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Obligation to wear an armband ...

... armband for a Belgian national in Tientsin ...

Roll call: 7:30h
curfew: 22:00hours
Meals at: 08:15h, 12:30h, 18:00h
Meals are served at the refectory.

The food:

You can only count on enough bread and some Chinese vegetables. Occasionally, eggs, fish and meat are obtainable. However, besides these and other supplies, an additional half a pound of fish or meat per day per person would be more than adequate, to complement a meal.

Work and working hours:

… varied. In general, one day off, every three days for the men, and every two days for the women.

Labour is normal for our community life, (cleaning, coal transport, peeling of vegetables, etc. ). It is advisable for men to take overalls with them, aprons or pinafores for the women and also, clogs for everyone. To be mentioned: there are three distinct kitchens and the one for the Tientsin folks is the worst of all.

Electric current:

… 220 volts. It would be wise to take a few screw-on light bulbs. It is forbidden to take along electric irons, foot-warmers, electric stoves etc. but you can always try, for those are very useful items to have. A useful thing to take with you, is a small Chinese stove with no chimney, because the stoves we have here take a long time to get heated and are never ready before noon. There is coal, but it is more dust like and it would be very useful to bring along a rake to scrape it and also a little axe to cut the wood, as well as a saw.

The washing is done by ourselves, but there is a Japanese laundry on the outside which accepts washing three pieces per person per week. This is useful for bed sheets. Soap can be purchased there for personal laundry and washing.

Useful things to take with you:

… Benzene, spade, cigarette lighter, a lot of cigarettes, bucket, jug, basin, …

At the local canteen, you can buy local fruits, thermos flasks, soap, moth balls, toilet paper, shoe laces, carafes, small towels, very bad quality notebooks, pencils, … and all that for quite cheap.

All the food supplies in your possession upon arrival in camp can be kept, but you absolutely need very good quality trunks (2 or 3 maximum), for there is very little space in the rooms. The rest of the gear will have to be stocked in the baggage room where there are thousands (!?) of different trunks difficult to reach.

Essential food supplies to be taken:

… bacon, animal fat, powdered eggs , powdered milk, cocoa, coffee, butter, flour, cheese, sugar, honey, jam, meat, vegetables etc. You can't buy anything from the outside. The first to arrive in camp (as a group) haven't been searched though isolated persons were. Bear in mind that the railroad system is insecure and that you must have two excellent padlocks with different keys for each trunk.

Take as much money as you can. Normally, you have to leave it all to the authorities upon arrival in the camp, but don't be stupid enough to do so. Out of that money, you have a monthly allowance of $.50.-. Take with you as much medicines as you can because there is nothing at the camp hospital . You can keep all your personal reserves.

Meals can be prepared during the winter months with your personal provisions in your room, and on the common stove during the summer season.

There are no facilities for reading, writing or studying because we are too badly housed in our rooms. Bring as many games as possible and also reading novels.

Shoes are quickly worn out over here, so take good shoes with you, and also working shoes, and if you have to pass through the rainy season, take wooden soled shoes or rubber boots. It would be judicious to take a bit of leather or rubber to replace the shoe soles: there are people with the adequate tools over here to help you.

For the communal showers wooden sandals are best (there is danger in catching "Hong-Kong foot"). The ladies must not hesitate in buying local Chinese shoes made of solid canvas, green or red, with good leather soles. I insist on the "shoe" item because shoes are the first to wear out.

Therefore, the valid men, those who will of course have to work, should have a working outfit, an overall, etc. because, when you are a stoker, or a mechanic, or a rubbish collector, or a flour bag carrier, or a baker …, good clothes are unwise. The women must bring along aprons or old dresses. Usual everyday clothes or objects you must of course bring along, but I must point out a few practical items one might forget to take. Thus, for the kitchen stuff, each person must have at least three containers: i.e. two soup plates and an enamel mug which resists better. Those who want to, can also take an earthenware cup to sip their coffee in their rooms. No drinking coffee in golden cups, you could burn hands and lips. (??!) This is probably a double meaning sentence!! Take a coffee pot, not too small, especially for the families. Two cooking pots and a bigger one like a jam pan. Families must have an extra plate or two. Also, take a good tool for opening tin cans.

Take a raincoat or a big Chinese umbrella. It is very useful to have a good hammer, pincers, a pair of pliers, a screw driver, a length of iron wire, nails, etc., a saw and an axe (we are given small tree trunks, these are too big to light up the stove). It is better to take a small saw, and a saw for iron, a gimlet , etc. for those who are concerned: ink to mark your clothes, a good provision of benzene for the cigarette lighters, also take some for our older folks, a spade, a rake. For those who like "fricassée de lard" (bacon fricassee), pancakes, and fried eggs: a good frying pan.

Food to take with you:

It is useless, for the first days, to bring along a week's provision of bread and cakes, it takes too much place and it gets all dry. However do take (mostly for the families) what is necessary to make porridge, flour, a lot of sugar, salt, mustard, etc. according to each one's tastes. As for tinned food, take: butter, fat, jam, pâté, sausages, bacon, tongue, vegetables, sauces, vinegar, powdered milk, powdered eggs, cocoa, oil, coffee and cheese. Everything can be used. All this can be used as an everyday food supplement, mostly (as it happens from time to time) when the food served at the kitchens is uneatable. Don't worry however, we are not starving out here.

The families must take two buckets, a big jug, and a few basins. Bachelors must take a big basin, a washing board.

Please take a saw and a hammer for Mr. Pander.

As books; take easy reading novels. The children must take their school books. The camp library is well provided with books in English, loaned monthly.

This should be a good opportunity to learn Russian, it is the language of the future, but there are no Russian books out here. For money, it's as I have already explained, but if it could be possible for the gentleman to whom Mr. Pander left an amount of money, take $.500.- and give them to the owner. I think he will be pleased with it because he put all his money in the bank and what he can take out every month does not cover his expenses. As for the foreign money, may each do as he thinks best. I should however take a few "golds", and those who have a gold watch or small valuables easy to handle, why not take them also, it can occasionally be used as exchange money. Be cautious, when you send your trunks along: close them well, with padlocks and special keys, for there are many thieves on the way and they are well equipped with many keys. A deckchair could be quite welcome. Also, the necessary material for the making of curtains for the windows and those who have old drapery should take them along to hang on the walls, it is cleaner. Also, carpets.

Do not take big beds, but good ones however. If you have matting to sandwich in between the mattress and the bed sheets, as well as for the pillowslips: take that too, for in the middle of the very hot season, it comes in handy. Electric irons. The eventual electricians (and the audacious ones) should take whatever to tinker with, such as wall outlets, switches, etc. … but don't let them catch you!.

Take woollen sweaters.


No name, no date!

This letter was obviously written by my Dad in Weihsien.

My Dad was a Tientsin banker of 46 years old with his Wife and two kids. A boy of two (that's me) and a girl of four and a half (that's Janette).


Alors que la Croix-Rouge juge la nourriture "bonne" et que le gouvernement belge se demande s'il faut accorder "un extra" à ses ressortissants internés, voici le menu quotidien d'un camp d'internement, décrit par un Belge anonyme (sans doute des mines de Kaiping):

Matin: espèce de poussière grise delayée dans de l'eau; le dimanche, congé, de l'eau avec un peu de riz dedans; pas de sel ni sucre

Midi: "stew": une petite louche, mélange de citronelle, navet, eau de vaisselle, épluchures de pomme de terre et quelquefois quelques vagues morceaux de buffle, toujours de la terre et du sable - 1 ou 2 cuillères à soupe de riz

Soir: haricots rouges ou farine de maïs à l'eau - une louche. Du pain que je n'ai jamais pu digérer


Matin: rien

Midi: un petit morceau de tripe pourrie et verte et une cuillère de riz

Soir: un jour sur deux, haricots rouges comme je donnais à ma vache aux mines, l'autre jour rien, le tout sale, ignoble, plein de bois et de vers de terre. Ils n'avaient que l'eau du fleuve bouillie, dans laquelle il y avait autant à boire qu'à manger.

While the Red Cross finds the food "good" and that the Belgian Government wondered whether to grant a "extra" to its nationals interned, here is the daily diet of an internment camp, described by an anonymous Belgian (probably from Kaiping mines):

Morning: kind of gray dust dissolved inwater, Sunday, holiday, water with a little rice in it, no salt or sugar

Noon: "stew" a little fishy, a mixture of lemon grass, turnips, water dishes, peel potatoes and sometimes vague pieces of buffalo, still earth and sand - 1 or 2 tablespoons rice

Evening: red beans or corn flour with water - a ladle. Bread that I never could digest


Morning: nothing

Lunch: a small piece of rotten tripe and green and a spoon rice

Dinner: every other day, red beans as I gave in the mine to my cow, the other day nothing, all dirty, disgusting, full of wood and earthworms. They had onlyboiled water from the river, where there was as much drinking as eating.