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Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and "The Process of Their Conversion"

XVII.—Garth C. Ballantyne

XVII.—Garth C. Ballantyne.

My objections to military service were based mostly on humanitarian reasons and also on political grounds. I have been all my life, and still am, an absolute pacifist. My experiences, both in and cut of the firing-line, have confirmed and strengthened my opinions, and I also take this opportunity of stating that under similar circumstances I would again act precisely as I did before.

I am writing this statement in answer to numerous requests, not only of my personal friends, but also of many soldiers who have heard of or seen a little of what I went through. Also I feel it my duty to make public a description of British military prisons in France, and to show people what even New Zealanders are capable of doing when backed by militarism.

It was at the Alexandra Barracks, Wellington, that I first experienced that cold shiver run down my spine as the cell door shut to and the bolts shot home. Never will I forget my feelings as I stood looking at the back of that door and analyzing my thoughts. I could not help thinking of the animals in the Zoo, and my sympathy went out to those poor caged creatures as it had never done before.

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I had failed to go to camp when called up under the Conscription Act, and had determined, after thinking things over, that I would not run away, but would stay quietly at my home and face the matter out.

A civilian policeman had found me there that morning and arrested me, and I was awaiting military escort to take me to Trentham Camp in the evening. I spent that night in the guardroom, and was charged next morning, before Colonel Potter, with failing to report to camp on the 5th of March, 1917. as ordered.

On this, my first appearance at an orderly-room, I must admit to a little nervousness, but I managed to declare pretty emphatically that I had no intention of becoming a soldier. This, however, failed to convince the colonel, who merely reprimanded me and told me that if I "carried on" I should hear no more about my two weeks' overdue.

Previous to my arrest, I had been unable to ascertain whether there were any more like myself in camp at that time, so that my delight can well he imagined when, on being marched to the Q.M. Stores with a small party of other men, three more besides myself refused to accept the uniform. The officers at first affected the usual surprise with which they generally heard of our refusals to obey orders, but when they found that we were in earnest sent for the police, and had us all returned to the guardroom, where we lost no time in getting acquainted with one another.

Twenty-eight days' detention was the verdict next morning, and I found myself once more under arrest, returning to Alexandra Barracks.

The time passed fairly uneventfully with no particularly great hardship, although not being as yet used to imprisonment, I found the loss of liberty very trying. Here I made the acquaintance of some more comrades, including the Baxter Bros and Little.

Again returned to Trentham, I went Through the same performance at the Stores, and this time was remanded for a District Courtmartial, which took place about a week later. The attitude I adopted at the trial was to ignore the Court and to deny its right to try me. This was of no avail, and a week later I found myself, in company with three others, journeying to the Terrace Jail, with 84 days' hard labour ahead of me. On arrival there we went through the same performance as any ordinary criminals would have done, and shortly afterwards each of us was deriving great amusement out of the awkward figures the others cut in their ill-fitting prison clothing, my mates having an extra laugh at me because my broad arrows showed up very plainly.

Throughout the course of our sentences we were associated with, and treated as ordinary criminals. When I first started to work in the Mt. Cook Prison I had on one side of me a man convicted of a hideous sexual offence and on the other a man who had twice been declared an habitual criminal. I found the conversation of the majority of the prisoners horrible to listen to. What attracted most of their attention was the Supreme Court sittings, and they discussed page 89the various crimes with brutal freedom. Whenever I talked with them myself I strove to draw them out to talk of themselves in order to hear their ideas of our present system of dealing with offenders against the law, and from what I heard there and from my own observations I came to the conclusion that our prisons were makings ten hardened criminals In every one they cured. I hope that sweeping reforms will soon be brought about.

Of our treatment by the prison authorities I have no particular complaint to make. We were sent to them as criminals, and as criminals, no more and no less, we were treated. The fault lay with those who sent us there.

I was within a week of finishing my sentence, and was looking forward to getting back to Trentham, Where I would be able to see my people in private and not in the presence of a warder, when one morning before breakfast the principal warder came to my cell and told me to pack up my kit, as I was "going away." I remembered afterwards that he had seemed to put peculiar expression into the words, although he professed ignorance as to the meaning of our shift, beyond the fact that I was to return to the Terrace Jail. On coming out into the yard with my belongings, I was surprised and pleased to find that the others had received similar instructions. On our arrival at the Terrace Jail the mystery was not solved, as the warders told us that they knew nothing, except that we were to be handed back to the military authorities. Accordingly, we bathed and shaved and our own clothes were returned to us, and we awaited developments. The military, however, preferred to do their work in the dark, and so we had to wait until evening for the escort to arrive. The escort refused us any information, and we set out, as I thought, towards Lambton Station. We did not, however, stop at the station, but passed it, heading for the wharves; and now, for the first time, I realised that there had been some foundation for the very vague rumours which had reached us to the effect that we were to be placed on a troopship.

On arrival at the wharves we proceeded to the side of the Waitemata, and were ordered to go aboard by the escort. This we refused to do. The escort then used force, and carried or hustled all my mates on board. The m.p., however, who was standing beside me evidently did not relish his job, for he asked me whether I was going on board, and I replied. "Not of my own free will." "Quite right." he answered, "and I am not going to put you there." I was thus left standing on the wharf for five minutes or so, during which time a fair crowd of watersiders, who happened to be changing shift at that time, had gathered around, and I spoke to them, telling them exactly what was happening, and asking them to spread the news. A voice replied that we had their sympathy to which I answered—as Mark Briggs had also answered—that something more than sympathy was required, and that it was up to the workers to see that no more were sent page 90away as we were being sent. Other m.p. were now returning from the ship, and on seeing me promptly grabbed me and carried me on board and down to join the others in the guardroom. A strong guard was left over us all night to ensure that we should not communicate with anyone on shore, and although my mother was living within half an hour's walk of the boat, and was also on the telephone, my requests to be allowed to communicate with her were refused.

Next morning our numbers were increased by others brought from the Barracks and from the Camp, and the fourteen C.O.'s now on board comprised the three Baxter Bros., Little, Briggs, Sanderson. Patton, Adin, Penwright, Harland, Gray, Kirwan, Maguire and myself. Whether it was accidental or not I don't know, but it was certainly curious that there were among us men from almost every province of New Zealand.

[To avoid repetition, I have omitted those portions of Mr. Ballantyne's account of the voyage from Wellington to Capetown, which are wholly in substantiation of Mr. Briggs's account. Mr. Ballantyne mentions that when they were ordered to have their hair cut short the C.O.'s refused, and were carried out one by one on to the hatchway by the guard, and there their hair was cut very short. "A sharp struggle ensued when Briggs attempted to resist the guard, and it took about six of them to hold him down whilst the barber cut his hair." Mr. Ballantyne also mentions that, while they were being forcibly stripped and re-dressed in uniform on the first occasion, a soldier with a sense of humour set a gramophone playing "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Mr. Ballantyne's narrative proceeds.—Ed-]

One day we were informed that the doctor had given instructions that we were to do physical drill. We replied that if we were supplied with skipping ropes, etc., we would take sufficient exercise to keep us in health. The corporal of the guard went away satisfied, but returned shortly afterwards and said that he had received instructions that he was to make us run round the deck and that he was to use the bayonet, if necessary, to carry this out. When we got on deck, however, we all sat down and refused to move, in spite of the guard, who stood around with fixed bayonets. The corporal, seeing that we were not to be bluffed, again went away, and this time returned with some shipping ropes and removed the guard.

[Mr. Ballantyne then describes the experiences of the C.O.'s at Capetown, and their treatment on the Norman Castle, after being transferred to that boat, His narrative is wholly in line with that of Mr. Briggs, and is therefore omitted.—Ed.]

On the last occasion on which we were forcibly dressed on the Norman Castle, before reaching Plymouth, the authorities thought to page 91make use of the fact that the ship was carrying a number of firstclass passengers, including some ladies. Accordingly, we were divested of the shirt and singlet, dressed in just the trousers and tunic, and brought round from behind the wheelhouse, which had hitherto partly screened us, to the forward end of the poop-deck—into full view of the promenade deck, where some of the passengers were walking about. Men were placed to prevent us from returning, and we were released. Without any hesitation whatever we all stripped stark naked. We were soon returned to our former position, where we obtained towels, which we put around us as loin-cloths, remaining in that attires until within a few days' sail of Plymouth, when we obtained a shirt and underpants each, and thus garbed we arrived.

During the latter end of the journey we were returned to the guardroom; and all through the danger zone we were under lock and key. The sentry on the door carried the key, which he took with him when he accompanied any of us on deck to the latrines or washhouse. If any accidents had occurred during his absence, owing to the rush of men up the stairs, he would have been unable to return to release us, and we should probably have been drowned like rats in a trap. On at least one occasion the key was lost, and some delay was experienced until the carpenter was brought and the door forced.

At the commencement of our journey, some of us had told the officers that as they had carried us aboard so they would carry us off again, and accordingly on arrival at Plymouth we proceeded to keep our promise. When the boat arrived in harbour, we were once again forcibly dressed in uniform and dragged up the stairs, along the deck and down the gangway on to the lighter, and when the lighter got alongside the wharf we were dragged down the gangway on to the wharf. Here eight of us were dumped on to a truck and wheeled a distance of one hundred yards or so to the train, which conveyed us to Sling Camp, on the Salisbury Plain. Here we were split up and sent to the guardrooms of the various camps, and I found myself in company with Briggs and Maguire in the guardroom of the Wellington Camp. A row between Briggs and a S.M. resulted in our getting no tea, and we went to bed. On getting up next morning we did not put on the uniform, but remained in our underclothing. Perceiving this the provost-sergeant fetched about 20 men, who forcibly dressed us, and placed us in separate cells, where we immediately stripped off the khaki again. As soon as this was noticed, we were again dressed, and this time we were handcuffed to prevent our removing the uniform. For over a fortnight we were thus dressed and handcuffed each morning and kept in solitary confinement. The authorities also tried to put us on bread and water, but each time this happened we refused to eat anything at all, and as they evidently did not wish to provoke us into hunger-striking we were generally supplied with fairly good food.

During this time we were constantly visited by officers and men page 92of every rank, who tried to coax, argue, or bully us into doing work of some kind, but we refused even to go out for a walk in uniform.

One very high official made himself particularly objectionable. What seemed to annoy him most was the fact that we refused to stand up or to say "sir" when addressing him. He entered my cell one evening after I was in bed, and asked me one or two questions. I answered him with a plain "Yes" or "No." "Why do you not say 'sir' when addressing me?" he asked. "Would you not say 'sir' when speaking to your employer?" I replied that I had no objection to saying "sir" to anyone whom I respected, but that as I had no respect for the rank he held and that what little I knew of him as a man had not led me to respect him, I did not feel called on to "sir" him.

As our last sentence of 28 days' confinement received on the boat had now run out, it was necessary that some definite charge should be laid against us in order that we might be kept in the guardroom.

Accordingly, we were one day ordered by an n.c.o. in the presence of witnesses to go out on parade. This we refused to do, and we were charged with refusing to obey an order and were remanded by Colonel Saunders for courtmartial. A "summary of evidence" was taken, but as we were not allowed to speak without punctuating our remarks with "sirs," we preferred to say nothing.

The officers now began to get the idea that there was a ringleader among us, so one night we were separated. I was taken to the Canterbury guardroom. One of the sergeants of this camp was well hated by all the troops on account of the severity with which he treated all prisoners committed to his charge. As soon, however, as I got into the cell I removed the uniform. Later in the evening, wishing to go to bed, I knocked at the door and asked to be allowed to go to the latrine. The sergeant opened the door, but on seeing how I was dressed refused, to let me out until I put on some more clothing. As I refused to do this, he closed the door again. Later I informed him that I suffered from piles, and that unless he allowed me out I would be likely to do myself an injury and that I should report the matter to the doctor in the morning. He then obtained assistance, forcibly dressed me, dragged me outside and then back again, knocking me about pretty considerably in the process. He then handcuffed my hands behind my back and kicked me into the cell, leaving me thus all night, so I was unable to make up my bed, and the weather being very cold, I suffered badly from cold and got no sleep that night.

Next morning bread and water only was brought to me, and I refused to eat it. Later in the day I informed an officer that as the authorities did not seem to be able to make up their minds what to do with us, and that as my health must inevitably break down very Shortly under this treatment, I thought that I might bring matters to a head by refusing to eat anything until a more definite course was page 93determined upon. All that day and all the next I ate nothing, although tempting dishes were placed before me at each meal time.

The next evening I was again taken back to the Wellington Camp, where a draft for France was drawn up. An escort was in readiness, and I was marched away, handcuffed, to the train, which conveyed us to Folkston. From there we crossed to Boulogne, and proceeded by motor lorry to the New Zealand Base at Etaples.

On the morning after my arrival there I was interviewed by Colonel Mitchell, the Camp Commandant. He used all manner of arguments to try and persuade me to do work of some kind, telling me that I should inevitably be shot if I persisted in my refusals when I was sent on up the line. He even went so far as to read to me lists out of General Routine Orders' of men who had been shot, to show me that shooting was not an uncommon thing in the Army. I found out that two others, Little and Alec. Baxter, had preceded me at Etaples, and on my inquiring as to their whereabouts Colonel Mitchell Informed me that they had been sent up to the front line, and that if they had not already been shot they were probably just waiting for the sentence to be carried out. I replied that in that case further argument was useless. If my friends were to be shot, then my place was at their side, and I asked to be sent to join them.

I remained in Etaples about a week, during which time, although I was kept in close confinement, I was not ill-treated in any way. At the end of that time I was escorted away with a draft to the reinforcement camp, which was then situated at Hazebrouck. Here on entering the guard tent, I was delighted to find Little and Alex. Baxter, looking in pretty good health. We had much to talk over, and they informed me that as yet nothing serious had happened to them except that force had been used to make them go out for a walk every day, with the equipment and rifle tied on to them, so that they could not throw them off. I was not, however, to enjoy their society for long, for early next morning I was shifted to another camp near by.

Here I got into trouble right away over my food. I had heard Instructions given that I was to be treated the same as the ordinary prisoners, but when their food was brought the sergeant told me that he was "not going to fetch and carry for the likes of me," and that I would have to go on parade with the other men to get mine I replied that I would parade for nothing, not even my food, so I went without any that day. On the next day he came and told me that he was going to take me to the cookhouse to get my dinner. Accordingly, he and another man grabbed hold of me and took me along, but I refused to carry the food back, whereupon he tied my hands together, and tied the tea dixie to them. I allowed him to do this quietly, but as soon as he let go I gave my hands a jerk and spilled the lot. At this he became enraged, and struck me in the face with his fist. I remained thus without food or even water for nearly five days, steadily refusing to go on parade to obtain it.

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Each morning equipment was placed on my shoulders, and I was walked along the road between two men for about an hour or so. On the morning of the fifth day I had become so weak that I think I must have fainted, for I could afterwards remember very little of how I got home again. What would have been the end of this I don't know, but about this time the camp was broken up, and I again rejoined Little and Baxter, my food being brought to me along with theirs.

In the course of a conversation, the Adjutant of the camp told us that he could get no satisfactory instructions from the authorities as to how to deal with us, and that they were annoyed with the New Zealand Government for ever having set us to France at all. In order, therefore, to force Headquarters to consider the matter he intended giving us an order, and if we refused to obey it he would remand us for a Courtmartial.

Accordingly a written order was given us, instructing us to parade at a certain time, fully equipped, to proceed to join up our units. Shortly before the time an n.c.o. warned us for the parade, and we informed him that we did not intend going on it, and the time passé without our making any attempt to do so. We were subsequently brought before the Adjutant and remanded for a Field General Courtmartial on a charge of refusing to obey an order in a forward area. We were tried about a week later. Two of the officers on the Court-martial were of the Imperial Forces and not New Zealanders. I refused to take any part in the trial beyond handing in a written statement, detailing very briefly my previous experiences, a very short explanation of my position as a C.O., and also giving as my reason for refusing to take part in the trial the fact that I did not recognize the Court's right to try me as a soldier, seems that I had not up till that time signed my name to a single document of any kind.

After the trial I was recalled twice by the President of the Court, who told me each time that he wished to give me another opportunity to reconsider my decision. He said that for the crime with which I was charged the Court could probably bring in one sentence only—that of death. I replied that I was fully aware of the position, and that the authorities had taken care that I had had plenty of solitary confinement in which to fully consider the matter, and that I was prepared to stand by my statement, whatever the penalty imposed by the Court. On being taken back to camp after the trial we were. Strange to say, given complete liberty to wander about as we pleased, the chaplain even offering us money, which, of course, we refused. Whether the authorities wished to give us an opening to get right away or to go to one of the neighbouring villages and get drunk, and thus incriminate ourselves more definitely. I don't know, but none of us ever had any intention of running away, and we were all teetotallers, so that we were not likely to get into any difficulties in that way.

We had some time to wait for our sentences, and when the New-Zealand camp moved away to another area we were shifted to the page 95reinforcement camp of the 44th Division of the Imperial Forces. We remained here some time, until one day our sentences were promulgated before a full battalion parade, and we found ourselves committed to five years' penal servitude. We were then escorted to St. Omer, to a receiving depot where prisoners were collected from the surrounding areas, and from where they were dispatched in gangs, handcuffed in pairs, and surrounded by armed guards, to the various military prisons.

Here I intend going beyond just my own personal experiences and giving a description of a British military hard labour prison in France, because I do not think that there will be published in New Zealand many other descriptions of these places written by men with such first-hand information as I was able to gather during my seven months' imprisonment in No. 10 Military Prison Camp, situated on the out-skirts of Dunkirk.

This was a hard labour prison for men with sentences of over three months, and quite different from the field punishment compounds. Originally, most of the men in these prisons would be sentenced to five, ten, fifteen and twenty years' penal servitude, but these long sentences were given merely to frighten the rest of the troops before whom they would be promulgated. According to the law, men could not be kept abroad with sentences of more than two years' duration, so that as soon as the man arrived in prison his sentence was commuted to two years' hard labour. I would like to point out that, as will be seen from the number of this prison, there were nine other such places in France, No. 10 being the newest and also, I believe, the smallest, although it held about 400 men. Numbers of New Zealanders have served sentences in these prisons, although they are entirely under the control of the Imperial authorities, but there would probably be very few who would care to publish their names in connection with descriptions of them.

I would like to make it quite clear, however, that the majority of these prisoners were not criminals, but had merely been guilty of breaches of discipline or had been absent without leave for a short time. It must be remembered that offences which would hardly be considered crimes in civilian life, or which might be punished by a small fine, mean years of penal servitude in the Army. The Governor, whenever he was speaking to prisoners, was always careful to impress on them this fact—that they were not criminals and must not lose their self-respect, that they had merely been sent there to be taught discipline; but I do not think that there are any criminal prisons in which the men are more harshly treated, and it seems to me that to learn discipline means to lose all self-respect.

Many of the warders in these prisons had served in the pre-war military prisons of England and Scotland, and most of the rest were old soldiers, and were therefore not likely to have very sympathetic natures or troublesome consciences.

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As I have stated, after the promulgation of our sentences we were taken to a depot for prisoners at St. Omer. We were kept there several days, until about 30 men had arrived, and then very early in the morning we were paraded, handcuffed in pairs, and marched away, soldiers with fixed bayonets forming a guard right around us. We travelled by train to Dunkirk, and then formed up again, still handcuffed, and marched to the prison. As we drew near, what struck me first about the place was the unhealthiness of its situation. The ground was very low-lying and, swampy, and there was absolutely no protection from the cold bleak winds and fogs of the Channel. The prison consisted of a few corrugated-iron huts and sheds and a number of bell-tents, the whole being surrounded by two high barbed-wire fences about six feet apart, with sentries at intervals walking between them. When we got inside the prison. I noticed that the iron huts were the warders quarters, the offices, cookhouse, stores, etc. All the prisoners were quartered in the tents, about sixteen or eighteen men in each. I also noticed two long low iron sheds, with small windows high up the walls, which I was very soon to find out contained the punishment cells.

The idea of the warders seemed to be to "cow down" every new prisoner from the start, and so, for the first hour or so, we were rushed about, yelled at, bullied, and had all manner of threats and warnings hurled at us if we did not jump about and look alive. We were searched and then taken to have a bath. The prison was at this time not properly completed, and so the thirty of us were given two small tubfuls of lukewarm water to wash in. As this was in the beginning of December, the weather was pretty cold, and we had all been wearing heavy woollen underclothing; but we were told that as there was no more underclothing in the prison to replace our own when dirty the sooner we got used to being without underclothing the better, and so our underpants and undershirts were taken away from us.

We three C.O.'s were in trouble as soon as we got into the office, for we refused to sign the books. A warder then took us on one side and asked us whether we were going to work. We replied that we did not intend to, and we were taken away and locked up in the cells. Next morning we were brought out and definitely ordered to work, but we refused, and were returned to the cells. The Governor sentenced us to what was known in the prison as "three threes," which meant three days' solitary confinement, three days' bread and water, and three days' No. 1 Field Punishment, the sentences running concurrently. We were placed in separate cells.

At 7 o'clock in the morning we were given 8oz. of dry bread and a drink of water. At 8 o'clock our hands were handcuffed behind our backs with figure-eight handcuffs. Now, ordinary handcuffs have two links and a swivel between them, thus allowing a fair amount of freedom of movement. In figure-eight handcuffs, however, the two page 97loops are solid in one piece, so that with these on behind our backs our whole wrists, arms and shoulders were rendered almost immovable. Field Punishment No. 1 means having these on for 12 hours in the day. We were given nothing further to eat until 5 o'clock in the evening—ten hours since our last meal—when another 8oz. of dry bread and some water were brought us, and in order that we might eat it our hands were moved from behind to in front of us, to be returned, however, behind us as soon as we had finished eating and left there until 8 o'clock in the evening.

The cells in which we were confined were very small, barely seven feet square by eight feet high; the walls and roof were corrugated iron and the floor concrete. Outside the ground was covered with snow, and inside the iron walls and celling were dripping with frost. During the first morning I sat down on the floor to rest my legs, but I rapidly became so cold and stiff that without the help of my hands I had the greatest difficulty in getting on my feet again. This was a lesson to me, and during the remainder of my punishment I walked from corner to corner of my cell, three short strides each way, for the full 12 hours each day. My arms and shoulders ached almost intolerably, and became so numbed with cold that when the handcuffs were removed they hung powerless at my sides. For weeks and weeks afterwards I felt the effects of this punishment in my arms.

This much was the authorised punishment, but during the time that a prisoner was in the cells he was in the hands of the warder in charge, who administered by kicks and blows such punishments as he deemed necessary for the "maintenance of good order and discipline in the cells." Generally, when a prisoner was sent to the cells for punishment he was first taken into a cell, stripped naked, and sometimes handcuffed; then the warder would proceed to administer a sound thrashing, using both his hands and feet, one warder during his turn in charge of the cells going so far as to use a heavy leather belt. Then, when the prisoner was beginning to get groggy, buckets of freezing cold water would be thrown over him to revive him, and finally he would be given a bucket and cloth and be told to dry up his cell before he would be given back his clothes. Often the bumps and thuds of the poor prisoner against the iron walls and his yells and cries for mercy could be heard all over the compound.

The next form of punishment we experienced was shot drill. This is an old form of punishment, abolished years ago in the navy as being inhuman. It is still good enough, however, for our up-to-date military prisons. The shot in this case consisted of a round bag of about 9 inches in diameter, filled with sand, and supposed to weigh 281b., although when the sand became wet it was usually heavier. To do the drill the prisoner stands with the shot between his feet. The warder stands with a whistle, and in time to his blasts the prisoner first bends down, picks up the shot, and balances it on the palms of his hands in front of himself; then, on the next whistle he takes three page 98quick steps forward, on the following whistle placing it down between his feet again and standing up straight; then down, up, three paces forward, down; and so on for perhaps an hour, with only one or two short rests of a few minutes. Each movement has to be made his distinctly and sharply, and the warder's whistle is generally just a bit ahead each time, so that the prisoner has to go his hardest in order to keep up. It is, in fact, just an ingenious device to tax absolutely the man's strength to the utmost. The effect I found was to make me horribly giddy and to produce terrible pains in my back and forearms. This punishment was often given in conjunction with No. 1 Field Punishment.

The prisoner sentenced to No. 1 Field Punishment was stood with his back to a post, and his hands handcuffed behind the post, and he was held practically immovable by three straps, one around his chest, another around his Knees, and the other around his ankles. I have seen men kept thus in driving snow and sleet for two hours, and when released they could scarcely stand. They would then almost immediately be put on to shot drill "to loosen their joints."

About this time Little, Baxter and myself managed to have a bit of a consultation, and as a result we decided that we would work, seeing that the majority of the work done by the prisoners consisted in the construction of protections against air raids. On our making our decision known, we were sent out to live in the tents, the authorities, however, taking the precaution to put us each into separate section of the prison, so that from this onwards we saw very little of each other.

I had now a better opportunity of observing the general conditions of the prison. Rather naturally I suppose, one of the first things that claimed my attention was the food supply. The rations I found were as follows:—Breakfast: 1 pint of pretty thin gruel without milk or sugar and very often without even salt, 8oz. bread, 2oz. dripping, and 2oz. cheese. Lunch: 8oz. bread and 4oz. bully-beef. Tea: 8oz. bread and 1 pint of soup, in which (if one was lucky) there might be a piece of fat meat or a potato. This, I found to be very poor fare for men working long hours at hard manual labour in a bitterly cold climate. In fact, the men became so ravenously hungry that it was no uncommon thing, when they happened to be working at the

R.N.A.E. aerodrome or any of the other camps around the prison, and could get near the cookhouse, to sec them sneaking over to the swill tub and diving into it for pieces of stale bread or a bone with meat on it, and then literally pushing it down their throats so as to get it eaten before the warder might catch sight of them. What troubled me most was the lack of a hot drink of any sort. All we were given to drink was cold water, and as this was contained in a bucket placed out in the open it often became frozen, and it was necessary to break the ice on top to get a drink.

The daily routine of the prison was as follows:—Reveille at 5.30 page 99a.m. At a quarter to 6 the gates of the various sections of the prisons were opened and the men marched out with their towels to wash. Now, the wash-house would accommodate only about 40 or 50 men at a time, so that it was necessary to go through in sections, and it would take about half an hour for the 400 odd men to go through. On this parade we were not allowed to wear coats, and, as I mentioned before, we had no underclothing, so that we had to go out in just a shirt and trousers, very often with the snow lying thick on the ground and a cold bleak wind blowing in from the Channel, and at that time of the year it would be still quite dark. The time during which we were waiting to go in to wash would be occupied with perhaps a little physical training or we would be made to double round and round the square. The first ones to wash would not be allowed to return to their tents until all had finished. In the wash-house the water in the taps was very often frozen, so that the basins were filled the day before. In the morning, to use the water, the ice on the top would have to be broken, and as the water could not be renewed five or six men would have to wash in each basin of water. When all had finished the men would return to their tents, being handed breakfast as they went in. After breakfast every man had to shave every day. As it was against the rules for any man to have any edged tools in his possession, we could not each keep our own razors. About six razors and brushes were placed in each tent every morning and collected up again after they were finished with. The razors were supposed to be kept in order by the barber, as we had no strops on which to sharpen them ourselves, but as the razors were only very poor issue ones to start with, and as there were about 300 to do, the state they were in can well be imagined. Shaving with suck razors, water that was near freezing, ordinary common yellow soap and no glass was indeed a ticklish operation. Just before I came out an attempt was being made to give each man his own razor, but it was not succeeding too well. After breakfast, we were paraded on the square and inspected by the Governor. (I have seen men sent off this parade because they were not looking too clean—and it is hardly surprising under the circumstances that such cases were sometimes found—and afterwards stripped and scrubbed with an ordinary floor scrubbing-brush in cold water until the blood was running from them.) After that we were told off into working parties and marched away to our work, which, as I have explained, consisted for the greater part in the building of dug-outs and protections against air raids. In the winter we stopped work in time to be back in the prison just before dark, and as the days grew longer we worked later, until we could work until 6.30, which was the usual knock-off time during the summer.

It was not customary to stop work for bad weather. All through the winter we worked, hail, rain or snow; and often when we got back to prison our boots, socks and clothing would be wet through. We page 100had no chance of drying them or of obtaining fresh ones, so it was just a case of turn into bed to keep warm. I found that I had to place my socks between the blankets under me to keep them from freezing stiff during the night.

We worked seven days a week, no distinction being made for Sunday; in fact, no distinction was made for Christmas or New Year. We worked all Christmas Day in a blinding snowstorm, and had, if anything, rather worse food than usual. I do not think that many of the prisoners will ever forget Christmas, 1917-18.

If you had gone to the majority of these prisoners and asked what they most desired, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred you would have got the answer: "A good feed and then some cigarettes." Nearly every soldier is an inveterate smoker, and short of actual physical torture the greatest hardship that can be put on him, especially under trying circumstances, is to cut off his supply of smokes. So great did the craving for tobacco become with some of the prisoners that I have seen them picking up dirty cigarette butts off the road and chewing them, and it was a very common practice to gather up the butts, unravel them, and remake them in pieces of newspaper or anything else that was handy. A certain amount of tobacco was smuggled into the prison, in spite of the fact that every man was searched every night and that the discovery of even a trace would mean days of solitary confinement, etc.

The general health of the men in the prison was certainly bad. Practically all looked emaciated and were suffering from chronic diarrhoea as a result, I think, of drinking too much ice water. It was no use parading sick for this complaint, as the general cure was to put the patient into solitary confinement and starve him until he was better. Boils were also common. Soon after I went into the prison my hands became badly chapped, my left hand swelled up and then cracked, forming running sores which I did not get healed for over two months. Every night I had to go on sick parade to get it dressed, and this meant, perhaps, standing for anything up to an hour in the snow outside the medical hut waiting my turn to go in. How this treatment did not kill some of the men who were there through illness used to be a constant source of wonder to me. Although both my hands were wrapped up in bandages, I was not during a single hour excused duty, but had to carry on my work just the same. I was not even allowed warm water to wash in, although the placing of my hands whilst in this condition in very cold water caused me extreme pain. Later on, one of my heels got frostbitten also, and I was unable to put on a boot for over a fortnight. During this time I was put to work in the tailors' shop darning socks. Probably neither my hands nor my heel would have got better until the weather had got warmer had not my health completely broken down about the end of March, and I was sent away to hospital for two weeks.

Skin diseases of various sorts were also very common, especially page 101what is known as impetigo. Twice during my imprisonment my face was covered with the mattery sores of this complaint, which was doubtless spread about by the razors and shaving brushes.

It was seldom that a man could get any satisfaction by going on sick parade if he was not feeling well, for to be marked light duty meant to be worked harder than usual. The commonest occupation for sick men marked "light duty" was wheeling barrows full of sand into the prison to make paths and form the parade ground.

The bathing accommodation would have been fairly satisfactory had sufficient time been allowed to use it properly, but usually the warder in charge would be in a hurry to get finished with his job, and he would rush the men through without giving time to have a decent wash. The supposedly clean clothing issued to us was generally in a shocking state. There was no reason why in a place like that proper fumigation should not be carried out and lice practically eliminated, but the clothes were in such a bad state that almost every man was crawling alive.

Of recreation for the prisoners there was absolutely none. No books or papers of any sort were allowed. Sundays were passed the same as every other day in work; there was no chance of a rest. A chaplain used to come every second Thursday, and in order that his coming should not interrupt work the service was held at 7 o'clock in the morning. I think most of the prisoners looked forward to the service, as it was a change from the deadly monotony of the prison routine, and a good many enjoyed "having a sing" in the hymns. It was a very noticeable fact, however, that although a fair volume of sound was produced in the hymns, "God save the King" was usually a duet for the chaplain and the regimental sergeant-major.

The prisoners were allowed to receive all letters that came for them, but were only allowed to write once a month, and then under such heavy censorship that beyond a remark or two on the state of the writer's health nothing further could be said, and even that was liable to censorship if the report was not good. It is a remarkable fact, however, that although my mother wrote every mail to me, I did not receive any word from New Zealand at all for nearly twelve months—until after I had consented to come out of prison and do medical work, and then the whole lot (over twenty in number) were given me at once. There were also some letters of mine to my mother which never arrived.

It was hardly to be wondered at that, under the circumstances, the men in the prisons became very irritable and bad-tempered. In fact, every bad trait in their character was here given an opportunity to develop, for the whole conditions encouraged meanness and deceitfulness, encouraged the men to shirk on their mates, and so to distrust and become suspicious of each other. Many were the quarrels I saw over the cutting up of rations, for each man suspected that his mates would do him out of his fair share if they got half the page 102chance; and so woe betide anyone who cut up the bread before everyone was there to see it done, and then each man took his turn to cut it up, and, by mutual consent, he always took the last, and, consequently, the smallest piece left, so that he would be sure to divide it evenly. It was quite an exception to find a man who had sufficient will power and control of himself to maintain his equanimity, and I frankly admit that towards the end, in spite of the fact that I was fully aware of the danger, I was always losing my self-control.

It is inevitable that wherever large bodies of men are gathered together there will always be found a certain number who are below the average in intelligence—just a bit "dopey," as they are usually called in the Army, and I think it is an extremely regrettable thing that many such men were placed in the Army, where individuality is not taken into account, and so they get into trouble often through no other reason than their lack of intelligence to understand their position. Many of these men found their way into such places as Dunkirk Prison, and then it was a case of "God have mercy on them," for the warders and other prisoners would not. Weaklings, who with careful and proper tuition, become fairly useful citizens in some cases, became battered derelicts verging on lunacy.

I shall never forget the case of one young chap, scarcely more than a boy he looked. His life had been made so hard for him in the Army, that, thinking to escape, he had one day placed his hand on the rail in front of the wheel of a slowly-moving truck, and had allowed it to remain there until the wheel passed over it, badly crushing the wrist. Unluckily for him, the doctors had fixed it up fairly well, although it still was very mis-shapen, and then he had been sent to prison as punishment for a self-inflicted wound. There he was the butt of every warder and the joke of almost every prisoner. What little intelligence he had was slowly but surely driven out of him. I had befriended him a little, and he used to come to me with such questions as to what would happen to him if he were to eat sand, would it kill him or only make him ill? and really I sometimes had hardly the heart to dissuade him from such a means of ending his misery. His was by no means an isolated case.

In spite of the severity of the punishment for the offence, attempts to escape were fairly common. During the time I was there some fifty odd prisoners made bids for their freedom. Nearly all got clear away from the prison, but I can only remember three cases in which they were not caught after a short time. Escapees, on being returned to the prison, were immediately leg-ironed. The irons were rivetted on each leg, and the connecting chain, which was about three feet long, was looped up to the belt, so that the man could walk, but with a slightly-restricted stride. The usual punishment consisted of fourteen days' solitary confinement, during which the prisoner would be handcuffed with figure-eight handcuffs, and would be on bread and water diet three days out of five. Then there would be twenty-eight page 103days of No. 1 Field Punishment and shot drill on what was called No. 2 diet, which consisted of porridge and dry bread for breakfast, dry bread for lunch, and porridge and potatoes for tea. Then would follow a further twenty-eight days still on No. 2 diet, during which the prisoner would still wear the leg irons, and would be put to work around the prison. As the irons were rivetted on they could not be removed at nights, and specially-made clothes with buttons the full length of the outside of the legs had to be worn to enable the man to undress.

It must not be thought either that by going to prison soldiers would escape entirely the dangers of war, for Dunkirk was the most air-raided town of either France or Britain. Just before I went there the Germans had dropped leaflets warning all the inhabitants to evacuate it, as they intended levelling it to the ground, and for several months afterwards every fine night there would be aeroplanes overhead bombing, and although they did not succeed in fully carrying out their intentions, there was scarcely a street in the town which did not show the effects of the bombs, and an aerodrome not half a mile from the prison was twice destroyed.

Over a fairly lengthy period also the town was continually shelled by long-range guns from the land, and was twice bombarded from the sea. Although the prisoners constructed huge and practically bomb-proof dug-outs at various camps round about, those for their own use were of the most meagre description and would scarcely have stopped an anti-aircraft "dudd," let alone a bomb.

To return to myself and my two companions. In one or two talks which we had managed to get together, we had summed up the position as follows: We had successfully defied the military authorities. They had threatened to shoot us if they could not make soldiers of us. We had deliberately placed ourselves in such a position by the disobedience of orders that had we been ordinary soldiers we would certainly have been shot, and the authorities had merely sent us to prison, thus proving that their threats had been bluff and that they dared not snoot us. We had also heard through different New Zealand soldiers that owing to the stand made by the fourteen deported men and the outcry which their deportation had caused, the Government had decided not to send any more men out of the country against their will, so that we now came to the conclusion the matter was purely a personal one as to what our future movements should be.

I gave the matter very long and careful consideration. On the one hand, we had become fairly accustomed to the prison, and with the approaching summer weather a great deal of the hardship would disappear, so that provided my health had stood the strain, and that was doubtful seeing that although I am just on six foot tall, when I weighed myself shortly after my release I was only 9st. 121b. fully clothed, I could have stayed on there until the end of the war. On the other hand, I had heard a great deal about the war from the page 104soldiers, but I felt that, in my anti-militarist work in the future, if I was able to gain the knowledge first hand, how much stronger I would be able to make my testimony. I also felt that by going into the front line and by there carrying out my work at least as well as the average soldier, I would silence that taunt which was so often being thrown at me, that I had refused military service because I was afraid. So that, much as I disliked placing myself under the control of the military authorities, when a letter came to me from Colonel Mitchell offering to obtain my release on condition that I undertook medical work, I replied that I was ready to do so, provided that I was not asked to take the oath. My companions had also decided on a similar course, and, following on a visit to the prison by Colonel Mitchell, we were released on June 18, 1918. Two days after release Baxter reported sick, and was sent to England with rheumatic fever, contracted by exposure and hardship in the prison. After a short course of instruction in medical work at the base camp, Little and I were sent up the line as regimental stretcher-bearers. Unfortunately, Little was wounded on our second day in the line, and died at the casualty clearing station. I remained at this work until the Armistice was signed, and then went to Germany with the army of occupation doing medical work in the regimental aid post.