An attack of seagulls

Some of the difficulties arising at Reading Prison during its time as a Place of Internment for foreigners thought to be a threat to the country were outlined by the governor.

3 April 1918
Place of Internment
Reading

Gentlemen

I have the honour to submit my annual report on this Place of Internment.

The conduct of the officers has been good and they have willingly, and without a grumble, come in for extra duty each evening from 5.10 pm to 8 pm to supervise the Aliens who are in association, either in the Halls or garden up to 8 pm. Two officers have volunteered each evening, and been paid back the time owing when convenient.

The conduct of the Interned Aliens has been fair. Last autumn they gave trouble owing to

(a) Long internment with no definite time of release.
(b) The many nationalities, some fourteen in number, with corresponding temperaments, which led to quarrels.
(c) The social grades ranging from ex-officers to the convicts and petty thieves.
(d) The feeling that in many cases they were entitled to be treated as prisoners of war with corresponding privileges, and their knowledge of the few officers available to maintain order in the evenings.

In November a military guard was provided for about six weeks. This enabled active measures to be taken against the ringleaders and the tone of the place at once improved.

Towards the end of November about 40 aliens were re-classified as prisoners of war and removed to the Isle of Man Prisoner of War Camp.

The dietaries have been good and varied and the majorities of letters written speak well of the treatment.

The fire arrangements are satisfactory and fire practice has been regularly carried out.

The water supply is adequate, and there is sufficient pressure to reach to the top of the buildings.

The lighting throughout the prison is good.

The contractors’ supplies have been good except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

The garden has yielded good results, much better than was anticipated owing to the severe weather last spring, and the consequent influx of seagulls, who cleared off every green thing – over 200 being counted one day in one portion of the garden.

The Visiting Committee have attended regularly but have not been called on to adjudicate in any cases.

One man has been certified as insane and removed to the asylum at Moulsford [actually Cholsey].

There have been no deaths.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital have very kindly and generously taken in and treated such cases of illness as were too serious to be treated in cells.

The rules as laid down for this Place of Internment have been carried out except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

I have the honour to be
Gentlemen

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Prison Commissioners
Home Office

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

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