Flight from the Fatherland

August 1914

Mexborough & Swinton Times, August 8th 1914

Flight from the Fatherland
Former Denaby Curates exciting experience.
Arrested as a spy.

The Rev Kenneth E. Kirk, who but a month or two ago resigned his appointment as assistant curate in Denaby Main, in order to pursue a course of continental study, has just returned to England after an exciting flight from the Fatherland, in company with his brother, Mr Leslie Kirk, modern languages master at Leeds Grammar School, and Mr Arthur Blumhardt, a son of the vicar of Wadworth, near Doncaster.

Mr Kay spent last week end in Denaby Main, staying with Mr and Mrs H.W.Smith, at the Red house. it was there that day a”Times” man interviewed him on Sunday on the subject ofhis Continental ordeal.

“When war broke out,” he said, “we were at a place called Kaiserslautern, which is a military headquarters for the German Palatinate. The war took us completely by surprise. The first intimation we had of any thing untoward came as we were approaching Kaiserslautern, when we suddenly realised that the railway bridges and stations and waterworks all along the line were guarded by soldiers. At a wayside station, wesaw twoRussians, a man and a woman, arrested as spies, and we then knew there was trouble. We had intended to stay at Kaiserslautern for some time, but on Saturday morning we found that the price of potatoes had gone up from 2/6 to 12/6, and there were notices posted callingthe reservists out. Things look so sinister that, as we had no passports, we thought it would be well to clear out. So we made for the Rhine, only to find no Rhine steamers were sailing.

We got to Cologne on Saturday night, at about eight o’clock. Cologne station presented a remarkable spectacle. It is an enormous place, quite as big as any of the London termini, and we found reservists sleeping all over the station, even on the counters of the luggage office. There were crowds of girls seeing soldiers of, and everybody seemed low spirited. I am quite convinced that not a soul there wanted to fight. There appeared to be no money anywhere, and altogether it seemed a hopeless state of things. Luggage was piled high on the platforms, with not the slightest prospect of ever getting anywhere. We spent that night in the station, and at a 5:45 next day managed to board a train which was going to the Dutch frontier. It was simply crammed with people, and we were glad of the privilege of standing in a fourth class carriage with first-class tickets.

At a place called Oberhausen the train was searched for spies, and we were ordered to get out. We were examined by a sort of magistrateĀ“s clerk, with 50 soldiers at his back. I had a tourist map of the Rhine country, the sort of thing you can buy anywhere for a shilling, and the Germans thought that looked frightfully suspicious. I also had a pair of military field glasses, and that nearly finished me. The populace outside the station hooted us, but did not seriously menace us, and we arrived at the police station in safety. There we were decently treated, and after being detained for three hours the authorities satisfied themselves as to our harmlessness, and allowed us to proceed upon our journey. So we got back to the station, and crept slowly towards the frontier in cattle trucks.

I felt very sorry for the cruel ordeal of an aged English lady of title, evidently crippled with rheumatism, to whom the journey, under such conditions, must have been agony. There were in the party about 250 tourists, a few English, a few French, a few Belgians, but mostly American. When we landed at the frontier we were again held up, for the German commandant there had orders not to allow anyone to cross the frontier. The poor fellow was sorely perplexed, for there was not hotel accommodation of any kind in the neighbourhood, no food, no anything. He telephone to the military headquarters explaining the position and at length they ordered him to search the party once more and let them go.

Travelling through Holland, we found a military preparations of the Dutch even more advanced than those of the Germans. Several fortresses that we passed were just receiving the last touch of barbed wire. As we passed over bridges, the blinds of the carriages were drawn, and I was subsequently told that these bridges were being guarded by solid rows of soldiers. When we reached Rotterdam we were landed into further difficulties. Wehad no Dutch money, and we learn to our consternation that German money was not being taken. So that food was out of the question, and that Sunday two glasses of milk constituted my rations. Also, we found there were no steamers for England, so we had to make our way down the river to the Hook, where we managed to catch a crowded Harwich boat, which landed us on English soil on the Monday morning, August 3, just prior to the outbreak of war between England and Germany. I am convinced that if we had delayed our journey another day, we should have been unable to get through at all. We were much surprised to learn from the English papers the real condition of affairs. The German people were firmly convinced that the Kaiser was conducting a righteous war, into which he had been forced by Russia.”

Mr Kirk, who preached at Denaby on Sunday, looks a little the worse for his harassing experience.

2 thoughts on “Flight from the Fatherland

  1. Paul Freeman

    Do you have a reference to the original source for this article?

    I ask because I am interested in the Arthur Blumhardt, mentioned in the first paragraph. I am working on his mother’s 1916 diary, which is deposited at Derbyshire Record Office under her maiden name of Mills (ref. D6908/1 on the on-line catalogue, where you can read a brief description). The diary mentions the doings of Arthur, Lieut. in RASC (MT).


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