Camp reports – Festungsgefängnis at Cologne

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

Camp visits – Festungsgefängnis at Cologne

May 25, 1916.

Since my visit to the prison at Cologne on February 18th, the general conditions have not changed. Of the British prisoners who were there at that timely those whose sentences have expired have been sent back to regular prisoner of war camps. Private Cole is still in the hospital. The men say that the food has deteriorated and several said that they had lost weight, but all seemed in fair physical condition although one or two were noticeably thinner than when I last saw them. All admit that their treatment does not differ in any way from that of the prisoners of other nationalities, including German soldiers. No British prisoners were in the local “Revier Stube” (sick bay).

Of the men mentioned in the list furnished by the German Foreign Office, of which a copy was sent to London on January 31st, Corporals Bonnick, Jennings, Orton and Shelton, Privates Bramble, Dale, Farrell, Goodman, Hall, Sells, Todd and Whittaker and Gunner Watts are still in the prison, as are also the group of prisoners from Göttingen, the first two groups from Giessen (Langen-Halbaoh) Lance Corporal O’Connor and Private Richardson, all of whom were mentioned in my previous report.

Several other British prisoners of war have been brought to Cologne in the meantime, as follows

One group consisting of Sergeant Hamilton (2905), Northumberland Fusiliers, Corporals Wright (9767), Queen’s

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and Barton (10689) Kings Royal Rifles, an4 Privates Tanner (8592) and Wakefield (10068) (Queens, and Privates Garner (7603), Bedfordshire., and Collman (9646), South Wales Borderers, had come from Sprottau, These men had received a six months sentence for refusing to work in a sugar factory on the fourth Sunday after their detail. They had not boon called on to work on the three preceding Sundays,

Corporal Crookes (10066), First Cheshires, had been brought from Friedrichsfeld b/Wesel, for refusal to work.

Corporal Vant (9412) and Private Halton (3018), East Kents, had come from Casael, with a seven months’ sentence for refusal to work and disobedience of orders.

Corporal Lines (9569), Leicestershires, and Private Kemp (10470), East Kents from Götingen, had received a one year’s sentence for refusing to work at canal digging. Corporal Smith (7191), Norfolks, from Döberitz, had been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for making insulting remarks about the German Emperor.

Privates Davies (7993), Wiltshires, and Cooke (8790) South Staffords, had come from Ohrdruf, under sentence for refusing to work in the rain at a cement factory.

Private Ridgway (8364), South Staffords, had come from Altdamm under sentence for refusing to work in a sugar factory.

Privates Davies (34125), Welsh Regiment, and Geraghty (10380), Yorks, had been brought from Münster with two years’ sentences, the former for disobedience of orders and the latter for striking a German soldier – as he claims in self-defence.

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Private Deal (1217), East Surrey., had also come from Münster, with an eighteen months’ sentence after a “row” with a German non-commissioned officer.

The reasons for the sentences at given above, are those stated by the men themselves, and no effort was made to verify them by reference to the German authorities.

As mentioned above, the men are not (satisfied with the food which is furnished to them, but their only other complaint was that they were treated exactly as German soldiers would be when found guilty of similar offences.

An intimation that when their parcels contained articles which they are not permitted to receive, such articles were appropriated by the German guards, was investigated at once and proved, in my opinion, to be unfounded. On the contrary it appeared to me that there is a certain amount of latitude allowed with regard to what the prisoners are permitted to retain, and I was told that other articles were sent to British prisoners in the Cologne hospitals.

It was suggested that unobjectionable books and games (dominoes, etc., but not playing cards) might be sent to the prisoners for their use, I was told that the suggestion made on my previous visit, that the prisoners be allowed to have the white bread sent them from abroad instead of the brown bread provided by the German authorities, could not be carried out in practice, owing – in part at least – to the fact that the regular receipt of supplies from abroad could not be counted upon.

The former Commandant had left the prison a short time ago and the new one, who seemed to take much interest in his work, had been on duty for a few days only.

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At the time of my arrival all the prisoners in the “Gefängnis” were Being mustered in the drill ground. My presence in Cologne had “become ‘known loss than a quarter of an hour before my arrival and I was permitted to talk with the British prisoners freely, out of hearing of any German. In all there were fifteen British non-commissioned officers and forty-two lance Corporals and privates present, with practically each one of whom I spoke individually.

John B. Jackson.

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