Camp Reports – Halverde

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

Report of visit by Mr. Dresel to working camp at Halverde

This camp was visited on April 10, 1916. Previous notification of the visit was necessary, as the camp is situated in a remote part of Northern Westphalia difficult of access, and seven miles from any station, making it necessary to telephone to the commandant for a carriage.

The prison enclosure is a rectangle, with the entrance at one end, a single long barrack containing sleeping quarters, wash and bath rooms, a canteen, etc, on each long side, and a latrine at the further end, the space in the centre is sufficient for football and other games, and is dry and sandy.

The total number of prisoners on the day of the visit was 705, of whom 105 were British, and the remainder, with the exception of one Russian, French. 90 British are quartered in one long room, about 100 feet x 30 in size, taking up about one half of the barrack on one side, and 15 in a similar room on the same side. When in camp the men eat at tables in their barracks, The floor space is sufficient, and the ventilation good, but there was considerable complaint of the cold during the winter months, and the frost was stated to come through the roof, The men sleep in two tiers of hammocks with four blankets of moderate thickness, but the hammocks contain no straw sacks, as are generally provided. This was pointed out to the Münster Department, and it was stated that the omission was not justifiable, and would be rectified, also that measures would be taken in anticipation of next winter, to secure the roof against the weather.

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Arrangements for baths, weekly or oftener, are satisfactory, as are also the washing and cooking facilities.

The latrine, which is well constructed and free from odor, is raised some ten feet above the camp level. Underneath it and connected with the receptacles by pipes are three drays, which are emptied daily, for carrying off the refuse as manure for the fields. This system is considered the best where there is no water flushing.

The canteen was fairly well stocked, considering the remoteness of the camp. Tea, cocoa. and cake, chocolate are the principal articles bought by the British. Sugar was not for sale, but saccharine is soon to be furnished. White wine, and beer with 3% alcohol, was to be placed on sale immediately in limited quantities three times a week.

The work places are situated about one and a half miles from the camp. Including the time necessary to reach these, the hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with one hour and forty minute out for meals. Midday dinner, at which I was present, is served in a stone hut built for the purpose and containing benches sufficient to seat 400. On the day in question 275 prisoners were present, including 74 British.

In addition to the camp fare, the British bring up their own supplies, but I noticed that the camp soup, which in fact was quite palatable, was eaten with some relish, fresh meat is served twice a week, tinned meat once and fish once.

Neither the hours, of which the men complain, nor the nature of the work, which consists in digging up and turning over the heath for conversion into meadow land, seem unreasonable It was, however, stated that piece work would be tried as an experiment in order to get, if possible, better results, and to give the men opportunity for more recreation.

Eighty British had been detailed for transfer to another working camp the following morning. As is usually the

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case, no information had been given out, where they were to be sent, and there was considerable grumbling in consequence. The Kommandant stated to me that he had not yet received orders where they were to go.

Two corporals and five lance corporals were found in the camp or at work. Of these one corporal (Herrick, Queens Royal West Surrey, who only had civilian clothes) was charged with Supervision duty. The other corporal wished to stay with the men, as did one of the lance corporals. At the request of the four others application was made for their discharge from work.

There was some complaint of insufficient medical treatment, but on investigation this appeared scarcely justified. In any case of serious illness, the patients are at once transferred to the main camp at Münster in an automobile.

The physician in charge, with whom I conferred at some length, is an elderly man of experience, and I could find no evidence that he neglected his duties. Three British were found in the lazaret, which is rather primitive but not insufficient, suffering from heavy colds, and one was to be transferred to Münster the following day for treatment of a chronic trouble. The three with colds all stated that they were improving.

There had been a slight form of influenza in the camp in January, but no contagious diseases otherwise.

On the morning of the visit 20 British (19% of the whole) had reported sick, but only 5 were so found by the doctor. On the same occasion only 12 Frenchmen (2%) had reported to the physician, although, if anything, the British appear more robust. As the corporal in charge and some of the men freely admitted, many of the twenty were in perfectly fit shape for work. This attitude of the men, which has been noticed in some other camps, is unfortunate, as if there are constant cases of feigned illness, prejudice is aroused.

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and there may be danger that the trouble of some men, who is really ill, may be minimised. The corporal in charge was urged to use all possible efforts with the men to persuade them not to report sick without cause.

The Kommandant of the camp is active and progressive, and though the men consider him strict, there were no complaints of harsh treatment. He is preparing to install an open air canteen with a reserved space for tables and chairs, the men can sit and drink tea, coffee, etc., There will be facilities for making tea belonging to the men, or if they like, the men will be able to buy the beverages prepared.

(signed) Ellis Loring Dresel.

April 11, 1916

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