Debrief Statement of Prisoner of War – Andrew Grant

Name, Rank and Regiment – Captain Andrew Grant, 1/2 Highland Field Ambulance, but attached to the 1/3 Highland Field Ambulance. Roman Catholic Chaplain.

Place and Date of Capture – Cambrai, 22nd November 1917.

Nature of Wound – Not wounded.

I was taken prisoner with Captain Bruce when we were going forward to look after the wounded.  We intended to get to Fontaine Notre Dame.  It was about 9 o’clock in the morning, and we were going through the wood to Bourlon, when we were captured. We were well treated. The officer asked us what time the attack was timed for. We were taken into the village, but our own shells were coming over, and our own aeroplanes were coming over, so the officers cleared out into their dug-outs.  After a while we were put into a motor-lorry and taken to Sailly Lestres.  Here we were taken to Staff Headquarters, and found the staff being photographed.  Hey offered us cigars – no doubt with a view to eliciting information.  However, I do not smoke.  We were taken by a field officer in a car to Divisional Headquarters, which was a chateau. From there we went to see an intelligence officer, whose headquarters were in a farm.  While I was waiting to be interviewed by him they put me by the fire and treated me very well.  This officer wanted to know whether I was not attached to the 51st Division.  He asked me whether it was not the fact that the 51st Division was one of the best divisions.  He also wanted to know why the strong divisions were on the right and the weak were on the left.  He took my cheque book and examined it.  He also took my Sam Browne belt, my smoke helmet, and the leather compass case.  Anything with leather seemed to attract him.  He asked me how long I thought the war would last, and I told him probably three or four years, “as, we were only just beginning.”  He seemed genuinely upset at this, and said it was inhuman, and matters could not go on as long as that.  He seemed to take the view that the Americans would be too busy with the Japanese to render any assistance.  I tried to dissuade him from this view.  He was very pleasant, and referred to agreeable holidays he had passed in Devonshire.  He spoke good English.  I afterwards went to Marquion village.  Here I was given some goulash in the N.C.O.’s mess.  They also sent out for some beer.

Bouchain

From here I went to Bouchain.  In this village I found three private soldiers (Roman Catholics) who complained that they were made to work within 15 kilometres of the line instead of 30 kilometres. They understood this was by way of some reprisal for what, it was stated, we were doing with the German prisoners.  From here we were sent by train to Valenciennes.  The officer on the train was a youngster, but he was quite civil.  On the train we had more goulash and a bowl of water.  We went by train to Le Cateau.

Le Cateau

At Le Cateau we were put into the premises of a French veterinary surgeon.  The sanitary arrangements were extremely bad, but the officer seemed to take a delight in pointing out how insanitary the French veterinary surgeon had been, but made no effort to ameliorate the conditions.  I wrote my first postcard from here.

I was given skilly made out of some kind of bean meal.  We had about an inch of sausage.  The bread was bad, but we got some butter.  There was a canteen, however, where you could get bread and sausage for 5d.  The coffee was very bad (substitute). As we were getting into the train a French woman gave us some biscuits.  The officer made no attempt to prevent this.

We went from here to Hirson and Charlesville, where we had a decent meal in the middle day, and some wine, for which we paid.

At Metz we had a meal at the restaurant, and soup and meat with lots of bread, and we were encouraged to take the bread away with us in case we needed it.  There were some young recruits just joined up who were inclined to “barrack” us, and the N.C.O. In charge was unable to put a stop to this, and he fetched a superior officer, who promptly sent them away.

We went to Landau.  This time we spent the night in the train, and the guards gave up their blankets to us.

Karlsruhe, December 2 1917 – February 8, 1918.

We arrived at Karlsruhe, and the doctor and I were stationed in a hotel.  We were locked in our room, which was warmed.  We stayed there for three days, and were interviewed by an interpreter.  He wanted to know about our arrangements for field ambulances.  It was suggested (with what truth I do not know) that at this place there were microphones intended for the purpose of intercepting our private conversations.  I saw nothing of these, however.  On  the 5th December I went into the camp.  It was a very good camp.  We had hot baths.  The sanitation was good, and there was plenty of water, and there were some prisoners there with parcels, so that we were able to supplement the rations, which consisted of soup, a kind of skill, carrots, and sauerkraut, and meat twice a week.  The bread here was better than I had been having, and we obtained French biscuits.  A Benedictin Father who visited the camp told me that he thought the civilian rations were 2oo Grammes of bread and 250 Grammes of meat.  The officers behaved well.  There was a fat Lieutenant who had a mania for saluting, but I believe he was not a bad fellow.  I believe he used to have drinks with the private soldiers.  One of the officers was very pleasant, and went out of his way to tell me when I was going to Heidelberg en route for home.  There was no church at Karlsruhe.  I think this was because the camp was more or less a clearing station.  There were, however, Services held in a hut, and the Commandant, von Schwanbeck, put in a crucifix.  We also got bread from Copenhagen here.

Prince Max of Baden visited us and was very pleasant, and spoke of the pleasant days he had spent on the Clyde before the war.  One of the prisoners, a Captain in the R.N.R., died, and was given a funeral with military honours; 200 soldiers were present, and there was a band.  I should add that the cortège was photographed – probably for the neutral papers.  I think the camp was originally a recreation ground, but is now used as a reprisal camp on account of our aeroplanes.  I saw our airmen sailing over the camp.  I speak Italian, and saw a number of Italians.  They were in a most terrible condition – in tears, emaciation, and some of them had been for months on soup.  They are, however, far from being cowed by this treatment, but, on the other hand, are perfectly furious, and will not supplement their rations by purchasing at the canteen, as they do not wish to spend their money in Germany.  I afterwards left for Heidelberg by myself but with one guard.  He was an old man, and had been wounded four times.

Heidelberg. February 8 – 11, 1918

At Heidelberg I brought the news that we were going home.  There was plenty of food owing to the prisoners there having had their parcels.  I went via Mainz to Aachen, where there was nothing of special significance, except I noticed, for the first time, women motor drivers.  I got clothes to go home in from a French store at Aachen.

F.Lindsay Sutton

Taken, 24th February 1918. Transcribed, 7th March 1918.

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