CONFIDENTIAL

 

No.415

BRITISH

Date of visit: March 16th, 1944.

 

STALAG 315

 

Camp Commander: Oberst Luehrsen

Indian Man of Confidence: Sgt. M. Bagath Ram, POW No.197

 

I. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

        This camp exists since January 13th, 1944. It is a purely Indian camp, most of the prisoners of war having been transferred from Stalag IV C in Germany.

        The whole camp is installed in barracks of the French army, situated on a hill, outside a small town in the east of France. Out of 4 large three-storied buildings 3 are now occupied, the fourth one being kept empty as a reserve.

        The barracks are built around a large courtyard and there is plenty of sun and air. The first impression is not unpleasant, but on closer inspection the delegate of the Protecting Power found that the installation of the camp is still rather primitive. The camp commander explained that when he first came here he found the barracks absolutely empty, without a window pane, all stoves gone and the whole place in a great state of decay. He has done much since his arrival; the windows have been put in order, every room has its stove and the barrack again habitable. But, there is still a great deal to be done. Fortunately the commander is fully aware of the existing deficiencies and is doing his best to improve the material conditions in this camp.

 

II. CAPACITY AND PRESENT PERSONNEL

        On the day of the visit the number of prisoners of war in this camp was as follows:

                  488 Sikhs

                1376 Hindus

                  138 Christian Indians

                  973 Mohammedans

                  56   prisoners of war in the lazaret

                3031 Total

        Among these prisoners of war there are 18 09 [Note: This is how the number is written, it is unclear what it should be] non-commissioned officers. There are no working parties.

 

III. INTERIOR ARRANGEMENTS

        The barrack-rooms are of different sizes, some accommodating 6 and others 24 men, a few are larger still. The prisoners of war are divided according to their religion and as far as it is possible, prisoners of war of the same creed live in the same building or part of building.

        The rooms are fitted with the usual wooden type of double or triple-tier beds; each prisoner of war has two German blankets, some men have one or several private ones in addition. During summer the German issue of two blankets may be considered as adequate but the delegate of the Protecting Power asked the camp commander to take the necessary steps now to ensure a third blanket for each prisoner of war for the next winter.

        The rooms are heated by iron stove. The heating was described as sufficient. In this part of France only wood is given out for heating purposes as it is hard to obtain coal on account of transport difficulties.

        The lighting is rather poor but seems to be strong enough for the Indian prisoners of war who, generally speaking, do not appear to read much.

 

IV. BATHING AND WASHING FACILITIES

        There are washrooms fitted with cold running water in barrack 1 and barrack 3, but none in barrack 2. The delegate of the Protecting Power protested against this inadequate arrangements as prisoners of war of barrack 2 must, at present, use the washrooms of either of the two other barracks, which in any case are just sufficient for the number of prisoners of war of those barracks. The camp commander explained that he intended to build a special hut for barrack 2 and promised to accelerate the work as much as possible.

        There are now excellent facilities for hot showers in a special hut, but when first arriving at this camp everything was completely out of order. Fortunately the camp authorities immediately took the necessary steps to repair whatever required repairing and were it not fur the fact that no coal for the heating of water has as yet arrived, the situation would be satisfactory and every prisoner of war would, as is planned, have his weekly hot shower. However, the delegate of the Protecting Power was assured that a supply of coal was on its way and would be delivered soon. Up to now the prisoners of war have had no opportunity for bathing.

 

V. TOILET FACILITIES

        The latrines are in a special hut at the back of the barracks and are adequate.

 

VI. FOOD AND COOKING

        There is a special kitchen-hut and the prisoners of war do their own cooking. The Mohammedans and the Christian Indians are cooking together and the same applies on the other hand to the Sikhs and Hindus.

        The meat ration is replaced either by fish or dried vegetables or a larger bread ration, according to the given opportunities.

        Regarding the food there are no complaint.

        There is a stock of about 21,000 Red Cross food parcels.

        Private cooking is done on the stoves in the rooms and the delegate of the Protecting Power had occasion to complain about the inadequacy of this arrangement, as the stoves now in use are far too small. The commander was therefore requested to provide more satisfactory facilities and he agreed to install 2 special kitchens in buildings 2 and 3. (This will be checked on our next visit.)

        The man of confidence complained of a lack of an adequate number of cooking utensils and crockery. When discussing this matter with the camp commander he stated that this complaint had never been brought to his knowledge but that he would naturally try and obtain as large a supply of the materials now lacking as was at all possible.

 

VII. MEDICAL ATTENTION AND SICKNESS

        There is a camp-lazaret in a special building with accommodation for about 200 patients. It is in the charge of 2 British officers, namely

                Capt. J.R. Third, RAMC, POW No. 1485.

                Lt. S.C. Seal, POW No. 31827.

        There are 85 Indian medical orderlies.

        The British medical officer complained that the number of medical officers was insufficient and asked for another medical officer. His request will be transmitted to the O.K.W. by the Protecting Power.

        At the time of the visit there were 118 patients in the lazaret, mostly with respitory and chest trouble (pneumonia), but there are a great number of stracoma cases.

        Generally speaking, the state of health does not seem particularly good. This may be due to the transfer of the prisoners of war in the middle of the winter to this camp, which enjoys different climatic conditions.

        Since the opening of this camp there have been two cases of death, one prisoner of war died from TV and one from pneumonia.

        General operations can be done in the camp but more serious cases are sent to prisoners of war lazaret at Nancy and emergency cases are dealt with at the hospital in town.

        The position regarding the supply of drugs is the same as in most other camps; from the German side very limited supplies are received and those from the Red Cross are, according to the senior British medical officer, not sufficient either. An indent has been sent to the delegate of the IRCC in Paris.

        DENTAL ATTENTION: There is no dentist in the camp and the dental attention is in the hands of a civilian dentist in town; according to arrangements made with him he receives 12 prisoners of war twice weekly for treatment, and in addition, 3 prisoners of war daily in case of emergency. He does extractions and fillings but if dentures or plates are required, prisoners of war are sent to the lazaret at Nancy.

        Regarding his work the senior British medical officer had no serious complaint but he states that up till now the sanitary installations had been inadequate; as reported under point IV, the washing and bathing facilities leave much to be desired considering the number of prisoners of war present. However, these deficiencies should soon be corrected as pointed out previously. The senior British medical officer then further complained of the lack of a disinfection room for clothing; to this the camp commander replied that a special room for that purpose is in the course of installation and will soon be ready.

 

VIII. CLOTHING

        A great number of prisoners of war in this camp came from Italy with very little clothing, many of them arrived without greatcoats, no shirts etc. The need for more clothing is therefore very great and also a large shipment arrived from Geneva some time ago, the position is still unsatisfactory. A further application has been made to the IRCC a short time ago and another shipment is expected.

        The man of confidence complained that up till now the clothing store had been entirely under German control; he stated, however, that the key to the store had been handed over to him the day before our visit but that he feared that it would be taken from him again after our departure. The matter was discussed with the camp commander who explained that a second key had to be made and that in future the man of confidence will have full control over the clothing store. (To be checked on our next visit)

 

IX. LAUNDRY

        The prisoners of war wash their own laundry but are not provided with enough hot water for that purpose. The delegate of the Protecting Power therefore requested the camp authorities to be more liberal in this matter and obtained their promise in this sense.

 

X. MONEY AND PAY

        Nothing to report.

 

XI. CANTEEN

        There is a small canteen but very little is on sale, but as most of the prisoners of war have no money to spend a better stocked canteen would be useless.

 

XII. RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY

        There is a large prayer-room at the disposal of each of the various denominations and prisoners of war experience no difficulties in performing their religious duties.

 

XIII. RECREATION AND EXERCISE

        There is a large recreation room in a special building where concerts and theatrical performances take place. At present there are very few books in the camp but an application was made to the YMCA and more books are expected soon.

        The courtyard between the buildings is large enough to allow for such games as basket-ball or net-ball and just outside the compound there is a further yard foreseen as a cricket-pitch. A football field near the camp is in the course of being arranged. However, up till the present, sport facilities have been very limited and the delegate of the Protecting Power insisted that the work now in progress in this connection be speeded up as much as possible. He was promised that this would be done (To be checked at our next visit).

        The YMCA has provided large supplies of sportsgear.

 

XIV. MAIL

        Letters from India take from 4 to 5 months; quite a number of prisoners of war have received no news from their families as yet.

        The prisoners of war complain that the censoring or letters is very slow in this camp; to this the commander replied that, like in most camps, the arrival of mail is very irregular, no mail arriving sometimes for long periods and then suddenly large numbers of bags coming in together, so that naturally short delays are, at times, unavoidable.

 

XV. WELFARE WORK

        This camp has already been visited by delegates of the IRCC and YMCA.

 

XVI. COMPLAINTS

        Apart from the shortcomings mentioned under the previous points of this report no serious complaints were put to the delegate of the Protecting Power.

 

XVII. GENERAL IMPRESSION

        The general impression of this camp is not a bad one. When the prisoners of war first arrived here the camp was certainly not in a fit state to receive them and the material conditions today are still far from being perfect.

        On the other hand a great deal has been done by the camp commander in the way of general improvements; he is naturally confronted with a difficult task, considering the scarcity of all types of materials.

        The delegate of the Protecting Power gained a good impression of the camp commander. The latter treats the prisoners of war in a very fair manner and he is determined to make Stalag 315 a good camp.

 

Gabriel Naville.