To Ruhleben -- And Back Geoffrey Pyke

ISBN: 9780971904781

Published:

Hardcover

215 pages


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To Ruhleben -- And Back  by  Geoffrey Pyke

To Ruhleben -- And Back by Geoffrey Pyke
| Hardcover | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, talking book, mp3, ZIP | 215 pages | ISBN: 9780971904781 | 8.54 Mb

The second title re-released by our Collins Library imprint, To Ruhleben And Back is the first eyewitness account of a German concentration camp. Lost to obscurity for over eighty years, Geoffrey Pykes extraordinary book is a college studentsMoreThe second title re-released by our Collins Library imprint, To Ruhleben And Back is the first eyewitness account of a German concentration camp.

Lost to obscurity for over eighty years, Geoffrey Pykes extraordinary book is a college students sharp-tongued travelogue, a journey of hair-breadth escapes behind enemy lines, a sober meditation on imprisonment and escape … and, as Pyke intended, a ripping yarn.Geoffrey Nathaniel Joseph Pyke (9 November 1893–22 February 1948) was an English journalist, educationalist, and later an inventor whose clever, but unorthodox, ideas could be difficult to implement. In lifestyle and appearance, he fitted the common stereotype of a scientist-engineer-inventor or in British slang, a boffin.When World War I broke out, Pyke stopped his studies to become a war correspondent.

He persuaded the editor of the Daily Chronicle to send him to Berlin using the passport obtained from an American sailor and by travelling via Denmark.In Germany, he was able to converse with Germans and to see that civilian life there was nothing like as grim as had been portrayed in the British national press. He eavesdropped on other peoples conversations and witnessed the mobilisation of Germans for war with Russia – seeing dozens of trains packed with soldiers travelling with seemingly clockwork precision.[5]After just six days in Germany, Pyke was arrested in his bed-sitting room- he was taken away leaving a highly incriminating letter – written in English – on his desk.[6] His guards told him Probably youll be shot in the morning.

He was confined to a small cell, convinced that he would soon be executed. As time passed, Pyke came to believe that he might not be executed after all- he rationalised to himself that ...the German government was not going to waste 4d on my keep if it was going to be faced with burial expenses on the fifth day.Pyke was kept in solitary confinement. He used this time to think. Reflecting on his constant hunger – the rations were meagre – he thought:“ ...hunger — real hunger — not your going without afternoon tea, or no-eggs-at-breakfast sort of affair — can, when a man is utterly without occupation, make life one continual aching weary desire.

If the desire is not satisfied, or does not abate of its own accord (as it very often does), it can have disastrous effects on a mans mind. It has been know to make men think very seriously about the rights of property, and a few have become so unbalanced as to become socialists. ”Pyke longed for books, writing materials, and, above all, company. At the rare exercise times when no talking was allowed, he moved briskly round the yard, exchanging a few whispered words with the inmates he passed.

He pieced together poems from memory – If by Rudyard Kipling and Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll – and took to regularly reciting them loudly in the darkness. He even asked to see Herr Direktor for permission to whistle occasionally – his request was granted. Given his increasingly odd behaviour, Pyke wondered whether the guards thought he might be going a little mad, and he himself wondered if going mad was the only sane thing to do.After 13 weeks he was taken to another prison where he was able to mix with other prisoners and buy such luxuries as newspapers.

More importantly, he learned that thousands of foreigners had passed through this prison for a period of quarantine before being transferred to the internment camp at Ruhleben- having received no indication of his ultimate fate, the thought of being sent to an internment camp cheered him considerably. However, after just five days he was transferred to his third prison in Moabit. Five days later, he was taken to the internment camp at Ruhleben.Ruhleben was about 10 km (6 mi) west of Berlin.

It had originally been a racecourse and Pyke was given a small bed in the cramped barracks that had been converted from a stable block. Here he delighted in the novel sounds of human conversation that he had so missed, he listened intently to the inconsequential conversations, trifling arguments and even the cursing of his fellow human beings.Pyke soon fell in with a group of fellow graduates from Oxford and Cambridge- his new friends supplied him with extra clothes against the winter cold and, for the first few days of their new acquaintance, with extra food.

Books and other amusements were shared. The internees were allowed to run their own affairs to a substantial degree and they were allowed to make purchases and receive parcels from home. There was a thriving black-market in permitted, but rare, luxuries such as soap and forbidden items such as alcohol and English newspapers.Pyke soon became ill, he nearly died of double pneumonia and he suffered repeatedly from food poisoning.

Only as the weather improved with the coming of summer did his health improve. Despite illness, he constantly thought about the possibility of escape and he repeatedly questioned his fellow inmates. Most people he spoke to were pessimistic about escape, but eventually he met fellow Englishman Edward Falk who wanted desperately to get out of Germany. Others had tried to escape- a few had got out of the camp, but nobody had succeeded in getting out of Germany.

Geoffrey began compiling statistical data on these escape attempts so as to find the common failing factors. Pyke and Falk reviewed many possible plans and finally made a decision.For weeks before their escape attempt, Pyke and Falk followed a regime of calisthenic exercise, which they said had been recommended to them by a Danish inmate who was a cardiac specialist.

In fact, the Dane was a product of Pyke’s imagination as were the exercises: various crawling wriggles that they would soon put to good use.There was a tiny shed on the exercise ground that was used to store athletic equipment. Pyke had noticed that in the late afternoon the sun’s rays flashed through the window blinding with glare anybody who looked inside.

On the afternoon of 9 June 1915, Pyke and Falk crept into the hut and hid themselves under tennis nets. At the usual time, the guard dutifully checked the inside of the hut and, even though the prisoners could see him clearly, the guard saw nothing amiss. They waited until dark and then slipped out and climbed over a succession of perimeter fences.Pyke and Falk camped at a spot near where Pyke had previously observed German troop trains and then took a tram into Berlin.

They bought clothes and camping equipment and then booked a train westward. As they got within 80 miles (130 km) of the Dutch border, they decided it was safest to walk. It rained every night and they used up precious time searching for food.As they walked they had to wait patiently at every bridge and railway crossing for the optimum moment to get over- they got soaked crossing endless ditches and repeatedly negotiated agricultural barbed wire fences and nearly got swallowed up in the quagmire.Approaching the border, they consumed what remained of their food and discarded all their equipment apart from some rope they had made from a ball of string.

They moved on, ready for the final and most difficult stage of their journey – crossing the Dutch frontier. Then, as they rested, they were discovered by a soldier who demanded to know what they were doing. Initially they tried to talk their way out of the encounter, but it soon transpired that the soldier was Dutch and that they were already 50 yards (46 m) or so inside Holland.Pyke and Falk made their way from Holland back to England. There, Pyke went to see his news editor to confess that his mission had failed. However, his editor was not at all disappointed- smiling, he told Pyke that the story of his escape, based on a long telegraph report Pyke had sent from Amsterdam, had been one of the biggest Fleet Street scoops of the war.

Pyke was the first Englishman to get into Germany and out again, and he must write a series of articles for the Chronicle. Pyke refused. He had, by then, rather lost interest in being a war correspondent. After that he divided his time between lecturing on his experiences and writing an intellectual review, the Cambridge Magazine, edited by Charles Kay Ogden.Pyke arranged for some food parcels to be sent to friends in Ruhleben- the boxes contained details of his method of escape concealed in false bottoms.

Although his parcels arrived unmolested, no prisoner attempted to repeat his methods.As an escaped prisoner of war, he was exempt from conscription and, in any case, his views had begun to drift towards pacifism. He wrote a memoir of his experiences entitled To Ruhleben – And Back, published in 1916.[21] Because the war was still on at that time, Pyke omitted some details of his escape from his account.

To Ruhleben – And Back was republished in 2002.{wikipedia}



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