Three Times and Out
Nellie L. McClung
Part 1 out of 4
Thanks to A Celebration of Women Writers
for providing the source text.
THREE TIMES AND OUT
NELLIE L. MCCLUNG
Author of SOWING SEEDS IN DANNY, IN TIMES LIKE THESE,
and THE NEXT OF KIN
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
To the companion who failed
through no fault of his and
no lack of courage
loyal friend and best of com-
rades, this book is dedicated.
When a young man whom I had not seen until that day came to see me
in Edmonton, and told me he had a story which he thought was worth
writing, and which he wanted me to write for him, I told him I could
not undertake to do it for I was writing a story of my own, but that
I could no doubt find some one who would do it for him.
Then he mentioned that he was a returned soldier, and had been for
sixteen months a prisoner in Germany, and had made his escape--
That changed everything!
I asked him to come right in and tell me all about it--for like every
one else I have friends in the prison-camps of Germany, boys whom I
remember as little chaps in knickers playing with my children, boys
I taught in country schools in Manitoba, boys whose parents are my
friends. There are many of these whom we know to be prisoners, and
there are some who have been listed as "missing," who we are still
hoping against long odds may be prisoners!
I asked him many questions. How were they treated? Did they get
enough to eat? Did they get their parcels? Were they very lonely?
Did he by any chance know a boy from Vancouver called Wallen Gordon,
who had been "Missing" since the 2d of June, 1916? Or Reg Black from
Manitou? or Garnet Stewart from Winnipeg?
Unfortunately, he did not.
Then he began his story. Before he had gone far, I had determined to
do all I could to get his story into print, for it seemed to me to be
a story that should be written. It gives at least a partial answer
to the anxious questionings that are in so many hearts. It tells us
something of the fate of the brave fellows who have, temporarily,
lost their freedom--to make our freedom secure!
Private Simmons is a close and accurate observer who sees clearly
and talks well. He tells a straightforward, unadorned tale, every
sentence of which is true, and convincing. I venture to hope that
the reader may have as much pleasure in the reading of it as I had
in the writing.
NELLIE L. McCLUNG
Edmonton, October 24, 1918
I. HOW IT STARTED
II. THROUGH BELGIUM
III. INTO GERMANY
IV. THE LAZARET
V. THE PRISON-CAMP
VII. THE ESCAPE
VIII. OFF FOR SWITZERLAND!
X. THE CELLS!
XI. THE STRAFE-BARRACK
XII. BACK TO CAMP
XIV. OFF FOR HOLLAND!
XV. CAUGHT AGAIN
XVI. THE INVISIBLE BROTHERHOOD
XVII. THE CELLS AT OLDENBUBG
XVIII. PARNEWINKEL CAMP
XIX. THE BLACKEST CHAPTER OF ALL
XX. ONCE AGAIN!
XXI. TRAVELLERS OF THE NIGHT
XXII. THE LONG ROAD TO FREEDOM
From a photograph taken since his return to Canada
OFFICER'S QUARTERS IN A GERMAN MILITARY PRISON
TED BROMLEY, IN RED CROSS OVERCOAT WITH PRISON
NUMBER AND MARKED SLEEVE
GERMAN PRISON STAMP
These stamps are used to pay prisoners for their work and
to be exchanged for any money they may have when captured
TWO PAGES FROM PRIVATE SIMMONS'S DIARY
MAP MADE BY PRIVATE SIMMONS OF THE FIRST ATTEMPT
THE CHRISTMAS CARD WHICH THE GIESSEN PRISON AUTHORITIES
SUPPLIED TO THE PRISONERS
MAP MADE FROM PAPER WHICH CAME IN A PARCEL, WRAPPED AROUND
FRIEDRICHSFELD PRISON-CAMP IN WINTER
MAP WHICH PRIVATE SIMMONS GOT FROM THE CANADIAN ARTIST AT
GIESSEN, SHOWING ROUTES OF SECOND AND THIRD ATTEMPTS
FRIEDRICHSFELD PRISON-CAMP IN SUMMER
A PRISON POST-CARD FROM FRIEDRICHSFELD BEI WESEL, SHOWING
COSMOPOLITAN GROUP OF PRISONERS
POST-CARD SENT BY PRIVATE BROMLEY FROM THE PRISON-CAMP OF
SOLTAU, SHOWING GRAVES OF PRISONERS
THREE TIMES AND OUT
HOW IT STARTED
"England has declared war on Germany!"
We were working on a pumphouse, on the Columbia River, at Trail,
British Columbia, when these words were shouted at us from the door
by the boss carpenter, who had come down from the smelter to tell us
that the news had just come over the wire.
Every one stopped work, and for a full minute not a word was spoken.
Then Hill, a British reservist who was my work-mate, laid down his
hammer and put on his coat. There was neither haste nor excitement in
his movements, but a settled conviction that gave me a queer feeling.
I began to argue just where we had left off, for the prospect of war
had been threshed out for the last two days with great thoroughness.
"It will be settled," I said. "Nations cannot go to war now. It would
be suicide, with all the modern methods of destruction. It will be
settled by a war council--and all forgotten in a month."
Hill, who had argued so well a few minutes ago and told us all the
reasons he had for expecting war with Germany, would not waste a word
on me now. England was at war--and he was part of England's war
"I am quitting, George," he said to the boss carpenter, as he pulled
his cap down on his head and started up the bank.
That night he began to drill us in the skating-rink.
I worked on for about a week, but from the first I determined to go
if any one went from Canada. I don't suppose it was all patriotism.
Part of it was the love of adventure, and a desire to see the world;
for though I was a steady-going carpenter chap, I had many dreams as
I worked with hammer and saw, and one of them was that I would travel
far and see how people lived in other countries. The thought of war
had always been repellent to me, and many an argument I had had
with the German baker in whose house I roomed, on the subject of
compulsory military training for boys. He often pointed out a
stoop-shouldered, hollow-chested boy who lived on the same street,
and told me that if this boy had lived in Germany he would have
walked straighter and developed a chest, instead of slouching through
life the way he was doing. He and his wife and the grown-up daughter
were devoted to their country, and often told us of how well the
working-people were housed in Germany and the affairs of the country
But I think the war was as great a surprise to them as to us, and
although the two women told us we were foolish to go to fight--it was
no business of ours if England wanted to get into a row--it made no
difference in our friendly relations, and the day we left Clara came
to the station with a box of candy. I suppose if we had known as much
then as we do now about German diplomacy, we shouldn't have eaten it,
but we only knew then that Clara's candy was the best going, and so
we ate it, and often wished for more.
I have since heard, however, of other Germans in Canada who knew more
of their country's plans, and openly spoke of them. One of these,
employed by the Government, told the people in the office where he
worked that when Germany got hold of Canada, she would straighten out
the crooked streets in our towns and not allow shacks to be built on
the good streets, and would see to it that houses were not crowded
together; and the strangest part of it is that the people to whom he
spoke attached no importance whatever to his words until the war came
and the German mysteriously disappeared.
* * *
I never really enlisted, for we had no recruiting meetings in Trail
before I left. We went to the skating-rink the first night, about
fifteen of us, and began to drill. Mr. Schofield, Member of the
Provincial Parliament, and Hill were in charge, and tested our
marksmanship as well. They graded us according to physical tests,
marksmanship, and ability to pick up the drill, and I was quite
pleased to find I was Number "One" on the list.
There was a young Italian boy named Adolph Milachi, whom we called
"Joe," who came to drill the first night, and although he could not
speak much English, he was determined to be a soldier. I do not know
what grudge little Joe had against the Germans, whether it was just
the love of adventure which urged him on, but he overruled all
objections to his going and left with the others of us, on the last
day of August.
I remember that trip through the mountains in that soft, hazy,
beautiful August weather; the mountain-tops, white with snow, were
wrapped about with purple mist which twisted and shifted as if never
satisfied with their draping. The sheer rocks in the mountain-sides,
washed by a recent rain, were streaked with dull reds and blues and
yellows, like the old-fashioned rag carpet. The rivers whose banks
we followed ran blue and green, and icy cold, darting sometimes so
sharply under the track that it jerked one's neck to follow them; and
then the stately evergreens marched always with us, like endless
companies of soldiers or pilgrims wending their way to a favorite
When we awakened the second morning, and found ourselves on the wide
prairie of Alberta, with its many harvest scenes and herds of cattle,
and the gardens all in bloom, one of the boys said, waving his hand
at a particularly handsome house set in a field of ripe wheat, "No
wonder the Germans want it!"
* * *
My story really begins April 24, 1915. Up to that time it had been
the usual one--the training in England, with all the excitement of
week-end leave; the great kindness of English families whose friends
in Canada had written to them about us, and who had forthwith sent
us their invitations to visit them, which we did with the greatest
pleasure, enjoying every minute spent in their beautiful houses; and
then the greatest thrill of all--when we were ordered to France.
The 24th of April was a beautiful spring day of quivering sunshine,
which made the soggy ground in the part of Belgium where I was fairly
steam. The grass was green as plush, and along the front of the
trenches, where it had not been trodden down, there were yellow
buttercups and other little spring flowers whose names I did not
We had dug the trenches the day before, and the ground was so marshy
and wet that water began to ooze in before we had dug more than three
feet. Then we had gone on the other side and thrown up more dirt,
to make a better parapet, and had carried sand-bags from an old
artillery dug-out. Four strands of barbed wire were also put up
in front of our trenches, as a sort of suggestion of barbed-wire
entanglements, but we knew we had very little protection.
Early in the morning of the 24th, a German aeroplane flew low over
our trench, so low that I could see the man quite plainly, and could
easily have shot him, but we had orders not to fire--the object of
these orders being that we must not give away our position.
The airman saw us, of course, for he looked right down at us, and
dropped down white pencils of smoke to show the gunners where we
were. That big gray beetle sailing serenely over us, boring us with
his sharp eyes, and spying out our pitiful attempts at protection, is
one of the most unpleasant feelings I have ever had. It gives me the
shivers yet! And to think we had orders not to fire!
Being a sniper, I had a rifle fixed up with a telescopic sight, which
gave me a fine view of what was going on, and in order not to lose
the benefit of it, I cleaned out a place in a hedge, which was just
in front of the part of the trench I was in, and in this way I could
see what was happening, at least in my immediate vicinity.
We knew that the Algerians who were holding a trench to our left had
given way and stampeded, as a result of a German gas attack on the
night of April 22d. Not only had the front line broken, but, the
panic spreading, all of them ran, in many cases leaving their rifles
behind them. Three companies of our battalion had been hastily sent
in to the gap caused by the flight of the Algerians. Afterwards I
heard that our artillery had been hurriedly withdrawn so that it
might not fall into the hands of the enemy; but we did not know that
at the time, though we wondered, as the day went on, why we got no
Before us, and about fifty yards away, were deserted farm buildings,
through whose windows I had instructions to send shots at intervals,
to discourage the enemy from putting in machine guns. To our right
there were other farm buildings where the Colonel and Adjutant were
stationed, and in the early morning I was sent there with a message
from Captain Scudamore, to see why our ammunition had not come up.
I found there Colonel Hart McHarg, Major Odlum (now Brigadier-General
Odlum), and the Adjutant in consultation, and thought they looked
worried and anxious. However, they gave me a cheerful message for
Captain Scudamore. It was very soon after that that Colonel Hart
McHarg was killed.
The bombardment began at about nine o'clock in the morning, almost
immediately after the airman's visit, and I could see the heavy
shells bursting in the village at the cross-roads behind us. They
were throwing the big shells there to prevent reinforcements from
coming up. They evidently did not know, any more than we did, that
there were none to come, the artillery having been withdrawn the
Some of the big shells threw the dirt as high as the highest trees.
When the shells began to fall in our part of the trench, I crouched
as low as I could in the soggy earth, to escape the shrapnel bullets.
Soon I got to know the sound of the battery that was dropping the
shells on us, and so knew when to take cover. One of our boys to my
left was hit by a pebble on the cheek, and, thinking he was wounded,
he fell on the ground and called for a stretcher-bearer. When the
stretcher-bearer came, he could find nothing but a scratch on his
cheek, and all of us who were not too scared had a laugh, including
the boy himself.
I think it was about one o'clock in the afternoon that the Germans
broke through the trench on our right, where Major Bing-Hall was in
command; and some of the survivors from that trench came over to
ours. One of them ran right to where I was, and pushed through the
hole I had made in the hedge, to get a shot at the enemy. I called
to him to be careful, but some sniper evidently saw him, for in less
than half a minute he was shot dead, and fell at my side.
An order to "retreat if necessary" had been received before this, but
for some reason, which I have never been able to understand, was not
put into effect until quite a while after being received. When the
order came, we began to move down the trench as fast as we could, but
as the trench was narrow and there were wounded and dead men in it,
our progress was slow.
Soon I saw Robinson, Smith, and Ward climbing out of the trench and
cutting across the field. This was, of course, dangerous, for we were
in full view of the enemy, but it was becoming more and more evident
that we were in a tight corner. So I climbed out, too, and ran across
the open as fast as I could go with my equipment. I got just past the
hedge when I was hit through the pocket of my coat. I thought I was
wounded, for the blow was severe, but found out afterwards the bullet
had just passed through my coat pocket.
I kept on going, but in a few seconds I got a bullet right through
my shoulder. It entered below my arm at the back, and came out just
below the shoulder-bone, making a clean hole right through.
I fell into a shallow shell-hole, which was just the size to take me
in, and as I lay there, the possibility of capture first came to me.
Up to that time I had never thought of it as a possible contingency;
but now, as I lay wounded, the grave likelihood came home to me.
I scrambled to my feet, resolved to take any chances rather than be
captured. I have an indistinct recollection of what happened for the
next few minutes. I know I ran from shell-hole to shell-hole,
obsessed with the one great fear--of being captured--and at last
reached the reserve trench, in front. I fell over the parapet, among
and indeed right on top of the men who were there, for the trench was
packed full of soldiers, and then quickly gathered myself together
and climbed out of the trench and crawled along on my stomach to the
left, following the trench to avoid the bullets, which I knew were
flying over me.
Soon I saw, looking down into the trench, some of the boys I knew,
and I dropped in beside them. Then everything went from me. A great
darkness arose up from somewhere and swallowed me! Then I had a
delightful sensation of peace and warmth and general comfort.
Darkness, the blackest, inkiest darkness, rolled over me in waves
and hid me so well no Jack Johnson or Big Bertha could ever find me.
I hadn't a care or a thought in the world. I was light as a feather,
and these great strong waves of darkness carried me farther and
But they didn't carry me quite far enough, for a cry shot through me
like a knife, and I was wide awake, looking up from the bottom of a
muddy trench. And the cry that wakened me was sounding up and down
the trench, "The Germans are coming!"
Sergeant Reid, who did not seem to realize how desperate the
situation was, was asking Major Bing-Hall what he was going to do.
But before any more could be said, the Germans were swarming over the
trench. The officer in charge of them gave us a chance to surrender,
which we did, and then it seemed like a hundred voices--harsh,
horrible voices--called to us to come out of the trench. "Raus" is
the word they use, pronounced "rouse."
This was the first German word I had heard, and I hated it. It is the
word they use to a dog when they want him to go out, or to cattle
they are chasing out of a field. It is used to mean either "Come
out!"--or "Get out!" I hated it that day, and I hated it still more
There were about twenty of us altogether, and we climbed out of the
trench without speaking. There was nothing to be said. It was all up
It is strange how people act in a crisis. I mean, it is strange how
quiet they are, and composed. We stood there on the top of the
trench, without speaking, although I knew what had happened to us was
bitterer far than to be shot. But there was not a word spoken. I
remember noticing Fred McKelvey, when the German who stood in front
of him told him to take off his equipment. Fred's manner was halting,
and reluctant, and he said, as he laid down his rifle and unbuckled
his cartridge bag, "This is the thing my father told me never to let
Just then the German who stood by me said something to me, and
pointed to my equipment, but I couldn't unfasten a buckle with my
useless arm, so I asked him if he couldn't see I was wounded. He
seemed to understand what I meant, and unbuckled my straps and took
everything off me, very gently, too, and whipped out my bandage and
was putting it on my shoulder with considerable skill, I thought, and
certainly with a gentle hand--when the order came from their officer
to move us on, for the shells were falling all around us.
Unfortunately for me, my guard did not come with us, nor did I ever
see him again. One of the others reached over and took my knife,
cutting the string as unconcernedly as if I wanted him to have
it, and I remember that this one had a saw-bayonet on his gun, as
murderous and cruel-looking a weapon as any one could imagine, and
he had a face to match it, too. So in the first five minutes I saw
the two kinds of Germans.
When we were out of the worst of the shell-fire, we stopped to rest,
and, a great dizziness coming over me, I sat down with my head
against a tree, and looked up at the trailing rags of clouds that
drifted across the sky. It was then about four o'clock of as pleasant
an afternoon as I can ever remember. But the calmness of the sky,
with its deep blue distance, seemed to shrivel me up into nothing.
The world was so bright, and blue, and--uncaring!
I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes, for I thought I heard
McKelvey saying, "Dad always told me not to let this happen." Over
and over again, I could hear this, but I don't know whether McKelvey
had repeated it. My brain was like a phonograph that sticks at one
word and says it over and over again until some one stops it.
I think it was Mudge, of Grand Forks, who came over to see how I was.
His voice sounded thin and far away, and I didn't answer him. Then I
felt him taking off my overcoat and finishing the bandaging that the
German boy had begun.
Little Joe, the Italian boy, often told me afterwards how I looked
at that time. "All same dead chicken not killed right and kep' long
Here those who were not so badly wounded were marched on, but there
were ten of us so badly hit we had to go very slowly. Percy Weller,
one of the boys from Trail who enlisted when I did, was with us, and
when we began the march I was behind him and noticed three holes
in the back of his coat; the middle one was a horrible one made by
shrapnel. He staggered painfully, poor chap, and his left eye was
We passed a dead Canadian Highlander, whose kilt had pitched forward
when he fell, and seemed to be covering his face.
In the first village we came to, they halted us, and we saw it was
a dressing-station. The village was in ruins--even the town pump
had had its head blown off!--and broken glass, pieces of brick, and
plaster littered the one narrow street. The dressing was done in
a two-room building which may have been a store. The walls were
discolored and cracked, and the windows broken.
On a stretcher in the corner there lay a Canadian Highlander, from
whose wounds the blood dripped horribly and gathered in a red pool
on the dusty floor. His eyes were glazed and his face was drawn with
pain. He talked unceasingly, but without meaning. The only thing I
remember hearing him say was, "It's no use, mother--it's no use!"
Weller was attended to before I was, and marched on. While I sat
there on an old tin pail which I had turned up for this purpose, two
German officers came in, whistling. They looked for a minute at the
dying Highlander in the corner, and one of them went over to him. He
saw at once that his case was hopeless, and gave a short whistle as
you do when blowing away a thistledown, indicating that he would soon
be gone. I remember thinking that this was the German estimate of
He came to me and said, "Well, what have you got?"
I thought he referred to my wound, and said, "A shoulder wound." At
which he laughed pleasantly and said, "I am not interested in your
wound; that's the doctor's business." Then I saw what he meant; it
was souvenirs he was after. So I gave him my collar badge, and in
return he gave me a German coin, and went over to the doctor and said
something about me, for he flipped his finger toward me.
My turn came at last. The doctor examined my pay-book as well as my
wound. I had forty-five francs in it, and when he took it out, I
thought it was gone for sure. However, he carefully counted it before
me, drawing my attention to the amount, and then returned it to me.
After my wound had been examined and a tag put on me stating what
sort of treatment I was to have, I was taken away with half a dozen
others and led down a narrow stone stair to a basement. Here on the
cement floor were piles of straw, and the place was heated. The walls
were dirty and discolored. One of the few pleasant recollections
of my life in Germany has been the feeling of drowsy content that
wrapped me about when I lay down on a pile of straw in that dirty,
rat-infested basement. I forgot that I was a prisoner, that I was
badly winged, that I was hungry, thirsty, dirty, and tired. I forgot
all about my wounded companions and the Canadian Highlander, and all
the suffering of the world, and drifted sweetly out into the wide
ocean of sleep.
Some time during the night--for it was still dark--I felt some one
kicking my feet and calling me to get up, and all my trouble and
misery came back with a rush. My shoulder began to ache just where it
left off, but I was so hungry that the thought of getting something
to eat sustained me. Surely, I thought, they are going to feed us!
We were herded along the narrow street, out into a wide road, where
we found an open car which ran on light rails in the centre of the
road. It was like the picnic trolley cars which run in our cities
in the warm weather. There were wounded German soldiers huddled
together, and we sat down among them, wherever we could find the
room, but not a word was spoken. I don't know whether they noticed
who we were or not--they had enough to think about, not to be
concerned with us, for most of them were terribly wounded. The one
I sat beside leaned his head against my good shoulder and sobbed as
he breathed. I could not help but think of the irony of war that had
brought us together. For all I knew, he may have been the machine
gunner who had been the means of ripping my shoulder to pieces--and
it may have been a bullet from my rifle which had torn its way along
his leg which now hung useless. Even so, there was no hard feeling
between us, and he was welcome to the support of my good shoulder!
Some time through the night--my watch was broken and I couldn't tell
the time exactly--we came to another village and got off the car. A
guard came and carried off my companion, but as I could walk, I was
left to unload myself. The step was high, and as my shoulder was very
stiff and sore, I hesitated about jumping down. A big German soldier
saw me, understood what was wrong, and lifted me gently down.
It was then nearly morning, for the dawn was beginning to show in the
sky, and we were taken to an old church, where we were told to lie
down and go to sleep. It was miserably cold in the church, and my
shoulder ached fearfully. I tried hard to sleep, but couldn't manage
it, and walked up and down to keep warm. I couldn't help but think
of the strange use the church--which had been the scene of so many
pleasant gatherings--was being put to, and as I leaned against the
wall and looked out of the window, I seemed to see the gay and
light-hearted Belgian people who so recently had gathered there.
Right here, I thought, the bashful boys had stood, waiting to walk
home with the girls... just the way we did in British Columbia, where
one church I know well stands almost covered with the fragrant
I fell into a pleasant reverie then of sunny afternoons and dewy
moonlit nights, when the sun had gone over the mountains, and the
stars came out in hundreds. My dream then began to have in it the
brightest-eyed girl in the world, who gave me such a smile one Sunday
when she came out of church... that I just naturally found myself
walking beside her.... She had on a pink suit and white shoes, and
wore a long string of black beads...
Then somebody spoke to me, and a sudden chill seized me and sent me
into a spasm of coughing, and the pain of my shoulder shot up into my
head like a knife... and I was back--all right--to the ruined church
in Belgium, a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans!
The person who spoke to me was a German cavalry officer, who quite
politely bade me good-morning and asked me how I felt. I told him I
felt rotten. I was both hungry and thirsty--and dirty and homesick.
He laughed at that, as if it were funny, and asked me where I came
from. When I told him, he said, "You Canadians are terrible fools to
fight with us when you don't have to. You'll be sick of it before you
are through. Canada is a nice country, though," he went on; "I've
been in British Columbia, too, in the Government employ there--they
treated me fine--and my brother is there now, engineer in the
Dunsmuir Collieries at Ladysmith. Great people--the Canadians!"
And he laughed again and said something in German to the officer who
was with him.
When the sun came up and poured into the church, warming up its cold
dreariness, I lay down and slept, for I had not nearly finished the
sleep so comfortably begun in the basement the night before.
But in what seemed like three minutes, some one kicked my feet and
called to me to get up. I got to my feet, still spurred by the hope
of getting something to eat. Outside, all those who could walk were
falling in, and I hastened to do the same. Our guards were mounted
this time, and I noticed that their horses were small and in poor
condition. We were soon out of the village and marching along a
The day was bright and sunny, but a searching wind blew straight
in our faces and made travelling difficult. It seemed to beat
unmercifully on my sore shoulder, and I held my right wrist with
my left hand, to keep the weight off my shoulder all I could.
I had not gone far when I began to grow weak and dizzy. The thirst
was the worst; my tongue was dry and swollen, and it felt like a
cocoa doormat. I could see rings of light wherever I looked, and
the ground seemed to come up in waves. A guard who rode near me had
a water-bottle beside him which dripped water. The cork was not in
tight as it should have been, and the sight of these drops of water
seemed to madden me. I begged him for a drink, and pointed to my
parched tongue; but he refused, and rode ahead as if the sight of
me annoyed him!
Ahead of us I could see the smoke of a large town, and I told myself
over and over again that there would be lots of water there, and food
and clean clothes, and in this way I kept myself alive until we
Roulers is a good-sized town in West Flanders, of about thirty
thousand population, much noted for its linen manufacture; and has a
great church of St. Michael with a very high tower, which we could
see for miles. But I do not remember much about the look of the town,
for I could hardly drag my feet. It seemed as if every step would be
my last. But I held on some way, until we reached the stopping-place,
which happened to be an unused school. The men who had not been
wounded had arrived several hours ahead of us.
When, at last, I sat down on one of the benches, the whole place
seemed to float by me. Nothing would stand still. The sensation was
like the water dizziness which makes one feel he is being rapidly
propelled upstream. But after sitting awhile, it passed, and I began
to recognize some of our fellows. Frost, of my own battalion, was
there, and when I told him I had had nothing to eat since the early
morning of the day before, he immediately produced a hardtack biscuit
and scraped out the bottom of his jam tin. They had been served with
a ration of war-bread, and several of the boys offered me a share of
their scanty allowance, but the first mouthful was all I could take.
It was sour, heavy, and stale.
The school pump had escaped the fate of the last pump I had seen, and
was in good working order, and its asthmatic creaking as it brought
up the stream of water was music in my ears. We went out in turns and
drank like thirsty cattle. I drank until my jaws were stiff as if
with mumps, and my ears ached, and in a few minutes my legs were tied
While I was vainly trying to rub them out with my one good hand, Fred
McKelvey came up and told me a sure cure for leg-cramp. It is to turn
the toes up as far as possible, and straighten out the legs, and it
worked a cure for me. He said he had taken the cramps out of his legs
this way when he was in the water.
I remember some of the British Columbia boys who were there.
Sergeants Potentier, George Fitz, and Mudge, of Grand Forks; Reid,
Diplock, and Johnson, of Vancouver; Munroe and Wildblood, of
Rossland; Keith, Palmer, Larkins, Scott, and Croak. Captain
Scudamore, my Company Captain, came over to where I sat, and kindly
inquired about my wounds. He wrote down my father's address, too,
and said he would try to get a letter to him.
There was a house next door--quite a fine house with a neat paling
and long, shuttered windows, at which the vines were beginning to
grow. It looked to be in good condition, except that part of the
verandah had been torn away. The shutters were closed on its long,
graceful windows, giving it the appearance of a tall, stately woman
in heavy mourning.
When we were at the pump, we heard a gentle tapping, and, looking up,
we saw a very handsome dark-eyed Belgian woman at one of the windows.
Instinctively we saluted, and quick as a flash she held a Union Jack
against the pane!
A cheer broke from us involuntarily, and the guards sprang to
attention, suspecting trouble. But the flag was gone as quickly as
it came, and when we looked again, the shutters were closed and the
deep, waiting silence had settled down once more on the stately house
But to us it had become suddenly possessed of a living soul! The
flash of those sad black eyes, as well as the glimpse of the flag,
seemed to call to us to carry on! They typified to us exactly what
we were fighting for!
After the little incident of the flag, it was wonderful how bright
and happy we felt. Of course, I know, the ministrations of the pump
helped, for we not only drank all we wanted, but most of the boys had
a wash, too; but we just needed to be reminded once in awhile of what
the real issues of the war were.
Later in the day, after we had been examined by another medical man,
who dressed our wounds very skillfully, and gently, too, we came back
to the school, and found there two heavily veiled Belgian women. They
had bars of chocolate for us, for which we were very grateful. They
were both in deep mourning, and seemed to have been women of high
social position, but their faces were very pale and sad, and when
they spoke their voices were reedy and broken, and their eyes were
black pools of misery. Some of the boys afterwards told me that their
daughters had been carried off by the Germans, and their husbands
shot before their eyes.
I noticed the absence of children and young girls on the streets.
There were only old men and women, it seemed, and the faces of these
were sad beyond expression. There were no outbursts of grief; they
seemed like people whose eyes were cried dry, but whose spirits were
Later in the day we were taken to the station, to take the train for
the prison-camp at Giessen. Of course, they did not tell us where we
were going. They did not squander information on us or satisfy our
curiosity, if they could help it.
The station was full of people when we got there, and there seemed
to be a great deal of eating done at the stations. This was more
noticeable still in German stations, as I saw afterwards.
Our mode of travelling was by the regular prisoner train which had
lately--quite lately--been occupied by horses. It had two small,
dirty windows, and the floor was bare of everything but dirt. We were
dumped into it--not like sardines, for they fit comfortably together,
but more like cordwood that is thrown together without being piled.
If we had not had arms or legs or heads, there would have been just
room for our bodies, but as it was, everybody was in everybody's way,
and as many of us were wounded, and all of us were tired and hungry,
we were not very amiable with each other.
I tried to stand up, but the jolting of the car made me dizzy, and
so I doubled up on the floor, and I don't know how many people sat
on me. I remember one of the boys I knew, who was beside me on the
floor, Fairy Strachan. He had a bad wound in his chest, given him by
a dog of a German guard, who prodded him with a bayonet after he was
captured, for no reason at all. Fortunately the bayonet struck a rib,
and so the wound was not deep, but not having been dressed, it was
I could not sleep at all that night, for the air was stifling, and
somebody's arm or foot or head was always bumping into me. I wonder
if Robinson Crusoe ever remembered to be thankful for fresh air and
room to stretch himself! We asked the guards for water, for we soon
grew very thirsty, and when we stopped at a station, one of the boys,
looking out, saw the guard coming with a pail of water, and cried
out, "Here's water--boys!" The thought of a drink put new life in us,
and we scrambled to our feet. It was water, all right, and plenty
of it, but it was boiling hot and we could not drink it; and we
could not tell from the look of opaque stupidity on the face of the
guard whether he did it intentionally or not. He may have been a
boiling-water-before-meals advocate. He looked balmy enough for
[Illustration: Officers' Quarters in a German Military Prison]
At some of the stations the civilians standing on the platform filled
our water-bottles for us, but it wasn't enough. We had only two
water-bottles in the whole car. However, at Cologne, a boy came
quickly to the car window at our call, and filled our water-bottles
from a tap, over and over again. He would run as fast as he could
from the tap to the window, and left a bottle filling at the tap
while he made the trip. In this way every man in the car got enough
to drink, and this blue-eyed, shock-headed lad will ever live in
The following night after midnight we reached Giessen, and were
unloaded and marched through dark streets to the prison-camp, which
is on the outskirts of the city. We were put into a dimly lighted
hut, stale and foul-smelling, too, and when we put up the windows,
some of our own Sergeants objected on account of the cold, and shut
them down. Well, at least we had room if we hadn't air, and we
huddled together and slept, trying to forget what we used to believe
about the need of fresh air.
As soon as the morning came, I went outside and watched a dull red,
angry sky flushing toward sunrise. Red in the morning sky denotes
wind, it is said, but we didn't need signs that morning to proclaim a
windy day, for the wind already swept the courtyard, and whipped the
green branches of the handsome trees which marked the driveway. My
spirits rose at once when I filled my lungs with air and looked up at
the scudding clouds which were being dogged across the sky by the wind.
A few straggling prisoners came out to wash at the tap in the
courtyard, and I went over to join them, for I was grimy, too, with
the long and horrible ride. With one hand I could make but little
progress, and was spreading the dirt rather than removing it, until a
friendly Belgian, seeing my difficulty, took his cake of soap and his
towel, and washed me well.
We were then given a ration of bread about two inches thick, and a
drink of something that tasted like water boiled in a coffee-pot, and
after this we were divided into ten groups. Those of us who knew each
other tried hard to stay together, but we soon learned to be careful
not to appear to be too anxious, for the guards evidently had
instructions to break up previous acquaintanceships.
The wounded were marched across the compound to the "Revier," a dull,
gray, solid-looking building, where again we were examined and
graded. Those seriously wounded were sent to the lazaret, or hospital
proper. I, being one of the more serious cases, was marched farther
on to the lazaret, and we were all taken to a sort of waiting-room,
and taken off in groups to the general bathroom to have a bath,
before getting into the hospital clothes.
With me was a young bugler of the Fifth Royal Highlanders, Montreal,
a little chap not more than fifteen, whose pink cheeks and curly hair
would have made an appeal to any human being: he looked so small and
lonesome and far from home. A smart young military doctor jostled
against the boy's shattered arm, eliciting from him a cry of pain,
whereupon he began to make fun of the little bugler, by marching
around him, making faces. It gave me a queer feeling to see a
grown-up man indulging in the tactics of a spoiled child, but I have
heard many people express the opinion, in which I now heartily agree,
that the Germans are a childish sort of people. They are stupidly
boastful, inordinately fond of adulation and attention, and peevish
and sulky when they cannot have their own way. I tried to imagine how
a young German boy would have been treated by one of our doctors, and
laughed to myself at the absurdity of the thought that they would
make faces at him!
The young bugler was examined before I was, and as he was marched out
of the room, the doctor who had made the faces grabbed at his kilt
with an insulting gesture, at which the lad attempted to kick him.
The doctor dodged the kick, and the Germans who were in the room
roared with laughter. I hated them more that minute than I had up to
The Belgian attendants who looked after the bathing of us were kind
and polite. One of them could speak a little English, and he tried
hard to get information regarding his country from us.
"Is it well?" he asked us eagerly. "My country--is it well?"
We thought of the shell-scarred country, with its piles of
smouldering ashes, its pallid women with their haunted faces, the
deathlike silence of the ruined streets. We thought of these things,
but we didn't tell him of them. We told him the war was going on in
great shape: the Allies were advancing all along the line, and were
going to be in Berlin by Christmas. It was worth the effort to see
his little pinched face brighten. He fairly danced at his work
after that, and when I saw him afterwards, he eagerly asked--"My
country--is it well?" I do not know why he thought I knew, or maybe
he didn't think so. But, anyway, I did my best. I gave him a glowing
account of the Allied successes, and painted a gloomy future for the
Kaiser, and I again had my reward, in his glowing face.
Everything we had was taken from us except shoes, socks, cap, and
handkerchief, and we did not see them again: neither did we get
another bath, although I was six weeks in the hospital.
The hospital clothes consisted of a pajama suit of much-faded
flannelette, but I was glad to get into it, and doubly glad to get
rid of my shirt and tunic, which were stiff on one side with dried
blood. From the lazaret, where I had my bath, I could see the gun
platform with its machine guns, commanding every part of the Giessen
Prison. The guard pointed it out to me, to quiet my nerves, I
suppose, and to scare me out of any thought of insubordination.
However, he need not have worried--I was not thinking of escaping
just then or starting an insurrection either. I was quite content to
lie down on the hard straw bed and pull the quilt over me and take
a good long rest.
The lazaret in which I was put was called "M.G.K.," which is to say
Machine Gun Company, and it was exactly like the other hospital huts.
There were some empty beds, and the doctor seemed to have plenty of
time to attend to us. For a few days, before my appetite began to
make itself felt, I enjoyed the rest and quiet, and slept most of the
time. But at the end of a week I began to get restless.
The Frenchman whose bed was next to mine fascinated me with his
piercing black eyes, unnaturally bright and glittering. I knew
the look in his eyes; I had seen it--after the battle--when the
wounded were coming in, and looked at us as they were carried by on
stretchers. Some had this look--some hadn't. Those who had it never
And sometimes before the fighting, when the boys were writing home,
the farewell letter that would not be mailed unless--"something
happened"--I've seen that look in their faces, and I knew... just as
they did... the letter would be mailed!
Emile, the Frenchman, had the look!
He was young, and had been strong and handsome, although his face was
now thin and pinched and bloodless, like a slum child's; but he hung
on to life pitifully. He hated to die--I knew that by the way he
fought for breath, and raged when he knew for sure that it was going
In the middle of his raging, he would lean over his bed and peer
into my face, crying "L'Anglaise--l'Anglaise," with his black eyes
snapping like dagger points. I often had to turn away and put my
pillow over my eyes.
But one afternoon, in the middle of it, the great silence fell on
him, and Emile's struggles were over.
* * *
Our days were all the same. Nobody came to see us; we had no books.
There was a newspaper which was brought to us every two weeks,
printed in English, but published in German, with all the German fine
disregard for the truth. It said it was "printed for Americans in
Europe." The name of it was "The Continental Times," but I never
heard it called anything but "The Continental Liar." Still, it was
print, and we read it; I remember some of the sentences. It spoke of
an uneasy feeling in England "which the presence of turbaned Hindoos
and Canadian cowboys has failed to dispel." Another one said, "The
Turks are operating the Suez Canal in the interests of neutral
shipping." "Fleet-footed Canadians" was an expression frequently
used, and the insinuation was that the Canadians often owed their
liberty to their speed.
But we managed to make good use of this paper. I got one of the
attendants, Ivan, a good-natured, flat-footed Russian, to bring me
a pair of scissors, and the boy in the cot next to mine had a stub
of pencil, and between us we made a deck of cards out of the white
spaces of the paper, and then we played solitaire, time about, on
* * *
I got my first parcel about the end of May, from a Mrs. Andrews whose
son I knew in Trail and who had entertained me while I was in London.
I had sent a card to her as soon as I was taken. The box was like a
visit from Santa Claus. I remember the "Digestive Biscuits," and how
good they tasted after being for a month on the horrible diet of
acorn coffee, black bread, and the soup which no word that is fit for
publication could describe.
I also received a card from my sister, Mrs. Meredith, of Edmonton,
about this time. I was listed "Missing" on April 29th, and she sent a
card addressed to me with "Canadian Prisoner of War, Germany," on it,
on the chance that I was a prisoner. We were allowed to write a card
once a week and two letters a month; and we paid for these. My people
in Canada heard from me on June 9th.
* * *
I cannot complain of the treatment I received in the lazaret. The
doctor took a professional interest in me, and one day brought in two
other doctors, and proudly exhibited how well I could move my arm.
However, I still think if he had massaged my upper arm, it would be
of more use to me now than it is.
Chloroform was not used in this hospital; at least I never saw any
of it. One young Englishman, who had a bullet in his thigh, cried
out in pain when the surgeon was probing for it. The German doctor
sarcastically remarked, "Oh, I thought the English were _brave_."
To which the young fellow, lifting his tortured face, proudly
answered, "The English _are_ brave--and _merciful_--and they use
chloroform for painful operations, and do this for the German
But there was no chloroform used for him, though the operation was
a horrible one.
There was another young English boy named Jellis, who came in after
the fight of May 8th, who seemed to be in great pain the first few
days. Then suddenly he became quiet, and we hoped his pain had
lessened; but we soon found out he had lock-jaw, and in a few days
* * *
From the pasteboard box in which my first parcel came, I made a
checker-board, and my next-door neighbor and I had many a game.
In about three weeks I was allowed to go out in the afternoons, and
I walked all I could in the narrow space, to try to get back all my
strength, for one great hope sustained me--I would make a dash for
liberty the first chance I got, and I knew that the better I felt,
the better my chances would be. I still had my compass, and I guarded
it carefully. Everything of this nature was supposed to be taken from
us at the lazaret, but I managed, through the carelessness of the
guard, to retain the compass.
The little corral in which we were allowed to walk had a barbed-wire
fence around it--a good one, too, eight strands, and close together.
One side of the corral was a high wall, and in the enclosure on the
other side of the wall were the lung patients.
One afternoon I saw a young Canadian boy looking wistfully through
the gate, and I went over and spoke to him. He was the only one who
could speak English among the "lungers." The others were Russians,
French, and Belgians. The boy was dying of loneliness as well as
consumption. He came from Ontario, though I forget the name of the
"Do you think it will be over soon?" he asked me eagerly. "Gee, I'm
sick of it--and wish I could get home. Last night I dreamed about
going home. I walked right in on them--dirt and all--with this
tattered old tunic--and a dirty face. Say, it didn't matter--my
mother just grabbed me--and it was dinner-time--they were eating
turkey--a great big gobbler, all brown--and steaming hot--and I sat
down in my old place--it was ready for me--and just began on a leg
A spasm of coughing seized him, and he held to the bars of the gate
until it passed.
Then he went on: "Gee, it was great--it was all so clear. I can't
believe that I am not going! I think the war must be nearly over--"
Then the cough came again--that horrible, strangling cough--and I
knew that it would be only in his dreams that he would ever see his
home! For to him, at least, the war was nearly over, and the day of
peace at hand.
Before I left the lazaret, the smart-Alec young German doctor who had
made faces at the little bugler blew gaily in one day and breezed
around our beds, making pert remarks to all of us. I knew him the
minute he came in the door, and was ready for him when he passed my
He stopped and looked at me, and made some insulting remark about
my beard, which was, I suppose, quite a sight, after a month of
uninterrupted growth. Then he began to make faces at me.
I raised myself on my elbow, and regarded him with the icy composure
of an English butler. Scorn and contempt were in my glance, as much
as I could put in; for I realized that it was hard for me to look
dignified and imposing, in a hospital pajama suit of dirt-colored
flannelette, with long wisps of amber-colored hair falling around
my face, and a thick red beard long enough now to curl back like a
I knew I looked like a valentine, but my stony British stare did the
trick in spite of all handicaps, and he turned abruptly and went out.
The first week of June, I was considered able to go back to the
regular prison-camp. A German guard came for me, and I stepped out in
my pajamas to the outer room where our uniforms were kept. There were
many uniforms there--smelling of the disinfectants--with the owners'
names on them, but mine was missing. The guard tried to make me take
one which was far too short for me, but I refused. I knew I looked
bad enough, without having elbow sleeves and short pants; and it
began to look as if I should have to go to bed until some good-sized
patient came in.
But my guard suddenly remembered something, and went into another
hut, bringing back the uniform of "D. Smith, Vancouver." The name
was written on the band of the trousers. D. Smith had died the day
before, from lung trouble. The uniform had been disinfected, and hung
in wrinkles. My face had the hospital pallor, and, with my long hair
and beard, I know I looked "snaggy" like a potato that has been
forgotten in a dark corner of the cellar.
When we came out of the lazaret, the few people we met on the road to
the prison-camp broke into broad grins; some even turned and looked
The guard took me to Camp 6, Barrack A, where I found some of the
boys I knew. They were in good spirits, and had fared in the matter
of food much the same as I had. We agreed exactly in our diagnosis
of the soup.
I was shown my mattress and given two blankets; also a metal bowl,
knife, and fork.
Outside the hut, on the shady side, I went and sat down with some of
the boys who, like myself, were excused from labor. Dent, of Toronto,
was one of the party, and he was engaged in the occupation known as
"reading his shirt"--and on account of the number of shirts being
limited to one for each man, while the "reading" was going on, he sat
in a boxer's uniform, wrapped only in deep thought.
Now, it happened that I did not acquire any "cooties" while I was in
the army, and of course in the lazaret we were kept clean, so this
was my first close acquaintanceship with them. My time of exemption
was over, though, for by night I had them a-plenty.
I soon found out that insect powder was no good. I think it just made
them sneeze, and annoyed them a little. We washed our solitary shirts
regularly, but as we had only cold water, it did not kill the eggs,
and when we hung the shirt out in the sun, the eggs came out in full
strength, young, hearty, and hungry. It was a new generation we had
to deal with, and they had all the objectionable qualities of their
ancestors, and a few of their own.
Before long, the Canadian Red Cross parcels began to come, and I got
another shirt--a good one, too, only the sleeves were too long. I
carefully put in a tuck, for they came well over my hands. But I soon
found that these tucks became a regular rendezvous for the "cooties,"
and I had to let them out. The Red Cross parcels also contained
towels, toothbrushes, socks, and soap, and all these were very
After a few weeks, with the lice increasing every day, we raised such
a row about them that the guards took us to the fumigator. This was
a building of three rooms, which stood by itself in the compound.
In the first room we undressed and hung all our clothes, and our
blankets too, on huge hooks which were placed on a sliding framework.
This framework was then pushed into the oven and the clothes were
thoroughly baked. We did not let our boots, belts, or braces go, as
the heat would spoil the leather. We then walked out into the next
room and had a shower bath, and after that went into the third room
at the other side of the oven, and waited until the framework was
pushed through to us, when we took our clothes from the hooks and
This was a sure cure for the "cooties," and for a few days, at least,
we enjoyed perfect freedom from them. Every week after this we had a
bath, and it was compulsory, too.
[Illustration: Giessen Prison-Camp]
As prison-camps go, Giessen is a good one. The place is well drained;
the water is excellent; the sanitary conditions are good, too; the
sleeping accommodations are ample, there being no upper berths such
as exist in all the other camps I have seen. It is the "Show-Camp,"
to which visitors are brought, who then, not having had to eat the
food, write newspaper articles telling how well Germany treats her
prisoners. If these people could see some of the other camps that I
have seen, the articles would have to be modified.
* * *
News of the trouble in Ireland sifted through to us in the
prison-camp. The first I heard of it was a letter in the "Continental
Times," by Roger Casement's sister, who had been in Germany and
had visited some of the prison-camps, and was so pleased with the
generous treatment Germany was according her prisoners. She was
especially charmed with the soup!!! And the letter went on to tell
of the Irish Brigade that was being formed in Germany to fight the
tyrant England. Every Irish prisoner who would join was to be given
the privilege of fighting against England. Some British prisoners
who came from Limburg, a camp about thirty miles from Giessen, told
us more about it. Roger Casement, himself, had gone there to gather
recruits, and several Irishmen had joined and were given special
privileges accordingly. However, there were many Irishmen who did
_not_ join, and who kept a list of the recruits--for future
reference, when the war was over!
The Irishmen in our camp were approached, but they remained loyal.
* * *
The routine of the camp was as follows: Reveille sounded at six. We
got up and dressed and were given a bowl of coffee. Those who were
wise saved their issue of bread from the night before, and ate it
with the coffee. There was a roll-call right after the coffee, when
every one was given a chance to volunteer for work. At noon there was
soup, and another roll-call. We answered the roll-call, either with
the French word "Present" or the German word "Hier," pronounced the
same as our word. Then at five o'clock there was an issue of black
bread made mostly from potato flour.
I was given a light job of keeping the space between A Barrack and B
Barrack clean, and I made a fine pretense of being busy, for it let
me out of "drill," which I detested, for they gave the commands in
German, and it went hard with us to have to salute their officers.
On Sundays there was a special roll-call, when every one had to give
a full account of himself. The prisoners then had the privilege of
asking for any work they wanted, and if the Germans could supply it,
it was given.
None of us were keen on working; not but what we would much rather
work than be idle, but for the uncomfortable thought that we were
helping the enemy. There were iron-works near by, where Todd,
Whittaker, Dent, little Joe, and some others were working, and it
happened that one day Todd and one of the others, when going to have
teeth pulled at the dentist's, saw shells being shipped away, and
upon inquiry found the steel came from the iron mines where they were
working. When this became known, the boys refused to work! Every sort
of bullying was tried on them for two days at the mines, but they
still refused. They were then sent back to Giessen and sentenced to
eighteen months' punishment at Butzbach--all but Dent, who managed
some way to fool the doctor pretending he was sick!
That they fared badly there, I found out afterwards, though I never
saw any of them.
Some of the boys from our hut worked on the railroad, and some went
to work in the chemical works at Griesheim, which have since been
destroyed by bombs dropped by British airmen.
John Keith, who was working on the railroad,--one of the best-natured
and inoffensive boys in our hut,--came in one night with his face
badly swollen and bruised. He had laughed, it seemed, at something
which struck him as being funny, and the guard had beaten him over
the head with the butt of his rifle. One of our guards, a fine old,
brown-eyed man called "Sank," told the guard who had done this what
he thought of him. "Sank" was the "other" kind of German, and did all
he could to make our lives pleasant. I knew that "Sank" was calling
down the guard, by his expression and his gestures, and his frequent
use of the word "bloedsinnig."
Another time one of the fellows from our hut, who was a member of a
working party, was shot through the legs by the guard, who claimed he
was trying to escape, and after that there were no more working
parties allowed for a while.
Each company had its own interpreter, Russian, French, or English.
Our interpreter was a man named Scott from British Columbia, an
Englishman who had received part of his education at Heidelberg. From
him I learned a good deal about the country through which I hoped
to travel. Heidelberg is situated between Giessen and the Swiss
boundary, and so was of special interest to me. I made a good-sized
map, and marked in all the information I could dig out of Scott.
The matter of escaping was in my mind all the time, but I was careful
to whom I spoke, for some fellows' plans had been frustrated by their
The possession of a compass is an indication that the subject of
"escaping" has been thought of, and the question, "Have you a
compass?" is the prison-camp way of saying, "What do you think of
making a try?"
One day, a fellow called Bromley who came from Toronto, and who was
captured at the same time that I was, asked me if I had a compass. He
was a fine big fellow, with a strong, attractive face, and I liked
him, from the first. He was a fair-minded, reasonable chap, and we
soon became friends. We began to lay plans, and when we could get
together, talked over the prospects, keeping a sharp lookout for
[Illustration: Tom Bromley / In Red Cross overcoat with prison number
and marked sleeve]
There were difficulties!
The camp was surrounded by a high board fence, and above the boards,
barbed wire was tightly drawn, to make it uncomfortable for reaching
hands. Inside of this was an ordinary barbed-wire fence through which
we were not allowed to go, with a few feet of "No Man's Land" in
There were sentry-boxes ever so often, so high that the sentry could
easily look over the camp. Each company was divided from the others
by two barbed-wire fences, and besides this there were the sentries
who walked up and down, armed, of course.
There were also the guns commanding every bit of the camp, and
occasionally, to drive from us all thought of insurrection, the
Regular Infantry marched through with fixed bayonets. At these times
we were always lined up so we should not miss the gentle little
* * *
One day, a Zeppelin passed over the camp, and we all hurried out
to look at it. It was the first one I had seen, and as it rode
majestically over us, I couldn't help but think of the terrible use
that had been made of man's mastery of the air. We wondered if it
carried bombs. Many a wish for its destruction was expressed--and
unexpressed. Before it got out of sight, it began to show signs of
distress, as if the wishes were taking effect, and after considerable
wheeling and turning it came back.
Ropes were lowered and the men came down. It was secured to the
ground, and floated serenely beside the wood adjoining the camp....
The wishes were continued....
During the afternoon, a sudden storm swept across the camp--rain and
wind with such violence that we were all driven indoors....
When we came out after a few minutes--probably half an hour--the
Zeppelin had disappeared. We found out afterwards that it had broken
away from its moorings, and, dashing against the high trees, had been
smashed to kindling wood; and this news cheered us wonderfully!
* * *
A visitor came to the camp one day, and, accompanied by three or four
officers, made the rounds. He spoke to a group of us who were outside
of the hut, asking us how many Canadians there were in Giessen. He
said he thought there were about nine hundred Canadians in Germany
altogether. He had no opportunity for private conversation with us,
for the German officers did not leave him for a second; and although
he made it clear that he would like to speak to us alone this
privilege was not granted. Later we found out it was Ambassador James
It soon became evident that there were spies in the camp. Of course,
we might have known that no German institution could get along
without spies. Spies are the bulwark of the German nation; so in the
Giessen camp there were German spies of all nationalities, including
But we soon saw, too, that the spies were not working overtime on
their job; they just brought in a little gossip once in a while--just
enough to save their faces and secure a soft snap for themselves.
One of these, a Frenchman named George Clerque, a Sergeant Major in
the French Army, was convinced that he could do better work if he
had a suit of civilian clothes; and as he had the confidence of the
prison authorities, the suit was given him. He wore it around for a
few days, wormed a little harmless confidence out of some of his
countrymen, and then one day quietly walked out of the front
gate--and was gone!
Being in civilian dress, it seemed quite likely that he would reach
his destination, and as days went on, and there was no word of him,
we began to hope that he had arrived in France.
The following notice was put up regarding his escape:
Owing to the evasions recently done, we beg to inform the prisoners
of war of the following facts. Until present time, all the prisoners
who were evased, have been catched. The French Sergt. Major George
Clerque, speaking a good German and being in connection in Germany
with some people being able to favorise his evasion, has been
retaken. The Company says again, in the personal interests of the
prisoners, that any evasion give place to serious punition (minima)
fortnight of rigourous imprisonment after that they go in the
"Strafbaracke" for an indeterminate time.
GIESSEN, den 19th July, 1915.
Although the notice said he had been captured we held to the hope
that he had not, for we knew the German way of using the truth only
when it suits better than anything they can frame themselves. They
have no prejudice against the truth. It stands entirely on its own
merits. If it suits them, they will use it, but the truth must not
expect any favors.
The German guards told us quite often that no one ever got out of
Germany alive, and we were anxious to convince them that they were
wrong. One day when the mail came in, a friend of George Clerque
told us he had written from France, and there was great, but, of
necessity, quiet rejoicing.
That night Bromley and I decided that we would volunteer for farm
service, if we could get taken to Rossbach, where some of the other
boys had been working, for Rossbach was eighteen miles south of
Giessen--on the way to Switzerland. We began to save food from our
parcels, and figure out distances on the map which I had made.
The day came when we were going to volunteer--Sunday at roll-call. Of
course, we did not wish to appear eager, and were careful not to be
seen together too much. Suddenly we were called to attention, and a
stalwart German soldier marched solemnly into the camp. Behind him
came two more, with somebody between them, and another soldier
brought up the rear. The soldiers carried their rifles and full
equipment, and marched by in front of the huts.
We pressed forward, full of curiosity, and there beheld the tiredest,
dustiest, most woe-begone figure of a man, whose clothes were in
rags, and whose boots were so full of holes they seemed ready to drop
off him. He was handcuffed and walked wearily, with downcast eyes--
It was George Clerque!
[Illustration: German Prison Stamp]
It was September 25th that we left the prison-camp and came to
Rossbach--eighteen miles south on the railway. The six of us, with
the German guard, had a compartment to ourselves, and as there was
a map on the wall which showed the country south of Rossbach, over
which we hoped to travel, I studied it as hard as I could without
attracting the attention of the guard, and afterwards entered on my
map the information I had gained.
It was rather a pretty country we travelled through, with small farms
and fairly comfortable-looking buildings. The new houses are built of
frame or brick, and are just like our own, but the presence of the
old stone buildings, gray and dilapidated, and old enough to belong
to the time of the Crusaders, kept us reminded that we were far from
However, we were in great humor that morning. Before us was a Great
Adventure; there were dangers and difficulties in the way, but at
the end of the road was Liberty! And that made us forget how rough
the going was likely to be. Besides, at the present time we were
travelling south--toward Switzerland. We were on our way.
At Wetzlar, one of the stations near Giessen, a kind-faced old German
came to the window and talked to us in splendid English.
"I would like to give you something, boys," he said, "but"--he
shrugged his shoulders--"you know--I daren't."
The guard pretended not to hear a word, and at that moment was waving
his hand to a group of girls--just the regular station-goers, who
meet the trains in Canada. This was, I think, the only place I saw
them, for the women of Germany, young and old, are not encouraged to
be idle or frivolous.
"I just wish I could give you something," the old man repeated,
feeling in his pocket as if looking for a cigar.
Then Clarke, one of our boys, leaned out of the window and said,
"I'll tell you what we would like best of all, old man--if you
happen to have half a dozen of them on you--we'll take tickets to
Canada--six will do--if you happen to have them right with you!
And we're ready to start right now, too!"
The German laughed and said, "You'd better try to forget about
* * *
The guards who brought us to Rossbach went straight back to Giessen,
after handing us over to the guards there, and getting, no doubt, an
official receipt for us, properly stamped and signed.
Rossbach has a new town and an old, and, the station being in the new
town, we were led along the road to the old town, where the farming
people live. It is an old village, with the houses, pig-pens, and
cow-stables all together, and built so close that it would be quite
possible to look out of the parlor window and see how the pigs are
enjoying their evening meal or whether the cow has enough bedding.
There have been no improvements there for a hundred years, except
that they have electric lighting everywhere, even in the pig-pens.
There were no lights in the streets, though, I noticed, and I saw
afterwards that a street light would be a foolish extravagance,
for the people go to bed at dark. They have the real idea of
daylight-saving, and do not let any of it escape them.
The guards took us around to the houses, and we created considerable
interest, for strangers are a sensation at Rossbach; and, besides,
prisoners are cheap laborers, and the thrifty German farmer does not
like to miss a bargain.
The little fellows were the first choice, for they looked easier to
manage than those of us who were bigger. Clarke was taken by a woman
whose husband was at the front, and who had five of as dirty children
as I ever saw at one time. We asked one little boy his age, which he
said was "fuenf," but we thought he must be older--no child could get
as dirty as that in five years!
I was left until almost the last, and when a pleasant-looking old
gentleman appeared upon the scene, I decided I would take a hand in
the choosing, so I said, "I'll go with you."
I was afraid there might be another large family, all with colds in
their heads, like the five which Clarke had drawn, waiting for me, so
that prompted me to choose this benevolent-looking old grandfather.
The old man took me home with him to one of the best houses in the
village, although there was not much difference between them. His
house was made of plaster which had been whitewashed, and had in it a
good-sized kitchen, where the family really lived, and an inner room
which contained a large picture of the Royal Family, all in uniform,
and very gorgeous uniforms, too. Even the young daughter had a
uniform which looked warlike enough for a Lieutenant-Colonel's. There
was also a desk in this room, where the father of the family--for
the old man who brought me in was the grandfather--conducted his
business. He was some sort of a clerk, probably the reeve of the
municipality, and did not work on the farm at all. There was a fine
home-made carpet on the floor, but the room was bare and cheerless,
with low ceiling, and inclined to be dark.
When we entered the kitchen, the family greeted me cordially, and I
sat down to dinner with them. There were three girls and one brother,
who was a soldier and home on leave.
Bromley went to work for a farmer on the other side of the
village, but I saw him each night, for we all went back to a large
three-storied building, which may once have been a boarding-house, to
sleep each night, the guard escorting us solemnly both to and from
work each day. This was a very good arrangement for us, too, for we
had to be through work and have our supper over by eight o'clock each
After our prison diet, the meals we had here were ample and almost
epicurean. We had soup--the real thing--made from meat, with plenty
of vegetables; coffee with milk, but no sugar; cheese, homemade but
very good; meat, both beef and pork; eggs in abundance; but never any
pastry; and lots of potatoes, boiled in their skins, and fried.
There were plenty of fruit-trees, too, in Rossbach, growing along the
road, and, strange to say, unmolested by the youngsters. The trees
appear to belong to the municipality, and the crop is sold by auction
each year to the highest bidder. They are quite ornamental, too,
standing in a straight row on each side of the road.
The farmers who lived in this village followed the oldest methods of
farming I had ever seen, though I saw still more primitive methods in
Hanover. Vegetables, particularly potatoes and mangels, were grown in
abundance, and I saw small fields of stubble, though what the grain
was I do not know. I saw a threshing-machine drawn by a tractor going
along the road, and one of the girls told me it was made in England.
The woman who had the farm next to the one I was on was a widow,
her husband having been killed in the war, and she had no horses at
all, and cultivated her tiny acres with a team of cows. It seems
particularly consistent with German character to make cows work! They
hate to see anything idle, and particularly of the female sex.
Each morning we rode out to the field, for the farms are scattered
over a wide area, and three-acre and five-acre fields are the average
size. The field where we went to work digging potatoes was about
a mile distant from the house, and when I say we rode, I mean the
brother and I--the girls walked. I remonstrated at this arrangement,
but the girls themselves seemed to be surprised that it should be
questioned, and the surly young brother growled something at me which
I knew was a reflection on my intelligence.
When we got into the field and began to dig potatoes, good,
clear-skinned yellow ones, Lena Schmidt, one of the girls, who was a
friend of the family, though not a relation, I think, began to ask me
questions about Canada (they put the accent on the third syllable).
Lena had been to Sweden, so she told me proudly, and had picked up
quite a few English words. She was a good-looking German girl, with
a great head of yellow hair, done in braids around her head. The
girls were all fairly good-looking though much tanned from outdoor
work. Lena had heard women worked in the house, and not outside, in
Canada--was it true?
I assured her it was true.
"But," said Lena, "what do they do in house--when bread is made and
I told her our women read books and played the piano and made
themselves pretty clothes and went visiting and had parties, and
sometimes played cards.
Of course it was not all told as easily as this sounds.
I could see that Lena was deeply impressed, and so were the two
others when she passed it on. Then she began to question me again.
"Are there many women in Canada--women in every house--like here?"
I told her there were not nearly so many women in Canada as here;
indeed, there were not enough to go around, and there were lots of
men who could not get married for that reason.
When Lena passed that on, excitement reigned, and German questions
were hurled at me! I think the three girls were ready to leave home!
I gently reminded them of the war and the complications it had caused
in the matter of travelling. They threw out their hands with a
gesture of despair--there could be no Canada for them. "Fertig," they
said--which is the word they use to mean "no chance," "no use to try
Lena, however, having travelled as far as Sweden, and knowing,
therefore, something of the world's ways, was not altogether without
"The war--will be some day done!" she said--and we let it go at that.
Lena began to teach me German, and used current events as the basis
of instruction. Before the end of the first day I was handling
sentences like this--"Herr Schmidt expects to have his young child
christened in the church next Sunday at 2 o'clock, God willing."
Helene Romisch, the daughter of the house, had a mania for knowing
every one's age, and put the question to me in the first ten minutes
of our acquaintance. She had evidently remembered every answer she
had ever received to her questions, for she told me the age of every
one who passed by on the road, and when there was no one passing she
gave me a list of the family connections of those who had gone, or
those who were likely to go, with full details as to birthdays.
I think it was Eliza, the other girl, who could speak no English and
had to use Lena as interpreter, who first broached the tender subject
Was I married?
I said, "No."
Then, after a few minutes' conference--
Had I a girl?
"No--I hadn't," I told them.
Then came a long and heated discussion, and Lena was hard put to it,
with her scanty store of English words, and my recently acquired
German, to frame such a delicate question. I thought I knew what it
was going to be--but I did not raise a hand to help.
Why hadn't I a girl? Did I not like girls? or what?
I said I did like girls; that was not the reason. Then all three
talked at once, and I knew a further explanation was going to be
demanded if Lena's English could frame it. This is the form in which
the question came:
"You have no girl, but you say you like girls; isn't it all right to
have a girl?"
Then I told them it was quite a proper thing to have a girl; I had no
objections at all; in fact, I might some day have a girl myself.
Then Lena opened her heart, seeing that I was not a woman-hater, and
told me she had a beau in Sweden; but I gathered from her manner of
telling it that his intentions were somewhat vague yet. Eliza had
already admitted that she had a "fellow," and had shown me his
picture. Helene made a bluff at having one, too, though she did not
seem able to give names or dates. Then Lena, being the spokeswoman,
told me she could get a girl for me, and that the young lady was
going to come out to the potato digging. "She see you carry
water--she like you," declared Lena. This was interesting, too, and
I remembered that when I was carrying water from the town pump the
first day I was there, I had seen a black-eyed young lady of about
sixteen standing in the road, and when I passed she had bade me
"Good-day" in splendid English.
On Saturday, Fanny Hummel, for that was the black-eyed one's name,
did come out. The three girls had a bad attack of giggles all the
time Fanny and I were talking, for Fanny could speak a little
English, having studied a year at Friedberg. She had a brother in
the army who was an officer, and she told me he could speak English
"perfect." As far as her English would go, she told me about
Friedberg and her studies there, but when I tried to find out what
she thought about the war, I found that Fanny was a properly trained
German girl, and didn't think in matters of this kind.
When the day's work was over, Fanny and I walked back to town with
the three girls following us in a state of partial collapse from
giggles. That night, Lena wanted to know how things stood. Was Fanny
my girl? I was sorry to break up such a pleasant little romance, but
was compelled to state with brutal frankness that Fanny was not my
I do not know how Fanny received this report, which I presumed would
be given to her the next day, for the next day was the one we had
selected for our departure.
Sunday, October 3d, was the day we had chosen as our "going-away"
day. We did no work on Sundays, and so had a full day's rest.
Besides, we had a chance for a bath on Sunday, and knew we needed
every advantage we could get, for it was a long way to Switzerland.
The day had been sunny and bright, but toward evening big, heavy
clouds rolled up from the southwest, and the darkness came on early.
This. suited our purpose, and it was hard for Bromley and me to keep
our accustomed air of unconcern.
By a fortunate arrangement, we were occupying a room downstairs in
the old boarding-house, which made our escape less difficult. The
upstairs sleeping-place would hold only three more when the six of us
arrived from Giessen the week previous, and that left three of us for
a downstairs room. For this, Bromley and I, and a young Englishman
called Bherral were chosen.
The walls of the house were of plaster, and the windows had a double
barring of barbed wire, stapled in; but plaster does not make a very
secure bedding for staples, and we figured it would not be hard to
pry them out.
[Illustration: Two Pages from Private Simmons's Diary]
There was a light outside which burned all night at the corner of the
house, and by it the windows were brightly illumined. This made our
exit rather difficult. The doors were all locked, and there were
about a dozen guards who slept in another room adjoining ours. Some
of them slept, we knew, and we hoped they all did.
None of the prisoners at this place had ever attempted to escape, and
so the guard had become less vigilant. I suppose they figured it out
that if any of us were determined to go, we would make the start from
the field where we were working, and where there were no guards at
But they made a fine bluff at being awake all night, for we heard
them walking up and down in the early evening. However, we reasoned
that they were not any keener on sitting up than any of the rest of
us would be if we didn't have to; and it turned out that our faith
in them was justified.
Although we did not have to work on Sunday, those who had to work in
the mines had no seventh day of rest, and the night-shift went out
each night about ten-thirty when the day-shift men came in. We had
decided on eleven-thirty as the hour for our departure, giving the
guard one hour in which to settle down after this disturbance.
We were lying on our mattresses, apparently wrapped in a heavy
slumber, but in reality eagerly listening to every sound.... We heard
the night-workers going out, and the day-men coming in and going
heavily to rest.... A guard seemed restless for a while and tramped
up and down the creaking floor... but at last the only sound to be
heard was the deep breathing of tired men.
I heard Bromley gently reaching for his clothes, and I did not lose
any time in getting into mine. Bherral and a little Frenchman, who
were in our room, were wide awake and full of fear. They had tried
to dissuade us.
But the guards, all unsuspecting, slept on.
They slept the sweet sleep of childhood while we pushed out the
strands of barbed wire which protected the window; they slept while
Bromley slipped cautiously to the ground, and while I handed him down
the overcoats, boots, and parcels of food (which we had been saving
for a month); they slept while I slid through the window and dropped
to the ground, too.
Just then the wind caught the window, which was on a hinge, and
slammed it noisily against the wall.
We grabbed our belongings, and ran!
OFF FOR SWITZERLAND!
We ran as if the whole German Army were in pursuit. Our feet did not
seem to touch the ground. I believe if we could have held that pace
we should have been in Switzerland in the morning!
Reaching a little hollow, we slackened our pace and listened. There
was not a sound from behind. Either there was no more wind, or the
boys had closed the window from within. We figured that they would do
this, and open it before morning so they could claim they had not
heard us go. Then we put on our boots.
The night was at its blackest, and a drizzling rain began to fall.
This was in our favor, for nobody was likely to be about on such a
night. When we saw we were not pursued, we took time to arrange our
packs. I carried my compass, which I had been able to secrete during
numerous searchings, and my map, a pair of socks, pipe, tobacco,
matches in a tin box, an empty beer-bottle, and several things to
eat, saved from our parcels,--chocolate, tinned meat, biscuits,
cheese, and bread. Bromley had a pack similar to mine, and when
we got them ready and our overcoats on, we started off in a
southeasterly direction, guided by the light from the place we had
left. We walked as fast as we could in the darkness, which was heavy
enough to hide in, but made progress very difficult, for we could not
see each other or one step before us. We tripped over a railway track
once, and if there had been any one near they might have heard us.
But in spite of the rain, which fell with steady insistence and began
to weigh down our overcoats; in spite of the blackness which made the
travelling unbelievably difficult; in spite of the fact that we were
in a land of enemies, playing a desperate game against terrible odds,
we were happier than either of us had been since being taken to
Germany, for a weight had been rolled off our souls. We were on our
way to freedom!
When we found it necessary to consult the compass, I took off my
overcoat and lay flat on the ground with my compass and matches
ready. Bromley put my coat over my head and shoulders, tucking it
well in around me, so no light could shine through. Then I struck
a match, and in its light made the observation, always taking into
consideration the fact that in that part of Europe the compass points
sixteen or seventeen degrees west of due north.
We were careful to avoid the main roads and to seek out the
seldom-travelled, ones, for we knew that our only chance was in not
being seen at all, as we wore our own Canadian uniforms, which would
brand us at once for what we were. Added to that, we could not form
a single German sentence if we were challenged. Of course, I could
say "that Herr Schmidt expected to have his young child baptized in
the church next Sunday, God willing," but I felt that that was not
altogether the proper reply to make to the command--"Halt! Wer da?"
The villages were very thick here, and our chief difficulty was to
keep out of them. Once we ventured rather close to the road which ran
near the railroad, and heard a number of people talking. They were
travellers who had alighted from the train which had raced past us
in the darkness a few minutes before. The station is often quite a
distance from the village, and these were the passengers walking back
to their homes--the village which we had been avoiding.
We dropped to the ground, and the people went by, one old man
singing. I knew he was old, for his voice was cracked and thin, but
of great sweetness, and he sang an aria from a musical comedy which
was popular then, called "The Joy of Life." I had heard a doctor in
the lazaret singing it.
When the sound had grown fainter in the distance, we came out of our
hiding-place and went on.
"It seems hard," said Bromley, "to be fighting with people who can
sing like that. I can't work up any ill-will to that good old soul,
going home singing--and I don't believe he has any ill-will to us.
I couldn't fight the Germans if they were all like this old chap
"You wouldn't need to," I said. "There would not have been any
And then we strained our ears to listen to the song, not a word of
which we understood, though to us the music was full of good-will
"We've got to keep farther out," I said at last. "We are sure to run
into some one and then it will be all up with us!"
We found, at last, after much stumbling over rough ground, a road
quite grass-grown and apparently abandoned. We followed it for about
a mile, making good progress, until we came to a stream over which
there was a bridge. We hesitated a minute before going over, but the
place was as silent as a cemetery, and seemed perfectly safe. So we
cautiously went over, keeping a sharp outlook all the time. When we
were over the bridge, we found ourselves in the one street of another
We stopped for a minute and listened. There was not a sound. We then
went forward. Most of the streets of the villages are paved with
cobblestones, but these were not, and our boots made no sound on the
dirt road. Not even a dog barked, and just as we were at the farther
end of it, the village clock rang the hour of three!
"That's all right for once," I said, "but it's risky; I don't think
we'd better try it again. Some barking dog is sure to awake."
Soon after that the east grew red with morning, and we struck
straight into the woods to find shelter. We soon found ourselves in
high rushes growing out of swampy ground, and as we plunged along, we
came to a high woven-wire fence, which we supposed marked the bounds
of a game preserve.
We quickened our pace, although the going was bad, for the light was
growing and we knew these German peasants are uncomfortably early in
their habits. We came on a garden, carefully fenced with rails, and
helped ourselves to a few carrots and turnips to save our supply of
food, and, finding near there a fairly thick wood, decided to camp
for the day.
That was Monday, October 4th, and was a miserable day with sudden
bursts of sunshine that made our hearts light with the hope of
getting both warm and dry; but the sunshine no sooner came than it
was gone, and then a shower of rain would beat down on us.
However, we managed to make our feet comfortable with the extra pair
of socks, and we ate some carrots, bread, and cheese. But it was so
cold, we could not sleep.
We were glad when it grew dark enough for us to start out again. We
found we were in a well-cultivated district; almost every acre was in
garden, potatoes and sugar beets, whose stalks rustled and crackled
as we went through them, and this made our going slower than it
otherwise would have been. There were a few late apples on the trees,
but they were poor, woody ones. I do not know whether they were a
sample of the crop or just the culls that were not considered worth
picking. But we were glad of them, and filled our pockets.
The streams which we came to gave us considerable trouble. We were
not exactly dry, but then we could have been wetter, and so we hunted
for bridges, thereby losing much time and taking grave chances of
being caught. We were new in the matter of escaping, and had a lot
to learn. Now we know we should have waded through without losing a
That morning, just before stopping-time, in crossing a railway
Bromley tripped over a signal wire, which rang like a burglar alarm
and seemed to set a dozen bells ringing. We quickened our pace, and
when the railway man came rushing out of his house and looked wildly
up and down the track, we were so far away he could not see us!
We kept well to the east, for we knew the location of Frankfort
and that we must avoid it. Bromley had difficulty in keeping his
direction, and I began to suspect that he thought I was lost, too. So
I told him the direction the road ran, and then made an observation
with the compass to convince him, but many a time in the long, black
middle of the night, I thought I detected a disposition to doubt in
When the North Star shone down on us, we could find our way without
trouble, but when the night was clouded, as most of the nights were,
it became a difficult matter.
The third night there was a faintly light patch in the sky, by which
I guided my course and did not use my compass at all. Bromley had
evidently not noticed this, and declared that no human being could
keep his direction on as black a night as this. The faint light in
the sky continued to hold, and I guided our course by it until we
came to a road. Here Bromley insinuated that I had better use my
compass (I was thinking the same thing, too). I assured him it was
not necessary, for I knew the road was running east and west. It was,
I knew, if the light patch in the sky had not shifted.
When we made the observation with the compass, we found it was so;
and Bromley asked me, wonderingly, how I could do it. I told him it
was a sort of sixth sense that some people had. After that he trusted
me implicitly. This saved him a lot of anxiety, and also made it
easier for me.
Soon after this we got into a miry part of the country, with the
woods so thick and the going so bad that we knew we could not make
any progress. It was a veritable dismal swamp, where travellers could
be lost forever.
As we stumbled along in this swampy place, we came to a narrow-gauge
railway, which we gladly followed until we saw we were coming to a
city. This we afterwards knew to be the city of Hanau. Just in the
gray dawn, we left the track and took refuge in a thick bush, where
we spent the day. This was October 5th.
Our first work was to change our socks, spreading the ones we took
off on a tree to dry. We then carefully rubbed our feet until they
were dry, and put on the dry socks. We soon learned that we must
leave our boots off for a while each day, to keep our feet in good
condition. The pressure of the boots, especially with the dampness,
made the feet tender and disposed to skin.
This day was a showery one, too, but the sun shone for about an hour
in the morning, and when Bromley lay down to sleep, I decided to go
out and see what sort of country we were in. I wanted to check up my
map, too, for if it were correct, we should be near the Main River.
I made my way cautiously to the edge of the wood, marking the way by
breaking the top of a twig here and there, to guide me safely back
to Bromley. Ordinary travellers can call to each other, but the ways
of escaping prisoners must all be ways of quietness, although their
paths are not all paths of peace!
I saw a beautiful little lodge, vine-covered, with a rustic fence
around it, with blue smoke curling out of its red-brick chimney, and
I just knew they were having bacon and eggs and coffee for breakfast.
Two graceful deer, with gentle eyes, looked out at me from a tangle
of willows, and then I knew the brown lodge was the game-keeper's
house. A hay meadow, green with after-grass, stretched ahead of me,
but there was no sign of the Main River.
I had kept well under cover, I thought, but before long I had the
uncomfortable feeling that some one was following me; the crackling
of the bushes, which ceased when I stopped, and began again when I
went on, seemed very suspicious. I abruptly changed my course, making
a wide circle, and was able to elude my pursuer and find my way back
I had an uneasy feeling that I had been too careless, and that some
one had seen me. However, I lay down to sleep, for I was dead tired,
and we had a splendid hiding-place in the thick bush.
I do not know how long I slept; it seemed only a few minutes when a
bugle-call rang out. We wakened with a start, for it went through us
like a knife.
We heard loud commands, and knew there was a company of soldiers
somewhere near, and I gathered from my recent observations that
these sounds came from the hay meadow in front of us.
We did not connect the demonstration with our presence until the
soldiers began shouting and charging the wood where we lay. Then we
knew we were what the society papers call the "raison d'etre" for
all this celebration.
We lay close to the earth and hardly dared to breathe. The soldiers
ran shouting and firing (probably blank cartridges) in every
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