I n G e r m a n y ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )
Having left behind his family and the comfort of a Baden-Baden hotel on October 6th 1914, Cyril King had an uncomfortable 36 hours at Rastatt, before he was on his way again:
“The next stage was a weary, and, except for some supper about half way in a refreshment barrack by the side of the railway, a very hungry one. We were over 30 hours in the train and it was so crowded that we had to take it in turns to sit.
We arrived in Berlin at about midnight of the following day, and walked for a good two hours carrying our luggage before we eventually reached our destination. This we thought was to be Ruhleben Camp, and were surprised to find ourselves suddenly in what looked like a palace, but was in reality the waiting-room of Plotzensee convict prison.
All razors, knives and watches were taken off us and we were led into a huge hall containing about 150 big birdcages – made of wire and just big enough to hold a bed, and standing-room along it… We threw ourselves on to our beds at once and slept soundly.
Next morning we woke up with swollen faces and itching bodies – covered with bug bites! There were swarms of little red bugs everywhere and it took us a fortnight, with the help of disinfectant… to get rid of them completely. Whereupon our warders moved us to another part of the prison…
I admit I enjoyed those three weeks. We were given – as in Rastatt – acorn coffee or soup 3 times a day and a third of a black loaf each, and had to wash ourselves and our dishes from one solitary tap; but bribery soon got to work, and before long potted meats, biscuits, chocolate and cigarettes found their way in, while one group of plutocrats actually dined regularly off mutton chops and red wine!
We were allowed an hour’s exercise in the prison yard every morning and were greatly admired by the other convicts for our energy in ‘doubling’ and ‘hopping’ and walking on our toes…
The rest of the day was spent in talking and playing chess, bridge and piquet, washing up dishes and ‘spring cleaning.’ The prison was quite warm and it was a very careless existence!”