In a German Prison Camp

At Wittenberg, in eastern Germany, the war against lice

A British pilot is taken prisoner behind enemy lines. More than 7 million men on all sides were taken prisoner or deemed missing in action. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis)

We were getting filthy with lice by then, but what could you expect with so many men in one room; and I did not have a wash with soap from the time I left Bethune on December 20, 1914, until March 5, 1915, not even a bath. And you may guess what we were like. I would have my shirt off for an hour in the morning, and an hour in the afternoon, and so you see the lice found us a bit of something to do. But I can tell you it was difficult work hunting lice and killing them, with one hand numb with the cold, and the other useless through the wound. It was like trying to catch a flea with a pair of boxing gloves on. But I managed to bag a few of the tormentors, and there were some big ones too. Some of them when you cracked them made so much noise that some of the boys who heard them would say, “Look out! There’s another Jack Johnson [boxing champion] gone off.”

Originally titled “A Prisoner in Wittenberg”