Three Times and Out
Nellie L. McClung
Part 2 out of 4
direction. Through the brush I saw their feet as they passed--not
ten feet from where we lay.
The noise they made was deafening; evidently they thought if they
beat the bushes sufficiently hard, they could scare us out like
rabbits, and I knew they were watching the paths and thin places
in the woods. But we lay tight, knowing it was our only safety.
Soon the noise grew fainter, and they passed on to try the woods we
had just come through, and we, worn with fatigue, fell asleep.
In the afternoon they gave our woods another combing. They seemed
pretty sure we were somewhere near! But they did not come quite so
close to us as they had in the morning.
However, we had heard enough to convince us that this was a poor
place to linger, and when it got real dark, we pushed on south across
the hay meadow. This meadow was full of ditches which were a little
too wide to jump and were too skwudgy in the bottom to make wading
pleasant. They delayed us and tired us a great deal, for it was a
tough climb getting out of them.
At last we decided to take the road, for the night was dark enough to
hide us, and by going slowly we thought we could avoid running into
We had not gone very far when we heard the sound of wagons, and when
we stopped to listen we could hear many voices, and knew our road was
bringing us to a much-used thoroughfare. In the corner formed by the
intersecting roads there was a thick bush of probably ten acres, and
I could not resist the desire to scout and see what sort of country
we were in. So I left Bromley, carefully marking where he was by all
the ways I could, and then went out to the edge of the bush. I went
along the edge of the road, keeping well into the bush. It was too
dark to see much, but I could make out that there was a well-wooded
country ahead of us. I came back to the exact place where I had left
Bromley, or at least where I thought I had left him, but not a trace
of him could I see. Of course, I dared not call, so I gave a soft
whistle, as near like a bird-call as I could. Bromley reached out his
hand and touched me! He was right beside me. That gave me the comfort
of knowing how well the darkness and bushes hide one if he is
We thought this road led to the river Main, and decided to keep close
to it so we could get across on the bridge. We followed along the
road until it branched into two roads. We took the right branch
first, but as it turned more and more sharply to the west, we
concluded it was the road to Frankfort, and retraced our steps to the
place where we had picked it up, and went the other way. There was
heavy forest along the road, and it seemed to us to run southeast by
east. We wanted to go south, so we turned off this road through a
chance hay meadow, and then through the forest, until we found a sort
of road which ran south.
All German forests have roads, more or less distinct, traversing them
according to some definite plan, but they do not necessarily follow
the cardinal points of the compass. We followed the south road, which
was little used, until we came to a stream. There was no way of
getting across it, so we followed its bank until it flowed into the
Kinzig River. We knew by our map this must be the Kinzig River.
We tried to find a path along the Kinzig, but there did not seem
to be any, and the underbrush was impenetrable. We decided to wait
until morning came, took some chocolate and biscuits and filled our
beer-bottle in the stream. Then we found a comfortable bank, and put
some brush under our heads and slept. But not very soundly, for we
did not want to miss that misty light which comes about an hour
We wakened just as the light began to show in the east, and, stiff
and cold, with our teeth chattering, we started on our way to find
some means of getting across the Kinzig. Bridge, boat, or raft,
anything would do us, provided only it came soon, before the
In a few minutes we came to a foot-bridge, with a well-beaten path
running down to it and up the opposite bank. So we made a dash across
it. We knew enough, though, to get off the path at once, for we could
see it was a well-travelled one. We struck into the wood, keeping our
southerly direction, but soon came out on another road, and as the
light was too strong now for us, we went back into the woods and kept
That was Wednesday, October 6th. Again it rained; not in showers this
time with redeeming shots of sunshine, but a dull, steady, miserable
rain that wet us clear through to the skin. Still, we ate our cheese
and bread, and opened a tin of sardines, and managed to put the
day in. We were near a town, and could hear people driving by all
day long. We were kept so on the alert that we had no time to feel
uncomfortable. However, we were very glad when the darkness came and
we could stretch our legs and get warm again.
We had great difficulty to clear the town and the railway yards
ahead of us, but at last found a road leading south, and followed it
through the forest. In one place, as I was going along ahead, intent
on keeping the road, which seemed to be heaped up in the middle,
I heard a cry behind me, and almost jumped across the road in my
excitement. Instinctively I began to run, but a second cry arrested
me, for it was Bromley's voice. I ran back and found he had fallen
into a hole in the road. The heaped-up appearance I had noticed was
the dirt thrown out of a six-foot drain, in which they were laying
water-pipes, and into this Bromley had fallen. He was not hurt at
all, but jarred a little by the fall.
We knew we had passed the Hesse boundary, and were now in Bavaria.
Our one beer-bottle did not hold nearly enough water, and in our long
walk through the forest on this night we suffered from thirst. We had
thought we should be able to find cows to milk, but on account of the
people living in villages, there was but little chance of this.
When we got out of the forest we found ourselves in an open country.
We came to a good-sized stream, and crossed the bridge and to our
horror found ourselves in a town of considerable size. The streets
were dark, but from one or two windows lights shone. We pushed
rapidly on, and thought we were nearly through, when a little upstart
of a fox-terrier came barking out at us from a doorway. We stepped
into a space between two houses, and just then a cat crossed the
street and he transferred his attentions to her.
"I always did like cats," Bromley whispered.
We came out again and went on, breathing out our condemnation of all
German dogs. And we were not done with them yet! For before we got
out another cur flew at us and raised enough noise to alarm the town.
I believe the only thing that saved us was this dog's bad character.
Nobody believed he had anything--he had fooled them so often--and so,
although he pursued us until we slipped down an alley and got into a
thick grove, there was not even a blind raised. He ran back, yelping
out his disappointment, and the bitterest part of it would be that no
one would ever believe him--but that is part of the liar's
We got out of the town as soon as we could, and pushed on with all
haste; we were afraid that news of our escape had been published, and
that these people might be on the lookout for us. The telephone poles
along the roads we were travelling kept us reminded of the danger we
Loaded apple-trees growing beside the road tempted us to stop and
fill our pockets, and as we were doing so a man went by on a bicycle.
We stepped behind the tree just in time to avoid being seen, and
although he slackened his pace and looked hard at the place where we
were, he evidently thought it best to keep going.
We met two other men later in the night, but they apparently did not
see us, and we went on.
We left the road after that, and plunged into the woods, for the
daylight was coming.
During the day of October 7th we stayed close in the woods, for we
knew we were in a thickly settled part of the country. Lying on the
ground, we could see a German farmer gathering in his sugar beets,
ably assisted by his women-folk. We could also hear the children from
a school near by, playing "Ring-a-ring-a-roeselein."
The rain that day was the hardest we had yet encountered, but in the
afternoon the sun came out and we got some sleep. At dusk we started
out again, on a road which had forest on one side and open country on
the other. We could see the trains which ran on the main line from
Hanau to Aschaffenburg. The Main River was at our right. Soon the
forest ended abruptly, and we found ourselves in an open country, and
with a railroad to cross.
As we drew near, the dog at the station gave the alarm. We stepped
into a clump of trees and "froze." The man at the station came
rushing out and looked all around, but did not see us, and went back.
We then made a wide detour and crawled cautiously over the road on
our hands and knees, for this road had rock ballast which would have
crunched under our feet.
We then went on through the village, where another dog barked at us,
but couldn't get any support from his people, who slept on. We were
worried about the time, for neither of us had a watch, and we
suspected that it was near morning. We hurried along, hoping to find
a shelter, but the country seemed to be open and treeless. A thick
mist covered the ground and helped to hide us, but it might lift at
We struck straight east at last, in the hope of finding woods.
Through the mist we saw something ahead of us which when we came
nearer proved to be a hill. Hoping it might be wooded on the top, we
made for it with all haste. When we reached the top we found no
woods, but an old cellar or an excavation of a building. It was seven
or eight feet deep, and the bottom was covered with rubbish. Into it
we went, glad of any sort of shelter.
When daylight came, we looked cautiously over the edge, and saw we
were near a village; also we saw that about two hundred yards away
there was a good thick wood, but it was too late now to think of
changing our position. There was a potato patch on the face of the
hill, with evidence of recent digging. About eight o'clock we heard
voices. Women were digging the potatoes.
Our feet were very sore that day, on account of the rain and of our
not being able to keep our boots off enough each day, but we lay
perfectly lifeless and did not even speak, for fear of attracting
the attention of the potato-diggers. We wished it would rain and
drive the potato-diggers in. But about nine o'clock a worse danger
threatened us. We heard firing, and could hear commands given to
soldiers. Soon it dawned on us that they were searching the wood for
The hours dragged on. We were cramped and sore of feet, hungry, and
nervous from lack of sleep, but managed to remain absolutely
About three o'clock a five-year-old boy belonging to the
potato-digging party, strolled up to the top of the hill. Bromley saw
him first, and signed to me. He loitered around the top of the cellar
a few minutes, threw some stones and dirt down, and then wandered
away. There was nothing to indicate that he had seen us.
But in a few moments a woman and little girl came. The woman looked
straight at us, and made away at full speed. We knew she had seen us.
Then we heard the soldiers coming, shouting. It was not a pleasant
time to think of.
When they surrounded the place, we stood up, and surrendered.
There was nothing else to do.
At first it seemed as if there were a platoon of soldiers: they were
everywhere I looked, and there were more coming! They were, for the
most part, young fellows from the training camp at Aschaffenburg,
and it was not every day they got a chance to catch a couple of
prisoners. So it was done with a flourish!
The Captain instructed us to put up our hands, and two of the
soldiers searched us. They were welcome to my map, because already I
was thinking of making another, but I did not like to see my compass
go--I kept wondering how I would ever get another.
There was no hostility in their attitude toward us, either from the
soldiers or the civilians. The potato-diggers, mostly women, went
straight back to their work as if they had done their share and
now some one else could "carry on." Prisoners or no prisoners, the
potatoes had to be dug.
A few children gathered around us, but they kept back at a respectful
distance and made no remarks. Where the military are concerned, the
civilian population do not interfere, even by words or looks.
The village women who gathered around us had most apathetic,
indifferent, sodden faces; I don't believe they knew what it was all
about. They were no more interested in what was going on than the
black-and-white Holstein cows that grazed in the meadow near by.
[Illustration: Map made by Private Simmons of the First Attempt]
I spoke of this afterwards to Bromley.
"But you must remember," he said, "they knew enough to go and tell on
us. That wasn't so slow."
We could see that the soldiers were greatly pleased with their catch,
by the way they talked and gesticulated. Every one was pleased but
us! Then the commander, addressing his men in what we took to be a
congratulatory speech, called for volunteers. We knew the word.
I looked at Bromley, and saw the same thought in his face, but his
sense of humor never failed him.
"Cheer up, Sim!" he said. "They are just calling for volunteers to
shoot us. The boys must have something to practise on."
We laughed about it afterwards, but I must say I did not see much
fun in it that minute. But it was only volunteers to take us into
Aschaffenburg. The commander wished to spread the joy and gladness as
far as it would go, and I think it was fully a dozen who escorted us
to Aschaffenburg, about a mile and a half away.
They marched us through the principal streets, where I saw the sign
"Kleiderfabrik" many times. The people stopped to look at us, but I
saw no evidence of hostility. I am not sure that the majority of the
people knew who we were, though of course they knew we were
There was one person, however, who recognized us, for as we were
marching past one of the street-corners, where a group had gathered,
a voice spoke out in excellent English, "Canadians, by Jove! And two
fine big chaps, too!"
The voice was friendly, but when I turned to look I could not see who
Their pride in showing us off was "all right for them," but pretty
hard on us, for it was a long time since we had slept, and we did not
enjoy being paraded through the city just for fun. We knew we were in
for it, and wanted to know just what they were going to do with us.
At last they drew up with great ceremony before the Military
Headquarters, where there was more challenging, by more guards. I
think another guard fell in behind to see that we did not bolt, and
we were conducted into the presence of the Supreme Commander of that
He sat at a high desk in the centre of the room. There were several
clerks or secretaries in the room, all in uniform, and there seemed
to be considerable business going on when we came in, for numerous
typewriters were going and messengers were moving about. I noticed
there was not a woman in the room.
When we entered and were swung up to the Commander's desk, with a few
words of introduction, there was complete silence.
The soldiers who brought us in stepped back in a straight line, all
in step, and waited to be congratulated, with that conscious air of
work well done that a cat has when she throws down a mouse and stands
around to hear the kind words which will be spoken.
The Supreme Commander was a grizzled man, with bushy gray eyebrows
which were in great need of being barbered, red cheeks, and a
curled-up mustache. He spoke through an interpreter.
We were asked our names, ages, previous occupation, when captured,
and the most important questions of all, "Why were we fighting
against Germany?" and, "Why did we want to leave Germany?"
I was questioned first, and after I had answered all the minor
questions, I told him I enlisted in the Canadian Army because we
considered ourselves part of the British Empire, and besides, Great
Britain's share in the war was an honorable one which any man might
well be proud to fight for. I said we were fighting for the little
nations and their right to live and govern themselves. I told him it
was the violation of Belgium that had set Canada on fire.
When this was passed on by the interpreter, I could see it was not
well received, for the old man's eyebrows worked up and down and he
said something which sounded like "Onions."
Then he asked me what did Canada hope to get out of the war? I said,
"Nothing"--Canada would gain nothing--but we had to maintain our
self-respect, and we couldn't have kept that if we had not fought.
"But," I said, "the world will gain a great deal from the war, for
it will gain the right to live at peace."
At the mention of peace, some of the officers laughed in contempt,
but at a glance from the Supreme Commander, the laugh was checked
with great suddenness!
He then asked me why I wanted to get out of Germany.
I told him no free man enjoyed being a prisoner, and besides, I was
needed in the army.
All these answers were taken down by two secretaries, and Bromley was
put through the same list of questions.
He told them no one in Canada had to fight, no one wanted to fight,
because we are peaceable people, but we believe a little nation had a
right to live, and we had been taught that the strong must defend the
When they asked him why he wanted to get away from Germany, he told
them he had a wife and two children in Canada, and he wanted to see
them: whereupon the Commander broke out impatiently, "This is no time
for a man to think of his wife and children!"
When the Supreme Commander was through with us, we were taken to the
station and put on the train for Giessen, escorted by a Sergeant
Major, who had an iron cross ribbon on his coat, and two privates.
We got a drink at a tap in the station and ate some bread and cheese
from our pack, which they had not taken away from us, but they did
not offer us anything to eat.
On the train, where we had a compartment to ourselves, one of the
privates bought some fruit, and gave us a share of it. Our German
money had been taken away from us when they searched us, and we
had nothing but prison-stamps, which are of no use outside the
prison-camp. One of the privates was a university man, and in broken
English tried to tell us why Germany had to enter the war, to save
herself from her enemies. I thought his reasoning was more faulty
than his English, but believed in his sincerity.
He told us that every nation in the whole world hated Germany and
was jealous of "him," and that England was the worst of all. He said
England feared and hated the Bavarians most of all, and that all
Bavarian prisoners were shot. I tried to convince him that this was
not so; but he was a consistent believer and stuck to it. He said
when Germany won the war "he" would be very kind to all the countries
"he" conquered, and do well for them. He told us he hated England,
but not all "Englaenders" were bad!
At Hanau we changed cars and had a few minutes to wait, and our
guards walked up and down with us. The station was crowded with
people, and the lunch-tables were crowded, although it was getting
late in the evening.
At Friedberg we had an hour's wait, and we saw the same thing.
Beer-drinking and eating was going on in a big lunch-room, but the
patrons were ninety per cent men. The Sergeant Major with the iron
cross did not bother us at all, and at Friedberg he devoted himself
to the young lady who sold cigars, beer, and post-cards in the
We asked our friend who could speak a little English what they were
saying, but he, being a university man and of high degree socially,
gave us to understand that the Sergeant Major was lowering his
dignity to flirt with the girl behind the counter. He said it was all
"verruecktheit" (craziness). We were of the opinion that it was the
girl who was stepping down!
When we got into Giessen, they took us on the street-car to the
prison-camp, and we were glad, for it had been a long day for us, and
the thought of longer ones ahead was not cheering.
We were taken to the hut where the prison-guards sleep, and were
given a room at the very end, where we would surely be safe. We were
tired enough not to give any trouble, and when they left us, we threw
ourselves down without undressing and slept till morning.
At nine o'clock we were taken before the officers of our own Company,
and put through the same questions. The answers were written down, as
before. We were then marched away to the Strafe-Barrack.
The Strafe-Barrack had in it about thirty prisoners, but it was not
nearly full. These were all kept at one end of the hut, and at the
other end there were three men whose official standing was somewhat
of a mystery to us at first. Two of them were Belgians, a private and
a Sergeant, and one was a British Sergeant. They were dressed like
ordinary prisoners, but seemed to be able to go about at will.
We soon caught on to the fact that they were spies, whose business
it was to watch the prisoners and repeat anything that would be of
interest to the authorities. During the five days we were kept there,
waiting for "cells," we found them quite friendly.
On the morning of the fifth day two cells were reported empty, and
we were taken to them.
The cells are in a wooden building inside the camp, and in the
building we were in there were ten of them, divided from each other
by wooden partitions whose cracks are battened with strips of wood to
prevent light from coming through. There are two windows, one over
the door and one in the outside wall. These have a solid wooden door
which can be shut over them, excluding every ray of light.
The cells are about six feet by eight in size, and have a wooden
platform to sleep on. There is no bedding of any kind. There is one
shelf, on which a pitcher of drinking-water stands, and there is an
electric button by which the guard can be called.
We were allowed to keep all our clothing, including our overcoats,
and I managed to hold on to a stub of a pencil and a piece of stout
When the guard brought me in and told me to "make myself at home" or
words to that effect, and went out, locking the door, I sat down on
the wooden platform, and looked around.
It was as black as the infernal regions--I might as well have had my
eyes shut, for all I could see. However, I kept on looking. There was
no hurry--I had time to spare. I had more time than I had ever had
Soon I noticed that in the partition at my right there was a place
where the darkness was broken, and a ray of light filtered through.
As I watched it, into the light spot there came two glistening points
which looked very much like a pair of eyes.
I did not move, for I could hear the guards moving up and down the
gangway, but I could hardly wait until I heard the gates of the
gangway close. Then I went to the crack and whispered.
"Hello!" came back the answer; and looking through the crack I saw
a lighted cell, and in it a man, the owner of the two bright eyes I
"What are you?" came a whisper.
"Canadian," I answered; "in for trying to escape."
By putting my ear to the crack, I could hear when he whispered.
"I am a Frenchman," he said in perfect English; "Malvoisin is my
name, and this is my second attack of cells--for escaping--but I'll
make it yet. Have you the rings? No? Well, you'll get them. Look at
I could see that his uniform had stripes of bright red wagon paint
on the seams, and circles of it on the front of the tunic and on
his trousers, with a large one on the back of the tunic between the
"You'll get these when you get into the Strafe-Barrack," he said.
"How long shall I be there?" I asked.
"Nobody knows," he answered. "If they like you, they may keep you!
It's an indeterminate sentence.... That's a good cell you have. I was
in that cell the last time, and I fixed it up a little."
"What did you do to it?" I asked.
"There's a built-in cupboard over at the other side, where you can
keep your things!"
"Things!" I said--"what things? I've nothing but a pencil and a
"The boys will bring you stuff," he said; and then he gave me
"Write a note," he said. "Here's a piece of paper," shoving a
fragment of newspaper through the crack. "Write a note addressed to
one of your friends, tell him you are in cells, but get out every day
to lavatory in Camp 8--they'll bring you food, and books."
"Books!" I said. "What good would books be to me in this black hole?"
"I am just coming to that," he whispered back; "there's a crack like
this with a movable batten over on the other side. You can stand on
the platform, pull down the strip of wood, and get in quite a decent
light from the other cell. It is a light cell like mine; and right
above it you'll find the board that is loose in the ceiling; you can
pull it down and slip your book into the space and then let it up
I stepped over to the other side, and found everything just as he
said. Life grew brighter all at once, and the two weeks of "cells"
were robbed of a great part of their terror.
I set to work to pull a nail with my cord, and was able to do
it after considerable labor, but there was no hurry at all. It
all helped to put the long hours in! With the nail I made the
reading-crack larger, in anticipation of the books which were to
come, but was careful not to have it too big for the strip of wood
to cover when it was swung back into place.
When morning came I got my issue of bread, the fifth part of a small
round loaf, which was my allowance for the day. Then for ten minutes
we all swept out our cells and were taken out to the lavatory. I had
my note ready, and when the guard was not looking, slipped it into
the hand of a Frenchman who was standing near me.
The lavatory was in the same building as Camp 8 Lavatory, and was
divided from theirs by a wall with an opening in it, through which
parcels might be passed between the strands of barbed wire.
The Frenchman delivered my note quite safely, and the next morning I
found several little packages on the floor of the lavatory. Bromley
and I managed to get out at the same time, and as the guard did not
understand English, we were able to say a few words to each other.
The boys sent us things every day--chocolate, biscuits, cheese,
cigarettes, matches, and books. We wore our overcoats to the lavatory
each day, so we could use the pockets to carry back our parcels
without detection. We were also careful to leave nothing in the cell
that would attract the attention of the guard, and Malvoisin and I
conserved matches by lighting one cigarette with the other one,
through the crack.
Bromley had no reading-crack in his room, but with a nail and string
soon made himself one.
Standing on the platform, I could open the reading-crack and get
several inches of light on my book. I read three or four books in
this way, too, making them last just as long as I could.
On the fourth day I had light in my cell. The two windows were opened
and the cell was aired. On the light day I got more to eat, too,
coffee in the morning, and soup in the evening. On that night I had
a mattress and blankets, too.
Toward the end of my two weeks I had hard luck. The cell next to
mine, on which I depended for the light to read by, was darkened. I
was right in the middle of "The Harvester." I tried it by the crack
between my cell and that of Malvoisin, but the light was too dim and
made my eyes ache. However, after two days a light-cell prisoner was
put in, and I was able to go on with my story.
Malvoisin did all he could to make my punishment endurable. On
account of his cell being lighted, he could tell, by the sunlight
on the wall, what time it was, and passed it on to me, and when I
couldn't read because the cell next to mine was dark, he entertained
me with the story of his adventures--and they were many!
His last escape had been a marvellous one--all but the end. When
outside of the grounds, on a digging party, he had entertained the
guards so well, by showing them fancy steps in dancing, that they had
not noticed that he was circling closer and closer to a wood. Then,
when he had made some grotesque movement, which sent the staid
German guards into paroxysms of laughter, he had made a dash for the
wood. The soldiers at once surrounded the place, but Malvoisin had
gone up a tree. The guards fired through the woods, calling on him
to surrender, while he sat safe and happy in one of the highest
branches, watching the search for him. The searching of the wood
continued for two days, but he remained in his nest in the tree,
coming down at night to get the food he had buried in the ground
while on the digging party.
They gave up the search then, and he started for Switzerland. He got
a suit of painter's clothes at one place--overalls and smock--by
going through a window where the painters had been working, and with
his knowledge of German was passing himself off for a painter, and
working toward home. But his description was in the newspapers, and
a reward offered for his capture. His brilliant black eyes and the
scar on his cheek gave him away, and one of his fellow-workmen became
suspicious, and for the sake of the reward notified the military.
But he said he would be sure to reach home next time!
He had a week longer punishment than we had, and so when our two
weeks were up we left him there.
When I said "Good-bye" to him through the crack, and tried to tell
him how much he had done for me, he laughed light-heartedly and
called back, "Good-bye, old man, I'll meet you in Paris--if not
When they took us to the Strafe-Barrack, the Company painter was
summoned and put on our rings, which stamped us as desperate
characters who would have to be watched. There was something to me
particularly distasteful about the rings, for I hated to have my
Canadian uniform plastered with these obnoxious symbols. But I did
not let the guards see that it bothered me at all, for we knew that
the object of all their punishment was to break our spirits.
The Strafe-Barrack was supposed to finish the work begun in the
cells. It followed up the weakening of our bodies and minds, caused
by the fourteen days' solitude and starvation, and was intended to
complete the job with its deadly monotony and inaction.
We got no parcels; so the joy of expectation was eliminated. We did
not know how long we were in for, so we could not even have the
satisfaction of seeing the days pass, and knowing we were nearing
the end! We had no books or papers; even the "Continental Times" was
denied us! We got the same food as they had in the prison-camp, and
we had a mattress to sleep on, and two blankets.
So far as physical needs were concerned, we were as well off as any
of the fellows, but the mental stagnation was calculated, with real
German scientific reasoning, to break us down to the place where we
could not think for ourselves. They would break down our initiative,
they thought, and then we should do as they told us. As usual in
dealing with spiritual forces, they were wrong!
In the morning we swept the floor of the hut, and spread up our
beds and had our breakfast. Then we sat on stools for an indefinite
period, during which time we were not supposed to speak or move. It
was the duty of the guards to see that we obeyed these rules. It is
a mean way to treat a human being, but it sent us straight back upon
our own mental resources, and I thought things out that I had never
thought about before. Little incidents of my childhood came back to
me with new significance and with a new meaning, and life grew richer
and sweeter to me, for I got a longer view of it.
It had never occurred to me, any more than it does to the average
Canadian boy, to be thankful for his heritage of liberty, of free
speech, of decency. It has all come easy to us, and we have taken all
the apples which Fortune has thrown into our laps, without thinking.
But in those long hours in the Strafe-Barrack I thought of these
things: I thought of my father and mother... of the good times we had
at home... of the sweet influences of a happy childhood, and the
inestimable joy of belonging to a country that stands for fair play
and fair dealing, where the coward and the bully are despised, and
the honest and brave and gentle are exalted.
I thought and thought and thought of these things, and my soul
overflowed with gratitude that I belonged to a decent country. What
matter if I never saw it again? It was mine, I was a part of it, and
nothing could ever take it from me!
Then I looked at the strutting, cruel-faced cut-throat who was our
guard, and who shoved his bayonet at us and shook his dirty fist in
our faces to try to frighten us. I looked at his stupid, leering face
and heavy jowl, and the sloped-back forehead which the iron heel had
flattened with its cruel touch. He could walk out of the door and out
of the camp, at will, while I must sit on a chair without moving, his
Bah! He, with the stupid, _verboten_ look in his face, was the
bondsman! I was free!
There were other guards, too, decent fellows who were glad to help
us all they dared. But the fear of detection held them to their
distasteful work. One of them, when left in charge of us as we
perched on our chairs, went noisily out, in order to let us know he
was going, so that we could get off and walk about and talk like
human beings, and when he came back--he had stayed out as long as
he dared--I think he rattled the door to warn us of his coming!
Then the head spy, the Belgian private, who had his headquarters in
the Strafe-Barrack, showed us many little kindnesses. He had as his
batman one of the prisoners whose term of punishment had expired,
and Bromley, who was always quick-witted and on the alert, offered
himself for the job, and was taken, and in that way various little
favors came to us that we should not otherwise have had.
Being ring-men, there were no concessions for us, and the full rigor
of the _strafe_ would have fallen on us--and did at first; but when
Bromley got to be batman, things began to loosen a little for us and
we began to get _part_ of our parcels.
The head spy claimed more than the usual agent's commission for all
these favors, but we did not complain, for according to the rules we
were not entitled to any.
The process regarding the parcels was quite simple. Spies in the
parcel party, working under the Belgian, brought our parcels to his
room at the end of the Strafe-Barrack. He opened them and selected
what he wanted for himself, giving Bromley what was left.
Sometimes, in his work of batman, Bromley got "tired," and wanted
help, suggesting that a friend of his be brought in to assist him.
I was the friend, and in this way I was allowed to go up to the
Belgians' room to sweep, or do something for them, and then got
a chance at our parcels. At night, too, when the guard had gone
and the lights were out, we got a chance to eat the things we had
secreted under the mattress; but generally we kept our supplies in
the Belgians' room, which was not in danger of being searched.
Bromley, as usual, made a great hit in his new position of batman.
He had a very smooth tongue, and, finding the British Sergeant
susceptible to flattery, gave him plenty of it, and when we got
together afterwards, many a laugh I had over his description of the
British Sergeant's concern for his appearance, and of how he sent
home to England for his dress uniform.
We got out together when we went back to our own Company to get extra
clothes. We stayed out about as long as we liked, too, and when we
came back, we had the Belgian with us, so nothing was said. The
strafe-barrack keepers, even the bayonet man, had a wholesome fear
of the Belgian.
This Belgian was always more or less of a mystery to us. He was
certainly a spy, but it was evident he took advantage of his position
to show many kindnesses to the other prisoners.
* * *
There was one book which we were allowed to read while in
Strafe-Barrack, and that was the Bible. There were no Bibles
provided, but if any prisoner had one, he might retain it. I don't
think the Germans have ever got past the Old Testament in their
reading, and when they read about the word of the Lord coming to some
one and telling him to rise up early and go out and wipe out an enemy
country--men, women, and children--they see themselves, loaded with
_Kultur_, stamping and hacking their way through Belgium.
I read the Books of the Kings and some other parts of the Old
Testament, with a growing resentment in my heart every time it said
the "Lord had commanded" somebody to slay and pillage and steal. I
knew how much of a command they got. They saw something they wanted,
a piece of ground, a city, perhaps a whole country. The king said,
"Get the people together; let's have a mass-meeting; I have a message
from God for the people!" When the people were assembled, the king
broke the news: "God wants us to wipe out the Amalekites!" The king
knew that the people were incurably religious. They would do anything
if it can be made to appear a religious duty. Then the people gave a
great shout and said: "The Lord reigneth. Let us at the Amalekites!
If you're waking, call me early"--and the show started.
The Lord has been blamed for nearly all the evil in the world, and
yet Christ's definition of God is love, and He goes on to say, "Love
worketh no ill to his neighbor."
I can quite understand the early books in the Bible being written by
men of the same cast of mind as the Kaiser, who solemnly and firmly
believed they were chosen of God to punish their fellow-men, and
incidentally achieve their ambitions.
But it has made it hard for religion. Fair-minded people will not
worship a God who plays favorites. I soon quit reading the Old
Testament. I was not interested in fights, intrigues, plots, and
But when I turned to the teachings of Christ, so fair and simple,
and reasonable and easy to understand, I knew that here we had the
solution of all our problems. Love is the only power that will
endure, and when I read again the story of the Crucifixion, and
Christ's prayer for mercy for his enemies because he knew they did
not understand, I knew that this was the principle which would bring
peace to the world. It is not force and killing and bloodshed and
prison-bars that will bring in the days of peace, but that Great
Understanding which only Love can bring.
I was thinking this, and had swung around on my chair, contrary to
rules, when the guard rushed up to me with his bayonet, which he
stuck under my nose, roaring at me in his horrible guttural tongue.
I looked down at the point of his bayonet, which was about a quarter
of an inch from my tunic, and let my eyes travel slowly along its
length, and then up his arm until they met his!
I thought of how the image of God had been defaced in this man, by
his training and education. It is a serious crime to destroy the
king's head on a piece of money; but what word is strong enough to
characterize the crime of taking away the image of God from a human
The veins of his neck were swollen with rage; his eyes were red like
a bull's, and he chewed his lips like a chained bulldog. But I was
sorry for him beyond words--he was such a pitiful, hate-cursed,
horrible, squirming worm, when he might have been a man. As I looked
at him with this thought in my mind the red went from his eyes, his
muscles relaxed, and he lowered his bayonet and growled something
about "Englishe schwein" and went away.
"Poor devil," I thought. I watched him, walking away.... "Poor
devil,... it is not his fault."...
Malvoisin came to the Strafe-Barrack a week after we did, and I could
see that the guards had special instructions to watch him.
None of the ring-men were allowed to go out on the digging parties
from the Strafe-Barrack, since Malvoisin had made his get-away in
front of the guards, and for that reason, during the whole month we
were there, we had no chance at all for exercise.
Malvoisin was thin and pale after his three weeks' confinement in
cells, but whenever I caught his eye he gave me a smile whose
radiance no prison-cell could dim. When he came into the room, every
one knew it. He had a presence which even the guards felt, I think.
We went out a week before him, and we smuggled out some post-cards
which he had written to his friends and got them posted, but whether
they got by the censor, I do not know. The last I saw of him was the
day he got out of Strafe-Barrack. He walked by our hut, on the way
to his Company. He was thinner and paler still, but he walked as
straight as ever, and his shoulders were thrown back and his head
was high! His French uniform was in tatters, and plastered with
the obnoxious rings. A guard walked on each side of him. But no
matter--he swung gaily along, singing "La Marseillaise."
I took my hat off as he went by, and stood uncovered until he
disappeared behind one of the huts, for I knew I was looking at
something more than a half-starved, pale, ragged little Frenchman.
It was not only little Malvoisin that had passed; it was the
unconquerable spirit of France!
BACK TO CAMP
After the monotony of the cells and the Strafe-Barrack, the camp
seemed something like getting home for Christmas. All the boys,
McKelvey, Keith, Clarke, Johnston, Graham, Walker, Smith, Reid,
Diplock, Palmer, Larkins, Gould, Salter, Mudge, and many others whom
I did not know so well, gathered around us and wanted to know how we
had fared, and the story of our attempt and subsequent punishment
formed the topic of conversation for days.
All the time we had been in retirement, we were not allowed to write
letters or cards, and I began to fear that my people would be very
anxious about me. I had given cards to returning "strafers" to post,
but I was not sure they had ever got out of Germany. Many parcels had
come for me from other friends, too, and the big problem before me
now was to find some way to acknowledge them. A card a week, and a
letter twice a month, does not permit of a very flourishing
A decent German guard consented to take Bromley and me to the
building where the parcels were kept for men who were in punishment,
and we, being strong in faith, took a wheelbarrow with us. Of course,
we had received a number of parcels through our friend the spy, but
we hoped there would be many more. However, I got only one, a good
one from G. D. Ellis, Weston, England, and that saved me from a hard
disappointment. I saw there, stacked up in a pile, numerous parcels
for Todd, Whittaker, Little Joe, and others, who were serving their
sentences at Butzbach. I reported this to our Sergeant Major, and the
parcels were opened. Some of the stuff was spoiled, but what was in
good condition was auctioned off among us and the money sent to them.
A letter came to me from my sister, Mrs. Ralph Brown, of Buchanan,
Saskatchewan, saying they were worried about me because they had not
heard from me, and were afraid I was not receiving my parcels. Then
I decided I would have to increase my supply of cards. The Russian
prisoners had the same number of cards we had, but seldom wrote any.
Poor fellows, they had nobody to write to, and many of them could not
write. So with the contents of my parcels I bought up a supply of
cards. I had, of course, to write them in a Russian's name, for if
two cards went into the censor's hands from M. C. Simmons, No. 69,
Barrack A, Company 6, something would happen.
So cards went to my friends from "Pte. Ivan Romanoff" or "Pte. Paul
Rogowski," saying he was quite well and had seen M. C. Simmons
to-day, who was grateful for parcel and had not been able to write
lately, but would soon. These rather mystified some of the people who
received them, who could not understand why I did not write directly.
My cousin, Mamie Simmons, and Mrs. Lackie, of Dereham Centre,
Ontario, wrote a letter back to the Russian whose card they had
received, much to his joy and surprise.
One of my great desires at this time was to have a compass, for
Bromley and I were determined to make another attempt at escape, just
as soon as we could, and many an hour I spent trying to find a way
to get the information out to my friends that I wanted a compass. At
last, after considerable thinking, I sent the following card to a
friend of mine with whom I had often worked out puzzles, and who I
felt would be as likely to see through this as any one I could think
This was the message:
DEAR JIM:--I send you this card along with another to come later,
which please pass on to Fred. In next parcel, send cheese, please.
Yours as ever
M. C. SIMMONS
In the address I slipped in the words--"Seaforth Wds." This I hoped
the censor would take to mean--"Seaforth Woods"; and which I hoped my
friend would read to mean--"See fourth words"; and would proceed to
After I had sent this away, I began to fear it might miscarry and
resolved to try another one. I wrote a letter to my brother Flint,
at Tillsonburg, Ontario, in which I used these words, "I want you
to look into this for me"; later on in the letter, when speaking of
quite innocent matters which had nothing to do with "compasses," I
said, "Look into this for me and if you cannot manage it alone, get
Charley Bradburn to help you."
I took the envelope, which had a bluish tint inside and steamed it
open, both the ends and bottom flap, and when it was laid open, I
wrote in it in a very fine hand, these words: "I tried to escape, but
was caught and my compass taken away from me. Send me another; put it
in a cream cheese."
When the envelope was closed, this was almost impossible to see. I
knew it was risky, for if I had been found out, I would have been
"strafed" for this, just as hard as if I had tried to escape.
However, I posted my letter and heard nothing more about it.
I had, through the kindness of friends, received a number of books,
Mr. Brockington, of Koch Siding, British Columbia, and Miss Grey,
of Wimbledon, England, having been very good to me in this way;
and as many of the parcels of the other boys contained books, too,
we decided to put our books together, catalogue them, and have a
library. One of the older men became our librarian, and before we
left Giessen I think we had a hundred volumes.
The people who sent these books will never know the pleasure they
gave us! The games, too, which the Red Cross sent us were never idle,
and made many a happy evening for us.
At night we had concerts, and many good plays and tableaux put on by
the boys. There was a catchy French love song, "Marie," which was a
great favorite with the boys. From this we began to call the Kilties
"Marie," and there were several harmless fights which had this for a
beginning. The Kilties had a hard time of it, and had to get another
dress before they could be taken on a working party. The Germans did
not consider the kilt a "decent dress" for a man.
The parcels were an endless source of delight, and I was especially
fortunate in having friends who knew just what to send. Mrs. Palmer,
of Plymouth, sent me bacon; Mrs. Goodrich, my sister, and Mrs.
Goodrich, Sr., of Vancouver, sent fruit-cakes; Mrs. Hill, wife of
the British reservist who gave me my first drill in British Columbia,
sent oatmeal, and his sisters, Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Hamer, made candy.
Lee Davison, of Trail, whose brother is now a prisoner in Germany,
sent me tobacco, and so did Harold Andrews, of Trail, and Billy
Newell, of Koch Siding.
The distribution of the mails was a time of thrills. One of the
Sergeants called it out, while every one crowded eagerly around.
Poor Clarke, one of the brightest, merriest-hearted boys we had,
seldom got a letter, but he was right on hand every time, and when
there was no letter for him, would tear his hair dramatically and
"Gott strafe England."
Clarke had the good gift of making everybody laugh. I remember once
seeing him patching his trousers with a Union Jack, and singing,
"We'll never let the Old Flag fall!"
* * *
The German respect for the military caste was well shown in the
punishment of a Russian officer who had offended them by something he
had done or had not done. He was sent to our hut--as a punishment. He
had a room to himself, a batman, the privilege of sending out to buy
food, as much as he liked. His punishment consisted in having to live
under the same roof and breathe the same air as common soldiers. He
was a very good fellow, and told us many things about his country.
Incidentally we found out that his wages as a Lieutenant in the
Russian Army were one hundred and fifty dollars a year!
* * *
Bromley and I had not worked at all since coming out of
Strafe-Barrack. Being ring-men gave us immunity from labor. They
would not let us outside of the compound. Even if we volunteered
for a parcel party, the guard would cry "Weg!"--which is to say,
This made all our time leisure time, and I put in many hours making
maps, being as careful as possible not to let the guards see me. I
got the maps in a variety of ways. Some of them had been smuggled in
in parcels, and some of the prisoners had brought them in when they
A Canadian soldier, who was a clever artist, and had a room to
himself where he painted pictures for some of the Germans, gave me
the best one, and from these I got to know quite a lot about the
country. From my last experience I knew how necessary it was to have
detailed knowledge of the country over which we must travel to reach
My interest in maps caused the boys to suspect that I was determined
to escape, and several broached the subject to me. However, I did not
wish to form an alliance with any one but Bromley. We considered two
was enough, and we were determined to go together.
* * *
One day, in the late fall, when the weather was getting cold, an
American, evidently connected with the Embassy, came to see us, and
asked us about our overcoats. The German officers in charge of the
camp treated him with scant courtesy, and evidently resented his
interference. But as a result of his visit every person who did not
already have a Red Cross or khaki coat got a German coat.
* * *
Just before Christmas Day we got overcoats from the Red Cross, dark
blue cloth, full length and well lined. They had previously sent each
of us a blanket.
The treatment of overcoats was to cut a piece right out of one
sleeve, and insert a piece of yellowish-brown stuff, such as is shown
in Bromley's photograph. We knew that coats were coming for us, and
were particularly anxious to get them before they were disfigured
with the rings which they would put on or with this band of cloth. If
we could get the coats as they came from the Red Cross, they would
look quite like civilian's coats, and be a great help to us when we
made our next escape. Bromley and I had spent hard thinking on how we
could save our coats.
Larkins, one of the boys who worked in the parcels office, watched
for our overcoats, and when they came he slipped them into the stack
which had been censored, and in that way we got them without having
them interfered with. But even then we were confronted with a greater
difficulty. The first time we wore them the guards would notice we
had no rings, and that would lead to trouble. The piece of cloth on
the arm was not so difficult to fix. Two of the boys whose coats were
worn out gave us the pieces out of their coats, which we _sewed on_,
instead of inserting. The rings had been put on in brown paint lately
instead of red, and this gave Bromley an idea. We had a tin of cocoa,
saved from our parcels, and with it we painted rich brown rings on
our new coats. We were careful not to wear these coats, for we knew
the cocoa rings were perishable, but we had our old overcoats to wear
when we needed one. This saw us past the difficulty for a while.
* * *
On Christmas Day we had the privilege of boiling in the cook-house
the puddings which came in our parcels, and we were given a Christmas
card to send instead of the ordinary cards--that was the extent of
the Christmas cheer provided for us.
* * *
Soon after Christmas there was a party of about four hundred picked
out to be sent away from Giessen; the ring-men were included, and all
those who had refused to work or given trouble. Bromley and I were
pretty sure we should be included, and in anticipation of the journey
touched up the cocoa rings on our coats. They were disposed to flake
off. I also prepared for the projected move by concealing my maps.
I put several in the pasteboard of my cap and left no trace, thanks
be to the needle and thread I had bought in the army canteen, and
my big one I camouflaged as a box of cigarettes. A box of Players'
Cigarettes had been sent to me, which I had not yet broken into. I
carefully removed the seal, being careful to break it so that it
could be put back again without detection. Then I cut my map into
pieces corresponding to the size of a cigarette, and, emptying out
the tobacco from a few, inserted the section of map instead, and put
them carefully in with the label showing. I then closed the box and
mended the band so that it looked as if it had not been broken. I
felt fairly safe about this.
[Illustration: The Christmas Card which the Giessen Prison
Authorities supplied to the Prisoners]
The day came when we were to leave. Sometimes Bromley and I were on
the list, sometimes we were not. We did not really know until our
names were called.
Our cocoa rings were fresh and fine, and we walked out with innocent
faces. I don't know why they suspected me, but the Company officer,
with two soldiers, came over to me where I stood at the end of a
double line. At the word from the officer, the soldiers tore off my
pack, opened my coat, examined the rings on my tunic which were,
fortunately, of the durable red paint, guaranteed not to crock or
run. I thought for sure they would search me, which I did not fear at
all, for my maps I considered safe, but I did not want them fooling
around me too much, for my cocoa rings would not stand any rough
treatment. I wished then I had put sugar in the cocoa to make them
But after considerable argument, they left me. Just before the
officer walked away, he shook a warning finger at me and said,
"Fini--dead--fertig," which was his French, English, and German for
the game idea: "If you don't behave yourself, you are a dead man!"
He directed the soldiers to keep a strict watch on us, and one of
them volunteered the opinion that we should have rings in our noses!
The attention given to me by the prison-guards would have been
disconcerting to a less modest man than I am. A soldier sat with me
all the way on the train. I could not lose him! He stuck to me like
a shadow. When I stood up, he stood up. When I changed my seat, he
changed his. And he could understand English, too, so Bromley and I
could not get a word in. He seemed to me--though I suppose that was
simply imagination--to be looking at my rings, and I knew my pack's
string was rubbing them. I hardly knew what to do. At last I hastily
removed my pack, folded my overcoat so that the rings would not show,
and hung it up, but as the train lurched and rolled, I was fearful
of the effect this would have on the rings. I fancied I smelled dry
cocoa, and seemed to see light brown dust falling on the seat. Why
hadn't I thought to put sugar in it when I mixed it up?
When we reached the camp, which was called Cellelager, we found we
had come to one which was not in the same class as Giessen. The
sleeping-accommodations were insufficient for the crowd of men, and
there was one bunk above the other. There was one canteen for the
whole camp (instead of one in each hut as we had in Giessen), and
here we could buy cakes, needles, thread, and buttons, also apples.
The food was the same, except that we had soup in the morning instead
of coffee, and it was the worst soup we had yet encountered. As an
emetic, it was an honest, hard-working article which would bring
results, but it lacked all the qualifications of a good soup. I tried
it only once.
We were delighted to see no rings except what we had in our party.
The Commandant of the camp did not take any notice of them, so we
were able to remove all traces of them from our new overcoats, and
when Steve Le Blanc, from Ottawa, gave me a nice navy-blue civilian
coat, I gave my ringed tunic to one of the boys, who forthwith passed
himself off for a ring-man, to avoid being sent out to work.
I found, however, he only enjoyed a brief exemption, for his record,
all written down and sent along with him, showed his character had
been blameless and exemplary, and the rings on his coat could not
save him. It was "Raus in!" and "Raus out!" every day for him! In
this manner did his good deeds find him out.
There was a football ground at this camp, and a theatre for the
prisoners to use, but in the week we were there I saw only one game
At the end of a week we were moved again, most of us. They did not,
of course, tell us where we were going, but as they picked out all
of us who had ever tried to escape--and all those who had refused to
work--we were pretty sure it was not a "Reward of Merit" move.
We were awakened at a very early hour and were started off to the
station, loaded with stuff. We had blankets, wash-basin, empty
mattress, and wooden clogs. The boys did not take kindly to the
wooden clogs, and under cover of the darkness--for it was long before
daylight--they threw them away. The road to the station the next
morning must have looked as if a royal wedding party had gone by.
This time we were glad to be able to see where we were going,
although it was a dismal, barren country we travelled through,
with many patches of heather moor and marsh. The settlements were
scattered and the buildings poor. But even if we did not think much
of the country, we liked the direction, for it was northwest, and
was bringing us nearer Holland.
At Bremen, the second largest seaport in Germany, we stayed a couple
of hours, but were not let out of our car, so saw nothing of the
At about four o'clock in the afternoon, we arrived in Oldenburg, and
began our eight-mile march to Vehnemoor Camp, which is one of the
Cellelager group and known as Cellelager VI. We were glad to dispose
of our packs by loading them on a canal-boat, which we pulled along
by ropes, and we arrived at the camp late in the evening.
This camp had but a few prisoners in it when we came, but there were
nearly four hundred of us, and we filled it to overflowing. There
were three tiers of bunks where the roof was high enough to admit
of it, and that first night we were there we slept on our empty
mattresses. However, we still had our Red Cross blanket and the two
German blankets apiece, and we managed to keep warm. There were two
rooms with two peat stoves in each room.
The camp was built beside a peat bog, on ground from which the peat
had been removed, and there was no paving of any kind around it. One
step from the door brought us to the raw mud, and the dirt inside the
camp was indescribable. There were no books or papers; the canteen
sold nothing but matches, notepaper, and something that tasted
remotely like buckwheat honey.
The first morning the Commandant addressed us, through an
interpreter. He told us he had heard about us. There was dead
silence at that; we were pretty sure we knew what he had heard. Then
he told us that some of us had refused to work and some had tried
to escape; he was grieved to hear these things! He hoped they would
not happen again. It was foolish to act this way, and would meet
with punishment (we knew that). If we would retain his friendship,
we must do as we were told. There was no other way to retain his
friendship. He repeated that. Some of us felt we could get along
without his friendship better than without some other things. We
noticed from the first that he didn't seem sure of himself.
Then came roll-call!
None of us like the thought of getting out to work in this horrible
climate, cold, dark, and rainy, and the roll-call brought out the
fact that we had very few able-bodied men. He had a list of our
names, and we were called in groups into an office. Bromley and I
gave our occupations as "farmers," for we hoped to be sent out to
work on a farm and thus have an opportunity of getting away.
Most of the Canadians were "trappers," though I imagine many of them
must have gained their experience from mouse-traps. Many of the
Englishmen were "boxers" and "acrobats." There were "musicians,"
"cornetists," and "trombone artists," "piano-tuners," "orchestra
leaders," "ventriloquists," "keepers in asylums," "corsetiers,"
"private secretaries," "masseurs," "agents," "clerks," "judges of
the Supreme Court," and a fine big fellow, a Canadian who looked as
if he might have been able to dig a little, gave his occupation as
The work which we were wanted to do was to turn over the sod on the
peat bogs. It looked as if they were just trying to keep us busy,
and every possible means was tried by us to avoid work.
The "lion-tamer" and three of his companions, fine, vigorous young
chaps, stayed in bed for about a week, claiming to be sick. They got
up for a while every afternoon--to rest. The doctor came three times
a week to look us over, but in the intervening days another man, not
a doctor, who was very good-natured, attended to us.
One day nine went on "sick parade"; that is, lined up before the
medical examiner and were all exempted from work. The next day there
were ninety of us numbered among the sick, and we had everything from
galloping consumption to ingrowing toe-nails, and were prepared to
give full particulars regarding the same. But they were not asked
for, for armed guards came in suddenly and we were marched out to
work at the point of the bayonet.
Steve Le Blanc, one of the party, who was a splendid actor, spent the
morning painfully digging his own grave. He did it so well, and with
such faltering movements and so many evidences of early decay, that
he almost deceived our own fellows. He looked so drawn and pale that
I was not sure but what he was really sick, until it was all over.
When he had the grave dug down to the distance of a couple of feet,
the guard stopped him and made him fill it in again, which he did,
and erected a wooden cross to his own memory, and delivered a
touching funeral oration eulogizing the departed.
We all got in early that day, but most of us decided we would not try
the "sick parade" again.
This was in the month of January, which is the rainy season, and
there was every excuse for the boys' not wanting to work--besides the
big reason for not wanting to help the Germans.
One night, when some of our fellows came in from work, cold, wet, and
tired, and were about to attack their supper of black bread and soup,
the mail came in, and one of the boys from Toronto got a letter from
a young lady there who had been out on the Kingston Road to see an
Internment Camp. He let me read the letter. She had gone out one
beautiful July day, she said, and found the men having their evening
meal under the beeches, and they did so enjoy their strawberries and
ice-cream; and they had such lovely gardens, she said, and enough
vegetables in them to provide for the winter. The conclusion of the
letter is where the real sting came: "I am so glad, dear Bert, that
you are safe in Germany out of the smoke and roar and dirt of the
trenches. It has made me feel so satisfied about you, to see these
prisoners. I was worrying a little about you before I saw them. But
now I won't worry a bit. I am glad to see prisoners can be so happy.
I will just hope you are as well cared for as they are.... Daddy and
Mother were simply wild about Germany when they were there two years
before the war. They say the German ways are so quaint and the
children have such pretty manners, and I am afraid you will be
awfully hard to please when you come back, for Daddy and Mother were
crazy about German cooking."
I handed the letter back, and Bert and I looked at each other. He
rolled his eyes around the crowded room, where five hundred men were
herded together. Two smoking stoves, burning their miserable peat,
made all the heat there was. The double row of berths lined the
walls. Outside, the rain and sleet fell dismally. Bert had a bowl of
prison soup before him, and a hunk of bread, black and heavy. He was
hungry, wet, tired, and dirty, but all he said was, "Lord! What _do_
* * *
Every day we devised new ways of avoiding going to work. "Nix arbide"
(no work) was our motto. The Russians, however, never joined us in
any of our plans, neither did they take any part in the fun. They
were poor, melancholy fellows, docile and broken in spirit, and the
guards were much harsher with them than with us, which was very
unjust, and we resented it.
We noticed, too, that among our own fellows those who would work were
made to work, while the "lion-tamer" and his husky followers lay in
bed unmolested. His latest excuse was that the doctor told him to lie
in bed a month--for he had a floating kidney. Of course the doctor
had not said anything of the kind, but he bluffed it out.
One morning when the guards were at their difficult task of making up
a working party, they reported that they were twenty-five men short.
Every one had been at roll-call the night before, the guards were on
duty, no one could have got away. Wild excitement reigned. Nobody
knew what had happened to them. After diligent searching they were
found--rolled up in their mattresses.
They were all quickly hauled forth and sent out to work. The mattress
trick had worked well until too many had done it, on this morning.
The morning was a troublesome time, and we all felt better when it
had passed; that is, if we had eluded or bluffed the guard. Bromley
and I had a pretty successful way of getting very busy when the
digging party was being made up. We would scrub the table or grab a
gadbroom and begin to sweep, and then the guards, thinking this work
had been given to us, would leave us alone!
As time went on, the Commandant became more and more worried. I think
he realized that he had a tough bunch to handle. If he had understood
English, he could have heard lots of interesting things about his
Kaiser and his country--particularly in the songs. The "lion-tamer"
and his three followers generally led the singing, sitting up in
their bunks and roaring out the words.
The singing usually broke out just after the guards had made an
unsuccessful attempt to pull the bedclothes off some of the boys who
had determined to stay in bed all day; and when the few docile ones
had departed for the peat bog, the "shut-ins" grew joyful to the
point of singing.
This was a hot favorite:
"O Germany, O Germany;
Your fate is sealed upon the sea.
Come out, you swine, and face our fleet;
We'll smash you into sausage-meat."
Another one had a distinctly Canadian flavor:
"Kaiser Bill, Kaiser Bill, you'd better be in hell, be in hell!
When Borden's beauties start to yell, start to yell,
We'll hang you high on Potsdam's palace wall--
You're a damned poor Kaiser after all."
They had another song telling how they hated to work for the Germans,
the refrain of which was "Nix arbide" (I won't work).
The Commandant came in one day to inspect the huts. The "bed-ridden"
ones were present in large numbers, sitting up enjoying life very
well for "invalids." The Commandant was in a terrible humor, and
cried out "Schweinstall"--which is to say "pig-pen"--at the sight of
the mattresses. He didn't like anything, and raged at the way the
fellows had left their beds. It might have seemed more reasonable, if
he had raged at the way some of them had not left their beds! The men
he was calling down were the gentle ones, those who were out working.
But to the "lion-tamer" and his followers, who were lazily lying in
their beds, laughing at him, he said never a word.
We knew enough about Germany and German methods to know this sort
of a camp could not last. Something was going to happen; either we
should all be moved, or there would be a new Commandant and a new set
of guards sent down. This Commandant had only handled Russians, I
think, and we were a new sort of Kriegsgefangenen (prisoners of war).
Bromley and I wanted to make our get-away before there was a change,
but we had no compass--my card had not been answered.
There was a man named Edwards, who was captured May 8th, a Princess
Pat, who once at Giessen showed me his compass and suggested that we
go together next time. He was at Vehnemoor, too, and Bromley and I,
in talking it over, decided to ask Edwards and his friend to join us.
Then the four of us got together and held many conferences. Edwards
had a watch and a compass; I had maps, and Edwards bought another
one. We talked over many plans, and to Edwards belongs the honor of
suggesting the plan which we did try.
The difficulties in the way of escaping were many. The camp-ground
was about three hundred feet long and seventy-five feet wide,
surrounded by a barbed-wire fence about ten feet high. The fence had
been built by putting strong, high posts in the ground and stretching
the wire on with a wire-stretcher, so that it could not be sprung
either up or down. The bottom wires were very close together. Inside
of this was an ordinary barbed-wire fence with four or five strands,
through which we were forbidden to go.
Outside the camp at the northwest corner was the hut where the guards
lived when not on duty, and beside this hut was the kennel where the
watch-dog was kept. He was a big dog, with a head like a husky! The
camp was lighted by great arc-lights about sixty feet apart. German
soldiers were stationed outside and all around the camp, and were
always on the alert.
We planned to go on Friday night, but an unforeseen event made that
impossible. A very dull German soldier had taken out about a dozen
Frenchmen to work on the moor. Two of them had slipped away some time
during the afternoon, and he did not notice he was short until he
got in. Then great excitement prevailed, and German soldiers were
sent out in pursuit. We watched them going out, dozens of them, and
decided this was a poor time to go abroad. The moon was nearly full
and the clouds which had filled the sky all day, were beginning to
break, all of which was against us.
On Saturday, just as we feared, an extra guard of about twenty-five
men was sent in from Oldenburg, and as the guard changed every two
hours, and this was about 5.30 o'clock in the evening when they came,
we reasoned that the double guard would go on at seven. After the
guard had been doubled, there would be but little chance for us.
It was now or never!
OFF FOR HOLLAND!
The eastern fence was the one we had marked as our point of
departure, and, Saturday being wash-day, there was nothing suspicious
in the fact that we had hung our clothes there to dry. They had to be
The boys were expecting parcels that night, for a canal-boat had come
up from Oldenburg, and every one was out in the yard. Several of the
boys were in our confidence, and we had asked them to stroll up and
down leisurely between the hut and the east fence.
Just at the last minute the fourth man, Edwards's friend, came to me
"Sim, we will never make it. The guards will see us, and they'll
shoot us--you know they'll just be glad to pot us to scare the
others. It is madness to think we can get away from here with these
I told him I thought we had a chance, but did not try to persuade
him. Of course, we all knew we were taking a grave risk, but then,
why shouldn't we? It was the only way out.
"Don't go, Sim," he said earnestly.
I told him we were going, but if he felt as he said, it would be
better for him not to come, and already I could see that Edwards, who
was in the group of strollers, had dropped on his stomach and was
filing the lower wire of the inner fence, and when the wire broke he
crawled through to the other fence.
I joined the party of strollers then, and walking toward the fence,
could see what Edwards was doing.
With his left hand he held the bottom wire and filed it close to the
post, which did much to deaden the sound, but when the wire broke, to
my strained ears the crack was loud enough to alarm the guard. But
the sound of our voices must have covered it over, for all went well.
We walked back again leisurely, though to my excited imagination the
sound of the filing deadened every other sound. We were back to the
fence again when I heard the whang of the second wire, and at that I
dropped to the ground and began to crawl after Edwards.
The light from the arc-lights caught the horseshoes on the heels of
Edwards's boots, and they flashed to my eyes and seemed to me to
shine like the headlights of an engine! It seemed to me as if the
guards must see them.
On he went--on--and on I followed, and behind me came Bromley. I
could hear him breathe above the beating of my own heart.
Crawling is a slow and terrible way to travel when every instinct
cries out to run. But for about twenty yards we crawled like
snakes--changing then to the easier method of creeping on hands
Then three shots rang out, and it seemed as if our hearts stopped
beating--but we kept on going! Our first thought was, of course, that
we had been discovered. But no other sound came to us, and, looking
back to the _Lager_, we could still see the men moving carelessly
The bog was traversed by many ditches, and had a flat but uneven
surface, with tufts of grass here and there. It gave us no shelter,
but the winter night had fallen, and we were glad of the shelter
afforded by the darkness. We knew the moon would be up before long,
and we wanted to be as far away from the camp as possible before that
I had gone out to work for a couple of days, to get a knowledge of
the country, and I knew from my map that there was a railway at the
edge of the bog, and as this would be the place where they would
expect to catch us, we wanted to get past it as soon as possible. But
the ditches, filled with water cold as ice, gave us great trouble.
Generally we could jump them, but sometimes they were too wide and we
had to scramble through the best we could.
About eight o'clock the moon came up, a great ball of silver in a
clear blue sky, and turned the stagnant water of the bog to pools of
silver. It was a beautiful night to look at, but a bad night for
fugitives. Bromley, being a little heavier than either Edwards or I,
broke through the crust of the bog several times, and had difficulty
in getting out.
About midnight, with the heavy going, he began to show signs of
exhaustion. His underwear, shrunken with cold-water washing, bound
his limbs, and he told us he could not keep up. Then we carried his
overcoat and told him we would stop to rest just as soon as we
crossed the track, if we could find a bush, and he made brave efforts
to keep up with us.
"You'll be all right, Tom, when we get out of the swamp," we told
About half-past two we reached the railroad, and finding a close
thicket of spruce on the other side, we went in and tried to make
Bromley comfortable. He fell fast asleep as soon as he got his head
down, and it was evident to Edwards and me that our comrade was in
poor shape for a long tramp. Still we hoped that a day's rest would
revive him. He slept most of the day and seemed better before we
The day was dry and fine, but, of course, we were wet from the hard
going across the bog, and it was too cold to be comfortable when not
We could hear the children playing, and the wagons passing on a road
near by, and once we heard the whistle of a railway train--but no one
came near the wood.
At nightfall we stole out and pushed off again. Bromley made a brave
attempt to keep going, but the mud and heavy going soon told on him,
and he begged us to go on and leave him.
"If you don't go on, boys," he said, "we'll all be taken. Leave me,
and you two will have a chance. I can't make it, boys; I can only
We came to a road at last and the going was easier. Bromley found he
could get along more easily, and we were making pretty fair time when
we saw something dark ahead of us. I was of the opinion that we
should go around it, but Bromley could not stand any more travelling
across country, and we pushed on.
The dark object proved to be a house, and it was only one of many,
for we found ourselves in a small town. Then we took the first road
leading out of the town, and, walking as fast as we could, pushed
quietly out for the country, Edwards ahead, I next, and Bromley
I heard some one whistling and thought it was Bromley, and waited for
him to come up to tell him to keep quiet, but when he came beside me,
he whispered, "They are following us."
We went on.
Soon a voice behind us called, "Halt!"
"It's no use, Sim--they have us," Bromley whispered.
Ahead of us was a little bush, toward which we kept going. We did not
run, because we thought that the people who were following us were
not sure who we were, and therefore would not be likely to shoot.
Bromley knew he could not stand a race for it in his condition, but,
knowing him as I do, I believe he would have made the effort; but I
think he saw that if he went back and surrendered, it would give us
more time to get away.
"Go on, Sim," he whispered to me.
We had agreed that if anything happened to one of us, the others were
to go on. We could not hope to help each other against such numbers.
When we got opposite the wood, we made a dash for it.
I think it was then that Bromley went back and gave himself up. I
often wondered what he told them about the other men they had seen.
Whatever he thought was best for our safety, I am sure of that, for
Bromley was a loyal comrade and the best of chums.
* * *
We lay there for a while, wondering what to do. We were about in the
middle of a very small grove, and knew it was a poor place to stay
in, for it was a thin wood, and the daylight was not far distant.
Edwards, who was right beside me, whispered that he had just seen a
soldier climb a tree and another one handing him a gun. This decided
us to crawl to the edge of the wood again. But when we reached it,
Edwards, who was ahead, whispered back to me that he saw three
civilians right in front of us.
This began to look like a tight corner.
We determined to take a chance on the civilians' not being armed, and
make a dash for it. We did, and "the civilians" turned out to be a
group of slim evergreens. We saw a forest ahead, and made for it. The
ground was sandy and poor, and the trees were scattered and small,
and grew in clumps. The going was not hard, but the loss of Bromley
had greatly depressed us.
Once we met a man--ran right into him--and probably scared him just
as much as he did us. He gave us a greeting, to which we grunted a
reply, a grunt being common to all languages.
We saw the headlight of a train about three o'clock in the morning,
reminding us of the railroad to the south of us.
Coming to a thick spruce grove, we decided to take cover for the day.
The morning was red and cloudy, with a chilly wind crackling the
trees over our heads, but as the day wore on, the wind went down and
the sun came out. It was a long day, though, and it seemed as if the
night would never come. It was too cold to sleep comfortably, but we
got a little sleep, some way.
When we started out at night, we soon came to a ditch too wide to
jump, and as our feet were dry we did not want to wet our socks, so
took them off and went through. January is a cold month for wading
streams, and a thin crust of ice was hard on the feet. They felt
pretty numb for a while, but when we had wiped them as dry as we
could and got on our socks and boots again, they were soon all right.
But our care for our feet did not save them, for the muddy ground,
full of bog-holes, which we next encountered, made us as wet and
miserable as we could be.
One large town--it may have been Soegel--gave us considerable trouble
getting around it.
The time of year made the going bad. There were no vegetables in the
gardens or apples on the trees; no cows out at pasture. Even the
leaves were gone from the trees, thus making shelter harder to find.
The spruce trees and Scotch fir were our stronghold, and it was in
spruce thickets we made our hiding-places by day.
The advantage of winter travel was the longer nights, and although
it had been raining frequently, and the coldest, most disagreeable
rains, the weather was dry during the time we were out. But the going
was heavy and bad, and when the time came to rest, we were completely
We had put ourselves on short rations because we had not been able to
save much; we had no way of carrying it except in our pockets, and we
had to be careful not to make them bulge. We had biscuits, chocolate,
and cheese, but not being able to get even a raw turnip to supplement
our stores, we had to save them all we could.
On January 25th, our third day out, the bush was so short we had to
lie all day to remain hidden. We could not once stand up and stretch,
and the day was interminably long. A bird's nest, deserted now, of
course, and broken, hung in a stunted Scotch fir over my head, and as
I lay looking at it I thought of the hard struggle birds have, too,
to get along, and of how they have to be on the watch for enemies.
Life is a queer puzzle when a person has time to figure it out. We
make things hard for each other. Here we were, Ted and I, lying all
day inactive, not because we wanted to, but because we had to, to
save our lives. Lying in a patch of scrub, stiff, cold, and hungry,
when we might have been clearing it out and making of it a farm which
would raise crops and help to feed the people! Hunger sharpens a
man's mind and gives him a view of things that will never come when
the stomach is full; and as we lay there under scrub, afraid even
to speak to each other, afraid to move, for a crackling twig might
attract some dog who would bark and give the alarm, I took a short
course in sociology.... The Catholics are right about having the
people come fasting to mass, for that is the time to get spiritual
truths over to them!
Hunger would solve all the capital and labor troubles in the world;
that is, if the employers could be starved for a week--well, not a
whole week--just about as long as we had--say, two biscuits a day for
three days, with nothing better ahead. But hunger is just a word of
two syllables to most people. They know it by sight, they can say it
and write it, but they do not know it.
At these times the thought of liberty became a passion with us.
Still, we never minimized the danger nor allowed ourselves to become
too optimistic. We knew what was ahead of us if we were caught: the
cells and the Strafe-Barrack, with incidentals.
On the fourth day we crossed an open patch of country, lightly
wooded, and then came to a wide moor which offered us no protection
whatever. Our only consolation was that nobody would be likely to
visit such a place. There was not even a rabbit or a bird, and the
silence was like the silence of death.
I knew from my map that we had to cross the river Ems, and I also
knew that this would probably be the deciding factor in our escape.
If we got over the Ems, we should get the rest of the way.
About two o'clock in the morning we reached the Ems. It is a big
river in normal times, but it was now in flood, as we could see by
the trees which stood in the water, as well as by the uprooted ones
that floated down the stream. Swimming was out of the question.
We hunted along the bank that morning, but could find nothing, and as
daylight was coming, we had to take cover.
All day we remained hidden in a clump of spruce and looked out upon
the cruel sweep of water that divided us from liberty. The west wind
came softly to us, bringing sounds from the Holland border, which we
knew from our map was only four or five miles away! We heard the
shunting of cars and the faint ringing of bells.
We discussed every plan. We would search the riverbank for a boat,
though we were afraid the German thoroughness would see to it that
there was no boat on this side of any of their border rivers. Still,
they could not watch everything, and there might be one.
Failing that, we would make a raft to carry our clothes, and swim it.
We had a knife, but no rope. I remember in "Swiss Family Robinson"
how easily things came to hand when they were needed, and I actually
looked in the dead grass at my feet to see if by any chance I might
find a rope or wire--or something.
But there were no miracles or fairies--no fortunate happenings for
us; and when night came on again we scoured the bank for a boat, but
in vain. Never a boat could we see.
We then drew together some of the driftwood that lay on the shore,
but when we tried it in the water it would hardly float its own
weight. I felt the hopelessness of this plan, but Ted worked on like
a beaver, and I tried to believe he had more hope than I had. But
suddenly he looked at me, as he stopped, and I felt that our last
plan was gone!
"It's no use," he said.
There was only the bridge left, and that, we knew, was very
dangerous. Still, there was a chance. It might not be guarded--the
guard might be gone for a few minutes. And all the time the murmurs
came to us on the wind from the Holland border, and sounded friendly
We started out to find the bridge.
We were better dressed than Bromley and I had been, for we had on the
dark blue overcoats, but not being able to speak the language was
dead against us.
"Even if they do get us, Sim," Ted said, "we'll try it again--if we
live through the punishment."
"All right," I said, "I'm game."
The bridge was a fine iron one without lights. The road which led
to it was not much travelled, and it looked as if it might carry us
over--without accident. Anyway, it was our only chance.
We walked on to the bridge, taking care to make no noise, and
striking a gait that was neither slow nor fast.
We were nine tenths of the way over the bridge, with hope springing
in our tired hearts at each step. Away to the west, straight ahead of
us, distant lights twinkled. We thought they were in Holland, and
they beckoned to our tired hearts like the lights of home.
We were only about ten feet from the other side of the bridge,
when... suddenly a light was flashed on us, a great dazzling light
that seemed to scorch and wither us. It seemed to burn our
prison-clothes into our very souls. I'm sure the rings on my knees
showed through my overcoat!
Into the circle of light three German soldiers came, with rifles
They advanced upon us until their bayonets were touching us. And
again we saw our dream of freedom fade!
The soldiers took us in charge and marched us to Lathen, a town near
by, where part of the hotel was used as barracks. They showed us no
hostility; it was just part of their day's work to gather in escaping
There was a map on the wall, and when they asked us where we came
from, we showed them Canada on the map of the North American
Continent. They were decent-looking young fellows and asked us many
questions about Canada.
Although it was about midnight there seemed to be people on the
streets, which were brilliantly lighted. A Sergeant Major came in,
with a gendarme, who had two women with him. They were well-dressed
looking women, but I kept wondering what they were doing out so late.
The Sergeant Major and the policeman lacked the friendliness of the
privates, and the former began the conversation by saying, "England
ist kaputt." The Sergeant Major repeated his statement, with greater
emphasis, and I put more emphasis on my reply, and there we stuck! It
did not seem that we could get any farther. It seemed a place to say,
"Time will tell."
The gendarme was a coarse, beer-drinking type, and I kept wondering
how two such fine-looking women came to be with him. The younger and
handsomer one was not his wife, I knew--he was so attentive to her.
The other one may have been, though she was evidently his superior
in every way. Still, even in our own country very fine women are
sometimes careless about whom they marry.
The Sergeant Major poured out a volume of questions in German, to
which we replied, "Nix forstand."
Then the gendarme thought something was being overlooked, and he
suggested that we be searched. I was afraid of that, and had taken
the precaution of hiding the compass as well as I could, by putting
it in the bottom of the pasteboard box that held our shaving-stick.
The stick had been worn down, leaving room for the compass at the
bottom of the box.
The soldier who searched us did not notice the compass, and handed
the shaving-stick back to me, and I breathed easier. But the gendarme
had probably done more searching than the soldier, and asked me for
it. He immediately let the stick fall out, and found the compass,
which he put in his pocket, with a wink at the others... and it was
All our little articles were taken from us and put into two parcels,
which we were allowed to carry, but not keep, and which were
eventually returned to us, and, whether it was done by carelessness
or not I do not know, but by some fortunate circumstance my maps were
left in my pay-book case and put in the package, but I did not see
them until after my punishment was over.
[Illustration: Map made from Paper which came in a Parcel, wrapped
around a Fruit-Cake / Notice the stain caused by the cake. This is
the map that was hidden in the cigarette-box]
My notebook attracted the attention of the gendarme, and he took
it from me. I had made entries each day, and these he read aloud,
translating them into German as he went, much to the apparent
entertainment of the two women, who laughed at him, with a forced
gaiety which confirmed my diagnosis of their relationship. I think
he was crediting me with entries I had never made, for the central
figure seemed to be one "Rosie Fraeulein," whom I did not have the
pleasure of meeting.
We could see that although the privates were friendly, there was no
semblance of friendliness in either the gendarme or the Sergeant
Major. I think they would have gladly shot us on the spot--if they
had dared. They were pronounced cases of anglophobia.
The gendarme at last broke out into English, cutting his words off
with a snarl:
"What do you fellows want to get back for anyway? England is no good!
England is a liar, and a thief."
When he said this, I could see Edwards's face grow white and his eyes
glitter. He was breathing hard, like a man going up a steep hill, and
his hands were opening and closing. He walked over to the gendarme
and glared in his face,--"What do I want to get back for?" he
repeated in a steady voice, stretched tight like a wire, "I'll tell
you--this is not any ordinary war, where brave men fight each other.
This is a war against women and children and old men. I have fought
with the Boers in Africa, but I bore them no ill-will--they fought
like men and fought with men. I've been through Belgium--I've seen
what you have done. I have boys of my own--little fellows--just
like the ones you cut the hands off--and I will tell you why I want
to get back--I want to serve my country and my God--by killing
Germans--they're not fit to live!"
The women drew back in alarm, though I do not think they understood
the words. Instinctively I drew up beside Edwards, for I thought it
was the end; but to our surprise the brutal face of the gendarme
relaxed into a broad grin, and he turned to the women and Sergeant
Major and made some sort of explanation. We did not know what was
coming, and then a controversy took place between the two men as to
what should be done with us. The gendarme wanted to take us, but the
ladies protested, and at last we were led away by the two privates,
carrying our two little packages of belongings.
We went into an adjoining room, where a coal fire burned in a small
round heater, whose glow promised comfort and warmth. The privates
very kindly brought us a drink of hot coffee and some bread, and
pulled two mattresses beside the stove and told us to go to sleep.
Then they went out and brought back blankets, and with friendly looks
and smiles bade us good-night, incidentally taking our shoes with
"The Germans are a spotty race," said Ted, as we lay down. "Look at
these two fellows--and then think of those two mugs that any decent
man would want to kill at sight!"--He pointed to the room where we
had left the gendarme and the Sergeant Major. "Oh--wouldn't I enjoy
letting a bit of daylight through that policeman's fat carcass!"
Next morning, when we awakened, our guards came again and brought us
some more coffee and bread. It was a bright morning, of sunshine,
with a frost which glistened on the pavement and the iron railing
surrounding the building we were in.
The streets were full of people, and streamers of bunting festooned
the buildings. Children were on the streets, carrying flags, and the
place had a real holiday appearance.
"Suppose this is all in our honor, Sim," Ted said as he looked out of
the window. "I wonder how they knew we were coming--we really did not
One of the guards, who had a kodak and was taking pictures of the
celebration, asked us if he could take our pictures. So we went out
to the front door, which was hung with flags, and had a picture
"What are the flags up for?" we asked him.
"It is the birthday of the All-Highest," he replied proudly.
Ted said to me, so the guard could not hear, "Well, the old man has
my sincere wishes--that it may be his last."
During the forenoon we were taken by rail to Meppen. The Sergeant
Major came with us, but did not stay in the compartment with the
guards and us. On the way the guard who had taken our photograph
showed us the proof of it, and told us he would send us one, and
had us write down our addresses. He must have been a photographer
in civil life, for he had many splendid pictures with him, and
entertained us by showing them to us. I remember one very pretty
picture of his young daughter, a lovely girl of about fourteen years
of age, standing under an apple-tree.
Before the Sergeant Major handed us over to the military authorities
at Meppen, he told them what Edwards had said about wanting to go
back to kill Germans, but he did not tell all that Edwards had said.
However, they treated us politely and did not seem to bear us any
In the civil jail at Meppen to which we were taken, and which is a
fine building with bright halls and pleasant surroundings, we were
put in clean and comfortable cells. There was a bed with mattress and
blankets, which in the daytime was locked up against the wall, toilet
accommodations, drinking-water, chair, table, wash-basin, and comb.
It looked like luxury to us, and after a bowl of good soup I went to
I wakened the next morning much refreshed and in good spirits. The
guard was polite and obliging, and when I said, "Guard, I like your
place," his face broke into a friendly grin which warmed my heart.
Ted had spoken truly when he said the Germans were a "spotty race."
It is a spotty country, too, and one of the pleasant spots to us was
the civil jail at Meppen.
Of course, to men who had been sleeping in beds and eating at tables
and going in and out at their own pleasure, it would have been a
jail; but to us, dirty, tired, hungry, red-eyed from loss of sleep,
and worn with anxiety, it was not a jail--it was a haven of rest. And
in the twenty-four hours that we spent there we made the most of it,
for we well knew there were hard times coming!
THE INVISIBLE BROTHERHOOD
A special guard was sent from Vehnemoor to bring us back, and we had
to leave our comfortable quarters at Meppen and go back with him.
The guard took a stout rope and tied us together, my right wrist to
Edwards's left, and when we were securely roped up, he tried to
enlighten us further by dancing around us, shouting and brandishing
his gun, occasionally putting it against our heads and pretending he
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