Camp Reports – Westphalian working camps

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

Reports of visits by Mr. Dresel to Westphalian working camps.

On April 11, 1916, a small agricultural camp at Drenstrinfurt near Münster was visited. Previous announcement, as in case of the two next camps, was necessary, in order to obtain a guide and conveyance, but in each case the prisoners were spoken with privately. 30 men in all, of whom 14 were British, were found to be quartered in a small brick building in the centre of the town. Which were formerly a restaurant, and is under the charge of a catholic fraternity. All sleep in a high-studded room, about 27 foot by 14, with high windows at each end. The accommodations did not seem insufficient, but it was suggested that two large doors at one side of the room might be permanently opened, which was agreed to. The men sleep in two tiers of wooden frames containing straw mattresses end three blankets, and, when they are in camp, eat in a separate dining hall, there is a wash room in the basement with a bath tub, at which a weekly bath may be obtained, a primitive but unobjectionable latrine, and a little canteen in the kitchen. There is no exercise ground, but this the men do not seem to want, as they are out all day and often moved about.

No man were seen in the camp itself, but the majority of the British were found outside, either at the farms where they work, or on the street. A number of these expressed themselves as entirely satisfied with the general treatment and food.

There was some complaint of the hours (at present 6.30 a.m to 6pm., with the usual Intermissions for meals) being too long, but for farm work these hardly seem unreasonable, and by the regulations the employer is authorised to keep the prisoners

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At work so long as he and his free workmen labour.

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There is the usual ten-hour day for work outside of intervals for meals, and the men do not work from Saturday afternoon at 5 till Monday morning. The pay is by the job, 25 pfennig for the work of two men unloading a car. The average amount earned is 75 pfennigs a day. A good deal of complaint of the severity if the work and unsatisfactory treatment by guards and civilians was made but there was no unanimity of opinion as to this, and in the second camp described below, where conditions of labour are the same no difficulties of this kind wore raised. An especial case where an unjustifiable punishment was claimed to have been inflicted, use investigated by me with some care, but it appeared that the penalty inflicted was not without reason, as there was evidence of insubordination. A decided need in this camp and to a less degree in the next is an interpreter, who might do much to Improve relations between the prisoners end the employers and military, and it was promised to endeavour to procure one at once.

At the time of the visit it was raining moderately and the British. though not the French and Russians, had quit work without permission, and were gathered in a little cabin near the railroad where they were spoken with, this, it may be said, was too small and arrangements to provide a better shelter next winter were promised. There had previously been trouble about working in bad weather, which the British claimed was unreasonably insisted on in winter but there had been no punishments for quitting work on this account. The decision as to the necessity of stopping is nominally in the hands of the military authorities but it had been apparently left to the prisoners.

The second camp under the same management, containing 21 British is at some distance from the first and consists of a somewhat larger house, a feature being a large basement room with a dirt floor, containing at one end shower baths and

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Washing arrangements with hot water. Tis is to be used in bad winter weather for exercise and recreation. There is a long narrow yard outside not sufficient for football, but the men state that they do not care for exercise. The sleeping quarters are sufficient, though not so good as those at the last camp, and consist of seven rows with seven wooden bed frame in each, and two similar rows above, 63 in all, in a room of good size containing all prisoners. The ventilation is sufficient.  There Is a small canteen, not very adequately stocked, and a clean and fair sized kitchen, with woman cooks. One of the latrines, in the large basement room mentioned, was objectionable, and improvements will be made at once. A latrine in the yard, little used at present, was satisfactory, though of primitive construction, except that it was open on top. It was promised to put a roof on this before the winter.

Relations both the military and with the employers at this camp appear very good. This is largely due to the efficiency of the British corporal in charge, (Wiring, Lincolnshire Regiment), who has the men well in hand, and is highly spoken of by the authorities, the men are in good health and do not complain of the work, but the food is considered insufficient in quantity, this complaint has been taken up with the Department at Münster, and an immediate investigation ordered. Coffee is served three times a day, but is said to be of poor quality.

some of the men are in need of leather shoes, and the corporal was asked to draw up a list giving sizes, which will to forwarded later.

A small working at REMSCHED was visited on April 12, following a telephonic notification. Here 18 British (none of ether nationalities) were found working under a contractor, and Quartered in a small wooden building, adjoining

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A hospital which was being torn down for the erection of municipal buildings. The men, all of whom are young and vigorous, presented a fine appearance, said their health and spirits were excellent. They were housed in an adequate and well aired room fitted with good beds containing straw mattresses, all on one level. The work, of which there was no complaint, has consisted entirely in digging ground for foundations, and there is at present a 9-hour day, probably to be increased to 10 later. The pay is 10 pfennigs per hour. There is a little canteen, at which the men buy principally lemonade and cigarettes Baths are taken once a week at some little distance from the Camp, there are sufficient washing facilities. The latrine is satisfactory.

The food, which is all eaten, was found to be well prepared and there was a larger allowance of meat than usual. Though there were some complaints of insufficient quantity, it may with confidence be said that judging from the appearance of the men, they are by so means underfed.

In consequence of an attempted escape, the privilege of cooking their own food had temporarily been taken from the men, but this, it was said, would be restored at once. In answer to a suggestion, the court yard, which is small, will be extended, and the men will shortly be taken on walks, if their behaviour gives no cause for complaint. The chief matter to which the mem objected, was the alleged bad condition in which their parcels arrived, some, as was claimed, having been opened and part of the contents taken out. This, as well as some minor matters connected with the arrival of parcels, will be investigated without delay.


At CREFELD-LINN a brick factory was visited on the same day. (April 12) , at which 20 British out of a total of 59 prisoners a were found at work. The labour, which consists of making

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Bricks wheeling clay and bricks etc., begins at 7 and lasts til 6.30 with one hour out for dinner, and forty minute in all for coffee. Which served before starting for work, is provided at 8.30 and 3.30. The daily task is at least 900 bricks; if a less amount is handled the pay which is amount one mark per day is reduced, but the men stated that there no difficulty about completing the required number.

The prisoners all sleep in large room, which is sufficiently aired and lighted. The bedsteads are Iron, arranged in two tiers, and fitted with mattresses containing straw and paper. Baths have been taken once a fortnight, but at my request they will be allowed every week in future. The wash arrangements are good and the latrine, though primitive, unobjectionable and well placed.

There were the usual complaints as to the food, and he men according to their statements, depend almost exclusively on their packages.

Some weeks ago the men refused to accept the camp paper money which is now Issued in pay for their labour, and were punished for so doing, but they now receive It. As in many oi the main camps, this money is exclusively issued to the prisoners and used by them for purchases at the canteen, or, if desired, is placed on deposit for them. The canteen is, however, quite inadequate, and measures for its Improvement have been taken up with the authorities. The men ore allowed to order what they please from town, but this privilege is not often exercised. In one case of an over-charge for a pipe bought in this way, a complaint was made which was sustained by the Department at Münster, the payment adjusted, and the person is Charge of the canteen reprimanded.

There is an excellent field for games, and the men have bought a football.

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There Is no interpreter at this camp, which has undoubtedly been a partial cause of friction in the past. At present, however, with a new commander in charge who is well liked by the men, the relations are excellent. The employers stated that the British were industrious and willing workers.

Two corporals ware found at this camp, whose names, at their request, were transmitted for their release from work.

(signed) Ellis Loring Dresel

April 13. 1916.

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