Chapter 5

Chapter 5


Oct.30th. Another dose of typhoid innoculation – we thought it was to have been the last but there is one more to come. More officers were released from quarantine – three R.F.C. and about a dozen Frenchmen. I heard from one of them that poor old Hodges, to whom I had sold my Douglas motor-bike, was killed trying to loop a Sopwith at Castle Bromwich.

Also that Nixon had been shot down over the lines and had stalled and crashed in a street. Of course killed by his machine gun being forced back into his face. Captain Hay introduced me to Captain Agapov, a Russian Cavalry Officer who is to teach me Russian in exchange for English. Some parcels arrived and after waiting in the Parcel Room for some time as there were a lot of us waiting to collect, I got hold of mine which contained just what I wanted in the way of clothes and food. – Because Holland was not involved in the First World War, Red Cross food and other parcels, sent to prisoners in Germany from England, passed through Holland on their way to the various P.O.W. Camps with relatively little interference or pilfering. Without the food parcels we should have been in a very poor way. As the War progressed, food supplies for the German population got worse and worse, particularly in the cities. P.O.W.’s came last in the queues.- Had my first Russian lesson at eleven, plenty to learn! We lunched off veal and ham pie and ate toffee and ginger biscuits all afternoon. I gave Agapov his first English lesson in the afternoon.

Nov.2nd. Sanders and I went to the dentist. His office was near the station so we went right through the town. We were wearing flying coats and helmets and caused some excitement. I had a tooth stopped and the nerve killed. The dentist was rather rough and caused some pain but I suppose it will be alright. Got back at one o’clock and had lunch by ourselves. I heard from Whittle (27 Squadron) that O’Byrne is in hospital in Cologne with two fingers off, a broken arm and two bullets in his leg, but doing all right. So he wasn’t killed after all. He shared my tent at Fienvillers. A list has been posted up in the anteroom of fellows missing, which included my name – also the names of several friends.

Nov.3rd. Porridge for breakfast with milk and brown sugar. Two more parcels for me – one from home and one R.F.C. containing food. Russian lessons as usual in the morning. Captain Agapov lives in two small rooms on the third floor, with six other Russians who have been very nice and polite. I have not as yet been able to get a Russian Grammar, and rely on a Berlitz conversation book. The Russians are quick learners and Captain A. learns about three times as fast as I. We do not hear much war news except through the German newspapers, but the French are very pleased with life as they have recaptured Fort Vaux at Verdun and taken a lot of prisoners. They drank Bordeaux for lunch and toasted everything and everybody!

Nov.4th. A day of rows. Hay has been turned out of his room in favour of a French Captain and naturally is angry about it. He expressed a wish to the German interpreter that all German towns might be bombed before the end of the war. Not wise of him but quite understandable. The French Captain visited Captain Gray, our senior officer to try and make peace but after some fruity language, he was booted out of Gray’s room with Gray’s best French – which was not very good at any time – to speed him on his way. Lastly someone wrote “Bosche” in a letter which stirred things up. The fool of an under-officer in the Tin Room had mixed my tins with Cairnes’ (60th Rifles and R.F.C.) with the result that he was eating my cherished “Lamb and Peas” which I had been saving for Sunday’s dinner. A poor devil of a Captain, blinded in both eyes, has arrived in the Camp. (This was Captain Gilbert Nobbs, who was repatriated some months later via Holland. He went to Australia to manage the Holbrook sauce and pickle business which he did very successfully with the help of a very efficient lady secretary. I met him in Sydney after he had retired when I was Chairman of Holbrooks Ltd., the parent company of the Australian and South African subsidiaries.)

Nov.5th. Sanders and I got up before Appel and cooked breakfast, consisting of porridge and tongue. Sanders, Kennedy (2nd Lieutenant R.F.C. 27 Squadron) and I went down to the dentist and on the way we tried to count the windows we could see open – there were not many! We sat in the waiting room with three fat German women, a youth and our guard. My turn came last and I had two stoppings and had to have gas. While I was in the dentist’s chair, an aeroplane flew over the town. Dr. Bergman became excited and we all looked out of the window. His assistant told me that a well-known Osnabruck pilot who had been flying since before the War, had crashed from 1,500 feet and was being buried today. The plane dropped a wreath, which I did not see and did the usual German stunts, for instance, turning with no “bank”. On the way back, the streets were crowded with people coming from the funeral – some girls, quite good to look on for once. As usual we were objects of interest and we heard several people say “flieger”. Our guard had short legs and as we were walking fast, we could hear him puffing behind us. Lunch was over when we got back, but we had our usual “fleisch”.

Nov.6th. Baths as usual. The Major came round in the afternoon to inspect the rooms as a General is expected to be coming tomorrow. Next day a Colonel turned up representing the General and inspected the rooms but did not seem to do anything special. Parcels given out in the afternoon. Molloy got his first. I was lucky and had four, two of clothes and two Fortnum and Mason. Rumours flying round that the French Captain has done a bunk as his room was locked and he did not turn up for Appel.

Nov.8th. Yesterday’s rumours came to nought as the Frenchman had only been visiting a friend in quarantine. Hunt, who was with me at Reading at the Initial Training Course, came to tea. Kennedy has heard from a friend who knew Mother as a girl, who had heard that I was a prisoner at Osnabruck. We are getting quite good cooks and had hot roast beef and cocoa for supper.

Nov.9th. We all paraded in the Yard and an order was read out stating that we were not allowed to have maps. Innoculated for the last time by a new doctor. Molloy’s 19th birthday so we had steak and lark pie and fried potatoes for supper and drank his health. In the evening there was a concert, attended by the Commandant and Dr. Pohlmann. The Russian orchestra played, there were songs and recitations. The British put on a skit based on the music-hall turn “Motoring” and the performance ended with a song by the Russian choir with their deep bass voices. The orchestra – guitars and balalaikas was not so good as before but improved.


“Tipperary” sung by Maxwell, went well. My tutor, Agapov sang a song in English – marvellously well considering he had only been learning for a short time. Three Russians in so-called evening dress were extremely funny. They all appeared very lugubrious and the youngest with a large tummy played a balalaika looking at the music about two feet above his head and never turned a hair. A Russian Colonel who was over six feet tall and looked very impressive, sang the Volga Boat Song with great gusto and passion. The “sketch” caused roars of laughter. The actors had made a wonderful car with a brake and horn and a radiator with “Ford” inscribed on it. A Russian dressed as a girl and singing in a duet drew howls and cheers from us all. “She” was given a bouquet and threw flowers in quite the approved style. Altogether a very happy evening.


Nov.10th. Stiff from innoculation. Molloy got parcels, so we have food to go on with. The British share their parcels but the French – mainly Reserve officers – kept their parcels for personal consumption under their individual beds!


Nov.12th. Went for a walk at ten – rather cold and cloudy but fresh. In the afternoon went to tea with some Russians with Whittle, Hay, Tullis, Gray, Salmond and Walker. Molloy, Helder and Wingfield went to tea with Uschatski and enjoyed a good feed. Our hosts were Agapov, Gempel and five others and they gave us a splendid tea – Russian and German bread, butter, cheese, cake and various Russian foods, with tea and excellent black coffee and with cigarettes to finish up with. We were a cheery party and taught our hosts to say “hot-stuff” and “damn”. Agapov is learning English very quickly – it is extraordinary how rapidly they pick it up. He came down to our room one evening when we were playing “Rummy” and after listening to our slang, remarked, “You no teach me English, I understand not one damn word!”

We papered the walls of our room with brown paper and put red shades on the lamps so it looks more cosy. An enclosure is being made which is the same size and adjoins the outer yard and will serve as a football pitch. Blain came round and collected the names of those who want to play tennis. We hope to have two hard courts and one in the Riding School.


Nov.13th. The Russians have heard a rumour that in today’s daily papers, it says that the German Chancellor BethmanHollweg has made a speech to the effect that Germany is ready for peace and wishes to have an armistice so as to put an end quickly to “This unnecessary and bloody war”. I hope it is true.

Nov.14th. Parcel day – I got four and everyone else had something. Mine were two of clothes, bread from Switzerland and an enormous side of bacon via American Express – all very welcome. Great jokes about the bacon – we have called it “Percy” and it lives in a kitbag of mine. The Germans showed much amusement when it was opened. “Percy” was a godsend and lasted a long time.

Nov.15th. Maxwell and Gray came back from Medical Board and all got through except Maxwell. Nobbs is to go straight back to England via Holland and the rest to Switzerland. At the Lager they went to, Swiss newspapers were available and they read that Germans of all ages were to be mobilised and that the French had gone as military advisors to the Rumanians. They saw troop loads of “civvies” in charge of soldiers who looked depressed. A copy of a letter received from Hauptman Boelke’s father was posted on the notice board. He was killed in a collision with one of his pilots. It was his Kampfgeschwader who shot down the four F.E. 2b’s and two B.E. 2c’s on September 17th. The letter, dated from Ziebuck on November 12th, read as follows:-

“To the Commandant. Sir, You have been so kind as to send a wreath as a last tribute to our son being killed while fighting for his country, which had been dedicated by the British Flying Officers interned in the camp at Osnabruck. We beg to thank you for granting the wish of the interned gentlemen and to ask you kindly to inform them that their noble display of real chivalrous feeling has left a splendid impression throughout Germany. May the chivalrous relations which have ever existed between the German and British airmen and which have been displayed by our son, soon move into the relations of the two Nations. With heartfelt gratitude to the British Officers, Yours Obediently – Professor M. Boelke”.


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