Busily engaged in war work

Reading women had abandoned old religious or charitable work in favor of war work.

LADIES’ MISSIONARY WORKING PARTY

For some months the members of the Missionary Working Party have been compelled to suspend operations because there was no room in which they could meet. Our schoolrooms have either been “requisitioned” by the military authorities or devoted to the entertaining of our soldiers. There was a further difficulty, too, in the fact that many of the ladies were busily engaged in war work of various kinds.

There is now the possibility that the meetings may be resumed, and consequently a meeting will be held at Trinity Congregational Church on Tuesday April 23rd at 3.30 pm to discuss the matter.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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“I do not mind the occasional attacks from a few troublesome men”

Internee Bernard Rohls had made a complaint about his treatment, which he thought unfair compared to that of others allowed to exercise their trades. The Governor’s response gives an insight into the activities undertaken by internees.

20 April 1918
B H Rohls

I have little to add to my report of 28.3.18.

The majority of Rohls’s statements are utterly untrue – or at any rate their inference is.

To take the men he mentions –

Rhodes was allowed by the Commissioners to do fretwork, the tools being kept by the Chief Warder, issued daily and locked up at night. The reason he was allowed this work was that he had been in an asylum, was highly excitable, and it was done to keep him occupied. He left here 21.9.16.

Propper worked as a tailor – tools a sewing machine.

Mullinger as a knitter – tools a knitting machine.

Le Corty as a painter – tools brush & palette.

Shacken in Engineer’s party – tools pocket knife.

Delfosse as cleaner – tools pocket knife.

If there are any other tools they are successfully concealed. Many men made trinket boxes &c with their knives, and Rohls can do the same if he wishes. No man has been allowed to sell any outside – though they do to one another.

At present there are 6 chairs & about 20 stools broken. The Amateur repairing them is the Engineer of the Prison. Rhodes asked to be allowed to make artificial limbs for Red Cross, but it was disallowed by the Commissioners. I have no record of Rohls asking the same thing, but if he did, he would receive the same reply.

The statement regarding “Pack of Aliens” I need hardly say is untrue. I do not express all my thoughts to these men.

With the exception of the work and conditions stated in my last report, Rohls has never done or tried to do any work.

Personally I do not mind the occasional attacks from a few troublesome men the least – but I think from a discipline point of view some notice should be taken of utterly untrue, and known to be untrue, statements made against the head of an Establishment.

C M Morgan
Governor

[to]
The Commissioners

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

Damage caused by the continual trial trips of the instructional lorries of the Royal Flying Corps

The air war was causing problems on roads back home in Berkshire.

MILITARY REQUISITIONS

Road over Swinford Bridge

A military requisition has been issued for the repairs to the road over Swinford Bridge carrying the brick traffic from Chawley Works to the Oxfordshire Aerodromes. The road belongs to Lord Abingdon and is in a bad state of repair. As Lord Abingdon is unable, owing to lack of labour and materials, to do the work, the Committee have – at the request of the Road Board – undertaken the repairs, and an estimate of the cost has been forwarded to the Finance Committee.

MILITARY TRAFFIC: Damage to roads
Extraordinary military traffic, Ascot and Windsor Road

Damage has been caused by extraordinary military traffic between Lovel Road and “The Squirrel” by the continual trial trips of the instructional lorries of the Royal Flying Corps stationed at Ascot, and damage was also done in Hatchet Lane. The lorries have since left…. Owing to this damage the amount of last year’s estimate for the repairs to the whole of this road has been increased by £1,640.

Berkshire County Council Highways and Bridges Committee report, 20 April 1918 (C/CL/C1/1/21)

“He was the leader and chief agitator” of the internees

Ferdinand Louis Kehrhahn arrived at Reading in January 1917, aged 33. He was an art publisher born in the UK (Birkenhead) of German parentage. He had been sent back to Liverpool Police in April 1917, but now (following an unsuccessful escape) wanted to return to Reading. The Governor of Reading Prison objected to this troublemaker returning.

18 April 1918
Reading PI

The internee Ferdinand L. Kehrhahn, now in Brixton Prison, has petitioned the Secretary of State to take into consideration his present position – no companions with whom to mix with. On that account it is suggested that he be moved back to your custody, but before so doing please furnish your observations and views of the questions.
[?] Wall
Secretary

19 April 1918

In reply to letter … dated 18.4.18 on the subject of F. Kehrhahn, I think it very undesirable that he should return here for the following reasons:

When here before he was the leader and chief agitator amongst the men, and almost all of the men (of what was then C. party) are here, including his special friends.

Secondly, after leaving here he brought most untrue and unfounded charges against Warders, accusing them of stealing prisoners’ food – and they deeply resented his accusations.

Thirdly, when Kehrhahn and others escaped from Islington, information was given to me by Escosuras as to their whereabouts. I communicated with Scotland Yard by telephone, an official was sent from Scotland Yard within an hour to see me, and two of the men were arrested the same night, Escosuras being moved from here before Kehrhahn came. Escosuras is now here.

C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners

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

Income from the treatment of discharged soldiers has been very large

Newbury District Hospital was profitting from treating discharged soldiers.

The Chairman’s Statement

The Chairman said with regard to the report and the accounts, he would make a few remarks only. They would have seen from the report that the character of the Hospital’s work was very similar to that of the previous year. For the first time they had a small out-patients department for the purpose of treating discharged soldiers who required some special treatment such as massage. Their income from the treatment of soldiers had been very large, but it was not only from the military that their income had increased. Every single item of the ordinary income showed an increase during the year.

The Annual Report

The thirty-third annual report was as follows:-

The past year, 1917, has been a very important one for the hospital. The figures, giving the number of civilian patients admitted, show a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of soldiers admitted. This is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the new Annexe constructed during the early spring. The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The local branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew-street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds. Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward. The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages, swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated.

Miss Wasey organised a Pound Day, which was most successful. Many entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers. Special donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the hon. sec. Mr. Tufnall sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance, which amounted to £67 17s., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18 s.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading. The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital: this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose. A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their medical referee.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday April 19th 1918: Newbury District Hospital minute book (D/H4/3/2)

Old clothes for the destitute people in the devastated parts of Northern France

Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading was collecting second hand clothes for our friends in the battleground areas of France.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

In connection with the collection of old clothes for the destitute people in the devastated parts of Northern France, the committee who had this matter in hand, found that they could not get sufficient canvassers and helpers to embark upon the more ambitious scheme of canvassing the whole town for articles of clothing.

Rather than let the matter entirely drop, it has been decided to carry out the scheme in a modified form. Rooms have been obtained over Poynders’ old bookshop near the Post Office, as a depot and clothing station. It is intended to send a circular and reply postcard to persons in the town whom we think will assist us in the scheme, asking for promises of clothes, and then arrangements will be made for the collection of the same.

For this purpose we still want the help of our Brothers, but it will only consist of a very small amount of definite work compared with the previous scheme. Members of the Brotherhood who have been preparing bundles of clothes, should get them quite ready, and a date for the collection will be arranged. This scheme must now be pushed, as the time of year is getting on.

It has been thought desirable by some of our members that we should revive the old Horticultural Show for this autumn. We are all more or less interested in allotments and “back to the land” schemes, and it is felt that a horticultural show, held in our schoolroom, would be an incentive and an encouragement to our many brothers who are spending all their spare time in increasing the food supplies of the country. An enthusiastic committee has been appointed and details will shortly be announced.

The time of year has again arrived when we hope our brothers will volunteer, as in past years, to keep the allotments of those members who are on service in order. This work in the past has been done ungrudgingly, though un-noticed, and it has earned the heartfelt gratitude and thanks of many a member away serving his country, and been a help to the wife and little ones at home.
..
A much appreciated addition to our Sunday afternoon services has been made in the form of singing a verse of a “hymn of remembrance” of the brothers who are serving us on land and sea and in the air. They will know that each Sunday afternoon, and before we disperse, we shall be singing:

O Trinity of Love and Power
Our Brethren shield in danger’s hour
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Internees “are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends”

Reading Prison officials got into hot water when they accidentally stopped an MP from communicating with an internee. Fred Jowett (1864-1944) was a Labour MP who was opposed to the war.

Letter & enclosure withdrawn & issued.

It was not known that Mr Jowett was an MP but the letter appeared peculiar & attention was drawn. It was only when this letter was received that it was considered that Mr Jowett might be an MP & reference to Whitaker’s Almanac confirmed it & the Commissioners were told.

No man is allowed to communicate with an MP if it is known – these men are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends.

C M Morgan
Gov

14-4-18

Enclosing:
April 11th 1918

G Stichl
S of S Order 20.8.16 Internment

Special attention is drawn to this letter.

On 8.10.17 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett was submitted to the Commissioners, special attention being drawn. It was passed and posted by them 11.10.17.

On 17.10.17 an answer to this letter arrived from Mr Jowett. It was submitted to the Commissioners same day and retained by them.
On 3.4.18 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett by Stichl was submitted to the Commissioners and posted by them 4.4.18. The letter now submitted appears to be the answer to this last letter.

C M Morgan
Gov

I am informed that Mr Jowett is a Member of Parliament.

[in new hand:]
The letter may be given to Jowett, but any attempt to write Mr Jowett again should be specially brought to the notice of the Commissioners or to any MP. The letter of 3-4-18 was passed on the fact that he was MP was not recognised. The one passed of 8-10-17 was allowed as a special case, through a misunderstanding.
JW 13-4-18

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

Are the Canadian war graves well cared for?

War graves in Wokingham were untended.

Last July the following paragraphs were inserted in the Magazine:-

Soldiers’ Graves.

It is hoped to arrange for the care of all the graves and more especially of those of men from Overseas, who have no friends here to do this. Several people have already undertaken this excellent work, and the Vicar would be glad if they would kindly inform him which grave they are tending, so that such a grave may not be apportioned to anyone else. He would also be glad to receive the names of any others who would like to undertake the care of the grave.

There was no response. This, to say the least of it, was somewhat disappointing. The Canadian Authorities have now written to ask if the graves are well cared for or whether they should make arrangements for getting the work done. We hope that it will be regarded as a privilege of the Parish to tend the graves of those who lie buried here.

We therefore draw attention to the paragraph above.

In connection with the care of graves it has often struck us that more use might be made of small plants and bulbs. If suitable ones are chosen they need but little attention and always look tidy.

N.B.- The Vicar has a few such plants which he would be glad to give anyone who applies.

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

Such days as England never experienced before

The spring of 1918 saw a new onslaught at the front.

THE GERMAN FURY.

We have been passing through such days as England never experienced before. Defeat and disaster has seemed to be within measurable distance. If the British lines had been broken through, and the enemy had gained the coast; it is hard to see how we could have avoided surrender.

But through all our terrors and alarms we have never really believed that surrender was possible, not only because we trusted in the unconquerable British Army, but because we trusted in God. As the struggle lengthens out, and privations increase, our hope of endurance and final victory depends even more upon this flaming certainty, that this is the sacred cause of righteousness and God. We shall be traitors to heaven and earth if we allow war-weariness to abate our fixed resolve to continue to the end. Let us be quite sure that the end will be as we desire. It must be, because there is a justice immanent in things, and because God has bidden us defend the right. To leave our task half done would be to leave the world so shadowed by a great evil, that life would be monstrously burdened and spoiled, and happiness and rest for the nations would be impossible.

The nation is being called to still greater sacrifices, and every one of us must give his answer with a whole heart. Already there has been a wealth of sacrifice on all hands greater than we could have dreamed possible. Even we who thought best of our countrymen never guessed of the magnificent capacity for self-denial and service. And if more is demanded, shall we not all be ready? Whatever it is, economy in food or dress, or the rendering of such services in any form as may be in our power, or the brave bearing of the long strain, we must realise that our little counts, and that we shall never respect ourselves again if we do not play our part well now.

Almost every preacher during this Eastertide seems to have likened the anguish of the nation to Christ’s Gethsemane and sacrifice. Surely the resemblance is a real one. If we take it aright, the whole strife and agony of the nation to-day is of a piece with the cross of Christ. Christ’s cross was a voluntary suffering for the advantage of the race. And if we will consciously take it so, our suffering is a willing burden and anguish for the sake of the world and its peace. All those who have willingly risen up and taken arms against the monstrous scourge that threatens us, though some of them had perhaps little thought of religion, are really fighting in Christ’s cause against Antichrist.

And let those who believe in prayer pray. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world knows of.” Shall not the need of to-day teach us to pray with new faith and insistency? So let us pass through these days of pain as Christians should, in the trust that God is, that God sees, that God works, that right is right, and that right is might.

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

An attack of seagulls

Some of the difficulties arising at Reading Prison during its time as a Place of Internment for foreigners thought to be a threat to the country were outlined by the governor.

3 April 1918
Place of Internment
Reading

Gentlemen

I have the honour to submit my annual report on this Place of Internment.

The conduct of the officers has been good and they have willingly, and without a grumble, come in for extra duty each evening from 5.10 pm to 8 pm to supervise the Aliens who are in association, either in the Halls or garden up to 8 pm. Two officers have volunteered each evening, and been paid back the time owing when convenient.

The conduct of the Interned Aliens has been fair. Last autumn they gave trouble owing to

(a) Long internment with no definite time of release.
(b) The many nationalities, some fourteen in number, with corresponding temperaments, which led to quarrels.
(c) The social grades ranging from ex-officers to the convicts and petty thieves.
(d) The feeling that in many cases they were entitled to be treated as prisoners of war with corresponding privileges, and their knowledge of the few officers available to maintain order in the evenings.

In November a military guard was provided for about six weeks. This enabled active measures to be taken against the ringleaders and the tone of the place at once improved.

Towards the end of November about 40 aliens were re-classified as prisoners of war and removed to the Isle of Man Prisoner of War Camp.

The dietaries have been good and varied and the majorities of letters written speak well of the treatment.

The fire arrangements are satisfactory and fire practice has been regularly carried out.

The water supply is adequate, and there is sufficient pressure to reach to the top of the buildings.

The lighting throughout the prison is good.

The contractors’ supplies have been good except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

The garden has yielded good results, much better than was anticipated owing to the severe weather last spring, and the consequent influx of seagulls, who cleared off every green thing – over 200 being counted one day in one portion of the garden.

The Visiting Committee have attended regularly but have not been called on to adjudicate in any cases.

One man has been certified as insane and removed to the asylum at Moulsford [actually Cholsey].

There have been no deaths.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital have very kindly and generously taken in and treated such cases of illness as were too serious to be treated in cells.

The rules as laid down for this Place of Internment have been carried out except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

I have the honour to be
Gentlemen

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Prison Commissioners
Home Office

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

Pray for victory in the great struggle in the west

Reading people continued to support the war effort in various ways.

The Vicar’s Notes

Reading did well during its “Monitor” Week; we were asked to raise £250,000 and we actually raised over £376,000; so that we can well imagine the pleasure with which our Mayor was able to tell His Majesty the King of the real success gained largely through the efforts of the Reading Chamber of Commerce, and of Miss Darker and her workers at 6 Broad Street. We should also like to take this opportunity of congratulating all those connected with S. Mary’s Parish who had the honour of being presented to the King and Queen.

Thanksgiving

For the happy visit of our King and Queen to Reading.

Intercessions

For all our fighting men, especially among the wounded, Charles Gould, one of our Choirmen.

For victory in the great struggle in the west.

For the fallen.
R.I.P.

Mission to Seamen

Help is urgently needed. Subscriptions or donations, however small, will be most gratefully received, or any information as to other ways of helping will be gladly given by the Hon. Secs. For Reading: Miss Fanny Bird, Ivy Bank, Downshire square; Mrs Laing, 80 Crescent Road.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

Germans 6 to our 1

The news was so bad that even militant union members were holding back now.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 March 1918

Bapaume lost. Germans 6 to our 1. Nice prayers by Archbishop. Boy & Bubs [Leo and Elizabeth Paget] left us for the White House.

William Hallam
26th March 1918

A meeting of the A.S.E. to protest against such a thing as striking in this crisis so I went to support it.

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

Soldiers’ pay for digging the garden

Scattered Homes were small children’s homes intended to provide a more homelike atmosphere for children in the workhouse authorities’ care.

26th March, 1918

The following Committee is appointed to consider the application of the Porter and Porteress for an increase in their salary and to consider a scale of war bonuses for the Officers, viz Messrs A. Frogley, W. L. Bennett, J. A. Gauntlett, R. K. Slade, Revd C W H Griffith and Miss Campbell.

It is resolved that L/C Buckley be paid the usual Soldiers pay of 1/8 per day with rations whilst employed in digging the garden at the Scattered Homes.

Minutes of Wantage Board of Guardians (G/WT1/23, p. 305)

“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
(Signed)
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.

JFW
20-3-18

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

Experimental baking

The impact of food shortages is reflected in the new recipes for bread tried at Reading Prison.

9th March 1918
Circular No. 41 – 15.2.18

Referring to the above on the subject of the use of potatoes in breadmaking, I have to report that a new supply of Government Regulation flour has this week been obtained from a local firm, Messrs S M Soundy & Son, and an experimental bake produced. The percentage of only 23 per cent. With previous flour 24 was [used?].
Governor

Noted – No doubt the percentage of grain will vary with the flour.
Is the bread otherwise satisfactory?
[Illegible signature]
12.3.18

Yes, the bread is now quite good, we tried adding more water to make a larger percentage, but the flour would not take it up, and the result was bad.
C M Morgan
Gov
13-12-18

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