“At least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew”

David Stad was a Dutch Jew aged 27 when he arrived at Reading Place of Internment in January 1916. He did not enjoy his internment, feeling isolated and discriminated against. In June 1918 he was transferred to Islington.

22.5.18
The Governor
P of I Reading

With ref: to the petition of D Stad dated the 13th inst of which the following is a precise translation:

He says that on the 23rd June he will have been interned 3 yrs, and that he has never been told the reason for his internment.

He has never received any order, as many other interned [prisoners deleted] persons have. He asks to have one.

He asks if, after 3 yrs, he may be allowed to go to Holland, and is prepared to give an undertaking not to leave that country again, at any rate in war-time.

He says that out of a total period of nearly 3 yrs internment he has been 2 yrs & 3 months at Reading Gaol, and feels his vitality diminishing: his appetite is bad, and he suffers from sleeplessness.
This, he says, is due to the unpleasant life he leads at Reading, where at least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew.

He accordingly begs to be sent to Holland, or failing that to another camp, saying he even prefers Brixton so as no longer to meet the men who dislike him.

Unless this is done, he cannot hold himself responsible for himself.
He asks that all attention may be given to the question of his correspondence with Holland; he feels sure that his wife and relations write to him at least 3 times a month, but he has had no letters for 6 months.

Please furnish your observations on the statement as to his life at Reading, and the need, if any, for his removal, and also as to the facts respecting the letters he receives and sends.

W J Pond for Sec:

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

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“His cell being fungus covered and full of dry rot”

Internee Bernard Rohls was causing more trouble for prison staff. Were his complaints justified? But this was nothing to the fears that a new imflux of dangerous Irish veterans of the Easter Rising two years earlier might pose.

Place of Internment
Reading
20 May 1918

B H Rohls
23.3.16 S of S Order
Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment

The above interned Prisoner who is undergoing 21 days forfeiture of privileges asks that he may be visited by his own medical man from London, his reasons being:

Health.

His cell being fungus covered and full of dry rot – wet and many other things.

He is in an ordinary reception cell – which is clean and dry.

He has been seen by the Medical Officer, Dr Freeman, who is away on 10 days leave, and also by Dr Lambert who has acted as Medical Officer here for many years in the absence of Dr Freeman.

Report from Dr Lambert attached.

He was awarded 21 days by order of the Secretary of State.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

20th May 1918
B R Rohls

The above named interned prisoner has been under my observation since 14th May.

The state of his health is in my opinion as follows:

I. He is a distinctly neurotic & emotional man.

II. He shows physical signs of rheumatism of joints in the past. Has astories [sic] also, show signs of degeneration.

As regards his statements as to the condition of his cell – I have examined it, and I do not find any evidence of the presence of fungus or dampness in it. The cell is well ventilated and well lighted.

I have no grounds whatever for objecting to B R Rohls being visited by his own doctor. In my opinion, however, the case is not one for which a consultation is needed.

G O Lambert, MD, pro W T Freeman, MD (MO, H M Prison, Reading).

20 May 1918
Reading PI

Among the Irish prisoners who are being removed to England for internment, are several who were in custody under PS in Lewes Prison and took part in the mutiny there. It is to be expected therefore that the prisoners coming to your prison will combine together to resist orders, and steps should be taken by you to have an adequate staff present whenever they are out of their cells. To assist you in this matter the Secretary of State is asking the War Office Authorities to grant you a Military Guard and you should approach the local Commanding Officer to supply you with such a Guard as you may think necessary in anticipation of orders which he will receive from the War Office. You can arrange with him as to the number etc.
Please report the result.

[signature]
Secretary

[Added in Governor C M Morgan’s hand:]

The men will come out of their cells from 7 am to 7.45 pm continuously. No information as to arrival has been received.

My staff will allow of one officer being there on week days – none on Saturday afternoons or Sunday. I shall have to call in officers who will be repaid time I cannot say I have.

My present staff is today 7 short of what would be used for ordinary prisoners in normal times, who are locked up in most cases 22 out of 24 hours. I have arranged for a guard and request instructions as to the extent they may be used in case of the trouble the Commissioners anticipate occurring.

CM Morgan

[reply:]
The Military Guard should be used for sentry purposes & for exercising force in the event of an outbreak.

A J Wall
Sec:
24-5-18

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

Glorious sunshine – good for the Bosch, worse luck

Sydney Spencer was poised to move up the line to the worst action.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 17 May 1918

After a very good night’s sleep I got up at 3.30 after smoking a cigarette & taking an infinite childish delight in watching the bewildering clouds of vapours curling along the narrow slant of the shaft of sunshine which came through the small attic window in my room.

After breakfast I took rifle inspection afterwards. Sat & worked at mess bills & got them settled thank goodness. After lunch I went round to B HQ, settled up wine bills & left 80 francs with Sergeant Green for buying stuff while we are up the line.

It is now 4 pm & at 8.30 we go up the line again. So, my dear diary, I close your pages for a few days, as although I have been very careful to tell you little or nothing that is compromising, I dare not take you near where you might be taken prisoner! So au-revoir!

By the way, last night the Buffs made a big raid. Killed about 300, took prisoners, & got off with less than 10 casualties. It is a scorching hot day. We started out for the front line at 8.30 & got there at 11.15 & took over the trench without further ado – had absolutely no excitement getting there either.

Percy Spencer
17 May 1918

6 pm report from QM re petrol tins.

The best day since I arrived, a glorious sunshine. But good for the Bosch, worse luck. Division to be relieved tonight. We endeavouring to stay in Warlos for a might at least. Got NCO promotions nearly up to date, & a letter register started.
Pushed out of Warlos by 58th. Went to camp on hillside. Close quarters but lovely day. CO went to command 141.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“A bicycle made for two”

More from the Spencer brothers.

Will Spencer
15 May 1918

Some French soldiers were resting on the benches on the paved platform between the two buildings of the Blumlisalp Hotel. For the first time I had the feeling that the [interned] soldiers at this hotel were in some respects better off than those at the Waldpark. The hotel has more the unpretentious character of an Inn – is more rustic & more cheerful, with its water trough by the road & its tree-planted space between the two buildings. One of the soldiers was whistling the tune of “A bicycle made for two”, & I was surprised & amused to find that J. knew the words to almost the whole of the tune – which was more than I did.

Sydney Spencer
Wednesday 15 May 1918

3.30 pm. I am seated now, guess where, my dear diary? At Major Bracey’s working table at his billet! Only 3 kilos from where I at present live. I have just ridden over on Capt. Rolfe’s gee. Major Bracey is out however & won’t be back till 5, so I shall stick here to see him & having the football match I half promised to play in. I hope there won’t be a dust up about it though. It will be splendid to see old Bracey again, it is 14 months since I last saw him. Had a day off today. Dear old Rolfe, he did the straight by me after my two rather thorny days on Monday & Tuesday. Have just written to Father & Mother.

At 5.30 pm.
Major Bracey did not turn up. I waited till nearly 6 pm. Rode back. Watched football match between officers & men – a drawn game. After dinner walked over, saw dear old Bracey who cheered me up immensely. He walked back part of the way with me. To bed at 10.30 & read more of my book.

Percy Spencer
15 May 1918

A glorious sunshiny day. A good deal of trouble over billets. Trying to hang on in Warlos for a night at least. Division to be relieved tonight. Up half the night sorting details. Eventually turned in at 3 am after champagne supper & slept on floor in a company mess. Fritz bombed outskirts of village.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX802/28)

“Disappointed and discontented at being sent here”

Irish internee Hugh O’Rourke was upset by his confinement.

H M Prison
Reading
May 11 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of Hugh O’Rourke.

He appeared to me to be in sound bodily health when I saw him yesterday.

Evidently disappointed and discontented at being sent here.

W S Freeman

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

The lives of these PoWs seem to depend on the food sent them from England

PoWs depended on food sent from home.

Mrs. Barnett has undertaken to collect eggs for the Reading Branch of the National Egg Collection for Wounded Soldiers. Gifts of eggs will be gratefully received at the Vicarage.

The Vicar has had an appeal to help to collect for the Royal Berkshire Regiment Prisoners of War Fund on May 11th. 1918.

The Care Committee are responsible for sending parcels of food to 405 prisoners and bread to 473, the cost of which exceeds £14,000 per annum — £2000 of which is spent on bread. This is a very urgent matter as the lives of these men seem to depend on the food sent them from England. The Vicar will gladly receive donations, large and small, and if they are sent to him before May 11th he will forward them to the Committee as a gift from Bracknell.

Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, May 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/5)

‘He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete’

The Schraplowsky saga rolled on. Had his hunger strike caused the Polish internee to lose weight?

Place of Internment
Reading
8th May 1918

H. Schraplowsky

I have previously reported fully on this man’s case, and the letters he refers to are with the Prison Commissioners.

Taken from his record his weights are:

On arrest 23.6.15 – 222 lbs (dress not stated) – was then at Brixton
Reading 21.3.16 214 lbs
31.3.17 203 lbs (dress – without cap, coat or boots)
19.3.17 [sic?] 194 lbs

H M Prison
Reading
May 8 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of H. Schraplowsky. He has lost a certain amount of weight, rather in my opinion to his advantage than otherwise. He is a dyspeptic to a moderate extent. This is not to be wondered at considering his fits of temper and his stand upon his grievances.

I have allowed him rice in place of bread, with pint of porridge extra. The bread however is digested by both officers and interned men. He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete. The mixture that he refers to is a suitable one for gastric and intestinal dyspepsia.

W S Freeman

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

A war experience of singular and thrilling interest

A Reading woman bore witness to the war in Serbia.

The Work for Serbian Boys.

A lecture will be given in S. John’s Institute on Monday, May 6, at 8 p.m. on behalf of this work by Miss A. F. Parkinson, who has been acting as Superintendent of the hostel for Serbian Boys in the Bulmershe Rd.

Miss Parkinson has had a war experience of singular and thrilling interest. She was the only English person in Nish when the invading army of Germans and Bulgarians entered and after being kept prisoner for some months, was finally released, given her passport and sent home to this country via Austria and Germany. She stayed a short time in Vienna and a fortnight in Berlin and had unique opportunities of seeing both these capitals of enemy countries under war conditions. She is also very well acquainted with the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula and also knows the full story of the terrible Serbian retreat in which the boys now in our town took part.

No charge will be made for admission to Miss Parkinson’s lecture, but there will be a collection in aid of the work in which she is interested.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

Hunger strike due to bad temper

The Schraplowsky saga rumbled on.

Place of Internment, Reading
4 May 1918

Sir

I have the honour to report with reference to letter … dated 3 May 1918 that the hunger strike of Herman von Schraplowsky had nothing to do with the reasons of his internment or nationality but was due to temper.

On 9th April he wrote an impertinent letter to his wife regarding the Medical Officer and his treatment. I informed him that he could not utilise his letters for that purpose – that he could not write the letter – and that if he had any grievance against his medical treatment he could see me, or he could petition on the point if not satisfied with my decision. He was rather impertinent saying he would write just what he liked. I stopped the letter.

At his next visit on 20th April, he referred to this to his visitor. I attached the letter in question to the report of the visit to the Prison Commissioners – all visits are reported.
On 24th April he again wrote and the letter was improper. I awarded him 10 days forfeiture of privileges on no 2 diet. He then went on hunger strike. In accordance with standing orders the Medical Officer reported the case to the Prison Commissioners at the expiration of 48 hours. And as the man is excitable with an exceedingly bad temper, added that it might be necessary to forcibly feed him, but that as he weighed close on 200 lbs, it would not hurt him to go a bit longer.

On 27th April, as the Chairman of the Visiting Committee called at the Prison, I suggested that he should go and see Shraplowsky without me – he did so. Schraplowsky turned his back on him and refused to speak.

I then tried a method of my own, and had some onions fried over his cell, and when the smell was at its best had then placed with potatoes in his cell. In a few minutes he was eating everything at hand.

He was not forcibly fed – neither was he confined to bed.

I have not under the circumstances informed him as to your letter today regarding his nationality, but when I visited him this morning I asked him in conversation the questions, and his reply is that he is a Russian Pole, and that he would not go to Germany, but to Poland or to Switzerland where his wife comes from.

I may add that he completed his ten days today and his conduct is normal, in fact civil.

I have the honour to be
Sir

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan, Governor

[to]The Secretary of State, Home Office

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

Hunger striker is a big fat man

Alarmed by the story of internee Schraplowsky’s hunger strike, the authorities wondered if he had been force fed before the fried onions trick, while another troublesome inmate needed sanctioning.

30th April 1918
Reading P.I.

With reference to the petition of Bernard H. Rohls and your report which accompanied it, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the prisoner should be punished for making such untrue statements. Please state what punishment you suggest should be [illegible].
[signature]
Secretary

As this man has repeatedly brought untrue accusations against Warders & other prisoners, I would suggest forfeiture of privileges for 21 or 28 days and a severe warning. Forfeiture of privileges would not affect his dietary, with the exception of preventing him from buying in the Canteen or outside.

It would entail forfeiture of letters, stamps, newspapers, writing, association, and his exercise would be 2 hours a day instead of being practically unlimited during hours from 8.40 -12 noon, 1.45-5 pm, 5.25 pm – 7.40.

CM Morgan
Governor
2-5-18

2.5.18
[to] The Governor, Reading P.I.
It has been decided to approve of your recommendation. You are therefore authorised to deprive Rohls of all privileges for 21 days and to warn him strictly, informing him of the reason why he is punished.

J F Wall
Secretary 10-5-18

[to]The Gov, Reading P of I
If this man [Schraplowsky] was forcibly fed please furnish the particulars called for on enclosed form.
AJW
Sec 1-5-18

Prisoner was not forcibly fed.

He went on hunger strike after breakfast – 24.4.18 until afternoon of 27-4-18. He is a big fat man and the M.O. decided he might remain until morning of 28th when he should feed him. However prisoner gave in as reported.

A report from M.O. was forwarded on 26-4-18.

C M Morgan
Gov

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

“Men who were interned had to write through a friend in a neutral country”

Following yesterday’s query, it emerged that an internee’s foreign correspondent was innocuously enough his sister, who had also helped another internee communicate with his wife in Germany.

Place of Internment
Reading

1st May 1918

I have made enquiries and Hemmerle states that Fraulein Maria Hemmerle, per Witwe Hasler, is his sister. She works in a factory in Kanton Schwyz, and the Widow Hasler is the woman who keeps the lodging house where she lives. He does not know Hasler.

Fraulein Anna Hemmerle is another sister who worked in a factory in Kanton St Gallen. Johan Ulrich Wohlwerk was the proprietor of an inn where she lodged. She has now left the factory and returned home to the Hemmerle address of – Dominikus Hemmerle (father), Vaduz, Lichtenstein.

Hemmerle says that when men who were interned had to write through a friend in a neutral country, Bushe wrote through Hemmerle’s sister Maria Hemmerle to his wife in Munich. Maria Hemmerle had the wife’s address and forwarded on the letters.

Bushe’s wife was deported from England during the time Bushe was interned.

I may add that Bushe nearly always wrote through Fraulein Hemmerle while he was at Reading.

C M Morgan

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

Who are Frauleins Maria and Anna Hemmerle?

Internees were allowed to keep some contact with friends and relations, but the authorities kept a close eye on everyone.

Place of Internment
Reading

30th April 1918

R. Koch
2.10.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday the 29th inst: by Miss D. Shain (friend) of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.

The conversation was of private and family affairs.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

30th April 1918
Reading PI

Two letters from the War Office are enclosed having reference to certain correspondence that is taking place between Albert Hemmerle in your custody and – Bushe interned at the Cornwallis Road, Islington, with one Fraulein Maria Hemmerle, together with a letter written by Bushe to this latter person.

Please question Hemmerle on the following points:

1. Who are Frauleins Maria and Anna Hemmerle, where do they live, and who do they live with?
He should then be asked
2. Who is the Widow Hasler?
3. Who is Johann Ulrick Wohlwerk?
4. Where does the Hemmerle family live?

The letter written by Bushe may be shown to him after he has answered.

J F Wall
Report attached:
Place of Internment
Reading

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

“The increase is of course due entirely to the greatly enhanced cost of labour and materials since the war commenced”

The County Council was affected by several war-related matters.

Report of Finance and General Purposes Committee, 30 April 1918

PRISONERS OF WAR

An application has been received from the Committee of the Rifle Brigade Prisoners of War Help Fund, asking if the Council would consent to regularly contribute to the Fund for the benefit of the men belonging to the County who are prisoners of war.

The Finance Committee make no recommendation.

Report of Highways and Bridges Committee to Finance and General Purposes Committee, 30 April 1918

TYLE MILL BRIDGE

At the request of the Road Board, the Committee have undertaken the work of strengthening Tyle Mill Bridge sufficiently to take the loads of timber from the Canadian Forestry Corps Camp at Ufton to Tyle Mill Siding. Skilled labour is being supplied by Messrs J K Cooper & Sons of Maidenhead, who are carrying out the work with the approval of the Road Board, payment to be made on a percentage basis. The Canadian Forestry Corps is providing the reminder of the labour and other facilities. The cost of the work will be refunded to the Council by the Road Board.

Report of Public Health and Housing Committee to F&GP, 30 April 1918

ABINGDON HOSPITAL

The Committee have had under consideration as scheme for the provision of additional accommodation at the Tuberculosis Hospital, Abingdon, which is urgently required, mainly for the treatment of discharged soldiers and sailors belonging to Berkshire….

It is pointed out that the cost of the scheme would be considerably in excess of the £150 per head which the Local Government Board fixed in pre-war times as the maximum to which their grant would then apply, but the increase is of course due entirely to the greatly enhanced cost of labour and materials since the war commenced.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/21)

How long shall the ungodly triumph?

The Germans seemed to be triumphing, as prices continued to rise at home.

Florence Vansittart Neale
27 April 1918

Germans claim 6000 prisoners, mostly French. Other parts held. May have to evacuate Ypres! Oh! Lord how long! How long shall the ungodly triumph….

News better but Kemmel still in enemy hands.

William Hallam
27th April 1918

This afternoon cut up firewood and then painted our garden gate and clothes posts and spouting and coal hole door. Everything now is double the price- even paint.

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

Fried onions too much for a hunger striker

The Governor of Reading Prison had an ingenious way of ending a hunger strike.

Place of Internment
Reading
27 April 1918

H. Schraplowsky

With reference to my report yesterday as to this man going on hunger strike, I have now to report that I had some onions fried near his cell and placed in his potatoes. The smell was too much for him & he is now eating all he can see.

C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners