TURKISH PRISONERS IN EGYPT
A Report By The Delegates Of The International Committee Of The Red Cross
Extracted and translated from the Official Reports of the Red Cross Society
(Documents publies a l'occasion de la Guerre Europeenne, 1914-1917)
Published in 1917
A Report on a visit made in December, 1916, and January, 1917, to the Camps for Turkish Prisoners of War in Egypt, by the Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Turkish Prisoners in Egypt
Being deputed by the Red Cross International Committee to visit Turkish prisoners of war in Egypt, we presented ourselves on December 3, 1916, to the officer for Naval Transport in the British office at Marseilles. By order of the War Office he obtained berths for us on the liner Morea, of the P. and O. Line. We embarked at Marseilles on December 19, 1916, and after an uneventful journey reached Port Said on December 27.
At Cairo General Murray, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Egypt, was good enough to put us in touch with Brig.-General II. G. Casson, C.M.G., Director-in-Chief of the Prisoners of War Department. With the help of Colonel Simpson we drew up a programme of visits. A motor-car was placed at our disposal, and permission given us to take photographs in the camps, distribute gifts among the prisoners, and talk freely with them.
We have to express our warmest thanks to General Murray and to the officers who allowed us to make our enquiries everywhere, without restriction. We should also like to offer our deepest gratitude to Sir Reginald Wingate, British High Commissioner in Egypt, for the kindly care accorded us throughout our stay.
1. Heliopolis Camp.
(Visited on January 2, 1917.)
This camp is laid out quite close to the new city of hotels and villas founded in 1905 under the name of The Oasis of Heliopolis. The camp site is 134 feet above the level of Cairo.
Strength.—3,906 Turkish non-commissioned officers and men.
3 Turkish soldiers of the Sanitary Corps.
2 Armenian doctors (officers in the Turkish Army).
The camp is arranged to hold a total population of 15,000 men. A barbed-wire fencing separates it from adjoining property.
Accommodation.—The barracks for the prisoners are arranged in groups, in parallel lines separated by passages 65 feet wide. These barracks, built under the supervision of the Egyptian Engineering Department, are of uniform construction, and about 42 feet long by 30 feet wide. They are solid frames of wood with the spaces between filled in with reeds arranged vertically and held in place by crossbars. The roof is of reed thatch edged with tarred felt. Thanks to the design, the ventilation is perfect. The sandy soil shows hardly a sign of dampness. The passage between the rows of beds is made of hard-beaten earth which is very dry and easily kept clean. All along this corridor, as in all the camp roads, buckets full of water are arranged in readiness to meet an outbreak of fire. The water in these buckets is not meant for drinking, and therefore contains a little cresol to prevent prisoners drinking it. The danger of fire is further reduced to a minimum by the fact that the men smoke only out of doors and that the mildness of the climate does away with the use of stoves. Each barrack accommodates 50 men.
Bedding.—Each prisoner lies on a mat of plaited rush, and has four blankets. Every morning the mats are brushed and rolled up and the blankets folded, so that during the day there is a large clear space inside the building. The detention cells have the same sleeping accommodation.
Exercise.—The space left between the barracks of the separate sections is amply sufficient for exercise, which is quite unrestricted during the regulation hours.
Food.—Provisions are purchased by the commissariat and brought every morning into a special barrack, whence each section draws its daily rations. Bread comes from the Cairo bakeries. It is of good quality and agreeable to the taste. The kitchens are in the open and heated by wood fires. They are staffed by a detachment of prisoners under a head cook. At meal times each section sends men to draw the rations for each room in large metal bowls. Every man has his own spoon, bowl and drinking cup, all of metal. The hours of meals are ordinarily as follows:
5 a.m.; 11 a.m.; and 4 p.m.
The last meal is the principal one of the day.
We have examined the various food materials given the prisoners and found them to be of excellent quality.
The menu of the Turkish prisoners of war now interned in Heliopolis Camp consists of bread, meat, vegetables, rice, butter, pepper, salt, onions, tea (7-1/2 grammes), sugar (42 grammes), cheese and jam or olives.
Each prisoner receives 42-1/2 grammes of cigarettes and two boxes of matches every week; two lbs. of firewood per day; and soap.
It interested us to make a note of the expenses involved by the support of each Turkish prisoner, according to figures supplied by the English authorities.
The calculation is based on a period of six months (in winter).
L s. d. Clothing and linen 3 0 0 Periodical renovation of winter clothes 0 6 6 Renovation of linen, footwear, and towels (twice) 1 10 0 Food at actual contract prices 5 0 0 Tobacco 0 12 6 Wood (average price) 0 7 6 Lighting (as for Maadi Camp) 0 2 0 Water filtration (Maadi) 0 0 6 ——————- Total L10 19 0 =============
Depreciation of buildings, fittings, blankets and other things provided is not included in these figures.
Canteen.—The regulation food of the prisoners being ample, the canteen plays a very minor part in the feeding arrangements. It sells tea, coffee, and light refreshments. A cup of sweetened tea costs 5 paras, or about one-third of a penny. The canteen also deals in letter paper, post-cards, thread, needles, buttons and other small odds and ends.
The men receive 2 ounces of tobacco free every week. They never get alcohol.
Clothing.—Each prisoner is supplied with two complete sets of underwear: shirts, drawers, and socks. The uniform consists of trousers and coat of dark blue cloth. The brass buttons give it a military appearance.
All the men wear the red fez. They are allowed to wear their decorations. That they are prisoners is shown only by their having on them a white metal plate about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, bearing a registration number and the two letters P.W. (Prisoner of War). In our opinion this kind of medallion is a more judicious form of indication than the bands, armlets or large letters used elsewhere. In summer the cloth uniforms are replaced by linen uniforms of the same cut and colour.
All men wear indoors leather slippers of the Eastern kind. Shoes are used only by prisoners engaged on gardening, and by non-commissioned officers.
Linen, clothes and footwear are renewed on fixed dates or according to need.
Hygiene.—Everything that has to do with hygiene and the sanitation of the camp is the province of Lieut.-Colonel E.G. Garner, Medical Office Inspector of Prisoner-of-War Camps in Egypt.
Water is supplied from the Heliopolis town mains, is of good quality, and is provided in sufficient quantities.
For toilet purposes the prisoners have the use twice a day of shower baths and water taps. The floor of the lavatories is sloping cement, and the water drains away through a gulley between the two rows of baths. Prisoners can get hot water from the kitchen when they need it. Soap is supplied ad libitum.
For washing their clothes the prisoners have some very convenient arrangements. Once a week each prisoner's blankets and clothes are passed through the disinfecting chamber and thoroughly sterilised. Thanks to this precaution, there is not a trace of vermin to be found in the camp.
Ten Turkish barbers are occupied in cutting the hair of prisoners and shaving them in a well-managed barber's shop.
The latrines are clean and numerous enough. Some of them are on the English system; the rest on the Turkish. They are disinfected daily with carbolineum. All discharge into the sewers.
Medical attention.—The camp medical service is staffed by Colonel E.G. Garner and two Armenian doctors (Arsen Khoren and Leon Samuel). Four English hospital orderlies are assisted by three Turkish orderlies. An English dentist visits the camp at the doctor's request.
At the infirmary, which is clean and well looked after, all prisoners not seriously ill are accommodated with beds having mattresses and steel springs. The consulting room is well supplied with medicines. Serious cases are sent to the hospitals set apart for prisoners of war.
From 20 to 30 men come to the infirmary daily for medical attention. All the cases are entered in a register, which we have examined; after each name is the complaint and the treatment prescribed.
At the time of our visit there were six lying-down cases in the infirmary; two with tuberculosis in the first stage (prisoners captured recently at El Arish); one with diarrhoea; one with conjunctivitis; one with malaria; and one with a wounded leg.
Of the prisoners in camp 3 per cent. have been attacked by malaria—old cases from the marshy districts of Turkey, such as Angora Yosgath, for instance. Nine per cent. have been attacked by chronic bacillar dysentery; these are treated periodically with anti-dysenteric serum. Some cases of amibian dysentery are being treated with calomel, salol, and emetine. Twenty per cent. were affected by ophthalmia due to their stay in the desert before being captured. These were treated with sulphate of zinc and protargol.
Four prisoners are suffering from trachoma of old standing. Recent cases are ordinary ailments, bronchitis and simple diarrhoea.
As a general rule the camp prisoners look well, have a good colour and are well nourished.
The prisoners were inoculated in Turkey against typhoid fever and smallpox. All who no longer showed traces of vaccination were vaccinated immediately after being captured. They were also inoculated against cholera.
There is no typhoid fever in the camp, nor exanthematic typhus, nor any other infectious disease.
Work.—The prisoners have no regular work to do. No prisoner is employed in workshops outside the camp. Even inside, except for ordinary camp fatigue duties, and some light gardening, no labour is exacted. During our inspection we saw the digging for a water supply through the camp being done by Arab workmen, not by prisoners.
In any case, corporals and sergeants are not allowed to work.
Religion and Recreation.—The prisoners are quite free to follow their own religious practices, which are performed thrice a day ordinarily, and six or seven times daily during Ramadan. Music and singing are permitted; prisoners have manufactured several guitars and violins.
Correspondence.—Most of the prisoners brought money with them; some have received sums of money from their families through the Turkish Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They receive the amount in weekly instalments of 30 piastres (about 6 shillings) per month. Each person has a separate current account with the camp accountant.
Letters take from three weeks to three months to get from the sender to the prisoner to whom they are addressed. Some of them are sent through the American Consul at Cairo. Very few of the prisoners can write, but these may do so as often and for as long as they wish. There is no system of delaying correspondence after delivery or before despatch.
Prisoners' Aid.—There is no relief committee in the camp; so far, no general relief funds have been sent. Sergeant-Major Hussein Hissan, a native of Constantinople, told us that, although there were many poor prisoners in the camp, there was no need to send help, as all prisoners are well fed, well clothed and supplied with tobacco.
Prisoners' Behaviour.—What strikes one more than anything else on entering the camp is the prevailing orderliness and cleanliness. A Turkish sergeant-major commands each group of huts, and a Turkish sergeant is responsible for each dormitory. The prisoners are smart, give the military salute and come to attention at the orders of the non-commissioned officers when those in command pass through the camp.
Sergeant-Major Hassar Mohammed, from Angora, and Hamid Abdallah, from Koniah (Asia Minor), told us, on behalf of their fellow prisoners, that they had no complaints to make, and assured us of the kind treatment which they receive.
On their part, the English officers and non-commissioned officers declared that the prisoners are well disciplined and very willing. In short, we took away with us an excellent impression of Heliopolis Camp.
2. Hospital No. 2, at Abbassiah, near Cairo.
(Visited on January 2, 1917.)
This hospital, on the pavilion system, and arranged in accordance with the requirements of modern practice, is reserved exclusively for German, Austrian, Bulgarian and Turkish prisoners of war. It is staffed by head doctor Wickermann, assisted by four English doctors. Some English Red Cross nurses and 18 Turkish orderlies attend to the sick and wounded. These nurses and orderlies are engaged only with treatment. The rough ward work and cleaning are done by native employes. The pavilions are built of stone and separated by intervals of 32-1/2 feet. The roofs are of cement. Along one side runs a covered gallery wherein beds and arm-chairs are placed for the open-air cure of patients for whom it is prescribed. The floor of the pavilions is a kind of linoleum made of sawdust and cement, and is covered with palm mats. The windows are large, and the cubic space per patient ample. The beds are arranged in two rows and have spring and stuffed mattresses. Blankets are not stinted. The rooms are scrupulously clean; and the hospital sterilising chamber serves to disinfect the clothes, which, after being washed and labelled, are stored in a wardrobe and handed back to the owners when they leave the hospital. The prisoners have no trouble over them. A large supply of things for the patients is kept in the laundry.
Clothing.—The hospital patients wear pyjamas like those of British soldiers; and, like the latter, convalescents wear a bright blue suit with white facings and a red necktie. Patients able to sit up have folding easy-chairs at their disposal.
Dressings.—The hospital drug department is well stocked. The wounded are supplied with surgical appliances, and with artificial limbs of the most perfect make.
The day before our visit 80 wounded prisoners arrived at the hospital from El Arish in an exhausted and emaciated condition. We saw each case receive the most suitable treatment. The apparatus most generally used for dealing with fractures consists of a metal frame with flannel strips stretched from side to side to form a kind of trough. When the broken limb is in position the apparatus is suspended from the ceiling by means of pulleys. We have never seen this ingenious arrangement in any German or French hospital; it seems to us to be a very practical idea and likely to prove of great benefit to the wounded. At the head of each bed is a temperature chart, a diet chart, and a clinical summary of the case.
Special Quarters.—The operating theatre is well arranged; a sterilising stove is heated by paraffin. In the wards for prisoners suffering from malaria the beds are enclosed by mosquito nets to prevent the anopheles mosquito infecting itself and then biting other patients or people of the neighbourhood. Two wards are kept for convalescent cases, who have a dining-room to stay in during the day.
Cases of venereal disease are also confined to separate premises.
The orderlies live in two comfortable tents in the hospital garden, one of which, is occupied by those on day duty, the other by those on night duty.
Hygiene.—The water is of good quality, supplied from the Cairo water system. The prisoners can use the well-equipped hot and cold baths at their pleasure. Invalids wash themselves, or are washed with the aid of bowls. Convalescents wash at the taps supplied for their use.
The latrines are on the Turkish plan, with automatic water-flush, and discharge into the town drainage.
Food.—The hospital management employs a contractor to do the provisioning. The food is prepared in the kitchen by 4 Egyptian employes. The dietary of the Turkish soldiers differs somewhat from that of the German and Austrian prisoners, in order to suit the palates of each. For example, the Turks prefer flat loaves, which are baked for them; while European prisoners get what is called English bread, toasted. Bulgarian curdled milk is prepared for dysentery patients, and the English doctors testify to its good effects.
An ice-box in each pavilion keeps such provisions as must stay there quite fresh. The diet for invalids is divided into full diet and milk diet.
1. FULL DIET. Breakfast: Bread; milk. Lunch: Meat stew; vegetables; rice; bread. Supper: Bread; soup; rice; milk. Extra, when ordered: Chicken; pigeon; rabbit; butchers' meat; lemons; eggs; cheese; curdled milk.
2. MILK DIET. Breakfast: Bread; milk. Lunch: Soup; bread; milk; rice. Supper: Bread; milk; sugar.
The quantities of food allowed to invalids are given below:
Diet for Ordinary Milk Fever Diet. Diet. Patients. grm. grm. grm.
Native bread (baladi) 937 625 Beef 115 100 Vegetables 120 Rice 115 50 Milk 200 800 1,200 Fat 20 Sugar 20 25 Salt 15 5 Pepper 3 1 Onions 20 Tomatoes 10
We examined all these provisions and found them to be excellent in quality.
Sickness.—Sick prisoners are transferred from the camps to the hospital in specially fitted motor vehicles. The English doctors without exception praise the patience and brave endurance of pain shown by the Turkish prisoners. The cases treated in the hospital up to January 2, 1917, the date of our visit, are analysed below.
Turks Bulgarians Germans Tuberculosis 27 0 0 Bacillar dysentery 37 3 2 Malaria 3 0 0 War wounds 74 2 4 Anaemia and weakness 30 12 5 Various 96 5 0 —- —- —- Totals 267 22 11 === === ===
There is no epidemic disease in the hospital.
Deaths.—Sixty-six Turkish prisoners died in the Abbassiah hospital between August 8, 1916, and January 1, 1917.
From Dysentery 45 " Tuberculosis 9 " Beri-beri 1 " Malaria 1 " War wounds 9 " Typhoid fever 1 —- 66 ===
In addition, one German prisoner died of pneumonia. As regards deaths from dysentery, most of the prisoners attacked by the disease came from the Hedjaz, and were in a seriously weak and exhausted condition.
Turkish prisoners are prepared for burial in the manner prescribed by their religion. They are buried in a Moslem cemetery. British soldiers from the garrison pay them the last honours, and the prisoners are represented at the cemetery.
3. Maadi Camp.
(Visited on January 3, 1917.)
The chief camp at Maadi is 9-1/3 miles south of Cairo, on the right bank of the Nile. All prisoners are taken to it after capture, and thence distributed among the other camps in Egypt.
Strength.—Five thousand five hundred and fifty-six Turkish non-commissioned officers and men, including 1,200 men recently captured at El Arish in the Sinai peninsula.
No officers are interned in this camp. Three imaums (priests) were not classed with the officers, as they had served as privates.
The prisoners include—besides Turks—Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Jews from Palestine and Mesopotamia, and some Senoussi. Only a small number have been captives ever since the beginning of the war; a large proportion come from Gallipoli. We found among the prisoners a boy 8 years old, named Abd-el-Mohsen, who lives in camp with his father.
The camp is divided into 41 sections and 4 quarters. The last are divided off from one another by barbed wire fences.
Accommodation.—The quarters of the Turkish prisoners in Maadi Camp include: (1) Old buildings originally erected as a school of music and subsequently used as a factory; (2) barracks built recently for prisoners of war.
The first consist chiefly of a huge hall 252 feet long and 49 feet wide, with many large openings in the walls. The roof, of match-boarding, is 33 feet above the floor. Standpipes are fixed all along the hall. There are, in addition, some out-buildings used by the management and as stores.
In the other camp sections new barracks, measuring as a rule 100 by 39 feet, were erected by a building firm. Walls and roof are of wood and thatch; the floor is hard-beaten earth. All camp quarters are well open to the air, so that proper ventilation presents no difficulties.
Sleeping Accommodation.—Lengthwise of all the quarters run platforms of beaten earth, 6-1/2 feet wide, and 9 inches above the floor. On these are placed the woven rush mats which serve for beds. Each prisoner has 3 blankets. During the season when the temperature falls appreciably at night extra blankets are served out. All bedding is cleaned and disinfected at regular intervals. Shelves whereon the prisoners can keep their belongings are fixed between the rows of beds.
Food.—The food of the prisoners of war is according to the scale already given. Kitchens are provided in each section and staffed by the prisoners themselves. We tasted the soup and meat stew, and found them of good quality and very appetising. The prisoners receive baladi or native bread, which resembles their usual food and is supplied by Cairo bakeries. We questioned many of the men, who assured us that they were satisfied with the food. The only complaint noted by us was that of a man who thought that he got rice too often. A small canteen supplies black coffee, sweetened, at a farthing per cup. It is run as a private concern under the supervision of the authorities. Tobacco is distributed every Thursday on the scale mentioned previously.
Clothing.—Soon after their arrival in camp the prisoners were taken to a large courtyard, in which they stripped off all their clothes and foot-gear. As a health precaution all this stuff was scrapped and destroyed. After being disinfected, the men received a complete new outfit consisting of two pairs of drawers and two flannel shirts, a cholera belt, socks, a pair of trousers and a dark blue cloth tunic with linen lining and uniform buttons, and a red fez. Leather slippers for privates and shoes for sergeants and corporals complete the outfit, the smartness of which leaves nothing to be desired. Although on the day of our visit the thermometer stood at about 53 deg.F. many of the men were also wearing their thick cloth overcoats. Every prisoner has fastened in his tunic a small metal plate bearing his registration number. Non-commissioned officers are distinguished by a white linen armlet, crossed by a blue band for corporals, and by a red band for sergeants. The sergeant-major wears a red armlet.
Hygiene.—The drinking-water used in camp is drawn by two steam pumps from a well sunk to a great depth close to the Nile. The Nile water, after passing through a kind of natural filter, is thus lifted into a reservoir above the camp, and is distributed in all directions by gravity. The bacteriological analysis made every week when the supply was first opened—now once a month—showed the water to be perfectly pure.
Water for washing purposes is plentiful. Hot and cold shower-baths are installed throughout the camp. The prisoners are obliged to use them once a week, but may, if they choose, have a bath four times a day. In summer especially the baths are never idle.
Prisoners get plenty of soap and wash their own linen on wooden tables arranged under water taps.
Two high-pressure steam disinfecting chambers serve the camp, and once a week all blankets are passed through them. The camp contains no fleas, lice, or bugs.
The day latrines are 100 yards from the living quarters. They are of the Turkish kind, with movable tubs—1 tub for every 10 men. Every tub contains some cresol solution. The night-soil is removed daily by the Cairo road authorities and converted into manure. Some latrines close to the barracks are kept for night use and are locked up during the day.
Medical Attention.—The medical service of Maadi Camp is in the hands of head-doctor Captain Scrimgeour, who in time of peace practised in Nazareth. He is assisted by an English doctor-adjutant, and 4 Arab doctors, natives of Syria. All these doctors speak Turkish and Arabic. Nine English orderlies and 12 Turkish orderlies carry out the sick duties. A dentist comes to camp when required.
The infirmary included three well-appointed quarters built in masonry, and able to hold 40 patients.
The infirmary bedding accommodation consists of iron bedsteads with spring mattress and stuffed mattress. The blankets are warm and unlimited in number.
Illness.—Every morning 300-400 prisoners come on sick parade. This number represents about 8 per cent. of the strength. Although these men often come to be treated for trifling ailments, such as slight constipation, or even a small boil, the doctors make it a rule not to prevent anyone going sick, as this course enables them to keep the closer watch upon the health of the camp.
On the occasion of our visit there were in the infirmary 7 men laid up: 1 with itch, 1 with diarrhoea, 1 with neuralgia, 1 with an abscess in the neck, 1 with articular rheumatism, and 1 with gastritis. A prisoner who had been trepanned by the doctors on account of damage done to his skull before his capture, was gradually recovering the power of motion and his normal sensibility.
Since the camp was opened there have been 35 cases of tertian ague, all from the Hedjaz, Mecca, Taif and Jeddah; but no case of aggravated malaria. Eleven cases of tuberculosis were sent into the Egyptian Red Cross hospitals and to that at Abbassiah. Six cases of trachoma are now undergoing treatment with applications of protargol. In summer there have been a few cases of ordinary diarrhoea. The camp has not suffered from dysentery, typhoid, typhus, nor any other epidemic disease.
All prisoners are inoculated against smallpox, typhoid and cholera.
The Severely Wounded and those who have lost Limbs.—A special quarter of the camp contains 55 men who have lost limbs in the war. They are provided with the most perfect prothesis apparatus, jointed artificial limbs. Among them are 2 blind men. Sixty other wounded who have escaped more lightly suffer from stiffness of the joints, ankylosis and atrophy. They are well provided with sticks and crutches.
Deaths.—Two aged prisoners have died in the camp, both from apoplexy. They were interred with military honours in the Moslem burial-ground nearest to the camp.
Exercise.—No limit is placed upon the time during which exercise may be taken in the open space round the barracks.
Work.—The prisoners have not to do work. Several attempts have been made to teach them boot-making, but their results were so unpromising that they were given up. Although there are many agriculturists among the prisoners, it would not do to use them for work on the land along with the natives, owing to the ease with which they could escape and the need for having many soldiers to guard them. However, for some weeks past the camp commandant has made trial of using some prisoners for market gardening on lands beside the Nile, just outside the camp.
Discipline.—Under the head of discipline there are hardly any complaints to make, and punishment has rarely had to be inflicted. One case of escape was punished with three months' imprisonment without any alteration in diet. Only tobacco was cut off. An old offender was brought before a court-martial, and sentenced by it to six months' imprisonment. The prison quarters are cells built entirely of cement, with two barred windows well above the ground to light the chamber, which is of ample size.
Right to Make Complaints.—The camp commandant makes a general inspection every day. Every prisoner has the right to step forward and make his complaints. The commandant converses with the prisoners through the medium of several British officers who speak Arabic and Turkish. Moreover, the prisoners have the right of appeal to the Commander-in-Chief and to Brig.-General Casson, who often make tours of inspection through the camps.
Religion.—The prisoners have every opportunity for practising their religious observances. For the Mahometans a small mosque has been built, round which they spread their praying carpets. Some of them read the Koran regularly; others seem indifferent. Despite differences of race, origin, and even of religion, good-feeling prevails among the prisoners and quarrels are very few in number.
Games and Recreations.—As regards games and recreations, the prisoners are interested only in wrestling, cards and dominoes. They have been introduced to football without success. Some have shown great skill in the manufacture of mandolines, guitars, and tambourines. All materials as well as games are provided gratis by the British Government. The camp commandant has bought the men some gramophones. Many prisoners make articles of coloured beads—handbags, purses, necklaces, bracelets, etc.—which show considerable artistic taste. We bought one of these beautiful pieces of work as a specimen. The articles sell readily in the curiosity shops at Cairo. One section of 1,200 prisoners netted from the sales a sum of 2,500 francs in a fortnight.
Correspondence.—Most of the prisoners receive very few letters or none. They are allowed to write in their language once a fortnight, but take very little advantage of the permission. It seems that many letters addressed to their families in Turkey come back again, as the addressee has not been found. Some Turks captured near Bagdad and transported to Burmah received their money from home, but have not received any more during the one or two months that have elapsed since they were transferred to Maadi. It is probable that the money was sent home again, or forwarded officially to the new place of internment, and this takes a long time. Several prisoners have taken advantage of their captivity to learn reading and writing with their comrades' assistance. Many men had money on them when they were taken. This money is lodged, and handed to them at demand in monthly payments. Many soldiers have received money orders from their families through the International Committee of the Red Cross. Parcels, which are seldom received, are opened in the presence of the addressee. Only knives are confiscated.
Help for Prisoners.—Leaving out of consideration the wish expressed by some men to have a little money for buying extra tobacco and coffee, we are satisfied that there are no needy persons in the camp at Maadi.
Mentality.—The many questions which we have asked show that there is no dissatisfaction among the prisoners with regard to the treatment they receive. Prisoners have mentioned to us chiefly their anxiety about their families, of whom they have no news. The Armenian clergy at Cairo look after their fellow-countrymen.
4. The Egyptian Red Cross Hospital at Cairo.
(Visited on January 4, 1917.)
The Egyptian Red Cross, under the presidency of His Highness Prince Fuad Pasha, being anxious to help its co-religionists, founded in March, 1915, a hospital for sick and wounded prisoners of war. This hospital is under the sole management of the Turkish Red Cross, which is in touch with the British authorities through Dr. Keatinge, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo.
Sanitary Staff.—All the hospital doctors are Egyptian. In addition to the doctor-in-chief, Dr. Abbas Bey Helmey, two doctors, three surgeons, and one druggist live in the hospital.
Consulting doctors come from the town when sent for to treat nose, ear and eye troubles. A Cairo specialist also places his X-ray apparatus at the service of the hospital patients. The matron is an American, and has three English nurses under her.
Thirty-two orderlies do the ward work.
Accommodation.—The Egyptian Red Cross Hospital is installed in an old palace of Omar-Pasha Lufti, situated in a large garden, which is very shady and well kept. The dimensions of the wards assure easy circulation of air and perfect ventilation. As the building was not designed to serve its present purpose, the various staffs are somewhat scattered, but this difficulty has been got over in a most practical manner. A huge corridor gives communication between the wards, which are usually 23 feet square and 26 feet high. The large wards considerably exceed these measurements, and their tasteful decoration gives them a characteristic style. On the first floor, the rooms for the consumptive patients measure 16 by 16 by 13 feet—a very good cubical allowance for the four beds in each. The floor is of large flag-stones. Most of the rooms command the garden and a courtyard planted with trees. The building occupied by the guard is quite separate from the hospital. Electricity is used throughout the buildings.
Bedding.—The iron bedsteads, painted with white ripolin, are separated from one another by pedestal tables. The spring mattress, stuffed mattress, sheets and pillows are in very sound condition. There is no limit set to the number of blankets allowed. The beds are covered with pretty blue and white quilts, with the Red Cross in the middle. This quite recent innovation has a very pretty effect.
Food.—The commissariat is arranged by contract with a head cook. The menus are drawn up by the doctors according to the diet prescribed. We tasted the day's food and found it excellent. All provisions examined by us were of good quality and carefully overlooked. The kitchen, with its well-fitted ranges and polished utensils, struck us favourably. The cooking and attendance is done by persons engaged by the chef.
Each man is provided with two bowls of tinned copper and a drinking cup. All invalids get sweetened tea twice a day. Officers may choose tea or coffee. The following is the hospital dietary:
FOR OFFICERS. Breakfast: European bread; fresh milk; 3 eggs; tea; coffee. Lunch: Mutton; two dishes of vegetables, or macaroni rice; salad; rice pudding; coffee; fruit. Dinner: The same as lunch, but without fruit.
ORDINARY DIET. Breakfast: Arab bread; sweetened fresh milk. Lunch: Arab bread; beef; rice, vegetables. Dinner: Arab bread; rice soup; rice pudding.
MILK DIET. Breakfast: Bread, 350 grm.; sweetened milk. Lunch: Arab bread; soup; beef-tea; rice pudding. Dinner: Bread, 350 grm.; sweetened milk.
FEVER DIET. Breakfast: Milk, 400 grm., without sugar. Lunch: 400 grm. of milk without sugar. Dinner: 400 grm. of milk without sugar.
On Sunday and Thursday mutton is replaced by game. On the same two days a course of sweetened rice and macaroni is substituted for fruit. The ration of Arab bread is 780 grammes for ordinary diet; that of European bread 450 grammes. The proportion of other articles is equally liberal.
Clothing.—The sick men's garments are consigned to a storehouse, and are replaced by 2 nightshirts, a hospital jacket with a hood, and a pair of slippers.
Hygiene.—Drinking water is drawn from the town main and filtered before use. There is an ample installation of lavatories with running water, baths with hot and cold douches, and Turkish baths. Turkish latrines have been fitted in the annexes of the palace. Natives do the laundry work and ironing.
Special Quarters.—The Red Cross Hospital is provided with a spacious, well-lighted theatre for operations, and all the necessary apparatus. In a neighbouring ward a powerful fumigating stove, built by natives after a French model, enables instruments and dressings to be completely sterilised. Since the introduction of this perfected method of sterilisation cases of infection and erysipelas have entirely disappeared from the hospital, and post-operation mortality has been reduced to barely one quarter per cent.
There is a laboratory devoted to summary analyses; more complete chemical or bacteriological analyses are carried out in the town institution. The dispensary is well supplied, containing all the most modern medicaments.
Six wards are reserved for tuberculous cases, who have their own special nurses. Such consumptives as are not confined to bed pass most of the day in one of the palace gardens which is assigned to them.
One ward is occupied by wounded officers; another by the non-commissioned officers. Two more wards are set apart for patients suffering from dysentery. Operation cases are assembled in a special chamber adjoining the theatre. Three comfortable English hospital tents erected in the garden serve as accommodation for convalescents who have to vacate their beds in the palace when an unexpected influx of sick or wounded prisoners takes place. All the wards are clean and well kept; at the head of each bed is a medical chart detailing the illness and the temperature.
Sickness.—Since March 17, 1915, the date of its foundation, up to the day of our visit, the Egyptian Red Cross Hospital has treated 2,245 wounded or sick prisoners.
There are at the present time 149 prisoners under treatment, 8 Ottoman officers and 141 soldiers, distributed as follows:
Surgical cases (wounds): 66; among them 13 invalids and 6 who have undergone amputation and have been detained a long time in the hospital.
Internal ailments: 38; we may mention among the most serious cases of this kind noticed by us, 4 suffering from bilious haemoglobinurea, all from Bagdad; 6 from dysentery, anaemic and enfeebled patients; 4 from chronic nephritis.
Eye affections: 25.
Which make up the total of 149 cases.
Among the officers under treatment we may mention: 1 wounded right knee, 1 scalp wound, 1 compound fracture of the thigh, 1 neck wound, 1 bullet wound in the chest, 1 bullet wound in the face, all recent cases coming from El Arish.
Number Number Cause of Death. of Deaths of Deaths in 1915. in 1916. Surgical cases 30 17 Pleurisy 2 5 Dysentery 8 19 Typhoid 1 1 Pericarditis 1 2 Pneumonia 3 11 Pulmonary tuberculosis — 26 Intestinal tuberculosis — 21 Nephritis — 5 Gangrene — 1 Hepatitis — 1 Pernicious anaemia — 1 —- —- Total 45 110 === ===
The dead were buried in the Musulman cemetery with military honours, such comrades as were well enough attending the ceremony.
5. The Cairo Citadel Camp.
(Visited on January 3, 1917.)
This camp occupies the curious Jewel-Palace, one of the monuments of the citadel, and contains only women and children coming from Hedjaz, who were captured near Mecca.
The dates of arrival are as follows:
Women and Children. 1st convoy of 123 September 11, 1916 2nd " " 66 October 16, 1916 3rd " " 26 " 28, 1916 4th " " 82 November 7, 1916 5th " " 132 " 29, 1916
Numbers.—The total includes 229 women and 207 children (7 of whom were born in camp), and a further batch of 200 women is expected shortly.
The Head Matron is Miss Lewis. It is she who has the management and full control of this camp, which, by its character and its diversity of nationalities, classes and religions, demands great patience, tact and kindness—qualities possessed in the highest degree by Miss Lewis. She devotes herself entirely, and most capably, to this often very ungrateful task, and we welcome this chance of conveying to her the expression of our appreciation.
Those interned are divided into three classes. The first class consists of officers' wives and children; the second class, of those of the non-commissioned officers; and the third class, of soldiers' wives and servants. This classification has been adopted in order that the dormitories shall be occupied by persons of as nearly as possible the same social standing.
Accommodation.—The important group of buildings known as Saleh-el-din (Saladin) comprises a great number of rooms whose size and curious ornateness contrast strangely with their present use as a concentration camp for civilian prisoners. From the windows of these apartments one looks across the panorama of Cairo, with its mosques, its minarets and the misty background of the desert.
The 40 inhabited rooms are allotted in three sections, corresponding to the social classification established for the interned women.
The rooms and corridors are paved throughout with marble, but the general distribution of mats and even beautiful carpets gives an impression of comfort. The large dimensions of the chambers, as compared with the smallness of the number of occupants, give plenty of room for exercise and work. Corridors and vestibules connect the different buildings. They are lighted with paraffin lamps.
An extensive garden is always at the prisoners' disposal.
Bedding.—The japanned iron bedsteads are furnished with spring and stuffed mattresses, sheets, blankets, and pillows. In their arrangement one notices the influence of personal taste. Embroidered coverlets, hangings and upholstery give to some of the apartments an aspect of comfort and even of elegance. The military administration supplies all the furniture and the regulation bedding, to which the inmates may add what they like at their own expense.
Dress.—The English authorities supply women and children with all their linen and other clothing.
Food.—Provisioning is a private enterprise, carried out under a contract. The food is the same for all classes, and is unlimited in quantity. The women are given as much as they desire of each dish. No complaint was made concerning the food, which is wholesome and palatable. We visited the kitchen and sampled the day's menu. Milk in large quantities is provided for the children. The meals are served in three well-appointed dining-rooms.
The hours for meals are: Breakfast, from 7.30 to 8.30. Lunch, from 12.30 to 1.80. Supper, from 5.30 to 6.80.
Hygiene.—Water is supplied from the town mains. Lavatories are installed in the corridors near the dormitories. The inmates may have hot and cold baths every day. As to laundry work, those of the first class can have it done by their own servants or pay the third-class women to do it.
The W.C.'s consist of movable tubs on the Turkish system, each containing a solution of cresol. They are emptied daily by contract into the citadel cesspool, which communicates with the main sewer of Cairo.
Medical Care and Illnesses.—The Head Physician, Captain Scrimgeour, comes to the camp every day; a Greek doctor also visits it four times a week at 9 o'clock in the morning. These two doctors both speak Turkish and Arabic fluently. Three trained nurses and an English midwife take charge of the infirmary. As Moslems usually have very good teeth, the services of a dentist are not often needed.
The infirmary is very commodious. It consists of a consulting-room, with a couch for examinations; a surgery, and a sick ward.
In the infirmary register the name, the disease, the treatment and the course of the illness are all duly noted.
When the internment camp was opened a hundred prisoners applied for treatment daily; many had suffered great privations previous to their capture. At the present time only 5 or 10 patients take advantage of the doctor's visit; and these are mild cases, chiefly bronchitis, constipation, diarrhoea, and eye affections among women and children, and some cases of heart affections and chronic bronchitis among the old people.
There is neither malaria, dysentery nor typhus in the camp, and no epidemic malady. An early case of tuberculosis, without Koch's bacillus in the sputa, was cured.
On the day of our visit to the infirmary we found 5 patients in bed or crouched in the oriental manner upon their bedsteads; 1 suffering from senile paralysis, 2 from bronchitis, 1 from inflammation of the ears, and 1 from general debility.
Maternity.—Confinements not being uncommon, it was necessary to establish a maternity ward. There were 5 births during the last three months of 1915. Two more occurred upon the day we inspected the camp, mothers and infants doing well.
Deaths.—Up to that time there had only been one death at the Citadel Camp, that of a baby prematurely born, which died from debility at the age of 18 days.
Education.—A school has been started in the camp, and all boys as well as girls up to 12 years old are obliged to attend it. A mistress teaches them Turkish and Arabic, and also gives them half an hour's instruction in English daily.
Religious Services.—The imaum came once to hold a Mahometan service, but the interned women expressed no desire that he should repeat his visit. However, an old woman, chosen from among them, reads the Koran aloud upon feast days.
Intellectual Diversions.—The women seem to have no needs or desires on this score. They pass their days in talking and smoking.
The camp has been presented with a gramophone.
Work.—This is absolutely voluntary. The head nurse has organised a little dressmaking class, the wife of a former president, Sir B. McMahon, having given her L10 with which to buy the necessary materials. The results will be divided equally among those who did the work, but as most of the women have plenty of money they are not energetic over it.
Money.—Many of those interned had money on them, sometimes a large amount, when captured; the whole of which has been left in their hands. They often send money through the agency of British officers to their husbands who are prisoners in Maadi Camp, or at Sidi Bishr, near Alexandria. Others, on the contrary, receive allowances from their husbands. Some money orders have also come through the International Red Cross Committee.
Correspondence.—Each person interned has the chance of writing once a week; those who do not know how to write get help from their companions. An interpreter is attached to the camp. Many letters arrive through the medium of the International Red Cross Committee, but the exchange of correspondence is not generally very active.
Wishes of the Interned.—Some of the women express a wish to see their husbands more often, at least once a month; others wish to see their sons or brothers who are prisoners at Maadi or at Sidi Bishr. This being a legitimate and comprehensible desire, the English Government has several times already allowed the husbands to come from these camps (4 hours distant by train) to spend three or four days with their wives in the Citadel. A part of the building containing 12 rooms has been reserved for these visits. But it would clearly be impossible to permit these indulgences often, as they entail considerable expense, and require much organisation and surveillance.
Repatriation.—Some of the women beg to be sent back to Turkey, which the British Government has already offered to do. Many, on the other hand, prefer to remain in Cairo. The American charge d'affaires in Egypt, M. Knabenschuh, is considering this question. He has visited the camp several times, and has transmitted different propositions of the English Government to the Sublime Porte. The first offer was to repatriate the interned women and children by means of an American vessel, which would land them at the port of Mersina in Asia Minor. The second was to take them back to Turkey in an English hospital ship, which should at the same time carry medical supplies, food and clothing to the English prisoners in Asia Minor, and bring away about 25 English ladies who had been made prisoners in Mesopotamia. Finally, the English Government offered to repatriate the Turkish women without any reciprocity conditions. Unhappily, up to now all these proposals have borne no fruit. The English Government sincerely desires to be freed from the maintenance and surveillance of these people, whom it took under its care merely for reasons of humanity.
Special Inquiry at the Citadel Camp.—During our visit to the Maadi Camp, Dr. Suleiman Bey, head physician at Taif, a town of the Hedjaz, told us that he had personally nothing to complain of in the camp treatment, but that his wife and children, interned in the Cairo Citadel, were suffering greatly from the conditions there. What he especially criticised was the diet and the medical attendance. These complaints, made in much detail, seemed to us to deserve a specific inquiry, and we went again to the Citadel next day. We closely cross-questioned Mme. S. and another of the ladies. Her replies, collected and confronted with the official data, our personal observations, and the testimony of the other interned, absolutely convinced us that Dr. Suleiman's accusations had no real foundation. Mme. S. assured us that meat was only provided three times weekly. We have proof that meat is served six times each week, a quarter of an English pound being supplied to each person. After telling us that the cheese and olives were of the worst quality, she finished by owning that she only found the cheese too salt and the olives monotonous. Mme. S., who purchased coffee, biscuits, fruit and bonbons at the canteen, would not touch ordinary bread because it was not good enough for her. This bread, which is provided by the best bakery in Cairo, is served fresh twice a day to whoever desires it. Mme. S. has enough money to buy any food that she wishes, either from the canteen or by ordering it in from the town. Her companions, less rich and less dainty, find the food provided by the camp kitchen both excellent and abundant.
As Dr. Suleiman Bey complained that his two sick children, interned at the Citadel with their mother, received no medical care, they were examined by Dr. Blanchod. The one suffered on its arrival in camp from ophthalmia, now completely cured, no trace of photophobia remains, no redness nor oedema; the other had its sub-maxillary glands enlarged; these glands are now reduced and nothing to worry about.
These two children have received constant care from (Dr.) Captain Scrimgeour, their names are repeatedly entered in the infirmary register, and their mother herself expressed gratitude for the care which had been lavished upon them.
Dr. Suleiman Bey's complaints upon this point therefore proved equally inexact.
6. The Ras-el-Tin Camp.
(Visited January 5, 1917.)
This camp of interned civilians is situated on a rising ground beside the sea, 5 kilometres (3 miles) from Alexandria.
The camp contains 45 Ottoman civilians of military age, and 24 others; the latter are all elderly men, or have been exempted from military service owing to illness. There is one priest (imaum). We also found 400 Austro-Germans interned at Ras-el-Tin; many of them had been in Egypt when war was declared and could not get home.
Though our mission was to visit the Turkish prisoners, we made a point of concerning ourselves equally with the Austrians and Germans, and of entering into conversation with them.
Several Ottoman prisoners in the camp were making the pilgrimage to Mecca when they were captured by the Sherif's troops and passed over to the English authorities, who interned them. The camp at Ras-el-Tin was to be evacuated in a few days' time, and all the occupants were to be transferred to Sidi Bishr Camp, now prepared to accommodate 5,000 men. In this camp there will be a special section for civilians.
The commandant of Ras-el-Tin is Major F.G. Owens, who takes the greatest interest in his prisoners. Every day he personally receives anyone who has a wish or a complaint to bring forward.
The camp was visited in 1916 by the American Consul from Alexandria, and also by the American charge d'affaires from Athens.
Accommodation.—The civilians interned in the camp of Ras-el-Tin are placed in tents. These circular tents, set up either on the sand or on a cement base, each contain three men. Those of the Ottoman prisoners form one sectional group of 24 tents. In the centre of each tent is a wire-work cupboard to contain personal belongings. The space inside the tent is ample for the three beds. Some prisoners are provided with matting and small rugs.
In the stone buildings surrounding the court a certain number of rooms are reserved which open upon a veranda. Each contains three beds. These comfortably fitted-up chambers are assigned to elderly prisoners or to those in weak health. The rest of the camp buildings are occupied by the administrative quarters, the kitchens, refectories, canteens, etc. The English guard is lodged under canvas in a special section. The camp is lighted by electricity.
Bedding.—The bedsteads are iron provided with a wire-spring mattress, a squab of vegetable fibre and a sufficient number of blankets. All the bedding is kept scrupulously clean.
Food.—The commissariat is supplied by a private contractor. A committee presided over by the camp commandant, and composed of delegates from among the prisoners, arrange the menus for each week. The kitchen is very clean, and the prisoners do not provide the personnel.
Here is the menu for Friday, January 5, 1917, the day of our visit: Breakfast: Porridge; milk; chocolate; butter; bread. Lunch: Haricot soup; ragout of beef and potatoes. Dinner: Rice soup; hashed meat (moussaka), with vegetables; eggs; tea.
The prisoners' menu is extended on Thursdays and Sundays by an extra dish and cake of some sort. We examined the day's provision in the kitchen, and found it wholesome and appetising. When pork is included in the menu, which happens rarely, this item is replaced, in the case of the Turkish prisoners, by a dish of eggs and vegetables.
A second kitchen staff, installed in a separate room, prepares a special menu which the prisoners can have by paying for it. The commandant himself authorised the reservation of this kitchen to provide for such prisoners as possess ample means.
Here is the extra menu for January 5, 1917: Lunch: Italian dumplings; roast veal; salad and gherkins. Dinner: Soup "parmentier"; fish croquettes; braised beef with cabbage.
The meals are served at: Breakfast, half-past seven. Lunch, one o'clock. Dinner, half-past five.
Three canteens furnish all kinds of commodities to the prisoners—ham, sausages, preserves, cakes, chocolate, fruits, wine, beer, etc. The prices are exactly the same as in the English army canteens. A shop, run by a Bulgarian merchant, is permitted for the sale of tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. Besides this there is a Viennese who makes cigarettes in the camp itself. On Christmas Day the commandant made a generous distribution of cigarettes to all the interned men at his own expense. They can also obtain at the bar tea, coffee and other drinks. In point of fact, we made sure that the camp administration has organised the commissariat in a manner that meets all needs.
Clothing.—The men arrived in camp in their own clothes. When these began to wear out the administration furnished a new outfit, which consists of two flannel shirts, two knitted pairs of drawers, a vest and trousers of blue cloth, an overcoat, a police hat or a fez for the Turks, socks and slippers. The Mahometans receive Turkish slippers. All prisoners have a red scarf and two handkerchiefs. A well-found shop sells under-clothing at moderate prices, and articles of outfit, scent, post-cards and watches.
Hygiene.—Drinking water, abundant and wholesome, is brought from the mains of the town of Alexandria. Besides the toilet lavatories, there are 4 bathrooms supplied with hot water and cold douches always available. The prisoners go in parties to bathe in the sea near the camp, under guard of British soldiers.
The prisoners do their own washing, numerous wash-houses being provided for the purpose.
The latrines are partly on the English and partly on the Turkish system, 1 to every 10 men, cleanly kept. They are disinfected daily. The floor and the lower part of the chambers are treated with cresol; the upper part is whitewashed. The sewers discharge into the sea. The sweepings are burnt in a special stove.
Medical Attention.—The sanitary condition of the camp is inspected at regular intervals by the Colonel, medical director of Hospital No. 21, Alexandria. Captain (Dr.) Dunne is resident in the camp; he pays a medical visit each day at 9 o'clock. Eight to ten prisoners out of the total in camp may present themselves for treatment, among them 1 or 2 Ottomans.
An interned Turkish civilian, Abrahim Assan, by calling an employee in a Constantinople factory, who speaks French and English perfectly, serves as orderly-interpreter.
An English Red Cross orderly assists the doctor. An Austrian dentist, formerly in business at Cairo, gives dental attention to the prisoners; he has a complete outfit of instruments.
The infirmary is well housed in a stone building. It contains a consulting-room, supplied with a full-flushed lavatory basin; a sick ward with 6 iron beds, mattress and coverings ad libitum; an isolation ward, and a dispensary.
Only slight cases are treated at the infirmary; serious cases are removed to Hospital No. 21 at Alexandria, situated within 10 minutes of the camp, a large modern hospital overlooking the sea.
On the day of our inspection there were in the infirmary 1 prisoner ill with bronchitis; at the hospital 1 tuberculous case and 1 with a wounded elbow.
The sanitary state of the camp has always been excellent. Apart from two relapse cases of dysentery in 1916, there has been neither trachoma, typhoid, typhus, malaria, nor any other infectious disease. This is explained by the fact that the interned civilians were not in bad health before their captivity, as was the case with soldiers who had sojourned in the desert, whom we saw in the other Egyptian camps.
There had been no deaths in the camp or at the hospital in Alexandria. The orderly, Abrahim Hassan, told us of his own accord that the sick receive the most assiduous attention, and have nothing but praise for the resident physician.
Religion and Amusements.—The prisoners offer their prayers daily. A mosque will be built for them in the new camp at Sidi Bishr.
Catholics are looked after by several Austrian priests, who used to manage Catholic schools in Upper Egypt.
For the Germans and Austrians there is a good circulating library, containing English, French and German books.
The prisoners have formed an orchestra, and organised theatrical performances, for which they have painted pretty scenery.
There is a cinematograph performance every evening. There are a piano and harmonium. A photographer, who had an establishment in Cairo before the war, practises his art in the camp.
Discipline.—The very occasional cases of infraction of rules which entail one or more days' detention in the police cells, have a special diet prescribed for them. The military authorities find the general conduct of the civilians quite satisfactory.
Exercise and Sports.—The prisoners have at their own disposal that part of the grounds lying between the tents and the barracks, a broad space where they can amuse themselves all day long with football and other games.
They have also a tennis-court, of which the Austro-Germans make more use than the Orientals; a committee of the prisoners arrange the hours for each set of players. Skittles are very popular. Fencing is eagerly learned; the English officer who teaches it being delighted with his pupils' progress. Lessons in gymnastics, like those in other sports, are optional.
Periodically a gymkhana is got up, with donkey races, gymnastic competitions, and the distribution of prizes.
Work.—No work is demanded from the prisoners.
Correspondence, Money Orders and Parcels.—Very few money orders are received. The interned Turks are chiefly illiterate; those whose wives are interned at Cairo, and who are allowed to occasionally visit them, seldom write, as they know them to be well treated. Parcels are seldom sent to the camp, and hitherto no philanthropic society has busied itself over the necessitous.
Prisoners' Aid.—The only plea which has been addressed to us by means of the Ottoman interpreter, who speaks French and English extremely well, comes from a certain number of destitute prisoners. They wish to have, in addition to the complete outfit with woollen overcoat supplied by the English Government, a change of warm garments, which they have not the means to buy. Many find it difficult to wear the kind of foot-gear in ordinary use—the heelless leather Turkish slippers—and wish for laced shoes such as they wear at home. We asked the interpreter to make out a list of names of the needy; and after submitting it to the commandant of the camps for verification, we decided to send him from the Ottoman Red Cross Fund the sum of 2,000 francs, to provide these prisoners with the extra garments which they require, and with shoes and tobacco.
7. Sidi Bishr Camp.
(Visited on January 6, 1917.)
The camp of Sidi Bishr is situated 15 kilometres (9-1/2 miles) to the north-east of Alexandria in a healthy spot on the sea shore, where the sand dunes form little hillocks intersected by miniature valleys. Palms are scattered over it, and it lies open to the fresh breezes. The view from the highest points of the camp is very extensive. A recently constructed road for vehicular traffic leads into the camp, all the appointments of which give the impression that everything has been done to make the prisoners as comfortable as possible. A kitchen garden has just been laid out in a sheltered place, and a flat piece of ground surrounded by palm trees prepared for games, tennis, football, etc.
Strength.—The camp at Sidi Bishr contains 430 officers, 60 of whom have been here since February, 1915; 410 orderlies captured with their officers, on whom they attend, each officer having 1 orderly; 10 imaums (priests); 20 civilians, who were captured by the Sherif of Mecca and at once handed over to the English.
The commandant of the camp is Lieut.-Colonel Coates.
The American charge d'affaires in Egypt has twice visited the camp.
Accommodation.—The equipment of the camp at Sidi Bishr not having been entirely completed before our visit we found some of the buildings still in course of erection. But the officers' quarters were ready, and lacked nothing except some furniture, which was daily expected. The barracks, 25 metres (81 feet) long and 8 metres (20 feet) wide, consisted of a solid wooden framework, with partitions either of timber or cement, constructed in the camp by native workmen. A corridor about 1 metre 75 (6 feet) wide runs all along the front of the building, and gives access to the chambers. These measure about 3 metres 50 (14 feet) by 4 metres (17 feet), and 4 metres (17 feet) from the wooden floor to the ceiling. All the interior walls are lime-washed. Each room has two windows, glazed and also covered with wire gauze to exclude insects, and a latched door. Chimneys rise above the roof, which is of timber covered with tarred felt.
According to regulation, the number of occupants of each chamber depends upon their grade. Officers up to the rank of captain are quartered four in each dormitory; captains three, and colonels two. (Some superior officers have each a separate chamber.) The orderlies are housed elsewhere. All the buildings are lighted by electricity, generated by a local plant.
Bedding.—The iron beds have wire springs, mattresses stuffed with vegetable fibre, pillows, and sufficiency of blankets, to which many officers like to add curtains and coverlets. The rest of the furniture is adequate, and easy-chairs are general.
Food.—The officers' mess is run by a contractor. One of the officers, appointed by his comrades, is entrusted with arranging the menus and seeing them properly carried out. No limit is fixed to the choice and quantity of food. The cost must not exceed 10 piastres (about 2s.) daily, including tea, coffee, sugar, preserves, etc. The officers can get any extras which they desire either from the canteen or from the town, except alcoholic drinks, which are forbidden. The meat is previously inspected by the veterinary of the sanitary department. The bread is particularly good. Officers are given European bread, orderlies native bread. We tasted the day's menu ourselves. No complaints with regard to food reached us. The Turkish officers take their meals in two dining-rooms, each of which seats 150. The tables are covered with cloths; the china and plate are suitable.
The orderlies' fare is wholesome and sufficient.
Dress.—The Turkish officers are warmly and suitably clad. They can procure for themselves all kinds of toilet articles and other equipment. Most of them wear civilian costume with a fez. An Alexandria tradesman comes to the camp to take their orders.
When inspecting the orderlies we heard some of them complain of a lack of linen, especially of drawers. Surprised by this, we made an immediate inquiry, which produced the following results: the orderlies all received their regulation supply of linen, and signed a receipt in the register. A certain number of them subsequently sold the articles to their officers; these are the men who now complain of a deficiency of linen.
Hygiene.—Abundant and wholesome drinking water is laid on from the town system. The toilet supply comes to cement basins provided with many taps. The water from the lavatories and kitchens empties itself into a lake at some distance from the camp.
In the morning the officers use the baths or douches fitted up close to the barracks, and separated from each other by woven grass partitions.
The officers' linen is washed by their orderlies in very convenient wash-houses built of wood and cement.
There are 44 Turkish W.C.'s, cemented, at a good distance from the quarters. They are arranged over cesspools 18 feet deep, disinfected every day with whitewash and cresol, and are quite odourless.
Medical Attention.—The health of the inmates of Sidi Bishr Camp is looked after by an English doctor, Captain Gillespie, assisted by an Armenian doctor, who practised at Aleppo in Turkey before the war.
These two doctors speak Arabic and Turkish.
An English corporal and 5 English hospital orderlies take care of the sick.
Twenty-one Egyptian orderlies do the sanitary work of the camp; serious cases are sent to the English hospital at Alexandria. A Turkish Surgeon-Major, Dr. Ibrahim, interned at the camp, is present at operations performed upon his Ottoman comrades in the hospital. He expressed himself as entirely satisfied with the care bestowed upon them.
The infirmary contains 12 iron bedsteads, with wool mattresses and blankets. The consulting room is well fitted up, the cupboards abundantly supplied with drugs. An isolation ward accommodates infectious cases in the incubation stage. Bathrooms reserved for the patients adjoin the infirmary, and there is a kitchen service for preparing special diet.
Officers troubled by their teeth are taken to a dentist in Alexandria.
The prisoners' garments and bedding are sterilised in a special apparatus.
All new arrivals pass 14 days in quarantine, in special quarters in one of the sections of the camp. They are permitted to join their comrades only when it is certain that they are free from any contagious malady. At present 36 officers and 34 orderlies are in quarantine.
Illnesses and Deaths-All officers imprisoned at Sidi Bishr having been vaccinated against smallpox, typhoid, and cholera, there are no epidemics in the camp. Three to five officers come forward each morning when the doctor makes his rounds. There are perhaps 6 light cases of malaria weekly, 3 to 5 cases of bacillic dysentery every month, treated with serum; 1 case of more serious dysentery was sent away to the English Hospital in Alexandria. In summer there are some mild cases of diarrhoea. There were 3 cases of trachoma among the officers' orderlies. Four tuberculous patients, coming from the Hedjaz, were conveyed to the hospital without any stay at the camp; two died after 20 and 30 days of treatment respectively. In the infirmary at Sidi Bishr are now:
1 officer with a foot wound, 1 suffering from pharyngitis, and one passing 1/2 per cent. of albumen.
Some of the Turkish officers were wounded in the war:
One whose thigh was amputated is provided with a fine artificial substitute; one who had both bones of the lower arm fractured, and was operated upon four times, is now well on the way to recovery.
One suffering from hemiplegia, owing to a fractured skull, is now able to move again and to walk with crutches. Another lame officer is affected by rupture of a main nerve in the leg.
Salik Sidki, judge of Mecca, entrusted us with a letter of thanks to the English authorities, in recognition of the care which he received at the hospital where he underwent a severe operation for a chronic affection of the pylorus.
Prisoners' Wishes.—Some officers complained of not being allowed to go to Alexandria to make their purchases; but in the circumstances such a request could not be gratified. On the other hand, a certain number of officers have obtained permission to go to Cairo and spend a few days with their wives interned in the Citadel; it is evident that this favour is only accorded in exceptional cases and cannot be made general. To extend it equally to sons, brothers and other relations, as some of the prisoners desire, is clearly impossible.
The officers were offered two hours' walk every morning outside the camp, in parties of 26, under the supervision of an unarmed soldier, on condition of their giving their parole not to escape. This they refused, declaring that a conditional proposal was no privilege. They can, however, stroll about freely inside the limits of the camp, which is very extensive.
We received several complaints concerning rain having recently found its way into the barracks. But the extreme rarity of such an occurrence makes it of no importance.
Pay.—Officers' pay is fixed by the War Office. That of lieutenants comes to 5 francs daily, that of captains to 5 francs 75, that of superior officers is proportionate to their rank.
The orderlies, being privates, are not paid. Some of them receive pay from their officers, others get nothing. Most of them have some money, but nevertheless we have decided to remit L20 to the camp commandant for the poorest soldiers' small needs.
Correspondence.—Prisoners may write as often as they like, but seldom take advantage of the privilege, and as a rule receive few letters, which take from 40 to 45 days in reaching them. Few money orders come to the camp.
Religion and Amusements.—The prisoners have every chance of worshipping according to their own creed. The imaums can use a building arranged as a mosque and lighted by electricity. There is one mosque inside the camp enclosure.
The camp contains 40 musical instruments; a piano has been hired for the officers.
The prisoners play football, tennis, cards and chess. Many amuse themselves with reading.
8. Bilbeis Camp.
(Visited on January 16, 1917.)
Bilbeis Camp is situated 65 kilometres (40-1/2 miles) to the north-east of Cairo, on the confines of the cultivated land of the Delta. Founded in the month of August, 1916, it now contains 540 prisoners grouped as follows:
First Division.—One hundred and thirty-five Bedouins from the East and the Sinai peninsula, and civilians coming from El Arish; 9 Arab soldiers of the Ottoman army; 5 Turkish soldiers from Syria; 30 Egyptians.
Second Division.—One hundred and seventy-five Senoussi and soldiers from Tripoli; 185 Bedouins from the West, and civilian prisoners of divers nationalities.
Among these prisoners are included several young boys who have relatives among the interned. The characteristic of this camp is the diversity of nationalities herein represented. Though the number of Turks is restricted, we thought it wise to visit this camp in order to assure ourselves that the treatment of the prisoners is the same as in other Egyptian camps.
The camp commandant is Colonel Collins.
The camp is surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
The prisoners are lodged under canvas, 8 men to a tent. At the present time two great barracks of timber framework and reeds are being erected, each large enough to contain 250 men. Their dimensions ensure perfect ventilation. The sandy soil shows no trace of damp. Between the tents little gardens are laid out wherein, thanks to the abundant water, the prisoners can grow flowers and vegetables.
The camp is lighted by paraffin reflector lamps.
Bedding.—Mats of plaited rush. Two blankets per man.
Exercise.—The dimensions of the camp leave large clear spaces where the prisoners can walk at their pleasure.
Food.—Cooking is done by the prisoners themselves, provisions being supplied by the administration. The quantities are the same as in the other camps. The menu consists of: meat, bread, butter, cheese, lentils, fresh vegetables, onions, rice, etc. The prisoners whom we interrogated, either personally or through the medium of an interpreter, declared that they were well fed. A little canteen, set up in a tent apart, provides them with such small luxuries as tea, sugar, and so on, at a moderate price. The prisoners get tobacco regularly. Each man has a plate, an enamelled bowl, and a spoon.
Dress.—The prisoners have all received a complete outfit. Their clothing was clean and warm. The mending of linen and outer garments is done by tailor prisoners, working in a tent provided for the purpose. Their headdress is the fez or a red cap.
Hygiene.—Drinking water is distributed everywhere throughout the camp by means of pipes well supplied with taps. Water for washing purposes is abundantly distributed to the lavatories, douches and bathing-places.
The prisoners do their washing in well-fitted wash-houses; a movable furnace facilitates the weekly disinfection of all the prisoners' effects.
The latrines, on the Turkish system, consist of movable tubs, emptied each day by means of a "shadouf," and then disinfected with cresol and whitewash. There are no smells in the camp.
Medical Attention.—Dr. Ibrahim Zabaji, a Syrian refugee doctor, undertakes the medical charge. His work is supervised twice a week by Lieut.-Colonel Garner and Captain Scrimgeour.
There are 3 Turkish orderlies and 1 Coptic orderly.
The infirmary is clean and well appointed. It is sub-divided into 4 quarters: the consulting room, dispensary, sick ward and isolation ward.
The beds are iron with wire springs, the mattresses stuffed with vegetable fibre, the number of blankets not limited.
All the men have been vaccinated against smallpox and cholera. We learned from the infirmary registers that 30-40 men attend daily at 8 o'clock, the doctor's visiting hour.
The advanced age of many of the prisoners, who are suffering from chronic affections, accounts for this large attendance.
The day we visited the infirmary it contained 8 patients: 3 cases of malaria, 3 cases of bronchial pneumonia, and 2 cases of dysentery.
As soon as they arrived in camp 25 men were attacked with tertian malaria; 15 are cured, 10 are still being treated with quinine. Of 7 attacked with dysentery 5 are now cured.
Ten men were suffering from trachoma and are still being treated with protargol.
There has been no typhoid fever, nor typhus, nor any other epidemic in the camp.
The serious cases are sent to the Egyptian hospital at Zagazig, where they are looked after by native doctors. There are 4 prisoners now in hospital: 1 eye case, 1 of tuberculosis, 1 of bronchitis, and 2 feverish patients under observation.
Six prisoners have died in the hospital since the camp was established here. One had tumour on the brain, 2 chronic enteritis, 1 tuberculosis, and 1 an intestinal obstruction. The dead were buried with military honours and according to the rites of their religion.
Work.—With the exception of fatigue duties, nothing is required from the prisoners besides a little light work in the gardens near the camp. Some of them make small articles which are sold for their benefit.
Correspondence.—The number of illiterates being very high (98 per cent.), letters are comparatively few. The prisoners are allowed to write three times a week, and a certain number of them get more educated comrades to write for them. Correspondence is practically impossible for those who belong to nomadic tribes.
Religion.—Except one Copt, all the prisoners are Mahometans. There are many imaums among them. Religious exercises are practised freely and regularly.
Discipline and Behaviour.—There are no complaints as to discipline, and no attempts to escape have taken place. Despite racial diversities, few quarrels take place among the prisoners, and the authorities seldom need to interfere. We spoke to an old and infirm sheik who is treated with particular regard and has a tent to himself; he told us that he is in every way satisfied.
The Red Cross International Committee, at Geneva, has since the beginning of the war organised visits to the camps of prisoners of war and of civilian prisoners in the various belligerent countries.
The members of the mission sent to Egypt, MM. Dr. F. Blanched, E. Schoch, and F. Thormeyer, had already inspected camps in Germany, France, Morocco and Russia. They may be allowed to compare the treatment of the Egyptian prisoners with what they had seen elsewhere.
We express our deep gratitude to the English authorities for all the facilities which they gave us for the accomplishment of our mission.
We will now sum up the whole set of observations made by us.
We visited the camps of Heliopolis, Maadi, the Citadel of Cairo, Ras-el-Tin, Sidi Bishr, and the hospitals of Abbassiah and the Egyptian Red Cross.
The camps are situated in healthy localities, and their dimensions are amply sufficient for the population that they hold. The accommodation seems to us exactly suited to the conditions of the country and climate. Whether barracks are specially constructed for the prisoners, or stone buildings are adapted to their use, these results are obtained.
Ventilation is sufficient everywhere. Measures of protection against the cold, so difficult to render effective in other countries, are unimportant here, owing to the mildness of the climate. Both boarded and beaten earth floors are kept perfectly clean.
The bedding of the prisoners of war (non-commissioned officers and privates) is composed of plaited rush mats, such as they are accustomed to use when at home. These mats are regularly cleansed, and replaced as they wear out. The officers, civilian prisoners and sick are provided with iron spring beds, and mattresses generally stuffed with vegetable fibre. For hospitals and officers, pillows and coverlets are also supplied.
The blankets assigned to each prisoner vary from 3 to 5, a number which we have never seen equalled in other places.
As to clothing, the military authorities furnish the men with all that is necessary: 2 pairs of drawers, 2 flannel shirts, 2 pairs of socks, a woollen belt, 1 neckerchief, 1 pair of trousers, a tunic of blue cloth (or beige) and a cloak. All these garments are warm, clean, and of good quality. All the Turks wear the national head-covering, the fez. Decorations are allowed to be worn unrestrictedly. Owing to the date of our visit we were not able to inspect the summer outfit, but the prisoners told us that in the hot season they wore blue linen suits.
The civilian prisoners whose personal belongings were worn out received a complete equipment.
The interned civilians were decently and sufficiently clothed.
Officers can order their clothes at their own expense from the town tailors.
The private soldiers all wear the oriental slippers; non-commissioned officers are given high-lows. All necessaries for repairs are provided by the camp administration.
Everywhere we found the prisoners adequately and suitably dressed. No external mark shows their position as prisoners of war, except a metal medallion attached to the tunic.
We can assert that the commissariat of the Egyptian prisoners leaves nothing to be desired. The fact that the prisoners prepare their own food insures them a diet suitable to their tastes and customs. The quantities supplied are calculated upon a very liberal scale. The quality, whether of bread, meat or vegetables, is excellent and constant.
The officers' mess is entrusted to private contract. They arrange their own menu. The daily board is very moderate. Well-stocked canteens enable them to obtain additions at prices fixed by the authorities.
The sick in hospital have a regimen suited to their condition prescribed by the doctors. The milk provided is of excellent quality.
The health department is remarkably well organised everywhere. Drinking water and water for washing purposes are equally abundant. There is an ad libitum supply for douches and baths in every camp. The arrangements for laundering linen are very efficient.
Each camp is provided with a disinfecting furnace, linen and upper garments being sterilised once weekly. There are no vermin anywhere. Special pains are taken over the cleansing of prisoners newly arrived from the front. The result of these measures and of the system of vaccination is seen in the entire freedom of the camps from epidemics.
Turkish or English latrines are sufficient in number, odourless, and regularly disinfected.
In every camp medical attention is given by a staff of first-class English physicians, assisted by Armenian or Syrian doctors; hospital orderlies keep the quarters in perfect order. The infirmaries are spacious, well lighted, thoroughly stocked with drugs and with surgical apparatus and dressings.
If dentistry be needed, which is rare among Ottomans, it is supplied by dentists from the town or resident in the camps.
Cases of mutilation are provided with artificial limbs.
An examination of the medical register in all the camps has convinced us of their good sanitary condition. The small number of sick, and the slight character of the ailments, corroborate what we have ourselves observed from the hygienic point of view. The death-rate is very low.
Deceased prisoners are interred with military honours and according to the rites of their religion.
The space enclosed within the camps permits the prisoners to enjoy walking exercise as well as outdoor games.
The English military authorities have not sanctioned compulsory work for prisoners. Except for sanitary fatigue duties, prisoners have the whole disposal of their own time. The numerous complaints provoked in other countries by forced labour are entirely absent among the Ottoman prisoners in Egypt.
Imaums take religious charge, and the prisoners have full liberty to carry out their daily worship.
Correspondence is less active than elsewhere owing to the large proportion of illiterate prisoners. Letters are long on the road because of the great distances traversed. The censorship is carried out in a liberal spirit and gives rise to no complaints. Money orders sent from Turkey are paid in full; but their number, as well as that of parcels, is restricted.
Assaults and corporal punishment are totally unknown in the camps. The only disciplinary penalty, very seldom applied, consists of arrest for a period fixed by the military authorities. We were happy to learn that the discipline of the Turkish prisoners is excellent. Their own commissariat officers exercise a good influence. We were ourselves struck by the correct bearing of the men and their good humour. They fully appreciate the English authorities' kindness to them.
To sum up, our conviction, based upon careful investigations, is that the inspectors, commandants and officers of the camps treat the prisoners with humanity and do all in their power to soften their lot.
We form the impression that the English Government's proposals concerning repatriation of the interned civilians will soon bear fruit; and we hope that this measure will be extended to all mutilated prisoners of war.
CAIRO, January, 1917.
The Delegates of the Red Cross International Committee. Dr. F. BLANCHOD. F. THORMEYER. EMMANUEL SCHOCH.