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.
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!!
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.
Friday. Nov 8th Went out for a topping long walk on parole. Rumours of the armistice having been signed. Ran into the French officers who have 400 in their camp. They are very optimistic of being home by Xmas. Two more men died.
Thursday. Nov 7th Another poor fellow died today. Camp largely recovering. Over 450 have been in bed. Feeling much better myself. Dashed hard luck for these chaps to die now, after a rotten captivity, now, just when there does seem a decent chance of getting out within a few weeks. The three escapees are recaptured, and in jug.
Wednesday. Nov. 6th. Two more fellows, Craig and Dunscombe died of double pneumonia. Johnston was buried today. Myself feel much better. Up all day.