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Full text of "Outwitting the Hun; my escape from a German prison camp"

7 & 

f m _ 




My Escape from a 
German Prison Camp 


Royal Flying Corps 





Copyright. 1918. by Lieutenant Pat O'Brien 

Printed in the United States of America 

Published March. 1918 






























XX. HOME AGAIN! . 281 


LlEUT. PAT O'BRIEN, R. F. C Frontispiece 

MADE PRISONER Facing p. 30 












'""THERE is a common idea that the age 
1 of miracles is past. Perhaps it is, but 
if so, the change must have come about 
within the past few weeks after I es- 
caped into Holland. For if anything is 
certain in this life it is this: this book 
never would have been written but for the 
succession of miracles set forth in these 

Miracles, luck, coincidence, Providence 
it doesn't matter much what you call it 
certainly played an important part in 
the series of hairbreadth escapes in which 
I figured during my short but eventful 
appearance in the great drama now being 
enacted across the seas. Without it, all 
my efforts and sufferings would have been 
quite unavailing. 

No one realizes this better than I do and 
I want to repeat it right here because else- 
where in these pages I may appear oc- 


casionally to overlook or minimize it: 
without the help of Providence I would 
not be here to-day. 

But this same Providence which brought 
me home safely, despite all the dangers 
which beset me, may work similar miracles 
for others, and it is in the hope of en- 
couraging other poor devils who may 
find themselves in situations as hopeless 
apparently as mine oftentimes were that 
this book is written. 

When this cruel war is over which I 
trust may be sooner than I expect it to be 
I hope I shall have an opportunity to 
revisit the scenes of my adventures and 
to thank in person in an adequate manner 
every one who extended a helping hand to 
me when I was a wretched fugitive. All 
of them took great risks in befriending an 
escaped prisoner, and they did it without 
the slightest hope of reward. At the same 
time I hope I shall have a chance to pay 
my compliments to those who endeavored 
to take advantage of my distress. 

In the meanwhile, however, I can only 
express my thanks in this ineffective man- 
ner, trusting that in some mysterious way 
a copy of this book may fall into the hands 


of every one who befriended me. I hope 
particularly that every good Hollander 
who played the part of the Good Samaritan 
to me so bountifully after my escape from 
Belgium will see these pages and feel that 
I am absolutely sincere when I say that 
words cannot begin to express my sense of 
gratitude to the Dutch people. 

It is needless for me to add how deeply 
I feel for my fellow-prisoners in Germany 
who were less fortunate than I. Poor, 
poor fellows! they are the real victims of 
the war. I hope that every one of them 
may soon be restored to that freedom 
whose value I never fully realized until 
after I had had to fight so hard to regain it. 


MOMENCE, ILLINOIS, January 14, igi8. 




C1SS than nine months ago eighteen 
officers of the Royal Flying Corps, 
which had been training in Canada, left 
for England on the Megantic. 

If any of them was over twenty-five 
years of age, he had successfully concealed 
the fact, because they don't accept older 
men for the R. F. C. 

Nine of the eighteen were British sub- 
jects; the other nine were Americans, 
who, tired of waiting for their own country 
to take her place with the Allies, had 
joined the British colors in Canada. I was 
one of the latter. 


We were going to England to earn our 
41 wings" a qualification which must be 
won before a member of the R. F. C. is 
allowed to hunt the Huns on the western 

That was in May, 1917. 

By August ist most of us were full- 
fledged pilots, actively engaged at various 
parts of the line in daily conflict with the 

By December I5th every man Jack of 
us who had met the enemy in France, with 
one exception, had appeared on the casu- 
alty list. The exception was H. K. Boy- 
sen, an American, who at last report was 
fighting on the Italian front, still un- 
scathed. Whether his good fortune has 
stood by him up to this time I don't know, 
but if it has I would be very much sur- 

Of the others five were killed in action 
three Americans, one Canadian, and one 
Englishman. Three more were in all 
probability killed in action, although of- 
ficially they are listed merely as "missing." 
One of these was an American, one a 
Canadian, and the third a Scotchman. 
Three more, two of them Americans, were 


seriously wounded. Another, a Canadian, 
is a prisoner in Germany. I know nothing 
of the others. 

What happened to me is narrated in 
these pages. I wish, instead, I could tell 
the story of each of my brave comrades, 
for not one of them was downed, I am 
sure, without upholding the best tradi- 
tions of the R. F. C. Unfortunately, how- 
ever, of the eighteen who sailed on the 
Meganticlast May, I happened to be the 
first to fall into the hands of the Huns, and 
what befell my comrades after that, with 
one exception, I know only second hand. 

The exception was the case of poor, 
brave Paul Raney my closest chum 
whose last battle I witnessed from my 
German prison but that is a story I shall 
tell in its proper place. 

In one way, however, I think the story 
of my own "big adventure" and my 
miraculous escape may, perhaps, serve 
a purpose as useful as that of the heroic 
fate of my less fortunate comrades. Their 
story, it is true, might inspire others to 
deeds of heroism, but mine, I hope, will 
convey the equally valuable lesson of the 
folly of despair. 



Many were the times in the course of 
my struggles when it seemed absolutely 
useless to continue. In a hostile country, 
where discovery meant death, wounded, 
sick, famished, friendless, hundreds of 
miles from the nearest neutral territory the 
frontier of which was so closely guarded 
that even if I got there it seemed too much 
to hope that I could ever get through, what 
was the use of enduring further agony? 

And yet here I am, in the Land of 
Liberty although in a somewhat obscure 
corner, the little town of Momence, Illi- 
nois, where I was born not very much 
the worse for wear after all I've been 
through, and, as I write these words, not 
eight months have passed since my seven- 
teen comrades and I sailed from Canada 
on the Meganticl 

Can it be possible that I was spared to 
convey a message of hope to others who 
are destined for similar trials? I am 
afraid there will be many of them. 

Years ago I heard of the epitaph which 
is said to have been found on a child's 

If I was so soon to be done for, 

O Lord, what was I ever begun for? 



The way it has come to me since I re- 
turned from Europe is: 

If, O Lord, I was not to be done for, 
What were my sufferings e'er begun for? 

Perhaps the answer lies in the sugges- 
tion I have made. 

At any rate, if this record of my ad- 
ventures should prove instrumental in 
sustaining others who need encourage- 
ment, I shall not feel that my sufferings 
were in vain. 

It is hardly likely that any one will 
quite duplicate my experiences, but I 
haven't the slightest doubt that many will 
have to go through trials equally nerve- 
racking and suffer disappointments just as 

It would be very far from the mark to 
imagine that the optimism which I am 
preaching now so glibly sustained me 
through all my troubles. On the con- 
trary, I am free to confess that I frequently 
gave way to despair and often, for hours 
at a time, felt so dejected and discouraged 
that I really didn't care what happened to 
me. Indeed, I rather hoped that some- 



thing would happen to put an end to my 

But, despite all my despondency and 
hopelessness, the worst never happened, 
and I can't help thinking that my salva- 
tion must have been designed to show the 
way to others. 



I STARTED flying, in Chicago, in 1912. 
I was then eighteen years old, but I 
had had a hankering for the air ever 
since I can remember. 

As a youngster I followed the exploits of 
the Wrights with the greatest interest, 
although I must confess I sometimes hoped 
that they wouldn't really conquer the air 
until I had had a whack at it myself. I 
got more whacks than I was looking for 
later on. 

Needless to say, my parents were very 
much opposed to my risking my life at 
what was undoubtedly at that time one 
of the most hazardous "pastimes" a 
young fellow could select, and every time 
I had a smash-up or some other mishap 
I was ordered never to go near an avia- 
tion field again. 



So I went out to California. There an- 
other fellow and I built our own machine, 
which we flew in various parts of the state. 

In the early part of 1916, when trouble 
was brewing in Mexico, I joined the 
American Flying Corps. I was sent to 
San Diego, where the army flying school 
is located, and spent about eight months 
there, but as I was anxious to get into 
active service and there didn't seem much 
chance of America ever getting into the 
war, I resigned and, crossing over to 
Canada, joined the Royal Flying Corps 
at Victoria, B. C. 

I was sent to Camp Borden, Toronto, 
first to receive instruction and later to 
instruct. While a cadet I made the first 
loop ever made by a cadet in Canada, and 
after I had performed the stunt I half ex- 
pected to be kicked out of the service for 
it. Apparently, however, they considered 
the source and let it go at that. Later on 
I had the satisfaction of introducing the 
loop as part of the regular course of in- 
struction for cadets in the R. F. C., and 
I want to say right here that Camp Bor- 
den has turned out some of the best fliers 
that have ever gone to France. 



In May, 1917, I and seventeen other 
Canadian fliers left for England on the 
Megantic, where we were to qualify for 
service in France. 

Our squadron consisted of nine Amer- 
icans, C. C. Robinson, H. A. Miller, F. S. 
McClurg, A. A. Allen, E. B. Garnett, 
H. K. Boysen, H. A. Smeeton, A. Taylor, 
and myself; and nine Britishers, Paul H. 
Raney, J. R. Park, C. Nelmes, C. R. 
Moore, T. L. Atkinson, F. C. Conry, 
A. Muir, E. A. L. F. Smith, and A. C. 

Within a few weeks after our arrival in 
England all of us had won our ' 'wings " 
the insignia worn on the left breast by 
every pilot on the western front. 

We were all sent to a place in France 
known as the Pool Pilots' Mess. Here 
men gather from all the training squadrons 
in Canada and England and await assign- 
ments to the particular squadron of which 
they are to become members. 

The Pool Pilots' Mess is situated a few 
miles back of the lines. Whenever a pilot 
is shot down or killed the Pool Pilots' Mess 
is notified to send another to take his place. 

There are so many casualties every day 


in the R. F. C. at one point of the front 
or another that the demand for new pilots 
is quite active, but when a fellow is itching 
to get into the fight as badly as I and my 
friends were I must confess that we got a 
little impatient, although we realized that 
every time a new man was called it meant 
that some one else had, in all probability, 
been killed, wounded, or captured. 

One morning an order came in for a 
scout pilot, and one of my friends was as- 
signed. I can tell you the rest of us were 
as envious of him as if it were the last 
chance any of us were ever going to have 
to get to the front. As it was, however, 
hardly more than three hours had elapsed 
before another wire was received at the 
Mess and I was ordered to follow my 
friend. I afterward learned that as soon 
as he arrived at the squadron he had pre- 
vailed upon the commanding officer of the 
squadron to wire for me. 

At the Pool Pilots' Mess it was the cus- 
tom of the officers to wear "shorts" 
breeches that are about eight inches long, 
like the Boy Scouts wear, leaving a space 
of about eight inches of open country be- 
tween the top of the puttees and the end of 



the "shorts." The Australians wore them 
in Salonica and at the Dardanelles. 

When the order came in for me, I had 
these "shorts" on, and I didn't have time 
to change into other clothes. Indeed, I 
was in such a sweat to get to the front that 
if I had been in my pajamas I think I 
would have gone that way. As it was, it 
was raining and I threw an overcoat over 
me, jumped into the machine, and we 
made record time to the aerodrome to 
which I had been ordered to report. 

As I alighted from the automobile my 
overcoat blew open and displayed my 
manly form attired in "shorts" instead of 
in the regulation flying breeches, and the 
sight aroused considerable commotion in 

"Must be a Yankee!" I overheard one 
officer say to another as I approached. 
"No one but a Yank would have the 
cheek to show up that way, you know!" 

But they laughed good-naturedly as I 
came up to them and welcomed me to the 
squadron, and I was soon very much at 

My squadron was one of four stationed 

at an aerodrome about eighteen miles back 


of the Ypres line. There were eighteen 
pilots in our squadron, which was a scout- 
squadron, scout-machines carrying but one 

A scout, sometimes called a fighting- 
scout, has no bomb-dropping or recon- 
noitering to do. His duty is just to fight, 
or, as the order was given to me, "You 
are expected to pick fights and not wait 
until they come to you!" 

When bomb-droppers go out over the 
lines in the daytime, a scout-squadron 
usually convoys them. The bomb-drop- 
pers fly at about twelve thousand feet, the 
scouts a thousand feet or so above them to 
protect them. 

If at any time they should be attacked, 
it is the duty of the scouts to dive down 
and carry on the fight, the orders of the 
bomb-droppers being to go on dropping 
bombs and not to fight unless they have 
to. There is seldom a time that machines 
go out over the lines on this work in the 
daytime that they are not attacked at 
some time or other, and so the scouts 
usually have plenty of work to do. In 
addition to these attacks, however, the 
squadron is invariably under constant 



bombardment from the ground, but that 
doesn't worry us very much, as we know 
pretty well how to avoid being hit from 
that quarter. 

On my first flight, after joining the 
squadron, I was taken out over the lines 
to get a look at things, map out my loca- 
tion in case I was ever lost, locate the 
forests, lakes, and other landmarks, and 
get the general lay of the land. 

One thing that was impressed upon me 
very emphatically was the location of the 
hospitals, so that in case I was ever 
wounded and had the strength to pick 
my landing I could land as near as pos- 
sible to a hospital. All these things a 
new pilot goes through during the first 
two or three days after joining a squadron. 

Our regular routine was two flights a 
day, each of two hours' duration. After 
doing our regular patrol, it was our priv- 
ilege to go off on our own hook, if we 
wished, before going back to the squadron. 

I soon found out that my squadron was 
some hot squadron, our fliers being almost 
always assigned to special-duty work, such 
as shooting up trenches at a height of 
fifty feet from the ground! 


I received my baptism into this kind of 
work the third time I went out over the 
lines, and I would recommend it to any 
one who is hankering for excitement. You 
are not only apt to be attacked by hostile 
aircraft from above, but you are swept by 
machine-gun fire from below. I have seen 
some of our machines come back from this 
work sometimes so riddled with bullets 
that I wondered how they ever held to- 
gether. Before we started out on one of 
these jobs we were mighty careful to see 
that our motors were in perfect condition, 
because they told us the "war-bread was 
bad in Germany." 

One morning, shortly after I joined the 
squadron, three of us started over the line 
on our own accord. We soon observed 
four enemy machines, two-seaters, com- 
ing toward us. This type of machine is 
used by the Huns for artillery work and 
bomb-dropping, and we knew they were 
on mischief bent. Each machine had a 
machine-gun in front, worked by the pilot, 
and the observer also had a gun with which 
he could spray all around. 

When we first noticed the Huns our 
machines were about six miles back of the 


German lines and we were lying high up 
in the sky, keeping the sun behind us, 
so that the enemy could not see us. 

We picked out three of the machines 
and dove down on them. I went right 
by the man I picked for myself and his ob- 
server in the rear seat kept pumping at 
me to beat the band. Not one of my 
shots took effect as I went right under 
him, but I turned and gave him another 
burst of bullets and down he went in a 
spinning nose dive, one of his wings going 
one way and one another. As I saw hinx 
crash to the ground I knew that I had got 
my first hostile aircraft. One of my com- 
rades was equally successful, but the other 
two German machines got away. We 
chased them back until things got too hot 
for us by reason of the appearance of other 
German machines, and then we called it a 

This experience whetted my appetite for 
more of the same kind, and I did not have 
long to wait. 

It may be well to explain here just what 

a spinning nose dive is. A few years ago 

the spinning nose dive was considered one 

of the most dangerous things a pilot could. 

a 15 


attempt, and many men were killed getting 
into this spin and not knowing how to 
come out of it. In fact, lots of pilots 
thought that when once you got into a 
spinning nose dive there was no way of 
coming out of it. It is now used, however, 
in actual flying. 

The machines that are used in France 
are controlled in two ways, both by hands 
and by feet, the feet working the yoke or 
rudder bar which controls the rudder that 
steers the machine. The lateral controls 
and fore and aft, which cause the machine 
to rise or lower, are controlled by a con- 
trivance called a "joy-stick." If, when 
flying in the air, a pilot should release his 
hold on this stick, it will gradually come 
back toward the pilot. 

In that position the machine will begin 
to climb. So if a pilot is shot and loses 
control of this "joy-stick" his machine 
begins to ascend, and climbs until the 
angle formed becomes too great for it to 
continue or the motor to pull the plane; 
for a fraction of a second it stops, and the 
motor then being the heaviest, it causes the 
nose of the machine to fall forward, pitch- 
ing down at a terrific rate of speed and 



spinning at the same time. If the motor is 
still running, it naturally increases the 
speed much more than it would if the 
motor were shut off, and there is great 
danger that the wings will double up, 
causing the machine to break apart. Al- 
though spins are made with the motor on, 
you are dropping like a ball being dropped 
out of the sky and the velocity increases 
with the power of the motor. 

This spinning nose dive has been fre- 
quently used in "stunt" flying in recent 
years, but is now put to practical use by 
pilots in getting away from hostile ma- 
chines, for when a man is spinning, it is 
almost impossible to hit him, and the man 
making the attack invariably thinks his 
enemy is going down to certain death in 
the spin. 

This is all right when a man is over his 
own territory, because he can right his 
machine and come out of it; but if it hap- 
pens over German territory, the Huns 
would only follow him down, and when he 
came out of the spin they would be above 
him, having all the advantage, and would 
shoot him down with ease. 

It is a good way of getting down into 


a cloud, and is used very often by both 
sides, but it requires skill and courage by 
the pilot making it if he ever expects to 
come out alive. 

A spin being made by a pilot intention- 
ally looks exactly like a spin that is made by 
a machine actually being shot down, so 
one never knows whether it is forced or in- 
tentional until the pilot either rights his 
machine and comes out of it or crashes to 
the ground. 

Another dive similar to this one is 
known as just the plain "dive." Assume, 
for instance, that a pilot flying at a height 
of several thousand feet is shot, loses con- 
trol of his machine, and the nose of the 
plane starts down with the motor full on. 
He is going at a tremendous speed and 
in many instances is going so straight and 
swiftly that the speed is too great for the 
machine, because it was never constructed 
to withstand the enormous pressure forced 
against the wings, and they consequently 
crumple up. 

If, too, in an effort to straighten the 
machine, the elevators should become af- 
fected, as often happens in trying to bring 

a machine out of a dive, the strain is again 



too great on the wings, and there is the 
same disastrous result. Oftentimes, when 
the petrol-tank is punctured by a tracer- 
bullet from another machine in the air, the 
plane that is hit catches on fire and either 
gets into a spin or a straight dive and heads 
for the earth, hundreds of miles an hour, a 
mass of flame, looking like a brilliant comet 
in the sky. 

The spinning nose dive is used to greater 
advantage by the Germans than by our 
own pilots, for the reason that when a fight 
gets too hot for the German he will put 
his machine in a spin, and as the chances 
are nine out of ten that we are fighting 
over German territory, he simply spins 
down out of our range, straightens out be- 
fore he reaches the ground, and goes on 
home to his aerodrome. It is useless to 
follow him down inside the German lines, 
for you would in all probability be shot 
down before you could attain sufficient alti- 
tude to cross the line again. 

It often happens that a pilot will be 
chasing another machine when suddenly 
he sees it start to spin. Perhaps they are 
fifteen or eighteen thousand feet in the 
air, and the hostile machine spins down 



for thousands of feet. He thinks he has 
hit the other machine and goes home 
happy that he has brought down another 
Hun. He reports the occurrence to the 
squadron, telling how he shot down his 
enemy; but when the rest of the squadron 
come in with their report, or some artillery 
observation balloon sends in a report, it 
develops that when a few hundred feet 
from the ground the supposed dead man 
in the spin has come out of the spin and 
gone merrily on his way for his own aero- 



{SHALL not easily forget the I7th of 
August, 1917. I killed two Huns in a 
double-seated machine in the morning, 
another in the evening, and then I was 
captured myself. I may have spent more 
eventful days in my life, but I can't recall 
any just now. 

That morning, in crossing the line on 
early morning patrol, I noticed two Ger- 
man balloons. I decided that as soon as 
my patrol was over I would go off on my 
own hook and see what a German balloon 
looked like at close quarters. 

These observation balloons are used by 
both sides in conjunction with the artillery. 
A man sits up in the balloon with a wireless 
apparatus and directs the firing of the guns. 
From his point of vantage he can follow 
the work of his own artillery with a re- 



markable degree of accuracy and at the 
same time he can observe the enemy's 
movements and report them. 

The Germans are very good at this work 
and they use a great number of these bal- 
loons. It was considered a very important 
part of our work to keep them out of the 

There are two ways of going after a bal- 
loon in a machine. One of them is to cross 
the lines at a low altitude, flying so near 
the ground that the man with the anti- 
aircraft gun can't bother you. You fly 
along until you get to the level of the bal- 
loon, and if, in the mean time, they have not 
drawn the balloon down, you open fire on 
it and the bullets you use will set it on fire 
if they land. 

The other way is to fly over where you 
know the balloons to be, put your machine 
in a spin so that they can't hit you, get 
above them, spin over the balloon, and 
then open fire. In going back over the 
line you cross at a few hundred feet. 

This is one of the hardest jobs in the 
service. There is less danger in attacking 
an enemy's aircraft. 

Nevertheless, I had made up my mind 



either to get those balloons or make them 
descend, and I only hoped that they would 
stay on the job until I had a chance at 

When our two hours' duty was up, there- 
fore, I dropped out of the formation as we 
crossed the lines and turned back again. 

I was at a height of fifteen thousand feet, 
considerably higher than the balloons. 
Shutting my motor off, I dropped down 
through the clouds, thinking to find the 
balloons at about five or six miles behind 
the German lines. 

Just as I came out of the cloud-banks I 
saw below me, about a thousand feet, a 
two-seater hostile machine doing artillery 
observation and directing the German 
guns. This was at a point about four 
miles behind the German lines. 

Evidently the German artillery saw me 
and put out ground signals to attract the 
Hun machine's attention, for I saw the 
observer quit his work and grab his gun, 
while the pilot stuck the nose of his ma- 
chine straight down. 

But they were too late to escape me. I 
was diving toward them at a speed of 
probably two hundred miles an hour, shoot- 


ing all the time as fast as possible. Their 
only chance lay in the possibility that the 
force of my dive might break my wings. 
I knew my danger in that direction, but 
as soon as I came out of my dive the Huns 
would have their chance to get me, and I 
knew I had to get them first and take a 
chance on my wings holding out. 

Fortunately, some of my first bullets 
found their mark and I was able to come 
out of my dive at about four thousand 
feet. They never came out of theirs! 

But right then came the hottest situa- 
tion in the air I had experienced up to 
that time. The depth of my dive had 
brought me within reach of the machine- 
guns from the ground and they also put 
a "barrage" around me of shrapnel from 
anti-aircraft guns, and I had an oppor- 
tunity to "ride the barrage," as they call 
it in the R. F. C. To make the situation 
more interesting, they began shooting 
"flaming onions" at me. 

"Flaming onions" are rockets shot from 
a rocket-gun. They are used to hit a ma- 
chine when it is flying low and they are ef- 
fective up to about five thousand feet. 
Sometimes they are shot up one after an- 


other in strings of about eight, and they are 
one of the hardest things to go through. 
If they hit the machine it is bound to catch 
fire and then the jig is up. 

All the time, too, I was being attacked 
by "Archie" the anti-aircraft fire. I 
escaped the machine-guns and the "flam- 
ing onions," but "Archie" got me four or 
five times. Every time a bullet plugged 
me, or rather my machine, it made a loud 
bang, on account of the tension on the ma- 
terial covering the wings. 

None of their shots hurt me until I was 
about a mile from our lines, and then they 
hit my motor. Fortunately I still had al- 
titude enough to drift on to our own side 
of the lines, for my motor was completely 
out of commission. They just raised the 
dickens with me all the time I was descend- 
ing, and I began to think I would strike the 
ground before crossing the line, but there 
was a slight wind in my favor and it carried 
me two miles behind our lines. There the 
balloons I had gone out to get had the sat- 
isfaction of "pin-pointing" me. Through 
the directions which they were able to give 
to their artillery, they commenced shelling 
my machine where it lay. 


Their particular work is to direct the 
fire of their artillery, and they are used just 
as the artillery observation airplanes are. 
Usually two men are stationed in each bal- 
loon. They ascend to a height of several 
thousand feet about five miles behind their 
own lines and are equipped with wireless 
and signaling apparatus. They watch the 
burst of their own artillery, check up the 
position, get the range, and direct the next 

When conditions are favorable they are 
able to direct the shots so accurately that 
it is a simple matter to destroy the object of 
their attack. It was such a balloon as this 
that got my position, marked me out, 
called for an artillery shot, and they com- 
menced shelling my machine where it lay. 
If I had got the two balloons instead of the 
airplane, I probably would not have lost 
my machine, for he would in all probability 
have gone on home and not bothered about 
getting my range and causing the destruc- 
tion of my machine. 

I landed in a part of the country that 

was literally covered with shell-holes. 

Fortunately my machine was not badly 

damaged by the forced landing. I lei- 



surely got out, walked around it to see 
what the damage was, and concluded that 
it could be easily repaired. In fact, I 
thought, if I could find a space long enough 
between shell-holes to get a start before 
leaving the ground, that I would be able to 
fly on from there. 

I was still examining my plane and con- 
sidering the matter of a few slight repairs, 
without any particular thought for my own 
safety in that unprotected spot, when a 
shell came whizzing through the air, 
knocked me to the ground, and landed a 
few feet away. It had no sooner struck 
than I made a run for cover and crawled 
into a shell-hole. I would have liked to 
have got farther away, but I didn't know 
where the next shell would burst, and I 
thought I was fairly safe there, so I squatted 
down and let them blaze away. 

The only damage I suffered was from 
the mud which splattered up in my face 
and over my clothes. That was my intro- 
duction to a shell-hole, and I resolved right 
there that the infantry could have all the 
shell-hole fighting they wanted, but it 
did not appeal to me, though they live 

in them through many a long night and 


I had only sought shelter there for a few 

After the Germans had completely de- 
molished my machine and ceased firing I 
waited there a short time, fearing perhaps 
they might send over a lucky shot, hoping 
to get me, after all. But evidently they 
concluded enough shells had been wasted 
on one man. I crawled out cautiously, 
shook the mud off, and looked over in the 
direction where my machine had once 
been. There wasn't enough left for a de- 
cent souvenir, but nevertheless I got a few, 
such as they were, and, readily observing 
that nothing could be done with what was 
left, I made my way back to infantry 
headquarters, where I was able to tele- 
phone in a report. 

A little later one of our automobiles 
came out after me and took me back to 
our aerodrome. Most of my squadron 
thought I was lost beyond a doubt and 
never expected to see me again; but my 
friend, Paul Raney, had held out that I 
was all right, and, as I was afterward 
told, "Don't send for another pilot; that 
Irishman will be back if he has to walk." 

And he knew that the only thing that kept 


me from walking was the fact that our 
own automobile had been sent out to bring 
me home. 

I had lots to think about that day, and 
I had learned many things; one was not to 
have too much confidence in my own 
ability. One of the men in the squadron 
told me that I had better not take those 
chances; that it was going to be a long 
war and I would have plenty of oppor- 
tunities to be killed without deliberately 
"wishing them on" myself. Later I was 
to learn the truth of his statement. 

That night my "flight" each squadron 
is divided into three flights consisting of 
six men each got ready to go out again. 
As I started to put on my tunic I no- 
ticed that I was not marked up for duty as 

I asked the commanding officer, a major, 
what the reason for that was, and he re- 
plied that he thought I had done enough 
for one day. However, I knew that if I 
did not go, some one else from another 
"flight " would have to take my place, and 
I insisted upon going up with my patrol 
as usual, and the major reluctantly con- 
sented. Had he known what was in store 


for me I am sure he wouldn't have changed 
his mind so readily. 

As it was, we had only five machines 
for this patrol, anyway, because as we 
crossed the lines one of them had to drop 
out on account of motor trouble. Our pa- 
trol was up at 8 P.M., and up to within ten 
minutes of that hour it had been entirely 

At 7.50 P.M., however, while we were 
flying at a height of sixteen thousand feet, 
we observed three other English machines 
which were about three thousand feet be- 
low us pick a fight with nine Hun machines. 

I knew right then that we were in for it, 
because I could see over toward the ocean 
a whole flock of Hun machines which 
evidently had escaped the attention of our 
scrappy comrades below us. 

So we dove down on those nine Huns. 

At first the fight was fairly even. There 
were eight of us to nine of them. But 
soon the other machines which I had seen 
in the distance, and which were flying even 
higher than we were, arrived on the scene, 
and when they, in turn, dove down on us, 
there was just twenty of them to our eight ! 

Four of them singled me out. I was 


diving and they dove right down after me, 
shooting as they came. Their tracer- 
bullets were coming closer to me every mo- 
ment. These tracer-bullets are balls of 
fire which enable the shooter to follow the 
course his bullets are taking and to correct 
his aim accordingly. They do no more 
harm to a pilot if he is hit than an or- 
dinary bullet, but if they hit the petrol- 
tank, good night! When a machine 
catches fire in flight there is no way of 
putting it out. It takes less than a minute 
for the fabric to burn off the wings, and 
then the machine drops like an arrow> 
leaving a trail of smoke like a comet. 

As their tracer-bullets came closer and 
closer to me I realized that my chances of 
escape were nil. Their very next shot, I 
felt, must hit me. 

Once, some days before, when I was 
flying over the line I had watched a fight 
above me. A German machine was set 
on fire and dove down through our forma- 
tion in flame on its way to the ground. 
The Hun was diving at such a sharp angle 
that both his wings came off, and as he 
passed within a few hundred feet of me 
I saw the look of horror upon his face. 
3 31 


Now, when I expected any moment to 
suffer a similar fate, I could not help 
thinking of that poor Hun's last look of 

I realized that my only chance lay in 
making an Immermann turn. This ma- 
neuver was invented by a German one 
of the greatest who ever flew and who was 
killed in action some time ago. This turn, 
which I made successfully, brought one of 
their machines right in front of me, and 
as he sailed along barely ten yards away 
I had "the drop" on him, and he knew it. 

His white face and startled eyes I can 
still see. He knew beyond question that 
his last moment had come, because his 
position prevented his taking aim at me, 
while my gun pointed straight at him. My 
first tracer-bullet passed within a yard of 
his head, the second looked as if it hit his 
shoulder, the third struck him in the neck, 
and then I let him have the whole works 
and he went down in a spinning nose dive. 

All this time the three other Hun ma- 
chines were shooting away at me. I could 
hear the bullets striking my machine one 
after another. I hadn't the slightest idea 
that I could ever beat off those three Huns, 


but there was nothing for me to do but 
fight, and my hands were full. 

In fighting, your machine is dropping, 
dropping all the time. I glanced at my 
instruments and my altitude was between 
eight and nine thousand feet. While 
I was still looking at the instruments the 
whole blamed works disappeared. A burst 
of bullets went into the instrument board 
and blew it to smithereens, another bullet 
went through my upper lip, came out of 
the roof of my mouth and lodged in my 
throat, and the next thing I knew was 
when I came to in a German hospital the 
following morning at five o'clock, German 

I was a prisoner of war! 



*T*HE hospital in which I found myself 
1 on the morning after my capture was 
a private house made of brick, very low 
and dirty, and not at all adapted for use 
as a hospital. It had evidently been used 
but a few days, on account of the big push 
that was taking place at that time of the 
year, and in all probability would be 
abandoned as soon as they had found a 
better place. 

In all, the house contained four rooms 
and a stable, which was by far the largest 
of all. Although I never looked into this 
"wing" of the hospital, I was told that it, 
too, was filled with patients, lying on beds 
of straw around on the ground. I do not 
know whether they, too, were officers or 

The room in which I found myself con- 


tained eight beds, three of which were oc- 
cupied by wounded German officers. The 
other rooms, I imagined, had about the 
same number of beds as mine. There were 
no Red Cross nurses in attendance, just 
orderlies, for this was only an emergency 
hospital and too near the firing-line for 
nurses. The orderlies were not old men 
nor very young boys, as I expected to find, 
but young men in the prime of life, who 
evidently had been medical students. One 
or two of them, I discovered, were able to 
speak English, but for some reason they 
would not talk. Perhaps they were for- 
bidden by the officer in charge to do so. 

In addition to the bullet wound in my 
mouth, I had a swelling from my forehead 
to the back of my head almost as big as 
my shoe and that is saying considerable. 
I couldn't move an inch without suffering 
intense pain, and when the doctor told me 
that I had no bones broken I wondered 
how a fellow would feel who had. 

German officers visited me that morning 
and told me that my machine went down 
in a spinning nose dive from a height of 
between eight and nine thousand feet, and 
they had the surprise of their lives when 


they discovered that I had not been 
dashed to pieces. They had to cut me out 
of my machine, which was riddled with 
shots and shattered to bits. 

A German doctor removed the bullet 
from my throat, and the first thing he said 
to me when I came to was, "You are an 

There was no use denying it, because the 
metal identification disk on my wrist bore 
the inscription, "Pat O'Brien, U. S. A. 
Royal Flying Corps." 

Although I was suffering intense agony, 
the doctor, who spoke perfect English, 
insisted upon conversing with me. 

"You may be all right as a sportsman," 
he declared, "but you are a damned mur- 
derer just the same for being here. You 
Americans who got into this thing before 
America came into the war are no better 
than common murderers and you ought to 
be treated the same way!" 

The wound in my mouth made it impos- 
sible for me to answer him, and I was suf- 
fering too much pain to be hurt very much 
by anything he could say. 

He asked me if I would like an apple! 
I could just as easily have eaten a brick. 


When he got no answers out of me he 
walked away disgustedly. 

"You don't have to worry any more," 
he declared, as a parting shot; "for you 
the war is over!" 

I was given a little broth later in the day, 
and as I began to collect my thoughts I 
wondered what had happened to my com- 
rades in the battle which had resulted so 
disastrously to me. As I began to realize 
my plight I worried less about my physical 
condition than the fact that, as the doctor 
had pointed out, for me the war was prac- 
tically over. I had been in it but a short 
time, and now I would be a prisoner for the 
duration of the war! 

The next day some German flying of- 
ficers visited me, and I must say they 
treated me with great consideration. They 
told me of the man I had brought down. 
They said he was a Bavarian and a fairly 
good pilot. They gave me his hat as a 
souvenir and complimented me on the 
fight I had put up. 

My helmet, which was of soft leather, 

was split from front to back by a bullet 

from a machine - gun and they examined 

it with great interest. When they brought 



me my uniform I found that the star of 
my rank which had been on my right 
shoulder-strap had been shot off clean. 
The one on my left shoulder-strap they 
asked me for as a souvenir, as also my 
R. F. C. badges, which I gave them. They 
allowed me to keep my "wings," which I 
wore on my left breast, because they were 
aware that that is the proudest possession 
of a British flying officer. 

I think I am right in saying that the only 
chivalry in this war on the German side 
of the trenches has been displayed by the 
officers of the German Flying Corps, 
which comprises the pick of Germany. 
They pointed out to me that I and my 
comrades were fighting purely for the love 
of it, whereas they were fighting in defense 
of their country, but still, they said, they 
admired us for our sportsmanship. I had 
a notion to ask them if dropping bombs on 
London and killing so many innocent 
people was in defense of their country, but 
I was in no position or condition to pick 
a quarrel at that time. 

That same day a German officer was 
brought into the hospital and put in the 
bunk next to mine. Of course, I casually 


looked at him, but did not pay any par- 
ticular attention to him at that time. He 
lay there for three or four hours before I 
did take a real good look at him. I was 
positive that he could not speak English, 
and naturally I did not say anything to 

Once when I looked over in his direction 
his eyes were on me and to my surprise he 
said, very sarcastically, "What the hell are 
you looking at?" and then smiled. At this 
time I was just beginning to say a few 
words, my wound having made talking 
difficult, but I said enough to let him know 
what I was doing there and how I happened 
to be there. Evidently he had heard my 
story from some of the others, though, be- 
cause he said it was too bad I had not 
broken my neck; that he did not have much 
sympathy with the Flying Corps, anyway. 
He asked me what part of America I came 
from, and I told him "California." 

After a few more questions he learned 
that I hailed from San Francisco, and then 
added to my distress by saying, "How 
would you like to have a good juicy steak 
right out of the Hofbrau?" Naturally, I 
told him it would "hit the spot," but I 


hardly thought my mouth was in shape just 
then to eat it. I immediately asked, of 
course, what he knew about the Hofbrau, 
and he replied, "I was connected with the 
place a good many years, and I ought to 
know all about it." 

After that this German officer and I be- 
came rather chummy that is, as far as I 
could be chummy with an enemy, and we 
whiled away a good many long hours talk- 
ing about the days we had spent in San 
Francisco, and frequently in the conver- 
sation one of us would mention some 
prominent Californian, or some little in- 
cident occurring there, with which we were 
both familiar. 

He told me when war was declared he 
was, of course, intensely patriotic and 
thought the only thing for him to do was 
to go back and aid in the defense of his 
country. He found that he could not go 
directly from San Francisco because the 
water was too well guarded by the Eng- 
lish, so he boarded a boat for South Amer- 
ica. There he obtained a forged passport 
and in the guise of a Montevidean took 
passage for New York and from there to 



He passed through England without any 
difficulty on his forged passport, but con- 
cluded not to risk going to Holland, for 
fear of exciting too much suspicion, so 
went down through the Strait of Gibraltar 
to Italy, which was neutral at that time, 
up to Austria, and thence to Germany. 
He said when they put in at Gibraltar, 
after leaving England, there were two 
suspects taken off the ship, men that he 
was sure were neutral subjects, but much 
to his relief his own passport and creden- 
tials were examined and passed O. K. 

The Hun spoke of his voyage from 
America to England as being exception- 
ally pleasant, and said he had had a fine 
time because he associated with the Eng- 
lish passengers on board, his fluent English 
readily admitting him to several spirited 
arguments on the subject of the war which 
he keenly enjoyed. 

One little incident he related revealed the 
remarkable tact which our enemy displayed 
in his associations at sea, which no doubt 
resulted advantageously for him. As he ex- 
pressed it, he "made a hit" one evening 
when the crowd had assembled for a little 
music by suggesting that they sing "God 


Save the King. ' ' Thereafter his popularity 
was assured and the desired effect accom- 
plished, for very soon a French officer came 
up to him and said, " It's too bad that Eng- 
land and ourselves haven't men in our army 
like you." It was too bad, he agreed, in 
telling me about it, because he was con- 
fident he could have done a whole lot more 
for Germany if he had been in the English 

In spite of his apparent loyalty, however, 
the man didn't seem very enthusiastic over 
the war and frankly admitted one day that 
the old political battles waged in California 
were much more to his liking than the bat- 
tles he had gone through over here. On 
second thought he laughed as though it 
were a good joke, but he evidently intended 
me to infer that he had taken a keen in- 
terest in politics in San Francisco. 

When my "chummy enemy" first 
started his conversation with me the Ger- 
man doctor in charge reprimanded him 
for talking to me, but he paid no attention 
to the doctor, showing that some real 
Americanism had soaked into his system 
while he had been in the U. S. A. 

I asked him one day what he thought the 


German people would do after the war; 
if he thought they would make Germany 
a republic, and, much to my surprise, he 
said, very bitterly, " If I had my way about 
it, I would make her a republic to-day and 
hang the damned Kaiser in the bargain." 
And yet he was considered an excellent 
soldier. I concluded, however, that he 
must have been a German Socialist, though 
he never told me so. 

On one occasion I asked him for his 
name, but he said that I would probably 
never see him again and it didn't matter 
what his name was. I did not know 
whether he meant that the Germans would 
starve me out or just what was on his 
mind, for at that time I am sure he did not 
figure on dying. The first two or three 
days I was in the hospital I thought 
surely he would be up and gone long be- 
fore I was, but blood poisoning set in 
about that time and just a few hours be- 
fore I left for Courtrai he died. 

One of those days, while my wound was 
still very troublesome, I was given an 
apple ; whether it was just to torment me, 
knowing that I could not eat it, or whether 
for some other reason, I do not know. 



But, anyway, a German flying officer there 
had several in his pockets and gave me a 
nice one. Of course, there was no chance 
of my eating it, so when the officer had 
gone and I discovered this San Francisco 
fellow looking at it rather longingly I 
picked it up, intending to toss it over to 
him. But he shook his head and said, 
"If this was San Francisco, I would take 
it, but I cannot take it from you here." 
I was never able to understand just why 
he refused the apple, for he was usually 
sociable and a good fellow to talk to, but 
apparently he could not forget that I was 
his enemy. However, that did not stop 
one of the orderlies from eating the 

One practice about the hospital which 
impressed me particularly was that if a 
German soldier did not stand much chance 
of recovering sufficiently to take his place 
again in the war, the doctors did not exert 
themselves to see that he got well. But if 
a man had a fairly good chance of recover- 
ing and they thought he might be of some 
further use, everything that medical skill 
could possibly do was done for him. I 
don't know whether this was done under 



orders or whether the doctors just followed 
their own inclinations in such cases. 

My teeth had been badly jarred up from 
the shot, and I hoped that I might have a 
chance to have them fixed when I reached 
Court rai, the prison where I was to be 
taken. So I asked the doctor if it would be 
possible for me to have this work done 
there, but he very curtly told me that 
though there were several dentists at 
Courtrai, they were busy enough fixing the 
teeth of their own men without bother- 
ing about mine. He also added that I 
would not have to worry about my teeth; 
that I wouldn't be getting so much food 
that they would be put out of commission 
by working overtime. I wanted to tell 
him that from the way things looked he 
would not be wearing his out very soon, 

My condition improved during the next 
two days and on the fourth day of my 
captivity I was well enough to write a 
brief message to my squadron reporting 
that I was a prisoner of war and "feeling 
fine," although, as a matter of. fact, I was 
never so depressed in my life. I realized, 
however, that if the message reached my 



comrades, it would be relayed to my 
mother in Momence, Illinois, and I did 
not want to worry her more than was ab- 
solutely necessary. It was enough for her 
to know that I was a prisoner. She did 
not have to know that I was wounded. 

I had hopes that my message would be 
carried over the lines and dropped by one 
of the German flying officers. That is a 
courtesy which is usually practised on 
both sides. I recalled how patiently we 
had waited in our aerodrome for news of 
our men who had failed to return, and I 
could picture my squadron speculating on 
my fate. 

That is one of the saddest things con- 
nected with service in the R. P. C. You 
don't care much what happens to you, 
but the constant casualties among your 
friends is very depressing. 

You go out with your "flight" and get 
into a muss. You get scattered and when 
your formation is broken up you finally 
wing your way home alone. 

Perhaps you are the first to land. Soon 

another machine shows in the sky, then 

another, and you patiently wait for the 

rest to appear. Within an hour, perhaps, 



all have shown up save one, and you begin 
to speculate and wonder what has hap- 
pened to him. 

Has he lost his way? Has he landed at 
some other aerodrome? Did the Huns 
get him? 

When darkness comes you realize that, 
at any rate, he won't be back that night, 
and you hope for a telephone-call from 
him telling of his whereabouts. 

If the night passes without sign or word 
from him he is reported as missing, and 
then you watch for his casualty to appear 
in the war-office lists. 

One day, perhaps a month later, a mes- 
sage is dropped over the line by the Ger- 
man Flying Corps with a list of pilots capt- 
ured or killed by the Huns, and then, for 
the first time, you know definitely why it 
was your comrade failed to return the day 
he last went over the line with his squadron. 

I was still musing over this melancholy- 
phase of the scout's life when an orderly 
told me there was a beautiful battle going- 
on in the air, and he volunteered to help, 
me outside the hospital that I might wit- 
ness it, and I readily accepted his as- 
4 47 


That afternoon I saw one of the gamest 
fights I ever expect to witness. 

There were six of our machines against 
perhaps sixteen Huns. From the type of 
the British machines I knew that they 
might possibly be from my own aerodrome. 
Two of our machines had been apparently 
picked out by six of the Huns and were 
bearing the brunt of the fight. The con- 
test seemed to me to be so unequal that 
victory for our men was hardly to be 
thought of, and yet at one time they so 
completely outmaneuvered the Huns that 
I thought their superior skill might save 
the day for them, despite the fact that 
they were so hopelessly outnumbered. One 
thing I was sure of: they would never 
give in. 

Of course it would have been a com- 
paratively simple matter for our men, 
when they saw how things were going 
against them, to have turned their noses 
down, landed behind the German lines, 
and given themselves up as prisoners, but 
that is not the way of the R. F. C. 

A battle of this kind seldom lasts many 
minutes, although every second seems like 
an hour to those who participate in it 



and even onlookers suffer more thrills in 
the course of the struggle than they would 
ordinarily experience in a lifetime. It is 
apparent even to a novice that the loser's 
fate is death. 

Of course the Germans around the hos- 
pital were all watching and rooting for 
their comrades, but the English, too, had 
one sympathizer in that group who made 
no effort to stifle his admiration for the 
bravery his comrades were displaying. 

The end came suddenly. Four ma- 
chines crashed to earth almost simultane- 
ously. It was an even break two of 
theirs and two of ours. The others ap- 
parently returned to their respective lines. 

The wound in my mouth was bothering 
me considerably, but by means of a pencil 
and paper I requested one of the German 
officers to find out for me who the English 
officers were who had been shot down. 

A little later he returned and handed me 
a photograph taken from the body of one 
of the victims. It was a picture of Paul 
Raney, of Toronto, and myself, taken to- 
gether! Poor Raney! He was the best 
friend I had and one of the best and gamest 
men who ever fought in France! 



It was he, I learned long after, who, 
when I was reported missing, had checked 
over all my belongings and sent them back 
to England with a signed memorandum 
which is now in my possession. Poor fel- 
low, he little realized then that but a day 
or two later he would be engaged in his 
last heroic battle, with me a helpless on- 

The same German officer who brought 
me the photograph also drew a map for 
me of the exact spot where Raney was 
buried in Flanders. I guarded it care- 
fully all through my subsequent advent- 
ures and finally turned it over to his 
father and mother when I visited them in 
Toronto to perform the hardest and sad- 
dest duty I have ever been called upon to 
execute to confirm to them in person the 
tidings of poor Paul's death. 

The other British pilot who fell was also 
from my squadron and a man I knew well 
Lieutenant Keith, of Australia. I had 
given him a picture of myself only a few 
hours before I started on my own dis- 
astrous flight. He was one of the star 
pilots of our squadron and had been in 
many a desperate battle before, but this 



(Raney was killed in action before the eyes of O'Brien, who was a prisoner of war. 
This picture, found on the body of Raney when he fell behind the German lines, was 
handed to O'Brien to identify the victim.) 


time the odds were too great for him. 
He put up a wonderful fight and he gave 
as much as he took. 

The next two days passed without in- 
cident and I was then taken to the In- 
telligence Department of the German Fly- 
ing Corps, which was located about an hour 
from the hospital. There I was kept two 
days, during which time they put a thou- 
sand and one questions to me. While I 
was there I turned over to them the mes- 
sage I had written in the hospital and 
asked them to have one of their fliers 
drop it on our side of the line. 

They asked me where I would like it 
dropped, thinking perhaps I would give 
my aerodrome away, but when I smiled 
and shook my head they did not insist 
upon an answer. 

"I'll drop it over ," declared one of 

them, naming my aerodrome, which re- 
vealed to me that their flying corps is as 
efficient as other branches of the service 
in the matter of obtaining valuable in- 

And right here I want to say that the 
more I came to know of the enemy the 
more keenly I realized what a difficult 


task we're going to have to lick him. In 
all my subsequent experience the fact that 
there is a heap of fight left in the Huns 
still was thoroughly brought home to me. 
We shall win the war eventually, if we 
don't slow up too soon in the mistaken idea 
that the Huns are ready to lie down. 

The flying officers who questioned me 
were extremely anxious to find out all they 
could about the part America is going to 
play in the war, but they evidently came 
to the conclusion that America hadn't 
taken me very deeply into her confidence, 
judging from the information they got, or 
failed to get, from me. 

At any rate, they gave me up as a bad 
job and I was ordered to the officers' 
prison at Courtrai, Belgium. 


FROM the Intelligence Department I 
was conveyed to the officers' prison- 
camp at Courtrai in an automobile. It 
was about an hour's ride. My escort was 
one of the most famous flyers in the world, 
barring none. He was later killed in ac- 
tion, but I was told by an English airman 
who witnessed his last combat that he 
fought a game battle and died a hero's 

The prison, which had evidently been a 
civil prison of some kind before the war, 
was located right in the heart of Courtrai. 
The first building we approached was 
large, and in front of the archway, which 
formed the main entrance, was a sentry 
box. Here we were challenged by the 
sentry, who knocked on the door; the 
guard turned the key in the lock and I was 


admitted. We passed through the arch- 
way and directly into a courtyard, on 
which faced all of the prison buildings, the 
windows, of course, being heavily barred. 

After I had given my pedigree my name, 
age, address, etc. I was shown to a cell 
with bars on the windows overlooking this 
courtyard. I was promptly told that at 
night we were to occupy these rooms, but 
I had already surveyed the surroundings, 
taken account of the number of guards and 
the locked door outside, and concluded that 
my chances of getting away from some 
other place could be no worse than in that 
particular cell. 

As I had no hat, my helmet being the 
only thing I wore over the lines, I was com- 
pelled either to go bareheaded or wear the 
red cap of the Bavarian whom I had shot 
down on that memorable day. It can be 
imagined how I looked attired in a British 
uniform and a bright red cap. Wherever 
I was taken, my outfit aroused consider- 
able curiosity among the Belgians and Ger- 
man soldiers. 

When I arrived at prison that day I still 
wore this cap, and as I was taken into the 
courtyard, my overcoat covering my uni- 


form, all that the British officers who hap- 
pened to be sunning themselves in the court- 
yard could see was the red cap. They 
afterward told me they wondered who the 
"big Hun" was with the bandage on his 
mouth. This cap I managed to keep with 
me, but was never allowed to wear it on 
the walks we took. I either went bare- 
headed or borrowed a cap from some other 

At certain hours each day the prisoners 
were allowed to mingle in the courtyard, 
and on the first occasion of this kind I 
found that there were eleven officers im- 
prisoned there besides myself. 

They had here interpreters who could 
speak all languages. One of them was a 
mere boy who had been born in Jersey 
City, New Jersey, and had spent all his 
life in America until the beginning of 
1914. Then he moved with his folks to 
Germany, and when he became of military 
age the Huns forced him into the army. 
I think if the truth were known he would 
much rather have been fighting for Amer- 
ica than against her. 

I found that most of the prisoners re- 
mained at Courtrai only two or three days. 


From there they were invariably taken to 
prisons in the interior of Germany. 

Whether it was because I was an Amer- 
ican or because I was a flier, I don't know, 
but this rule was not followed in my case. 
I remained there two weeks. 

During that period, Courtrai was con- 
stantly bombed by our airmen. Not a 
single day or night passed without one or 
more air raids. In the two weeks I was 
there I counted twenty-one of them. The 
town suffered a great deal of damage. 
Evidently our people were aware that the 
Germans had a lot of troops concentrated 
in this town, and, besides, the headquarters 
staff was stationed there. The Kaiser 
himself visited Courtrai while I was in the 
prison, I was told by one of the inter- 
preters, but he didn't call on me and, 
for obvious reasons, I couldn't call on 

The courtyard was not a very popular 
place during air raids. Several times 
when our airmen raided that section in 
the daytime I went out and watched the 
machines and the shrapnel bursting all 
around; but the Germans did not crowd 
out there, for their own anti-aircraft guns 


were hammering away to keep our planes 
as high in the sky as possible, and shells 
were likely to fall in the prison yard any 
moment. Of course, I watched these bat- 
tles at my own risk. 

Many nights from my prison window I 
watched with peculiar interest the air 
raids carried on, and it was a wonderful 
sight with the German searchlights play- 
ing on the sky, the "flaming onions" fired 
high and the burst of the anti-aircraft 
guns, but rather an uncomfortable sensa- 
tion when I realized that perhaps the very 
next minute a bomb might be dropped on 
the building in which I was a prisoner. 
But perhaps all of this was better than no 
excitement at all, for prison life soon be- 
came very monotonous. 

One of the hardest things I had to en- 
dure throughout the two weeks I spent 
there was the sight of the Hun machines 
flying over Courtrai, knowing that per- 
haps I never would have another chance 
to fly, and I used to sit by the hour watch- 
ing the German machines maneuvering 
over the prison, as they had an aerodrome 
not far away, and every afternoon the 
students I took them for students be- 


cause their flying was very poor appeared 
over the town. 

One certain Hun seemed to find par- 
ticular satisfaction in flying right down 
over the prison nightly, for my special dis- 
comfort and benefit it seemed, as if he 
knew an airman imprisoned there was 
vainly longing to try his wings again over 
their lines. But I used to console myself 
by saying, "Never mind, old boy; there 
was never a bird whose wings could not 
be clipped if they got him just right, and 
your turn will come some day." 

One night there was an exceptionally 
heavy air raid going on. A number of 
German officers came into my room, and 
they all seemed very much frightened. I 
jokingly remarked that it would be fine 
if our airmen hit the old prison the per- 
centage would be very satisfactory one 
English officer and about ten German ones. 
They didn't seem to appreciate the joke, 
however, and, indeed, they were appar- 
ently too much alarmed at what was going 
on overhead to laugh even at their own 
jokes. Although these night raids seemed 
to take all the starch out of the Germans 
while they were going on, the officers were 


usually as brave as lions the next day and 
spoke contemptuously of the raid of the 
night before. 

I saw thousands of soldiers in Courtrai, 
and although they did not impress me as 
having very good or abundant food, they 
were fairly well clothed. I do not mean to 
imply that conditions pointed to an early 
end of the war. On the contrary, from 
what I was able to observe on that point, 
unless the Huns have an absolute crop 
failure, they can, in my opinion, go on for 
years! The idea of our being able to win 
the war by starving them out strikes me 
as ridiculous. This is a war that must be 
won by fighting, and the sooner we realize 
that fact the sooner it will be over. 

Rising-hour in the prison was seven 
o'clock. Breakfast came at eight. This 
consisted of a cup of coffee and nothing 
else. If the prisoner had the foresight 
to save some bread from the previous day, 
he had bread for breakfast also, but that 
never happened in my case. Sometimes 
we had two cups of coffee that is, near- 
coffee. It was really chicory or some cereal 
preparation. We had no milk or sugar. 

For lunch they gave us boiled sugar- 



beets or some other vegetable, and once in 
a while some kind of pickled meat, but 
that happened very seldom. We also re- 
ceived a third of a loaf of bread war- 
bread. This war-bread was as heavy as a 
brick, black, and sour. It was supposed 
to last us from noon one day to noon the 
next. Except for some soup, this was the 
whole lunch menu. 

Dinner came at 5.30 P.M., when we 
sometimes had a little jam made out of 
sugar-beets, and a preparation called tea 
which you had to shake vigorously or it 
settled in the bottom of the cup and then 
about all you had was hot water. This 
"tea" was a sad blow to the Englishmen. 
If it hadn't been called tea, they wouldn't 
have felt so badly about it, perhaps, but it 
was adding insult to injury to call that 
stuff "tea" which, with them, is almost a 
national institution. 

Sometimes with this meal they gave us 
butter instead of jam, and once in a while 
we had some kind of canned meat. 

This comprised the usual run of eatables 

for the day I can eat more than that for 

breakfast ! In the days that were to come, 

however, I was to fare considerably worse. 




Postpruefungsstelle des Kricgsgefangen 

To be forwarded immediately Jo ENGLAND. 


Fill ""'up this card immediately! 

1 am prisoner of war In Germany, 

Christian name : 1 F\ \ f\V- V A 
Rank : L. \ t V3 "V 


111. Improper to be erased 


\ C V\7. 

Do not reply to Ltmburg, await further Information. 



We were allowed to send out and buy a 
few things, but as most of the prisoners 
were without funds, this was but an empty 
privilege. Once I took advantage of the 
privilege to send my shoes to a Belgian 
shoemaker to be half -soled. They charged 
me twenty marks five dollars! 

Once in a while a Belgian Ladies' Relief 
Society visited the prison and brought us 
handkerchiefs, American soap which sells 
at about one dollar and fifty cents a bar in 
Belgium tooth-brushes, and other little 
articles, all of which were American-made, 
but whether they were supplied by the 
American Relief Committee or not I don't 
know. At any rate, these gifts were 
mighty useful and were very much ap- 

One day I offered a button off my uni- 
form to one of these Belgian ladies as a 
souvenir, but a German guard saw me and 
I was never allowed to go near the visitors 

The sanitary conditions in this prison- 
camp were excellent as a general prop- 
osition. One night, however, I dis- 
covered that I had been captured by 



This was a novel experience to me and 
one that I would have been very willing to 
have missed, because in the Flying Corps 
our aerodromes are a number of miles back 
of the lines and we have good billets, and 
our acquaintance with such things as 
"cooties" and other unwelcome visitors is 
very limited. 

When I discovered my condition I made 
a holler and roused the guard, and right 
then I got another example of German 

This guard seemed to be even more per- 
turbed about my complaint than I was 
myself, evidently fearing that he would be 
blamed for my condition. 

The commandant was summoned, and 
I could see that he was very angry. Some 
one undoubtedly got a severe reprimand 
for it. 

I was taken out of my cell by a guard 
with a rifle and conducted about a quarter 
of a mile from the prison to an old factory 
building which had been converted into an 
elaborate fumigating plant. There I was 
given a pickle bath in some kind of solu- 
tion, and while I was absorbing it my 

clothes, bedclothes, and whatever else had 


been in my cell were being put through 
another fumigating process. 

While I was waiting for my things to dry 
it took, perhaps, half an hour I had 
a chance to observe about one hundred 
other victims of "cooties" German sol- 
diers who had become infested in the 
trenches. We were all nude, of course, 
but apparently it was not difficult for 
them to recognize me as a foreigner even 
without my uniform on, for none of them 
made any attempt to talk to me, although 
they all were very busy talking about me. 
I could not understand what they were 
saying, but I know I was the butt of most 
of their jokes, and they made no effort 
to conceal the fact that I was the subject 
of their conversation. 

When I got back to my cell I found that 
it had been thoroughly fumigated, and 
from that time on I had no further trouble 
with "cooties" or other visitors of the 
same kind. 

As we were not allowed to write any- 
thing but prison cards, writing was out of 
the question; and as we had no reading- 
matter to speak of, reading was nil. We 
had nothing to do to pass away the time,, 
5 63 


so consequently cards became our only di- 
version, for we did, fortunately, have some 
of those. 

There wasn't very much money, as a rule, 
in circulation, and I think for once in my 
life I held most of that, not due to any 
particular ability on my part in the game, 
but I happened to have several hundred 
francs in my pockets when shot down. 
But we held a lottery there once a day, 
and I don't believe there was ever another 
lottery held that was watched with 
quite such intense interest as that. The 
drawing was always held the day before 
the prize was to be awarded, so we always 
knew the day before who was the lucky 
man. There was as much speculation as 
to who would win the prize as if it had been 
the finest treasure in the world. The 
great prize was one-third of a loaf of 

Through some arrangement which I 
never quite figured out, it happened that 
among the eight or ten officers who were 
there with me there was always one-third 
of a loaf of bread over. There was just 
one way of getting that bread, and that 
was to draw lots. Consequently that was 



what started the lottery. I believe if a 
man had ever been inclined to cheat he 
would have been sorely tempted in this 
instance, but the game was played abso- 
lutely square, and if a man had been caught 
cheating, the chances are that he would 
have been shunned by the rest of the of- 
ficers as long as he was in prison. I was 
fortunate enough to win the prize twice. 

One man I think he was the smallest 
eater in the camp won it on three suc- 
cessive days, but it was well for him that 
his luck deserted him on the fourth day, 
for he probably would have been handled 
rather roughly by the rest of the crowd, 
who were growing suspicious. But we 
handled the drawing ourselves and knew 
there was nothing crooked about it, so he 
was spared. 

We were allowed to buy pears, and, being 
small and very hard, they were used as 
the stakes in many a game. But the in- 
terest in these little games was as keen as 
if the stakes had been piles of money in- 
stead of two or three half-starved pears. 
No man was ever so reckless, however, in 
all the betting, as to wager his own rations. 

By the most scheming and sacrificing I 


erer did in my life I managed to hoard two 
pieces of bread (grudgingly spared at the 
time from my daily rations), but I was 
preparing for the day when I should es- 
cape if I ever should. It was not a sac- 
rifice easily made, either, but instead of 
eating bread I ate pears until I finally got 
one piece of bread ahead; and when I 
could force myself to stick to the pear diet 
again I saved the other piece from that 
day's allowance, and in days to come I 
had cause to credit myself fully for the 

Whenever a new prisoner came in and 
his German hosts had satisfied themselves 
as to his life history and taken down all 
the details that is, all he would give them 
he was immediately surrounded by his 
fellow-prisoners, who were eager for any 
bit of news or information he could pos- 
sibly give them, and as a rule he was glad 
to tell us because, if he had been in the 
hands of the Huns for any length of time, 
he had seen very few English officers. 

The conditions of this prison were bad 

enough when a man was in normally good 

health, but it was barbarous to subject a 

wounded soldier to the hardships and dis- 



comforts of the place. However, this was 
the fate of a poor private we discovered 
there one day in terrific pain, suffering 
from shrapnel in his stomach and back. 
All of us officers asked to have him sent to 
a hospital, but the doctors curtly refused, 
saying it was against orders. So the poor 
creature went on suffering from day to 
day and was still there when I left, an- 
other victim of German cruelty. 

At one time in this prison-camp there 
were a French marine, a French flying of- 
ficer, and two Belgian soldiers, and of the 
United Kingdom one from Canada, two 
from England, three from Ireland, a couple 
from Scotland, one from Wales, a man 
from South Africa, one from Algeria, and 
a New-Zealander, the last being from 
my own squadron, a man whom I thought 
had been killed, and he was equally sur- 
prised, when brought into the prison, to 
find me there. In addition there were a 
Chinaman and myself from the U. S. A. 

It was quite a cosmopolitan group, and 
as one typical Irishman said, "Sure, and 
we have every nation that's worth men- 
tioning, including the darn Germans, with 
us whites." Of course, this was not trans- 


lated to the Germans, nor was it even 
spoken in their hearing, or we probably 
would not have had quite so cosmopolitan 
a bunch. Each man in the prison was 
ready to uphold his native country in any 
argument that could possibly be started, 
and it goes without saying that I never 
took a back seat in any of them with my 
praise for America, with the Canadian and 
Chinaman chiming in on my side. But 
they were friendly arguments; we were all 
in the same boat and that was no place 
for quarreling. 

Every other morning, the weather al- 
lowing, we were taken to a large swimming- 
pool and were allowed to have a bath. 
There were two pools, one for the German 
officers and one for the men. Although 
we were officers, we had to use the pool 
occupied by the men. While we were in 
swimming a German guard with a rifle 
across his knees sat at each corner of the 
pool and watched us closely as we dressed 
and undressed. English interpreters ac- 
companied us on all of these trips, so at no 
time could we talk without their knowing 
what was going on. 

Whenever we were taken out of the 



prison for any purpose they always pa- 
raded us through the most crowded streets 
evidently to give the populace an idea 
that they were getting lots of prisoners. 
The German soldiers we passed on these 
occasions made no effort to hide their 
smiles and sneers. 

The Belgian people were apparently 
very curious to see us, and they used to 
turn out in large numbers whenever the 
word was passed that we were out. At 
times the German guards would strike the 
women and children who crowded too 
close to us. One day I smiled and spoke 
to a pretty Belgian girl, and when she re- 
plied a German made a run for her. 
Luckily she stepped into the house before 
he reached her or I am afraid my saluta- 
tion would have resulted seriously for her 
and I would have been powerless to have 
assisted her. 

Whenever we passed a Belgian home or 
other building which had been wrecked by 
bombs dropped by our airmen our guards 
made us stop a moment or two while they 
passed sneering remarks among them- 

One of the most interesting souvenirs I 


have of my imprisonment at Courtrai is a 
photograph of a group of us taken in the 
prison courtyard. The picture was made 
by one of the guards, who sold copies of 
it to those of us who were able to pay his 
price one mark apiece. 

As we faced the camera, I suppose we 
all tried to look our happiest, but the ma- 
jority of us, I am afraid, were too sick at 
heart to raise a smile even for this occa- 
sion. One of our Hun guards is shown 
in the picture seated at the table. I am 
standing directly behind him, attired in 
my flying tunic, which they allowed me to 
wear all the time I was in prison, as is the 
usual custom with prisoners of war. Three 
of the British officers shown in the picture, 
in the foreground, are clad in "shorts." 

Through all my subsequent adventures 
I was able to retain a print of this inter- 
esting picture, and although when I gaze 
at it now it only serves to increase my 
gratification at my ultimate escape, it fills 
me with regret to think that my fellow- 
prisoners were not so fortunate. All of 
them, by this time, are undoubtedly eat- 
ing their hearts up in the prison-camps of 
interior Germany. Poor fellows! 


Despite the scanty fare and the restric- 
tions we were tinder in this prison, we did 
manage on one occasion to arrange a 
regular banquet. The planning which was 
necessary helped to pass the time. 

At this time there were eight of us. 
We decided that the principal thing we 
needed to make the affair a success was 
potatoes, and I conceived a plan to get 
them. Every other afternoon they took 
us for a walk in the country, and it oc- 
curred to me that it would be a compara- 
tively simple matter for us to pretend to 
be tired and sit down when we came to the 
first potato-patch. 

It worked out nicely. When we came 
to the first potato-patch that afternoon 
we told our guards that we wanted to rest 
a bit and we were allowed to sit down. 
In the course of the next five minutes each 
of us managed to get a potato or two. 
Being Irish, I got six. 

When we got back to the prison I man- 
aged to steal a handkerchief full of sugar 
which, with some apples that we were al- 
lowed to purchase, we easily converted 
into a sort of jam. 

We now had potatoes and jam, but no 


bread. It happened that the Hun who 
had charge of the potatoes was a great 
musician. It was not very difficult to 
prevail upon him to play us some music, 
and while he went out to get his zither I 
went into the bread pantry and stole a loaf 
of bread. 

Most of us had saved some butter from 
the day before and we used it to fry our 
potatoes. By bribing one of the guards 
he bought some eggs for us. They cost 
twenty-five cents apiece, but we were de- 
termined to make this banquet a success, 
no matter what it cost. 

The cooking was done by the prison 
cook, whom, of course, we had to bribe. 

When the meal was ready to serve it 
consisted of scrambled eggs, fried pota- 
toes, bread and jam, and a pitcher of beer 
which we were allowed to buy. 

That was the 29th of August. Had I 
known that it was to be the last real meal 
that I was to eat for many weeks I might 
have enjoyed it even more than I did, but 
it was certainly very good. 

We had cooked enough for eight, but 
while we were still eating another joined 
us. He was an English officer who had 


just been brought in on a stretcher. For 
seven days, he told us, he had lain in a 
shell-hole, wounded, and he was almost 
famished, and we were mighty glad to 
share our banquet with him. 

We called on each man for a speech, 
and one might have thought that we were 
at a first-class club meeting. A few days 
after that our party was broken up and 
some of the men I suppose I shall never 
see again. 

One of the souvenirs of my adventure is 
a check given me during this "banquet" 
by Lieut. James Henry Dickson, of the 
Tenth Royal Irish Fusileers, a fellow- 
prisoner. It was for twenty francs and 
was made payable to the order of "Mr. 
Pat O'Brien, 2nd Lieut." Poor Jim for- 
got to scratch out the "London" and sub- 
stitute "Courtrai" on the date line, but 
its value as a souvenir is just as great. 
When he gave it to me he had no idea 
that I would have an opportunity so soon 
afterward to cash it in person, although 
I am quite sure that whatever financial 
reverses I may be destined to meet my 
want will never be great enough to induce 
me to realize on that check. 


There was one subject that was talked 
about in this prison whenever conversa- 
tion lagged, and I suppose it is the same 
in the other prisons, too. What were the 
chances of escape? 

Every man seemed to have a different 
idea and one way I suppose was about as 
impracticable as another. None of us 
ever expected to get a chance to put our 
ideas into execution, but it was interesting 
speculation, and, anyway, one could never 
tell what opportunities might present 

One suggestion was that we disguise 
ourselves as women. ' ' O'Brien would stand 
a better chance disguised as a horse!" de- 
clared another, referring to the fact that 
my height (I am six feet two inches) 
would make me more conspicuous as a 
woman than as a man. 

Another suggested that we steal a Ger- 
man Gotha a type of aeroplane used for 
long-distance bombing. It is these ma- 
chines which are used for bombing Lon- 
don. They are manned by three men, one 
sitting in front with a machine-gun, the 
pilot sitting behind him, and an observer 
sitting in the rear with another machine- 


gun. We figured that at a pinch perhaps 
seven or eight of us could make our escape 
in a single machine. They have two mo- 
tors of very high horse-power, fly very 
high and make wonderful speed. But 
we had no chance to put this idea to the 

I worked out another plan by which I 
thought I might have a chance if I could 
ever get into one of the German aero- 
dromes. I would conceal myself in one of 
the hangars, wait until one of the German 
machines started out, and as he taxied 
along the ground I would rush out, shout 
at the top of my voice, and point excitedly 
at his wheels. This, I figured, would 
cause the pilot to stop and get out to see 
what was wrong. By that time I would 
be up to him and as he stooped over to 
inspect the machine I could knock him 
senseless, jump into the machine, and be 
over the lines before the Huns could make 
up their minds just what had happened. 

It was a fine dream, but my chance was 
not to come that way. 

There were dozens of other ways which 
we considered. One man would be for 
endeavoring to make his way right through 


the lines. Another thought the safest 
plan would be to swim some river that 
crossed the lines. 

The idea of making one's way to Hol- 
land, a neutral country, occurred to every 
one, but the one great obstacle in that di- 
rection, we all realized, was the great bar- 
rier of barbed and electrically charged wire 
which guards every foot of the frontier 
between Belgium and Holland and which 
is closely watched by the German sentries. 

This barrier was a threefold affair. It 
consisted first of a barbed-wire wall six 
feet high. Six feet beyond that was a 
nine-foot wall of wire powerfully charged 
with electricity. To touch it meant elec- 
trocution. Beyond that, at a distance of 
six feet was another wall of barbed wire 
six feet high. 

Beyond the barrier lay Holland and 
liberty, but how to get there was a prob- 
lem which none of us could solve and few 
of us ever expected to have a chance to 

Mine came sooner than I expected. 



I HAD been in prison at Courtrai nearly 
three weeks when, on the morning of 
September 9th, I and six other officers 
were told that we were to be transferred 
to a prison-camp in Germany. 

One of the guards told me during the 
day that we were destined for a reprisal 
camp in Strassburg. They were sending 
us there to keep our airmen from bombing 
the place. 

He explained that the English carried 
German officers on hospital-ships for a 
similar purpose, and he excused the Ger- 
man practice of torpedoing these vessels 
on the score that they also carried muni- 
tions! When I pointed out to him that 
France would hardly be sending muni- 
tions to England, he lost interest in the 



Some days before I had made up my 
mind that it would be a very good thing 
to get hold of a map of Germany which I 
knew was in the possession of one of the 
German interpreters, because I realized 
that if ever the opportunity came to make 
my escape such a map might be of the 
greatest assistance to me. 

With the idea of stealing this map, ac- 
cordingly, a lieutenant and I got in front 
of this interpreter's window one day and 
engaged in a very hot argument as to 
whether Heidelberg was on the Rhine or 
not, and we argued back and forth so 
vigorously that the German came out of 
his room, map in hand, to settle it. After 
the matter was entirely settled to our satis- 
faction he went back into his room and I 
watched where he put the map. 

When, therefore, I learned that I was 
on my way to Germany I realized that it 
was more important than ever for me to 
get that map, and, with the help of my 
friend, we got the interpreter out of his 
room on some pretext or another, and 
while he was gone I confiscated the map 
from the book in which he kept it and 
concealed it in my sock underneath my 

legging. As I had anticipated, it later 
proved of the utmost value to me. 

I got it none too soon, for half an hour 
later we were on our way to Ghent. Our 
party consisted of five British officers and 
one French officer . At Ghent, where we 
had to wait for several hours for another 
train to take us direct to the prison in 
Germany, two other prisoners were added 
to our party. 

In the interval we were locked in a room 
at a hotel, a guard sitting at the door with 
a rifle on his knee. It would have done 
my heart good for the rest of my life if I 
could have got away then and fooled that 
Hun, he was so cocksure. 

Later we were marched to the train that 
was to convey us to Germany. It con- 
sisted of some twelve coaches, eleven of 
them containing troops going home on 
leave, and the twelfth reserved for us. 
We were placed in a fourth-class com- 
partment, with old, hard, wooden seats, 
a filthy floor, and no lights save a can- 
dle placed there by a guard. There 
were eight of us prisoners and four 

As we sat in tne coach we were an object 

6 79 


of curiosity to the crowd who gathered at 
the station. 

"Hope you have a nice trip!" one of 
them snouted, sarcastically. 

"Drop me a line when you get to Berlin, 
will you?" shouted another in broken 

"When shall we see you again?" asked 
a third. 

"Remember me to your friends, will 
you? You'll find plenty where you're 
going!" shouted another. 

The German officers made no effort to 
repress the crowd; in fact, they joined in 
the general laughter which followed every 

I called to a German officer who was 
passing our window. 

"You're an officer, aren't you?" I asked, 
respectfully enough. 

"Yes. What of it?" he rejoined. 

"Well, in England," I said, "we let your 
officers who are prisoners ride first-class. 
Can't you fix it so that we can be similarly 
treated, or be transferred at least to a 
second-class compartment?" 

"If I had my way," he replied, "you'd 

ride with the hogs!" 



Then he turned to the crowd and told 
them of my request and how he bad 
answered me, and they all laughed hi- 

This got me pretty hot. 

"That would be a damned sight better 
than riding with the Germans!" I yelled 
after him, but if he considered that a good 
joke, too, he didn't pass it on to the crowd. 

Some months later when I had the honor 
of telling my story to King George he 
thought this incident was one of the best 
jokes he had ever heard. I don't believe 
he ever laughed harder in his life. 

Before our train pulled out our guards 
had to present their arms for inspection, 
and their rifles were loaded in our presence 
to let us know that they meant business. 

From the moment the train started on 
its way to Germany the thought kept 
coming to my head that unless I could 
make my escape before we reached that 
reprisal camp I might as well make up my 
mind that, as far as I was concerned, the 
war was over. 

It occurred to me that if the eight of us 
in that car could jump up at a given signal 
and seize those four Hun guards by sur- 


prise, we'd have a splendid chance of best- 
ing them and jumping off the train when it 
first slowed down, but when I passed the 
idea on to my comrades they turned it 
down. Even if the plan had worked out 
as gloriously as I had pictured, they 
pointed out, the fact that so many of us 
had escaped would almost inevitably re- 
sult in our recapture. The Huns would 
have scoured Belgium till they had got us 
and then we would all be shot. Perhaps 
they were right. 

Nevertheless, I was determined that, no 
matter what the others decided to do, I 
was going to make one bid for freedom, 
come what might. 

As we passed through village after vil- 
lage in Belgium and I realized that we were 
getting nearer and nearer to that dreaded 
reprisal camp, I concluded that my one 
and only chance of getting free before we 
reached it was through the window! I 
would have to go through that window 
while the train was going full speed, be- 
cause if I waited until it had slowed up or 
stopped entirely, it would be a simple mat- 
ter for the guards to overtake or shoot me. 

I opened the window. The guard who 


sat opposite me so close that his feet 
touched mine and the stock of his gun 
which he held between his knees occasion- 
ally struck my foot made no objection, 
imagining, no doubt, that I found the car 
too warm or that the smoke, with which 
the compartment was filled, annoyed me. 

As I opened the window the noise the 
train was making as it thundered along 
grew louder. It seemed to say: "You're 
a fool if you do; you're a fool if you 
don't! You're a fool if you do; you're a 
fool if you don't!" And I said to myself, 
"The 'no's' have it," and closed down the 
window again. 

As soon as the window was closed the 
noise of the train naturally subsided and 
its speed seemed to diminish, and my plan 
appealed to me stronger than ever. 

I knew the guard in front of me didn't 
understand a word of English, and so, in 
a quiet tone of voice, I confided to the 
English officer who sat next me what I 
planned to do. 

"For God's sake, Pat, chuck it!" he 
urged. "Don't be a lunatic! This rail- 
road is double-tracked and rock-ballasted 
and the other track is on your side. You 


stand every chance in the world of knock- 
ing your brains out against the rails, or 
hitting a bridge or a whistling post, and, 
if you escape those, you will probably be 
hit by another train on the other track. 
You haven't one chance in a thousand to 
make it!" 

There was a good deal of logic in what he 
said, but I figured that, once I was in that 
reprisal camp, I might never have even 
one chance in a thousand to escape, and 
the idea of remaining a prisoner of war 
indefinitely went against my grain. I re- 
solved to take my chance now even at the 
risk of breaking my neck. 

The car was full of smoke. I looked 
across at the guard. He was rather an 
old man, going home on leave, and he 
seemed to be dreaming of what was in store 
for him rather than paying any particular 
attention to me. Once in a while I had 
smiled at him and I figured that he hadn't 
the slightest idea of what was going 
through my mind all the time we had been 

I began to cough as though my throat 
were badly irritated by the smoke, and 
then I opened the window again. This 
8 4 


time the guard looked up and showed his 
disapproval, but did not say anything. 

It was then four o'clock in the morning 
and would soon be light. I knew I had to 
do it right then or never, as there would 
be no chance to escape in the daytime. 

I had on a trench coat that I had used 
as a flying-coat and wore a knapsack 
which I had constructed out of a gas-bag 
brought into Courtrai by a British prisoner. 
In this I had two pieces of bread, a piece 
of sausage, and a pair of flying-mittens. 
All of them had to go with me through the 

The train was now going at a rate of 
between thirty and thirty-five miles an 
hour, and again it seemed to admonish me, 
as it rattled along over the ties: "You're 
a fool if you do ; you're a fool if you don't ! 
You're a fool if you don't; you're a fool 
if you do! You're a fool if you don't " 

I waited no longer. Standing up on 
the bench as if to put the bag on the rack, 
and taking hold of the rack with my left 
hand and a strap that hung from the top 
of the car with my right, I pulled myself 
up, shoved my feet and legs out of the 
window, and let go! 


There was a prayer on my lips as I went 
out and I expected a bullet between my 
shoulders, but it was all over in an instant. 

I landed on my k_t side and face, bury- 
ing my face in the rock ballast, cutting it 
open and closing my left eye, skinning my 
hands and shins and straining my ankle. 
For a few moments I was completely 
knocked out, and if they shot at me through 
the window, in the first moments after my 
escape, I had no way of knowing. 

Of course, if they could have stopped 
the train right then, they could easily have 
recaptured me, but at the speed it was 
going and in the confusion which must 
have followed my escape, they probably 
didn't stop within half a mile from the spot 
where I lay. 

I came to within a few minutes, and 
when I examined myself and found no 
bones broken I didn't stop to worry about 
my cuts and bruises, but jumped up with 
ihe idea of putting as great a distance 
between me and that track as possible 
before daylight came. Still being dazed, 
I forgot all about the barbed-wire fence 
along the right-of-way and ran full tilt into 
it. Right there I lost one of my two 


precious pieces of bread, which fell out of 
my knapsack, but I could not stop to look 
for it then. 

The one thing that was uppermost in 
my mind was that for the moment I was 
free and it was up to me now to make the 
most of my liberty. 



THE exact spot at which I made my 
desperate leap I don't know. Per- 
haps, after the war is over, some one on 
that train will be good enough to tell me, 
and then I may go back and look for the 
dent I must have made in the rock ballast. 

As I have said, I didn't stop very long 
that morning after I once regained my 

I was bleeding profusely from the 
wounds caused by the fall, but I checked 
it somewhat with handkerchiefs I held to 
my face and I also held the tail of my 
coat so as to catch the blood as it fell and 
not leave telltale traces on the ground. 

Before I stopped I had gone about a 
mile. Then I took my course from the 
stars and found that I had been going just 

opposite to the direction I should be mak- 


ing, but I could not go back across the 
track there. 

Heading west, therefore, I kept this 
course for about two and a half hours, but 
as I was very weak from loss of blood I 
didn't cover very much ground in that 
time. Just before daylight I came to a 
canal which I knew I had to cross, and I 
swam it with everything I had on. 

This swim, which proved to be the first 
of a series that I was destined to make, 
taught me several things. 

In the first place, I had forgotten to 
remove my wrist-watch. This watch had 
been broken in my fall from the air, but 
I had had it repaired at Courtrai. In the 
leap from the train the crystal had been 
broken again, but it was still going and 
would probably have been of great service 
to me in my subsequent adventures, but 
the swim across the canal ruined it. 

Then, too, I had not thought to take my 
map out of my sock, and the water dam- 
aged that, too. 

Thereafter, whenever I had any swim- 
ming to do, I was careful to take such 
matters into consideration, and my usual 
practice was to make a bundle of all the 


things that would be damaged by water 
and tie it to my head. In this way I was 
able to keep them dry. 

It was now daylight and I knew that it 
would be suicidal for me to attempt to 
travel in the daytime. My British uni- 
form would have been fatal to me. I de- 
cided to hide in the daytime and travel 
only at night. 

Not far from the canal I could see a 
heavily wooded piece of ground, and I 
made my way there. By this time I had 
discovered that my left ankle had been 
strained in my leap from the train, and 
when I got to the woods I was glad to lie 
down and rest. The wound in my mouth 
had been opened, too, when I jumped, and 
it would have been difficult for me to have 
swallowed had not the piece of bread, 
which was to serve for my breakfast, got 
wet when I swam the canal. I found a 
safe hiding-place in which to spend the 
day and I tried to dry some of my clothes, 
but a slight drizzling rainfall made that 
out of the question. I knew that I ought 
to sleep, as I planned to travel at night, 
but, sore as I was, caked with mud and 
blood, my clothing soaked through, and 


my hunger not nearly appeased, sleep was 
out of the question. This seemed to me 
about the longest day I had ever spent, 
but I was still to learn how long a 
day can really be and how much longer 
a night! 

When night came I dragged myself to- 
gether and headed northeast. 

My clothing consisted of my Flying 
Corps uniform, two shirts, no underwear, 
leather leggings, heavy shoes, a good pair 
of wool socks, and a German cap. I had 
a wallet containing several hundred francs 
in paper money and various other papers. 
I also had a jack-knife which I had stolen 
one day from the property-room at Cour- 
trai where all the personal effects taken 
from prisoners were kept. For a day or 
two I carried the knapsack, but as I had 
nothing to carry in it I discarded it. 

I traveled rapidly, considering my dif- 
ficulties, and swam a couple of canals that 
night, covering in all perhaps ten miles 
before daylight. Then I located in some 
low bushes, lying there all day in my wet 
clothes and finishing my sausage for food. 
That was the last of my rations. 

That night I made perhaps the same dis- 


tance, but became very hungry and thirsty 
before the night was over. 

For the next six days I still figured that 
I was in Germany, and I was living on 
nothing but cabbage, sugar-beets, and an 
occasional carrot, always in the raw state, 
just as I got them out of the fields. The 
water I drank was often very rank, as I 
had to get it from canals and pools. One 
night I lay in a cabbage-patch for an hour 
lapping the dew from the leaves with my 
tongue ! 

During this period I realized that I must 
avoid meeting any one at all hazards. I 
was in the enemy's country and my uni- 
form would have been a dead give-away. 
Any one who captured me or who gave 
information from which my capture re- 
sulted might have been sure of a hand- 
some reward. I knew that it was neces- 
sary for me to make progress as fast as 
possible, but the main consideration was 
to keep out of sight, even if it took me a 
year to get to Holland, which was my 
objective. From my map, I estimated 
that I was about thirty-five miles from 
Strassburg when I made my leap from the 

train, and if I could travel in a straight 


line I had perhaps one hundred and fifty 
miles to travel. As it was, however, I 
was compelled to make many detours, and 
I figured that two hundred and fifty miles 
was nearer the extent of the journey ahead 
of me. 

In several parts of this country I had to 
travel through forests of young pine-trees 
about twelve feet high. They were very 
close together and looked almost as if they 
had been set out. They proved to be a 
serious obstacle to me, because I could not 
see the stars through them, and I was re- 
lying upon the heavens to guide me to 
freedom. I am not much of an astron- 
omer, but I know the Pole Star when I 
see it. But for it I wouldn't be here 

I believe it rained every night and day 
while I was making my way through Ger- 
many to Luxembourg. 

My invariable program at this stage of 
my journey was to travel steadily all night 
until about six in the morning, when I 
would commence looking around for a 
place wherein to hide during the day. 
Low bushes or woods back from the road, 
as far as possible from the traveled path- 



way, usually served me for this purpose. 
Having found such a spot, I would drop 
down and try to sleep. My overcoat was 
my only covering, and that was usually 
soaked through either from the rain or 
from swimming. 

The only sleep I got during those days 
was from exhaustion, and it usually came 
to me toward dusk when it was time for me 
to start again. 

It was a mighty fortunate thing for me 
that I was not a smoker. Somehow I 
have never used tobacco in any form and 
I was now fully repaid for whatever pleas- 
ure I had foregone in the past as a result 
of my habits in that particular, because 
my sufferings would certainly have been 
intensified now if in addition to lack of 
food and rest I had had to endure a crav- 
ing for tobacco. 

About the sixth night I was so drowsy 
and exhausted when the time came for me 
to be on the move that I was very much 
tempted to sleep through the night. I 
knew, however, that that would be a 
bad precedent to establish and I wouldn't 
give in. 

I plugged wearily along and about 



eleven o'clock, after I had covered perhaps 
four miles, I sat down to rest for a moment 
on a shock of brush which was sheltered 
from the drizzle somewhat by other shocks 
which were stacked there. It was day- 
light when I awoke, and I found myself 
right in a German's backyard. You can 
imagine that I lost no time getting out of 
that neighborhood, and I made up my mind 
right then that I would never give way 
to that "tired feeling" again. 

In the daytime, in my hiding-place, 
wherever it happened to be, I had plenty 
of opportunity to study my map, and be- 
fore very long I knew it almost by heart. 
Unfortunately, however, it did not show 
all the rivers and canals which I encoun- 
tered, and sometimes it fooled me com- 

It must have been about the ninth night 
that I crossed into Luxembourg, but whMe 
this principality is officially neutral, it of- 
fered me no safer a haven than Belgium 
would. The Huns have violated the neu- 
trality of both and discovery would have 
been followed by the same consequences 
as capture in Germany proper. 

In the nine days I had covered perhaps 
7 95 


seventy-five miles and I was that much 
nearer liberty, but the lack of proper food, 
the constant wearing of wet clothes, and 
the loss of sleep and rest had reduced me 
to a very much weakened condition. 1 
doubted very much whether I would be 
-able to continue, but I plugged along. 



I WAS now heading northwest and I 
thought that by keeping that course I 
would get out of Luxembourg and into 
Belgium, where I expected to be a little 
better off, because the people in Luxem- 
bourg were practically the same as 

One of the experiences I had in Luxem- 
bourg which I shall never forget occurred 
the first day that I spent there. I had 
traveled all night and I was feeling very- 
weak. I came to a small wood with plenty 
of low underbrush, and I picked out a 
thick clump of bushes which was not in line 
with any paths, crawled in, and lay down 
to spend the day. 

The sun could just reach me through an 
opening in the trees above, and I took off 
all my clothes except my shirt and hung 



them on the bushes to dry in the sun. As 
the sun moved I moved the clothes around 
correspondingly, because, tired as I was, I 
could take only cat-naps. 

That afternoon I awoke from one of 
these naps with a start. There were 
voices not a dozen feet from me! My first 
impulse was to jump to my feet and sell 
my life as dearly as I could, but on second 
thoughts I decided to look before I 
leaped. Peeping through the underbrush, 
I could just discern two men calmly chop- 
ping down a tree and conversing as they 
worked. I thanked my lucky stars that 
I had not jumped up on my first impulse, 
for I was apparently quite safe as long as 
I lay where I was. 

It then occurred to me that if the tree 
upon which they were working should hap- 
pen to fall in my direction it would crush 
me to death! It was tall enough to reach 
me and big enough to kill me if it landed in 
my direction, and as I could see only the 
heads of the men who were chopping it 
down, I was unable to tell which way they 
planned to have it fall. 

There was this much in my favor: the 

chances of the tree falling in just my di- 


rection were not very great and there was 
more than an even chance that the men 
would be wise enough to fell it so that it 
would not, because if it landed in the 
bushes the task of trimming the branches 
off the trunk would be so much harder. 

But, even without this feeling of se- 
curity, there was really nothing else I could 
do but wait and see what fate had in store 
for me. I lay there watching the top of 
the tree for more than an hour. Time and 
again I saw it sway and fancied it was 
coming in my direction, and it was all I 
could do to keep my place, but a moment 
later I would hear the crash of the men's 
axes and I knew that my imagination had 
played me a trick. 

I was musing on the sorry plight I was in 
weak, nearly starving to death, a refugee 
in a hostile country and waiting patiently 
to see which way a tree was going to fall 
when there came a loud crack and I saw the 
top of the tree sway and fall almost oppo- 
site to the place where I lay! I had 
guessed right. 

Later I heard some children's voices, and 
again peering through the underbrush, I 
saw that they had brought the men their 



lunch. You can't realize how I felt to see 
them eating their lunch so near at hand 
and to know that, hungry as I was, I 
could have none of it. I was greatly 
tempted to go boldly up to them and 
take a chance of getting a share, but I did 
not know whether they were Germans or 
not, and I had gone through too much 
to risk my liberty even for food. I swal- 
lowed my hunger instead. 

Shortly afterward it began to rain, and 
about four o'clock the men left. I crawled 
out as fast as I could, and scurried around 
looking for crumbs, but found none, and 
when darkness came I went on my way 
once more. 

That night I came to a river, and as it 
was the first time my clothes had been dry 
for a long time, I thought I would try to 
keep them that way as long as possible. I 
accordingly took off all my things and 
made them into two bundles, planning to 
carry one load across and then swim back 
for the other. 

The river was quite wide, but I am a 
fairly good swimmer, and I figured I could 
rest awhile after the first trip before going 
back for the second bundle. 



The first swim was uneventful. When I 
landed on the other side I drank till my 
thirst was quenched, and then swam back. 
After resting awhile I started across a 
third time, with my shoes and several 
other things firmly tied to my head. Just 
about ten feet from the opposite bank one 
of the shoes worked its way loose and 
sank in about eight feet of water. There 
was nothing to do but finish the trip and 
then go back and dive for the missing shoe, 
as I could not go on with a single shoe. 

Diving in my weakened condition was 
considerable strain, but I had to have that 
shoe, and I kept at it for nearly an hour 
before I eventually found it, and I was 
pretty nearly all in by that time. 

That was the last time I ever took my 
shoes off, for my feet were becoming so 
swollen that I figured if I took my shoes 
off I might be unable to get them on again. 

This stunt of crossing the river and div- 
ing for the lost shoe had consumed about 
three hours, and after resting some fifteen 
minutes I went on my way again. I had 
hardly gone a mile when I came to another 
river, about the same size as the one I 
had just crossed. I walked along the bank 



awhile, thinking that I might be lucky 
enough to find a boat or a bridge, but 
after walking about half an hour I re- 
ceived one of those disappointments which 
"come once in a lifetime." I found that 
this river was the one I had just swum! I 
had swum it on the bend and was still on the 
wrong side ! Had I made only a short de- 
tour in the first place, I would have avoided 
all the annoyance of the past three hours 
and saved my strength and time. I was 
never so mad in my lif e at myself as I was 
to think that I had not paid more attention 
to the course of the stream before I under- 
took to cross it, but, as a matter of fact, 
there was really no way of telling. The 
river was not shown on my map at all. 

Now I had to cross it, whereas before I 
could have turned it. I walked boldly 
into the water, not bothering to take my 
clothes off this time, nor did I ever bother 
to take them off afterward when swimming 
canals or rivers. I found it was impossible 
to keep them dry, anyway, and so I might 
just as well swim in them and save time. 

All the next day I spent in a forest, to 
which my night's travel had brought me 
about five o'clock in the morning. I kept 



on my way through the woods until day- 
light came, and then, thinking the place 
would afford fairly good concealment, I 
concluded to rest until night. 

The prospects of even a good sleep were 
dismal, however, for about the time the 
sun's face should have appeared a drizzling 
rain began and I gave up my search for a 
dry spot which would serve as a bed. 
Some of the leaves were beginning to fall, 
but of course there were not enough of 
them to have formed a covering for the 
ground, and the dampness seemed to have 
penetrated everywhere. 

I wandered around through the woods 
for two or three hours, looking for shelter, 
but without any success, for, though the 
trees were large, the forest was not dense 
and there was practically no brush or 
shrubbery. Consequently, one could get 
a fairly clear view for some distance, and I 
knew it would be unwise to drop off to 
sleep just any place, or some one would 
surely happen onto me. 

Once I came very near the edge of the 

woods and heard voices of men driving by 

in a wagon, but I couldn't make out just 

what they were, and instinct told me I had 



better not come out of the woods, so I 
turned back. Here and there small ar- 
tificial ditches had been dug, which at a 
dry season might have cradled a weary 
fugitive, but now they, too, were filled 
with water. Once I singled out a good big 
tree with large branches and thought I 
might climb into it and go to sleep, but 
the longer I looked at it the more I realized 
that it would require more energy than I 
had in my present weak and exhausted 
condition, so I didn't attempt that. 

Finally I chose a spot that looked a bit 
drier than the rest, concluded to take a 
chance on being discovered, and threw my- 
self down for a nap. I was extremely 
nervous, though, throughout that whole 
day and would scarcely get settled into a 
comfortable position and doze off for a few 
minutes when, startled by some sound in 
the woods, I would suddenly waken. 

After what seemed like a year or more, 
night finally came, and with it a "dud" 
sky, low-hanging clouds, and still more 
rain. There was not a star in the sky, of 
course, and that made it very bad, be- 
cause without the aid of the stars I had 

absolutely no way of knowing in which 


direction I was going. It was just a case 
of taking a chance. I probably would 
have been better off. if I had simply picked 
out a place and stayed there until the 
weather improved, but naturally I was 
impatient to be on my way when each day 
without food only lessened my strength 
and my ultimate chances of reaching the 

So I left the woods and struck off in the 
direction which I thought was north. I 
hadn't been at all sure of my bearings the 
day before, and as it had rained the sun 
failed entirely to help me out; but I was 
almost sure I had the right direction, and 
trusted to luck. That night I found more 
rivers, canals, and swamps than I ever 
found in my life before, but I had the good 
fortune to stumble on to some celery, and 
after my diet of beets it surely was a treat. 
Perhaps it's unnecessary to add that I took 
on a good supply of celery, and for days I 
went along chewing celery like a cow would 
a cud. 

Along toward morning, when I supposed 

I had got in a fairly good lap of my journey 

perhaps seven or eight miles I began 

to recognize certain objects as familiar 



landmarks. At least, I thought I had seen 
them before, and as I traveled along I knew 
positively I had seen certain objects very 
recently. Off at my right not over a 
quarter of a mile I noticed some fairly 
good-sized woods, and thought I would go 
over there to hide that day, because it 
looked as though the sun was going to 
shine, and I hoped to get my clothes dry 
and perhaps get a decent sleep. I had this 
celery and a large beet, so I knew I would 
be able to live the day through. 

Finally, I made my way over to the 
woods. It was still too dark in among the 
trees to do much in the way of selecting 
my quarters for the day, and I could not go 
a step farther. So I waited on the edge of 
the forest until dawn and then set out to 
explore the place with a view to finding 
some nook where I might sleep. Imagine 
my disgust and discouragement, too, when, 
an hour or so later, I came upon the exact 
place where I had spent the day before, and 
I realized that all night long I had been 
circling the very woods I was trying to get 
away from. I think perhaps I had gone all 
of a quarter of a mile in the right direction, 
but then had lost my bearings entirely and 
1 06 


daylight found me with nothing accom- 

The sun, however, did come out that 
day, and I welcomed its warm rays as they 
perhaps have never been welcomed before. 
I was very tired just about all in but I 
spent a better day in the woods than the 
previous one. 

That night the stars came out ; I located 
my friend, the North Star, and tried to 
make up for lost time. But when one is 
making only seven or eight miles a day, or 
rather a night, one night lost means a 
whole lot, especially when each day keeps 
him from freedom. Such ill fortune and 
discouragements as this were harder to 
endure, I believe, than the actual hunger, 
and the accompanying worry naturally re- 
duced my weight. At times I was furi- 
ously angry with myself for the mistakes 
I made and the foolish things I did, but I 
always tried to see something funny about 
the situation, whatever it might be, that 
relieved the strain a bit and helped to pass 
the time. I think if a man is overburdened 
with a sense of humor and wants to get rid 
of it, this trip I took would be an excellent 
remedy for it. Right at this time I would 


have welcomed anything for a companion; 
I believe even a snake would have been a 
godsend to me. 

With a name as Irish as mine, it is only 
natural that I looked for goats along the 
way, thinking that I might be able to milk 
them. There are very few cows in this 
country, and the opportunities for milking 
them fewer than the cows themselves, be- 
cause they are housed in barns adjoining 
the homes and always alertly watched by 
their fortunate owners. I did hope that 
I might find a goat staked out some place 
in the fields, but in all my travels I never 
saw a goat or a pig, and only a few cows. 
Several times I searched nests for eggs, but 
somebody always had beaten me to it, as 
I never even found so much as a nest egg. 

There was no chance of getting away 
with any "bullying" stuff in Luxembourg, 
I knew, because the young men have not 
been forced into the army and are still at 
home, and as they are decidedly pro- 
German, it would have been pretty hard 
for me to demand anything in that part of 
the country. It was not like taking things 
away from old men and women or robbing 
people that could not stop me if they chose 
1 08 


to do so. I thought at this time that I 
was suffering about the worst hardships 
any human being could ever be called upon 
to endure, but I was later to find out that 
the best of my journey was made along 
about this time. There were plenty of 
vegetables, even though they were raw, 
and these were much better than the things 
I was afterward compelled to eat or go 

We frequently hear of men who have 
lived for a certain number of days on their 
own resources in the woods just on a bet 
or to prove that the "back to nature" 
theory still has its merits and will still 
work. My advice to some of those nature- 
seekers is to, if in the future they wish 
to make a real good record, try the little 
countries of Luxembourg and Belgium, 
with a slice of Germany thrown in. 

I suppose that during this experience of 
mine I made many mistakes and traveled 
many unnecessary miles which one with a 
knowledge of woodsmanship might have 
avoided, and I failed to take advantage of 
many things which would have been quite 
apparent to one who knew. It must not 
be forgotten, however, that I did not un- 


dertake this adventure voluntarily. It was 
"wished on me." I simply had to make 
the most of the knowledge I had. 

At about this time blisters began to ap- 
pear on my legs and my knees swelled. 
In addition I was pretty well convinced 
that I had lost the sight of my left eye. I 
hadn't seen a thing out of it since my leap 
from the train. 

When I imagine the villainous appear- 
ance I must have presented at this time 
my unhealed wounds, eighteen days' 
growth of beard, and general haggard 
and unkempt visage I think the fear I 
felt about meeting strangers was per- 
haps unwarranted. The chances are they 
would have been infinitely more scared 
than I! 

As it was, I was nearly out of Luxem- 
bourg before I really came face to face with 
any one. It was about six o'clock in the 
morning and I was traveling along a regular 
path. Just as I approached a cross-path 
I heard footsteps coming down it. I 
stopped short, stooped over, and pretended 
to be adjusting my shoe-lace, figuring that 
if the stranger turned into my path he 
would probably pass right by me. As 


luck would have it, he continued on his 
way and never noticed me at all. 

After that I frequently noticed groups of 
Luxembourg peasants in the distance, but I 
usually saw them first and managed to 
avoid them. 

About the eighteenth day after my leap 
from the train I crossed into Belgium. It 
had taken me just nine days to get through 
Luxembourg a distance which a man 
could ordinarily cover in two, but, consid- 
ering the handicaps under which I labored, 
I was very well satisfied with my progress. 




I HAVE said it was about the eighteenth 
day after my escape that I entered Bel- 
gium, but that is more or less guesswork. 
I was possibly well into that country be- 
fore I realized that I had crossed the 

About the third day after I figured I was 
in Belgium I started to swim a canal just 
before daylight. I was then heading due 
north in the direction of the German lines. 
I was just about to wade into the canal 
when I heard a German yelling violently, 
and for the first time I knew I was being 

I ran up the bank of the canal quite a 
distance and then swam to the opposite 
side, as I reasoned they would not be look- 
ing for me there. I found a sheltered 
clump of bushes in a swamp near the canal, 



and in the driest part that I could find I 
crawled in and made myself as comfortable 
as possible. The sun came up soon and 
kept me warm, and I planned to camp right 
there, food or no food, until the Huns got. 
tired of searching for me. I think I 
heard them once or twice that day, and 
my heart nearly stopped on each occasion, 
but evidently they decided to look in some 
other direction and I was not further 

At the same time I figured that it was 
absolutely necessary for me to change my 
course even at the expense of going some- 
what out of my way. Certainly if I went 
north they would get me. I decided to go 
due west, and I kept in that direction for 
four days. 

As I was in a very weak condition, I did 
not cover more than five miles a night. I 
kept away from the roads and did all my 
journeying through fields, beet - patches, 
woods, swamps anywhere, provided I 
was not likely to be seen and captured. 
Food was an important consideration to 
me, but it was secondary to concealment. 

At last I brought up at the Meuse River 
at a place between Namur and Huy, and it 


was here that I came nearest of all to giving 
up the struggle. 

The Meuse at this point is about half a 
mile wide as wide as the Hudson River 
at West Point. Had I been in normal con- 
dition I wouldn't have hesitated a moment 
to swim across. San Diego Bay, Califor- 
nia, is a mile and a half wide, and I had 
often swum across and back, and the San 
Joaquin, which is also a mile and a half 
wide, had never proved an obstacle to me. 

In the wretched shape in which I then 
was, however, the Meuse looked like the 
Atlantic Ocean to me. I looked for a boat, 
but could find none. I tried to get a piece 
of wood upon which I hoped to ferry across, 
but I was equally unsuccessful. 

Get across I must, and I decided there 
was nothing to do but swim it. 

It was then about three o'clock in the 
morning. I waded in and was soon in be- 
yond my depth and had to swim. After 
about an hour of it I was very much ex- 
hausted and I doubted whether I could 
make the opposite bank, although it was 
not more than thirty or forty feet away. 
I choked and gasped and my arms and 
legs were completely fagged out. I sank a 


little and tried to touch bottom with my 
feet, but the water was still beyond my 

There are times when every one will 
pray, and I was no exception. I prayed for 
strength to make those few wicked yards, 
and then, with all the will power I could 
summon, struck out for dear life. It 
seemed a lifetime before I finally felt the 
welcome mud of bottom and was able to 
drag myself up to the bank, but I got 
there. The bank was rather high, and I 
was shaking so violently that when I took 
hold of the grass to pull myself up, the 
grass shook out of my hands. I could not 
retain my grip. I was afraid I would 
faint then and there, but I kept pulling 
and crawling frantically up that infernal 
bank, and finally made it. 

Then, for the first time in my life, I 
fainted fainted from utter exhaustion. 

It was now about four o'clock in the 
morning and I was entirely unprotected 
from observation. If any one had come 
along I would have been found lying there 
dead to the world. 

Possibly two hours passed before I re- 
gained consciousness, and then, no doubt, 


only because the rain was beating in my 

I knew that I had to get away, as it was 
broad daylight. Moreover, there was a 
towpath right there and any minute a boat 
might come along and find me. But it 
was equally dangerous for me to attempt 
to travel very far. Fortunately, I found 
some shrubbery near by, and I hid there 
all day, without food or drink. 

That night I made a little headway, but 
when day broke I had a dreadful fever and 
was delirious. I talked to myself and 
thereby increased my chances of capture. 
In my lucid intervals, when I realized that 
I had been talking, the thought sent a chill 
through me, because in the silent night 
even the slightest sound carries far across 
the Belgian country. I began to fear that 
another day of this would about finish me. 

I have a distinct recollection of a ridic- 
ulous conversation I carried on with an 
imaginary Pat O'Brien a sort of duplicate 
of myself. I argued with him as I marched 
drearily along, and he answered me back 
in kind, and when we disagreed I called 
upon my one constant friend, the North 
Star, to stand by me. 


"There you are, you old North Star!" 
I cried, aloud. "You want me to get to 
Holland, don't you? But this Pat O'Brien 
this Pat O'Brien who calls himself a 
soldier he's got a yellow streak North 
Star and he says it can't be done! He 
wants me to quit to lie down here for the 
Huns to find me and take me back to 
Courtrai after all you've done, North 
Star, to lead me to liberty. Won't you 
make this coward leave me, North Star? 
I don't want to follow him I just want to 
follow you because you you are taking 
me away from the Huns and this Pat 
O'Brien this fellow who keeps after me 
all the time and leans on my neck and 
wants me to lie down this yellow Pat 
O'Brien wants me to go back to the Huns !" 

After a spell of foolish chatter like that 
my senses would come back to me for a 
while and I would trudge along without a 
word until the fever came on me again. 

I knew that I had to have food because 
I was about on my last legs. I was very 
much tempted to lie down then and there 
and call it a heat. Things seemed to be 
getting worse for me the farther I went, 
and all the time I had before me the specter 


of that electric barrier between Belgium 
and Holland, even if I ever reached there 
alive. What was the use of further suf- 
fering when I would probably be captured 
in the end, anyway? 

Before giving up, however, I decided 
upon one bold move. I would approach 
one of the houses in the vicinity and get 
food there or die in the effort! 

I picked out a small house, because I 
figured there would be less likelihood of 
soldiers being billeted there. 

Then I wrapped a stone in my khaki 
handkerchief as a sort of camouflaged 
weapon, determined to kill the occupant 
of the house, German or Belgian, if that 
step were necessary in order to get food. 
I tried the well in the yard, but it would 
not work, and then I went up to the door 
and knocked. 

It was one o'clock in the morning. An 
old lady came to the window and looked 
out. She could not imagine what I was, 
probably, because I was still attired in that 
old overcoat. She gave a cry, and her 
husband and a boy came to the door. 

They could not speak English and I 
could not speak Flemish, but I pointed to 


my flying-coat and then to the sky and 
said "fleger" ("flier"), which I thought 
would tell them what I was. 

Whether they understood or were in- 
timidated by my hard-looking appearance, 
I don't know, but certainly it would have 
to be a brave old man and boy who would 
start an argument with such a villainous- 
looking character as stood before them that 
night ! I riad not shaved for a month, my 
clothes were wet, torn, and dirty, my leg- 
gings were gone they had got so heavy 
I had discarded them my hair was matted, 
and my cheeks were flushed with fever. 
In my hand I carried the rock in my hand- 
kerchief, and I made no effort to conceal 
its presence or its mission. 

Anyway, they motioned me indoors and 
gave me my first hot meal in more than a 
month. True, it consisted only of warm 
potatoes. They had been previously 
cooked, but the old woman warmed them 
up in milk in one of the dirtiest kettles I 
had ever seen. I asked for bread, but she 
shook her head, although I think it must 
have been for lack of it rather than because 
she begrudged it to me. For if ever a 
man showed he was famished, I did that 


night. I swallowed those warm potatoes 
ravenously and I drank four glasses of 
water one after another. It was the best 
meal I had had since the "banquet" in 
the prison at Courtrai. 

The woman of the house was probably 
seventy-five years old and had evidently 
worn wooden shoes all her life, for she had 
a callous spot on the side of her foot the 
size of half a dollar, and it looked so hard 
that I doubt whether you could have 
driven a nail into it with a hammer. 

As I sat there drying myself for I was 
in no hurry to leave the first human habita- 
tion I had entered in four weeks I re- 
flected on my unhappy lot and the un- 
known troubles and dangers that lay ahead 
of me. Here, for more than a month, I 
had been leading the life of a hunted 
animal yes, worse than a hunted animal, 
for Nature clothes her less favored 
creatures more appropriately for the life 
they lead than I was clothed for mine 
and there was not the slightest rea- 
son to hope that conditions would grow 

Perhaps the first warm food I had eaten 
for over a month had released unused 



springs of philosophy in me, as food some- 
times does for a man. 

I pointed to my torn and water-soaked 
clothes and conveyed to them as best I 
could that I would be grateful for an old 
suit, but apparently they were too poor 
to have more than they actually needed 
themselves, and I rose to go. I had 
roused them out of bed, and I knew I 
ought not to keep them up longer than 
was absolutely necessary. 

As I approached the door I got a glance 
at myself in a mirror. I was the awfulest 
sight I had ever laid eyes on ! The glimpse 
I got of myself startled me almost as much 
as if I had seen a dreaded German helmet ! 
My left eye was fairly well healed by this 
time, and I was beginning to regain the 
sight of it, but my face was so haggard and 
my beard so long and unkempt that I 
looked like Santa Claus on a "bat." 

As they let me out of the door I pointed 
to the opposite direction to the one I in- 
tended taking and started off in the direc- 
tion I had indicated. Later I changed my 
course completely to throw off any pos- 
sible pursuit. 

The next day I was so worn out from 



exposure and exhaustion that I threw away 
my coat, thinking that the less weight I 
had to carry the better it would be for me, 
but when night came I regretted my mis- 
take, because the nights were now getting 
colder. I thought at first it would be best 
for me to retrace my steps and look for 
the coat I had so thoughtlessly discarded, 
but I decided to go on without it. 

I then began to discard everything that 
I had in my pocket, finally throwing my 
wrist-watch into a canal. A wrist-watch 
does not add much weight, but when you 
plod along and have not eaten for a month 
it finally becomes rather heavy. The next 
thing I discarded was a pair of flying- 

These mittens I had got at Camp Bor- 
den, in Canada, and had become quite 
famous, as my friends termed them "snow- 
shoes." In fact, they were a ridiculous 
pair of mittens, but the best pair I ever 
had, and I really felt worse when I lost 
those mittens than anything else. I could 
not think of anybody else ever using them, 
so I dug a hole in the mud and buried 
them, and could not help but laugh at the 
thought of what my friends would say had 


they seen me burying my mittens, because 
they were a standing joke in Canada, Eng- 
land, and France. 

I had on two shirts, and as they were 
always both wet and didn't keep me warm, 
it was useless to wear both. One of these 
was a shirt that I had bought in France, 
the other an American army shirt. They 
were both khaki and one as apt to give 
me away as the other, so I discarded the 
French shirt. The American army shirt 
I brought back with me to England, and 
it is still in my possession. 

When I escaped from the train I still 
had that Bavarian cap of bright red in 
my pocket and wore it for many nights, 
but I took great care that no one saw it. 
It also had proved very useful when 
swimming rivers, for I carried my map 
and a few other belongings in it, and I 
had fully made up my mind to bring it 
home as a souvenir. But the farther I 
went the heavier my extra clothing be- 
came, so I was compelled to discard even 
the cap. I knew that it would be a tell- 
tale mark if I simply threw it away, so one 
night after swimming a river I dug a hole 
in the soft mud on the bank and buried it, 

\ . 


too, with considerably less ceremony than 
my flying-mittens had received, perhaps; 
and that was the end of my Bavarian hat. 

My experience at the Belgian's house 
whetted my appetite for warm food, and 
I figured that what had been done once 
could be done again. Sooner or later I 
realized I would probably approach a Bel- 
gian and find a German instead, but in 
such a contingency I was determined to 
measure my strength against the Hun's if 
necessary to effect my escape. 

As it was, however, most of the Belgians 
to whom I applied for food gave it to me 
readily enough, and if some of them re- 
fused me it was only because they feared 
I might be a spy or that the Germans 
would shoot them if their action were sub- 
sequently found out. 

About the fifth day after I had entered 
Belgium I was spending the day as usual 
in a clump of bushes when I discerned in 
the distance what appeared to be some- 
thing hanging on a line. All day long I 
strained my eyes trying to decide what it 
could be and arguing with myself that it 
might be something that I could add to 

my inadequate wardrobe, but the distance 


was so great that I could not identify it. 
I had a great fear that before night came 
it would probably be removed. 

As soon as darkness fell, however, I 
crawled out of my hiding-place and worked 
up to the line and got a pair of overalls 
for my industry. It was a mighty joy- 
ful night for me. That pair of overalls 
was the first bit of civilian clothes I had 
thus far picked up, with the exception of a 
civilian cap which I had found at the 
prison and concealed on my person and 
which I still had. The overalls were rather 
small and very short, but when I put them 
on I found that they hung down far 
enough to cover my breeches. 

It was perhaps three days later that I 
planned to search another house for further 
clothes. Entering Belgian houses at night 
is anything but a safe proposition, be- 
cause their families are large and some- 
times as many as seven or eight sleep 
in a single room. The barn is usually 
connected with the house proper, and there 
was always the danger of disturbing some 
dumb animal, even if the inmates of the 
house were not aroused. 

Frequently I took a chance of search- 


ing a backyard at night in the hope of 
finding food scraps, but my success in 
that direction was so slight that I soon 
decided it wasn't worth the risk, and I 
continued to live on the raw vegetables 
that I could pick with safety in the fields 
and the occasional meal that I was able 
to get from the Belgian peasants in the 

Nevertheless, I was determined to get 
more in the way of clothing, and when 
night came I picked out a house that 
looked as though it might furnish me 
with what I wanted. It was a moonlight 
night, and if I could get in the barn I 
would have a fair chance of finding my 
way around by the moonlight which 
would enter the windows. 

The barn adjoined the main part of 
the house, but I groped around very care- 
fully and soon I touched something hang- 
ing on a peg. I didn't know what it 
was, but I confiscated it and carried it 
out into the fields. There in the moon- 
light I examined my booty and found it 
was an old coat. It was too short as an 
overcoat and too long for an ordinary- 
coat, but nevertheless I made use of it. 


It had probably been an overcoat for the 
Belgian who had worn it. 

Some days later I got a scarf from a 
Belgian peasant, and with this equipment 
I was able to conceal my uniform entirely. 

Later on, however, I decided that it 
was too dangerous to keep the uniform 
on anyway, and when night came I dug a 
hole and buried it. 

I never realized until I had to part 
with it just how much I thought of that 
uniform. It had been with me through 
many hard trials, and I felt as if I were 
abandoning a friend when I parted with 
it. I was tempted to keep the wings off 
the tunic, but thought that that would 
be a dangerous concession to sentiment 
in the event that I was ever captured. 
It was the only distinction I had left, 
as I had given the Royal Flying Corps 
badges and the stars of my rank to the 
German Flying Officers as souvenirs, but 
I felt that it was safer to discard it. 
As it finally turned out, through all my 
subsequent experiences my escape would 
never have been jeopardized had I kept 
my uniform, but, of course, I had no 
idea what was in store for me. 

9 127 


There was one thing which surprised 
me very much as I journeyed through 
Belgium, and that was the scarcity of dogs. 
Apparently most of them have been 
taken by the Germans, and what are 
left are beasts of burden who are too 
tired at night to bark or bother intru- 
ders. This was a mighty good thing for 
me, for I would certainly have stirred 
them up in passing through backyards, 
as I sometimes did when I was making 
a short cut. 

One night as I came out of a yard it 
was so pitch dark I could not see ten feet 
ahead of me, and I was right in the back 
of a little village, although I did not know 
it. I crawled along, fearing I might come 
to a crossroads at which there would in 
all probability be a German sentry. 

My precaution served me in good stead, 
for I had come out in the main street 
of a village and within twenty feet of 
me, sitting on some bricks where they 
were building a little store, I could see 
the dim outline of a German spiked hel- 

I could not cross the street and the 
only thing to do was to back-track. It 


meant making a long detour and losing 
two hours of precious time and effort, 
but there was no help for it, and I plodded 
wearily back, cursing the Huns at every 

The next night while crossing some 
fields I came to a road. It was one of the 
main roads of Belgium and was paved 
with cobblestones. On these roads you 
can hear a wagon or horse about a mile 
or two away. I listened intently before 
I moved ahead, and, hearing nothing, 
concluded that the way was clear. 

As I emerged from the field and got 
my first glimpse of the road I got the 
shock of my life! In either direction, as 
far as I could see, the road was lined 
with German soldiers! 

What they were doing in that part of 
Belgium I did not know, but you can be 
mighty sure I didn't spend any time 
trying to find out. 

Again it was necessary to change my 
course and lose a certain amount of 
ground, but by this time I had become 
fairly well reconciled to these reverses 
and they did not depress me as much as 
they had at first. 



At this period of my adventure if a 
day or a night passed without its thrill I 
began to feel almost disappointed, but 
such disappointments were rather rare. 

One evening as I was about to swim 
a canal about two hundred feet wide I 
suddenly noticed, about one hundred yards 
away, a canal-boat moored to the side. 

It was a sort of out-of-the-way place, 
and I wondered what the canal-boat had 
stopped for. I crawled up to see. As 
I neared the boat five men were leaving 
it, and I noticed them cross over into 
the fields. At a safe distance I followed 
them, and they had not gone very far 
before I saw what they were after. They 
were committing the common but hein- 
ous crime of stealing potatoes! 

Without the means to cook them, po- 
tatoes didn't interest me a bit, and I 
thought that the boat itself would prob- 
ably yield me more than the potato- 
patch. Knowing that the canal hands 
would probably take their time in the 
fields, I climbed up the stern of the boat 
leisurely and without any particular pains 
to conceal myself. Just as my head ap- 
peared above the stern of the boat I saw, 


silhouetted against the sky, the dreaded 
outline of a German soldier spiked hel- 
met and all! A chill ran down my spine 
as I dropped to the bank of the canal 
and slunk away. Evidently the sentry 
had not seen me or, if he had, he had 
probably figured that I was one of the 
foraging party, but I realized that it 
wouldn't pay in future to take anything 
for granted. 


1 THINK that one of the worst things 
I had to contend with in my journey 
through Belgium was the number of small 
ditches. They intercepted me at every 
half-mile or so, sometimes more frequent- 
ly. The canals and the big rivers I could 
swim. Of course, I got soaked to the skin 
every time I did it, but I was becoming 
hardened to that. 

These little ditches, however, were too 
narrow to swim and too wide to jump. 
They had perhaps two feet of water in 
them and three feet of mud, and it was 
almost invariablya case of wading through. 
Some of them, no doubt, I could have 
jumped if I had been in decent shape, but 
with a bad ankle and in the weakened 
condition in which I was, it was almost 
out of the question. 



One night I came to a ditch about eight 
or nine feet wide. I thought I was strong 
enough to jump it, and it was worth try- 
ing, as the discomfort I suffered after wad- 
ing these ditches was considerable. Tak- 
ing a long run, I jumped as hard as I 
could, but I missed it by four or five inches 
and landed in about two feet of water and 
three feet more of mud. Getting out of 
that mess was quite a job. The water was 
too dirty and too scanty to enable me to 
wash off the mud with which I was cov- 
ered and it was too wet to scrape off. 
I just had to wait until it dried and scrape 
it off then. 

In many sections of Belgium through 
which I had to pass I encountered large 
areas of swamp and marshy ground, and, 
rather than waste the time involved in 
looking for better underfooting which I 
might not have found, anyway I used to 
plod right through the mud. Apart from 
the discomfort of this method of traveling 
and the slow time I made, there was an 
added danger to me in the fact that the 
"squash-squash" noise which I made 
might easily be overheard by Belgians and 
Germans and give my position away. No- 


body would cross a swamp or marsh in 
that part of the country unless he was 
trying to get away from somebody, and 
I realized my danger, but could not get 
around it. 

It was a common sight in Belgium to 
see a small donkey and a common, ordinary 
milch cow hitched together, pulling a 
wagon. When I first observed the un- 
usual combination I thought it was a don- 
key and ox or bull, but closer inspection 
revealed to me that cows were being used 
for the purpose. 

From what I was able to observe, there 
must be very few horses left in Belgium 
except those owned by the Germans. 
Cows and donkeys are now doing the work 
formerly done by horses and mules. Al- 
together I spent nearly eight weeks wan- 
dering through Belgium and in all that 
time I don't believe I saw more than half 
a dozen horses in the possession of the 
native population. 

One of the scarcest things in Germany, 
apparently, is rubber, for I noticed that 
their motor trucks, or lorries, unlike our 
own, had no rubber tires. Instead, heavy 
iron bands were employed. I could hear 


them come rumbling along the stone roads 
for miles before they reached the spot 
where I happened to be in hiding. When 
I saw these military roads in Belgium for 
the first time, with their heavy cobble- 
stones that looked as if they would last 
for centuries, I realized at once why it 
was that the Germans had been able to 
make such a rapid advance into Belgium 
at the start of the war. 

I noticed that the Belgians used dogs to 
a considerable extent to pull their carts, 
and I thought many times that if I could 
have stolen one of those dogs it would 
have made a very good companion for 
me, and might, if the occasion arose, help 
me out in a fight. But I had no way of 
feeding it and the animal would prob- 
ably have starved to death. I could live 
on vegetables which I could always depend 
upon finding in the fields, but a dog 
couldn't, and so I gave up the idea k 

The knack of making fire with two 
pieces of dry wood I had often read about, 
but I had never put it to a test, and for 
various reasons I concluded that it would 
be unsafe for me to build a fire even if I 
had matches. In the first place, there was 


no absolute need for it. I didn't have 
anything to cook, nor utensils to cook it 
in even if I had. While the air was getting 
to be rather cool at night, I was usually 
on the go at the time and didn't notice it. 
In the daytime, when I was resting or 
sleeping, the sun was usually out. 

To have borrowed matches from a Bel- 
gian peasant would have been feasible, 
but when I was willing to take the chance 
of approaching any one it was just as easy 
to ask for food as matches. 

In the second place, it would have been 
extremely dangerous to have built a fire 
even if I had needed it. You can't build 
a fire in Belgium, which is the most 
thickly populated country in Europe, 
without every one knowing it, and I 
was far from anxious to advertise my 

The villages in the part of Belgium 
through which I was making my course 
were so close together that there was 
hardly ever an hour passed without my 
hearing some clock strike. Every village 
has its clock. Many times I could hear 
the clocks striking in two villages at the 

same time. 



But the hour had very little interest to 
me. My program was to travel as fast as 
I could from sunset to sunrise and pay no 
attention to the hours in between, and in 
the daytime I had only two things to 
worry about: keep concealed and get as 
much sleep as possible. 

The cabbage that I got in Belgium con- 
sisted of the small heads that the peasants 
had not cut. All the strength had con- 
centrated in these little heads and they 
would be as bitter as gall. I would have 
to be pretty hungry to-day before I could 
ever eat cabbage again, and the same ob- 
servation applies to carrots, turnips, and 
sugar-beets especially sugar-beets. 

It is rather a remarkable thing that 
to-day even the smell of turnips, raw or 
cooked, makes me sick, and yet a few 
short months ago my life depended upon 

Night after night, as I searched for food, 
I was always in hopes that I might come 
upon some tomatoes or celery vegetables 
which I really liked, but with the exception 
of once, when I found some celery, I was 
never so fortunate. I ate so much of the 
celery the night I came upon it that I 


was sick for two days thereafter, but I 
carried several bunches away with me and 
used to chew on it as I walked along. 

Of course, I kept my eyes open all the 
time for fruit trees, but apparently it was 
too late in the year for fruit, as all that I 
ever was able to find were two pears which 
I got out of a tree. That was one of my 
red-letter days, but I was never able to 
repeat it. 

In the brooks and ponds that I passed I 
often noticed fish of different kinds. That 
was either in the early morning, just before 
I turned in for the day, or on moonlight 
nights when the water seemed as clear in 
spots as in the daytime. It occurred to 
me that it would be a simple matter to rig 
a hook and line and catch some of the fish, 
but I had no means of cooking them and it 
was useless to fish for the sake of it. 

One night in Belgium my course took 
me through a desolate stretch of country 
which seemed to be absolutely unculti- 
vated. I must have covered twelve miles 
during the night without passing a single 
farm or cultivated field. My stock of 
turnips which I had plucked the night be- 
fore was gone and I planned, of course, to 


get enough to carry me through the fol- 
lowing day. 

The North Star was shining brightly 
that night and there was absolutely noth- 
ing to prevent my steering an absolutely 
direct course for Holland and liberty, but 
my path seemed to lie through arid past- 
ures. Far to the east or to the west I 
could hear faintly the striking of village 
bells, and I knew that if I changed my 
course I would undoubtedly strike farms 
and vegetables, but the North Star seemed 
to plead with me to follow it, and I would 
not turn aside. 

When daylight came the consequence 
was I was empty-handed, and I had to 
find a hiding-place for the day. I thought 
I would approach the first peasant I came 
to and ask for food, but that day I had 
misgivings a hunch that I would get 
into trouble if I did, and I decided to go 
without food altogether for that day. 

It was a foolish thing to do, I found, 
because I not only suffered greatly from 
hunger all that day, but it interfered with 
my sleep. I would drop off to sleep for 
half an hour, perhaps, and during that 
time I would dream that I was free, back 


home, living a life of comparative ease, 
and then I would wake up with a start 
and catch a glimpse of the bushes sur- 
rounding me, feel the hard ground be- 
neath me and the hunger pangs gnawing 
at my insides, and then I would realize 
how far from home I really was, and I 
would lie there and wonder whether I 
would ever really see my home again. 
Then I would fall asleep again and dream 
this time, perhaps, of the days I spent in 
Courtrai, of my leap from the train win- 
dow, of the Bavarian pilot whom I sent 
to eternity in my last air-fight, of my 
tracer-bullets getting closer and closer to 
his head, and then I would wake up again 
with a start and thank the Lord that I 
was only dreaming it all again instead of 
living through it! 

That night I got an early start because 
I knew I had to have food, and I decided 
that, rather than look for vegetables, I 
would take a chance and apply to the 
first Belgian peasant I came to. 

It was about eight o'clock when I came 
to a small house. I had picked up a heavy 
stone and had bound it in my handker- 
chief, and I was resolved to use it as a 


weapon if it became necessary. After 
all I had gone through I was resolved to 
win my liberty eventually at whatever 

As it happened, I found that night the 
first real friend I had encountered in all 
my traveling. When I knocked timidly 
on the door it was opened by a Belgian 
peasant, about fifty years of age. He 
asked me in Flemish what I wanted, but 
I shook my head and, pointing to my ears 
and mouth, intimated that I was deaf and 
dumb, and then I opened and closed my 
teeth several times to show him that I 
wanted food. 

He showed me inside and sat me at 
the table. He apparently lived alone, 
for his ill-furnished room had but one 
chair, and the plate and knife and fork 
he put before me seemed to be all he had. 
He brought me some cold potatoes and 
several slices of stale bread, and he 
warmed me some milk on a small oil- 

I ate ravenously, and all the time I was 
engaged I knew that he was eying me 

Before I was half through he came over 


to me, touched me on the shoulder, and, 
stooping over so that his lips almost 
touched my ear, he said, in broken Eng- 
lish, "You are an Englishman I know 
it and you can hear and talk if you 
wish. Am I not right?" 

There was a smile on his face and a 
friendly attitude about him that told me 
instinctively that he could be trusted, and 
I replied, "You have guessed right only 
I am an American, not an Englishman." 

He looked at me pityingly and filled 
my cup again with warm milk. 

His kindness and apparent willingness 
to help me almost overcame me, and I 
felt like warning him of the consequences 
he would suffer if the Huns discovered he 
had befriended me. I had heard that 
twenty Belgians had been shot for helping 
Belgians to escape into Holland, and I 
hated to think what might happen to 
this Good Samaritan if the Huns ever 
knew that he had helped an escaped 
American prisoner. 

After my meal was finished I told him 
in as simple language as I could command 
of some of the experiences I had gone 
through, and I outlined my future plans. 


"You will never be able to get to Hol- 
land," he declared, "without a passport. 
The nearer you get to the frontier the 
more German soldiers you will encounter, 
and without a passport you will be a 
marked man." 

I asked him to suggest a way by which 
I could overcome this difficulty. 

He thought for several moments and 
studied me closely all the time perhaps 
endeavoring to make absolutely sure that 
I was not a German spy and then, ap- 
parently deciding in my favor, told me 
what he thought it was best for me to do. 

"If you will call on this man," mention- 
ing the name of a Belgian in , a city 

through which I had to pass, he advised, 
"you will be able to make arrangements 
with him to secure a passport, and he will 
do everything he can to get you out of 

He told me where the man hi question 
could be found and gave me some useful 
directions to continue my journey, and 
then he led me to the door. I thanked 
him a thousand times and wanted to pay 
him for his kindness and help, but he 
would accept nothing. He did give me 

10 143 


his name, and you may be sure I shall 
never forget it, but to mention it here 
might, of course, result in serious conse- 
quences for him. When the war is over, 
however, or the Germans are thrown out 
of Belgium, I shall make it my duty to 
find that kind Belgian, if to do it I have 
to go through again all that I have suf- 
fered already. 



WHAT the Belgian had told me about 
the need of a passport gave me fresh 
cause for worry. Suppose I should run 
into a German sentry before I succeeded 
in getting one? 

I decided that until I reached the big 
city which the Belgian had mentioned 
and which I cannot name for fear of identi- 
fying some of the people there who be- 
friended me I would proceed with the 
utmost precaution. Since I had discarded 
my uniform and had obtained civilian 
clothes I had not been quite as careful as 
I was at first. While I had done my 
traveling at night, I had not gone into hid- 
ing so early in the morning as before, and 
I had sometimes started again before it 
was quite dark, relying upon the fact that 
I would probably be mistaken for a Bel- 


gian on his way to or from work, as the 
case might be. From now on, I resolved, 
however, I would take no more chances. 

That evening I came to a river perhaps 
seventy-five yards wide, and I was getting 
ready to swim it when I thought I would 
walk a little way to find, if possible, a bet- 
ter place to get to the river from the bank. 
I had not walked more than a few hundred 
feet when I saw a boat. It was the first 
time I had seen a boat in all my ex- 

It was firmly chained, but as the stakes 
were sunk in the soft bank it was not much 
of a job to pull them out. I got in, drank 
to my heart's content, shoved over to the 
other side, got out, drove a stake into the 
ground, and moored the boat. It would 
have been a simple matter to have drifted 
down the river, but the river was not 
shown on my map and I had no idea 
where it might lead me. Very reluctantly, 
therefore, I had to abandon the boat and 
proceed on foot. 

I made several miles that night and be- 
fore daylight found a safe place in which 
to hide for the day. From my hiding- 
place I could see through the bushes a 


heavy thick wood only a short distance 
away. I decided that I would start earlier 
than usual, hurry over to the wood, and 
perhaps in that way I could cover two or 
three miles in the daytime and gain just 
so much time. Traveling through the 
wood would be comparatively safe. There 
was a railroad going through the wood, 
but I did not figure that that would make 
it any the less safe. 

About three o'clock that afternoon, 
therefore, I emerged from my hiding-place 
and hurried into the wood. After pro- 
ceeding for half a mile or so I came to the 
railroad. I took a sharp look in both 
directions and, seeing no signs of trains or 
soldiers, I walked boldly over the tracks 
and continued on my way. 

I soon came upon a clearing and knew 
that some one must be living in the vi- 
cinity. As I turned a group of trees I 
saw a small house and in the distance an 
old man working in a garden. I decided 
to enter the house and ask for food, figur- 
ing the woman would probably be old and 
would be no match for me even if she 
proved hostile. The old woman who came 
to the door in response to my knock was 


older even than I had expected. If she 
wasn't close to a hundred years, I miss my 
guess very much. 

She could not speak English and I could 
not speak Flemish, of course, but, never- 
theless, I made her understand that I 
wanted something to eat. She came out 
of the door and hollered for her husband 
in a shrill voice that would have done 
credit to a girl of eighteen. The old man 
came in from his garden and between the 
two of them they managed to get the idea 
that I was hungry, and they gave me a 
piece of bread a very small piece which 
was quite a treat. 

The house they lived in consisted of just 
two rooms the kitchen and a bedroom. 
The kitchen was perhaps fourteen feet 
square, eight feet of one side of it being 
taken up by an enormous fireplace. What 
was in the bedroom I had no way of telling, 
as I did not dare to be too inquisitive. 

I made the old couple understand that I 
would like to stay in their house all night, 
but the old man shook his head. I bade 
them good-by and disappeared into the 
woods, leaving them to speculate as to the 
strange foreigner they had entertained. 


From the greater density of the popula- 
tion in the section through which I was 
now passing I realized that I must be in 
the outskirts of the big city which the 
Belgian had mentioned and where I was 
to procure a passport. 

Village after village intercepted me, and, 
although I tried to skirt them wherever 
possible, I realized that I would never make 
much progress if I continued that course. 
To gain a mile I would sometimes have to 
make a detour of two or three. I decided 
that I would try my luck in going straight 
through the next village I came to. 

As I approached it I passed numbers of 
peasants who were ambling along the road. 
I was afraid to mingle with them because 
it was impossible for me to talk to them 
and it was dangerous to arouse suspicion 
even among the Belgians. For all I knew, 
one of them might be treacherous enough 
to deliver me to the Germans in return 
for the reward he might be sure of re- 

About nine o'clock that evening I came 

to a point where ahead of me on the right 

was a Belgian police station I knew it 

from its red lights and on the other side 



of the street were two German soldiers in 
uniform leaning against a bicycle. 

Here was a problem which called for 
instant decision. If I turned back, the 
suspicion of the soldiers would be in- 
stantly aroused, and if I crossed the road 
so as not to pass so closely to them, they 
might be equally suspicious. I decided 
to march bravely by the Huns, bluff my 
way through, and trust to Providence. If 
anybody imagines, however, that I was 
at all comfortable as I approached those 
soldiers, he must think that I am a much 
braver man than I claim to be. My heart 
beat so loud I was afraid they would hear 
it. Every step I took brought me so much 
nearer to what might prove to be the end 
of all my hopes. It was a nerve-racking 

I was now within a few feet of them. 
Another step and 

They didn't turn a hair! I passed right 
by them heard what they were saying, 
although, of course, I didn't understand 
it, and went right on. I can't say I didn't 
walk a little faster as I left them behind, 
but I tried to maintain an even gait so 
as not to give them any idea of the inward 


exultation I was experiencing. No words 
can explain, however, how relieved I 
really felt to know that I had success- 
fully passed through the first of a series of 
similar tests which I realized were in store 
for me although I did not know then 
how soon I was to be confronted with the 

As it was, however, the incident gave 
me a world of confidence. It demon- 
strated to me that there was nothing in 
my appearance, at any rate, to attract the 
attention of the German soldiers. Ap- 
parently I looked like a Belgian peasant, 
and if I could only work things so that I 
would never have to answer questions and 
thus give away my nationality, I figured 
I would be tolerably safe. 

As I marched along I felt so happy I 
couldn't help humming the air of one of 
the new patriotic songs that we used to 
sing at the aerodrome back of Ypres. 

In this happy fame of mind I covered 
the next three miles in about an hour, 
and then I came to another little vil- 
lage. My usual course would have been to 
go around it through fields, backyards, 
woods, or whatever else lay in my way 


but I had gained so much time by going 
through the last village instead of de- 
touring around it, and my appearance 
seemed to be so unsuspicious, that I de- 
cided to try the same stunt again. 

I stopped humming and kept very 
much on the alert, but, apart from that, 
I walked boldly through the main street 
without any feeling of alarm. 

I had proceeded perhaps a mile along the 
main street when I noticed ahead of me 
three German soldiers standing at the curb. 

Again my heart started to beat fast, I 
must confess, but I was not nearly so 
scared as I had been an hour or so before. 
I walked ahead, determined to follow 
my previous procedure in every particular. 

I had got to about fifteen feet away 
from the soldiers when one of them stepped 
onto the sidewalk and shouted: 


My heart stopped beating fast for a 
moment, I believe, it stopped beating 
altogether! I can't attempt to describe 
my feelings. The thought that the jig 
was up, that all I had gone through and 
all I had escaped would now avail me 
nothing, mingled with a feeling of dis- 


gust with myself because of the foolish 
risk I had taken in going through the 
village, combined to take all the starch 
out of me, and I could feel myself wilting 
as the soldier advanced to the spot where 
I stood rooted in my tracks. 

I had a bottle of water in one pocket 
and a piece of bread in the other, and as 
the Hun advanced to search me I held 
the bottle up in one hand and the piece 
of bread in the other so that he could 
see that was all I had. 

It occurred to me that he would "frisk" 
me that is, feel me over for arms or 
other weapons, then place me under ar- 
rest and march me off to the guard-house. 
I had not the slightest idea but that I 
was captured, and there didn't seem to 
be much use in resisting, unarmed as I 
was and with two other German soldiers 
within a few feet of us. 

Like a flash it suddenly dawned on 
me, however, that for all this soldier 
could have known I was only a Belgian 
peasant and that his object in searching 
me, which he proceeded to do, was to 
ascertain whether I had committed the 
common "crime" of smuggling potatoes! 


The Belgians are allowed only a cer- 
tain amount of potatoes, and it is against 
the laws laid down by the Huns to deal in 
vegetables of any kind except under the 
rigid supervision of the authorities. Never- 
theless, it was one of the principal voca- 
tions of the average poor Belgian to buy 
potatoes out in the country from the 
peasants and then smuggle them into the 
large cities and sell them clandestinely at 
a high price. 

To stop this traffic in potatoes the Ger- 
man soldiers were in the habit of sub- 
jecting the Belgians to frequent search, 
and I was being held up by this soldier 
for no other reason than that he thought 
I might be a potato-smuggler! 

He felt of my outside clothes and pock- 
ets, and, finding no potatoes, seemed to 
be quite satisfied. Had he but known 
who I was he could have earned an iron 
cross! Or perhaps, in view of the fact 
that I had a heavy water-bottle in my 
uplifted hand, it might have turned out 
to be a wooden cross! 

He said something in German, which, 
of course, I did not understand, and then 
some Belgian peasants came along and 


seemed to distract his attention. Per- 
haps he had said, "It's all right, you may 
go on," or he may have been talking to 
the others in Flemish, but, at any rate, 
observing that he was more interested in 
the others than he was in me at the mo- 
ment, I put the bottle in my pocket and 
walked on. 

After I walked a few steps I took a 
furtive glance backward and noticed the 
soldier who had searched me rejoin his 
comrades at the curb and then stop an- 
other fellow who had come along, and then 
I disappeared in the darkness. 

I cannot say that the outcome of this 
adventure left me in the same confident 
frame of mind that followed the earlier 
one. It was true I had come out of it all 
right, but I could not help thinking what 
a terribly close shave I had. 

Suppose the soldier had questioned me? 
The ruse I had been following in my deal- 
ings with the Belgian peasants pretend- 
ing I was deaf and dumb might possibly 
have worked here, too, but a soldier a 
German soldier might not so easily have 
been fooled. It was more than an even 
chance that it would at least have aroused 


his suspicions and resulted in further in- 
vestigation. A search of my clothing 
would have revealed a dozen things which 
would have established my identity, and 
all my shamming of deafness would have 
availed me nothing. 

As I wandered along I knew that I was 
now approaching the big city which my 
Belgian friend had spoken of and which 
I would have to enter if I was to get the 
passport, and I realized now how essential 
it was to have something to enable me to 
get through the frequent examinations to 
which I expected to be subjected. 

While I was still debating in my mind 
whether it was going to be possible for me 
to enter the city that night, I saw in the 
distance what appeared to be an arc-light, 
and as I neared it that was what it turned 
out to be. Beneath the light I could 
make out the forms of three guards, and 
the thought of having to go through the 
same kind of ordeal that I had just ex- 
perienced filled me with misgivings. Was 
it possible that I could be fortunate enough 
to get by again? 

As I slowed up a little, trying to make 
up my mind what was best to do, I was 


overtaken by a group of Belgian women 
who were shuffling along the road, and I 
decided to mingle with them and see if I 
couldn't convey the impression that I was 
one of their party. 

As we approached the arc-light the 
figures of those three soldiers with their 
spiked helmets loomed up before me like 
a regiment. I felt as if I were walking 
right into the jaws of death. Rather than 
go through what was in store for me I felt 
that I would infinitely prefer to be fighting 
again in the air with those four desperate 
Huns who had been the cause of my present 
plight; then, at least, I would have a 
chance to fight back, but now I had to 
risk my life and take what was coming 
to me without a chance to strike a blow 
in my own defense. 

I shall never forget my feelings as we 
came within the shaft of light projected 
by that great arc-light, nor the faces of 
those three guards as we passed by them. 
I didn't look directly at them, but out of 
the corner of my eye I didn't miss a de- 
tail. I held a handkerchief up to my face 
as we passed them, and endeavored to 
imitate the slouching gait of the Belgians 


as well as I could; and apparently it 
worked. We walked right by those 
guards and they paid absolutely no atten- 
tion to us. 

If ever a fellow felt like going down on 
his knees and praying, I did at that mo- 
ment, but it wouldn't have done to show 
my elation or gratitude in that conspicuous 

It was then well after eleven o'clock, 
and I knew it would be unsafe for me to 
attempt to find a lodging-place in the city, 
and the only thing for me to do was to 
locate the man whose name the Belgian 
had given me. He had given me a good 
description of the street and had directed 
me how to get there, and I followed his 
instructions closely. 

After walking the streets for about half 
an hour I came upon one of the landmarks 
my friend had described to me, and ten 
minutes afterward I was knocking at the 
door of the man who was to make it pos- 
sible for me to reach Holland and liberty. 
At least that was what I hoped. 



FOR obvious reasons I cannot describe 
the man to whom I applied for the 
passport, nor the house in which he lived. 
While, in view of what subsequently hap- 
pened, I would not be very much con- 
cerned if he got into trouble for having 
dealt with me, I realize that the hard- 
ships he had endured in common with all 
the other inhabitants of that conquered 
city may possibly have distorted his ideas 
of right and justice, and I shall not de- 
liberately bring further disaster on him by 
revealing his identity. 

This man we will call him Huyliger, 
because that is as unlike his name as it 
is mine was very kind to me on that 
memorable night when I aroused him 
from his sleep and in a few words of ex- 
planation told him of my plight. 
" 159 


He invited me inside, prepared some 
food for me, and, putting on a dressing- 
gown, came and sat by me while I ate, 
listening with the greatest interest to the 
short account I gave him of my advent- 

He could speak English fluently, and 
he interrupted me several times to ex- 
press his sympathy for the sufferings I 
had endured. 

" O'Brien," he said, after I had concluded 
my story, "I am going to help you. It 
may take several days perhaps as long 
as two weeks, but eventually we will pro- 
vide the means to enable you to get into 

I thanked him a thousand times and 
told him that I didn't know how I could 
possibly repay him. 

" Don't think of that," he replied; "the 
satisfaction of knowing that I have aided 
in placing one more victim of the Huns 
beyond their power to harm him will 
more than repay me for all the risk I 
shall run in helping you. You'd better 
turn in now, O'Brien, and in the morning 
I'll tell you what I plan to do." 

He showed me to a small room on the 



second floor, shook hands with me, and 
left me to prepare for the first real night's, 
rest I had been able to take in nearly two 

As I removed my clothes and noticed 
that my knees were still swollen to twice 
their normal size, that my left ankle was 
black and blue from the wrench I had 
given it when I jumped from the train, 
and that my ribs showed through my 
skin, I realized what a lot I had been 
through. As a matter of fact, I could 
not have weighed more than one hundred 
and fifty pounds at that time, whereas I 
had tipped the scales at one hundred and 
ninety when I was with my squadron in 

I lost no time in getting into bed and 
still less in getting to sleep. I don't know 
what I dreamed of that night, but I had 
plenty of time to go through the experi- 
ences of my whole life, for when I was 
aroused by a knock on the door, and 
Huyliger came in, in response to my in- 
vitation to enter, he told me that it was 
nearly noon. I had slept for nearly 
twelve hours. 
I cannot say that the thought did not 



run through my head that perhaps, after 
all, I was living in a fool's paradise, and 
that when Huyliger reappeared it would 
be with a couple of German soldiers be- 
hind him, but I dismissed such misgivings 
summarily, realizing that I was doing 
Huyliger an injustice to let such things 
enter my head even for an instant. I 
had no right to doubt his sincerity, and 
it would do me no good to entertain such 
suspicions. If he was going to prove 
treacherous to me, I was powerless, any- 
way, to cope with him. 

In a few moments my host appeared 
with a tray containing my breakfast. I 
don't suppose I shall ever forget that 
meal. It consisted of a cup of coffee 
real coffee, not the kind I had had at 
Courtrai several slices of bread, some hot 
potatoes, and a dish of scrambled eggs. 

Every mouthful of that meal tasted like 
angel-food to me, and Huyliger sat on the 
edge of the bed and watched me enjoying 
the meal, at the same time outlining the 
plans he had made for my escape. 

In brief, the scheme was to conceal me 
in a convent until conditions were ripe for 
me to make my way to the border. In the 


mean while I was to be dressed in the garb 
of a priest, and when the time came for me 
to leave the city I was to pretend that 
I was a Spanish sailor, because I could 
speak a little Spanish, which I had picked 
up on the coast. To attempt to play the 
part of a Belgian would become increas- 
ingly difficult, he pointed out, and would 
bring inevitable disaster in the event that 
I was called upon to speak. 

Huyliger said I would be given sufficient 
money to bribe the German guards at the 
Dutch frontier, and he assured me that 
everything would work out according to 

"Yours is not the first case, O'Brien, 
we have handled successfully," he de- 
clared. "Only three weeks ago I heard 
from an English merchant who had es- 
caped from a German detention camp and 
come to me for assistance, and whom I had 
been able to get through the lines. His 
message telling me of his safe arrival in 
Rotterdam came to me in an indirect way, 
of course, but the fact that the plans we 
had made carried through without mishap 
makes me feel that we ought to be able to 
do as much for you." 


I told Huyliger I was ready to follow 
his instructions and would do anything he 

"I want to rejoin my squadron as soon 
as I possibly can, of course," I told him, 
"but I realize that it will take a certain 
length of time for you to make the neces- 
sary arrangements, and I will be as patient 
as I can." 

The first thing to do, Huyliger told me, 
was to prepare a passport. He had a 
blank one and it was a comparatively 
simple matter to fill in the spaces, using 
a genuine passport which Huyliger pos- 
sessed as a sample of the handwriting of 
the passport clerk. My occupation was 
entered as that of a sailor. My birth- 
place we gave as Spain, and we put my 
age at thirty. As a matter of fact, at that 
time I could easily have passed for thirty- 
five, but we figured that with proper food 
and a decent place to sleep in at night I 
would soon regain my normal appearance 
and the passport would have to serve me, 
perhaps, for several weeks to come. 

Filling in the blank spaces on the pass- 
port was, as I have said, a comparatively 
easy matter, but that did not begin to 

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fill the bill. Every genuine passport 
bore an official rubber stamp, something 
like an elaborate postmark, and I was 
at a loss to know how to get over that 

Fortunately, however, Huyliger had half 
of a rubber stamp which had evidently 
been thrown away by the Germans, and 
he planned to construct the other half out 
of the cork from a wine bottle. He was 
very skilful with a penknife, and although 
he spoiled a score or more of corks before 
he succeeded in getting anything like the 
result he was after, the finished article 
was far better than our most sanguine ex- 
pectations. Indeed, after we had pared 
it over here and there and removed what- 
ever imperfections our repeated tests dis- 
closed, we had a stamp which made an 
impression so closely resembling the orig- 
inal that, without a magnifying-glass, we 
were sure it would have been impossible 
to tell that it was a counterfeit. 

Huyliger procured a camera and took a 
photograph of me to paste on the passport 
in the place provided for that purpose, 
and we then had a passport which was 
entirely satisfactory to both of us and 


would, we hoped, prove equally so to our 
friends the Huns. 

It had taken two days to fix up the pass- 
port. In the mean while, Huyliger in- 
formed me that he had changed his plans 
about the convent, and that instead he 
would take me to an empty house where 
I could remain in safety until he told me 
it was advisable for me to proceed to the 

This was quite agreeable to me, as I 
had had some misgivings as to the kind 
of a priest I would make, and it seemed 
to me to be safer to remain aloof from 
every one in a deserted house than to have 
to mingle with people or come in contact 
with them even with the best of disguises. 

That night I accompanied Huyliger to 
a fashionable section of the city where 
the house in which I was to be concealed 
was located. 

This house turned out to be a four-story 
structure of brick. Huyliger told me that 
it had been occupied by a wealthy Belgian 
before the war, but since 1914 it had been 
uninhabited save for the occasional habita- 
tion of some refugee whom Huyliger was 



Huyliger had a key and let me in, but 
he did not enter the house with me, stat- 
ing that he would visit me in the morning. 

I explored the place from top to bottom 
as well as I could without lights. The 
house was elaborately furnished, but, of 
course, the dust lay a quarter of an inch 
thick almost everywhere. It was a large 
house, containing some twenty rooms. 
There were two rooms in the basement, 
four on the first floor, four on the second, 
five on the third, and five on the top. In 
the days that were to come I was to have 
plenty of opportunity to familiarize my- 
self with the contents of that house, but 
at the time I did not know it, and I was 
curious enough to want to know just what 
the house contained. 

Down in the basement there was a huge 
pantry, but it was absolutely bare, except 
of dust and dirt. A door which evidently 
led to a sub-basement attracted my atten- 
tion, and I thought it might be a good idea 
to know just where it led in case it became 
necessary for me to elude searchers. 

In that cellar I found case after case of 
choice wine Huyliger subsequently told 
me that there were eighteen hundred bot- 


ties of it. I was so happy at the turn my 
affairs had taken and in the rosy prospects 
which I now entertained that I was half 
inclined to indulge in a little celebration 
then and there. On second thoughts, how- 
ever, I remembered the old warning of the 
folly of shouting before you are well out 
of the woods, and I decided that it would 
be just as well to postpone the festivities 
for a while and go to bed instead. 

In such an elaborately furnished house I 
had naturally conjured up ideas of a won- 
derfully large bed, with thick hair mat- 
tresses, downy quilts, and big soft pillows. 
Indeed, I debated for a while which par- 
ticular bedroom I should honor with my 
presence that night. Judge of my dis- 
appointment, therefore, when, after visiting 
bedroom after bedroom, I discovered that 
there wasn't a bed in any one of them that 
was in a condition to sleep in. All the mat- 
tresses had been removed and the rooms 
were absolutely bare of everything in the 
way of wool, silk, or cotton fabrics. The 
Germans had apparently swept the house 

There was nothing to do, therefore, but 
to make myself as comfortable as I could 



on the floor, but as I had grown accustomed 
by this time to sleeping under far less 
comfortable conditions I swallowed my 
disappointment as cheerfully as I could and 
lay down for the night. 

In the morning Huyliger appeared and 
brought me some breakfast, and after I 
had eaten it he asked me what connections 
I had in France or England from whom I 
could obtain money. 

I told him that I banked at Cox & Co., 
London, and that if he needed any money 
I would do anything I could to get it for 
him, although I did not know just how such 
things could be arranged. 

"Don't worry about that, O'Brien," he 
replied. ' ' We'll find a way of getting at it, 
all right. What I want to know is how 
far you are prepared to go to compensate 
me for the risks I am taking and for the 
service I am rendering you." 

The change in the man's attitude 
stunned me. I could hardly believe my 

"Of course, I shall pay you as well as 

I can for what you have done, Huy- 

liger," I replied, trying to conceal as far 

as possible the disappointment his demand 



had occasioned me. "But don't you 
think that this is hardly the proper time 
or occasion to talk of compensation? All 
I have on me, as you know, is a few hun- 
dred francs, and that, of course, you are 
welcome to, and when I get back, if I 
ever do, I shall not easily forget the 
kindness you have shown me. I am sure 
you need have no concern about my show- 
ing my gratitude in a substantial way." 

"That's all right, O'Brien," he in- 
sisted, looking at me in a knowing sort 
of way. "You may take care of me after- 
ward, and then again you may not. I'm 
not satisfied to wait. I want to be taken 
care of now! 1 ' 

"Well, what do you want me to do? 
How much do you expect in the way of 
compensation? How can I arrange to 
get it to you? I am willing to do any- 
thing that is reasonable." 

"I want pounds!" he replied, and 

he named a figure that staggered me. If 
I had been Lord Kitchener instead of 
just an ordinary lieutenant in the R. F. 
C., he would hardly have asked a larger 
sum. Perhaps he thought I was. 

"Why, my dear man," I said, smilingly, 


thinking that perhaps he was joking, 
"you don't really mean that, do you?" 

"I certainly do, O'Brien, and what is 
more," he threatened, "I intend to get 
every cent I have asked, and you are 
going to help me get it!" 

He pulled out an order calling for the 
payment to him of the amount he had 
mentioned, and demanded that I sign it. 

I waved it aside. 

"Huyliger," I said, "you have helped 
me out so far, and perhaps you have the 
power to help me further. I appreciate 
what you have done for me, although 
now, I think, I see what your motive 
was, but I certainly don't intend to be 
blackmailed, and I tell you right now that 
I won't stand for it!" 

"Very well," he said. "It is just as you 
say. But before you make up your mind 
so obstinately I would advise you to 
think it over. I'll be back this evening." 

My first impulse, after the man had 
left, was to get out of that house just as 
soon as I could. I had the passport he 
had prepared for me, and I figured that 
even without further help from him I 
could now get to the border without very 


much difficulty, and when I got there I 
would have to use my own ingenuity to 
get through. 

It was evident, however, that Huyliger 
still had an idea that I might change my 
mind with regard to the payment he had 
demanded, and I decided that it woulb 
be foolish to do anything until he paid 
me a second visit. 

At the beginning of my dealings with 
Huyliger I had turned over to him some 
pictures, papers, and other things that I 
had on me when I entered his house, in- 
cluding my identification disk, and I was 
rather afraid that he might refuse to re- 
turn them to me. 

All day long I remained in the house 
without a particle of food other than the 
breakfast Huyliger had brought to me. 
From the windows I could see plenty to 
interest me and help pass the time away, 
but of my experiences while in that house 
I shall tell in detail later on, confining 
my attention now to a narration of my 
dealings with Huyliger. 

That night he appeared, as he had 

"Well, O'Brien," he asked, as he entered 


the room where I was awaiting him, 
"what do you say? Will you sign the 
order or not?" 

It had occurred to me during the day 
that the amount demanded was so fabu- 
lous that I might have signed the order 
without any danger of its ever being paid, 
but the idea of this man, who had claimed 
to be befriending me, endeavoring to 
make capital out of my plight galled me 
so that I was determined not to give in 
to him, whether I could do so in safety or 

"No, Huyliger," I replied. "I have 
decided to get along as best I can with- 
out any further assistance from you. 
I shall see that you are reasonably paid 
for what you have done, but I will not 
accept any further assistance from you 
at any price, and, what is more, I want 
you to return to me at once all the photo- 
graphs and other papers and belongings 
of mine which I turned over to you a 
day or two ago!" 

"I'm sorry about that, O'Brien," he 
retorted, with a show of apparent sincerity, 
"but that is something I cannot do." 

"If you don't give me back those papers 


at once," I replied, hotly, "I will take 
steps to get them and damned quick, 

"I don't know just what you could do, 
O'Brien," he declared, coolly, "but as a 
matter of fact the papers and pictures 
you refer to are out of the country. I 
could not give them back to you if I 
wanted to." 

Something told me the man was lying. 

"See here, Huyliger!" I threatened, ad- 
vancing toward him, putting my hand on 
his shoulder and looking him straight in 
the eye, "I want those papers and I want 
them here before midnight to-night. If I 
don't get them, I shall sleep in this place 
just once more, and then, at eight o'clock 
to-morrow morning, I shall go to the 
German authorities, give myself up, show 
them the passport that you fixed up for 
me, tell them how I got it, and explain 

Huyliger paled. We had no lights in 
the house, but we were standing near a 
landing at the time and the moonlight was 
streaming through a stained-glass window. 

The Belgian turned on his heel and 
started to go down the stairs. 


"Mind you," I called after him, "I 
shall wait for you till the city clock 
strikes twelve, and if you don't show up 
with those papers by that time, the next 
time you will see me is when you confront 
me before the German authorities! I am 
a desperate man, Huyliger, and I mean 
every word I say!" 

He let himself out of the door and I 
sat on the top stair and wondered just 
what he would do. Would he try to 
steal a march on me and get in a first 
word to the authorities, so that my story 
would be discredited when I put it to 

Of course my threat to give myself up 
to the Huns was a pure bluff. While I 
had no desire to lose the papers which 
Huyliger had, and which included the map 
of the last resting-place of my poor chum 
Raney, I certainly had no intention of 
cutting off my nose to spite my chin by 
surrendering to the Germans. I would 
have been shot, as sure as fate, for, after 
all I had been able to observe behind the 
German lines, I would be regarded as a 
spy and treated as such. 

At the same time I thought I had de- 
12 I75 


tected a yellow streak in Huyliger, and I 
figured that he would not want to take 
the risk of my carrying out my threat, 
even though he believed there was but a 
small chance of my doing so. If I did, 
he would undoubtedly share my fate, 
and the pictures and papers he had of 
mine were really of no use to him, and I 
have never been able to ascertain why it 
was he wished to retain them unless they 
contained something some information 
about me which accounted for his com- 
plete change of attitude toward me in 
the first place, and he wanted the papers 
as evidence to account to his superiors 
or associates for his conduct toward me. 

When he first told me that the plan of 
placing me in a convent disguised as a 
priest had been abandoned he explained 
it by saying that the Cardinal had issued 
orders to the priests to help no more fugi- 
tives, and I have since wondered whether 
there was anything in my papers which 
had turned him against me and led him 
to forsake me after all he had promised 
to do for me. 

For perhaps two hours I sat on that 
staircase musing about the peculiar turn 


in my affairs, when the front door opened 
and Huyliger ascended the stairs. 

"I have brought you such of your be- 
longings as I still had, O'Brien," he said, 
softly. "The rest, as I told you, I can- 
not give you. They are no longer in my 

I looked through the little bunch he 
handed me. It included my identification 
disk, most of the papers I valued, and 
perhaps half of the photographs. 

"I don't know what your object is in re- 
taining the rest of my pictures, Huyliger," 
I replied, "but, as a matter of fact, the 
ones that are missing were only of sen- 
timental value to me, and you are wel- 
come to them if you want them. We'll 
call it a heat." 

I don't know whether he understood the 
idiom, but he sat down on the stairs just 
below me and cogitated for a few moments. 

"O'Brien," he started, finally, "I'm 
sorry things have gone the way they have. 
I feel sorry for you and I would really like 
to help you. I don't suppose you will be- 
lieve me, but the matter of the order which 
I asked you to sign was not of my doing. 
However, we won't go into that. The 


proposition was made to you and you 
turned it down, and that's an end of it. 
At the same time, I hate to leave you to 
your own resources and I'm going to make 
one more suggestion to you for your own 
good. I have another plan to get you into 
Holland, and if you will go with me to 
another house I will introduce you to a 
man who I think will be in a position to 
help you." 

"How many millions of pounds will he 
want for his trouble?" I asked, sarcas- 

"You can arrange that when you see 
him. Will you go?" 

I suspected there was something fishy 
about the proposition, but I felt that I 
could take care of myself and decided to 
see the thing through. I knew Huyliger 
would not dare to deliver me to the au- 
thorities because of the fact that I had the 
telltale passport, which would be his death- 
knell as well as my own. 

Accordingly I said I would be quite will- 
ing to go with him whenever he was ready, 
and he suggested that we go the next 

I pointed out to him that I was entirely 


without food and asked him whether he 
could not arrange to bring or send me 
something to eat while I remained in the 

"I'm sorry, O'Brien," he replied, "but 
I'm afraid you'll have to get along as 
best you can. When I brought you your 
breakfast this morning I took a desperate 
chance. If I had been discovered by one 
of the German soldiers entering this house 
with food in my possession, I would not 
only have paid the penalty myself, but 
you would have been discovered, too. It 
is too dangerous a proposition. Why 
don't you go out by yourself and buy your 
food at the stores? That would give you 
confidence, and you'll need plenty of it 
when you continue your journey to the 

There was a good deal of truth in what 
he said, and I really could not blame him 
for not wanting to take any chances to 
help me, in view of the relations be- 
tween us. 

"Very well," I said; "I've gone without 
food for many hours at a time before and 
I suppose I shall be able to do so again. 
I shaLL look for you to-morrow evening." 


The next evening he came and I ac- 
companied him to another house not very 
far from the one in which I had been 
staying and not unlike it in appearance. 
It, too, was a substantial dwelling-house 
which had been untenanted since the be- 
ginning, save perhaps for such occasional 
visits as Huyliger and his associates made 
to it. 

Huyliger let himself in and conducted 
me to a room on the second floor, where he 
introduced me to two men. One, I could 
readily see by the resemblance, was his 
own brother. The other was a stranger. 

Very briefly they explained to me that 
they had procured another passport for 
me a genuine one which would prove 
far more effective in helping to get me to 
the frontier than the counterfeit one they 
had manufactured for me. 

I think I saw through their game right 
at the start, but I listened patiently to 
what they had to say. 

"Of course, you will have to return to 
us the passport we gave you before we 
can give you the real one," said Huyliger 's 

"I haven't the slightest objection," I 
1 80 


replied, "if the new passport is all you 
claim for it. Will you let me see it?" 

There was considerable hesitation on 
the part of Huyliger's brother and the 
other chap at this. 

"Why, I don't think that's necessary 
at all, Mr. O'Brien," said the former. 
"You give us the old passport and we 
will be very glad to give you the new one 
for it. Isn't that fair enough?" 

"It may be fair enough, my friends," 
I retorted, seeing that it was useless to 
conceal further the fact that I was fully 
aware of their whole plan and why I had 
been brought to this house. "It may be 
fair enough, my friends," I said, "but 
you will get the passport that I have 
here," patting my side and indicating 
my inside breast pocket, "only off my 
dead body!" 

I suppose the three of them could have 
made short work of me then and there if 
they had wanted to go the limit, and no 
one would ever have been the wiser, but 
I had gone through so much and I was 
feeling so mean toward the whole world 
just at that moment that I was determined 
to sell my life as dearly as possible. 


"I have that passport here," I repeated, 
"and I'm going to keep it. If you gentle- 
men think you can take it from me, you 
are welcome to try!" 

To tell the truth, I was spoiling for a 
fight and I half wished they would start 
something. The man who had lived in 
the house had evidently been a collector 
of ancient pottery, for the walls were 
lined with great pieces of earthenware 
which had every earmark of possessing 
great value. They certainly possessed 
great weight. I figured that if the worst 
came to the worst that pottery would 
come in mighty handy. A single blow 
with one of those big vases would put a 
man out as neatly as possible, and as 
there was lots of pottery and only three 
men I believed I had an excellent chance 
of holding my own in the combat which 
I had invited. 

I had already picked out in my mind 
what I was going to use, and I got up, 
stood with my back to the wall, and 
told them that if they ever figured on 
getting the passport, then would be their 
best chance. 

Apparently they realized that I meant 


business and they immediately began to 
expostulate at the attitude I was taking. 

One of the men spoke excellent English. 
In fact, he told me that he could speak 
five languages, and if he could lie in the 
others as well I know he did in my own 
tongue, he was not only an accomplished 
linguist, but a most versatile liar into the 

They argued and expostulated with me 
for some time. 

"My dear fellow," said the linguist, 
"it is not that we want to deprive you 
of the passport. Good Heavens ! if it will 
aid you in getting out of the country, I 
wish you could have six just like it. But 
for our own protection you owe it to us to 
proceed on your journey as best you can 
without it, because as long as you have 
it in your possession you jeopardize our 
lives, too. Don't you think it is fairer 
that you should risk your own safety 
rather than place the lives of three in- 
nocent men in danger?" 

"That may be as it is, my friends," I 

retorted, as I made my way to the door, 

"and I am glad you realize your danger. 

Keep it in mind, for in case any of you 



should happen to feel inclined to notify 
the German authorities that I am in this 
part of the country, think it over before 
you do so. Remember always that if the 
Germans get me, they get the passport, 
too, and if they get the passport, your 
lives won't be worth a damn! When I 
tell the history of that clever little piece 
of pasteboard I will implicate all three 
of you, and whomever else is working with 
you, and as I am an officer I rather think 
my word will be taken before yours. 
Good night!" 

The bluff evidently worked, because I 
was able to get out of the city without 
molestation from the Germans. 

I have never seen these men since. I 
hope I never shall, because I am afraid 
I might be tempted to do something for 
which I might afterward be sorry. 

I do not mean to imply that all Belgians 
are like this. I had evidently fallen into 
the hands of a gang who were endeavoring 
to make capital out of the misfortunes of 
those who were referred to them for help. 
In all countries there are bad as well as 
good, and in a country which has suffered 

so much as poor Belgium it is no wonder 


if some of the survivors have lost their 
sense of moral perspective. 

I know the average poor peasant in 
Belgium would divide his scanty rations 
with a needy fugitive sooner than a 
wealthy Belgian would dole out a morsel 
from his comparatively well-stocked larder. 
Perhaps the poor have less to lose than 
the rich if their generosity or charity is 
discovered by the Huns. 

There have been many Belgians shot 
for helping escaped prisoners and other 
fugitives, and it is not to be wondered 
at that they are willing to take as few 
chances as possible. A man with a family, 
especially, does not feel justified in help- 
ing a stranger when he knows that he and 
his whole family may be shot or sent to 
prison for their pains. 

Although I suffered much from the 
attitude of Huyliger and his associates, I 
suppose I ought to hold no grudge against 
them in view of the unenviable predica- 
ment which they are in themselves. 



HPHE five days I spent in that house 
1 seemed to me like five years. Dur- 
ing all that time I had very little to eat 
less, in fact, than I had been getting 
in the fields. I did not feel it so much, 
perhaps, because of the fact that I was 
no longer exposed to the other privations 
which had helped to make my condition 
so wretched. I now had a good place to 
sleep, at any rate, and I did not awake 
every half -hour or so as I had been accus- 
tomed to do in the fields and woods, and, 
of course, my hunger was not aggravated 
by the physical exertions which had been 
necessary before. 

Nevertheless, perhaps because I had 

more time now to think of the hunger 

pains which were gnawing at me all the 

time, I don't believe I was ever so miser- 



able as I was at that period of my ad- 
venture. I felt so mean toward the world 
I would have committed murder, I think, 
with very little provocation. 

German soldiers were passing the house 
at all hours of the day. I watched them 
hour after hour from the keyhole of the 
door to have shown myself at the window 
was out of the question because the house 
in which I was concealed was supposed to 
be untenanted. 

Because of the fact that I was unable 
to speak either Flemish or German I 
could not go out and buy food, although 
I still had the money with which to do 
it. That was one of the things that 
galled me the thought that I had the 
wherewithal in my jeans to buy all the 
food I needed, and yet no way of getting 
it without endangering my liberty and 

At night, however, after it was dark, I 
would steal quietly out of the house to 
see what I could pick up in the way of 
food. By that time, of course, the stores 
were closed, but I scoured the streets, the 
alleys, and the byways for scraps of food, 
and occasionally got up courage enough 


to appeal to Belgian peasants whom I met 
on the streets, and in that way I man- 
aged to keep body and soul together. 

It was quite apparent to me, however, 
that I was worse off in the city than I had 
been in the fields, and I decided to get out 
of that house just as soon as I knew 
definitely that Huyliger had made up his 
mind to do nothing further for me. 

When I was not at the keyhole of the 
door I spent most of my day on the top 
floor in a room which looked out on the 
street. By keeping well away from the 
window I could see much of what was go- 
ing on without being seen myself. In my 
restlessness I used to walk back and forth 
in that room, and I kept it up so con- 
stantly that I believe I must have worn a 
path on the floor. It was nine steps from 
one wall to the other, and as I had little 
else to amuse me I figured out one day, 
after I had been pacing up and down for 
several hours, just how much distance I 
would have covered on my way to Hol- 
land if my footsteps had been taking me 
in that direction instead of just up and 
down that old room. I was very much 
surprised that in three hours I crossed the 

1 88 


room no less than five thousand times and 
the distance covered was between nine and 
ten miles. It was not very gratifying to 
realize that after walking all that distance 
I wasn't a step nearer my goal than when 
I started, but I had to do something while 
waiting for Huyliger to help me, and 
pacing up and down was a natural outlet 
for my restlessness. 

While looking out of that top-floor win- 
dow one day I noticed a cat on a window- 
ledge of the house across the street. I 
had a piece of a broken mirror which I had 
picked up in the house and I used to amuse 
myself for an hour at a time shining it in 
the cat's eyes across the street. At first 
the animal was annoyed by the reflection 
and would move away, only to come back 
a few moments later. By and by, how- 
ever, it seemed to get used to the glare and 
wouldn't budge, no matter how strong the 
sunlight was. Playing with the cat in this 
way was the means of my getting food a 
day or two later at a time when I was so 
famished that I was ready to do almost 
anything to appease my hunger. 

It was about seven o'clock in the eve- 
ning. I was expecting Huyliger at eight, 


but I hadn't the slightest hope that he 
would bring me food, as he had told me 
that he wouldn't take the risk of having 
food in his possession when calling on me. 
I was standing at the window in such a 
way that I could see what was going on 
in the street without being observed by 
those who passed by, when I noticed my 
friend the cat coming down the steps of 
the opposite house with something in his 
mouth. Without considering the risks I 
ran, I opened the front door, ran down 
the steps and across the street, and 
pounced on the cat before it could get 
away with its supper, for that, as I had 
imagined, was what I had seen in its 
mouth. It turned out to be a piece 
of stewed rabbit, which I confiscated 
eagerly and took back with me to the 

Perhaps I felt a little sorry for the cat, 
but I certainly had no other qualms about 
eating the animal's dinner. I was much 
too hungry to dwell upon niceties, and a 
piece of stewed rabbit was certainly too 
good for a cat to eat when a man was 
starving. I ate it and enjoyed it, and the 
incident suggested to me a way in which 


I might possibly obtain food again when 
all other avenues failed. 

From my place of concealment I fre- 
quently saw huge carts being pushed 
through the streets gathering potato peel- 
ings, refuse of cabbage, and similar food 
remnants which, in America, are considered 
garbage and destroyed. In Belgium they 
were using this "garbage" to make their 
bread out of, and while the idea may 
sound revolting to us, the fact is that the 
Germans have brought these things down 
to such a science that the bread they make 
in this way is really very good to eat. I 
know it would have been like cake to me 
when I was in need of food ; indeed, I would 
have eaten the "garbage" direct, let alone 
the bread. 

Although, as I have said, I suffered 
greatly from hunger while occupying this 
house, there were one or two things I ob- 
served through the keyhole or from the 
windows which made me laugh, and some 
of the incidents that occurred during my 
voluntary imprisonment were really rather 

From the keyhole I could see, for in- 
stance, a shop window on the other side 
13 191 


of the street, several houses down the 
block. All day long German soldiers 
would be passing in front of the house, and 
I noticed that practically every one of them 
would stop in front of this store window 
and look in. Occasionally a soldier on 
duty bent would hurry past, but I think 
nine out of ten of them were sufficiently in- 
terested to spend at least a minute, and 
some of them three or four minutes, gazing 
at whatever was being exhibited in that 
window, although I noticed that it failed 
to attract the Belgians. 

I have a considerable streak of curiosity 
in me and I couldn't help wondering what 
it could be in that window which almost 
without exception seemed to interest Ger- 
man soldiers, but failed to hold the Bel- 
gians, and after conjuring my brains for 
a while on the problem I came to the con- 
clusion that the shop must have been a 
book-shop and the window contained Ger- 
man magazines, which, naturally enough, 
would be of the greatest interest to the 
Germans, but of none to the Belgians. 

At any rate, I resolved that as soon as 
night came I would go out and investigate 
the window. When I got the answer I 


laughed so loud that I was afraid for the 
moment I must have attracted the atten- 
tion of the neighbors, but I couldn't help 
it. The window was filled with huge 
quantities of sausage. The store was a 
butcher-shop, and one of the principal 
things they sold, apparently, was sausage. 
The display they made, although it con- 
sisted merely of quantities of sausage piled 
in the windows, certainly had plenty of 
"pulling" power. It "pulled" nine Ger- 
mans out of ten out of their course and in- 
directly it "pulled" me right across the 
street. The idea of those Germans being 
so interested in that window display as to 
stand in front of the window for two, three, 
or four minutes at a time, however, cer- 
tainly seemed funny to me, and when I got 
back to the house I sat at the keyhole 
again and found just as much interest as 
before in watching the Germans stop in 
their tracks when they reached the window, 
even though I was now aware what the 
attraction was. 

One of my chief occupations during 

those days was catching flies. I would 

catch a fly, put him in a spider's web 

there were plenty of them in the old house 



and sit down to wait for the spider to 
come and get him. But always I pictured 
myself in the same predicament and 
rescued the fly just as the spider was about 
to grab him. Several times when things 
were dull I was tempted to see the 
tragedy through, but perhaps the same 
Providence that guided me safely through 
all perils was guarding, too, the destiny 
of those flies, for I always weakened and 
the flies never did suffer from my lust for 

The house was well supplied with books 
in fact, one of the choicest libraries I 
think I ever saw but they were all 
written either in Flemish or in French. I 
could read no Flemish and very little 
French. I might have made a little head- 
way with the latter, but the books all 
seemed too deep for me and I gave it up. 
There was one thing, though, that I did 
read and re-read from beginning to end 
that was a New York Herald which must 
have arrived just about the time war was 
declared. Several things in there inter- 
ested me, and particularly the baseball 
scores, which I studied with as much 

care as a real fan possibly would an up-to- 


date score. I couldn't refrain from laugh- 
ing when I came to an account of Zimmer- 
man (of the Cubs) being benched for some 
spat with the umpire, and it afforded me 
just as much interest three years after it 
had happened perhaps more than some 
current item of worldwide interest had at 
the time. 

I rummaged the house many times from 
cellar to garret in my search for something 
to eat, but the harvest of three years of 
war had made any success along that 
line impossible. I was like the man out 
on the ocean in a boat and thirsty, with 
water everywhere, but not a drop to 

I was tempted while in this city to go 
to church one Sunday, but my better 
judgment told me it would be a useless 
risk. Of course some one would surely 
say something to me, and I didn't know 
how many Germans would be there, or 
what might happen, so I gave up that idea. 

During all the time I was concealed in 
this house I saw but one automobile, and 
that was a German staff officer's. That 
same afternoon I had one of the frights 
of my young life. 



I had been gazing out of the keyhole as 
usual when I heard coming down the street 
the measured tread of German soldiers. 
It didn't sound like very many, but there 
was no doubt in my mind that German 
soldiers were marching down the street. I 
went up-stairs and peeked through the 
window, and sure enough a squad of Ger- 
man infantry was coming down the street, 
accompanying a military truck. I hadn't 
the slightest idea that they were coming 
after me, but still the possibilities of the 
situation gave me more or less alarm, and 
I considered how I could make my escape 
if by any chance I was the man they were 
after. The idea of hiding in the wine- 
cellar appealed to me as the most prac- 
tical; there must have been plenty of 
places among the wine kegs and cases 
where a man could conceal himself, but, 
as a matter of fact, I did not believe that 
any such contingency would arise. 

The marching soldiers came nearer. I 
could hear them at the next house. In a 
moment I would see them pass the key- 
hole through which I was looking. 


At the word of command shouted by a 


junior officer the squad came to attention 
right in front of the house. 

I waited no longer. Running down the 
stairs, I flew down into the wine-cellar, 
and although it was almost pitch dark 
the only light coming from a grating which 
led to the backyard I soon found a sat- 
isfactory hiding-place in the extreme rear 
of the cellar. I had the presence of mind 
to leave the door of the wine-cellar ajar, 
figuring that if the soldiers found a closed 
door they would be more apt to search 
for a fugitive behind it than if the door 
were open. 

My decision to get away from the front 
door had been made and carried out none 
too soon, for I had only just located my- 
self between two big wine-cases when I 
heard the tramp of soldiers' feet marching 
up the front steps, a crash at the front 
door, a few hasty words of command which 
I did not understand, and then the noise of 
scurrying feet from room to room and such 
a banging and hammering and smashing 
and crashing that I could not make out 
what was going on. 

If Huyliger had revealed my hiding- 
place to the Huns, as I was now confident 


he had, I felt that there was little prospect 
of their overlooking me. They would 
search the house from top to bottom and, 
if necessary, raze it to the ground before 
they would give up the search. To es- 
cape from the house through the backyard 
through the iron grating, which I had 
no doubt I could force, seemed to be a 
logical thing to do, but the chances were 
that the Huns had thrown a cordon around 
the entire block before the squad was sent 
to the house. The Germans do these 
things in an efficient manner always. They 
take nothing for granted. 

My one chance seemed to be to stand 
pat in the hope that the officer in charge 
might possibly come to the conclusion 
that he had arrived at the house too late 
that the bird had flown. 

My position in that wine-cellar was 
anything but a comfortable one. Rats 
and mice were scurrying across the floor, 
and the smashing and crashing going on 
overhead was anything but promising. 
Evidently those soldiers imagined that I 
might be hiding in the walls, for it sounded 
as though they were tearing off the wains- 
coting, the picture-molding, and, in fact, 


everything that they could tear or pull 

Before very long they would finish their 
search up-stairs and would come down to 
the basement. What they would do when 
they discovered the wine I had no idea. 
Perhaps they would let themselves loose 
on it and give me my chance. With a 
bottle of wine in each hand I figured I 
could put up a good fight in the dark, 
especially as I was becoming more and 
more accustomed to it and could begin 
to distinguish things here and there, 
whereas they would be as blind as bats 
in the sun when they entered the pitchy 
darkness of the cellar. 

Perhaps it was twenty minutes before I 
heard what sounded like my death-knell 
to me; the soldiers were coming down the 
cellar steps. I clutched a wine bottle in 
each hand and waited with bated breath. 

Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! In a mo- 
ment they would be in the cellar proper. 
I could almost hear my heart beating. 
The mice scurried across the floor by the 
scores, frightened, no doubt, by the vibra- 
tion and noise made by the descending 

soldiers. Some of the creatures ran across 


me where I stood between the two wine- 
cases, but I was too much interested in 
bigger game to pay attention to mice. 

Tramp! Tramp! "Halt!" Again an 
order was given in German, and although 
I did not understand it, I am willing to 
bless every word of it, because it resulted 
in the soldiers turning right about face, 
marching up the stairs again, through 
the hall, and out of the front door and 

I could hardly believe my ears. It 
seemed almost too good to be true that 
they could have given up the search just 
as they were about to come on their 
quarry, but unless my ears deceived me 
that was what they had done. 

The possibility that the whole thing 
might be a German ruse did not escape 
me, and I remained in the cellar for nearly 
an hour after they had apparently de- 
parted before I ventured to move, lis- 
tening intently in the mean while for the 
slightest sound which would reveal the 
presence of a sentry up-stairs. 

Not hearing a sound, I began to feel 
that they had indeed given up the hunt, 
for I did not believe that a German officer 


would be so considerate of his men as to 
try to trap me rather than carry the cellar 
by force if they had the slightest idea that 
I was there. 

I took off my shoes and crept softly and 
slowly to the cellar steps, and then step 
by step, placing my weight down gradually 
so as to prevent the steps from creaking, 
I climbed to the top. The sight that met 
my eyes as I glanced into the kitchen told 
me the whole story. The water faucets 
had been ripped from the sinks, the water 
pipes having been torn from the walls. 
Everything of brass or copper had been 
torn off, and gas fixtures, cooking utensils, 
and everything else which contain even 
only a small proportion of the metals the 
Germans so badly needed had been taken 
from the kitchen. I walked up-stairs now 
with more confidence, feeling tolerably as- 
sured that the soldiers hadn't been after 
me at all, but had been merely collecting 
metals and other materials which they ex- 
pected an elaborate dwelling-house like the 
one in which I was concealed to yield. 

Later I heard that the Germans have 
taken practically every ounce of brass, 
copper, and wool they could lay their hands 



on in Belgium. Even the brass out of 
pianos has been ruthlessly removed, the 
serious damage done to valuable property 
by the removal of only an insignificant 
proportion of metal never being taken into 
consideration. I learned, too, that all dogs 
over fourteen inches high had been seized 
by the Germans. This furnished lots of 
speculation among the Belgians as to what 
use the Germans were putting the animals 
to, the general impression apparently being 
that they were being used for food. 

This, however, seemed much less likely 
to me than that they were being employed 
as despatch dogs in the trenches, the same 
as we use them on our side of the line. 
They might possibly kill the dogs and use 
their skins for leather and their carcasses 
for tallow, but I feel quite sure that the 
Huns are by no means so short of food 
that they have to eat dogs yet awhile. 

Indeed, I want to repeat here what I 
have mentioned before : if any one has the 
idea that this war can be won by starving 
the Huns, he hasn't the slightest idea how 
well provided the Germans are in that re- 
spect. They have considered their food 
needs in connection with their resources 



for several years to come, and they have 
gone at it in such a methodical, systematic 
way, taking into consideration every pos- 
sible contingency, that, provided there is 
not an absolute crop failure, there isn't the 
slightest doubt in my mind that they can 
last for years, and the worst of it is they 
are quite cocksure about it. 

It is true that the German soldiers want 
peace. As I watched them through the 
keyhole in the door I thought how unfa- 
vorably they compared with our men. They 
marched along the street without laughter, 
without joking, without singing. It was 
quite apparent that the war is telling on 
them. I don't believe I saw a single Ger- 
man soldier who didn't look as if he had 
lost his best friend and he probably had. 

At the same time, there is a big difference 
certainly a difference of several years 
between wishing the war was over and giv- 
ing up, and I don't believe the German 
rank and file any more than their leaders 
have the slightest idea at this time of 
giving up at all. 

But to return to my experiences while 
concealed in the house. After the visit of 

the soldiers, which left the house in a 


wretched condition, I decided that I would 
continue my journey toward the frontier, 
particularly as I had got all I could out of 
Huyliger, or rather he had got all he was 
going to get out of me. 

During my concealment in the house I 
made various sorties into the city at night, 
and I was beginning to feel more comfort- 
able, even when German soldiers were 
about. Through the keyhole I had studied 
very closely the gait of the Belgians, the 
slovenly droop that characterized most of 
them, and their general appearance, and I 
felt that in my own dirty and unshaven 
condition I must have looked as much like 
the average poor Belgian as a man could. 
The only thing that was against me was my 
height. I was several inches taller than 
even the tallest Belgians. I had often 
thought that red hair would have gone 
well with my name, but now, of course, I 
was mighty glad that I was not so endowed, 
for red-haired Belgians are about as rare 
as German charity. 

There are many, no doubt, who will 

wonder why I did not get more help than 

I did at this time. It is easily answered. 

When a man is in hourly fear of his life 



and the country is full of spies, as Belgium 
certainly was, he is not going to help just 
any one that comes along seeking aid. 

One of the Germans' most successful 
ways of trapping the Belgians has been to 
pose as an English or French prisoner who 
has escaped; appeal to them for aid; im- 
plicate as many as possible, and then turn 
the whole German police force loose on 

As I look back now on those days I 
think it remarkable that I received as 
much help as I did, but when people are 
starving under the conditions now forced 
upon those unfortunate people it is a 
great temptation to surrender these es- 
caped prisoners to German authorities 
and receive the handsome rewards of- 
fered for them or for alien spies, as I was 
classed at that time. 

The passport which I had described me as 
a Spanish sailor, but I was very dubious 
about its value. If I could have spoken 
Spanish fluently it might have been worth 
something to me, but the few words I 
knew of the language would not have car- 
ried me very far if I had been confronted 
with a Spanish interpreter. I decided to 


use the passport only as a last resort, 
preferring to act the part of a deaf and 
dumb Belgian peasant as far as it would 
carry me. 

Before I finally left the house I had a 
remarkable experience which I shall re- 
member as long as I live. 



DURING the first two days I spent 
with Huyliger after I had first ar- 
rived in the big city he had told me, 
among other things, of a moving-picture 
show in town which he said I might have 
a chance to see while there. 

" It is free every night in the week except 
Saturdays and Sundays," he said, "and 
once you are inside you would not be; 
apt to be bothered by any one except 
when they come to take your order for 
something to drink. While there is no 
admission, patrons are expected to eat or 
drink while enjoying the pictures." 

A day or two later, while walking the 
streets at night in search of food, I had 
passed this place, and was very much 
tempted to go in and spend a few hours, 
particularly as it would perhaps give me 

14 207 


an opportunity to buy something to eat, 
although I was at a loss to know how I 
was going to ask for what I wanted. 

While trying to make up my mind 
whether it was safe for me to go in, I 
walked half a block past the place, and 
when I turned back again and reached the 
entrance with my mind made up that I 
would take the chance I ran full tilt into 
a German officer who was just coming out! 

That settled all my hankerings for 
moving pictures that night. "Where you 
came from, my friend," I figured, "there 
must be more like you! I guess it is a 
good night for walking." 

The next day, however, in recalling the 
incident of the evening before, it seemed 
to me that I had been rather foolish. 
What I needed more than anything at 
that time was confidence. Before I could 
get to the frontier I would have to con- 
front German soldiers many times, be- 
cause there were more of them between 
this city and Holland than in any section 
of the country through which I had so 
far traveled. Safety in these contingen- 
cies would depend largely upon the calm- 
ness I displayed. It wouldn't do to get 


all excited at the mere sight of a spiked 
helmet. The Belgians, I had noticed, 
while careful to obey the orders of the 
Huns, showed no particular fear of them, 
and it seemed to me the sooner I culti- 
vated the same feeling of indifference the 
better I would be able to carry off the 
part I was playing. 

For this reason, I made up my mind 
then and there that, officers or no officers, 
I would go to that show that night and 
sit it through, no matter what happened. 
While people may think that I had de- 
cided unwisely because of the unnecessary 
risk involved in the adventure, it occurred 
to me that perhaps, after all, that theater 
was about one of the safest places I could 
attend, because that was about the last 
place Germans would expect to find a 
fugitive English officer in, even if they 
were searching for one. 

As soon as evening came, therefore, I 
decided to go to the theater. I fixed 
myself up as well as possible. I had on a 
fairly decent pair of trousers which Huy- 
liger had given me and I used a clean 
handkerchief as a collar. 

With my hair brushed up and my beard 


trimmed as neatly as possible with a pair 
of rusty scissors which I had found in 
the house, while my appearance was not 
exactly that of a Beau Brurnrnel, I don't 
think I looked much worse than the average 
Belgian. In these days, the average Bel- 
gian is very poorly dressed at best. 

I can't say I had no misgivings as I 
made my way to the theater; certainly 
I was going there more for discipline than 
pleasure, but I had made up my mind 
and I was going to see it through. 

The entrance to the theater or beer- 
garden for it was as much one as the 
other was on the side of the building, 
and was reached by way of an alley 
which ran along the side. Near the door 
was a ticket-seller's booth, but as this was 
one of the free nights there was no one 
in the booth. 

I marched slowly down the alley, imi- 
tating as best I could the indifferent gait 
of the Belgians, and when I entered the 
theater I endeavored to act as though I 
had been there many times before. A 
hasty survey of the layout of the place 
was sufficient to enable me to select my 
seat. It was early and there were not 



more than half a dozen people in the place 
at that time, so that I had my choice. 

There was a raised platform, perhaps two 
feet high, all round the walls of the place, 
except at the end where the stage was 
located. On this platform tables were 
arranged, and there were tables on the 
floor proper as well. 

I decided promptly that the safest place 
for me was as far back as possible where 
I would not be in the line of vision of 
others in back of me. Accordingly, I 
slouched over to a table on the platform 
directly opposite the stage and I took the 
seat against the wall. The whole place 
was now in front of me. I could see 
everything that was going on and every 
one who came in, but no one, except those 
who sat at my own table, would notice 
me unless they deliberately turned around 
to look. 

The place began to fill up rapidly. 
Every second person who came in the door 
seemed to me to be a German soldier, 
but when they were seated at the tables 
and I got a chance later on to make a 
rough count, I found that in all there were 
not more than a hundred soldiers in the 



place and there must have been several 
hundred civilians. 

The first people to sit at my table were 
a Belgian and his wife. The Belgian sat 
next to me and his wife next to him. I 
was hoping that other civilians would oc- 
cupy the remaining two seats at my table 
because I did not relish the idea of having 
to sit through the show with German 
soldiers within a few feet of me. That 
would certainly have spoiled my pleasure 
for the evening. 

Every uniform that came in the door 
gave me cause to worry until I was sure 
it was not coming in my direction. I 
don't suppose there was a single soldier 
who came in the door whom I didn't follow 
to his seat with my eyes. 

Just before they lowered the lights two 
German officers came in the door. They 
stood there for a moment looking the 
place over. Then they made a bee-line 
in my direction, and I must confess my 
heart started to beat a little faster. I 
hoped that they would find another seat 
before they came to my vicinity, but they 
were getting nearer and nearer, and I 
realized with a sickening sensation that 



they were headed directly for the two 
seats at my table, and that was indeed 
the case. 

These two seats were in front of the table, 
facing the stage, and except when they 
would be eating or drinking their backs 
were toward me, and there was consider- 
able consolation in that. From my seat 
I could have reached right over and 
touched one of them on his bald head. 
It would have been more than a touch, 
I am afraid, if I could have got away with 
it safely. 

As the officers seated themselves a waiter 
came to us with a printed bill of fare and 
a program. Fortunately, he waited on 
the others first, and I listened intently 
to their orders. The officers ordered some 
light wine, but my Belgian neighbor or- 
dered "Bock" for himself and his wife, 
which was what I had decided to order, 
anyway, as that was the only thing I 
could say. Heaven knows I would far 
rather have ordered something to eat, 
but the bill of fare meant nothing to me, 
and I was afraid to take a chance at the 
pronunciation of the dishes it set forth. 

There were a number of drinks listed 


which I suppose I might safely enough 
have ordered. For instance, I noticed 
"Lemon Squash, 1.50," "Ginger Beer, i-," 
"Sparkling Dry Ginger Ale, I-," "Ap- 
olHnaris, i-," and "Schweppes Soda, 0.80," 
but it occurred to me that the mere fact 
that I selected something that was listed 
in English might attract attention to me 
and something in my pronunciation might 
give further cause for suspicion. 

It seemed better to parrot the Belgian 
and order "Bock," and that was what I 
decided to do. 

One item on the bill of fare tantalized 
me considerably. Although it was listed 
among the "Prizzen der dranken," which 
I took to mean "Prices of drinks," it 
sounded very much to me like something 
to eat, and Heaven knows I would rather 
have had one honest mouthful of food than 
all the drinks in the world. The item I 
refer to was "Dubbel Gersten de Flesch 
(Michaux)." A double portion of anything 
would have been mighty welcome to me, 
but I would have been quite contented 
with a single "Gersten" whatever that 
might happen to be if I had only had 
the courage to ask for it. 


To keep myself as composed as possible, 
I devoted a lot of attention to that bill 
of fare, and I think by the time the waiter 
came around I almost knew it by heart. 
One drink that almost made me laugh 
out loud was listed as "Lemonades Ga- 
zeuses," but I might just as well have in- 
troduced myself to the German officers 
by my right name and rank as to have at- 
tempted to pronounce it. 

When the waiter came to me, therefore, 
I said "Bock" as casually as I could, and 
felt somewhat relieved that I got through 
this part of the ordeal so easily. 

While the waiter was away I had a 
chance to examine the bill of fare, and I 
observed that a glass of beer cost eighty 
centimes. The smallest change I had was 
a two-mark paper bill. 

Apparently the German officers were 
similarly fixed, and when they offered their 
bill to the waiter he handed it back to 
them with a remark which I took to mean 
that he couldn't make change. 

Right there I was in a quandary. To 

offer him my bill after he had just told the 

officers he didn't have change would have 

seemed strange, and yet I couldn't explain 



to him that I was in the same boat and he 
would have to come to me again later. 
The only thing to do, therefore, was to 
offer him the bill as though I hadn't heard 
or noticed what had happened with the 
Germans, and I did so. He said the same 
thing to me as he had said to the officers, 
perhaps a little more sharply, and gave 
me back the bill. Later on he returned 
to the table with a handful of change and 
we closed the transaction. I gave him 
twenty-five centimes as a tip I had never 
yet been in a place where it was necessary 
to talk to do that. 

During my first half -hour in that theater, 
to say I was on pins and needles is to ex- 
press my feelings mildly. The truth of 
the matter is I was never so uneasy in my 
life. Every minute seemed like an hour, 
and I was on the point of getting up and 
leaving a dozen times. There were alto- 
gether too many soldiers in the place to suit 
me, and when the German officers seated 
themselves right at my table I thought 
that was about all I could stand. As it 
was, however, the lights went out shortly 
afterward and in the dark I felt consider- 
ably easier. 



After the first picture, when the lights 
went up again, I had regained my com- 
posure considerably and I took advantage 
of the opportunity to study the various 
types of people in the place. 

From my seat I had a splendid chance to 
see them all. At one table there was a 
German medical corps officer with three 
Red Cross nurses. That was the only 
time I had ever seen a German nurse, for 
when I was in the hospital I had seen only 
men orderlies. Nurses don't work so near 
the first-line trenches. 

The German soldiers at the different 
tables were very quiet and orderly. They 
drank Bock beer and conversed among 
themselves, but there was no hilarity or 
rough-housing of any kind. 

As I sat there, within an arm's reach of 
those German officers and realized what 
they would have given to know what a 
chance they had to capture an escaped 
British officer, I could hardly help smiling 
to myself, but when I thought of the big 
risk I was taking, more or less unneces- 
sarily, I began to wonder whether I had 
not acted foolishly in undertaking it. 

Nevertheless, the evening passed off un- 


eventfully, and when the show was over I 
mixed with the crowd and disappeared, 
feeling very proud of myself and with a 
good deal more confidence than I had en- 
joyed at the start. 

I had passed a night which will live in 
my life as long as I live. The bill of fare, 
program, and a "throw-away" bill adver- 
tising the name of the attraction which 
was to be presented the following week, 
which was handed to me as I came out, I 
still have and they are among the most 
valued souvenirs of my adventure. 



ONE night, shortly before I left this 
city, our airmen raided the place. I 
didn't venture out of the house at the 
time, but the next night I thought I would 
go out and see what damage had been done. 
When it became dark I left the house, ac- 
cordingly, and, mixing with the crowd, 
which consisted largely of Germans, I went 
from one place to another to see what our 
"strafing" had accomplished. Naturally 
I avoided speaking to any one. If a man 
or woman appeared about to speak to me, 
I just turned my head and looked or 
walked away in some other direction. I 
must have been taken for an unsociable sort 
of individual a good many times, and if I 
had encountered the same person twice 
I suppose my conduct might have aroused 



I had a first-class observation of the 
damage that was really done by our bombs. 
One bomb had landed very near the main 
railroad station, and if it had been only 
thirty yards nearer would have completely 
demolished it. As the station was un- 
doubtedly our airman's objective, I was 
very much impressed with the accuracy 
of his aim. It is by no means an easy 
thing to hit a building from the air when 
you are going at anywhere from fifty to 
one hundred miles an hour and are being 
shot at from beneath from a dozen different 
angles unless, of course, you are taking 
one of those desperate chances and flying 
so low that you cannot very well miss your 
mark, and the Huns can't very well miss 
you, either! 

I walked by the station and mingled 
with the crowds which stood in the en- 
trances. They paid no more attention to 
me than they did to real Belgians, and 
the fact that the lights were all out in 
this city at night made it impossible, 
anyway, for any one to get as good a look 
at me as if it had been light. 

During the time that I was in this city 
I suppose I wandered from one end of it 



to the other. In one place, where the 
German staff had its headquarters, a huge 
German flag hung from the window, and 
I think I would have given ten years of 
my life to have stolen it. Even if I could 
have pulled it down, however, it would 
have been impossible for me to have con- 
cealed it, and to have carried it away with 
me as a souvenir would have been out 
of the question. 

As I went along the street one night 
a lady standing on the corner stopped 
me and spoke to me. My first impulse, 
of course, was to answer her, explaining 
that I could not understand, but I stopped 
myself in time, pointed to my ears and 
mouth, and shook my head, indicating that 
I was deaf and dumb, and she nodded 
understandingly and walked on. Inci- 
dents of this kind were not unusual, and 
I was always in fear that the time would 
come when some inquisitive and suspicious 
German would encounter me and not be 
so easily satisfied. 

There are many things that I saw in 
this city which, for various reasons, it 
is impossible for me to relate until after 
the war is over. Some of them, I think, 



will create more surprise than the inci- 
dents I am free to reveal now. 

It used to amuse me, as I went along 
the streets of this town, looking in the 
shop windows, with German soldiers at 
my side looking at the same things, to 
think how close I was to them and they 
had no way of knowing. I was quite con- 
vinced that if I were discovered my fate 
would have been death, because I not 
only had the forged passport on me, but 
I had been so many days behind the Ger- 
man lines after I had escaped that they 
couldn't safely let me live with the in- 
formation I possessed. 

One night I walked boldly across a 
park. I heard footsteps behind me and, 
turning around, saw two German soldiers. 
I slowed up a trifle to let them get ahead 
of me. It was rather dark and I got a 
chance to see what a wonderful uniform 
the German military authorities have 
picked out. The soldiers had not gone 
more than a few feet ahead of me when 
they disappeared in the darkness like one 
of those melting pictures on the moving- 
picture screen. 

As I wandered through the streets I 



frequently glanced in the cafe windows 
as I passed. German officers were usually 
dining there, but they didn't conduct them- 
selves with anything like the light-heart- 
edness which characterizes the Allied offi- 
cers in London and Paris. I was rather 
surprised at this, because in this part of 
Belgium they were much freer than they 
would have been in Berlin, where, I under- 
stand, food is comparatively scarce and 
the restrictions are very rigid. 

As I have said, my own condition in 
this city was in some respects worse than 
it had been when I was making my way 
through the open country. While I had 
a place to sleep and my clothes were no 
longer constantly soaking, my opportuni- 
ties for getting food were considerably 
less than they had been. Nearly all the 
time I was half famished, and I de- 
cided that I would get out of there at 
once, since I was entirely through with 

My physical condition was greatly im- 
proved. While the lack of food showed 
itself on me, I had regained some of my 
strength, my wounds were healed, my 
ankle was stronger, and, although my 
15 223 


knees were still considerably enlarged, I 
felt that I was in better shape than I had 
been at any time since my leap from the 
train, and I was ready to go through what- 
ever was in store for me. 



TO get out of the city it would be 
necessary to pass two guards. This 
I had learned in the course of my walks 
at night, having frequently traveled to 
the city limits with the idea of finding out 
just what conditions I would have to meet 
when the time came for me to leave. 

A German soldier's uniform, however, 
no longer worried me as it had at first. 
I had mingled with the Huns so much 
in the city that I began to feel that I was 
really a Belgian, and I assumed the in- 
difference that the latter seemed to feel. 

I decided, therefore, to walk out of the 
city in the daytime when the sentries 
would be less apt to be on the watch. It 
worked splendidly. I was not held up a 
moment, the sentries evidently taking me 

for a Belgian peasant on his way to work. 


Traveling faster than I had ever done 
before since my escape, I was soon out in 
the open country, and the first Belgian 
I came to I approached for food. He 
gave me half his lunch and we sat down 
on the side of the road to eat it. Of 
course, he tried to talk to me, but I used 
the old ruse of pretending I was deaf and 
dumb and he was quite convinced that it 
was so. He made various efforts to talk 
to me in pantomime, but I could not make 
out what he was getting at, and I think 
he must have concluded that I was not 
only half-starved, deaf, and dumb, but 
"luny" into the bargain. 

When night came I looked around for 
a place to rest. I had decided to travel 
in the daytime as well as night, because 
I understood that I was only a few miles 
from the frontier, and I was naturally 
anxious to get there at the earliest possible 
moment, although I realized that there I 
would encounter the most hazardous part 
of my whole adventure. To get through 
that heavily guarded barbed and electri- 
cally charged barrier was a problem that 
I hated to think of, even, although the 
hours I spent endeavoring to devise 


some way of outwitting the Huns were 

It had occurred to me, for instance, 
that it would not be such a difficult matter 
to vault over the electric fence, which was 
only nine feet high. In college, I know, 
a ten-foot vault is considered a high- 
school boy's accomplishment, but there 
were two great difficulties in the way of 
this solution. In the first place, it would 
be no easy matter to get a pole of the 
right length, weight, and strength to serve 
the purpose. More particularly, however, 
the pole-vault idea seemed to be out of 
the question because of the fact that on 
either side of the electric fence, six feet 
from it, was a six-foot barbed- wire bar- 
rier. To vault safely over a nine-foot 
electrically charged fence was one thing, 
but to combine with it a twelve-foot broad 
vault was a feat which even a college 
athlete in the pink of condition would be 
apt to flunk. Indeed, I don't believe it is 

Another plan that seemed half-way rea- 
sonable was to build a pair of stilts about 
twelve or fourteen feet high and walk 

over the barriers one by one. As a young- 


ster I had acquired considerable skill in stilt- 
walking, and I have no doubt that with 
the proper equipment it would have been 
quite feasible to have walked out of Bel- 
gium as easily as possible in that way, but 
whether or not I was going to have a 
chance to construct the necessary stilts 
remained to be seen. 

There were a good many bicycles in 
use by the German soldiers in Belgium, 
and it had often occurred to me that if I 
could have stolen one, the tires would 
have made excellent gloves and insulated 
coverings for my feet in case it was nec- 
essary for me to attempt to climb over 
the electric fence bodily. But as I had 
never been able to steal a bicycle, this 
avenue of escape was closed to me. 

I decided to wait until I arrived at the 
barrier and then make up my mind how 
to proceed. 

To find a decent place to sleep that 
night I crawled under a barbed -wire 
fence, thinking it led into some field. 
As I passed under, one of the barbs 
caught in my coat, and in trying to pull 
myself free I shook the fence for several 




Instantly there came out of the night 
the nerve-racking command, "Halt!" 

Again I feared I was done for. I 
crouched close down on the ground in 
the darkness, not knowing whether to 
take to my legs and trust to the Hun's 
missing me in the darkness if he fired, or 
stay right where I was. It was foggy as 
well as dark, and although I knew the 
sentry was only a few feet away from me 
I decided to stand, or rather lie still. I 
think my heart made almost as much 
noise as the rattling of the wire in the 
first place, but it was a tense few moments 
for me. 

I heard the German say a few words 
to himself, but didn't understand them, 
of course, and then he made a sound as 
if to call a dog, and I realized that his 
theory of the noise he had heard was that 
a dog had made its way through the 

For perhaps five minutes I didn't stir, 
and then, figuring that the German had 
probably continued on his beat, I crept 
quietly under the wire again, this time 
being mighty careful to hug the ground 
so close that I wouldn't touch the wire, 


and made off in a different direction. 
Evidently the barbed-wire fence had been 
thrown around an ammunition-depot or 
something of the kind and it was not a 
field at all that I had tried to get into. 

I figured that other sentries were prob- 
ably in the neighborhood and I proceeded 
very gingerly. 

After I had got about a mile away from 
this spot I came to a humble Belgian 
house, and I knocked at the door and ap- 
plied for food in my usual way, pointing 
to my mouth to indicate I was hungry 
and to my ears and mouth to imply that 
I was deaf and dumb. The Belgian wom- 
an who lived in the house brought me a 
piece of bread and two cold potatoes, 
and as I sat there eating them she eyed 
me very keenly. 

I haven't the slightest doubt that she 
realized I was a fugitive. She lived so 
near the border that it was more than 
likely that other fugitives had come to 
her before, and for that reason I ap- 
preciated more fully the extent of the risk 
she ran, for no doubt the Germans were 
constantly watching the conduct of these 
Belgians who lived near the line. 


My theory that she realized that I was 
not a Belgian at all, but probably some 
English fugitive, was confirmed a moment 
later when, as I made ready to go, she 
touched me on the arm and indicated that 
I was to wait a moment. She went to a 
bureau and brought out two pieces of 
fancy Belgian lace, which she insisted 
upon my taking away, although at that 
particular moment I had as much use 
for Belgian lace as an elephant has for a 
safety-razor, but I was touched with her 
thoughtfulness and pressed her hand to 
show my gratitude. She would not accept 
the money I offered her. 

I carried that lace through my sub- 
sequent experiences, feeling that it would 
be a fine souvenir for my mother, although, 
as a matter of fact, if she had known that 
it was going to delay my final escape for 
even a single moment, as it did, I am quite 
sure she would rather I had never seen it. 

On one piece of lace was the Flemish word 
" Charite" and on the other the word 
"Esperance" At the time, I took these 
words to mean "Charity" and "Experi- 
ence," and all I hoped was that I would 
get as much of the one as I was getting 


of the other before I finally got through. 
I learned subsequently that what the 
words really stood for was "Charity" and 
"Hope," and then I was sure that my 
kind Belgian friend had indeed realized 
my plight and that her thoughtful souve- 
nir was intended to encourage me in 
the trials she must have known were be- 
fore me. 

I didn't let the old Belgian lady know, 
because I did not want to alarm her un- 
necessarily, but that night I slept in her 
backyard, leaving early in the morning be- 
fore it became light. 

Later in the day I applied at another 
house for food. It was occupied by a 
father and mother and ten children. I 
hesitated to ask them for food without 
offering to pay for it, as I realized what 
a task it must have been for them to 
support themselves without having to 
feed a hungry man. Accordingly, I gave 
the man a mark and then indicated that 
I wanted something to eat. They were 
just about to eat, themselves, apparently, 
and they let me partake of their meal, 
which consisted of a huge bowl of some 
kind of soup which I was unable to iden- 


tify and which they served in ordinary 
wash-basins! I don't know that they 
ever used the basins to wash in as well, 
but whether they did or not did not worry 
me very much. The soup was good and 
I enjoyed it very much. 

All the time I was there I could see the 
father and the eldest son, a boy about 
seventeen, were extremely nervous. I had 
indicated to them that I was deaf and 
dumb, but if they believed me it didn't 
seem to make them any more comfortable. 

I lingered at the house for about an 
hour after the meal, and during that time 
a young man came to call on the eldest 
daughter, a young woman of perhaps 
eighteen. The caller eyed me very sus- 
piciously, although I must have resembled 
anything but a British officer. They 
spoke in Flemish and I did not under- 
stand a word they said, but I think they 
were discussing my probable identity. 
During their conversation, I had a chance 
to look around the rooms. There were 
three altogether, two fairly large and one 
somewhat smaller, about fourteen feet 
long and six deep. In this smaller room 
there were two double-decked beds, which 
2 33 


were apparently intended to house the 
whole family, although how the whole 
twelve of them could sleep in that one 
room will ever remain a mystery to me. 

From the kitchen you could walk di- 
rectly into the cow-barn, where two cows 
were kept, and this, as I have pointed out 
before, is the usual construction of the 
poorer Belgian houses. 

I could not make out why the caller 
seemed to be so antagonistic to me, and 
yet I am sure he was arguing with the 
family against me. Perhaps the fact that 
I wasn't wearing wooden shoes I doubt 
whether I could have obtained a pair big 
enough for me had convinced him that 
I was not really a Belgian, because there 
was nothing about me otherwise which 
could have given him that idea. 

At that time and I suppose it is true 
to-day about ninety per cent, of the 
people in Belgium were wearing wooden 
shoes. Among the peasants I don't be- 
lieve I ever saw any other kind of foot- 
wear, and they are more common there 
than they are in Holland. The Dutch 
wear them more as a matter of custom. 
In Belgium they are a dire necessity be- 


cause of the lack of leather. I was told 
that during the coming year practically 
all the peasants and poorer people in 
Germany, too, will adopt wooden shoes 
for farm-work, as that is one direction in 
which wood can be substituted for leather 
without much loss. 

When the young man left I left shortly 
afterward, as I was not at all comfortable 
about what his intentions were regarding 
me. For all I knew, he might have gone 
to notify the German authorities that there 
was a strange man in the vicinity more, 
perhaps, to protect his friends from suspi- 
cion of having aided me than to injure me. 

At any rate, I was not going to take any 
chances and I got out of that neighborhood 
as rapidly as I could. 

That night found me right on the frontier 
of Holland. 



WAITING until it was quite dark, I 
made my way carefully through a 
field and eventually came to the much- 
dreaded barrier. 

It was all that I had heard about it. 
Every foot of the border-line between 
Belgium and Holland is protected in pre- 
cisely the same manner. It is there to 
serve three purposes: first, to keep the Bel- 
gians from escaping into Holland; second, 
to keep enemies, like myself, from making 
their way to freedom; and, third, to pre- 
vent desertions on the part of Germans 
themselves. One look at it was enough to 
convince any one that it probably accom- 
plished all three objects about as well as 
any contrivance could, and one look was 
all I got of it that night, for while I lay on 
my stomach gazing at the forbidding struct- 


ure I heard the measured stride of a Ger- 
man sentry advancing toward me, and I 
crawled away as fast as I possibly could, 
determined to spend the night somewhere 
in the fields and make another and more 
careful survey the following night. 

The view I had obtained, however, was 
sufficient to convince me that the pole- 
vault idea was out of the question even 
if I had a pole and were a proficient pole- 
vaulter. The three fences covered a span 
of at least twelve feet, and to clear the 
last barbed-wire fence it would be neces- 
sary to vault not only at least ten feet 
high, but at least fourteen feet wide, with 
certain knowledge that to touch the elec- 
trically charged fence meant instant death. 
There would be no second chance if you 
came a cropper the first time. 

The stilt idea was also impracticable 
because of the lack of suitable timber and 
tools with which to construct the stilts. 

It seemed to me that the best thing to 
do was to travel up and down the line a 
bit in the hope that some spot might be 
discovered where conditions were more fa- 
vorable, although I don't know just what 
I expected along those lines. 


It was mighty disheartening to realize 
that only a few feet away lay certain lib- 
erty and that the only thing that prevented 
me from reaching it were three confounded 
fences. I thought of my machine and 
wished that some kind fairy would set it 
in front of me for just one minute. 

I spent the night in a clump of bushes 
and kept in hiding most of the next day, 
only going abroad for an hour or two in the 
middle of the day to intercept some Belgian 
peasant and beg for food. The Belgians 
in this section were naturally very much 
afraid of the Germans, and I fared badly. 
In nearly every house German soldiers 
were quartered, and it was out of the ques- 
tion for me to apply for food in that direc- 
tion. The proximity of the border made 
every one eye one another with more or 
less suspicion, and I soon came to the con- 
clusion that the safest thing I could do was 
to live on raw vegetables, which I could 
steal from the fields at night as I had pre- 
viously done. 

That night I made another survey of the 

barrier in that vicinity, but it looked just 

as hopeless as it had the night before, and 

I concluded that I only wasted time there. 



I spent the night wandering west, guided 
by the North Star, which had served me so 
faithfully in all my traveling. Every mile 
or two I would make my way carefully to 
the barrier to see if conditions were any 
better, but it seemed to be the same all 
along. I felt like a wild animal in a cage, 
with about as much chance of getting out. 

The section of the country in which I 
was now wandering was very heavily 
wooded and there was really no very great 
difficulty in keeping myself concealed, 
which I did all day long, striving all the 
time to think of some way in which I could 
circumvent that cursed barrier. 

The idea of a huge step-ladder occurred 
to me, but I searched hour after hour in 
vain for lumber or fallen trees out of which 
I could construct one. If I could only ob- 
tain something which would enable me to 
reach a point about nine feet in the air, it 
would be a comparatively simple matter to 
jump from that point over the electric 

Then I thought that perhaps I could 
construct a simple ladder and lean it 
against one of the posts upon which the 
electric wires were strung, climb to the top 

16 239 


and leap over, getting over the barbed- 
wire fences in the same way. 

This seemed to be the most likely plan, 
and all night long I sat constructing a 
ladder for this purpose. 

I was fortunate enough to find a number 
of fallen pine-trees from ten to twenty feet 
long. I selected two of them which seemed 
sufficiently strong and broke off all the 
branches, which I used as rungs, tying them 
to the poles with grass and strips from my 
handkerchief and shirt as best I could. 

It was not a very workmanlike-looking 
ladder when I finally got through with it. 
I leaned it against a tree to test it and it 
wabbled considerably. It was more like a 
rope ladder than a wooden one, but I 
strengthened it here and there and decided 
that it would probably serve the purpose. 

I kept the ladder in the woods all day 
and could hardly wait until dark to make 
the supreme test. If it proved successful, 
my troubles were over; within a few hours 
I would be in a neutral country out of all 
danger. If it failed I dismissed the 
idea summarily. There was no use worry- 
ing about failure; the thing to do was to 



The few hours that were to pass before 
night came on seemed endless, but I util- 
ized them to reinforce my ladder, tying 
the rungs more securely with long grass 
which I plucked in the woods. 

At last night came, and with my ladder 
in hand I made for the barrier. In front 
of it there was a cleared space of about one 
hundred yards, which had been prepared 
to make the work of the guards easier in 
watching it. 

I waited in the neighborhood until I 
heard the sentry pass the spot where I was 
in hiding, and then I hurried across the 
clearing, shoved my ladder under the 
barbed wire, and endeavored to follow it. 
My clothing caught in the wire, but I 
wrenched myself clear and crawled to the 
electric barrier. 

My plan was to place the ladder against 
one of the posts, climb up to the top, and 
then jump. There would be a fall of nine 
or ten feet, and I might possibly sprain 
my ankle or break my leg, but if that was 
all that stood between me and freedom I 
wasn't going to stop to consider it. 

I put my ear to the ground to listen for 
the coming of the sentry. There was not 


a sound. Eagerly but carefully I placed 
the ladder against the post and started up. 
Only a few feet separated me from liberty, 
and my heart beat fast. 

I had climbed perhaps three rungs of my 
ladder when I became aware of an un- 
looked-for difficulty. 

The ladder was slipping! 

Just as I took the next rung the ladder 
slipped, came in contact with the live wire, 
and the current passed through the wet 
sticks and into my body. There was a blue 
flash, my hold on the ladder relaxed, and I 
fell heavily to the ground unconscious! 

Of course, I had not received the full 
force of the current or I would not now 
be here. I must have remained uncon- 
scious for a few moments, but I came to 
just in time to hear the German guard com- 
ing, and the thought came to me that if I 
didn't get that ladder concealed at once, 
he would see it even though, fortunately 
for me, it was an unusually dark night. 

I pulled the ladder out of his path and 
lay down flat on the ground, not seven feet 
away from his beat. He passed so close 
that I could have pushed the ladder out 

and tripped him up. 



It occurred to me that I could have 
climbed back under the barbed-wire fence 
and waited for the sentry to return and 
then felled him with a blow on the head, 
as he had no idea, of course, that there 
was any one in the vicinity. I wouldn't 
have hesitated to take life, because my 
only thought now was to get into Holland, 
but I thought that as long as he didn't 
bother me perhaps the safest thing to do 
was not to bother him, but to continue my 
efforts during his periodic absences. 

His beat at this point was apparently 
fairly long and allowed me more time to 
work than I had hoped for. 

My mishap with the ladder had con- 
vinced me that escape in that way was not 
feasible. The shock that I had received 
had unnerved me and I was afraid to risk 
it again, particularly as I realized that I 
had fared more fortunately than I could 
hope to again if I met with a similar mis- 
hap. There was no way of making that 
ladder hold, and I gave up the idea of 
using it. 

I was now right in front of this electric 
barrier, and as I studied it I saw another 
way of getting by. If I couldn't get over 


it, what was the matter with getting un- 
der it? 

The bottom wirewas only two inches from 
the ground, and, of course, I couldn't touch 
it, but my plan was to dig underneath it 
and then crawl through the hole in the 

I had only my hands to dig with, but I 
went at it with a will, and fortunately the 
ground was not very hard. 

When I had dug about six inches, mak- 
ing a distance in all of eight inches from 
the lowest electric wire, I came to an un- 
derground wire. I knew enough about 
electricity to realize that this wire could 
not be charged, as it was in contact with 
the ground, but still there was not room 
between the live wire and this underground 
wire for me to crawl through, and I either 
had to go on digging deep enough under 
this wire to crawl under it or else pull it up. 

This underground wire was about as big 
around as a lead-pencil and there was no 
chance of breaking it. The jack-knife I 
had had at the start of my travels I had 
long since lost, and even if I had had 
something to hammer with, the noise would 

have made that method impracticable. 



I went on digging. When the total dis- 
tance between the live wire and the bot- 
tom of the hole I had dug was thirty 
inches I took hold of the ground wire and 
pulled on it with all my strength. 

It wouldn't budge. It was stretched 
taut across the narrow ditch I had dug 
about fourteen inches wide and all my 
tugging didn't serve to loosen it. 

I was just about to give it up in despair 
when a staple gave way in the nearest post. 
This enabled me to pull the wire through 
the ground a little, and I renewed my 
efforts. After a moment or two of pulling 
as I had never pulled in my life before a 
staple on the next post gave way, and my 
work became easier. I had more leeway 
now and pulled and pulled again until in 
all eight staples had given way. 

Every time a staple gave way it sounded 
in my ears like the report of a gun, al- 
though I suppose it didn't really make 
very much noise. Nevertheless, each time 
I would put my ear to the ground to listen 
for the guard, and, not hearing him, went 
on with my work. 

By pulling on the wire I was now able 
to drag it through the ground enough to 


place it back from the fence and go on 

The deeper I went the harder became the 
work, because by this time my finger-nails 
were broken and I was nervous afraid 
every moment that I would touch the 
charged wire. 

I kept at it, however, with my mind con- 
stantly on the hole I was digging and the 
liberty which was almost within my reach. 

Finally I figured that I had enough space 
to crawl through and still leave a couple of 
inches between my back and the live wire. 

Before I went under that wire I noticed 
that the lace which the Belgian woman had 
given me as a souvenir made my pocket 
bulge, and lest it might be the innocent 
means of electrocuting me by touching the 
live wire, I took it out, rolled it up, and 
threw it over the barrier. 

Then I lay down on my stomach and 
crawled or rather writhed under the wire 
like a snake, with my feet first, and there 
wasn't any question of my hugging Mother 
Earth as closely as possible, because I 
Realized that even to touch the wire above 
me with my back meant instant death. 

Anxious as I was to get on the other side, 


I didn't hurry this operation. I feared 
that there might be some little detail that 
I had overlooked, and I exercised the 
greatest possible care in going under, tak- 
ing nothing for granted. 

When I finally got through and straight- 
ened up there were still several feet of 
Belgium between me and liberty, repre- 
sented by the six feet which separated the 
electric barrier from the last barbed-wire 
fence, but before I went another step I 
went down on my knees and thanked God 
for my long series of escapes and especially 
for this last achievement, which seemed to 
me to be about all that was necessary to 
bring me freedom. 

Then I crawled under the barbed-wire 
fence and breathed the free air of Holland ! 
I had no clear idea just where I was, and 
I didn't much care. I was out of the 
power of the Germans, and that was 
enough. I had walked perhaps a hundred 
yards when I remembered the lace I had 
thrown over the barrier, and, dangerous as 
I realized the undertaking to be, I deter- 
mined to walk back and get it. This 
necessitated my going back on to Belgian 
soil again, but it seemed a shame to leave 


the lace there, and by exercising a little 
care I figured I could get it easily 

When I came to the spot at which I had 
made my way under the barbed wire I 
put my ear to the ground and listened for 
the sentry. I heard him coming and lay 
prone on the ground till he had passed. 
The fact that he might observe the hole in 
the ground or the ladder occurred to me 
as I lay there, and it seemed like an age 
before he finally marched out of earshot. 
Then I went under the barbed wire again, 
retrieved the lace, and once again made my 
way to Dutch territory. 

It does not take long to describe the 
events just referred to, but the incidents 
themselves consumed several hours in all. 
To dig the hole must have taken me more 
than two hours, and I had to stop fre- 
quently to hide while the sentry passed. 
Many times, indeed, I thought I heard him 
coming and stopped my work, and then dis- 
covered that it was only my imagination. 
I certainly suffered enough that night to 
last me a lifetime. With a German guard 
on one side, death from electrocution on the 

other, and starvation staring me in the 


face, my plight was anything but a com- 
fortable one. 

It was the igth of November, 1917, when 
I got through the wires. I had made my 
leap from the train on September Qth. 
Altogether, therefore, just seventy-two 
days had elapsed since I escaped from the 
Huns. If I live to be as old as Methuselah, 
I never expect to live through another 
seventy-two days so crammed full of in- 
cident and hazard and lucky escapes. 


BUT I was not yet quite out of the 

I now knew that I was in Holland, but 
just where I had no idea. I walked for 
about thirty minutes and came to a path 
leading to the right, and I had proceeded 
along it but a few hundred yards when I 
saw in front of me a fence exactly like the 
one I had crossed. 

"This is funny," I said to myself. "I 
didn't know the Dutch had a fence, too." 
I advanced to the fence and examined it 
closely, and judge of my astonishment 
when I saw beyond it a nine-foot fence 
apparently holding live wires exactly like 
the one which had nearly been the death 
of me! 

I had very little time to conjecture what 
it all meant, for just then I heard a guard 


coming. He was walking so fast that I 
was sure it was a Dutch sentry, as the 
Huns walk much more slowly. 

I was so bewildered, however, that I 
decided to take no chances, and as the 
road was fairly good I wandered down it 
and away from that mysterious fence. 
About half a mile down I could see the 
light of a sentry station, and I thought 
I would go there and tell my story to the 
sentries, realizing that as I was unarmed 
it was perfectly safe for me to announce 
myself to the Dutch authorities. I could 
be interned only if I entered Holland 
under arms. 

As I approached the sentry box I no- 
ticed three men in gray uniforms, the 
regulation Dutch color. I was on the 
verge of shouting to them when the 
thought struck me that there was just 
a chance I might be mistaken, as the 
German uniforms were the same color, 
and I had suffered too many privations 
and too many narrow escapes to lose all 
at this time. 

I had just turned off the road to go back 
into some bushes when out of the darkness 
I heard that dread German command: 


"Halt! Halt!" 

He didn't need to holler twice. I 
heard and heeded the first time. Then 
I heard another man come running up, 
and there was considerable talking, but 
whether they were Germans or Holland- 
ers I was still uncertain. Evidently, how- 
ever, he thought the noise must be a dog 
or the wind. 

Finally I heard one of them laugh and 
heard him walk back to the sentry sta- 
tion where the guard was billeted, and 
I crawled a little nearer to try to make 
out just what it all meant. I had begun 
to think it was all a nightmare. 

Between myself and the light in the 
sentry station I then noticed the stoop- 
ing figure of a man bending over as if to 
conceal himself, and on his head was the 
spiked helmet of a German soldier! 

I knew then what another narrow escape 
I had had, for I am quite sure he would 
have shot me without ceremony if I had 
foolishly made myself known. I would have 
been buried at once and no one would have 
been any the wiser, even though, techni- 
cally speaking, I was on neutral territory 
and immune from capture or attack. 


This new shock only served to bewilder 
me the more. I was completely lost. 
There seemed to be frontier behind me 
and frontier in front of me. Evidently, 
however, what had happened was that 
I had lost my sense of direction and had 
wandered in the arc of a circle, returning 
to the same fence that I had been so long 
in getting through. This solution of the 
mystery came to me suddenly, and I at 
once searched the landscape for something 
in the way of a landmark to guide me. 
For once my faithful friend, the North 
Star, had failed me. The sky was pitch 
black and there wasn't a star in the 

In the distance, at what appeared to 
be about three miles away, but which 
turned out to be six, I could discern the 
lights of a village, and I knew that it 
must be a Dutch village, as lights are not 
allowed in Belgium in that indiscriminate 

My course was now clear. I would 
make a bee-line for that village. Before 
I had gone very far I found myself in 
a marsh or swamp, and I turned back a 
little, hoping to find a better path. Find- 


ing none, I retraced my steps and kept 
straight ahead, determined to reach that 
village at all costs and to swerve neither 
to the right nor to the left until I got there. 

One moment I would be in water up 
to my knees and the next I would sink 
in clear up to my waist. I paid no atten- 
tion to my condition. It was merely a 
repetition of what I had gone through 
many times before, but this time I had 
a definite goal, and, once I reached it, I 
knew my troubles would be over. 

It took me perhaps three hours to reach 
firm ground. The path I struck led to 
within half a mile of the village. I shall 
never forget that path; it was almost as 
welcome to my feet as the opposite bank 
of the Meuse had seemed. 

The first habitation I came to was a little 
workshop with a bright light shining out- 
side. It must have been after midnight, 
but the people inside were apparently just 
quitting work. There were three men and 
two boys engaged in making wooden shoes. 

It wasn't necessary for me to explain 

to them that I was a refugee, even if I had 

been able to speak their language. I was 

caked with mud up to my shoulders, and 



I suppose my face must have recorded 
some of the experiences I had gone through 
that memorable night. 

"I want the British consul," I told them. 

Apparently they didn't understand, but 
one of them volunteered to conduct me 
to the village. They seemed to be only 
too anxious to do all they could for me; 
evidently they realized I was a British 

It was very late when my companion 
finally escorted me into the village, but he 
aroused some people he knew from their 
beds and they dressed and came down to 
feed me. 

The family consisted of an old lady and 
her husband and a son who was a soldier in 
the Dutch army. The cold shivers ran 
down my back while he sat beside me, 
because every now and again I caught a 
glimpse of his gray uniform and it re- 
sembled very much that of the German 

Some of the neighbors, aroused by the 
commotion, got up to see what it was all 
about, and came in and watched while I 
ate the meal those good Dutch people pre- 
pared for me. Ordinarily, I suppose, I 

'7 255 


would have been embarrassed with so 
many people staring at me while I ate, as 
though I were some strange animal that 
had just been captured, but just then I 
was too famished to notice or care very 
much what other people did. 

There will always be a warm place in my 
heart for the Dutch people. I had heard 
lots of persons say that they were not in- 
clined to help refugees, but my experience 
did not bear these reports out. They cer- 
tainly did much more for me than I ever 

I had a little German money left, but as 
the value of German money is only about 
half in Holland, I didn't have enough to 
pay the fare to Rotterdam, which was my 
next objective. It was due to the gener- 
osity of these people that I was able to 
reach the British consul as quickly as I did. 
Some day I hope to return to Holland and 
repay every single soul who played the 
part of Good Samaritan to me. 

With the money that these people gave 
me I was able to get a third-class ticket to 
Rotterdam, and I am glad that I didn't 
have enough to travel first-class, for I 
would have looked as much out of place in 


a first-class carriage as a Hun would ap- 
pear in heaven. 

That night I slept in the house of my 
Dutch friends, where they fixed me up 
most comfortably. In the morning they 
gave me breakfast and then escorted me 
to the station. 

While I was waiting in the station a 
crowd gathered round me, and soon it 
seemed as if the whole town had turned 
out to get a look at me. It was very em- 
barrassing, particularly as I could give 
them no information regarding the cause 
of my condition, although, of course, they 
all knew that I was a refugee from 

As the train pulled out of the station the 
crowd gave a loud cheer, and the tears al- 
most came to my eyes as I contrasted in 
my mind the conduct of this crowd and the 
one that had gathered at the station in 
Ghent when I had departed a prisoner 
en route for the reprisal camp. I 
breathed a sigh of relief as I thought of 
that reprisal camp and how fortunate I 
had really been, despite all my suffering, 
to have escaped it. Now, at any rate, I 
was a free man and I would soon be send- 


ing home the joyful news that I had made 
good my escape. 

At Einhoffen two Dutch officers got into 
the compartment with me. They looked 
at me with very much disfavor, not know- 
ing, of course, that I was a British officer. 
My clothes were still pretty much in the 
condition they were when I crossed the 
border, although I had been able to scrape 
off some of the mud I had collected the 
night before. I had not shaved nor 
trimmed my beard for many days, and I 
must have presented a sorry appearance. 
I could hardly blame them for edging away 
from me. 

The trip from Einhoffen to Rotterdam 
passed without special incident. At vari- 
ous stations passengers would get into the 
compartment and, observing my unusual 
appearance, would endeavor to start a con- 
versation with me. None of them spoke 
English, however, and they had to use their 
own imagination as to my identity. 

When I arrived at Rotterdam I asked a 
policeman who stood in front of the sta- 
tion where I could find the British consul, 
but I could not make him understand. I 
next applied to a taxicab driver. 


"English consul British consul Amer- 
ican consul French consul," I said, hop- 
ing that if he didn't understand one he 
might recognize another. 

He eyed me with suspicion and mo- 
tioned me to get in and drove off. I had 
no idea where he was taking me, but after a 
quarter of an hour's ride he brought up in 
front of the British consulate. Never be- 
fore was I so glad to see the Union Jack! 

I beckoned to the chauffeur to go with 
me up to the office, as I had no money 
with which to pay him, and when we got 
to the consulate I told them that if they 
would pay the taxi fare I would tell them 
who I was and how I happened to be there. 

They knew at once that I was an escaped 
prisoner and they readily paid the chauf- 
feur and invited me to give some account 
of myself. 

They treated me most cordially and were 
intensely interested in the brief account I 
gave them of my adventures. Word was 
sent to the consul-general, and he imme- 
diately sent for me. When I went in he 
shook hands with me, greeting me very 
heartily and offering me a chair. 

He then sat down, screwed a monocle on 


his eye, and viewed me from top to toe. I 
could see that only good breeding kept 
him from laughing at the spectacle I pre- 
sented. I could see he wanted to laugh 
in the worst way. 

"Go ahead and laugh!" I said. "You 
can't offend me the way I feel this blessed 
day!" And he needed no second invita- 
tion. Incidentally, it gave me a chance to 
laugh at him, for I was about as much 
amused as he was. 

After he had laughed himself about sick 
he got up and slapped me on the back and 
invited me to tell him my story. 

"Lieutenant," he said, when I had con- 
cluded, "you can have anything you 
want. I think your experiences entitle 
you to it." 

"Well, Consul," I replied, "I would like 
a bath, a shave, a hair-cut, and some 
civilized clothes about as badly as a man 
ever needed them, I suppose, but before 
that I would like to get a cable off to 
America to my mother, telling her that I 
am safe and on my way to England." 

The consul gave the necessary instruc- 
tions, and I had the satisfaction of know- 
ing before I left the office that the cable, 


with its good tidings, was on its way to 

Then he sent for one of the naval men 
who had been interned there since the be- 
ginning of the war and who was able to 
speak Dutch, and told him to take good 
care of me. 

After I had been bathed and shaved and 
had a hair-cut, I bought some new clothes 
and had something to eat, and I felt like 
a new man. 

As I walked through the streets of Rot- 
terdam, breathing the air of freedom again 
and realizing that there was no longer 
any danger of being captured and taken 
back to prison, it was a wonderful sen- 

I don't believe there will ever be a 
country that will appear in my eyes quite 
as good as Holland did then. I had to 
be somewhat careful, however, because 
Holland was full of German spies, and I 
knew they would be keen to learn all they 
possibly could about my escape and my 
adventures, so that the authorities in Bel- 
gium could mete out punishment to every 
one who was in any respect to blame for 
it. As I was in Rotterdam only a day, 


they didn't have very much opportunity 
to learn anything from me. 

The naval officer who accompanied me 
and acted as interpreter for me intro- 
duced me to many other soldiers and 
sailors who had escaped from Belgium 
when the Germans took Antwerp, and as 
they had arrived in Holland in uniform 
and under arms the laws of neutrality 
compelled their internment, and they had 
been there ever since. 

The life of a man who is interned in a 
neutral country, I learned, is anything 
but satisfactory. He gets one month a 
year to visit his home. If he lives in 
England, that is not so bad, but if he 
happens to live farther away, the time 
he has to spend with his folks is very 
short, as the month's leave does not take 
into consideration the time consumed in 
traveling to and from Holland. 

The possibility of escape from intern- 
ment is always there, but the British au- 
thorities have an agreement with the Dutch 
government to send refugees back im- 
mediately. In this respect, therefore, the 
position of a man who is interned is worse 
than that of a prisoner who, if he does 


succeed in making his escape, is naturally 
received with open arms in his native 
land. Apart from this restraint, however, 
internment, with all its drawbacks, is a 
thousand times yes, a million times bet- 
ter than being a prisoner of war in Ger- 

It seems to me that when the war is 
over and the men who have been im- 
prisoned in Germany return home they 
should be given a bigger and greater re- 
ception than the most victorious army 
that ever marched into a city, for they 
will have suffered and gone through more 
than the world will ever be able to under- 

No doubt you will find in the German 
prison-camps one or two faint-hearted in- 
dividuals with a pronounced yellow streak 
who voluntarily gave up the struggle and 
gave up their liberty rather than risk 
their lives or limbs. These sad cases, 
however, are, I am sure, extremely few. 
Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a 
thousand of the men fighting in the Allied 
lines would rather be in the front-line 
trenches, fighting every day, with all the 

horrors and all the risks, than be a pris- 


oner of war in Germany, for the men in 
France have a very keen realization of 
what that means. 

But to return to my day in Rotterdam. 

After I was fixed up I returned to the 
consulate and arrangements were made for 
my transportation to England at once. 
Fortunately there was a boat leaving that 
very night, and I was allowed to take 
passage on it. 

Just as we were leaving Rotterdam the 
boat I was on rammed our own convoy, 
one of the destroyers, and injured it so 
badly that it had to put back to port. 
It would have been a strange climax to 
my adventure if the disaster had resulted 
in the sinking of my boat and I had lost 
my life while on my way to England 
after having successfully outwitted the 
Huns. But my luck was with me to 
the last, and while the accident resulted 
in some delay, our boat was not seriously 
damaged and made the trip over in 
schedule time and without further in- 
cident, another destroyer having been 
assigned to escort us through the danger 
zone in place of the one which we had 
put out of commission. 


When I arrived in London the reaction 
from the strain I had been under for 
nearly three months immediately became 
apparent. My nerves were in such a state 
that it was absolutely impossible for me 
to cross the street without being in deadly 
fear of being run over or trampled on. I 
stood at the curb, like an old woman from 
the country on her first visit to the city, 
and I would not venture across until some 
knowing policeman, recognizing my con- 
dition, came to my assistance and con- 
voyed me across. 

Indeed, there are a great number of 
English officers at home at all times "get- 
ing back their nerve" after a long spell 
of active service at the front, so that my 
condition was anything but novel to the 
London bobbies. 

It was not many days, however, before 
I regained control of myself and felt in 
first-class shape. 

Although the British authorities in Hol- 
land had wired my mother from Holland 
that I was safe and on my way to England, 
the first thing I did when we landed was 
to send her a cable myself. 

The cable read as follows: 


Mrs. M. J. O'Brien, Momence, III., U. 5. A.: 
Just escaped from Germany. Letter follows. 


As I delivered it to the cable-despatcher 
I could just imagine the exultation with 
which my mother would receive it and 
the pride she would feel as she exhibited 
it among her neighbors and friends. 

I could hear the volley of "I told you 
so's" that greeted her good tidings. 

"It would take more than the Kaiser 
to keep Pat in Germany!" I could hear 
one of them saying. 

"Knew he'd be back for Christmas, 
anyway/' I could hear another remark. 

"I had an idea that Pat and his com- 
rades might spend Christmas in Berlin," 
I could hear another admitting, "but I 
didn't think any other part of Germany 
would appeal to him very much." 

"Mrs. O'Brien, did Pat write you how 
many German prisoners he brought back 
with him?" I could hear still another 
credulous friend inquiring. 

It was all very amusing and gratifying 
to me, and I must confess I felt quite 
cocky as I walked into the War Depart- 
ment to report. 



For the next five days I was kept very 
busy answering questions put to me by 
the military authorities regarding what I 
had observed as to conditions in Germany 
and behind the lines. 

What I reported was taken down by a 
stenographer and made part of the official 
records, but I did not give them my story 
in narrative form. The information I 
was able to give was naturally of interest 
to various branches of the service, and 
experts in every line of government work 
took it in turns to question me. One 
morning would be devoted, for instance, 
to answering questions of a military nat- 
ure German methods behind the front- 
line trenches, tactics, morale of troops, 
and similar matters. Then the aviation 
experts would take a whack at me and 
discuss with me all I had observed of 
German flying-corps methods and equip- 
ment. Then, again, the food experts 
would interrogate me as to what I had 
learned of food conditions in Germany, 
Luxembourg, and Belgium, and as I had 
lived pretty close to the ground for the 
best part of seventy-two days I was able 
to give them some fairly accurate reports 


as to actual agricultural conditions, many 
of the things I told them probably having 
more significance to them than they had 
to me. 

There were many things I had observed 
which I have not referred to in these pages 
because their value to us might be di- 
minished if the Germans knew we were 
aware of them, but they were all reported 
to the authorities, and it was very grati- 
fying to me to hear that the experts con- 
sidered some of them of the greatest value. 

One of the most amusing incidents of 
my return occurred when I called at my 
banker's in London to get my personal 

The practice in the Royal Flying Corps 
when a pilot is reported missing is to have 
two of his comrades assigned to go through 
his belongings, check them over, destroy 
anything that it might not be to his in- 
terest to preserve, and send the whole 
business to his banker or his home, as the 
case may be. Every letter is read through, 
but its contents is never afterward dis- 
cussed nor revealed in any way. If the 
pilot is finally reported dead, his effects are 
forwarded to his next of kin, but while he is 


officially only "missing" or is known to be 
a prisoner of war they are kept either at 
the squadron headquarters or sent to his 

In my case, as soon as it was learned 
that I had fallen from the sky it was as- 
sumed that I had been killed, and my 
chum, Paul Raney, and another officer 
were detailed to check over my effects. 
The list they made and to which they af- 
fixed their signatures, as I have previously 
mentioned, is now in my possession and is 
one of the most treasured souvenirs of my 

My trunk was sent to Cox & Co. in due 
course, and now that I was in London I 
thought I would go and claim it. 

When I arrived in the bank I applied 
at the proper window for my mail and 

"Who are you?" I was asked, rather 

"Well, I guess no one has any greater 
right to Pat O'Brien's effects than I have," 
I replied, "and I would be obliged to you 
if you would look them up for me." 

"That may be all right, my friend," re- 
plied the clerk, "but according to our 


records Lieutenant O'Brien is a prisoner of 
war in Germany, and we can't very well 
turn over his effects to any one else unless 
either you present proof that he is dead 
and that you are his lawful representative, 
or else deliver to us a properly authenti- 
cated order from him to give them to you." 

He was very positive about it all, but 
quite polite, and I thought I would kid 
him no more. 

"Well," I said, "I can't very well pre- 
sent proofs to you that Pat O'Brien is 
dead, but I will do the best I can to prove 
to you that he is alive, and if you haven't 
quite forgotten his signature I guess I can 
write you out an order that will answer 
all your requirements and enable you to 
give me Pat O'Brien's belongings without 
running any risks." And I scribbled my 
signature on a scrap of paper and handed 
it to him. 

He looked at me carefully through the 
latticed window, then jumped down from 
his chair and came outside to clasp me by 
the hand. 

"Good Heavens, Lieutenant!" he ex- 
claimed as he pumped my hand up and 
down. "How did you ever get away?" 



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And I had to sit right down and tell him 
and half a dozen other people in the bank 
all about my experiences. 

I had been in England about ten days 
when I received a telegram which, at first, 
occasioned me almost as much concern as 
the unexpected sight of a German spiked 
helmet had caused me in Belgium. It read 
as follows: 

Lieut. P. A. O'Brien, Royal Flying Corps, Regent's 

Palace Hotel, London: 

The King is very glad to hear of your escape 
from Germany. If you are to be in London on 
Friday next, December 7th, His Majesty will re- 
ceive you at Buckingham Palace at 10:30 A.M. 
Please acknowledge. CROMER. 

Of course, there was only one thing to 
do and that was to obey orders. I was an 
officer in the army and the King was my 
commander-in-chief. I had to go, and so 
I sat down and sent off the following 

Earl Grower, Buckingham Palace, London: 

I will attend Buckingham Palace as directed, 
Friday, December 7th, at 10:30. 

18 271 


In the interval that elapsed I must con- 
fess, the ordeal of calling on the King of 
England loomed up more dreadfully every 
day, and I really believe I would rather 
have spent another day in that empty 
house in the big city in Belgium, or, say, 
two days at Courtrai, than go through 
what I believed to be in store for me. 

Orders were orders, however, and there 
was no way of getting out of it. As it 
turned out it wasn't half so bad as I had 
feared; on the contrary, it was one of the 
most agreeable experiences of my life. 



WHEN the dreaded 7th of December 
arrived I hailed a taxicab and in 
as matter-of-fact tone of voice as I could 
command directed the chauffeur to drive 
me to Buckingham Palace, as though I 
were paying my regular morning call on 
the King. 

My friends' version of this incident, I 
have since heard, is that I seated myself 
in the taxi and, leaning through the win- 
dow, said, "Buckingham Palace!" where- 
upon the taxi driver got down, opened 
the door, and exclaimed, threateningly: 

"If you don't get out quietly and chuck 
your drunken talk, I'll jolly quick call a 
bobby, bli' me if I won't!" 

But I can only give my word that noth- 
ing of the kind occurred. 

When I arrived at the palace gate the 


sentry on guard asked me who I was, and 
then let me pass at once up to the front 
entrance of the palace. 

There I was met by an elaborately uni- 
formed and equally elaborately decorated 
personage, who, judging by the long row 
of medals he wore, must have seen long 
and distinguished service for the King. 

I was relieved of my overcoat, hat, and 
stick and conducted up a long stairway, 
where I was turned over to another func- 
tionary, who led me to the reception-room 
of Earl Cromer, the King's secretary. 

There I was introduced to another earl 
and a duke whose names I do not remem- 
ber. I was becoming so bewildered, in 
fact, that it is a wonder that I remember 
as much as I do of this eventful day. 

I had heard many times that before be- 
ing presented to the King a man is coached 
carefully as to just how he is to act and 
what he is to say and do, and all this time 
I was wondering when this drilling would 
commence. I certainly had no idea that 
I was to be ushered into the august pres- 
ence of the King without some preliminary 

Earl Cromer and the other noblemen 


talked to me for a while and got me to 
relate in brief the story of my experiences, 
and they appeared to be very much inter- 
ested. Perhaps they did it only to give 
me confidence and as a sort of rehearsal 
for the main performance^ which was 
scheduled to take place much sooner than 
I expected. 

I had barely completed my story when 
the door opened and an attendant entered 
and announced: 

"The King will receive Lef tenant 

If he had announced that the Kaiser 
was outside with a squad of German guards 
to take me back to Courtrai my heart 
could not have sunk deeper. 

Earl Cromer beckoned me to follow him, 
and we went into a large room, where I 
supposed I was at last to receive my 
coaching, but I observed the earl bow to 
a man standing there and realized that I 
was standing in the presence of the King 
of England. 

"Your Majesty, Leftenant O'Brien!" 
the earl announced, and then immedi- 
ately backed from the room. I believed 
I would have followed right behind him, 


but by that time the King had me by the 
hand and was congratulating me, and he 
spoke so very cordially and democratically 
that he put me at my ease at once. 

He then asked me how I felt and 
whether I was in a condition to converse, 
and when I told him I was he said he would 
be very much pleased to hear my story in 

"Were you treated any worse by the 
Germans, Leftenant," he asked, "on ac- 
count of being an American? I've heard 
that the Germans had threatened to shoot 
Americans serving in the British army if 
they captured them, classing them as mur- 
derers because America was a neutral coun- 
try and Americans had no right to mix in 
the war. Did you find that to be the case?" 

I told him that I had heard similar re- 
ports, but that I did not notice any ap- 
preciable difference in my treatment from 
that accorded Britishers. 

The King declared that he believed my 
escape was due to my pluck and will 
power, and that it was one of the most 
remarkable escapes he had ever heard of, 
which I thought was quite a compliment, 
coming as it did from the King of England. 


"I hope that all the Americans will give 
as good an account of themselves as you 
have, Lef tenant," he said, "and I feel 
quite sure they will. I fully appreciate 
all the service rendered us by Americans 
before the States entered the war." 

At this point I asked him if I was tak- 
ing too much time. 

"Not at all, Lef tenant, not at all!" he 
replied, most cordially. "I was extremely 
interested in the brief report that came to 
me of your wonderful escape, and I sent 
for you because I wanted to hear the 
whole story first-hand, and I am very 
glad you were able to come." 

I had not expected to remain more 
than a few minutes, as I understood that 
four minutes is considered a long audience 
with the King. Fifty-two minutes elapsed 
before I finally left there! 

During all this time I had done most 
of the talking, in response to the King's 
request to tell my story. Occasionally 
he interrupted to ask a question about a 
point he wanted me to make clear, but for 
the most part he was content to play the 
part of listener. 

He seemed to be very keen on every- 


thing, and when I described some of the 
tight holes I got into during my escape 
he evinced his sympathy. Occasionally I 
introduced some of the few humorous in- 
cidents of my adventure, and in every 
instance he laughed heartily. 

Altogether the impression I got of him 
was that he is a very genial, gracious, and 
alert sovereign. I know I have felt more 
ill at ease when talking to a major than 
when speaking to the King but perhaps 
I had more cause to. 

During the whole interview we were 
left entirely alone, which impressed me as 
significant of the democratic manner of 
the present King of England, and I cer- 
tainly came away with the utmost re- 
spect for him. 

In all of my conversation, I recalled 
afterward, I never addressed the King as 
"Your Majesty," but used the military 
"sir." As I was a British officer and he 
was the head of the army, he probably 
appreciated this manner of address more 
than if I had used the usual "Your Maj- 
esty." Perhaps he attributed it to the 
fact that I was an American. At any rate, 
he didn't evince any displeasure at my 


departure from what I understand is the 
usual form of address. 

Before I left he asked me what my plans 
for the future were. 

"Why, sir, I hope to rejoin my squad- 
ron at the earliest possible moment!" I 

"No, Lef tenant," he rejoined, "that is 
out of the question. We can't risk losing 
you for good by sending you back to a 
part of the front opposed by Germany, 
because if you were unfortunate enough 
to be captured again they would undoubt- 
edly shoot you." 

"Well, if I can't serve in France, sir," 
I suggested, "wouldn't it be feasible for 
me to fly in Italy or Salonica?" 

"No," he replied ; "that would be almost 
as bad. The only thing that I can suggest 
for you to do is either to take up instruc- 
tion a very valuable form of service 
or perhaps it might be safe enough for 
you to serve in Egypt; but, just at present, 
Leftenant, I think you have done enough, 

Then he rose and shook hands with me 
and wished me the best of luck, and we 
both said, "Good-by." 


In the adjoining room I met Earl Cromer 
again, and as he accompanied me to the 
door he seemed to be surprised at the 
length of my visit. 

"His Majesty must have been very 
much interested in your story," he said. 

As I left the palace a policeman and a 
sentry outside came smartly to attention. 
Perhaps they figured I had been made a 

As I was riding back to the hotel in a 
taxi I reflected on the remarkable course 
of events which in the short space of nine 
months had taken me through so much 
and ended up, like the finish of a book, 
with my being received by his Majesty the 
King! When I first joined the Royal 
Flying Corps I never expected to see the 
inside of Buckingham Palace, much less 
to be received by the King. 



r "PHAT same day, in the evening, I was 
1 tendered a banquet at the Hotel Savoy 
by a fellow-officer who had bet three other 
friends of mine that I would be home by 
Christmas. This wager had been made at 
the time he heard that I was a prisoner of 
war, and the dinner was the stake. 

The first intimation he had of my safe 
return from Germany and the fact that 
he had won his bet was a telegram I sent 
him reading as follows: 

Lieutenant Louis Grant: 
War-bread bad, so I came home. 


He said he would not part with that mes- 
sage for a thousand dollars. 

Other banquets followed in fast succes- 
sion. After I had survived nine of them I 


figured that I was now in as much danger 
of succumbing to a surfeit of rich food as 
I had previously been of dying from star- 
vation, and for my own protection I de- 
cided to leave London. Moreover, my 
thoughts and my heart were turning back 
to the land of my birth, where I knew 
there was a loving old mother who was 
longing for more substantial evidence of 
my safe escape than the cables and letters 
she had received. 

Strangely enough, on the boat which 
carried me across the Atlantic I saw an 
R. F. C. man Lieutenant Lascelles. 

I walked over to him, held out my hand, 
and said, "Hello!" 

He looked at me steadily for at least a 

"My friend, you certainly look like Pat 
O'Brien," he declared, "but I can't believe 
my eyes. Who are you?" 

I quickly convinced him that his eyes 
were still to be relied upon, and then he 
stared at me for another minute or two, 
shaking his head dubiously. 

His mystification was quite explicable. 
The last time he had seen me I was going 
down to earth with a bullet in my face and 


my machine doing a spinning nose dive. 
He was one of my comrades in the flying 
corps and was in the fight which resulted 
in my capture. He said he had read the 
report that I was a prisoner of war, but he 
had never believed it, as he did not think 
it possible for me to survive that fall. 

He was one of the few men living out of 
eighteen who were originally in my squad- 
ron I do not mean the eighteen with 
whom I sailed from Canada last May, but 
the squadron I joined in France. He re- 
hearsed for me the fate of all my old friends 
in the squadron, and it was a mighty 
sad story. All of them had been killed 
except one or two who were in dry-dock 
for repairs. He himself was on his way to 
Australia to recuperate and get his nerves 
back into shape again. He had been in 
many desperate combats. 

As we sat on the deck exchanging ex- 
periences I would frequently notice him 
gazing intently in my face as if he were 
not quite sure that the whole proposition 
was not a hoax and that I was not an 

Outside of this unexpected meeting, my 
trip across was uneventful. 


I arrived in St. John, New Brunswick, 
and eventually the little town of Momence, 
Illinois, on the Kankakee River. 

I have said that I was never so happy 
to arrive in a country as I was when I first 
set foot on Dutch soil. Now I'm afraid 
I shall have to take that statement back. 
Not until I finally landed in Momence 
and realized that I was again in the town 
of my childhood days did I enjoy that 
feeling o f absolute security which one 
never really appreciates until after a visit 
to foreign parts. 

Now that I am back, the whole advent- 
ure constantly recurs to me as a dream, 
and I'm never quite sure that I won't wake 
up aad find it so. 



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