Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Baker letter, 17 December 1919 / H. Baker
MLDOC 1285

[Transcriber’s note: This is a letter from Lieut. H Baker of the Lancashire Fusiliers enclosing a record of his experiences in Strohen Prisoner of War Camp in Germany and his recollections of Australian soldiers he met in the camp and their attempts to escape.]

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72, Coal Clough Lane,
Lancs. England.
17 December, 1919

Dear Sir,

I duly received your letter.
The enclosed are the particulars I had in mind when it was suggested to me that I should write you.
If you think they are of any use you are at liberty to use them, and as for payment I do not require it; you might if you feel so inclined send an acknowledgement to the typist who is doing the work.

Yours faithfully,

H. Baker

P.S. Another I recall was Lieut. Anthony A.I.F. who, disguised as a Tommy, went with a fatigue party to clean out the pigstyes outside the Lager at Strohen. He did not return, but hid amongst the straw etc. in the pigstye. He successfully got away but was recaptured close to the Frontier, whilst endeavouring to cross the river Ems by a bridge.


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Taken a Prisoner of War in October 1916, I met, during my captivity, a considerable number of Australian Officers. I came into contact and near made friendships with many, due chiefly to mutual efforts to escape from captivity. My diary was taken from me before leaving Germany, hence there are many names I have forgotten. Amongst those whom I particularly remember are Captain Gore, M.C. (Adelaide) Captain Mott, Lieutenant Honeysett (Hobart Tasmania) and Lieut Brine. In conjunction with Capt. Gore and Lieut. Honeysett I entered into many attempts to escape from Strohen P. of W. Lager in Germany. After many failures Lieut. Honeysett made a daring attempt to escape from Strohen by giving a sentry the slip as he was being conducted from the Lager to the Commandant’s Office, a distance of only a few hundred yards. Several sentries fired; it was dusk; one shot hit Lieut. Honeysett in the leg and he was immediately re-captured. This did not daunt him from other attempts. Sent to Holzminden Lager, he and another Australian Officer got away and in Winter weather were successful in getting within a very short distance of the Frontier when they were unfortunately recaptured.

Captain Mott, who had been very seriously wounded when captured surprised his friends, who did not think him fit enough to make the attempt, by calmly walking out of the Lager one evening by the aid of a duplicate key of one of the gates which he had ‘procured’. He was the first Australian Officer Prisoner of War to successfully reach Holland: His attempt and success was all the more praiseworthy considering his condition, as he was by no means recovered from his wounds. Lieut. Brine was one day carried out in the “Dust Bin",

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tipped into the tippler-wagons which were then wheeled out of the Lager by British Tommies (who were in the secret) under the charge of German Sentries. The Tippler-wagon was left in position to be tipped the following day, Lieut. Brine’s idea being to await darkness and then make good his escape. Unfortunately a few hungry Huns from the adjacent village tipped up the wagon, and out rolled poor Brine, dazed by the fall to such an extent that they had secured him before he was able to realise what had happened.

Captain Gore, M.C. and the writer were unsuccessful in an attempt to escape from Strohen in Nov. 1917: However, we deceived the Huns (by hiding) into believing that we had actually escaped; this deception we kept up under difficulties until January 1918 when we were successful in escaping by cutting the wires at nightfall. In wintry weather we had a difficult and exciting time, eventually reaching the river Ems about five miles from the frontier; here we found the river in such a state of flood that we were unable to carry out our idea of swimming across; the bridges were strongly guarded at both sides; boats or rafts were nowhere to be seen and eventually, after five days we were recaptured by Dutch Gendarmes who had evidently been informed by workmen who had seen us. We were kept nine days in the civil jail at Meppen and eventually sent to Holzminden where that arch-Hun Capt. Niemeyer kept us in solitary confinement for seven weeks.

Another daring escape was made by Captain Gardner, from Strohen Lager, where he was then the senior Australian Officer. In full view of two sentries he cut the wires and, although fired upon, persevered and was successful in getting away although immediately the alarm was given and a large search party sent out. Unfortunately he was recaptured a few days later.

H. Baker
Late Lieut.
The Lancashire Fusiliers

[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]