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Remembered Today:

Sgt. Thomas William Chisholm

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4th - 10th November 1918 Lamsdorf POW, rumour of peace and then what we all wanted to hear.

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Sgt Thomas William Chisholm

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Sunday 4th November 1918


"Again Fred and I go out to the forest to work, whilst Billy has to go to Lamsdorf railhead to work. When the day is over we pool all our goods, Billy has got about 3lbs of ground maize, Fred 3 turnips, and I a few potatoes so we make up a thick stew with the lot. One of the boys in the foraging party managed to stand on a baby rabbit whist returning to camp but it got away.

 
I never felt more like doing murder than on this occasion, because the thought of what a nice tasty meal it would have made, and we were so very hungry.

It is rumoured that peace is going to be declared, and that we will all be home before Xmas. Oh, let it be soon."

 

 

Wednesday 6th November 1918

" A large consignment of Red Cross parcels arrive today, and I even see one with my name on, but I am unable to get it."

 

 

Thursday 7th November 1918

 

We have a very bad day today owing to one or two escapes during the night the camp commandant had had all the guards paraded and gave them a  good strapping for allowing such a thing to happen and threatened all manner of punishments to them it ever happened again, of course they were in a very bad mood for the rest of the day and we suffered terribly for it. It appears that somewhere about 3-4am three Romanians had managed to cut the barbed wire in the vacinity of the British quarters and had succeeded in crawling through the hole under cover of darkness and made off in the direction of the mountain range to the east of the camp. They did not get far, because at 9am a posse of Germans came back with two of their number, the third had been shot whilst only a short way from the camp. We all felt very sorry for them indeed. Not only that but five Italians had also got away and could not be traced at all so we wished them all good luck. I think our French friends would be biting their fingers because they had planned to make their attempt sometime this week, but now it would be out of the question owing to the extra vigilance of the guards, who were doubled at night to prevent any recurrence.

 

I myself suffered individually, at about 11am Fred and I were lying in the grass by the main road leading up to our compound when up came a dapper little guard shouting "Englander here come for Arbitz Lause." and a good bit of language which we took to be swearing at us. We refused to move on this occasion because we all hated this particular man for more reasons than one, for he had made everyone's life an absolute hell whenever he got the chance. When we did not get up immediately, he just about boiled over, his face went all colours with rage, he lifted his heavy boot and let me have the full force of it, catching me on the very bottom of my spine. "Vass Englander hix lause, lause." he shouted. Although I suffered acute pain from his kick, I merely grinned at him which put the cap on things altogether, for he whipped out his bayonet, it was one of the saw edged type and slashed me across the back. Having just a paper this jacket and shirt on the teeth easily penetrated so we thought it was then time to move before things got worse. Rising amid a storm of vile abuse from the guard, we made off to our compound as quickly as we possibly could, but not before telling him we would report him to the commandant for his conduct to a British NCO. However we did not do whatever work he wanted doing.

After bathing my wounds which proved to be three small punctures of the skin, we kept to the hut out of the way for the rest of the day. 

 

Saturday 9th November 1918

 

There are very strong rumours of an armistice going round today, and everyone in camp are very excited about it, nothing is definitely gained so far as information is concerned. Our guards seem to be very vague on the matter, they tell us that they believe that Von Hindenberg and Count Ludinforf are to meet General Gough at Headquarters on the Western front, but that is all we are able to gather, so we just console ourselves with visions of an early release, and departure for our beloved England.

Mainly the talk is about when they will get a decent meal because hunger is playing havoc amongst us. Owing to our reduced healthy conditions, our ribs are showing through the skin, jaws are sunken till the cheek bones seem to be coming through altogether and the sides of the stomach feel as if they are flapping together like sails in the wind. What an empty dreary feeling it is, the result being that life seems to become void of interest and nothing is left for us but to wish for death to take us out of it all.

 

Sunday 10th November 1918

A very memorable day this will ever be. It dawns very cold, wets and dreary, as winter already has set its grip upon the land. Black frosts occur at night and it is almost impossible to sleep, as we have as stated earlier, only two small badly worn blankets, alive with vermin.

Orders arrive that there is to be no church service, no reason is given, and the air seems to be full of mystery.

We are paraded as usual for the daily count, and after that told to dismiss, but not to go very far away. It never was our intention to wander very far in case there happened to be any chance of any food whilst we were away, because something to feed our famished bellies was always uppermost in our minds.

So far as a smoke, well we had long since resorted to the manufacture of our own mixture, which we invariably changed from time to time. Sometimes we gathered from round about the outside of the compound some nice blades of grass, also loads of clover, and after drying them thoroughly, mix up the two and smoke them as best we could. Sometimes mixing a few dried tea leaves if they were obtainable, of course when we did have tea, the leaves were never thrown away. They were always kept smuggled away in a tin box for when we wanted a smoke.

Today however, to while away a little bit of time, Fred and I decided to walk as far as the main entrance to the camp, so with our paper jacket collars turned up about the neck, shoulders haunched forward and hands behind our backs, we trudged or slouched  along the road very slowly. Nothing was done very quickly in case it passed too soon and we were left with nothing to do. Reaching the main gate everything seemed very normal outwardly, but in the Scheibstube or office, which was a substantially built hut placed inside the gates, things seemed to be humming. Being more or less used to the excitable nature of the German soldier we took no notice of this, and turning about started to make our way back to the compound.

When only half of the journey had been made we discovered that something very unusual was going on, for walking round on the raised bank of earth which served as the sentries beat, was a soldier with an armful of newspapers. This had never been done before so naturally we though it very peculiar. When he arrived at the sentry nearest to our compound and also the hut occupied by the guard, he stopped, presented a paper to the sentry on duty and had a good talk with him in a very hard voice, and waving his arms all over the place like a human windmill, and then continued his journey. Fred and I watched for a what was going to happen next, and it did suddenly, for with a scowl on his face fit to make it crack, he unslung his rifle and flung it on the ground at his feet, the taking off his helmet, and placing his fingers under the eagle which was his badge, he viciously tore it away and flung it across the field. To say the least we began to get a little nervous, but couldn’t move, we seemed to be rooted to the spot, next he tore out the collar patches from his jacket, then stamping along to the next sentry, they both had consultation, and returning to the guard hut were joined by all the other guards.

So, there we were, with absolutely no one on guard over us at all, when things reached this stage we thought it time to get back into our hut as quickly as possible in case anything detrimental happened to us. Just at that critical moment there come up the road three British Officers, and entering our compound called all the British soldiers together. There were not many of us left now as a good many had died, so it was not a big gathering that he addressed.

                                    THE NEWS IS BROKEN

As I have already explained the huts were built so that only about two feet above ground level, so the smaller man of the three, who turned out to be a medical officer, mounted onto the top of the centre hut and commenced to address the assembled men. “Well men I can see that you are all in a very poor condition, but nevertheless, it will not be for very long now, as I have some very good news for you. First of all you will have noticed the very unusual behavior of your guards today. I might warn you that this may develop into a very ugly situation, so pay particular attention to what I am about to say. An armistice has been declared. From today you are free men, free to go where and when you please. In a few moments more the prison camp gates will be thrown open to you, but I do not want you to go. Please stay where you are for the present anyhow. Whatever you do, don’t mix with the other nationalities, for in all probability they will take advantage of the chance to go free, and go mad. They might prove to be dangerous, so stay where you are. A revolution has broken out in the country, the Kaiser has abdicated, and the Crown Prince has renounced his right to the position held by his father, so you see what may happen if you go wandering about the country. You are too far inland to be able to get to any seaport within a reasonable time, and furthermore you would be unable to get any food en-route. So you see how advisable it is to stay where you are. These two brother officers and I are going to take command of you and do whatever we can for your welfare, so far as better food and accommodation is concerned. Don’t be alarmed at what is going on behind you, I don’t think they will fire.”

When we looked round there were eight or nine guards with their rifles leveled at us. However we stood our ground, and one of the officers went across and spoke to them, and they dispersed, being satisfied that we were not going to cause any disturbance.

The M.O. then said that he would get us moved as soon as he could get in touch with the camp Kommandant, then raising his hand as if to give a blessing he quoted:

                                    God alone be with us now,

                                    Lest we forget

                                    Lest we forget.

Then he came down and talked to us for a good while. The other two officersa belonged to the R.N.D and the Buffs, and before he went away, he asked us to sing the national anthem, which was readily done, although everyone had a lump in their throat and tears of joy in their eyes.

Thus ended one day that will always be remembered by anyone that was in that camp.

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