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PRISONERS OF WAR.
Interesting reminiscences of life in the internment camp at Rottnest during the war were related at a Legacy Club lun cheon on Tuesdav bv Maior E. Summer
hayes. Immediately alter Britain enter ed the war on August 4, 1914, the Com monwealth took over the island from the State Government for the purpose of segregating war prisoners, and for the first nine months the camp was under Major Summerhayes' command. He had in his charge 80 officers and 1,200 men, compris ing Germans and Austrians, chiefly the former, who had been taken from ships and the mainland. Major Summerhayes said that the Germans in the camp, were no different from those he saw in internment camps in England and the Continent. The ma jority of them were fit for service, and if they had returned to Germany would have been recruited. They were on such a 'good wicket,' that he was told by more than one that they thanked God that they could not get back to their country. Their general behaviour was good, but some of the Prussian officers were very arrogant and thought that they owned the earth. Shortly, after he took control of the camp, three German vessels which had been regular traders with Australia were captured off Rott nest by having shots fired across their bows from Fort Forrest, and their crews were interned.They had no wireless, and their captains did not know that war had been declared on Britain. One of them had a wife and family in New York, and he broke down completely when told that he would have to be taken prisoner.' The captives were drafted from a prison camp at Fremantle, where they were stripped jof their belongings. A lot of goods were smuggled over, however, and a good deal of trouble was experienced in this direction. Much of the prisoners property disappeared. Lots of things hap pened on the boats, anything belonging to the- Germans being considered fair game for anyone who could lay hands on it. He used to 'detail squads to cut fire wood in the bush on the island, but this was stopped by the authorities, and wood had, to be sent from the mainland. When the first consignment arrived, he arranged for some Germans to go to the wharf to carry the wood to the camp, but they refused to do so. He settled the strike in the easiest way 'in the world. Saying that the men would get no fires if they would not carry wood, he issued them with raw rations, and the strike collapsed within 24 hours. A Fatal Shot Formerly, Rottnest had been a /pleasure resort as it was to-day, 'Major Summer hayes continued,' and, people- still wanted to visit the island after the icamp was instituted to see' wnat was l-eing done. To obviate trouble, he ordered; that no one was to land on the' island^ without a permit, and any boats that 'came within a mile of it were liable to.be fired on. One day it .was reported that six boats were approaching Rottnest. ? He , said- that his order would have 'to be carried 'out and a. party of guards.kept w.ateh.,When they thought 'that the' boats were 'within the mile, limit, they opened i fire and'i,blazed away ,until their ammunition (. was ex hausted. As' the last round' was fired, the boats turned back to Fremantle'. That was at three o'clock in the 'afternoon, -and in the evening he, received a telephone call from the Fremantle police, saying that the man who had^been shot was dead. He said' that he'^did not know-, of anvone having been shot, 'and 'if a man had been it was 'his funeral,' not: the speaker's. He was then told that some 'Dagos' had been in the boats 'which had approached' the island, and one - of them was hit by a freak shot which 'had entered ^his fight shoulder.' passed -through the'Jieart p emerged from the -left side. At,the,tim the boats, were L450 yards from'. Rottnest. He was sorry, for the man, -but /there, was nothing to', be - done because * the island was under martial law..* - m Anyone' who had been to Rottnest, Ma jor Summerhayes tsaid, must have realised what an .excellent . drive's couldr be built around the shores of the island. It was his wish to employ the prisoners in iuild ing such a Toad. Headquarters were agree able, but another power, whose ..name he could not mention' intervened , and pre vented the, scheme being, .carried- out. An opportunity was' missed which ,would_ never occur again. To build the road now would cost^tens of ^thousands,1 of pounds.