Following the entry of the USA into the war the neutral Swedish Legation represented the interests of the Imperial and Royal (I. & R.) Austro-Hungarian Government - one task of which was to inspect places of internment of Austro-Hungarian subjects. The Swiss Legation provided the same services for the German Government.
This section has been extracted from the single report on the two Isle of Man Camps.
Lieutenant Colonel H. W. Madoc is still Commandant of this camp. Major C.F.Bland is assistant commandant and Captain R. Marshall R.A.M.C. the medical officer.
NUMBER OF PRISONERS
The total number of prisoners at the time of my visit 2201, of these 1621 were
568 Austrian or Hungarian and 1 Greek
Of the Austro-Hungarian prisoners , 64 Austrians and 20 Hungarians were in Camp 1[Privilege or Lower Camp], and 444 Austrians and 40 Hungarians in Camp II.[Upper camp which also housed the Jewish section]
In its note No. 44690/11 of June 22nd last concerning amongst other matters Major Unander's report on his visit of inspection to the Isle of Man the I. & R. Government, pointing out the necessity of allotting a minimum air space of 300 cubic feet for each prisoner, specially referred to the smaller barracks in the upper camp at Douglas where this minimum had not yet been attained, To my great regret I have to state that this is still the case, and no alteration has been attempted since his last visit I pointed this out to the Commandant. who told me that I could rest assured that the middle bunks , would be removed, or the under bunks lowered, and thus each prisoner would have the proscribed 300 cubic feet. It should, however, be stated that the opinion of the prisoners in the smaller barracks of Camp II is very much divided on the subject of removing the remaining middle bunks, as, if this is done, the men now occupying them would have to be transferred to another camp and so lose their much appreciated work at the brush factory connected with the camp.
The general state of the huts in Douglas camp was satisfactory, the construction officer doing his best to keep them in order, constantly repairing; them wherever necessary.
The Camp doctor is still assisted by Dr. von Osten. At the time of my visit an epidemic of Spanish Influenza had broken out, and in all the huts one could see prisoners suffering from the disease lying in their bunks. These were the lighter cases, the more serious ones being treated at the hospital, Happily the disease was not of a serious type, and no cases of death occurred. The prisoners affected by the influenza complained that they could not eat the ordinary food and asked if it was not possible to obtain some vegetables. This petition was at once granted.
FOOD and CANTEEN.
See Exhiibit A, the last ration sheet for the Isle of Man. According to this, the bread rations have now been decreased . from 8 ozs, a day to 5 ozs. of bread and 3 ozs. of biscuit, which naturally causes great discontent amongst the internees. Exhibit B is the latest list of Canteen prices. The salt beef now regularly received is most welcome. All the prisoners expressed their gratitude for this gift from the I. and R. Government, and there is no doubt that this weekly ration is of the greatest possible importance to the nourishment of the Austrian and Hungarian internees. I had the opportunity to examine the meat in question, both here and in Alexandra Palace, and am pleased to report that the quality of the meat is very good. Since these supplies commenced to arrive in England, it has been possible to make a distribution nearly every week, thanks to the regularity of the consignments.
The proposal of the I. and R. Government that only the destitute prisoners should be allowed to enjoy the privilege of the extra rations without paying for it, has been strongly opposed by the men. It appears that the proportion of those who are able to pay of after 4 years internment is very small. Many even in the privileged camp at Douglas having only just sufficient money to allow of their staying there. An additional expense of about 8/- per week is naturally a hardship which few of them can afford. It would therefore perhaps be preferable that prisoners should be allowed to pay for this meat each in accordance with his means, it being probable that a greater sum of money would be collected in this way than is now the case. Until the I. and R. Government have taken a decision in this matter, I instructed the members of the Austro-Hungarian Committees to follow the rules given by their Government for the distribution of the meat . but left it to their discretion to decide as to who was to be considered destitute or otherwise.
THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN COMMITTEE is now constituted as follows:-
1 N Frostig, Chairman
2. Leopold Weiss
3. Jaques Gondo
4. Idrahal Reinleitner
5. Ernst Hugetz
The other committees referred to in Lieutenant Colonel Mossberg's report are still in existence, though naturally the members have often been changed on account of repatriations or other circumstances
I was happy to be able at the time of my visit to communicate to the prisoners
the proposal of a general exchange made by the I and R. Government to the British
Government in their note No. 44698/11 of June 22nd last which had then just
reached me. There is no doubt that such an exchange would be of the greatest
importance to the prisoners whose physical and mental strength is undermined
by their long captivity. It would appear only human to send home all those men
whose future will be ruined if their internment is much prolonged. The Austrian
and Hungarian prisoners constantly express it as their opinion that their treatment
is not just when compared with that of British subjects in Austria and Hungary.
They naturally claim to have a certain right to be treated here in England in
the same way that British subjects are treated in their country. Such feelings
of injustice make it still harder to bear their captivity
In this connection, the following official statement made in August 1918, concerning the internment of British subjects in Austria or Hungary, and which has just been received from Vienna, may be of interest; -
The total number of British subjects residing at that date in Austria was 1330, of whom 656 were liable for military services. Of this number there were; -
a.) Interned 114 of whom 98 were liable for military service:
b.) Confined 121 of whom 84 were liable for military service (2. British officers)
c.) Free 1095 of whom 474 were liable for military service
Total 1330 .; 656
Of the total of 248 men, over 17 years of age residing in Hungary there are at present only 30 confined, and of these a great number are of military age.
The Austro-Hungarian statement further insists that in those countries from
the outbreak of war only those British subjects have been interned who were
absolutely destitute or who were for some reason unable to support themselves.
Only those have been confined (i. e. ordered not to leave their present abode
without permission) where, however, they were perfectly free to carry on their
business who in time of peace were living in the present theatre of war, on
the coast etc , or who for some Military reason have been transferred to their
All the other British subjects i.e. 82% in Austria and 88% in Hungary are absolutely free.
NURSING HOME FOR PRISONERS affected by barbed wire disease. If it should prove impossible to come to an agreement by which all civilian prisoners are to be repatriated or interned in a neutral country, the men expressed a wish to be allowed to hire a house on the Isle of Man and to fit it up as a nursing home in which prisoners affected by barbed wire disease could stay for some time and recover their health. If the British authorities could see their way to granting this request it certainly would be a great concession. A very small ward would be sufficient, as naturally only such prisoners who are prepared to give their parole could benefit by the scheme.
a. Prisoners' luggage when repatriated.
This certainly appears to be a question which needs to be considered with great care, for according to the statement of many prisoners it has often happened that part of their belongings, even if they had been allowed by the competent authorities to take them with them, never reached the steamer, but disappeared on the way to Boston. This statement was also confirmed by those in authority, and the following story was told me to prove the fact ; - German prisoner, who during his captivity had collected stamps as a pastime, was repatriated. The Commandant of the Camp to whom he expressed his desire to be allowed to take his collection with him it being of some considerable worth wrote to the Commandant of the repatriation Camp at Spalding asking him to let the man have his stamps with him after they had passed the censor. The censor passed the collection and had nothing; against their leaving the United Kingdom but it was stolen on its way from Spalding to the steamer. I think it well as much for the authorities' as for the prisoners' sake, that attention should be drawn to those complaints. It would appear best that the luggage of all repatriated men should be given only to trustworthy people.
The prisoners complained that a large number of parcels from Austria and Hungary
arrive in a very bad condition often half empty. According to a statement usually
attached by the Austro-Hungarian postal authorities, the parcels have been robbed
of their contents or damaged before leaving Austria.
Another matter for complaint was that the Austro-Hungarian postal authorities evidently are not fully instructed concerning the sending of parcels to prisoners of war. A great number of officials refuse to accept such parcels, whereas others forward them without objection, and in other cases they arc sent only if they do not contain certain articles. The prisoners would be grateful if the I. and R. Government would take steps to issue definite instructions on this question of forwarding parcels to the prisoners in the United Kingdom.
| Any comments, errors
or omissions gratefully received The
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