University of Oxford
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8512: Trapped in Germany by the outbreak of the First World War - life in a hulk and at Ruhleben

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posted on 2024-01-18, 10:42 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

This story is told in the diary of Alexander Mackie. He is not, as far as we know, a relative. We have no idea where the diary came from originally. It came from my late husband and he had got it from his father.

Alexander Mackie went to Germany on a ship on 04/08/1914, the day Britain declared war on Germany. The ship was captured on 05/08/1914. The diary tells that they were towed into the sailing ship harbour. They were working on the ship until 15th October 1914 when they got notice to leave the ship on Friday, 16th October. They were put into a ship which was called 'The Hulk'; there were three of them named 'Sucfred', 'Gennot' and 'Gescher'. There were about eighteen hundred English prisoners, Alexander writes, and there were Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Belgians, Greeks and others. On 6th November 1914 they were taken off 'The Hulk' and none of them knew where they were going. They had to march ashore. They were in the train from twelve o'clock in the forenoon till half past eleven at night and they had no food until the next morning.

It is evident that they had been sent to Ruhleben, Spandau, which is written on the first page of the diary. There is talk in the diary of Christmas Day when one of the German soldiers got very drunk; he gave a speech. They called him The Bishop. They had for their Christmas breakfast a can of coffee and a bun and for dinner a chop and potatoes with a bottle of beer and a cigar and a packet of sweets. All the Jews in the barrack used to get a lot of parcels and the things they got they sold and made a lot of money. Then this was stopped.

25 Jan 1915 In the diary it is noted that Germany lost a cruiser off Heligoland and England had 9 wounded. They celebrated Burns night and had a Scotch concert.

There is much more in the diary about life in the camp, the last entry being 11th April.


Name of contributor(s)


Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

Alexander Mackie.

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place

05/08/1914. 06/11/1914. 11/04/1915.

Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

Ruhleben, Spandau, Gemany.


1. Diary of Alexander Mackie. 40 images. 2. Transcript of diary of Alexander Mackie. 10 images.

Community Collection Day

Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen (27/02/19)

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