# 34543

WHITFIELD, Paul, Lieutenant-Commander, R.N.; DAY, Julius E.; GURNEY; Jason; CLIFFE, F.V.; VAUX, H.C.

The Prisoner’s Pen. No. 1. May 1918.

$1,600.00 AUD

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Committee: President – Commander Whitfield R.N. / Editor – Julius E. Day / Sub-Editor – Jason Gurney / Art Editors – F. V. Cliffe, H. C. Vaux. Cover: Prisoner’s Pen, Heidelberg. Heidelberg : Printed by Carl Pfeffer, Buchdruckerei, 1918. Octavo (230 x 155 mm), original pictorial yellow wrappers with a design by P.O.W. artist F. V. Cliffe printed in black, the original ownership signature of P.O.W. A. W. Cains dated 15 May 1918 at upper margin of front (wrappers lightly marked and foxed and with mild corner creasing), original binding (staples and glue); pp 43, with three pages of b/w line-drawn illustrations (caricatures of prisoners) in the text, and a b/w photographic plate reproducing a portrait of the Senior British Officer (Commander Whitfield) bound in between pages 4 and 5; printed on surprisingly high-quality paper that has not become brittle; occasional spotting at margins, else contents very clean throughout.

This extremely rare World War One prisoner-of-war camp publication was produced by captured British officers interned at Heidelberg, under the guidance of a Committee headed by the camp’s Senior British Officer, Commander Paul Whitfield, R.N.. It was printed on behalf of the prisoners by the local printing firm of Carl Pfeffer. Although the title page states “No. 1”, given the very late date of May 1918 we believe there are unlikely to have been any further issues of The Prisoner’s Pen

Not in COPAC or OCLC; no other copy traced. 

The text comprises 18 short prose and poetry pieces by prisoners. While some contributions are anonymous or written under a nom de plume, a number of officers have signed their work (these include D. Fry, Jason Gurney, R. Y. Cory, Owen Tudor-Hart, T. Hawkins, and A. E. Mackenzie). Although most pieces are humorous or else morale-boosting in intent, there is also some more reflective writing, the most striking example being Tudor-Hart’s poignant, three-page A French Wood in War Time. A Prose Poem – an unknown piece that is surely worthy of a place in the recognised canon of First World War poetry:

‘… In the shivery first hours of morning when a servant called you for the first patrol, the wood was already astir. As you groped into your clothes a mocking chorus of early birds were telling you how they would feast on the worm while you breasted the chilly dawn. A hurried glass of milk, a biscuit, and then a short run in a motor tender through the sleeping village brought you to the aerodrome. Already broken out of its hangar, like a great moth from its chrysalis, is an aeroplane, with wings softly glowing in the morning light …. slowly circling you climb over a cold but lovely world, still wrapped in the cobweb mists of dawn.  … You are thinking how, if you come back, you will explore the wood, now but a dark stain far off….’

With the exception of one poem in French, which is signed ‘M. Herault’ (probably a pseudonym, i.e. ‘Monsieur Héros’), all of the contributions are in English.

Lieutenant-Commander Paul Whitfield, R.N., was appointed commanding officer of H.M.S. Nomad in March 1916. A short time later he was seriously wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Jutland, and he spent almost the entire remainder of the war interned in the P.O.W. camp for officers at Heidelberg, where he was the Senior British Officer. Repatriated via Holland in September 1918, he was subsequently awarded the D.S.O. (October 1918). After the war, he received an O.B.E. (October 1919) for his services as the S.B.O. at Heidelberg.