it out, only to find now that they have been deceived by their leaders. It transpires that Wilson promised them peace in 1916 and again in 1917 with his guarantee for Alsace Lorraine – but their leaders, lustful of conquest, and the large firms like Krupps, desirous of continuance of the war, rejected the proposal, nor had the average man in the street in Germany the slightest inkling that a tentative proposal had been made.
The sufferings, he added, they had cheerfully borne, but now, to know that, not only was it in vain, but actually in a wrong cause, was heartbreaking.
It was a very interesting and rather a pitiful tale he told. But what most concerns us is that, please God, we’ll be home by Xmas, or soon after. Hurrah!!!
Inman dressed up as a girl tonight. Quite a success. The German officer was frightfully tickled when he entered for the evening roll call.
On parole the other day we met a whole crowd of French officers. We all saluted and yelled greetings to each other and one officer waved to me and called out ‹À bientot en France›
Monday Oct 7th. News that Germany, Austria and Turkey have asked for an armistice for the discussion of peace terms. It’s ripping, as showing that our end of the see-saw is thoroughly down, but it’s too premature. Hope we reject the proposal.