|What follows is a transcript of the debriefing
that took place when he arrived in Engalnd after his escape.
I was captured at Ypres on June 2nd,
1916, with about two hundred other men. I was
not wounded and I saw no acts of brutality on the part of the enemy.
We spent the night in the village just
behind the line, and were given coffee and bread. The
next morning we were put on the train, forty in a cattle truck. On the way I saw no Red Cross nurses and we were
not ill-treated in any way. We arrived at
Dulmen after one day on one night’s journey.
At Dulmen there were three camps. We slept in huts and the accommodation was good. There was plenty of drinking and washing water and
the lavatory accommodation was also good. We
did no work and there were opportunities for recreation.
They were mostly French prisoners here.
We were fairly well treated, and I saw no acts of violence committed by any
officials of the camp—even the sentries treated us well.
We were allowed to write four postcards and
two letters a month. The food was of
indifferent quality, but not bad. For
breakfast we had coffee and bread (ten to a loaf), for dinner a poor kind of soup, and for
supper soup again.
There was no religious instruction. Whilst I was in Dulmen our parcels had not yet
begun to arrive.
I went to Duisburg at the end of July. It was a small camp, holding 125 prisoners
altogether. Ten were British, five Russians,
and the remainder French.
The food was about the same as at Dulmen,
and the sleeping, lavatory, and washing accommodation was good.
Neither here nor at Dulmen was there any
lice or epidemic.
We worked from six to six at pick and
shovel work, making a foundation for a factory, for which we were paid a mark a day. None of the prisoners refused to labour, and we
worked alongside German workmen.
I saw and heard of no brutality to
prisoners. The punishment for offences was
Our parcels began to arrive about
September, after which they arrived regularly.
We were transferred to Munster from
Duisburg because the Germans in charge of us did not think we did sufficient work.
There were sixty Englishmen here, the
remainder French and Russians.
The food here was about the same as a t
I saw no men knocked about by the Germans
and no brutality of any kind.
On January 20th I was
transferred to Neubeckum, which is a work lager.
There were thirty prisoners
altogether—all British. We were under
the charge of a Gefreiter and one military sentry and two civilians.
We were lodged in an old inn, in three
rooms, then in a room.
There were no fires in the sleeping rooms,
but one in the “living room”.
We had the same variety of food as we had
had at other camps, but it had deteriorated in quality and quantity. Our work was in a stone quarry. At first we worked from 8 to 4.30, but from the
beginning of March the time was changed to from 6 to 6.
In February the postern considered Private
Campbell, of the Buffs, was not working hard enough.
The quarry-master covered Campbell with a revolver while a civilian postern
knocked him about. He hit him with his fist. Campbell had no opportunity of complaining of his
treatment to an officer, for we never saw an officer.
In March I threatened to hit the postern
with a pick. I was taken back to the lager
that night, fetched out into the open and three men set on to me (two military and one
civilian). They hit me with fists and rifles,
and kept me outside until 2 o’clock in the morning, returning at intervals to give me
another hammering. The Gefreiter on this
occasion was drunk.
We were often threatened by men with
revolvers. Posterns were often drunk during
the day, and frequently called us names and provoked us.
There were also eight Italians (interned)
working in the quarry. They were civilians
who had been in Germany at the outbreak of war.
I escaped on the 18th July 1917. Eleven men had previously attempted to escape, but
had been caught.
Three of us ran off from the quarry at
dinner time; the sentry was inside the hut having his dinner, and all three of us got
We were over 100 kilometres from the
frontier. We each had food, and we had a map
and compass, which we had bought from the Italian civilians.
We traveled by night and slept in the day
in woods and hedges, crossed two small rivers and found no guards on the banks.
During the time I was a prisoner I worked
side by side with Germans. The German workmen
were not much better fed than we were, and looked starved, and we could not have lived
without our parcels. The sentries often tried
to buy bread and butter from us.
I could not speak German, and none of the
sentries spoke English. All the sentries were
of military age, and they never talked about the war except to say that they were sick of
it. Many sentries had to go up for
I saw three Englishmen who were working in
a munition factory Beckum. They said they
were forced to do so.
The sentries said that England was starving
on account of the U-boats. The English
prisoners were in excellent spirits and never believed those stories.
Many French prisoners were on parole. I saw very few Belgians, and no reprisal
The Germans seemed rather depressed,
although some of them are still confident of victory.
I received no letters for the last four
months, and my letters home were not received for the last six months. Parcels came regularly, and I had one the night
before I escaped.
There was never any stoppage in the
delivery of parcels. The tins were taken out
of the parcels, a number put on, stored, and when we required anything the tin was opened
and we were given the contents on a plate. The
biscuits the men now receive are very good indeed.