The following statement is from an Australian Private who was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel in 1916. His treatment over the next two years varied, being particularly bad at Douai, but the food was uniformly poor and inadequate. He was eventually repatriated through Switzerland but even there he complained that the food was inadequate due to the dishonesty of those responsible for its provision.
On the 18th January, 1916, at noon, we were marched from the village of Fleurbaix, where we were billeted, an took up a position a little distance behind our own front lines, but were taken back. We came out again on the morning of 19th July, and advanced to the attack at 3 pm. . . We passed Fritz's first and second lines, and came to an old trench which was about 1,000 yards from where we started. Next, morning, the 20th, the enemy counter-attacked. We held the position for three or four hours but the Germans, being numerically stronger than us, we were forced to retire, as we could not hold the trench.
Sergeant M-- was lying on the bottom of the trench seriously wounded, and before retiring Lieutenant H-- called for volunteers to carry him out. Another man and I carried him along the trench for about 100 yards, when I was hit by a lump of shrapnel on the shoulder (left). I was completely disabled. I laid there for about an hour when I was picked up by a German officer and carried by him into a dug-out in the German lines, and handed over to the German A.M.C. men. The last I saw of Sergeant 'M' he was crawling along the trench on his hands and knees and being assisted by other men. I was left with other of our wounded men in the dug-out for three hours without any attention at all, and I felt half dead. Then I was made to march from there with a party of stretcher-bearers who were carrying a wounded German to a dressing station about 2 miles away. I do not know how I got there. I used to walk a few yards and fall down exhausted, pick myself up and stagger on again the stretcher-bearers, waiting for me as I got too far behind. I arrived there more dead than alive, and my wound was dressed by a German doctor who did. not waste any sympathy on me because I was an Australian. He wanted to.know why we Australians had come over to fight against Germany. I told him we were there to assist the nation to which we belonged.
I remained there that night and slept on an old bed of blankets. Next morning I was taken to Wavrin by ambulance waggon and placed in hospital. It was a hospital for German wounded and, besides myself, there were three Australians and one Englishman there. We were treated exactly the same as the German wounded, and the food we got was wholesome, but not too plentiful. The hospital staff consisted of German doctors, a German matron, and A.M.C. orderlies. Our wounds were dressed regularly, and, on the whole, the treatment meted out to us was fair, very fair. I remained here for one month, and was then moved to Douai.
At Douai the conditions were absolutely rotten -- bad food and no medical attention,
our wounds often remaining for over a week without being touched. I was here for ten days, and only had my wound
dressed once. The doctor, was a " butcher," and gave me a very rough handling ....
From Douai. I was transferred to Bochum (Westphalia), in Germany, and placed in hospital there. It was a sort of general hospital, run by Sisters of Mercy. I remained here for five weeks. The food was insufficient and consisted of soups and sloppy foods without any nourishment in them. The medical attention was bad, and the prisoners of war were strictly confined to hospital. My wound was making very slow recovery under the treatment. The Sisters of Mercy were the nursing staff, and superintended the work in the wards. Our wounds. were dressed by a Russian Pole, who, I think was a prisoner of war on parole.
There were two other Australian privates here in addition. to myself. From Bochum I was taken to Sennelager (Westphalia) and remained in hospital there for nine months. A Belgian doctor was in charge here. He was a prisoner of war on parole D'Onn by name, I think. We calld him "Don." I cannot praise him too highly. He was a good friend to all British prisoners and did the best he could in all the circumstances for everybody. Here the food was bad, the daily ration was one piece of bread, which would make three very small slices, and had to last for three meals (a slice for each meal). For breakfast we were given, in addition to one of the above mentioned slices of bread, a cup of substitute coffee. For dinner we were given a sort of vegetable soup, which no one would swallow unless he were starving. At 3 p.m. we had another issue of breakfast " coffee." For supper we got soup, which was 60 per cent worse than that issued to us for dinner. It did not matter what you were suffering from, you got exactly the same ration. We prisoners of war were isolated from the other patients, and the latter, I think, were treated very much better in the matter of food than were we. On one occasion Dr. D'Onn sent me to Pederborn to have an X-ray photograph taken of my shoulder, after which he put me under an anaesthetic and worked my arm, and then strapped it over my right shoulder, keeping it there for a month, but the treatment was without result, Then I was sent to the lager, but, thanks to Dr. D Onn, I was kept off "commando." I remained in the lager for six weeks. If possible, the food here was worse than in hospital.
My Red Cross parcels came to hand during February, and, after that, I got them fairly regularly, and they kept me alive. We relied absolutely upon them for our food. They were all opened before, we got them, and the contents of the tins emptied out. One had, to provide separate dishes to hold the bully beef, jam, &c. On the whole, we got them without much loss. On one occasion the parcels were stopped for a fortnight, and the bread contents were subsequently lost through it going mouldy. The reason given for the stoppage was that some men had developed ptomaine poisoning from the tinned foods but as far as I know this was not true.
From Sennelager I was sent to Constance, and passed the Board of Commissioners there for internment in a neutral country, and, about nine weeks later, was sent to Switzerland with a number of other Australians.
I arrived in Switzerland on 28th November 1917 and was sent to the Chateau d'Oex Region, and stopped at the Hotel La Soldanelle, and later at Hotel Bethod.All the time I remained in Switzerland I was receiving electrical treatment and mechanical exercises for my shoulder.
The treatment and attention were good in Switzerland, but the food, although good, was insufficient. On one occasion we complained to the officer of the day (British officer), and he came and saw the food, and said that we had ample cause for complaint. Still he could do nothing. We know that we should be getting. a bigger ration but owing to the avaricious nature of the hotel keepers in Switzerland, we could not get what our people were paying for.
I left Switzerland on 11th June, 1918, travelling through France in an ambulance train to La Havre, and embarked on S.S. Panama for Southampton. We arrived in London at 4 p.m. on 14th July, and were quartered at the King George Hospital, Waterloo.
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