Camp Reports – Langensalza

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 an Inspection of the Camp at Langensalza by Dr. A.E .Taylor and Dr D.J. McCarthy on Friday, May 19,1916.

We arrived at this ©amp, unannounced, at 10 a.m.

We were received by the Commandant who assigned one of his staff to conduct us through the camp.

The general plan of the camp: this camp is situated a short distance outside of the town of Langensalza. The camp is built on a level area, surrounded by a rolling hill country, with forests of pine scattered here and there, and with a fine view from the camp. There are some sulphur springs in the neighbourhood, and the town is evidently a summer and health resort. The district in which the camp is situated has the advantage of a healthful location.

The camp is divided into two general divisions at the present time, the camp proper to the south and the division for the “Unwillige”, or those who are unwilling to work, to the north. Both divisions were in the same enclosure – surrounded by a barbed wire barrier, and divided into sections by wire fencing.

The north division, referred to as the department of the “Unwillige”, is composed of tent barracks, in two divisions, an east and a west division. In the east division where the British “Unwillige” are housed, there is a group of a triple-gable barrack, a double gable and a single gable barrack.

The triple-gable barrack is, as far as the walls are concerned, a wood enclosure about 180 x 90 feet; the roof is of canvas, and arranged as three tents, i.e. three gables

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running the length of the building. The height of the walls is approximately 12 foot. the ridge pole of the tent top 16 foot. There are 15 windows on either sides, with doors at the end. This arrangement gives practically 3 barracks, the outside her racks getting a fair amount of light, the central barrack division on account of the low roof getting very little light; as a matter of fact the bunks in this area were quite dark even approaching midday.

Inasmuch as the British were lodged in the middle division, we consider this a poor arrangement. The ventilation of this central barrack is difficult to arrange, and on the day of our visit, this part of the building was decidedly stuffy.

There were confined in this building 575 prisoners of war, Russian and British and French, of whom 61 are British, of the 61 British 3 were Sergeants, 27 Corporals and 30 Privates.

The beds were of the bunk type, arranged transversely across the tent division. The British were lodged in the central tent division and a few on the side division. The bunks were built in, of wood, the lower tier a short distance above the floor, the upper tier 4 feet above this. The bedding was of the straw-mattress type. The arrangement is faulty in the sense that the central barrack lacks both light and good ventilation.

The latrines for this division were of the iron receptacle semi-tubular type, open, and flushed into an underground drainage system. The surroundings, floors, etc. were poorly cared for and could. be cleaner than they were at the time of our inspection.

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The 61 men of this division were then lined up for inspection.

The ranking N.C.O. was Jos. H. Sherry, 1st West Kent Regt. Bo reported to us that the men had been recently transferred to this camp from other camps, Erfurt, etc. That shortly after arriving at this camp they had been asked to go out to work and all those who had not volunteered were transferred from the south division of the camp to the north division, and certain liberties withdrawn. They were not permitted to smoke, to play cards, they could not have hot water for tea, and were not permitted to attend or play games, football, etc., that they were locked up in this sense of the term for refusing to volunteer for work. He further stated that they had difficulty in getting drinking water at night. In the enclosure was a water tap, over which had previously hung a card warning against the use of the water as it was under suspicion of being typhoid. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. there was no other water available to the men, who if they felt thirsty during the nights were thus compelled to wait until morning or risk taking the suspected water. After an examination of the water, the sign had been removed, but that nevertheless the men were afraid to use the water, on account of the previous notice. The men were well clothed, but the shoes of some of the men were in poor condition.

The two other sergeants, Hughes, of the Loyal Berks, and Potter of the Durham I. Infantry, then complained of the fact that they should not be confined in “Strsfbarrakken” for refusing to work because there was no obligation

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on their part as N.C.O. to work unless they volunteered, that they had broken no rules of the camp and. could not understand why they should he to treated#

When requests or complaints were asked of the other men lined up, the following men stepped out of line and stated that they were ill or unfit for work on account of various complaints as follows;

Private Bach, Wound of foot

Private Potter, Leg 2 1/2 “ short

Private Riley – Asthma

Private Robinson – Bullet wound, operated on last summer

Corporal Hunt, Bullet wound, of chest

Private Clair. Recently recovered from Bronchitis

Private Wm. Shaw, recurrent haemorrhage from lungs

Corporal Heart, nephritis

Private E. Brown, open wound of leg

Private E. Pop, old injury of foot.

None of these cases were examined by us and the complaint is that stated by the men.

Corporal R Snowden, 13 Canadian Battalion stated that he had been roughly handled and kicked by a German under- officer. The man stated that he had been given an order to place up his blanket. That while he was proceeding to do as he had been told, he was kicked by the under officer. He stated that he had not refused to obey, that he had made no disrespectful reply and that his obedience to the order was not dilatory.

Packages had arrived regularly, but they had had no letters for the last 8 weeks. They complained that the food was poor, and not fit to eat.

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The main division of the camp, the south division is composed of barracks, built of wood, of the usual single gable type, 70 x 100 feet floor space, side walls 10 feet gable apex 15 feet, with a small ventilating flue at the top of the barrack. There are 10 windows on either side of the barrack. The beds are of the built-in bunk type in double tiers.  The bedding is of the usual straw mattress type. There are 40 British in this division, all housed in one of the above described barracks. In this barrack there are 250 men.

The 40 British were lined up for inspection. They had good clothes and shoes.

The ranking N.C.O. was Sergeant Ch.T. Jackson, 1st Lancashire Regt.

Three other sergeants were in this division, Clyde, Kirk. W. Yorkshire Regt, and Watts, Royal Scotts, Greys; of the 40 men, 19 stated that they had been wounded, and two had wounds that were not as yet entirely healed.

This group had no complaints to make. They requested that some place be furnished them for cooking and heating the food received from home in their packages.

The packages arrived regularly, but there was the same delay in letters, as referred to in the north division.

Bathing facilities were furnished in a combined bath and disinfection building. There were 24 showers, two baths per week were permitted.

The rations of the camp are not provided by the military authorities directly, the kitchens being still operated through contract by a caterer. While we were in the wooden

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barrack in which the on a group of British prisoners were housed, the food for the noonday meal was brought in. Following our interview with the men as detailed above.

We inspected the food that had been brought in. It had been transferred from the kitchen in an uncovered container and from its appearances gave very little indication of its contents. On© of us (A.E.T.) tasted the food, which was composed largely of Sauerkraut and potatoes with a small amount of dried fish. The dish presented the appearance of a soft potato mush. It had not only the sour taste of the Sauerkraut but had in addition an acrid and disagreeable flavor. Here and there were small portions of hard fish which when tasted by themselves also presented a disagreeable taste. It was not possible to decide by taste whether the disagreeable quality was due to decomposition of the Sauerkraut or the fish, to some feature in the original conservation of these two articles, or to something that had occurred in the cooking.

Later we inspected the kitchen, which is a long structure containing 29 large kettles. The kitchen floor and the kettles were clean. We requested permission to taste the food and were advised that all the food had been sent to the barracks. Nevertheless, we requested that a search of the different kettles or of other dishes be made In order to obtain a small amount of the food for sampling, since we wished to compare it with that which was tasted in the British barrack, in order to determine whether the conditions found there were representative of the whole or might, possibly, have been an accidental result in the process of cooking in a particular kettle. We were told that

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absolutely all of the food had boon sent to the barracks. The diet of the camp, according to the statement of the contractor, follows in general the diet plan of the Ministry of War and a perusal of the diet plan for the week furnished us by him confirms this statement. According to this diet sheet, the diet for the weak contained on an average 88 grams of protein, 28 grams of fat, 500 grams of carbohydrate corresponding to 2716 calories and the cost to the camp per prisoner was stated to be 63.68 pfennigs per man per day. The present menu of the War Ministry furnishes 90 grams protein, 30 grams fat, and 551 grains carbohydrates, corresponding to 2916 calories, at a cost determined to be 85.7 pfennigs per day.

In the figure of the contractor, 63.68 pfennigs is, we infer, also included his profit in the transaction. The diet for/the day was: breakfast Coffee and bread; dinner: dish and fish roe, Sauerkraut, potatoes and onion; supper: tea and boiled potatoes, bread. The bread provided is not baked in camp but secured from the outside and is the K.K. war bread.

There is a kitchen book in which is entered each day the report of the inspection of the food by the physician of the day. For the food of the day of our visit there stood the entry “gut”.

The Hospital was inspected and found to be satisfactory.

In the hospital at the time of our visit there were 14 British, all of whom had been recently transferred to this camp, and were waiting exchange to England. One officer, Jas.A.Brewster, Lieutenant Royal Fusiliers, had

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Been transferred from a hospital of Göttingen, six weeks previously to the camp at Erfurt and two days before our visit, had been again transferred to this camp. He has an old healed fracture of the thigh, with a secondary partial paralysis of the leg. He had been assigned a room to himself in the hospital end stated that he was comfortably housed. The other men in the hospital were Private Fischer, Soyle, Nugent, Scott, Jeans, Mann, Cole, Bradshaw, Clayton, Rives, Seymour, Speller and Edwards.

Before/leaving the camp we again called on the Commandant and called his attention to the complaints of the men. He stated that the men in the North Division barracks were not punished for refusing to volunteer to work; that merely certain privileges permitted prisoners were withdrawn. We then called to his attention that, notwithstanding this, these barracks had been referred to repeatedly throughout our inspection, by the staff officer who accompanied us, as Straffbarracken”. We particularly called his attention to the case of the non-commissioned officers, and the men who stated that they on account of their wounds or illness were unfit for work.

The Commandant stated that he had only been in charge of this camp for a few days and was not as yet conversant with all the details; he promised to give the matter his serious attention.


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