BISCUITS FROM COPENHAGEN – extract from WW1 POW DIARY

 Adam Mackintosh

Biscuits from Copenhagen

31st August 1918    Received my first parcel of biscuits from Copenhagen will expect to get one every week

I managed to buy a half of a loaf for four shillings.  Gave away a splendid wristlet watch for a few potatoes

This is an extract from grandfather’s Prisoner of War diary which spans his eight months in captivity. It’s a thin leather bound book, with entries written in cursive script in purple pencil, and was preserved by my grandmother along with a vast collection of family letters from that time. In her dissertation based on this family archive, my daughter Shona MacLeod highlights that such uncensored diaries documenting the POW experience are extremely rare.

This is a mere snapshot of my grandfather’s war, there is so much I could write about, the conditions, the brutality, the stoicism of the prisoners, but given the debate about the Sainsbury Christmas truce advert, the sentence about the biscuits from Copenhagen resonate.

So here’s a few extracts from granda’s diary. Near starvation is the thread that runs through the diary, and while Danish biscuits are something we would load into our supermarket trolleys for Christmas, for my grandfather, this weekly handful of biscuits helped to build up his strength. The diary is currently part of a World War 1 Exhibition at Timespan in Helmsdale

240023 Sergt. Adam MacIntosh

1/5th Seaforth Hrs

Stammlager: Parchim, (Meckl.)

Germany

21st March 1918

We got orders late the night before to stand to, at 4.45 a.m. as the Germans were to make this attack, at about five in the morning the German bombardment started.  I was in the front line, we were wearing our box respirators as he put over a great many gas shells which seemed to have very poisonous gas.  I got a very bad dose of it which made me put up dirty green slime and was not able to keep on the S.B.R. I was then carried or helped down to Coy HQ in the support line, about 150 yards behind the firing line, but on the way the S.B. (Stretcher bearer) and I got buried with a shell landing right in the trench, then after we got taken out another Cpl had to help me down, when I was passing one of the sections in the firing line I noticed that they got all their rifles smashed with shell fire and the trench was almost all levelled in.

We reached Coy HQ about 8.30 a.m. which was in a big dugout but there were of course no doctors there and it was impossible to get to the dressing station so I had to lie there in a very bad state got a good nip of rum which made me put up much more green stuff.  Then I must have fallen off as I remember nothing more till I heard some bombs burst in the stairs of the dugout and some time after that when I did manage to crawl up the stairs I saw that the Germans were occupying the trench so was taken prisoner.  I was taken back to near Cambrai, had to lie out in an open cage all night and I felt very bad my throat and stomach was burning.

1st April We had one meal at 6 p.m.  just a wee bit of bread and jam no coffee.

2nd Got a drop coffee in the morning

3rd Managed to get a wee bit bread of some French people staying near and also a bit turnip and carrot

4th  Same as 3rd.  Beginning to feel very weak a good many not hardly fit to walk about

5th French people stopped from giving us anything in the food line.  They had given us what they could spare although the Germans even fired on some of them

6th They threaten to stop all food for two days if we don’t behave better.

7th  Some of our party left for another camp.  One man dies of weakness and want of food.

8th  Buried him in a French cemetery

9th Had a change of guard much worse than the last one.  One of our chaps got bayoneted through the night while at the latrine.  On to the 15th no change.  Had our first bath on 17th , no soap or clean shirt only fumigated.  After marching 7 kilos without any food till 4 p.m.

17th I made two balls of thread of my hoc tops and was very lucky in getting a loaf for them at a station (Wanne).  We also had a drop coffee

July 15th Still carrying on but feeling terrible weak with want of food, hearts kept up expecting red cross parcels soon.

27th Received 3 ½ biscuits a man from Red Cross which made a good supper.  Still having sour crout for supper and water with some maize meal in it for supper.  Getting terrible thin and weak hoping food parcels soon.

31st August   Received my first parcel of biscuits from Copenhagen will expect to get one every week

I managed to buy a half of a loaf for four shillings.  Gave away a splendid wristlet watch for a few potatoes

14th September Gave away my leather jacket for a loaf

 Adam MacIntosh (1891-1965)

 

 

 

 

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