Camp Reports – Gnadenfrei

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


We have the honor to submit herewith a report covering visit of inspection made by Dr. Karl Ohnesorg and Mr. Ellis Loring Dresel to the officers’ detention camp at Gnadenfrei , on May 25, 1916.

Previous Reports This camp was visited on August 20, 1915, and January 19, 1916, and reports describing these visits were transmitted on August 23,192-5’ and January 20, 1915, respectively.

Number of Prisoners: About 350 officers of all nationalities are detained here, including besides two British orderlies out of a total of sixty-five enlisted men five British officers. Since the last visit Major Charley and Capt. Sutherland have been transferred to the military hospital at Neisse for special treatment, but it is understood that they will after discharge be returned to Gnadenfrei. Lieut. J.R. Wilkinson, Lancaster fusiliers, died on May 20, 1916.

Description of Camp. The camp has been fully described in the previous reports, and no repetition seems necessary.

Barracks: The British officers occupy the same quarters as before, but as at the time of the present visit they were only five in number, there was no overcrowding.

Food: Arrangements as to food and quality and quantity continue approximately as before. Attention

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Attention would, it was stated, be given to a request which was transmitted to the Commandant that eggs should occasionally be furnished. The reliance is largely on packages from home which are received in sufficient quantities.

Exercise:              Walks under guard have been taken regularly for some time, so arranged that each officer takes part in at least two in one week. The

British often have opportunity to go out oftener, as officers of other nationalities do not always care to make use of their permits. The Commandant occasionally goes out alone with the officers of higher rank. The gymnasium in the court yard has been opened by the new Commandant who has been in charge for about a month, and is now used regularly for exercising and as a general gathering place. There is a good tennis court.

Complaints:   Objection was made by the officers to dally employment of the orderly detailed to attend them on miscellaneous work outside their quarters.

On reporting this difficulty, it was promised immediate adjustment.

General Observations: the new Commandant has been responsible for several improvements, and conditions are distinctly better than at the dates of the previous visits.

The circumstances attending the death of Lieut. Wilkinson were made the subject of detailed inquiry on our part, and a searching Investigation Involving the taking of testimony of British officers and others has been started by the Military Department at Breslau, with whom we had

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a conference. It appears certain, that this unfortunate officer, who had been, in the habit of going up to the roof of his barrack in order to take meteorological observations, committed suicide by climbing over a parapet and throwing himself down. Since the beginning of April. his mental condition had not been normal, and he suffered at times from melancholia. The funeral services, which took place on May 23, were conducted by the British Chaplain at Berlin, Rev.

H.M. Williams, and by the local Lutheran clergyman, and Lieut. Wilkinson was buried with full military honours in the local cemetery.

We have the honor to be, Sir,

Your obedient servants,

Ellis Loring Dresel

Karl Ohnesorg

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