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Remembered Today:

Sgt. Thomas William Chisholm

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July 1918 from Darmstadt to Lamsdorf, our new "home" but far from home.

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Sgt Thomas William Chisholm

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Monday 1st July 1918      

                                            

Orders came today that we were going to move and while handing in blankets, I was accosted by my old red nosed friend, who with a smile approached and asked how I had enjoyed my stay at Darmstadt. Not to be outdone I replied that it had all been very nice, only I saw that he had noticed my plight, being without boots etc, and drawing me to one side he asked if at any time during my tour of the front I had met any regiment of the Canadian Scottish. The truth was that I had not and said so rather indignantly and I could see that the swine did not believe me, however after that I saw no more of him and by 2pm we were aboard the train made up of about twenty cattle trucks and rolled away.

 

The journey lasted 3 days and was not without it’s outstanding events. There were 35 men in one truck. The first day we travelled from 2pm until somewhere about 3:30am 2nd July before we got a meal at all, as after various stops for such as coal, water and perhaps a new engine driver. All we could do was look through the little opening in the top of the truck between iron bars. The place began to smell owing to so many men being in the confined space and no sanitary arrangements. There were neither blankets, or straw to lie upon and I fully expected someone to go mad before the journey was over.

 

It was a great relief to get outside that truck, although it was so early in the morning and bitterly cold, we gladly lined up in the canteen on the station for a meal consisting of something like macaroni. The amount seemed very small indeed to our starved insides, but the main thing about it was it was hot. As soon as we had eaten this we were driven back by our guards to the trucks and away again.

 

Daylight at last and on looking through the lattice, found that we were traveling along the Rhine valley, and a beautiful sight it was with the pine clad hills coming right down to the waters edge. Nearly all the hill tops were crowned with what appeared to be baronial castles standing out against the skyline and in the hollows nestled the beautiful hamlets or villages. However we still rolled on with the sweet smelling pine trees in our nostrils mingling with the stench of the truck.

 

About midday we came to a halt beside a small village, the children were just coming out of school. Seeing the train with prisoners aboard and being curious as all children will be, made a line straight for the train and getting as close as they could began to throw stones and making the motion of cutting out throats. Of course we were helpless and naturally annoyed that children so young should be taught to do such things, but there it was proving their utter hatred of the British. After about half an hour we puffed away once more and continued until 9pm before another halt was called, this time at a station, fairly large with a canteen on the platform, another meal similar to the last, then once more aboard and away again, still keeping along the Rhine Valley.

 

 

Wednesday 3rd July 1918

 

At about 10am this morning we arrived at a small station called Lamsdorf where we were finally doomed to settle for the duration of the war. After the usual formalities had been gone through, we moved off in the direction of the camp, which proved to be a very big one indeed.

 

Except for a few scattered houses here and there, the place seemed to be devoid of any civilization, the inhabitants being mainly German troops and a good lot of Uhlans (Light Cavalry men) were passed, who grinned with satisfaction at the sight of us and no wonder, the plight of us, unwashed and unshaven for days, we had a most unkempt appearance. However we trudged on, grumbling all the way not knowing what was to become of us, and when we were going to get something to eat. On through the encampment into open country and about half a mile away was what was called Lager 3A, to this we made for with two British guides in attendance from Lager 1.

 

We arrived at the large barbed wire gates, and from the inside came the Camp Commandant with his usual followers, and we were duly handed over to his care. After being counted and the roll called we were split into parties of fifty and marched through two high walls of wire about 12 feet high and 6 feet apart.

 

All round the camp, just outside the outside the outer belt of barbed wire, was a shallow trench, the earth having been banked up behind to form the beat for our main guards, who patrolled night and day, two sentries meeting at a certain point, and immediately behind this miniature embankment, and also at the corner of the camp, was the big hut which housed the whole guard when off duty. About 20 yards to the right of this hut was a high wooden erection with a square covered in platform, this at times was being manned by a section of machine gunners.

 

It happened that the place allotted to us was at the very end of the camp, right up close to the North Eastern edge of the Black Forest. The camp or part was divided into three compounds, each containing six huts, 1 lager hut was to be used as a wash house, also furnished with a large pump with two handles to it. The huts faced the dense forest in two lines of three. The one Fred and I were put into was in the rear and centre. They were about 80 feet long, 10 feet wide by 8 feet high, lighted by two windows, with a double door in the centre above which was fitted one electric light just inside the door. About 2 feet of the building was above ground, the rest having been sunk into the ground, so we had to descend earthen steps to enter. The beds were built of pitch pine in groups of four, with a board placed on edge to separate each mans bed from the other. Having staked our claim near the door and also the one and only large combustion store, we sallied forth to draw blankets, and wash bowls. Each man was given two blankets, which must have seen service in the wars of 1870, judging by their condition. However they were better than nothing at all.

 

After this we were roused out again by huts or barracks and counted by our guards and a little Sergeant Major. When this was done, a meal was supplied made up of barley, ground maize, prunes, salt fish and water, the latter being very much in evidence.

 

That done the senior in each barrack was given orders through an interpreter to make out a list of men under him, with duties for each day, such as working parties, men to go to the cook house to bring in the soup for each meal, then our first days work was done and about 9pm everyone was in or on his boards and asleep.

 

Thus ended Thursday 3rd July and our first day at our new home.

 

  

Friday 4th July 1918

 

Now it was just, settle down and make yourselves as comfortable as you can, because dear knows how long you are likely to be here.

 

This morning our guards started straight away with working parties, ever one was made to fall in on parade after a meal at 5.30 am and following the usual count, the sergeants were allowed to stay in the camp and the remainder some 200 men being split up into equal parties and placed under special guard, were marched off to their various duties. Some were taken down to Lamsdorf station, to unload trucks, others to the cook house, some to the hospital to bury the dead, others were taken into the forest to cut wood.

 

These duties went on with monotonous regularity for about 8 or 10 weeks, the same thing day after day. Three meals of soup and working parties, until, while talking one night amongst ourselves, someone suggest that we should form a committee with the view to organizing some kind of sports or concert parties. It was decided to do this, the committee were elected, and started work right away, but everything seemed to be against us, because whether from fear of any attempted escapes, or sheer cussedness our Lager Commandant refused to recognize the committee.  

 

Not to be out done, next day whilst on working party at the rail head with number one Lager, the members of the our committee, had a conversation with our commander in that area, and it was decided that they would serve on this same committee along with us, because it was thought that they might have a little more chance of a hearing with the Commandant, but still this failed.

 

Still this did not make us lose heart, and at night in the huts after all work had finished, we used to hold impromptu concerts, the artists being made up of men from all over England, Scotland and Wales. We have five men from Wales with beautiful voices so their help was enlisted, along with a comedian from Liverpool, and one from Scotland, and one man from Durham used to sing and recite all our Tyneside stuff so we were not lacking in talent. This went on for a good while, and the practice gave all, the necessary confidence when we did get the chance of a decent show.  

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