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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 298 pages of information about Sixteen Months in Four German Prisons.

PRISON FOUR—­RUHLEBEN

CHAPTER XVIII

THE CAMP OF ABANDONED HOPE

It was 4.30 in the morning of November 12 when the blare of the bugle echoed through the long, dreary passages of Klingelputz Prison.  To the British prisoners—­in fact to all the aliens—­that crash was of fearful import.

We were commanded to parade at 5 a.m. in one of the long upper corridors flanked on either side by cells.  We were formed in a double line, and as our names were called we had to step forward.  The roll-call was bawled out, not once, but half a dozen times to make positive it had been read correctly.  Then we were counted, also some half-a-dozen times, to assure the totals tallying.

These preliminaries completed, preparations for our transference to Ruhleben were hurried forward.  We packed up our belongings, together with all the food upon which we could place our hands, and re-lined up.  Under a strong guard we were marched to Cologne station.  On the way, several of us, anxious to communicate with our friends and relatives, notifying them of our new address, dropped post-cards into the roadway.  The idea was to attract the attention of the guards to them, and then by bribe to induce them to place them in the post.  But the officers were too eagle-eyed.  They evidently anticipated such a ruse and accordingly kept the soldiers under severe surveillance.  One soldier who picked up a post-card, which I had dropped in this manner, was caught in the act and received a terrifying rating on the spot.  Thus we who dropped the cards had to rely upon the tender mercies and good-natured feeling of whoever chanced to pick them up to slip them into the post, but I fear very few were dispatched.

We were huddled into the train at Cologne, but it was not until 8.30 that we steamed out of the station.  We travelled continuously throughout the day until we reached Hannover at 9 in the evening.  During the journey, those who had exercised the forethought to bring food with them had every reason to congratulate themselves, because this was all upon which we had to subsist during the twelve and a half hours’ travelling.  The authorities did not furnish us with so much as a crust of bread or a spoonful of water.  Moreover, if we chanced to pull up at a station where refreshments of any kind might have been procurable, we were not allowed to satisfy our cravings.  At one stop, owing to one of our comrades falling ill, we asked the Red Cross for a drop of water.  We paid a mark—­one shilling—­for it, but after taking the money they merely jeered, spat at us, and refused to respond to our request.

At Hannover we were permitted to buy what we could, but I may say that it was very little because the buffet attempted to rob us unmercifully.  A tiny sandwich cost fourpence, while a small basin of thin and unappetising soup, evidently prepared in anticipation of our arrival, was just as expensive.  Still the fact remains that throughout the whole railway journey the German authorities never supplied us with a mouthful of food.

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