Wednesday 5th June 1918
The morning came as any fine morning could be expected to do, beautifully warm and sunny and breakfast over we settled into groups to talk over past events and what was likely to happen in the near future.
About 10am in came a sergeant and called out six names and took the men away along a corridor. Why, we had no idea, as they never came back that way, so we just had to sit and await our turn.
It didn’t come that day and the suspense was beginning to tell its tale, because we imagined all kinds of gruesome things happening to our pals.
Eventually night came upon us once more, and another good, but worrying night in our place.
Thursday 6th June 1918
Today came round in just the same manner as before and after breakfast the same routine commenced again. Fred’s name came with the first list of names, so with a solemn so long, he went away with feelings of regret.
I myself was in the next batch and after being ushered along the corridor found myself in a room like a bandstand but not open at the sides, it was surrounded by numerous doors and there I was left alone looking like a lost sheep, wondering in which direction to go.
Suddenly one of these doors opened and out came a head with a face like nothing on earth, the eyes bulging out of their sockets and a nose that looked as if it had been pickled in Schnapps for six months. I was requested to come in, so I slipped into a small cubicle like room containing a desk, two chairs and a cabinet used for filing documents, the walls were covered with vicious pictures depicting vile suggestions.
My red nosed interrogator greeted me with a very pleasant “Good morning sergeant” and looking out of the window remarked “What a pity to be shut up on a beautiful day like this.” “Yes” I said “but it could not be avoided.”
“Oh yes” he said “but with a little discretion, you may have a great deal more freedom than you anticipate.”
“And how am I to attain this” I asked rather doubtful of his statement.
He answered with a question “What are those red tabs on your shoulder for?”
“Some silly decorations.” I answered.
“Do you smoke? Most English soldiers do I know.” Handing me a small box of gold tipped cigarettes. I accepted one and thanking him very much, at which he struck a match, handing me a light first.
Then started the investigation in real good style and all the while my eyes were roving about this small room taking in every detail, and as to what was lying on his desk.
“How long have you been in German hands? he asked.
“Eleven days” I answered at once.
“You have had it pretty rough since you were taken, long marches, very little to eat, less to drink also no smokes”
“Quite right” I said.
“Where were you taken and on what date?”
“I was taken on the Chemis des Dames on 27th May.”
“Very god” he said.
“Have you been out in France very long, and what were things like in England before you came out to join your regiment?”
“Well I was home on leave in February”
“Oh! Then you must have been out a good while because your authorities only give you leave when you have been out about twelve months I am told.”
I did not answer because I knew I was letting my tongue run riot a little too far.
His next question staggered me a little and I hardly knew what to say.
“By the way what was the name of your Brigade commander?”
“I don’t know.” I managed to gasp out. It was not until this that I realized what I was up against.
“You don’t know?” he exclaimed with some surprise.
“Well you see, he was a new one.” I remarked, although the fact was that we had had our for a while.
“Who was your divisional commander?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know the name of your Corp Commander?”
“No I don’t.”
“What was your Colonels name?”
“I could not say.” I said looking very sheepish I should imagine.
“You don’t seem to be very intelligent to hold the rank of Sergeant.” He remarked with a certain amount of scorn.
“We don’t need brains ion the British Army to be a sergeant, all that they want is guts, and I passed.
“Well do you know what this man on our part has cost your side?”
“What.” I asked.
Something like twenty thousand men, fifteen hundred machine guns, field guns, heavy artillery and huge dumps containing stores of food and munitions which will be very useful to our troops. Of course I am not saying we are hard pressed for food or anything like that, for instance I could go out to a restaurant in Darmstadt and order steak and chips, with two rounds of bread and a cup of coffee and it would only cost me something like Two shilling and sixpence in your English money.”
“Yes” I remarked quite casually “horse flesh.” And with that he nearly went mad.
However when he cooled down a little I asked if I might have another cigarette, which was readily given, and we settled down once more to work.
“How did you find things in England when you were on leave? In February did you say?”
“Things were just normal” I said “There seemed to be plenty of everything that was necessary.”
“Did you get plenty of food in the front line?”
“Yes, in fact the very morning I was unfortunate enough to be taken by your men, we had porridge with sugar and cows milk, followed by a good supply of bacon and tea with white bread, and no man needs more than that to fight on.” I said.
“But before we go on any further, I will strike a bargain with you.” I said.
“And what is that?” he said surprised.
“If you read me what is written on those two sheets of paper under your hand, I will tell you whether you are right or wrong.”
“Do you understand German?” he asked.
“No” I said, “but I see some drawings on them that make me suspicious.”
So he proceeded to read off one line after another, and he already had all the information he required, but I suppose he wanted it confirmed, or to add some more to it, but it was all correct and I told him so. At the same time enquiring, as to who gave him the information. He remarked that they took care of people who gave them what they required.
After this my red nosed friend seemed to be fed up with his task, so pressing a bell push at his side, he said “I don’t think that I need you any more today. We may meet again later.” At this there entered an escort to guide me to new quarters, which were not half as comfortable my previous ones. However, there was Fred to meet me at the door, and greeting me with a smile, and I was informed that he had claimed a bunk for me beside his.