A day or two after the departure of our colleagues there was a change in the command of the camp. The old General was superseded by a man whose name will never be forgotten by the British prisoners of Sennelager Camp. They will ever couple him with the infamous instigator of the “Black Hole of Calcutta.”
This was Major Bach. Upon his assumption of the command he inaugurated what can only be truthfully described as a Reign of Terror. Tall, of decided military bearing, he had the face of a ferret and was as repulsive. With his sardonic grin he recalled no one so vividly as the “Villain of the Vic!”
The morning after his arrival he paraded us all, and in a quiet suave voice which he could command at times stated:
“English prisoners! Arrangements are being made for your instant return to England. A day or two must pass before you can go, to enable the necessary papers to be completed and put in order. But you will not have to do any more work.”
We were dismissed and I can assure you that we were a merry, excited crowd. We jumped for joy at the thought that our imprisonment had come to an end. Like schoolboys we hastened to the barracks and feverishly set to work packing our bags, whistling and singing joyously meanwhile.
Suddenly the bugle rang out summoning us to parade again. We rushed out, all agog with excitement, and half hoping that our release would be immediate. The Adjutant confronted us and in a loud voice roared:
“English prisoners! You’ve been told that you are going back to England. That was a mistake. You will get to work at once!”
BADGERING THE BRITISH HEROES FROM MONS
It was about a fortnight after my arrival at Sennelager. Our rest had been rudely disturbed about the usual hour of 2 a.m. by the sentry who came clattering into the barrack roaring excitedly, “Dolmetscher! Dolmetscher!”
C—— who, after the departure of K——, had been elected Captain of our barrack and who was also the official interpreter, answered the summons. He was required to accompany the guards to the station. A further batch of British prisoners had arrived. By this time we had grown accustomed to this kind of nocturnal disturbance, so after C—— had passed out the rest of the barrack re-settled down to sleep.
I was astir just after four o’clock. It was my turn to serve as barrack-room orderly for the day, and I started in early to complete my task before 5.30 so as to secure the opportunity to shave and wash before parade.
I was outside the barrack when my attention was aroused by the sound of tramping feet. Looking down the road I was surprised to see a huge column of dust, and what appeared to be a never-ending crowd of soldiers, marching in column. It was such an unusual sight, we never having witnessed the arrival of more than a dozen prisoners at a time, that, especially the moment I descried the uniforms, my curiosity was aroused. Many of my comrades were astir and partly dressed when I gave a hail, so they hurried out to join me.