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My German Prisons Being the Experiences of an Officer During Two and a Half Years as a Prisoner of War

My German Prisons
Being the Experiences of an Officer During Two and a Half
Years as a Prisoner of War
Category:
Title: My German Prisons Being the Experiences of an Officer During Two and a Half Years as a Prisoner of War
Release Date: 2018-07-30
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 38
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MY GERMAN PRISONS

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CAPTAIN H. G. GILLILAND

Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

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From the portrait by C. Percival Small, Esq.

My German Prisons

BEING THE EXPERIENCES OF AN OFFICER
DURING TWO AND A HALF YEARS AS A
PRISONER OF WAR

BY
CAPTAIN H. G. GILLILAND
LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT

HODDER AND STOUGHTON
LONDON   NEW YORK   TORONTO
MCMXVIII

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Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Finey, Ld.,
London and Aylesbury.

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DEDICATED
TO
MR. JAMES W. GERARD
Late U.S.A. Ambassador to the Imperial Court at Berlin
TO WHOM EVERY BRITISH PRISONER
OWES A DEBT OF GRATITUDE WHICH
CAN NEVER BE REPAID

H. G. G.

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PREFACE

The writer has been so constantly and earnestly appealed to to write hisexperiences, and so weary recounting them, that he has at last decidedto put into print a short account of things as they really happenedwithin his own personal knowledge during his two and a half years’imprisonment in Germany. He is also encouraged to do so for other andmore important reasons. There are so many people throughout our Empirewho are unfortunate enough to have intimate friends and relations incaptivity in Germany. In the opinion of the writer these people ought toknow, from one who has had a bitter experience, to which these pageswill testify, the true conditions{10} under which those nearest and dearestto them exist.

To those who are more fortunate, and who may be inclined to be scepticaltowards the newspaper reports of German brutality, it is hoped thisnarrative will come as a revelation.

Further, there must be many who are already feeling war-weary anddespondent, and who consequently may be ready to embrace any opportunityof making peace, even on the basis of the status quo. If therevelations disclosed herein bring home to these a knowledge of theinfamous, relentless, and savage character of the Hun, deliberatelydehumanised by the State for the purposes of the State, the writer willfeel that his labour has not been in vain.{11}

CONTENTS

 PAGE
CHAPTER I
CAPTURED BY THE BOCHES15
CHAPTER II
BY CATTLE-TRUCK TO MUNDEN32
CHAPTER III
THE DREARINESS OF CAMP LIFE47
CHAPTER IV
OUR REMOVAL TO BISCHOFSWERDA63
CHAPTER V
MY JOURNEY TO CLAUSTHAL78
CHAPTER VI
COURT-MARTIALLED AND INSULTED108
CHAPTER VII
IN HOSPITAL AT DRESDEN122
CHAPTER VIII
THE HELL-HOLE OF INGOLSTADT142
CHAPTER IX
A “BLOND BEAST” COMMANDANT161
CHAPTER X
BOUND FOR CREFELD171
CHAPTER XI
WE JUMP FROM THE TRAIN190
CHAPTER XII
ESCAPES BY NIGHT AND DAY213
CHAPTER XIII
WE HIDE IN A DRAIN234
CHAPTER XIV
MAKING FOR THE FRONTIER251
CHAPTER XV
ELUDING THE SENTRIES272
CHAPTER XVI
LIBERTY AND BLIGHTY!302

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CHAPTER I
CAPTURED BY THE BOCHES

A rough sketch of the circumstances which led up to my being taken aprisoner of war are more or less indispensable. We were called up at amoment’s notice from another part of the line, where our division was inreserve, to a position in front of a line of our trenches lost to theenemy a few hours previously in their attempted advance on Calais. Thesetrenches had been held by Indian regiments, and small blame to them forlosing them. Judging from what we saw, they must have had a pretty roughtime.

It was in retaking these three lines of trenches that I became aprisoner. I think the position was known as La Bassée Canal position.Our brigade formed up{16} in the dusk about 4.30 p.m. opposite the trencheswe were about to attack. Here we were under desultory shell fire, butcasualties from this were very few. As far as we could make out and frominformation received, we were within about eighty yards of the Boches.Whilst we were waiting the order to advance, the rain, which had begunto fall, developed into a downpour, accompanied by terrific bursts ofthunder. Before the storm abated the expected order arrived. ImmediatelyI rushed up to inform my company commander, but what with the darkness,the crashing thunder, and the roar of both our own artillery and that ofthe Boche, accompanied by the villainous tat-tat of the enemy machineguns, I failed to find him.

Recognising the immediate necessity for action, and the danger ofleaving the flank of the unit on our left exposed, I was compelled toact on my own initiative, being the only other officer in the company.{17}The difficulties of commanding a full company in action, without anyother officers in the company, are great; but when that action takesplace in the dark, over unknown ground, it becomes mere luck if thingsgo well.

When we had taken the first line of trenches with the bayonet andconsolidated the position, not hearing from the scouts sent out toreconnoitre, I went over to have a look at the Boches’ second line. Onmy way back I was hit with a bullet in the ankle joint, which feltexactly like a blow from a hammer. Strange to say, I felt no pain, andfound I could manage to get along by using the foot as a sort of stump.The sensation was very similar to what is experienced when one’s footgoes to sleep. Shortly after this my orderly informed me that thecompany on my right was preparing to advance, and immediately a cheerinformed me that they had done so, and we swept onward again.{18}

How I was able to lead the men I do not know, but somehow my ankleseemed to do the work all right. It was about a hundred yards to theBoche line, and rather too far to attack in one rush. Consequently wegot down to establish superiority of fire, when to my alarm I found wewere being fired at in flank. A reconnaissance discovered this to be ahalf-company of men without an officer, belonging to another regiment onmy left. Immediately I organised them as my supports, and shortlyafterwards took the second Boche line by assault. I use the term“assault” for want of a better, since the Boches had vacated theirtrenches, leaving only the wounded. We hardly had a minute’sbreathing-space in this trench when information again came from theright that our men there were advancing, and so on again. Here, however,the Boche really fought it out; but our men, having been properly workedup, would stop at nothing. We gave a good{19} account of ourselves in thislast trench, but the men were over and on again; fortunately a deepditch checked their further advance, and we stopped again toconsolidate.

About eight o’clock in the evening the officer in charge of ourheadquarters company came up to the front line and did most excellentwork, helping to send back a good many of the men, since we were toocrowded. Here it was that, after the excitement was over, I knew allabout my wound, which was paining me exceedingly. However, there was toomuch to be done for me to lie up with it. All night long we waited for acounter-attack, but nothing happened except desultory shelling andsniping. Towards four o’clock the next morning the enemy’s artillerybegan to get busy, and when the dawn broke we discovered that the enemyhad snapped up to us during the night to within easy grenade-throwingdistance. Their artillery grew more and more intense. I noted{20} a few15-inch shells, one of which scored a direct hit, but did not explode.We made two or three raids on the sap-heads, but our success was only ofa temporary nature.

Towards 8 a.m. the officer commanding the front line paid me a visit,and informed me that he found it impossible to deal with the bombs,having nothing to reply with, and also that the ammunition was runningshort. He thought the position would very shortly become untenable, inwhich case he would retire, and if he thought fit would send me ordersto do likewise. I never got those orders; and although I had taken everypossible precaution to keep in touch with the units on my right andleft, the company of my own battalion on my right managed to carry outtheir retirement before I was aware of it. Owing to the formation of theground, it was impossible for us to see anything that was going on onour flanks; we were therefore entirely dependent on our scouts for allinformation.{21}

About 9.30 a.m. the unit on my left unexpectedly retired, withoutsending me any explanation as to their reasons.

Then suddenly there was the devil’s own artillery fire, and a big shelllanded close to me, and I felt a concussion in my right side, as if hitwith a battering-ram. I felt myself lifted, and the next moment wasgasping for breath under a heap of debris. My lungs were almost burstingwhen I was pulled out by some of my men. For a few minutes everythingwas blank, and then the first thing I knew was that the Boches were inour trench, both right and left. Immediately I tried to get the men outand retire, only to discover that the Boches had retaken the second lineof trenches behind us, which had hitherto acted as our support trenches.We had no communication trenches between the first and second lines,owing to the fact that we had no tools with which to construct them.Thus we had the enemy on four sides of us. The only thing to do was tomake{22} them pay heavily for it. Every moment I expected to hear a Britishcheer, telling us that our reserves were again attacking, but, alas!none came.

I am not certain what time the Boches surrounded us—I think about 10.30a.m. Our strength was then roughly about two hundred men; but we heldthe trench for five and a half hours, after which there were not thirtyof us left. Then suddenly the Boches showered us with bombs. The resultwas final. Personally, I lay at the bottom of the trench, quiteincapable of doing or understanding anything.

It never dawned on me that I might actually be taken prisoner alive, forI had accepted it as a certainty that I should be finished where I lay.Unconsciously I wondered what it would be like to have one’s brainsbashed out with the butt end of a rifle. Would it be very painful?Anyhow, it would be quicker. And then I remember some one jerking{23} me tomy feet, where I remained propped up against the side of the trench,whilst the hands of some Hun with the most stinking breath searched mypockets and ripped off my buttons. I don’t remember what he looked like,only the revolting odour of his breath. Gradually I began to recover mynormal senses, enough to look about me, and found that three of my menhad been gathered up, all of whom looked pretty well done for, and thencame a brutal order to move off (Auf stehen), of which none of us tookthe slightest notice, until the order was enforced with the aid of thebayonet; and then we were driven with bayonets into the enemy’scommunication trenches, which were at that time up to the waist in mud.

In crossing over No Man’s Land, as it were, I was horrified to seeGermans finishing off our wounded with their bayonets. As we werehurried on through the

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