Friday, 26 December 2014

Festive Fridays - Christmas in Denmark

Hornbaek Strand [Denmark], 17 December 1918, drawn by Captain H. Wilkinson (D/DLI 7/773/2(18))
D/DLI 7/773/2(18) Hornbaek Strand [Denmark], drawn by Captain H. Wilkinson, 17 December 1918
Captain Henry Wilkinson of the 10th Battalion DLI was taken as a prisoner of war in Corbeny, France, May 1918.  He reached his final camp, Straslund, in July.  When released from the camp after the Armistice was declared, Wilkinson was transported to Denmark to be sent home.  The following is extracted from his diary, transcribed by one of the Durham at War volunteers.

Tuesday 24th December
The Danish Christmas dinner awaited us, complete with Christmas tree, wine, cigars and the rice the custom allows. To bed fairly early, amid the strains of much music and singing in the lounge.

Wednesday 25th December
Christmas day and we were all pretty fed ‘cos we weren’t in England — still it was better than Hun-land! Arose about 11am. in time for lunch and played bridge all afternoon, not going outside at all. At night the Christmas tree was all lit up, and we had several visitors for dinner. Then came the slips for the boat and I retired early to pack, for we were due to leave at 9am.
Hornbaek [Denmark], drawn by Captain H. Wilkinson, 22 December 1918 (D/DLI 7/773/2(19))
D/DLI 7/773/2(19) Hornbaek [Denmark], drawn by Captain H. Wilkinson, 22 December 1918
Thursday 26th December
Arose at 8am, breakfasted at 8.30 and were cheered on our way to the 9 train by a fair gathering of the population. At Helsingor we had a wait of an hour and a half, spent in having a cutlet and chocolate at an Hotel — it was still snowing heavily.

Leaving Helsingor at 11.30, we stopped at several stations to pick up people and finally arrived at the docks at 1pm. The ship was the “Frederick VIII” an awfully comfortable liner of 12,600 tons, built for the Danish – American Service; Symes, Howell and I shared a cabin. Some hundreds of Tommies came on board during the afternoon and a Danish Military Band played popular British airs at intervals, being supported by a huge crowd of well-wishers. At 4.30pm we left the Quay, amid enthusiastic cheering from ship and Quay — a hearty send-off. The fog had now lifted, and after tea at 5, I sat in the smoking room until dinner at 7. The sea was perfectly calm, and at 9 I retired, dropping into a deep sleep, and thankful that we were at last on the way home.

Wilkinson walked through his front door in Gateshead on 30 December.

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