Prisoner of War in Switzerland
Tuesday, October 01, 1918
Transcribed by: marc
Captain Wells was likely transferred to Swizerland in September or October 1918
I do not suppose that the people of Canada realize what the life of a prisoner of war in Germany really is, and when one remembers that Germans as a rule treat officers with exaggerated respect, it may serve to convey a slight idea of what our men are suffering.
The condition of some of our men is appalling (it depends largely where they are imprisoned) and since our arrival in Holland a little of the truth has leaked out. Men are deliberately murdered, apart from the terrible treatment they receive, and the number who have 'died' in Germany must be very great. Two officers, whom I knew personally, were murdered only last month; of course we have no proof, but we know what happened just as well as if we had seen the whole affair.
I have now been in Holland more than two months and I feel like an old resident. I am Assistant Adjutant to the Senior British Interned Officer and have to work fairly hard. My duties consist of dealing with the pay of 4,000 N.C.O.'s and men and 800 officers, and the whole of the work passes through my hands. The men are actually paid by their group officers, but all applications, questions, indents, etc., come to me. The pay of the officers is a most troublesome affair, owing to the system of living out which affects 300 of them. Unfortunately I have to rely on other people for most of the necessary information, and as this information is never correct I have the unfortunate experience of unravelling the many tangles.
I am lucky in getting a job, as they are very much sought after, and as I am one of the late comers I am exceptionally fortunate. I thought you might like to know that, though prisoners of war, Commerce men are not altogether in the background.
The country is quite flat but pretty. It is very pleasant to see the light green trees after the never-ending firs of Germany, and we often cycle into one of the neighbouring villages. The whole country is intersected with canals; even in the towns it is impossible to go for more than a few yards without meeting one.
The expense of the Hague is the greatest drawback. Prices are extortionate and it is almost impossible for a subaltern to live. Before the war the Hague was regarded as the second most expensive place in Europe, Monte Carlo ranking first, so the present prices can be imagined. Fortunately Canadian subalterns are in a better position than the English ones, but it is quite bad enough.
It seems a long time since I left Regina in 1915, and I should be happy enough to get back there now if the war were over. If we were so fortunate as to be repatriated I should stay in England until the end of the war, on the slight chance of having a second smack at the Huns.
The weather is very changeable and high winds are frequent; there has been very little rain, but it is often quite cold, and very different from the Hartz Mountains, where they really have glorious summers—the only good feature of the place.