Tuesday 4th June 1918
Up and about by 5am after a meal of what was called breakfast composed of soup of a dark brown colour in which was floating a few grains of burnt barley. We didn’t want much of this as it tasted so bitter and our guards called it coffee, never the less it had to go down with a portion of black bread.
After this we fell in and were counted, the roll called and finally marched off to the railway station to be crammed into 3rd class carriages and puffed out of the station, on another stage of our eventful journey.
By this time it seemed evident that we were doomed to keep moving about like this for the remainder of the war. We had a stop at Frankfurt for two hours to wait for another train to complete the journey. We were taken into a small restaurant in which were a few old Germans who we were told were being called up by their class. There did not seem to be very much food in this place, as all we could see these uniforms were being supplied with was roast potatoes. One old man seemingly must have took pity on us seeing our ragged clothes and bare feet, smuggled a few potatoes in his pocket and when he was leaving, edged close to the table where we were seated, so as not to be seen, quietly dropped them onto my lap and walked out as if nothing had occurred. I quickly transferred them to my pocket for a foreseeable opportunity, but that did not come until we boarded our next train.
A surprise awaited us on arrival at the next stop (which proved to be for a period of a month). The place went by the name of Darmstadt seemed a town of fairly big dimensions and as in the best part very clean.
We formed up on the station platform and were once again counted, formed fours to the right and stood waiting the signal from our guard commander to move ahead..
These guards we a little different class of men than had previously been in charge of us, not the usual square headed, robust German we had been used to seeing, but a class of men who seemed only fit for home service duties and who seemed rather old to be in uniforms at all. I think I heard someone call them Landstrums, however they were remarkably kind and talkative to us which was rather notable. The previous ones were sullen and inclined to bully and beat us on the slightest provocation.
Finally the column moved off and after half an hour or so arrived at the camp gates surrounded by a high barrier of barbed wire and as we passed through the sentries and an officer counted once again. It was getting a bit of a joke now because as soon as the boys saw that the counting was about to commence someone would strike up with that well known hymn “Count Your Morning Blessings”, not that we were any blessing to Gerry. Only in one way, as we were the cause of giving a good number of them nice cushy jobs.
“Well, well, ye Gods and little fishes, where are we Fred? Is this going to be our permanent billet?”
I think Fred was too overcome to answer me, he just stood and stared round the room we had been put into. It was a stoutly built building similar in appearance to a large cricket pavilion with heavy rafters across and supporting the sloping roof, fairly high, walls being made of wood, one piece overlapping the other, plenty of windows with ventilation and above all it was beautifully stained and varnished. Round the walls were bunks in tiers of three of two with room for six men to one set. About fifty were put into this room, Fred and I claiming one of these bunks in the centre of the floor.
After ten minutes of being in here a German Sergeant Major came in and kindly asked if we were hungry and said a good meal would be forthcoming very soon. He also made enquiries as to whether we had been able to write home and tell our people where we were. On being told that had been impossible up to present, he volunteered to supply us with paper and envelopes, and promised to see that our letters were posted by the next mail (our people never got those letters).
However in came the promised meal consisting of a good portion of bread, tinned meat of some sort, and some real good coffee. If we wanted any more we just had to ask for it, so after a good tuck in we started to think then of a wash, the Sergeant Major having detailed a corporal and a sergeant to look after our most pressing needs, of course not being in possession of a razor, a shave was out of the question, so after a good bath it was then just about time to retire, which all seemed rather anxious to do, and after getting snuggled down amongst our three blankets, in came some more coffee as a nightcap.
Well this all seemed to good to be true, but all the time it was true so after running about half naked in the business of getting more coffee we finally got down to it for the night and slept the sleep of the just.