Art in an internment camp

Albert Cusden, one of four Reading brothers in a civilian internment camp in Germany, wrote home enclosing some pictures of the camp. Albert was a talented amateur artist, and many of his sketches from Ruhleben can be seen at Berkshire Record Office. The camp was famous in later days for the educational efforts run by the internees themselves, many of whom were teachers and academics. Please forgive the non-PC description of an internee from the Caribbean.

Oct 13th 1917
My dear Parents

As mentioned on my card last week, Dick sent off a photo addressed to you, and I sent off five drawings, so they should have arrived by now. Early this week Dick sent off a second photo. There was a special one signed by the group… The ink sketch I sent was of the chemical lab[oratory in] the Camp School. Then there were two charcoal sketches, one a landscape scene and the other a head study. And two pencil head studies, one of a fellow dressed for a part in a play and the other of a darkie. This young darkie, who is from the West Indies, is himself an amateur artist, and has worked at sketching, painting etc quite diligently since he has been here. We have acted as models for one another….

The Savoy Association has been sending clothes parcels to men on their list. Arch & I have just received ours. They are very nice parcels and include a thick overcoat. We shall all four be well provided for in this respect this winter, so don’t worry. If you could send on a couple of reels of black cotton or thread we should be glad, as we cannot obtain this here now. Also just a little tape. Don’t send much. Thanks in advance…

We are keeping well in all kinds of weather…

With love to all,

Your affectionate son,
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Mr & Mrs Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/7)

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Escape in a barrel

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Lieutenant Paul Eddis was a submarine officer who had been interned in neutral Denmark for some time. He made a daring escape hidden in a barrel.

Florence Vansittart Neale
30 September 1917

Exciting letter of Paul’s escape. He home Friday. Got in barrel….

Too full moon! Fear raids. General Maude’s victory in Mesopotamia very good.

30th week of air raids. Met by barrage of fire. 3 balloons brought down.

Heard of Paul’s arrival & escape in barrel to waiting yacht 15 hours! Evading destroyers [illegible] to Helsingborn.

William Hallam
30th September 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and working from 6 till 1. Beautiful weather still and the nights as light as can be with a full harvest moon – just right for those air raiders. After dinner – roast lamb fowl too dear; 1/9 a lb, I went to bed … A gloriously bright moonlight night.

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

Safe in Sweden after escaping

Florence Vansittart Neale was thrilled to hear that her nephew Paul Eddis, who had been interned in Denmark with his submarine crew, had managed to escape!

22 September 1917

Exciting news about Paul’s escape. Safe at Gothenberg!!

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

Fresh push on

The news from the front was good, but there were still casualties. Nurse Phyllis Vansittart Neale had her anticipated leave cut because she was so busy with the influx.

20 September 1917

Fresh push on – quite successful – over 2000 prisoners.

Heard Phyllis could not get full week now, so taking 4 days from 26th.

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

The unique privilege of visiting several of the camps where our own soldiers are imprisoned in Germany

The Revd Herbert Bury was the Anglican Bishop of Northern Europe, in charge of congregations across the continent. He had published a book on Russia in 1915, lauding its paternalistic government. He must have been surprised by the Revolution.

COLONIAL AND CONTINENTAL CHURCH SOCIETY

A Garden Meeting in connection with the above will be held (weather permitting) on St John’s Lawn on September 10th at 6.30 pm. The speaker will be Bishop Bury, who has seen so much of the life of Russia and Europe during the war, and has been allowed the unique privilege of visiting several of the camps where our own soldiers are imprisoned in Germany, besides being on the Belgian Front near Niewport last Whitsuntide. Should the weather prove unsuitable a service will beheld in St Stephen’s Church at the same time, at which Bishop Bury will speak.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

Italians getting on splendidly

The current guests at Bisham were having a good time, while there was good news from our Italian allies. Monte Santo is now Sveta Gora in Slovenia, close to the Italian border.

1 September 1917

Lt McFarlane left 9.45… The Canadians had been on river (Austman and Kelly, RFC).

Italians getting on splendidly. Over 20,000 prisoners Monte Santo.

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

The whole gamut of human emotion

The emotional toll of supporting loved ones at the front was beginning to tell in Maidenhead. One imagines the tears in church – but every now and then there was joy amidst the sorrow.

OUR ROLL OF HONOUR

The Minister has not for some time past read from the pulpit the list of our soldiers, because the strain upon the feelings of the more closely related friends was too great. This month there is space to spare in our columns, and we therefore print the list.

Five of our lads have fallen:

Harold Fisher …Royal Berks.
Duncan Wilson …A.S.C.
Robert Harris …8th Royal Berks.
Stephen Harris …3rd Royal Berks.
John Boyd …2nd Royal Berks.

Two have been discharged:

James Partlo …4th Royal Berks.
E.S. Mynett …Recruiting Sergeant

Forty-nine are still in the Army:

Cyril Hews …Royal Engineers
F.W. Harmer …Royal Berks.
W. Percy Pigg …A.S.C.
Cyril Laker …K.O. Scottish Borderers.
Reginald Hill …2nd Royal Berks.
Robert Anderson …4th Royal Berks.
John Bolton …23rd London.
Thomas Mulford …Royal Engineers.
J.O. Wright …8th Royal Berks.
George E. Dovey …9th Royal Berks.
Percy Lewis …R.A.M.C.
Arthur Rolfe …R.F.A.
Ernest Bristow …R.A.M.C.
Harold Islip …R.E.
Edward Howard …A.S.C.
George Belcher …R.E.
Horace Gibbons …11th Aus. Light Horse.
J. Quincey …A.S.C.
Donovan Wilson …A.S.C.
Aubrey Cole …A.S.C.
W.H. Clark …A.S.C.
Cecil Meade …A.S.C.
Benjamin Gibbons …6th Royal Berks.
David Dalgliesh …R.F.C.
Hugh Lewis …R.E.
H. Partlo …A.S.C.
Herbert Brand …8th Royal Berks.
George Phillips …A.S.C.
J Herbert Plum …R.E.
Wilfred Collins …Canadian Dragoons.
Alex. Edwards …R.F.A.
William Norcutt …A.S.C.
George Norcutt …R.E.
Victor Anderson …R.A.M.C.
Herbert G. Wood …R.E.
C.A.S. Vardy …R.E.
A. Lane …R.E.
Frank Pigg …R.F.C.
Leonard Beel …R.E.
P.S. Eastman …R.N.A.S.
A. John Fraser …A.S.C.
Charles Catliff …R.E.
Ernest A. Mead …7th Devonshires.
Robert Bolton …R.M.L.I
Frank Tomlinson …R.E.
George Ayres …L.E.E.
Thomas Russell …A.S.C.
G.C. Frampton …A.S.C.
W.J. Baldwin …Royal Navy.

In addition there are many who have passed through our Sunday School and Institute, but have not recently been in close connection with us. These also we bear upon our hearts, and bring in prayer before the Throne of Grace.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to say that Reginald Hill is still going forward, and that he is able to walk a little with the aid of sticks. He has now been at the Sheffield Hospital between five and six months. His parents are spending their holiday at Sheffield.

Robert Bolton has gone over with his Company to France.

Wilfred Collins is in Hospital at Sulhamstead, still suffering from heart trouble.

Sidney Eastman is at Mudros, doing clerical work.

David Dalgliesh has been home on leave, in the best of health and spirits.

GOOD NEWS!

In our last number we spoke of the fact that the son of Mr. Jones, of Marlow, was “missing,” and that all hope that he was still living had been relinquished. But the unexpected has happened, and news has been received that Second-Lieutenant Edgar Jones is an unwounded prisoner in the hands of the Germans. His parents have surely run through the whole gamut of human emotion during these weeks.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

It is a constant source of anxiety to know if our funds will hold out til the end of the War

The people of Wargrave contributed to help for Berkshire PoWs, including sending them bread to supplement what the Germans provided.

Prisoners of War of the Royal Berkshire Regiment

It is one of the first duties laid upon us to provide for the prisoners of War of our county regiment.

A Committee, of which Rear-Admiral Cherry is Hon. Treasurer and Mrs. Mount of Wasing Place, is Hon. Secretary, has undertaken this work. In February last it was realised by the Committee that to look after the prisoners of all the seven battalions now at the front would be more than they could undertake. It was therefore decided that this committee should only deal with the 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 8th battalions – the prisoners of the 1/4, 2/4 and 7th battalions were handed over to Mrs. Hedges, 19, Castle Street, Wallingford, and the prisoners of the 6th battalion to Mrs. Dowell, 155 Malden Road, Colchester.

An appeal was sent to the Parish of Wargrave for support and Mrs. Henry Bond undertook to collect subscriptions for the fund. Mrs. Bond’s appeal has met with a ready and generous support- the amount collected by her in the parish was £101. 2s., in sums of £5 and under.

In acknowledging the cheque Mrs. Mount writes:

Wasing Place,
Reading,
August 21st.
Dear Mrs. Bond,

I really do not know how to express to you my thanks for the splendid collection you have made in Wargrave for the Royal Berks Regt. Prisoners. It is a constant source of anxiety to know if our funds will hold out til the end of the War. Our bread bill alone amounts to between £60 and £70 a month, besides which we have to find adopters for our 280 prisoners willing to pay each £21 per year for these prisoners.

Your splendid collection will go far towards removing any immediate anxiety.

Yours sincerely,
Hilda Mount.


Wargrave parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

A real work of loving service for our brave soldiers and sailors

Newbury women were hard at work sewing for various deserving war causes, while even the mayor (a local solicitor) had joined up.

The members of the Red Cross Work Party continue their labours with undiminished energy. They have up till now held 40 meetings, and have sent work to the British Red Cross Society, the French Red Cross, the Belgian, Italian and Serbian ditto, the Russian Prisoners of War Fund, the Navy League, HMS Conquest (Lieut. Gordon Burgess’s ship), the mine-sweeper Newbury, the War Depot at Wickham House, the Newbury Hospital, Park House Hospital, the Ripon War Hospital, and Hospitals in France and Malta. The Work Party may well be proud of such a record, but we know that it is with all the members a real work of loving service for our brave soldiers and sailors…

We were pleased the other day to see the late Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Bazett, back in the town, looking particularly well. We wish him all success in the Army, and hope that he will come back safe and sound.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

From prison to Parliament

Future Irish President Eamon de Valera made his first appearance on a world stage in July 1917 when he won a parliamentary by-election for the constituency of East Clare, aged 35. He was a veteran leader of the Easter Rising the previous year, explaining Florence Vansittart Neale’s disapproval.

11 July 1917

Set back by Ijder. Fear our troops surrounded.

Sinn-Fein man got in for Clare – rebel – released from prison….

Heard Bubs had put in for leave.

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

The Open Air mission to the troops of all nations

The Open Air Mission was an evangelical initiative reaching out to men in training, the wounded, and enemy PoWs.

OPEN-AIR MISSION
There will be a meeting on behalf of this Mission on St John’s Lawn on Tuesday, July 3rd, at 3 pm, when the Rev. P. Rose and Walter Goff, esq, will describe the work of the Open-Air Mission amongst British and French troops in the war, and among German Prisoners… If wet, the meeting will be held in Princes Street Mission Room.

Reading St. John parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

“The Germans may try to send poison to German Prisoners of war in order to contaminate water supplies”

Broadmoor, acting as a war hospital for metally ill PoWs, received the following warning. Was this ridiculous hysteria, or was there a genuine threat?

War Office
London SW1

20th June 1917

Sir,

I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that information has been received from General Headquarters, British Armies in France, that the Germans may try to send poison to German Prisoners of war in order that the latter may contaminate water supplies etc.

I am to request that, in the event of any suspicious enclosures being found in parcels of Prisoners of War, the Commandant of the Prisoners of War Camp shall pass them to the Medical Officer for examination and analysis.

I am,
Sir,
Your obedient servant,
B B Cubitt

[to]
General Officers
Commanding-in-Chief at Home.
Copies to Commandants, Prisoners of War Camp.
Commandant, Crowthorne War Hospital, Wellington College.

Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

Most forms of disablement can be usefully dealt with

Provisions for men left disabled as a result of wounds were becoming personal for Ascot people.

The name of William Tidy (son of Mr. Tidy of the Royal Nurseries) has, we regret to say, to be added to our Prisoners of War.

We also feel deep sympathy for the anxiety of the families of William Nobbs and Walter Barton, both of whom are reported missing.

Sergeant Major Arthur Butcher and Corporal William Jones have been called to the Front.

Pte. Thomas Statham is wounded, but we are thankful to say he is progressing favourably.

Pte. Ernest Taylor has been ill in Mesopotamia.

Corporal Claud Parsons (Machine Gun Corps) has received the Military Medal for gallant conduct.

Lieutenant Ernest Monk (R. West Surrey) has been promoted Captain. He gained his commission owing to conspicuous gallantry. He married the daughter of Mr. Jones, London Road. Both he and Corporal Parsons are wounded.

Pte. Walter Talbot is home, and has been discharged “disabled.”

We would like to say that extensive arrangements for the training of disabled men have been set up all over the Country, and most forms of disablement can be usefully dealt with. Any disabled Sailor or Soldier in the Parish requiring training should apply to Mr. Tottie, who will be very glad to give information and assistance.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/6)

German officers in Maidenhead

The Vansittart Neales were involved in efforts to keep farming going in war conditions.

31 May 1917

Henry & I had to go to Maidenhead for meetings – he agricultural, I women on land….

Saw several German officers – prisoners.

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

“So long since they have had any news”

Reading-born Albert Cusden, interned in German camp Ruhleben, wrote to his young sister. He and his brothers were anxious because the post seemed to be disrupted.

May 31st 1917

Dear Ruby

Your & Mother’s letters of April 15th & 20th recently received. This morning I sent off 5 drawings which I should be glad if you would kindly put by with the rest… I do not think we shall be able to send anything else like this away after this month. Three of the sketches were head studies, one of the others showed an evening in a loft, and the other a charcoal drawing of our hot water boiler upon a winter’s evening. This month has been a very warm one, quite as warm as April was cold.

Three o’clock. Post has just arrived. Letter from Lucy to myself & from Iris to Arch, dated April 29th. It is a considerable time since any letters have been acknowledged. I do like to know whether they arrive. On the average, quite one out of my two monthly letters are sent home, apart from cards. Maybe it is owing to delay in post, most fellows are receiving letters from their relatives complaining it is so long since they have had any news…

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss R Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/6)