- from 'the War Budget' January 20th, 1916,
- 'How We Cage the Black Eagle'
a Happy Hun's Tale of Life in a British Prison Camp
An article in the "Kolnische Zeitung," usually regarded as the leading journal of the German Empire, will do much to modify the prevailing belief in that country that our treatment of German war prisoners is inhuman, malevolent, and at variance with the accepted usages of civilised nations. The writer had been interned for some months at the Lofthouse Park encampment, a place near Wakefield, and is apparently a man of a fair spirit anxious to state the truth as he saw it.
The Lofthouse Park camp after various mutations consisted of a community of about 1,500 Germans, most of them civilians, and divided into three sections, each with its own characteristics. We are introduced to the Commandant of the camp. And we have a highly flattering picture of a just and courteous gentleman, whose entire demeanour so impressed itself on his subordinates that no complaints were thinkable on matters over which he exercised control. In one of the divisions of the camp the huts contained 20 men each, in another division where the huts are more roomy 30 men are accommodated in each. The prisoners, we are told, have managed to render the rather rough erections quite habitable, and there has been a considerable expenditure of prisoners' money to make them rain-tight and impervious to the rigours of winter. There are two stoves in each hut, and the Commandant courteously promised to supply a third stove for huts in exposed places.
Free and Easy
Twice a day there is a parade, when an officer carefully counts and examines the prisoners, but apart from this the prisoners have nothing to worry them all day, and inside bounds they are free to go where they like and . do what they like. If a prisoner washes to go from one division of the camp to another he ,has no trouble in obtaining a pass. It prisoners wish, let us say, to attend a concert or theatrical performance in another section, they are counted on going and returning, everything going like clockwork, and with much good humour and courtesy. The first. parade is at 9.30 a.m., an hour fixed to prevent the inconvenience of too early rising and too hurried a breakfast. Many of the prisoners lie abed until 8 o'clock. At night lights must be out by 10.30, and it is forbidden to burn candles.
On the whole the Germans at .Lofthouse Park appear to be satisfied with their food, which is certainly more abundant, of better quality, and better served than in corresponding establishments in Germany where British prisoners are interned. Necessities, of course are supplied by the Government. The official rations for breakfast are tea, bread and margarine. For dinner, half-a-pound of beef, potatoes, legumes for soup, and bread; for the evening meal, bread, margarine and tea, with a little milk. Each prisoner, of course, is entitled to supplement the Government rations to any extent if he can pay for it. The food is prepared by German cooks who have either come from captured German steamers or served in English hotels.
The Halesome Brose
One of the events of the day is the appearance of the green-grocer with fresh vegetables and fruit, which are sold at a most moderate price and are, as a rule, of excellent quality. Porridge is one of the things the Germans have learned to appreciate their name for it is "gekochtehafengritze." In addition most of the prisoners manage to eke out a warm supper composed of things saved from earlier meals and supplemented by purchases from the friendly greengrocer, or from the excellently stocked canteens, one of which is in each section of the camp.
The writer of the article in the "Kolnische" is charmed with the variety of things obtainable at cheap rates and has nothing but praise for the quality of the butter and cheese and eggs and milk, the preserved meats, and above all else jam. He begs the friends of prisoners in the Fatherland not to send them food, for of this they have an abundance. The only shadow in the Barmecide feast is that cast by frozen meat. If it were only not frozen everything would be perfect. The question of drink is not troublesome. Two small bottles of beer may be bought daily by each prisoner, and in addition two bottles' of wine a week. Until quits recently the courteous commandant went so far as to permit three bottles of whiskey a week for each hut, but this privilege has been withdrawn.
Under certain conditions a prisoner may send to London for an extra bottle, but only to tradesmen permitted by the camp authorities.
The Concert of Germany
No part of the camp life is more interesting than the arrangements' made for the amusement of the prisoners. The liberality of a prisoner's relative has supplied a theatre, and every 14 days there is a performance occasionally indulging the tragic solemnities of Schiller's plays. There is a choral society and an orchestra, in fact there are three orchestras, and the writer of the article amusingly describes the attempts which have been made to produce concerts at which all three orchestras might unitedly play, attempts which have been frustrated by the jealousies of the three band-masters, not one of whom cares to submit to the "over-direction" of the other.
But those Germans are not only eager for amusement, they do not neglect their intellects. They insist on having food for mind and body, and in both directions they are heavy feeders. So they have sought out among their numbers men who know things and can speak informingly about them. One is a National Economist and lectures learnedly on work and wages and the intricacies of the money market. Another is a Berlin lawyer who lectures on jurisprudence. A third is competent to speak on English literature, and, wonderful to relate, his lectures are the best attended of all.
There are lecturers on history, and the camp must contain a large number of linguists, for we hear of lessons in French, Italian, Spanish, English, and Russian, as well as several more exotic languages. Some of the teachers demand a small fee, others give their lessons gratis.
Arrangements of a satisfactory character have been made for exercise, especially for tennis, and the national game of skittles. Walks in the country are also a daily feature of camp life and. afford much enjoyment the prisoners finding much that is edifying in a quiet way on the serene highways and byways of an English country-side. Some of them, apparently, do not enjoy the attentions shown them by the school-children of the neighbourhood. But on one occasion, when they were taken for a party of Kitchener's recruits, they had an experience which still tickles them when they think of it.
Unlike our unfortunate prisoners in German camps, the men at Lofthouse Park may take in the daily English papers, where they may read the edifying German "official," and the still more edifying "wireless."
from 'the War Illustrated' - German prisoners in Great Britain
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