The Journey Home

The September issue of the newspaper, which was continued into October was the last one to be published in the camp, but it was to be followed by a shipboard newspaper The Journey Home. It was only on the 17th of October that the Swiss envoy was authorised to take over the prisoners of war. During this final period, the prisoners made the most of the opportunities they had to visit Kushigi on the Inland Sea 1,2. The opportunities afforded for recreation there were widely appreciated, and can also be seen be as practical examples of the tolerant way in which the camp in Bando was run.

The first ship to leave was the Hofuku Maru, a freighter which had been adapted to provide accommodation in the hold for the former prisoners. It took 944 men back, including 633 from Bando. The first issue of The Journey Home was published on the 9th of January 1920, at which time the ship, the was just north of Cap Varella in Vietnam. In it Solger published a farewell poem, written on the 22nd of December, to his comrades in the marines, saying that “the Reich will be built anew” and they are united in the one goal: “a strong fatherland.” 3

German civilians living in Japan were not interned and were able to lead normal lives. The prisoners from all the camps were transported to Kobe under guard, arriving on the 26th of December, and were then released. The ships which would transport them back to Germany awaited them there. The newspaper relates how the prisoners were received by friendly German civilians who took them into their homes and helped them to feel normal again4. Thanks to a typhoon, they were able to spend three days in Kobe, which enabled them to celebrate Christmas and share their experiences wit their compatriots .

The Hofuku Maru sailed On the 30th of December. The journey back to Wilhelmshafen took until the 25th of February, travelling at a speed of roughly 220 sea miles per day.5 The ship’s first stop was at Sabang in the Dutch East Indies. This was necessary to replenish the bunkers with coal, and the men were permitted to go ashore. At the time, the Dutch mail steamer "Jan Pieterzoon Coen"6 was also coaling in the port. They encountered some of the ship’s passengers onshore which “made us think about how it used to be, how it is now and how it could have been.” 7 When they reached Port Said on the 6th of February they were dismayed to observe former German ships which had been taken over by the allies. 8

When the ship finally arrived in Wilhelmshafen in the afternoon of the 25th of February, having been delayed by fog at the last minute, the men were given a hero’s welcome by the local population.9