Dalkeith Police were responsible for the capture on Tuesday afternoon of two of the German Prisoners who had escaped from an east of Scotland interment camp early that morning.
Inspector Sanders, Sgt Cockburn and 4 constables from Dalkeith took part in a search of the grounds of Dalkeith Palace when it was learned that two suspicious characters had been seen there by the gamekeeper, and their efforts resulted in the recapture of two men.
The heads of police departments were called out when it was found out the two men were missing, and throughout the remainder of the night the police over a wide area co-operated with the military authorities in conducting a close watch at ports and on roads. The prisoners timed their escape to take advantage of favourable weather conditions.
Dalkeith police were notified of the escape during the night but it was not until about nine o’clock that information was received which indicated that the men were in the neighbourhood. Mr William Jackson, gamekeeper, reported that he had encountered two men in the grounds of Dalkeith House. He came upon them at the side of a burn and one of them appeared to be brushing his teeth, whilst the other was lying sleeping under a tree.
At that time he had no knowledge that any German prisoners had escaped but knowing no civilians had any right to be in the policies and his suspicions being aroused by their appearance and behaviour, he challenged them. When one of the men replied they were from the camp, Mr Jackson relied “You had better come along with me to the camp.” To this they replied in broken English they did not want to. Mr Jackson was taking them towards Dalkeith House when one of them said “Are you the Police?” and then both made a dash for the woods. Knowing that single handed he had little chance of capturing the men , Mr Jackson communicated with the local police and military. He had at first thought the men were poachers but learned that that four prisoners had escaped from the internment camp. A search party of police and military was organised and an intensive search was initiated.
Musselburgh police were also informed and a cordon was thrown around the estate. The thickly wooded grounds provided plenty of cover and an indication of the thoroughness of the search is that the men we captured after an hours search.
When Inspector Sanders and Sgt Cockburn arrived at the policies they found that the undergrowth had already been exhaustively searched without success. The Inspector noticed two small pieces of red silk lying on the ground amongst the trees and concluded that they were part of the identity patches worn by prisoners of war.
This proved to be a vital find, and as the bushes had already been searched, the Inspector gave orders for the trees to be searched. This led quickly to the two men being discovered taking refuge in the branches of a large Yew tree near to the King’s Gates.
The men were high up the tree and when told to come down they appeared to be under the impression the police were armed as the first man raised his hand in surrender, muttered something and scrambled to the ground. The other was spotted higher up the same tree appeared to more frightened than anything else and when they were in police custody they seemed more relieved than anything else. One of the men was in seafaring clothing, including a dark blue jacket and the other was dressed in civilian clothes. The police took the prisoners to Dalkeith House where they were handed over to Edinburgh City Police, within a short time they were enjoying a hearty meal and clean socks for which they seemed to be very grateful.
The men claimed they were the only ones in the area but admitted that there were four of them who had escaped from the camp. The two captured at Dalkeith were George Sluzalex, (22) and Frans Feltens (25)
Later the same day word was received by Dalkeith police that two men answering the descriptions of the other two escaped prisoners had asked for tea at a house in the Eskbank district. When the woman of the house asked them if they wanted food she got no reply but the men spoke to each other in a ‘foreign language’ unknown to her and asked again for tea. She gave them their tea but her suspicions were aroused. Before she could get word to the police the men had gone. They were believed to made off to the Wadingburn area of Lasswade. As a result of information received a search was made of Newbattle Policies without success. Early in the afternoon though the two Germans were sighted at Heriot and arrested by Edinburgh City Police, near to the McFie Hall.
Although the camp is not named it was in all probability Deer Park Camp which was in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace amongst other places throughout the area. No 1 Army School was also based there, along with Polish soldiers in exile. Hiding up in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace was not a good choice!