Daily life at Raikeswood Camp revolved around a small number of unchanging events: morning reveille, the three daily roll-calls, three meal times, distribution of post and parcels and lights-out.

photo of german prisoners lined up outside barrack buildings for roll call

German prisoners at roll call© Courtesy of Peter Barry & Charles M Whittaker

 

During the rest of the day the officers had to find something to occupy their time as they were not required to work. They organised purposeful activities, which ranged from sports, educational courses, a variety of cultural activities as well as diary-keeping and all manner of pastimes, which included playing cards and making chess boards.

The daily life of orderlies (non-officers) was occupied with chores such as cooking, tidying up the officers’ huts, cleaning their boots and collecting coal from the yard outside the camp. Other orderlies operated as barbers, cobblers and tailors.

illustration of german officers palying cards

Playing cards© Kriegesgefangen in Skipton, p.37

German prisoner cooking in the roof rafters on a prisoner of war hut

Cooking in the rafters© Kriegesgefangen in Skipton, p.250

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these various activities and duties did not merely take the men’s minds off the suffocating boredom, their anxieties for the Fatherland and their own families, and their constant longing to return home. They also satisfied a pronounced German tendency to organise and to be organised. Indeed, the prisoners  make it plain in their book Kriegsgefangen in Skipton that camp life was to a remarkable degree committee-driven. Thus, fully-fledged committees oversaw major activities such as music, entertainments, sports, education and importantly the mess, which concerned itself with food matters. There was also a war committee, which gave the men the illusion that they were still important to the war effort.

illustration of german prisoners sat around a stove having a meeting

The Stove council© Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, p.155

illustration showing german prisoners carrying out path repairs with a wheelbarrow and garden fork

Path repairs© Kriegsgefangen in Skipton, p. 292

In parallel with that, various individual officers took charge of important activities such as pathway maintenance, hut upkeep, inventories, book purchasing in London, newspaper readings and library management, supervising subordinates as necessary. The whole system worked on the basis that ‘German officers obey.’

One final daily fixture worthy of mention is the 11.00am meeting each day between the senior German officer and the camp commandant. The former might bring forth grievances, the latter  might cite regulations. This relationship, about which we know nothing, was crucial to both sides in the exercise of asymmetrical authority over the men and the camp.