17 Oct 1918: POW Graudenz

Thursday Oct 17th.     Yesterday, we had a bit of bad luck.  One of the sentries walking round the building sank up to his knees in a hole.  So was discovered our new tunnel which has been in construction for some time.  Had the discovery not been made until the next day, the birds would have flown.

8 Sept 1918: POW Graudenz

RAB diary Sunday September 8, 1918, Graudenz: “a tunnel has been in process of being built”
Sunday, September 8, 1918: “a tunnel has been in process of being built”

Sunday. Sept 7th [8th].     Great excitement.  For a long time (although I have naturally made no mention of it here)  a tunnel has been in process of being built from a cellar under this block, under the double row of barbed wire, under the outside wall and all ready to open up in the shadow of the wall on a suitable night.  I never had the chance of seeing it, but I believe it was made 2′6″ × 2′6″ and supported by hundreds of bed boards.  It must have been a jolly well organised piece of work, for they had to dig through the foundations, some 3 feet of solid concrete, and then through sandy soil, which required propping every inch of it.  Last night was the night chosen for the escape.  I can’t give details even yet because they would be useful to the enemy.  It was dark soon after nine.  By 11 o’clock all of the parties, sixteen people in all, had gone through the tunnel and got clear in spite of the many guards and patrols actually outside here.  Eight Flying Corps went, five Australians and three others.  Three of them, the first party, all R.F.C. were recaptured almost at once.  They said however that they were Tommies escaped from some other camp in Germany and so, all the other sentries being interested and attracted, the rest got clear away.  Proper wind up here.  The tunnel was discovered about 1am.  Parties came round counting us in bed.  They didn’t discover the correct number of those who had gone for there were dummies in the beds, some only of which were discovered.  We had a parade about 8.30 and we were counted several times.  Huge colossal gust up!  General visited during parade.  Commandant chronically perturbed.  Saluted General literally 30 times during course of a short telling off.  We are ordered to our rooms and not to come out except to draw grub and to attend parade.  Except at those times we may not walk outside even for exercise, and we are not allowed our tins or parcels.

Tonight we held an indignation meeting against the unjust punishment.  We refused to leave the parade ground after ‘appel’ but walked about, until scores of guards were turned out to chase us off.  We roared with laughter and declined to move.  Finally the guards fixed bayonets, and several of our fellows got nasty clouts from the butt-ends of their rifles.  ‘Little Willy’ drew his sword, and is said to have ordered the guards to fire, which, fortunately, both for them and for us, they didn’t do.  You should have heard the shout of laughter that went up when the guards fixed bayonets.

Later.  A notice has been placed up saying that this punishment is on account, not of the escape, but of the continued noise after lights out.  Obviously camouflage however!  The noise, as the authorities well know, was made in collusion with the escapees, to draw the sentries away to the other block.