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«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»

-- [ Page 61 ] --

Report on Conditions existing in Holland.—During the year 1918 the subject of the conditions of our soldiers interned in Holland received the careful attention of the Overseas Administration. As a result of this it was decided to send a Canadian Representative to the Hague to investigate the conditions personally, and after negotiations with the Imperial Government, lasting several months, Major (now Lt.-Col.) Hume Blake was sent over in September.

From his report made after a thorough investigation, during which every facility was accorded to him by the British and Dutch authorities,

the following information is taken :

Those interned in Holland of all nationalities, numbered in all over 40,000. Of that number about 500 officers and 4,500 other ranks were British Prisoners of War, and these were practically all located in the Internment Camp at the Hague and its suburb Scheveningen.

Except a few officers who had been permitted to live elsewhere, all the Canadians, including about 53 officers and 314 other ranks, were quartered there.

Quarters and Billets.—The interned officers were for the most part housed in several large hotels near the sea front, which were taken over for the purpose by the Dutch Government. From all accounts these quarters were reasonably comfortable, and the food supplied was fair in quality, though much limited in quantity by the strict rationing that was in force. The other ranks were billeted in 11 different groups, widely scattered about the Hague and Scheveningen. The Canadians were in Group 6, known as the Colonial Group, and on inspection their billets were found to be fairly satisfactory.

British Red Cross Society and British Y.M.C.A.—Both the British Red Cross Society and the British Y.M.C.A. built up large and comprehensive organizations in Holland, and both appeared to be under able, efficient and generous control.

The British Red Cross Society, among its other activities, aimed at providing employment, instruction and 'education for the interned.

Workshops, schools and classes of instruction in many subjects, both for officers and other ranks, had been organized, and were being satisfactorily attended.

(642) HH 466 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

Of the three hospitals at the Hague for British Prisoners of War, the one for officers was entirely supported and administered by the British Red Cross Society. For this purpose, the Baroness de Brienen had handed over her residence "Clingendaal," and undertaken the duties of commandant.

The two hospitals for other ranks were under Dutch Administration and Medical Service, but the British Red Cross Society assisted with supplies of extra comforts, and a fund for this purpose had recently been provided by the Canadian Red Cross Society.

On inspection of these hospitals, the impression gathered was one of comfort, good order and competent direction, and the few Canadian patients spoke highly of the care and good treatment received.

The British Y.M.C.A. had organized numerous well-equipped canteens and other centres for the comfort and recreation of prisoners, but, as the latter were located in various widely distributed groups, it had been difficult to arrange these centres so as to provide for the requirements of all.

Recreation.—One very good move which our Canadian officers made soon after their transfer to Holland was the formation of a Canadian Officers' Club. Modest quarters were found for the Club, consisting of one floor of a small building in Scheveningen, situated near the sea front, and it proved a great boon. It was run as economically as possible, and enabled its members to meet for social purposes, and to obtain light refreshment, much less expensively than at the Dutch cafes and restaurants. For the winter months it had been arranged to move the club to smaller, but more convenient, quarters in the British-America Club in the Hague.

Another very successful Canadian organization was the Canadian Sports' Club. The British Y.M.C.A. Sports' Grounds being three miles from the Colonial group, and no provision having been made there for distinctively Canadian games, such as baseball and lacrosse, it was decided to form a separate sports' club, and suitable grounds, of about six acres, were found within 10 minutes' walk of the Canadian billets. A baseball league was formed with the American Legation and some Amsterdam clubs, and through the summer much good baseball was played, as well as some soccer and indoor baseball.

Many winning Canadian entries were made at the Garrison Sports and Caledonian Games, and on July 1, a Dominion Day Sports Meeting was held, which was generally considered to be the Interned Prisoners of War. 467 most successful sporting event of the summer. The best sports' ground in the Hague was secured, and no admission charged, all expenses being defrayed by the Canadian officers. Six or seven thousand people were present and altogether it was a great day for Canada.

Food.—The Dutch and Imperial Military Authorities had many difficulties to contend with, the most material being the insufficiency of food. The shortage of food in Holland was very great, and the civil population strictly rationed. Food for all British interned other ranks were supplied by a Dutch Company, under a contract with the British Government; which provided that the soldiers' rations should be as sufficient as those allowed to the civil population. The company, however, did not fulfil this obligation, and the soldiers' food was not only altogether insufficient, but often so dirty and badly-prepared as to be almost uneatable. These conditions were much improved by the Imperial Government supplementing the rations provided under the contract, by sending supplies from England of bullybeef and meat and vegetable ration, and of ration biscuits. With these supplies the food was less insufficient, and there was also a considerable improvement in the way it was prepared.





The nearest Y.M.C.A. canteen was about a half-hour's walk from the billets of the Colonial group, and, owing to the distance and the crowding and inconvenience at the canteens, it was necessary to use a local cafe.

To better these conditions, the Canadian Y.M.C.A. intended to erect and equip a hut, with canteen and other equipment, conveniently near to the Canadian billets. This hut was to be large enough to serve not only the Colonial group, but an Imperial group located in the same area.

It was the intention to try and provide at this hut a fairly substantial evening meal at a moderate charge, probably half a gulden (about one shilling) a head.

General Conditions of Life.—Speaking generally, the conditions of life for all ranks interned in Holland were found to be better than was expected. It may be confidently stated that, with very few exceptions, the Canadians there were well and in good condition, physically, mentally and morally. They had come through the ordeal of the German prison camps remarkably well and with great credit to themselves. They (642) HH2 468 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

were made welcome and treated kindly by the Dutch Government and the Dutch people. Their conduct and discipline were good, and they stood high in reputation and credit. Of course, their life in Holland had its drawbacks. The cost of living was excessive, food and all commodities, services and accommodation being at least twice as expensive as in London. Moreover, notwithstanding the efforts of the British Red Cross Society, it was necessarily difficult and, in fact, impossible, to arrange suitable employment or instruction for all. A great many were employed only on group or garrison duty, and in these, as indeed in most cases, work of any kind only occupied a short part of each day, and the life was one of comparative idleness and considerable tedium.

Recommendations.—As a result of the investigation, several recommendations were made, particularly with reference to subsistence allowances, which were given effect to, except insofar as they were rendered unnecessary by the signing of the Armistice.

Statistics.—The total number of Canadians captured as Prisoners of.

War on the Western Front was 236 officers and 3,511 other ranks. Of these 28 officers and 273 other ranks died in captivity, 1 officer and 99 other ranks escaped, while 127 officers and 311 other ranks were repatriated prior to the Armistice. The balance have since been repatriated, with the exception of a few who remained on duty after the Armistice. In October, 1918, there were 55 officers and 316 other ranks interned in Holland, who have since been repatriated.

Repatriation.—Subsequent to the signing of the Armistice, the work of repatriation proceeded as quickly as possible. The repatriated Prisoners of War were brought to camps at Ripon and Dover, where they were outfitted, medically examined and paid, and given leave up to two months, as they desired. On the expiration of their leave, they returned to their regimental depots and were then given priority of return to Canada.

The Inter-Allied Permanent Committee for Disabled Soldiers.

France and Belgium.—Belgium and France were first in the field in the development of institutional treatment for the re-education of their disabled soldiers; Belgium because, deprived of most of her territory, she had nowhere to discharge her disabled soldiers at the conclusion of their stay in hospital; France because, instead of discharging them from the army at the end of six months' stay in hospital, it was her custom to retain them in the primary hospitals until nothing more could be done for them.

As a result of the severe fighting and heavy casualties the number of cripples accumulating in the French hospitals became so great that it could not be overlooked. It was in November, 1914, that M. Heriot, Mayor of Lyons, obtained the approval of the Municipal Council for his scheme of the establishment of a school for the re-education of mutilated soldiers, and in December that school was opened. Other districts in France rapidly followed suit.

The Belgian scheme was of necessity on a larger and more elaborate scale, but in July, 1915, there was opened the " Institut Militaire Belge des Mutiles, Invalides et Orphelins," at Port Villez on the Seine, halfway between Paris and Rouen. Here beside the necessary dormitories, administration and recreation rooms, there were no fewer than 30 separate workshops, in which an extraordinary diversity of technical training was pursued, clerical and commercial, agricultural, and training for the various trades.

Canada. —A combination of the influences at work in the armies of Belgium and France led Canada to take a pioneer position as regards the invalid soldiers of Great Britain and her Dominions. If Canada suffered from no loss of territory, her troops, like those of Belgium, were not on home soil. Invalid soldiers could not be discharged from hospital in France or in the United Kingdom until they could be returned to active duty, or were fit to stand the voyage back to Canada.

Very soon the C.A.M.C. had to develop a series of Convalescent Hospitals, to which all Canadian patients had to be transferred from active treatment Hospitals, whether Canadian or Imperial. These 470 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

Convalescent Hospitals formed, as it were, the narrow tube of the funnel through which all Canadian patients had to pass. Thus it was that, months before any active movement for the reeducation of the maimed soldier took definite shape for the Imperial troops, the Granville Canadian Special Hospital (opened in November, 1915) was in working order at Ramsgate, with a well-developed system of 'functional reeducation for the physical training of weak and partially paralysed muscles. This Hospital was also fitted with a number of workshops in which return to health and muscular strength was brought about by occupational pursuits-woodwork, ironwork, printing, house painting, bookmaking, leather work, cigarette making, and so on. The good effects gained were very striking.

Re-education.—In Canada itself the establishment of a Military Hospitals' Commission, charged with the care of the returned invalid soldier.led inevitably to a careful study of the problems of re-education of the same, that he might take his. place in civil life as a useful citizen.

The Board of Pension Commissioners also was immediately interested, and yet other bodies working under the Government, such as the Department of Soldiers Aid Commissioners and that of Soldiers Civil Re-establishment and the Land Settlement Commission. Considerations of national economy, as well as those of national gratitude, make this after treatment and training of disabled soldiers a matter of the widest interest.

Thus it came about that, in the second year of the War, from many different points of view, the future of the invalid soldier aroused widespread attention; and each one of the Allied nations was enquiring into the methods in vogue in other countries, in order that it might accomplish that which was most practical and most fruitful for the benefit of its invalid soldiers. On the part of the Dominion Government, several officers and experts were instructed to visit institutes in the Allied countries, and to report upon the methods there in vogue for the training and re-education of the disabled.



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