British Chaplain Prisoner in Germany

British Chaplain Prisoner in Germany

This article is from a British newspaper published in 1918 (complete with British spelling and sound effects):

.

A PRISONER IN GERMANY

FALMOUTH CHAPLAIN’S EXPERIENCES.

Chaplain Benjamin O'Rorke

Chaplain Benjamin O’Rorke

          Mr. F. J. Bowles presided at a lecture given by the Rev. B. G. O’Rorke, and entitled “In the hands of the enemy,” at the Earle’s Retreat on Wednesday evening. In his opening remarks the Chairman stated that was one of their monthly social evenings, and when the lecturer had finished they would all agree that they had been highly interested. They were, in having those social evenings, carrying out the wishes of the founder of the Retreat. On former occasions they had had music, but that night they were having a little variety, and more serious food for thought. They would also be helping the inmates, because that night they had several irons in the fire and a collection was to be taken for the inmates’ benefit fund. They were glad to welcome the Rev. O’Rorke, who had been recommended to him by a letter from a friend as “a first-class man.” The Rev. O’Rorke had been a prisoner in Germany, and had had the D.S.O. conferred upon him, and that was an Order that was never given except where merited.

          In the course of his lecture the Rev. O’Rorke said it was at a battle which took place just after the battle of Mons, in August, 1914, that he fell into the hands of the enemy. The British had retired from a twon that had been stormed, and he, with a number of others, had remained behind to attend to the wounded. The Germans came into the town after the British had vacated it about three hours, and although they respected at that time the sign of the Red Cross, nevertheless, when the remainder of the British proposed to go back to their own people, the German officer in charge said: “Now we propose to take you into Germany,” and into Germany they had to go.

          After a long march in the hot sun they arrived at Mons, and that night were lodged in a loft over a stable. The next day they were paraded to a station, and there their numbers were considerably swelled by many more prisoners. They embarked in the train at last, and were there four days, having then been in the hands of the Germans for ten days. During that time they had not been given a meal by their captors. They had bought two meals at the station refreshment stall, and they had been given a meal by two German ladies. All that time they had not, however, been starving, for they had come across some abandoned British kit and they had taken some bully beef and biscuits from that. After a most interesting account of the spiteful behaviour of the German soldiers with whom they came into contact, the lecturer went on to say that they eventually came to the end of their journey and were marched into a big fortress, which was built in the time of Napoleon to guard a bridge over the river Elbe. There, in a compound measuring 100 yards by 50, they remained for three months. It was there they made the acquaintance of the German sausage, which they had for breakfast, lunch, and, if they were lucky, for supper. In fact, they knew quite a lot about it, except what it was made of, and of that they preferred to remain in ignorance. (laughter). In the next compound they went to, and which measured 27 yards by 160, they were worse treated, and the Germans endeavoured to get all the Irish prisoners to “transfer their allegiance from England to Germany.” There was only one answer to that request, for there were no men more loyal on the battle front than the Irish. (applause).

          On one occasion they had a very wrathful Adjutant, whom they called Beelzebub, and this gentleman came into their room unawares and commenced to foam at the mouth. At last he managed to say: “If that man wants to sit down,” pointing to the lecturer, “let him sit on a chair that is provided for the purpose, and not on his bed.” The man then pointed to a British Colonel and said: “If that man wants to smoke let him smoke with his coat on, and not in his shirt sleeves.” This was the sort of think to which they were daily exposed. He did not want them there to think that the prisoners were having an easy time of it, their hearts went out to those brave men who had had the misfortune to be taken prisoners, and they could not admire enough the manner in which they endured their hard lot. It was showing the Germans what the British character really was. (applause).

          During the interval Mr. Richardson rendered the song “Drake is going West,” and Messrs. Richardson and Trembath sang a duet, “United Empire,” Mr. Lowry accompanying at the organ.–At the close the Mayor (Mr. C. Rusden) said that morning he had been deliberating which of two engagements he should take for that evening, and he thought he had taken the better course by coming there. (hear, hear). He had been highly interested in what he had heard, and did not doubt but what their men wee having great trials in Germany. He had great pleasure in proposing a vote of thanks to the lecturer.–The Rev. W. G. H. Ward seconded, and said he had listened with the greatest pleasure to one who had had such experiences. He moved a vote of thanks to the musicians and both votes were unanimously carried.

.

.

A Prisoner in Germany

Original 1918 British newspaper clipping (author’s collection).

.

.

Chaplain O’Rorke wrote a book about his experiences, In the Hands of the Enemy: Being the Experiences of a Prisoner of War, 1915.

Photo of Chaplain B. G. O’Rorke from  http://library.nottinghamhighblogs.net/2012/01/31/our-own-war-horse/.

.

.

.

.

%d bloggers like this: