“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)


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)

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)

Help our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy

Mortimer people were chastised for not contributing enough cash to the war effort.

War Savings Association

I am sorry to say that this deserving work of National importance is not receiving from the parishioners the support which it ought to receive.

Although started nearly eight months ago, the number of members is only about 110 – principally school children – and the total subscriptions are less than £100.

In comparison with other villages with similar populations and occupations these figures are lamentably below the average, and it is to be hoped that Mortimer will yet rise to a sense of its responsibilities, and do all in its power to help, by financial assistance, our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy.

Deposits however small, will be gladly received by the Treasurer, at Springfield, on any Friday evening between 5.30 and 6.30, or at S. Mary’s and S. John’s National Schools at any time during school hours.

War Distinctions

Mrs. Gould was at Oxford presented, by the Major-General in Command, with the Military Medal won by her husband Samuel Gould at the Battle of the Somme.

We also congratulate most heartily Driver William Milne on having received the Military Cross.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P120/28A/14)

Till we meet again


Private Charles Holloway has long been reported missing, and the War Office has now sent an intimation that he must be “assumed killed in action.” Our deep sympathy is with his widow, and his parents, who have now lost three sons in this war.

Lance-Corporal Leonard Cox has been wounded and is now in hospital in England and is progressing favourably.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Privates Broadbent, F. Johnson, and J. Sumner.

The Vicar has received the sum of £1 from sale of waste paper collected in the parish, and this money has been devoted to providing comforts for our two prisoners of war in Germany, Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion.

We hope to send to all our men who are serving an Easter card of greeting with the message “May the Risen Christ, who left His home for us, have you in His keeping till we meet again”; and the assurance that we shall be remembering them at our Easter Communion.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

The fall of Odessa

The short-lived Bolshevik Soviet Republic of Odessa in southern Ukraine had been founded in January 1918. It came to an ignominious end following the conquest by the Germans.

13 March 1918
Odessa entered by Germans.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

He lied wholesale

[Internee Max Stephan had been found to be corresponding illicitlywas duly warned he would not be allowed to write or receive letters any more if he tried again to contact anyone secretly.]

11th March 1918
M. Stephan
Order 4.10.17 Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment.

The attached letter from Mr Snowden is forwarded to the Commissioners.

No letter to Mr Snowden has passed through my hands, and I interviewd Stephan this morning. He lied wholesale. First he stated he had never written to Mr Snowden. Afterwards he stated, on being cross-examined, that he wrote to his solicitor, Messrs Rowe & Maw, Amberly House, Norfolk St, Strand, and that the letter was written before he came here. I told him he was lying. He then said the letter was written 10th Feby from here to his solicitor, asking them to acquaint Mr Snowden. I again told him he was lying. Eventually he admitted that he wrote the letter himself and that it was taken out by a prisoner.

Three men – Hasse 22nd Feby, Hodgkinson 27th Feby, Whisperry 5th March, are possible men. Later prisoner practically admitted that it was Hasse or Whisperry, by stating that the man had left this country. From my knowledge of the men, I should say Hasse. All three men were searched upon leaving, but with the large amount of luggage they possess – clothing &c – it would be most difficult to detect a letter.

At present I have directed that all his letters are to be stopped, but I think he should forfeit them for a long period.

It is difficult to punish him beyond this, as he can only forfeit privileges if removed to the reception cells away from other men, and two days ago the Commissioners directed that he should be specially placed under observation on account of suicidal and depressed state of mind.

C M Morgan

[To] The Commissioners

Prisoner does not know Mr Snowden’s letter is to him, but believes it is to me.

Prisoner also has since the above was written, admitted that it was Hasse – and further that he did not take the letter from here, but removed it – wrote it outside and signed Stephan’s name to it by Stephan. [sic?]

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

Suicidal tendencies among the interned

Max John Stephan, alias Stephen Friedlander, aged 46, was a mining engineer from Germany, who was among the men interned atv Reading. The experience was making him depressed.

8 March 1918
Reading P.I.

Please inform the Medical Officer that letters have been written by the interned M J Stephan, which indicate the possibility of some mental deterioration or suicidal tendency, under which circumstances the Commissioners desire he should be kept under observation, with a view to a report being furnished if it appears necessary.

[Illegible signature]

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

A model windmill

It is pleasing to know that the authorities had no objection to this internee’s wish to send a toy to his little nephews and nieces.

7th March 1918
R E Lang or Lange

The above named Alien asks permission to send out a little model windmill, which he has made, to his married sister at L’pool for her children.


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

“Camp life makes them familiar”

Thousands of civilians from interned countries were housed at a camp at Holzminden in Germany throughout the war. Ernest Delfosse, a 32 year old motor mechanic from Belgium, 5 foot 6 ½ inches, with brown hair, was among the inmates there, until he escaped to England with the help of his sweetheart. Sadly, this did not mean freedom, as he was arrested on arrival as a suspected spy. He was transferred to Reading from Brixton Prison on 5 February 1917. He was classified as a Friendly Alien but stayed at Reading and was eventually deported in 1919.

HM Place of Internment

6th March 1918


With reference to your letter … dated 5th March 18 on the subject of correspondence between the interned alien E. Delfosse and Mrs E Owen, 54 New Compton St, London EC.

The first letter received from Mrs Owen by Delfosse was dated 22.12.17. This was sent to the Commissioners and I drew special attention to it, giving such information as I was able. It was passed.

Prisoner replied on Jany 5th 1918 – submitted & passed. A second letter was received on 12th January 1918 – submitted and passed. Both these letters are attached to this [though not to the letter book copy]. Please send them back as prisoner does not know they have been forwarded to the Home Office.

Prisoner’s reply to the last letter is the subject of the Home Office letter.

The history of the prisoner’s acquaintance with this woman appears to be:

He was interned at Holzminden, a camp of about 24,000. Men and women were allowed to mix for the purpose of visiting restaurants and cinemas in the grounds. He struck up friendship with this woman – also interned – [he] believes for trafficking in letters – but not sure. The majority of the women were interned for that reason. She stated she was a Russian. (I cross-examined Delfosse, who admitted that she might be a German Pole). He cannot (or will not) remember her name – always called her by her Christian name of Emmy. Camp life makes them familiar. She could speak no English and but little French – he could not speak Russian. Conversation carried on in German, in which both were fluent. Does not know if she was then married – thinks not – her maiden name could be obtained from his note book, black, 9” x 4” (about), taken from him by police at Gravesend 20th Oct 1916 (plain clothes man).

On 7th Oct: 1916 Delfosse escaped from Holzminden, “Emmy” keeping the sentry in conversation while Delfosse got away.

Heard nothing more of her until the letter dated 22.12.17. Does not know how she escaped.

Learns she is married to a Canadian officer. Does not know him. She wants to come & see him. Would like to see her.

I think that is all the information I have obtained.

I am Sir
Your obedient servant

C M Morgan

The Under Secretary of State
Home Office

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

Desperate smoker “will pay for it all tenfold after the war”

A nicotine addict interned in Reading Prison was desperate for his English friends to send him supplies.

March 5th 1918
G Stichl
S of S Order 20.8.16 Internment

Letter to Miss [Hemmerle] – he wants her to get Mrs P Danes to send him another parcel as soon as possible – double or four times the quantity, as he has nothing more. Will pay for it all tenfold after the war – it is fearful when he has nothing to smoke.

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

“A renewal of the war when the Teuton wolf has once licked his sores dry”

John Maxwell Image foresaw something like the third Reich.

29 Barton Road
4 March ‘18


When I study the words and actions of England’s public men, “Can I discern between good and evil?” I begin to truly doubt: Will these suffer the Allies to defeat and CONQUER Germany? We boast of keeping them off Paris. But Germany today is a Continent within the Continent. She and her vassal states stretch in unbroken line from the North Sea to Mesopotamia and over a third of Russia.

If America “stick it”, this “Continent” may be broken up. Yet even America professes unwillingness to interfere with a nation’s right to choose its government – which means a renewal of the war when the Teuton wolf has once licked his sores dry.

Our love to you both

Letters from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Hope the Japanese stop the Germans

Florence Vansittart Neale hoped the Japanese might take over from the Russians to hold back Germany on the eastern front.

1 March 1918

Hope Japs stop Germans at Vladivostok.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

None the worse for two years as a prisoner of war

We get a glimpse into wartime in a peaceful art of British-occupied Africa (now part of Tanzania). The Ruvuma River forms the bundary between Tanzania and Mozambique, which was in 1918 still a Portugese colony.

1-3-18. Massassie.
29th M.A Convoy
British East Africa

Dear Sir,

It is not some time since I wrote to you last, but trust you received my letter in answer to your most welcome letter of 6-8-17. Since writing to you last I have travelled the greater part of this country, the South of Central Railway, I have been over the Ruvoma river into Portuguese territory, but am now back in East Africa.

During the last few months I have had rather a busy time, and have also had my share of illness. I am picking up quickly again now, and feel as full of life as ever. The weather is still very hot. We have had very little rain this season so far: this time last year we were having very heavy rains and were stranded in the swamp for quite a month at a time.

I expect to be going on leave to South Africa some time this month; there are only 5 of us left out of 22 who left England 2 years ago, so I think we shall stand a chance of leave this rainy season.

There is very little game in this part of she country but about 50 miles from here, near the Border almost everything can be seen.

Football is the great game at present as the evenings are very cool now. Our Unit has started a Weekly Paper which is a great success throughout the camp, it is called the “Masassi Times”. If possible I will send you a copy which I am sure you will find very interesting, in fact we can boast the wit of two famous brother Comedians. We are having a very busy time just at present, for the sick average is very high again now, 3-3-18.

It is now Sunday afternoon, tonight we have another service which will be taken by the Rev. Archdeacon Hallet in a Banda at our park. I have had several talks with him, he tells me he has preached at Sunningdale and Ascot and remembered our church when I showed him a photo which I received from home a few months ago. He has been a prisoner in the country for 2 years, but he seems none the worse for his experience, for he is now back at the same Mission as before the war, which is only 4 miles from our camp. The Mission has been used for a hospital by both the Germans and ourselves, but is now given over for its work to be carried on.

It is a lovely building built of stone and brick by the natives, it is built on a hill only a few yards from a great rock several hundred feet high. Looking from a distance the rock appears to overhang the Mission. We have one of these great rocks on all four sides of us, with just a road running between, which is called Bhna. Some of the greatest fights of the campaign took place here, which makes it very historical.

We had a Native Regimental Band here for 2 nights last week, which we all enjoyed being the first we had seen or heard since landing in the country. The natives are very busy with their crops now, most of the land being very fertile, we are able to grow almost anything in the garden we’ve made, but our great trouble is to get the seed. Shops of any description are unheard of in this country so you can imagine our solitude. I think it will appear very strange but pleasant to us all when we get down to South Africa on leave.

I am so pleased to hear that Mrs. Cornish and Miss Mirriam are enjoying good health, please convey my best wishes to everyone at the vicarage. I will now conclude, thanking you for your kindness and trusting you are in the best of health,

Yours sincerely,

W. R. Lewis.

Sunningdale parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P150B/28A/10)