The Rushden Argus, 10th January 1919, transcribed by Kay Collins
In Enemy’s Hands Experiences of Rushden Cricketer Twins
Germans Shoot Prisoner
All Rushden was relieved to learn some time ago that Lieuts. W. H. and J. S. Denton were safe, although in captivity, and when they returned home and people learned through the “Evening Telegraph” that they were sound all were delighted, for all look upon the fine sportsmen as being “in the family.”
The Argus Newspaper
Our representative called on the returned captives at “Eastfields” and found them very much the same as before the war had proved their mettle in the greatest of all hazardswar. They were just the same retiring gentlemen, though some of their shyness has been rubbed away by the rude experience of the fortunes of war. To use their words, they “have not much use for Pressmen,” but there is nothing personal in the dislike. Lieut. W. H. Denton kindly lent is his diary and showed us his relics, such as terrible specimens of tobacco at 7s. for less than an ounce, and a substance called tea and coffee, with the prefix “German.”
March to Captivity
The Twins were taken in a surprise attack, and had to march seven days with a very large number of British and French prisoners through conquered French territory. The poor folk used to bring them water and any little comfort they could, and ask, “Is the war over?” for they thought they were the advance guards of the Allies. But the worst thing of that terrible marching was not the footsore tramp, but the vermin on the filthy straw they had to try to sleep upon. They were dog tired, but could not rest for the irritation.
The food was very bad indeed, and once they marched 40 kilos with only a cup of coffee. The remainder of the journey to Stralsund, in the Baltic region, was made by rail. They were on a little island, and were well treated except for food. They lived chiefly on bad potatoes and vegetable soup, which was really dirty and gritty water. They got so weak on this diet that often when they paraded for their money six or seven would drop down to the ground with weakness. It was impossible to do anything except parade in the morning and then lie on the bed all day, for many were too weak to take a small walk. When the parcels began to arrive things were different, and they did not use any German “food,” but were still charged 2s. a day. They had educational classes from 9am to 5pm, and there was a damaged football, hockey, and a good orchestra. They used to fish a lot, but the lines were made of paper and did not last very long. Everything seemed made of paper, but was exceedingly dear all the same. For two months they had nothing solid but bad potatoes, and then they got better potatoes, on high days, such as Sunday, German beefsteak, which was a rissole with very little meat in it. They were also given once a week tiny flounders, but there was hardly anything edible on the fish. The Germans took everything made of rubber from them, including trench coats, but they did not replace them as they said they would.
The weather was cold but dry, and when he had worn out his clothes Lieut. W. Denton wore his football clothes for two months until a British warm suit arrived from England. He had only two parcels of tobacco, although many were sent out by Lieut. Don Denton. They knew that the Germans could not last out the winter, and were only afraid they would get good terms owing to their military situation. Some of the fellows who marched through Berlin said the place was at a standstill, the shops being closed. When the armistice was signed they were allowed to leave the camp, but there was some rough rejoicing in the camp, and a small statue of Bismarck was painted red and placed at the commandant’s office.
For this the guards were again placed rounds the camp,. And two officers were shot, one , and Australian, being killed. There will be an inquiry into the matter, of course.
What made the prisoners annoyed was the shortage of vegetables supplied, yet the Germans would send in large quantities for sale at exorbitant prices, 3s. 6d and 5s. 6d. being charged for a cauliflower and a small onion 3d. and 4d. each. The German children were in a wretched condition, and before they left they sent three wagon loads of food to be distributed among the childrenwhich was very British. The camp was very healthy, and no sickness occurred, although the influenza raged through Germany and in the town near.
Lieut. Denton mentioned one soldier, who had been captured in 1914, who died when he got to England. He was very weak, and was so anxious to get home that he refused to go into hospital in Sweden.
Lieut. Denton’s diary discloses the fact that on June 5th he had his clothes off for the first time in 21 days. He paid 10 marks for two bars of chocolate. On Sunday, June 9th, he writes: “Woke up at 12.30pm by baying of hounds and blowing of whistles. Evidently someone attempted to escape. An officer got out a week ago, but was shot just outside the wire. Another got within two days’ walk of Switzerland, but was caught.” Repeated entries show that the beds were vermin-ridden.
Here are a few quotations taken from her and there:- “Rumour, jam for tea!””Found a piece of meat in my soup!” “Great excitement! Issue of sardines.” “Beds with sheets.” “Rumours that bread has arrived from home. Suppressed excitement.” “First parcels July 24th. Great excitement. Red-letter day.” “July 28th. Our first piece of meat.” “Caught 53 small fish, bleak mostly.” “August 15th. First privately addressed parcel arrived.” “August 29th. First news from homea p.c. Great excitement.” “Oct. 6th. Strong peace rumour. Demonstrations at roll call.” “Oct. 29th. Austrian peace offer and surrender of Turks.” “Nov. 4th. News of Austria’s surrender.” “Nov 6th. Rumour of armistice signed.” “Nov 9th. Rumour that Kaiser had abdicated. Disturbance apparent at Statsund.” “Nov. 10th. Rumoured capture of entire German Fleet. Soldiers’ and Sailors; Union take over control at Statsund.” Nov. 11th. S. and S. Union take charge of camp. Former corporal takes Commandant’s place, and officers deposed.” “Nov. 13th. Letters not censored.” “Nov. 18th. Barbed wire restrictions removed.” “Dec. 5th. Some ‘giddy goats’ set fire to the gym., pulled down a statue of the Kaiser, and threw some sentry boxes into the water, as a protest against being kept so long. Sentries in evidence again. Great upset in camp. Two officers were walking outside the wire about 8.20pm, and were shot, one being killed.” Dec. 13th. Hundreds of wild duck flying about.” “Dec. 14th. Entrained to leave Germany.” “Dec. 17th. Went to the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen. King, Queen, and Crown Price of Denmark present.”