First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The first incident I should like to tell you about is as we were being marched away, wounded prisoners, about 12 of us. I happened to be the last one in the crowd, walking along the road, when a German soldier came rushing out of a cottage, and got hold of me & pushed me inside this cottage. He started shouting something at me in German but of course I could not understand him, in fact I got ‘the wind up’. I thought maybe I was going to be shot. I was crippled in both arms & therefore could not defend myself in any way. He took me into a bedroom. What were there but two English soldiers, very badly wounded, & he wanted me to cheer them up. It struck me that it was a humane act on his part as I had heard so much about the Germans being cruel and wicked.

The first night we spent out in the open, without shelter, having had no food or drink all that day. Next morning we went round to the German cookhouse to see if we could get something warm to drink. The German cook made us understand that if we could find something to hold it he would give us some coffee, so we went hunting round the field and found some old corned beef tins which had been out in the rain for weeks. By Jove we enjoyed that coffee (or apology for coffee).

Shortly afterwards we were marched on towards Lille. We came to a French village & the women took us into a house & gave us a good French feed of brown bread and coffee. After that hundreds of us were put in a hospital train. We were in that train for four days and four nights. We then went right along the Rhine for three days. Beautiful country, but of course we didn’t enjoy it. Would rather go there for a holiday.

We landed at last in Bavaria, somewhere near Munich, (they call it Munchen) in a hospital right in the country. I shall never forget the nice, clean look of the cots, as I had not been in a proper bed for nearly 12 months then. They took all our clothes from us and gave us some kind of cotton pyjamas, which we wore both day and night. You can imagine how we used to shiver with cold, for it was about April then.

They treated us all right, did the best they could for us with what they had.

At 8 o’clock each morning we would get a bowl of coffee and a small piece of black, sour bread. We had sour crout(sic) (green cabbage pickled) and a few potatoes for dinner at about 12 o’clock. The boys used to carry the sour crout from the cookhouse to the hospital. We sometimes had for dinner fried potatoes and jam mixed. For tea we often had a couple of potatoes in their jackets and that finished the day.

All the allies were represented in this hospital, Italians, Russians, Serbians, Rumanians, Belgians etc. There was one old Italian who had been to America for a couple of years & we asked him if he could understand English.
He said he could speak “a little bit of Americano”. This fellow used to help in the cookhouse and we would ask him what was for dinner & tea. One day we asked him “What’s for dinner Italiano?” & he tried to make us understand.
Somebody suggested a cabbage. He said, “No, the foot of the cabbage”

An English Sergeant often came from the camp to see us & he brought packets of tea or cocoa and a few biscuits for us.

There was a large German Aerodrome close to the hospitals and the Germans used to practice flying & very often accidents happened and they would bring the wounded men to the hospital. Some of these men died, and then, of course, there was a funeral. We always looked forward to that day as a band always played. The first time they played each time was something like this (German National Anthem). They would then play the Dead March like so :-------

I was for six months in this hospital, when we were sent to the camp. The first day I landed in the camp I was put under arrest and had to do three days in a dark cell. I did not know what I had done.....................

Subject Griffiths, Richard
Title Private Richard Griffiths: Memories of being a Prisoner of War (transcript) (5)
Item Date 1914 - 1918
Creation place Unknown
Copyright The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor
Digital repository The Great War Archive, University of Oxford
Reference URL