TORRENS ISLAND REVELATIONS
MALTREATMENT OF INTERNEES ADELAIDE MILITARY OFFICER DISMISSED GERMAN REPRISALS THREATENED
"Seeing that the brave crew of the Emden are in these people's hands, we are about to make reprisals on all Australians and British in the camp, and bring these sons of convicts to heel." — German proclamation at Stuttgart Camp.
Throughout the whole period of the war the "Mail" unhesitatingly and unreservedly accorded its support to the British and Allied cause, and condemned any toleration of the enemy within our gates. Follow- ing these efforts German names were re- moved from our suburban and provincial cities. German schools were closed, the German language tabooed, and other pre- cautions taken against the Teutons res- dent in this State. This attitude was adopted in the interests of law and order and civilisation, and no opportunity was missed to condemn the inhuman and heart- less cruelties of the Germans towards prisoners, civilians, or any one who crossed their path. The principle followed then stands good to-day. All cruelty, all barbarism, and inhumanity must not only be condemned but punished, whether it be German, British, or Australian. It is from that point of view that the cruelties recorded in the subjoined statement regarding the treat- ment of German internees at Torrens Island are submitted to the public. Aus- tralians shuddered with the rest of the civilised world at Germany's callous bar- barisms, not so much because they were the work of Germans, but because they were barbarisms. Quite in the same spirit are the facts recorded below. Australian inhumanities are just as blameworthy as the German, but it is worth placing on public record — and that is the dominant object of this article — that Australia would not tolerate or stand for such excesses, but on her own initiative meted out prompt punishment to one of its offending officers. Unfortunately we know of no instance where Germany took any such course to mark her disapproval of the manifold acts of vicious cruelty and violence which have been so abundantly proved against her. DISMISSED THE SERVICE. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the statement which appears below, but among other things it shows that while Capt. George Hawkes was in charge of the Torrens Island Internment Camp a severe flogging — photographs displaying the marks of the injuries inflicted are now in our possession — was administered to two of the internees as punishment for having escaped from the camp. Subsequently Col. Rowell was appointed to make an enquiry into the matter, and as a result the commission of Capt.Hawkes was removed and he was dismissed from the service. When the internees were taken from Torrens Island to the Holdsworthy Internment Camp in New South Wales, probably unaware of the punishment which had been visited on Capt. Hawkes, they found means to acquaint the American Consul in Sydney with the facts. The United States was not then at war with Germany, and it appears that through American influence a military enquiry was instituted in 1916, Mjr. Stuart being Chair- man, and he was assisted by Mjr. Padman and Capt. Borrow. At first Mr. Walter Emde, a young German, appeared on be- half of the internees, but later counsel re- presented the Germans. A large number of witnesses was called, and for a time the Court of Enquiry travelled between Adelaide, Sydney, and Holdsworthy Camp. For several months the investigations were continued, and eventually a voluminous finding, adverse to Capt. Hawkes, was arrived at. GERMANY'S WRATH. The offender had already been punished, but whether that fact was communicated to the German Government is not known. As appears by a statement of repatriated soldiers in England and cabled to Australia recently, the episodes on Torrens Island, exaggerated and distorted, were typed and posted in the British prisoners' camp at Stuttgart, and a threat of reprisals was couched in the following terms:---- 'Seeing that the brave crew of the Emden are in these people's hands, we are about to make reprisals on all Australians and British in the camp, and bring these sons of convicts to heel." What has been read of the hideous treatment of British and Australian pri- soners in Germany indicates clearly who suffered partly, at least, for Capt. Hawkes' conduct. Had the facts and Capt. Hawkes' punishment been given to the public at the time it might have mitigated the severity of the German brutalities to British prisoners, and would have rehabilitated our credit as a civilised people with the world. Even now it is not too late for the report to be published, for the public has a right to know every detail of the unfortunate proceedings and the finding resulting from the prompt and admirable action taken by the responsible authorities in the interests of British honour and jus- tice. GERMAN'S SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS. ''At the beginning of the, war.'' said a released educated German prisoner to the "Mail" man, ''I was sailing on one of the South Australian gulf boats, but on account of the outbreak of hostilities I had to leave, and I then proceeded to Renmark. I could not get work there, and as I did not report myself to the authorities I was arrested and sent to Keswick. After a night there I was — on November 28. 1914 — taken to the German camp on Torrens Island. When I arrived Lieut. Wright was in charge of the camp, and about two months later Capt. (now Lieut.-Col. Butler) was placed in command. So long as these two gen- tlemen were there everything went all right. We had the same treatment and the same food as the guards on duty.
"About the end of January, 1915, Capt. Hawkes relieved Capt. Butler of his duties, and almost immediately the treatment of the internees altered. At that time there were about 300 in camp, which was then moved from the quarantine side of the island nearer to Port Adelaide. It was here where the real trouble began. Under the reign of Capt. Butler we were permitted to have local daily newspapers, bur Capt. Hawkes prohibited that, and the censorship being strict we got very little news at all. The only news we could get was that gathered from the behaviour of Capt- Hawkes, it being typi- cal of him to vent his temper on the internees whenever the war might have been going in favour of the Central Powers. We knew that from the fact that one of our men was employed as cook to the officers and sergeants, and he occasionally smuggled through a paper to us giving the progress cf the war. BREACHES AND PENALTIES. "Capt. Hawkes made his own rules and regulations down there for the guidance of the guards. One of these decreed that if any prisoner did not quickly obey any order given by the soldiers to use the bayonet freely. The result was that the "boys" used the bayonet too freely. About 25 men were wounded from bayonets, and in one instance a German sailor who could not speak a word of English received seven stabs. A doctor in the camp — a gentleman about 60 or 70 years of age — stitched up the prisoners' wounds in most cases. "Severe cruelties were inflicted on the prisoners if any escaped or attempted to escape. For example, two men — a Swede and a German— got away one night by swimming across the river about a mile. They kept in hiding for a day, but on the following day they were captured by the police and brought back to camp by the military guard. Capt. Hawkes put them in a place about four yards square in the soldiers' camp and left them there for a few days. Then one afternoon they were taken out, handcuffed, and placed under the escort of about 40 soldiers in charge of Capt. Hawkes who marched, them to a spot about 150 yards from the camp in a sandy hollow near a few trees FLOGGING AND BAYONETING. 'The majority of the prisoners were under the impression that the two men were to be shot, as some of the soldiers carried rifles. They were not shot, how- ever, as the men afterwards told us that they were stripped naked, bound by the hands to the trunk of a tree and then flogged, receiving about 30 lashes from the strongest, soldier — I believe he was a ser- geant — in the camp. One was flogged first, and then came the turn of the second man, who had witnessed the other's fate. Capt. Hawkes told them on the way to be flogged that he would give them 'English justice.' From our camp we could hear the cries of the men. "About an hour after the flogging inci- dent the punished men were placed in our camp. On their return one of the inter- nees called out to the escort party, 'You dirty lot of dogs.' Instantly Capt. Hawkes gave the order to 'get that man out.' Seven soldiers with fixed bayonets rushed in, grabbed the first man they could lay hands on, and told him to run for his life. As the man could not speak Eng- lish he did not understand the request, and each of the guards gave him a bayonet thrust either in the small of the back or on the legs. It was terribly cruel. GERMANS' SMUGGLING WAYS. 'We had a camera handy and took photos of the injuries inflicted on the flogged and bayoneted men. We were able to smuggle these out of camp by placing them under the soles of a boot, which was sent in a parcel. They ulti- mately found their way to Germany through the United States of America. We left South Australia on August 16, 1915. for the German Concentration Camp at Liverpool, whither the whole of our camp was taken by special train from Adelaide. While we were there about the middle of 1916 an enquiry was held by the military authorities into the con- duct of Capt. Hawkes which we believe was brought about through the interven- tion of America at the request of Germany, following the receipt of the photos and a letter explaining the treatment on Torrens Island. The military investiga- tion was held at the Holdsworrhy Camp in the presence cf Capt. Hawkes. Some German prisoners from South Australia were called as witnesses at the enquiry, and it was not until then that we learned that Capt. Hawkes had been cashiered. OTHER PUNISHMENT. "Another instance of attempted escape from Torrens Island occurred before the flogging incident. Two men tried to get away at night, but they were caught in the act and put in a cell. The next day they were marched about the camp hand- cuffed together outside the barbed-wire enclosure so everybody interned could see them. Capt. Hawkes subjected them to other indignities and humiliations. One internee was also shot in a leg with a revolver by Capt. Hawkes for having used a contemptuous epithet towards him. On another occasion 36 men were imprisoned for a fortnight in a place in the open measuring about six yards by eight yards for getting firewood without permission. Another five for the same offence were sentenced to 28 days' imprisonment in the Adelaide Gaol. It was in the winter time, and a number of the men contracted severe forms of rheumatics arising out of exposure to the rigours of the weather. 'I should like to offer my tribute,' the released internee concluded, 'to the treat- ment accorded us at the Holdsworthy Concentration Camp, which was like going into heaven from hell." We understand that Capt. Hawkes sub- sequently enlisted as a private, gained his stripes as a sergeant, and about a year ago proceeded to the front with a unit of the Army Medical Corps.