SIXTEEN MONTHS IN
FOUR GERMAN PRISONS
HENRY C. MAHONEY
FREDERICK A. TALBOT
AUTHOR OF "THE NEW GARDEN OF CANADA,"
"CONQUESTS OF SCIENCE," ETC.
LONDON AND EDINBURGH
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & CO., LTD.
THE AUTHOR AS HE APPEARED ON THE DAY OF HIS RELEASE FROM RUHLEBEN.
From an official photograph taken by the German Government for attachment to the passport. The embossed imprint of the stamp of the Kommandantur of Berlin may be seen.
MY WIFE AND CHILDREN
WHO WAITED PATIENTLY AND ANXIOUSLY
FOR "DADDY," AND TO
STILL LANGUISHING IN RUHLEBEN, TO
WHOM I OWE MY LIFE
It was whilst suffering the agonies of solitary confinement in the military prison of Wesel that I first decided to record my experiences so that readers might be able to glean some idea of the inner workings and the treatment meted out to our unfortunate compatriots who were travelling in Germany at the outbreak of war and who have since been interned.
From the moment of my decision I gathered all the information possible, determining at the first opportunity to escape to the Old Country. As will be seen I have to a degree been successful.
Owing to the grossly inaccurate and highly coloured reports which have been circulated from time to time regarding the life and treatment of prisoners of war, the story has been set out in a plain unvarnished form. There are no exaggerations whatever. Much of the most revolting detail has been eliminated for the simple reason that they are unprintable.
In nearly every instance names have been suppressed. Only initials have been indicated, but sufficient description is attached to enable personal friends of those who are still so unfortunate as to be incarcerated to identify them and their present situation. Likewise, in the cases where I received kind treatment from Germans, initials only have been introduced, since the publication of their names would only serve to bring punishment upon them.
On Friday afternoon, July 31, 1914, I shook hands in farewell with my friend Henry C. Mahoney. He was going to Warsaw and was full of enthusiasm concerning the new task which was to occupy him for at least three months. Owing to his exceptional skill and knowledge, practical as well as theoretical, of photography in all its varied branches, he had been offered, and had accepted an important appointment abroad in connection with this craft—one which made a profound appeal to him. Despite the stormy outlook in the diplomatic world he felt convinced that he would be able to squeeze through in the nick of time.
Although he promised to keep me well informed of his movements months passed in silence. Then some ugly and ominous rumours came to hand to the effect that he had been arrested as a spy in Germany, had been secretly tried and had been shot. I did not attach any credence to these vague, wild stories. I knew he had never been to Germany before, and was au courant with the harmless nature of his mission.
A year elapsed before I had any definite news. Then to my surprise I received a letter from him dispatched from the Interned British Prisoners Camp at Ruhleben. As a matter of fact I learned subsequently that he had previously written six letters and post-cards to me, but none had reached me; most likely they had been intercepted and suppressed by the German authorities.
The letter intimated that he had prepared a voluminous account of his experiences. Two or three days later I learned from another source that he had been "having a hard, rough, and exciting time," and that he could relate one of the most fascinating and sensational stories concerning the treatment meted out to our compatriots by the German authorities. I also learned that a closely written diary and a mass of other papers were on their way to me; that they were in safe keeping just over the frontier, the bearer waiting patiently for the most favourable moments to smuggle them into safety. This diary and other documents contained material which he desired me to make public with all speed in order to bring home to the British public a vivid impression of what our fellow-countrymen were suffering in the German prison camps.
The papers never reached me. Why, is related in the following pages. In prosecuting discreet enquiries to discover their whereabouts I learned, early in October 1915, that "Mahoney will be home before Christmas." My informant declined to vouchsafe any further particulars beyond the cryptic remark, "He's got something smart up his sleeve."
Knowing full well that my friend was a man of infinite resource and initiative I was not surprised to learn a week or two later that "Ruhleben knew Mahoney no longer." He had got away. His plans had proved so successful as to exceed the sanguine anticipations which he had formed.
On December 9, 1915, the day after his return to his wife and children, who had been keyed up to the highest pitch of excitement by the welcome news, we met again. His appearance offered convincing testimony as to the privations he had suffered, but I was completely surprised by the terrible tale he unfolded.
When the story narrated in the following pages was submitted to the publishers they received it with incredulity. After making enquiries concerning Mr. Mahoney's credentials they accepted his statements as being accurate, but my friend, to set the matter beyond all dispute, insisted upon making a statutory declaration as to their accuracy in every detail.
People in these islands were stirred to profound depths of horror by the cold-blooded murders of Nurse Cavell and Captain Fryatt, of whose trials nothing was heard until the sentences had been executed. A certain amount of curiosity has been aroused concerning the Teuton methods of conducting these secret trials. Henry C. Mahoney passed through a similar experience, although he escaped the extreme penalty. Still, the story of his trial will serve to bring home to the public some idea of the manner in which Germany strives to pursue her campaign of frightfulness behind closed doors.
Frederick A. Talbot.