Camp Reports – Alten-Grabow

Transcript from copy held at US National Archives.

Source Document: US National Archives Washington (NARA) ; RG 84 Records of Foreign Service Posts ; Diplomatic Posts – Great Britain – Volume 0763

Visit of Dr. D.J. McCarthy and Mr. Lithgow Osbourne the camp for prisoners of war at Alten-Grabow

The camp at Alten-Grabow was visited and inspected on Thursday April 20th, 1916. This camp was one of the earliest camps established for the care of prisoners of war, and at one time as many as 21,000 men were confined here; at the present time there are 4.400 prisoners of war, mostly Russian and French. At the time of our visit there were 161 British confined there.

Location: The camp occupies the site of a “Truppen-Uebungs-Platz”. It is situated on the north slope of a hill, on a sand soil, with pine woods scattered here and there about it.

Plan of camp: Formerly there were 96 “barracks used for prisoners of war; at the present time there are only 48 devoted to this purpose. These “barracks are arranged regularly in quadrilateral groups of 4, each group separated from the other by wire fences, and. the entire composite quadrilateral enclosed by a double barbed wire barrier. Extending back of this square area to the South, and extending to the top of the hill, a triangular area is enclosed by barbed wire to include to the West (a) the latrines, end (b) beyond this a football and exercise field; and to the last (a) a diet kitchen for the hospital, (b) the hospital buildings, (e) the disinfection end bathing establishment. Outside of this enclosure to the West are situated the quarters for the guard, and on the last the hospital for infectious diseases.

Barracks; The barracks are of the simple gable type, approximately 200 feet long by 50 feet wide and 15 feet high on the wall side. They are of wood construction, with wood flooring, ample window space, good light and have possibilities for good ventilation. At the time of our visit the windows were for the most part closed, but the doors at either end of

[Next Page]


the barracks were open, thus securing a free circulation of air. No complaints were made as to the ventilation, or hosting of the barracks. Each barrack was built to house 250 men. At the present time there are not more them 200 men in any of the barracks.

Beds and Bedding: The beds were of a new cot type, made of wood in 2 sections hinged together in the middle in such a way that they could be folded back during the day, thus providing more open room in the barracks. The bedding consisted of the I usual straw mattresses, and blankets of sufficient quality. The bedding was aired daily in the open. The beds were clean and comfortable.

On the whole the general arrangement; of the barracks is good, without overcrowding, bat without that detailed attention to cleanliness of floors, etc. noted in some of the other camps. This may possibly be explained by the fact that rainy weather at the time of our visit made this detail more obvious than it  would otherwise be.

Food; the food supplied to the prisoners was the usual prisoner of war fare. We inspected the menu for the day, and found that it conformed to regulations. An opportunity to inspect the food was not afforded, as, at the time of our visit,

Clothing: All the British had sufficient clothing. under-clothing and good shoes.

Sanitary Arrangements: The latrines were of the trench type distance from the barracks and cared for in such a way not to be objectionable.

Bathing: The bath department consisted of a well-lighted and ventilated room in the same building as, but separated the disinfection plant and was supplied with twenty shower baths. All the man were compelled to bathe once a week, and may bathe oftener.

[Next Page]

– 3

Recreation: The men were permitted the use of the exercise field for football, etc.. in the afternoons; there is no compulsory exercise or drilling. The usual work about the camp is required. A theatre exists in the camp where performances are I given. While the British attend these performances, they have I taken no entire part in the theatricals due to the small number of them hitherto in the camp.

Of the 161 British at this camp, 61, only, hare been confined here for any length of time. Within the last two weeks 100 men pays been transferred here from Wittenberg and from a working camp at Gross Wüsterwitz. The ranking N.C.O. in charge is Quarter-Master Sergeant R.P. Brown of the Royal Engineers. He reported that on the whole the men under him were in good condition, were well treated and the only complaints were in reference to the mail, and disciplining of the men. The British are now housed together, but are found in groups in the different barracks. All of the prisoners were seen, They stated, upon being questioned, that they were satisfied with the present arrangements, and did not desire to be grouped together in one Barrack. Some of the men complained that their letters were not received, and that they had not received letters for one, two or three months, but that their packages came regularly. Most of the men had, however, received their letters regularly and had no complaints to make in this regard. This matter was taken up with the camp authorities. They stated that all the mall received at the camp was delivered, and that, if any letters were held up, this must have occurred elsewhere, but that they would investigate the matter. The men have a representative in the Post Office.

General Health: The men all appeared to be in good health and nutrition with the exception of the following:

1) Arthur Munro, Canadian Infantry, in the hospital for infectious diseases, suffering from pulmonary disease.

[Next Page]


Listed for examination and removal to Switzerland.

2) Geo. McKay, Durham Light Infantry, listed for exchange to England.

3)   Peter Crampton, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, listed for examination and for removal to Switzerland.

4)   Bata Singh, 9th. Sikh Regiment, in the hospital with gastro-intestinal trouble.

The hospital buildings, two in number with a bed capacity of 25 each, are clean, well-lighted and heated, the patients are sell cared for.

The three barracks, outside of the enclosure, are likewise well-ordered, deem, well-vent listed and heated. There was only one patient in this division, the lung Case above I referred to.

Berlin, April 26, 1916.

J D McCarthy

This entry was posted in Camp Reports, US National Archives and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.