I n G e r m a n y ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )
Cyril King, having arrived at the Ruhleben Camp when it opened at the end of October 1914, settled in for his first winter in captivity. The next entry from his journal is from January 1915, and describes how life there has developed:
3/1/15. “Everyone is very nice, cheerful and unselfish, watching for opportunities to help other people. It is very cold and we had snow and snowball fights – loathsome institutions, especially when one has no change of clothing! The camp is a perpetual bog as the soil is sand and there is no system of drainage. Everyone walks heavily and slowly about in huge clogs, corduroy trousers and innumerable woollen scarves.
In the mornings the whole camp seems to collect in the middle grandstand – a big sort of tearoom full of counters and benches. A rough stage has been erected along one wall by using the counters as trestles and covering them with planks of floorboards from some of the horseboxes, and we are soon to have concerts and, I hear, even a play. Rehearsals for the former – choruses accompanied by a few instruments – are generally in progress in one corner, while in another some of the men have fitted up a carpenter’s shop and are making badly needed tables and chairs – most energetically to judge by the infernal din which accompanies their efforts. In another corner a few are learning to dance and others to box, while in the middle people smoke and talk and laugh and play chess or study German.
In the evening the great pastime is ‘walking up and down the front’ – the ‘promenade des Anglais,’ which is bounded by the Guardroom, the three grand stands, the ‘tea house’ and the barbed wire – it is about 150 yards long and 20 broad and looks on to the race course.
The rest of the day I play chess (cards being forbidden) and am very good at it – though I know I shouldn’t say so. We have organised inter-barrack matches and all kinds of tournaments.”