October 15th 1919

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

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Cyril King had anticipated that the Ruhleben camp would be too unhealthy a place for the summer and that they would be moved elsewhere. He was wrong.

The next entry from his journal marks the first anniversary of his incarceration in Ruhleben.

28/10/15. “We have been here for a year today and there seems no immediate prospect of getting out. We see all the German papers regularly now and an occasional ‘Daily Telegraph,’ which enterprising people manage to get smuggled in and let out for a shilling an hour, but the news is hardly very decisive!

Parcels arrive regularly from England – 5 per man per month – containing generally a tin of meat, another of fish, another of dripping or margarine, and another of condensed milk or jam, ¼ lb. of tea or cocoa, ½ lb. of sugar or a packet of Quaker Oats, and with any luck 30 woodbines or an ounce of tobacco.

The Germans give us potatoes twice a week and an occasional lump of meat, and though the soup, bread and coffee are less eatable than before, we are no longer dependent on them, and hardly anyone ever draws them, except as a means of putting pressure on our captors when we think they are being unpleasant – in which case the whole camp marches for a few days, loudly and in a body, to the kitchen, and by the sudden demand empties all the stores which the garrison had hoped to consume by itself!

But that doesn’t often happen, and they really are very good to us and leave us almost completely alone. They have removed the soldiers from the barracks, as being too bribable to be of any use, and practically the whole administration is in the hands of Englishmen – barrack ‘captains’ and a voluntary police force, whom we don’t like…”

October 4th 1919

I n   G e r m a n y   ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 8 )

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This is a continuation of Cyril King‘s journal, written in Ruhleben Camp, dated January 3rd 1915.

“We are allowed to write two letters and four cards a month on official notepaper and to receive as many as we like, though they haven’t started to arrive regularly yet and there is very little to write about that the censor would pass.

The Germans are harmless on the whole. In each barrack there is a noncom. and a private, who shout a lot and take hours counting us before they lead us to the kitchen for our meals, but in most cases they are very bribable…

The commandant is an old doddery East Prussian squire. He makes frequent and touching speeches; calls us his ‘beloved charges’ and says he knows he will soon have to go and answer for us to his God, which he will do with a good conscience – whereupon he is at once as unpleasant as he can be, and goes on to tell us all about the crimes of the nation to which we belong and how sure he is that God will soon give his dear Kaiser victory over his wicked enemies. He evidently tries himself to imitate the Kaiser and seems quite sincere in his convictions.

The 2nd officer is a swine – also fond of haranguing us in the most Prussian way possible – and always loses his temper when he sees that we only laugh at his eloquence…

There are about 1500 seafaring people in the camp, about 50 public school and university men… The rest – about 1500 – are business men, English, half German, or almost wholly German, – managers, commercial travellers, civil engineers, clerks and ‘sharks.’ 

The German element is a great difficulty – many of them can’t speak English and have German sympathies which don’t please the rest of us, and there are constant quarrels and even bloodstained fights!

Apart from these, queues and rumours are the greatest nuisances. Literally hours are spent every day in queues – for water, hot or cold – for the canteen, or for the kitchen; and hundreds of rumours float round every day and are always believed, only to bring disappointment – great victories – exchange to England – release into Germany – the signing of an armistice – the entry of Italy into the war – all arrive daily and fall daily to the ground. 

I for one am sure that they won’t keep us here for the summer, it would surely be too insanitary.”