Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)


“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)

Willing to pay a substitute

A Maidenhead teacher was so desperate to spend her husband’s short leave with him, she paid the salary of her substitute.

25th February 1918

Mrs Wells wanted leave of absence for three days owing to her husband’s leave before returning to France. She was willing to pay a substitute & Mistress obtained services of Mrs Eustace of St Luke’s Rd. Notice of this leave was sent to the office.

Lower Sandhurst
February 25th 1918

Admitted 3 children from London.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 413); and Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 424)

Taking refuge from the air-raids

Another family fled to the safety of Berkshire.

February 11th 1918
Admitted another boy from London whose mother is taking refuge from the air-raids.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 424)

The Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading

Some of the refugees living in Reading came from Serbia, first battleground of the war.

The Vicar’s Notes

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Probably all our readers have heard of “Monitor” week, which is to be held in Reading from March 4th to 9th. We are all going to do our best by means of our savings to get together £250,000, which is roughly, the price of a “Monitor” ship. Sir Robert Kindersley, chairman of the National War Savings Committee, gave us a splendid lead at the Town Hall on February 22nd.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P98/28A/16)

Belgians to luncheon

Henry Vansittart Neale invited some Belgian refugees to lunch.

27 February 1918

H to District Council, brought back Belgians to luncheon – 3.

H back for meeting at 3 o’clock & took them back, Noble & I to Marlow about his sugar ration paper.

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

“Our Belgian friends can now stand upon their own feet”

Belgian refugees in Maidenhead were doing well and optimistic that the end was in sight.


The Committee’s fund is now nearly exhausted, and our Belgian friends, whom we have helped for more than three years, can now stand upon their own feet, although in case of some unforeseen emergency we would all be willing to lend them a hand again.

The Secretary, Mrs. Hews, has received this letter:-

“14, Fairford Road, Dec. 24th, 1917.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Once more I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May this be the last year of this terrible war, and we sincerely hope that next Christmas will find you bright, merry, and happy as in years gone by. As for ourselves, we hope to be back in Belgium before then.

I remain, yours faithfully, J. Van Hoof.”

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

Evacuee families go home

The fear of air raids was beginning to subside.

16th November 1917

Several families are now leaving the town who came to Reading a short time ago to get away from the air-raid area; many children’s names are, in consequence, being removed from the registers, after being on them, for a few weeks.

Reading: Battle Infants School log book (SCH20/8/2, p. 306)

London children find safety

More refugees from London arrived in Berkshire.

October 29th 1917

Admitted five children from London.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 415)

“This must be done before the war is over and the war-work dropped”

The Church of England hoped to use the groundswell of voluntary work supporting the war effort as a springboard for religious purposes at a later date.


The autumn effort in relation to the war.

In some ways this is a bad time for a Missionary Effort, but not in all ways. In order to point out one advantage of making the Effort before the end of the war the Executive Committee has unanimously passed the following Resolution:

The main aim of the Autumn Missionary Effort must be so to influence members of the Church that the services they are now rendering to King and Country (in prayer, gifts and in personal work), shall after the war be as far as possible conserved and transformed to service for the extension of God’s Kingdom.”


1. Prayer. One Deanery has already decided that War Intercession Services shall be continued after the war as Intercession Services on behalf of the Church Overseas.

2. Gifts. Regular or occasional subscriptions to war Funds (Red Cross, Belgian Relief, etc, would naturally cease after the war. The Autumn effort should encourage resolutions to continue such subscriptions (in part at least) after the war, for the unceasing frontier warfare of the Church.

3. Personal Service. Not a few Territorials in India who have visited Missions there, mean after the war to give themselves to missionary work. In some cases Red Cross and other Working Parties have already decided to continue to meet after the war, in support of Medical Missions. How many of our Nurses might put their trained experience at the disposal of Medical Missions!

The opportunity is great. If quite a small fraction of the voluntary war-work now being done were by-and-by transferred to the cause of Missions, the help given to the Church overseas would be multiplied many times!

Would it not be well for the parochial clergy earnestly to consider how best to bring this thought before each of their parishioners? Only this must be done before the war is over and the war-work dropped.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

A rather large influx of “raid” children

More families fled London, while local children collected chestnuts for munitions.

October 26th 1917

There has been a rather large influx of “raid” children from East London.

Octr 26th

Half holiday given this afternoon for chestnut picking.

Crowthorne C.E. School log book (D/P102B/28/2); Yattendon CE School log book (SCH37/8/2)

More children from London

More informal evacuees had fetched up in Sandhurst.

October 22nd 1917
Admitted five more children from London. There are now 341 children on Roll.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 414)

A refugee from the air raids

Yattendon children were sent out to pick horse chestnuts (for munitions) and blackberries (for jam to send to the troops).

Yattendon CE School
Octr 10th

Holiday given this afternoon to enable the children to gather horse chestnuts, which are asked for by the Ministry of Munitions.

Received circular re “Picking Blackberries” from Education Committee.

Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School
10th October 1917

Re-opened school after fair holiday, admitted one boy (from London – a refugee from the air raids).

Log books of Yattendon CE School (SCH37/8/3) and Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School (C/EL4/2)

Safe in Sunninghill

More families had fled the danger of air raids.

5th October 1917

I have this week admitted 7 children who have come to live here from London on account of the Air Raids.

Sunninghill: St Michael’s CE Mixed School log book (88/SCH/32/3, p. 218)

Visitors from London

The attacks on London had led to many families fleeing to the safety of Berkshire.

October 1st 1917
Owing to air raids in London several visitors are in this district. Have admitted 6 children in consequence.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 413)