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