The “Officier Kriegsgefangenen Lager Osnabruck” was a pre-war cavalry barracks located on rising ground on the outskirts of town. It consisted of a main four-storey block with rooms overlooking the parade ground, backed by long corridors and served by a central staircase. To the left of the main block were the kitchens, canteen and administrative offices. In front of the main block were two “yards” about 75 by 25 yards in area and a riding school. There were also two tennis courts.
I started to keep a diary and the following paragraphs are culled from it:
“Our beds are very close together and we have little room to move around. I found that Hunt was here, whom I had known at Reading, and several crews from No.70 Squadron (which formed part of H.Q. Wing at Fienvillers), who were glad to get our news.
Sept.30th. We are told we are “out of quarantine” and may go into the yards for exercise. Also that we are to have a hot bath, which took place in a room about twelve feet square, equipped with hot and cold showers. I revelled in this as I had not had a bath for three weeks. Some underclothes I had sent to be washed, came back in the afternoon so I feel clean at last. A walk round the yard, but soon felt quite fagged. We were allowed into the canteen for meals, but only for half an hour. We also got into an N.C.O.’s room in which was a piano. I tried to converse with a Russian who spoke English, but was chased off before we could say much.
Oct.5th. People have begun to move out, but where to we do not know, though we think to another part of the building.
Oct.7th. The rest of us told to go. So we packed our small belongings and were taken downstairs where we were in our turn questioned by a Dr. Kohlmann who did not ask me much. We went into a room on the ground floor of the main block. In our room are Saunders, Pinkerton, Sams, Wingfield, Helder and Molloy. There is more room and we can see out of the windows but we are not allowed out and have meals in our room. However there is a long corridor to walk in. Had hoped for better things, but no luck so far.
We now have a Russian orderly, by name Ivan Gregorvitch, aged about 50. A real good fellow who keeps the room very clean and does anything we want. We call him “Keepatok”, the Russian for hot water – his morning greeting! Everyone now downstairs and we hear we may be allowed to go out tomorrow.
Oct.8th. The Commandant, a Major, came round this morning about 9.00. A fine looking old fellow aged about 65 with white hair and a large tummy.
Oct.9th. Played three sets of tennis with Saunders, Captain Leggatt (Wiltshire Regt. and R.F.C. M.C.) and Tooke (Lieut. R.N.), pretty hopeless and got very fagged.
Oct.14th. Some of us moving to smaller rooms, but we are not going until Monday. We now have roll call (Appel) at 7.45 a.m. and 7.30 p.m. Must turn out fully dressed – rather a sweat. However we manage to avoid things by pretending to be cold and putting on our flying coats.
Oct.15th. Meat for lunch. Lovely day with blue sky and white clouds but heavy shower when at lunch. In the afternoon we were ordered into the canteen by the Commandant who told us what rooms we were to occupy upstairs on the first floor. We were also told we were going to have two hot baths weekly, a reading room, walks, use of the riding school for badminton and that a bookseller would come up from town once a week. Moved into new room – Zimmer 68 – about 5 p.m. Molloy (Dorset Regt. and R.F.C.), Money (East Yorks Regt. and R.F.C.), Helder (Royal Fusiliers and R.F.C.), Saunders (Middlesex Regt. and R.F.C.) and myself. The room exactly the same size as our old one but on the first floor. Quite a view from the window and much brighter. A cupboard with drawers to hold food. We hear this evening that the Russians have started a new offensive, also that heavy fighting was taking place at Sailly Sallisel (Somme) on 12th inst. Played bridge after appel – Molloy and self versus “Von” and “Wingers”. (Saunders was nicknamed “Von” after the German General in Turkey.)
Oct.17th. The bookseller came but I only ordered a German grammer [sic] as we are starting a library. A great discussion this afternoon as to how we should arrange our room. Money has ideas of his own but will have to fall into line with the wishes of the majority. Finally decided to have all the beds in two tiers, one side of the room and to hang curtains round them and round the walls. I shared our two-tier iron bedsteads with “Von” who slept on the top one. This is quite comfortable arrangement and saves floor space.
Oct.18th. “Russki” got us some coal for our stove this morning – cost 50 pfg. He lit it and we got up a real fug to celebrate the event. Very cold outside and rain in the morning. Ante-room opened in the afternoon – large and airy with two stoves, tables and chairs. It should improve our comfort enormously. The third and fourth floors of the barracks were occupied by Russian officer prisoners – mostly captured during the early months of the War, ranging in rank from Colonel to Lieutenant. The only other Allied prisoner was an elderly French Captain who had a small room to himself at the end of our corridor. More about them later.
Oct.19th. The medical officer called and we were vaccinated in the afternoon. He did it well and painlessly. Grapes in the canteen this evening – we made pigs of ourselves! The canteen is a real swindle – everything costs ten times what it should. They have run out of chocolate for some days but today they got in some absolute “filth” at M3.30, instead of the previous price of M2.80. The same quantity costs 1/- in England.
Our rations consisted of black coffee – made out of roasted acorns, with no milk or sugar – in the morning. Lunch was generally vegetable soup, sometimes there was a small piece of meat or shellfish. In the evening, more soup. We were issued weekly a small loaf of “Kriegsbrot”, very hard and stale and full of potato flour and which became rock hard at the end of the week. We were able to buy jam in the canteen, but no butter, sugar or milk.
A lovely afternoon with a cloudless sky but chilly. A German plane flew over at about 1,000 feet – it could have been an Albatros. The pilot gave an exhibition of his ability to “stunt”. “Von” had his diary returned by the Censor with every page torn out.