“Of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists”

A suspicious letter from a former business contact in Germany led the authorities to take a look at an internee in Reading. His business used Yorkshire wool to make hair for dolls in toymaking centre Sonnenberg.

Re letter of G Stichl March 18th 1918
Attention should be drawn to this letter from the Mrs D to whom he refers and to say who he is and how he knows her.
J F W 20/3

Papers returned with many thanks. Doms’ connection with Wm Guy & Sons is on record here, but it is not known that the latter firm acquired Stichl’s business or that the branch at Fonneberg had not been interfered with by the Germans; letter posted.

22 March 1918
G Stichl and Mr Doms
20.8.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn, Internment

Stichl states:

He had a wool and dolls hair business in Bradford and at Sonneberg (near Coburg). About 1890 he advertised in Yorkshire for a correspondent – received a reply from Mr Doms, who was correspondent in spinning machine maker’s office, Messrs Wild & Co, Leicester. Engaged him and found him useful – a German speaking perfect English and other languages. Was trained by Stichl at Bradford from about 1890-1896 and then became Stichl’s managing clerk at Sonneberg – used to come to Bradford to see Stichl, and Stichl visited him frequently to examine books &c.

Mrs Doms. Cannot remember her maiden name – was a German woman who was his book keeper at Sonneberg. She married the managing clerk Doms. Does not know that she was ever in England. Cannot speak English. Frequently saw her.

About 6 or 8 years ago the business both at home & abroad was disposed of by Stichl to Mr Guy, under the name of Guy & Sons, Doms and Mrs Doms remaining as before, but Mr Doms severed term… [too faint to read].. to see Mr Guy.

States that Mr Guy still has the business and that from letter he has received from Mrs Doms, business is still carried on successfully and has not been interfered with by the Germans – but of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists.

Mr Doms joined the German Army and he now learns from Mrs Doms has been made prisoner by the British Army.

C M Morgan
[to] The Commissioners

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


“Our small tent collapsed in a blizzard”

Army chaplain J Sellors reached his post in southern Greece, where he found the weather not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Letter from the Rev. J. Sellors

Dear Friends,

I last wrote to you when I was on my way out here. I have now been here for about a month, and my address at present is 28th General Hospital, Salonika, where any letters you may wish to write will find me. (We are not allowed to put our address at the top of letters).

I cannot give details of my journey, but I think the censor will allow me to say that shortly before reaching here there was no railway for a distance of about thirty miles, and we had to take motor lorries. For fifteen or more miles we passed through a valley completely filled with olive trees, then we had to climb over a mountain pass. We ascended to a height of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, and saw around us deep valleys and snow-tipped mountain peaks, which glistened like silver in the sunlight. In several places we were only a few feet from the edge of a precipice without any protecting wall; a little carelessness on the part of the driver, and – imagine the result!

When we arrived at Salonika we were sent to a camp for a few days to await orders. The weather was beautifully warm and bright until we arrived here, when it changed suddenly, and a bitterly cold wind sprang up and the rain came in torrents.

The second night we had a blizzard, and just after, two of us Chaplains, who were together, had retired to rest, our small tent collapsed, and we had an exciting few minutes extricating our bedding and seeking dry quarters in a hut, where we spent the remainder of the night. Next morning we found part of our belongings covered with several inches of snow and mud. We had scented trouble before going to roost, so were not altogether unprepared for our experience.

I will endeavour to tell you a little about my work when next I write. I am quite well, and happy in my work.

March 22nd, 1918

Yours sincerely, J. SELLORS, C.F.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

The great German offensive

The Germans were fighting back in strength.

Florence Vansittart Neale
21 March 1918

The great German offensive begun – along a reach of 50 miles. Fear an awful tussle.

William Hallam
21st March 1918

An air ship went over the works to-day but I didn’t see it.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)
and of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

The best return that can be made to those who have fought for us

Earley adults were urged to follow the thrifty patriotism of teenage girls.

Our Girls’ Club have contributed no less a sum than £305 in the War Savings Fund. A letter to the Journal of the War Savings Committee contains a strong appeal to those who are saving nothing. The best return that can be made to those who have fought for us on their return, will be the greeting that we at home have been careful, saving, and have put by something out of our earnings for them. How can we meet them if in return for the hardships they have borne we have been spending money thoughtlessly and carelessly? A War savings certificate is in reach of us all.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

Several farmers at Hungerford would employ Prisoners of War

Some local farmers wanted to use PoWs to alleviate labour shortages.

20th March 1918

A letter from Mr J. Alexander was read saying that several farmers at Hungerford would employ Prisoners of War especially if the Guardians could see their way to board and lodge them. It was decided that the application be not granted as there is no accomodation in the workhouse for Prisoners of War.

Hungerford Board of Guardians minutes (G/H1/39, p. 388)

“He is not a prisoner of war”

What was the difference between an official Prisoner of War, and an interned Enemy Alien? Sometimes even the authorities weren’t quite sure.

March 19th 1918
Letter received for Max John Stephan, addressed Prisoner of War
I have no information that this man is a prisoner of war
C M Morgan, Gov

He is not a prisoner of war. He is interned under DRR14B, but he was originally interned as a prisoner of war, and as such corresponded with Dr M. The present letter which is in reply to one we allowed him to write may be passed. But this is a special case. 14B prisoners in general are not permitted to correspond with Dr Maskel.


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

“He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave”

There was news of a number of Maidenhead men, many wounded or ill. One had suffered a nervous breakdown.


Reginald Hill was able to pay a surprise visit of four days to his home, in the midst of his long and weary hospital experiences. He was looking well, considering all that he has borne, but he has one or two more operations yet to undergo. He spoke of a hope that he might be home shortly after Easter.

Ernest Bristow is progressing favourably, but the latest report that reached us spoke of another operation. He seems to be in excellent spirits.

Ben Gibbons is in hospital at Southall, suffering from debility. He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave, from which he had only got back to duty about a fortnight when he broke down and was sent to England, or rather (as we ought to say) Blighty.

Sydney Eastman is in hospital at Chatham, sent home for bronchitis. We may hope to see him shortly. The Medical Board decided that he could not stand the climate at the place where he was stationed.

W. Cleal is in hospital. No particulars known.

David Dalgliesh has received an appointment as Instructor at the Flying School at Winchester.

Hugh Lewis has been at home for a fortnight’s leave in excellent health.

Charles Catliff, too, has been home for his first leave; most of his time he spent at Bucklebury with his mother, who has been seriously ill.

Cyril Laker has had the thrilling experience of being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Herbert Brand has received a Commission, and when we last saw him was hoping to be attached to the 4th Berks.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from P.A. Eastman. He says:

“The mails where I came from have been very erratic, and some have been lost, including unfortunately the Christmas parcels. Davy Jones is now richer than all the other members of the great family of that name put together, to their and some other people’s impoverishment! ……

The medical authorities have thought it best to send me back after the first year out in the East; doubtless they have a reason. But I am glad to say I am now fairly fit, and hope to improve rapidly under the less trying conditions of English life. Very kind greetings to all West Street friends.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A tent on the Palestine front

Wokingham worshippers sponsored recreational work among soldiers in Palestine.

The Wokingham Church Army Tent.

A very generous response was made to the appeal for this Fund, our contribution from this Parish being £46. The total received by the Rector of Wokingham was altogether £308, which will leave a few pounds over to be spent on any little extras in the furnishing of the Tent.

The Tent will be placed on the Palestine Front.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

“Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad”

Will Spencer heard from soldier brother Horace, who offered a pleasant view of army life, and from the wife of another soldier brother, Natalie.

19 March 1918

When I got back, Johanna asked me if it was my birthday. Letters from Natalie & from Horace, & a parcel [and letter from a Swiss friend]…

Reading the [three] letters to Johanna, with running comments, after dinner, was quite a long proceeding, as Natalie’s letter was one of 8 large pages!.

Horace writes to me,

“Perhaps you are sometimes pained at the conjectured hardships that we have to undergo, so I will try to relieve your mind on that point. Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad, there are kind words and deeds exchanged at all times, & so the atmosphere is pleasant. He has heard concerts & lectures, visited 6 cathedral towns in France, has learned to play chess, & read – amongst other books – Holmes’ Life of Mozart….

Natalie writes that Harold “had a rotten [underlined] time one way & another, tho’ now his lines seem to have fallen into pleasanter places”.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

‘A “fine big man” in his officer’s uniform’

Percy Spencer’s visit home on leave impressed his parents.

24 March 1918

A letter for me from Mother, dated March 18th. Father had been spending the weekend with the Shackels & taking the organ at Dropmore. Percy had been home. Looked a “fine big man” in his officer’s uniform. It was a pity, Mother adds, that the weather was too cold for her to go out with him. Stanley had received the letter which I wrote to him on Jan. 8th.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

No seating room

The influx of families fleeing air raids in London had reached the point at which BerKshire schools couldn’t cope any more:

18th March 1918
Four children from London sought admission this morning. As we cannot find seating room for the children in attendance, Mistress decided that these children must wait until after Easter, as there will then be a little more room when Standard I has been transferred to Gordon Rd. School.

Log book of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 417)

Family matters

The wealthy Raymond Le Bailly de Tellighem or Tillighem, a Belgian in his 30s, was interned at Reading in 1916. He was finally deported in January 1919. He seems to have been a rather dubious character. Curiously, his wife’s address was to become famous to a later generation as the London home of Jimi Hendrix and is now a museum.

19th March 1918
R de Tillingham [sic]
28.1.16. S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday, the 18th inst, by his wife, Mrs Vera Tellingham, & child, of 23 Brook St, Mayfair, London, W.

The conversation was entirely on family matters.

[to] The Prison Commissioners

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

Letters home from internees ‘should bear no indication that it comes from this country’

There were severe restrictions on allowing internees to communicate with their home country, at least if it was somewhere like Belgium, which was partly occupied by the enemy. Travel agency Thomas Cook helped with getting letters to a neutral country, which would then send them on. A Belgian internee in Reading decided to give up writing home.

Thos Cook & Son
Ludgate Circus
London EC4

13th March

[To] The Assistant Secretary
Prison Commission
Home Office
London SW1

Dear Sir

We are in receipt of your favour of 11th inst enclosing a post-card for transmission to Belgium which we return herewith. This must either be written on a Dutch or Swiss Post-card, or sent in the form of a letter, and it should bear no indication that it comes from this country. We have no arrangements for dealing with replies from Belgium, and if the sender desires a reply it will be necessary for him to insert on the card or in the letter an address in a neutral country, to which a reply can be sent. We have no Dutch cards at the present time, but we enclose a Swiss card which can be made use of if desired.

Yours truly
Thos: Cook & Son

The Governor, Reading
Please explain to the Prisoner.
J F Wall, Sec

Explained to prisoner.
He states he will not write any more.
C M Morgan

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

Our sorely-tried ally Serbia, unlike the new Republic of Russia, has remained faithful at great cost

Our ally Serbia was suffering in the fighting.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

This month I commend to your support all our Lenten Services, asking you specially to try to pay honour to our sorely-tried ally Serbia, a kingdom which, unlike the new Republic of Russia, has remained faithful at great cost to her old friend; by coming to hear the Rev. Father Nicolai Velimirovic at Evensong on March 17th, and giving generously to his appeal for the Serbian local Relief Fund…

Lastly, let us all pray for grace to persevere; the gift of perseverance is what we most need as a Church and a People in the present time.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

100 miles an hour

Sir Henry Vansittart Neale was encouraging his tenants to keep pigs, part of the movement to encourage homegrown food.

Florence Vansittart Neale
17 March 1918

H arranging for “Pig meeting” in village.

Russians done for. Hopeless. Will Japan try & bolster them up?

William Hallam
17th March 1918

A very sharp frost. An air ship went over this morning but I did not see it. Some say it was travelling 100 miles an hour.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)