Not sleeping well

William Thomas Cosgrave was an internee who had been elected as a Sinn Fein MP at a by-election in 1917 while still in prison – and who later became first prime minister of the Free State.

HM Place of Internment
Reading

June 21 1918

From the MO
To the Governor
Concerning W. Cosgrave MP.

He suffers to some extent from nervous fatigue and states that he is not sleeping well.

I am allowing him a special diet, and he is having at present a Bromide Mixture at night.

There is no real [illegible] now, but he has a stump that requires extraction and I am arranging with the dentist to see to this. I do not think it would be wise for Mr Keogh to prescribe for him.

I see no necessity for getting the opinion of Capt. McWalters. Should I think at any time that another opinion is necessary for W. Cosgrave I will at once inform you for communication to the Commissioners.

W T Freeman, MD, FRIS

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

Advertisements

“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle”

A Maidenhead man bears witness to the fighting in Palestine.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Reginald Hill has left Sheffield Hospital, and hoped to have left hospitals for ever, but very shortly after getting home he had a slight relapse, and at the time of writing is a patient at Cliveden. We hope his stay there will be very brief.

Harold Islip is in hospital at Trouville, suffering from trench fever. He expects shortly to be in training for a Commission.

Ernest Bristow will probably be at Cliveden by the time this has reached our readers’ hands.

George Ayres has been transferred to a Field Company of the Engineers, and is at Anglesey.

Reginald Hamblin is in a Flying Corps, and is training at Totteridge.

Herbert Hodgson is in a camp near Salisbury Plain.

Benjamin Gibbons is in Ireland.

Leonard Beel sends a letter (which has evidently had a soaking in sea water) with vivid account of what he has seen in Palestine. He says:

“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle. Afterwards I had a good look around Gaza, and saw the results of the bombardment, but unfortunately missed the several interesting spots associated with Samson’s career through want of a guide.”

He speaks, too, of visiting Ashdod, Lydda, the Vale of Ajalon, and Jaffa, where Simon the tanner entertained Peter, and where Dorcas was raised.

“The native villages,” he says, “are picturesque from a distance only. Inside they are usually worse than any English slum, full of filth and squalor. It is months ago since I last saw an Arab with a clean face.”

His one regret is that he has missed seeing Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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

“The Irish internees will attempt to communicate with their friends by secreting letters in returned egg-cases”

The government was paranoid that interned Irish nationalists might communicate secretly with others.

17 June 1918

[to] The Gov
Reading P. of I.

As there is reason to suspect that the Irish internees will attempt to communicate with their friends by secreting letters in returned egg-cases or other empties & that their friends will make a similar effort by means of parcels sent in, particularly in paper wrapping round such an article as butter, you are requested to spare no pains in closely examining all packages and and from these prisoners. All articles of clothing coming in or going out should be minutely searched.

A J Wall
Secy

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

He has given his health, as his brother has given his life

Burghfield men continued to pay a high price.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Cadet Alfred Searies has been posted as 2nd Lieutenant to the Suffolk Regiment. Lance Corporal Percy Sheppard (Army Ordnance Corps) and Rifleman E Wigmore (Rifle Brigade) have been promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Casualties

Ernest Eaton (Royal Berks Regiment) wounded; 2md Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), Sergeant Wigmore (see above) and Private W H Brown (Royal Berks Regiment), Prisoners of War.

Discharges

Captain Francis A Willink (4th Royal Berks Regiment), Dysentery and Colitis; Isaac Osman (Labour Corps, ex Rifle Brigade), Rheumatism.

The promised statement about the late Captain George Willink is held over.

Congratulations to 2nd Lieut. Alfred Searies. He is the first of Mr Sheppard’s “old boys” of the Burghfield C of E School to obtain a commission. Let us hope he will not be the last, as he certainly will not be the least, either in stature or merit.

Condolences with Captain Francis Willink, who sorely against his will is, after fifteen Medical Boards, gazetted out of the Army “on account of ill-health contracted on active service”. He worked up from Private to a Commission in the Eton College OTC. On going to Oxford in 1910, he joined the 4th Royal Berks, and was a Lieutenant when war broke out, soon afterwards being made Captain and given command of “E” (the Newbury) Company. In March 1915 he went to France with the Battalion, which had then become the 1/4th, upon the formation of the 2nd unit. They went immediately into trenches at “Lug Street”, afterwards holding sections of the line by Bethune, and later at Hebuterne. The trying conditions of active service however told upon him and brought on dysentery and colitis, and after holding out as long as he possibly could, perhaps too long, he was invalided home in September 1915. Since then he has done a lot of useful work with the 3rd Line at Weston-Super-Mare, and Windmill Hill on Salisbury Plain, and for some time was Draft Officer. But his health did not really improve, and about a year ago he was transferred to Reserve, since which time he has been further twice medically examined and is now declared to be permanently unfit for medical service. He has given his health, as his brother has given his life. Fortunately there is still useful work open to him to do of national importance.

Burghfield parish magazine, June 1918 (D/EX725/4)

The O.T.C. had never been so strong in numbers as it was now

Reading School boys did much to support the troops.

The O.T.C.

The O.T.C. had never been so strong in numbers as it was now. There were 158 in the corps, and there were 77 recruits. At the War Office inspection in June last the officer inspecting was greatly impressed with their “soldierly contingent,” and though great credit was due to the officers and instructor. The corps had suffered a loss by the retirement of its commander, Captain Crook. After a long period of service, and he was also sorry to say that Sergt- Major Green, D.C.M. had been obliged to give up the post of instructor owing to ill-health. It was agreed to give Sergt-Major Green some material recognition of his good services to Reading School, and a fund had been opened for that purpose. Mr Keeton referred to what the old boys had done during the War, as reported elsewhere.

Good work has been done in other directions, and the School workshops, under Mr. Spring, had turned out a great deal of material, such as crutches, splints, bedrests, &c., for the Reading War Hospitals. The boys had also helped in food production. Many had given up a portion of their time to gardening, and a squad of 50 boys did harvest work last year in the neighbourhood of Hastings. In the matter of war savings the School had subscribed £1,650.

Reading School Magazine, April 1919 (SCH3/14/34)

So many are giving their lives for us that we may enjoy freedom, that we must be willing to make our smaller sacrifices and use our freedom unselfishly and for others

There was news of several Sulhamstead soldiers.

THE WAR

We congratulate Mrs Grimshaw upon her son’s latest honour. Captain Grimshaw, MC, has been awarded the Croix de Guerre, Senior Class (with Palm).

Mr Harry Frank Wise, Queen’s Own Oxford Hussars, who proceeded to France in October, 1914, has been given, on the field officer’s recommendation, rank as lieutenant.

We regret to record many casualties and one death since our last issue. Colour Sergeant Major Robert East, 3rd Battalion AIF, has been returned home seriously wounded. His leg has been amputated above the knee, and he lies in a very serious condition. It will be remembered that his brother, Private Amos East, was returned seriously invalided. At the same hospital as C. Sergeant Major Robert East is Gunner Reginald Briant Brown, RFA, son of Mr Brown of Jame’s Farm, Lower End, [who] is also lying wounded.

Private Albert Painter, 8th Berks Battalion, Stretcher Bearer, has been missing since March 31st.

Amongst others connected with the parish, we have received tidings of the death of Private Ernest Brown, RFA, son of the late Mr Henry Brown of the Kennels.

It is with great sorrow that we announce two deaths. Private Henry Bonner, 2nd Battalion, Royal Berks Regiment, was killed in action during the period from March 22nd to April 2nd. This is all the War Office can communicate.

The second death was that of the son, Samuel, of Mr and Mrs Locke. He was sent back to England wounded, died in Hospital at Reading, and was buried at Shinfield on May 14th. It is only a few months since his brother’s death. So many are giving their lives for us that we may enjoy freedom, that we must be willing to make our smaller sacrifices and use our freedom unselfishly and for others.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, June 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Gas masks of all nations

Sydney was instructed in the use of gas masks and translating for fellow trainees, while Percy had a bad day.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 8 June 1918

Another beautiful day after the light rain we had last night. Got up at 7.30. After breakfast lolled about a bit & then on parade by 9.30 am. First parade consisted in [sic] a lecture by Lieut. Ash on Warfare generally, followed by the Projector Gas attack, a very interesting part of the lecture to me as I had not heard more than vague rumours as to how it worked.

After lecture a break, then gas drill till 12.30. Adjustment of box respirators by members! Lunch, & afterwards parade till 4.30. Lecture on gas masks of all nations, ie English, French, German & Russian. The Russian is a hideous [sic] affair. After the lecture a talk from the QM Staff man on Inspection. A rotten exhibition. Then through lachrymator gas to test the masks. At 4.30 we dismissed.

After tea, walked to Hesdin with Barker. Made sundry purchases. Barker wanted anything from ninepins to elephants. He taxed my French noun vocabulary to the last ounce. After dinner a loll in the garden. Then writing up gas notes.

Percy Spencer
8 June 1918

Went up to Battalion HQ. A very pleasant walk up. Fireworks everywhere. An awful journey back. Horses bolted as we tore thro’ batteries shelling & being shelled.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 June 1918

Better news in France. We retaking few places. Heard Boy [her son in law Leo Paget] 3 months more in England & has an MC.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Military Guard withdrawn

Reading Prison no longer had soldiers present.

Place of Internment, Reading
6 June 1918

I have to report that the Military Guard was withdrawn yesterday by the War Office.

There is no guard now.

C M Morgan
Gov

[to] The Commissioners

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

Battalion HQ in very deep dugout

Sydney had a sightly better journey today, and paid more attention to the controversial Billing case at home.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 6 June 1918

Rose at 5 am. Got breakfast, & into the train for Hesdin by 6.30. It is now 9.30 & we haven’t yet started. Another glorious morning, all sunshine.

Billing has been pronounced ‘not guilty’. Justice Darling makes use of the following expression, ‘I tell you now that I do not care a bit for you or anyone like you, or what you say about me’ seems ridiculously childish. A street boy would have pulled a face & said ‘yar ‘oo cares for you’ & would have called for more conviction with him!

Started for Hesdin (30 miles) at 9.30. Got there 11.30. Wonderful. Lorry jumped to Marronville, arriving at 12 noon. Graham & I billeted at the mead, a long low white cottage facing the church. Mess will be started tomorrow morning.

Had lunch at the Hotel de Commerce. Walked back to billets. Slept. Got some [illegible] out of the sergeant. Walked down with Graham & Barker to Hesdin. Had dinner at the Hotel de France. Back by 9.15 & to bed. Started reading Tartarin de Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet. A very droll book.

Percy Spencer
6 June 1918

17th relieved us and we went into support. Battalion HQ in very deep dugout.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 June 1918

Early church – dog walk – then fussed to find rooms for farm workers till lunch. Heard another officer coming today & one tomorrow. Captain Petcher AFC Maidenhead called on Miss Areson.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The apparent quiet and satisfied demeanour of the Irish prisoners in Reading

The Governor of Reading Prison wanted to keep a military guard to deter the Irish internees from escape.

1.6.18
Prison Commission HO
[to] The Gov, P of I, Reading

Please report what numbers of men the Mil: Guard appointed to your prison consists & what duties they perform.

Having regard to the apparent quiet and satisfied demeanour of the Irish prisoners now in your prison, be good enough to furnish the Commissioners with your observations as to whether such a Guard is any longer required. Should you consider the presence of such a guard absolutely indispensable, in the interests of safety and security, what in your opinion is the minimum number required.

A J Wall
Sec:

Taking into consideration the past histories of the men here – and that on week days for a considerable portion of the day only one officer can be present – and on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday only one officer, a guard is desirable. I made my own arrangements regarding the guard with the officer commanding troops – and asked for & received the Min. Guard that mounts 1 NCO & 3 men – i.e. one sentry post. Sentry patrols from Female Prison entrance – round part exercise ground (Female) to Boundary Wall. NCO & relief are stationed in temporary guard-room on top of main Prison entrance.

C M Morgan
3.6.18
Gov.

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

The internees may let their friends know where they are as soon as possible

The Irish internees were now to be allowed to communicate with their friends and relations, if under strict censorship.

H M Prison
Reading
May 31 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of Max John Stephan.

I recommend that he be allowed to go to the dentist’s house under escort.

W Freeman

31.5.1918
[to] The Governor, Reading Prison

It has been decided that the privilege of writing & receiving letters, which has hitherto been suspended, shall now be granted to the interned Irish prisoners.

The examination of the letters will be undertaken on behalf of the Commissioners by the Postal Censorship. Accordingly all letters written by and all letters received for these prisoners, including P’Cards, telegrams, books, & newspapers, and any messages contained in parcels, will be sent by you – the envelopes remaining unopened – to the Chief Postal Censor, Strand House, Portugal Street, London, WC2. With each packet of letters, you will send a covering note as follows: This parcel contains letters received on – date -, for the Irish prisoners interned in Reading P. of I. signed – Governor; or This packet contains letters posted on – date by the Irish prisoners interned in Reading P. of I., signed – Governor.

If passed by the censor, they will be posted to the addresses, or returned to you to deliver to the internees, as the case may be.
The internees should tell their friends to address all letters, postcards, telegrams, and newspapers as follows:

Name
Prison – in brackets
c/o the Chief Police Censor, Strand House, Portugal St, WC2.

This will save delay, as ant letters &c sent to the Prison direct will have to be referred to the Censor in the first place.
Parcels should be addressed direct to the Prison: they must be carefully examined, and any written or printed matter contained in them must not be given to the prisoner until passed by the Censor.

In order that the internees may let their friends know where they are as soon as possible, they should be advised to limit their first communication to a postcard or telegram, stating where they are held, and explaining how letters, parcels &c should be addressed.

For the present, no visits can be allowed.

Signed A H Wall
Sec:

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

Not much to grumble at

The Governor of Reading Prison was defensive about complaints about the food put forward by one of the Irish internees.

Place of Internment
Reading
29 May 1918

W L Cole

1. The Commissioners’ instructions are – no letters in or out – no visits.

2. When formerly here, the Home Office allowed parcels of food &c. Now food is controlled & parcels mean letters to acknowledge.

3. By Commissioners’ orders these men were on Local Prison diet. This does not carry tea or coffee. Further as tea is rationed in Reading, 1 ½ oz per head per week, they could not buy it without coupons, and they cannot write [for it]. Now the diet has been altered – as for the remainder of the interned aliens – they can have tea for breakfast or coffee.

4. They receive 3 ½ oz a head a week, the same as other interned men – Reading maximum ration is 4 oz per week. They receive 14 oz of bread daily, the same as other men. Cereals are limited to 117 oz a head a week.

5. They receive potatoes daily and on most days of the week a second vegetable – leeks – or something else as well – where procurable.

I will give their food today – not much to grumble at. They can supplement that by purchasing non controlled articles.

Breakfast – 6 oz bread, 1 pint porridge, ¼ oz margarine, 1 pint coffee.

Dinner – 2 oz bread, 1 ½ oz salt pork, 4 oz haricot beans, 16 oz potatoes, 4 oz stewed rhubarb (fresh), 4 oz leeks (from garden).

Supper – 5 oz bread, 1 pint cocoa, ¼ oz margarine, 6 oz potatoes, 1 ½ oz salt pork (alternatively with cheese).

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

The men have little beyond what they stand in

The Governor of Reading was anxious about how to deal with gifts sent to the Irish internees from home, when they were banned from receiving letters.

Place of Internment
Reading
28 May 1918

1. Will the Commissioners please inform me what I should do with letters that arrive for the Irish interned prisoners – several have come today. I should prefer not to open them, as they many contain money – which would have to be acknowledged, and also as the men would not have the letters, it might lead to questions as to the amount received. I cannot well put them with property as any money orders would lapse. Should they be marked not delivered and returned to Post Office?

2. Parcels – should they be opened & delivered or returned or what is being done?

3. All of the men have requested to write for money and clothing. My instructions at present are no letters or visits. 1 and 3 depend on each other as regards letters. So far I have issued any clothing that has come, as the men have little beyond what they stand in.

Since writing the above, parcels of Jam – sugar – cakes have arrived from Ireland. All are rationed articles, what is to be done with them please.

At present they can be locked up.
CMM

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

“Irish National Poems were not allowed when they were here before, but I suppose they know them all by heart”

The new Irish internees arrived at Reading – and their books were immediately (and unlawfully) confiscated.

Place of Internment
Reading
27th May 1918

Walter L Cole
William T Cosgrove
Richard Davys
Frank Fahy
Richard Hayes
John Hurley

17.5.18 Chief Secretary for Ireland’s Order, Defence of the Realm Regn (14B) Internment.

Sir.

I have the honour to report that the above named Irish prisoners were received into my custody on Saturday the 25th inst: from HM Prison, Gloucester.
C M Morgan
Governor
[to]
The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
Whitehall
SW

27.5.1918
Place of Internment
Reading

The attached papers & book entitled “Irish National Poems” were taken from the Irish prisoners when they arrived here. They have had them in their possession up to the date of arrival here on Saturday evening. Irish National Poems were not allowed when they were here before, but I suppose they know them all by heart.

[reply]

Please say why these are submittted to the Commissioners. There does not appear to be anything to object to in them.

A J Wall
Sec.
28/5/18

Noted. These were submitted because I cannot read Gaelic. As regards the book of poems, its approval is noted. It was submitted because it was disallowed when the Sinn Feiners were here before – to the best of my belief.

C M Morgan
Gov
30/5/18

The instructions as to their treatment and that they may retain papers &c in their possession was only received today.

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

Home from the Salonika Front for training in a Cadet Corps

Customers at Sulhamstead Post Office supported a canteen at railway stations for soldiers on the move.

THE WAR

SOLDIERS’ CANTEEN, S.E.R.

The amount in the box held by Mrs Winchcombe at the Post Office for this purpose amounted to 2s 6d.

Sergeant James Price has returned home from the Salonika Front for training in a Cadet Corps. His brother, Corporal Stanley Price, has been sent from India to Egypt, to be trained for a commission in the Royal Air Force.

We regret that Private Amos East has been returned home seriously invalided. Private Enefer is still in hospital in London, suffering from wounds.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, May 1918 (D/EX725/4)