War trophies for the interned

Philip Preuss was a Belgian stockbroker, aged 41, when he was interned at Reading.

P Preuss

The above named prisoner states:

The letter is correct. Lieut. Le Cocq who is in the Belgian Army lent him some war trophies and also Lieut. Le Cocq’s father lent him some.

He gave receipts for these trophies to the Le Cocqs, father and son.

Mr Le Cocq wrote to him some time ago asking about the trophies and Preuss wrote a petition to the Home Office asking to be allowed to return the trophies to their owners.

The Home Office refused to allow this until either the war was over or Preuss was released, and Preuss wrote to Lieut. Le Cocq who was in France giving him the Home Office reply. Preuss is unable to give Mr Billings an order to return the articles to their owners, as all the trophies are together, and consist of many things besides those of the two Le Cocqs – and Mr Billings does not know the articles belonging to the different individuals.

He is anxious to return the articles to their owners but has not any facilities for doing so.

C M Morgan


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

Oxford engulfed by soldiers and wounded

Sydney Spencer of Cookham was a close observer of wartime Oxford, where he was an undergraduate.

October 20th
Tuesday afternoon at the Union

I have just got time for a scrappy bit of news before I take tea with Billings, one of our men who lives in Newton Road. There are soldiers & embryo soldiers here, there and everywhere. Oxford’s grey & venerable walls reverberate to the imperative urges of the bugle, her sedate quadrangles are the training ground for her soldiers. In gateways where gowned men used to loll & chat, there now stand stiff sentinels. Our men are seen flying off to lectures in [sic] karkai uniforms, & they are allowed to drop the gown. It is curious to see these men off to parade at 9AM lugging note books & Tacitus & Livy’s which soon they will open on a desk before their austere tutors.

There are lots of convalescent wounded men about. Even Belgian and French wounded are brought here. The officers get their poor hands nearly wrung off. Strangers go up and take off their hats & give what little French they have an airing on the Belgian and French officers in their weird costumes, bow & scrape & smile & doff their gold tassled hats & everybody beams, & everybody is pleased, & “poppa” has said ‘bong jourr Camerade’ to a real live officer, & “ma” doesn’t know what to do with herself in consequence of a dilemma in which she is placed, which dilemma being that she wants to swell with pride & not only fears to, but just can’t, and so on.

Oxford bloods swagger up & down looking like wax work figures in their OTC uniforms, & looking as my indignant Kenneth [Oliphant] says “like nothing at all”. I’m not blaming the men, but he says that these new officers are “just too much the limit” for being duffers at their work, but they will soon get into shape, & my dear old Oxford will have sent, like the Spartan mothers of old, many of the brood she so dearly loves, to serve their country & (we hope) their God by fighting a good cause.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1914 (D/EX801/12)