“They do not care for anyone here or for their blasted Hunnish masters!!”

The Governor of Reading Prison was finding the Irish internees difficult to deal with.

13 October 1918

I shall be glad of the advice of the Commissioners regarding the Sinn Fein prisoners.

These now number 17, and are a pretty objectionable set, different in many ways from those I had in 1916, and comprise the leaders of hunger strikes and smashers up in other prisons.

Their conduct is most offensive, in some cases, and the leaders are Ginnell, MP, McDonagh, Cahill, Thornton – though some of the others are nearly as bad.

When visited by the Visiting Committee member, Ginnell called him a “blasted Hun”, and fortunately the Member took it as the raving of an illmannered man & simply told him that he was not now in the House of Commons. At the same time this sort of thing cannot go on and their behaviour is abusive and contemptuous [sic]. I am quite prepared to enforce discipline and to separate & punish a man who behaves in such a manner, but as they have openly said that 17 men will raise all the trouble they can, & will probably go on hunger strike or smash up, I think it well to refer the matter to the Commissioners before taking action, and to know if I have their support.

My Warders complain of them, and I wish to stop it at once. They refuse to petition for things they want and say they do not care for anyone here or for their blasted Hunnish masters!! This sort of thing cannot go on. It’s just beginning now but the first man punished will begin the [illegible].

The man who is most offensive is L. Ginnell, but his reputation is doubtlessly known to the Commissioners without any comment of mine.

He must either be taken seriously or ignored – I prefer the latter and act on it, but am not at all sure that the Visiting Committee will stand his remarks when they visit him. He has collected a few men round him – Cahill, Thornton – much like himself.

I will see how things go on.

With reference to prisoners interned elsewhere I would refer the Commissioners to their instructions to me when the Irish came – that the men sent to Reading were largely composed of men who had mutinied elsewhere and that they anticipated trouble from them.

Of men elsewhere interned, some 40 were previously here and with the exception of 4 or 5 gave little trouble, preferring to pose as martyrs.

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

“Any letters which contain obscure expressions, abbreviations and indirect references to prohibited subjects are liable to delay, and may have to be stopped”

Complaints about how internees were treated were strictly forbidden.

19.7.18

[to] The Gov
Reading P of I

The U S of S [Under-Secretary of State] requests that the Irish interned prisoners in your custody may be informed as follows:

The S of S has asked that you may be reminded that letters are allowed for the purpose of communicating with your relations & friends on domestic matters and matters of business in which you are personally interested. They must not be used for the discussion of public events or for complaints about your internment or treatment; any such complaints should be made to the S of S.

Communications which offend against these rules will be stopped by the Censor.

Arrangements have been made to deal with all letters as quickly as possible, but any which contain obscure expressions, abbreviations and indirect references to prohibited subjects are liable to delay, and may have to be stopped.

If your correspondents understand English you are recommended to write to them in that language.

A J Wall
Secy

Each man was informed of this on reception and also a notice was placed In the hall.

A further notice embodying this letter has now been placed in the Irish Prison.

C M Morgan
Gov:
20-7-18

HM Prison
Reading
July 19. 18

From the MO to the Governor

Regarding the petition of H. Shlapowsky, I reported fully upon May 8th of this year.

He is [illegible – herplocked?] on the right side (not badly) and there is a weakness on the left, but … [illegible] behind. He has done no heavy work here, but has … [illegible] pretty, fights with fellow prisoners and has been on hunger strike.

What he says about us is nonsense, and I have declined to allow him to bug Alber from the Chemist.

Since his hunger strike in April, he has registered a weight of over 110 lbs. I am willing to supply him with a … [illegible] but I find we shall have a [illegible].

At the present time I see no necessity for increased rations.

W T Freeman.

Prison Commission
HO
SW1

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

‘He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete’

The Schraplowsky saga rolled on. Had his hunger strike caused the Polish internee to lose weight?

Place of Internment
Reading
8th May 1918

H. Schraplowsky

I have previously reported fully on this man’s case, and the letters he refers to are with the Prison Commissioners.

Taken from his record his weights are:

On arrest 23.6.15 – 222 lbs (dress not stated) – was then at Brixton
Reading 21.3.16 214 lbs
31.3.17 203 lbs (dress – without cap, coat or boots)
19.3.17 [sic?] 194 lbs

H M Prison
Reading
May 8 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of H. Schraplowsky. He has lost a certain amount of weight, rather in my opinion to his advantage than otherwise. He is a dyspeptic to a moderate extent. This is not to be wondered at considering his fits of temper and his stand upon his grievances.

I have allowed him rice in place of bread, with pint of porridge extra. The bread however is digested by both officers and interned men. He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete. The mixture that he refers to is a suitable one for gastric and intestinal dyspepsia.

W S Freeman

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

Hunger strike due to bad temper

The Schraplowsky saga rumbled on.

Place of Internment, Reading
4 May 1918

Sir

I have the honour to report with reference to letter … dated 3 May 1918 that the hunger strike of Herman von Schraplowsky had nothing to do with the reasons of his internment or nationality but was due to temper.

On 9th April he wrote an impertinent letter to his wife regarding the Medical Officer and his treatment. I informed him that he could not utilise his letters for that purpose – that he could not write the letter – and that if he had any grievance against his medical treatment he could see me, or he could petition on the point if not satisfied with my decision. He was rather impertinent saying he would write just what he liked. I stopped the letter.

At his next visit on 20th April, he referred to this to his visitor. I attached the letter in question to the report of the visit to the Prison Commissioners – all visits are reported.
On 24th April he again wrote and the letter was improper. I awarded him 10 days forfeiture of privileges on no 2 diet. He then went on hunger strike. In accordance with standing orders the Medical Officer reported the case to the Prison Commissioners at the expiration of 48 hours. And as the man is excitable with an exceedingly bad temper, added that it might be necessary to forcibly feed him, but that as he weighed close on 200 lbs, it would not hurt him to go a bit longer.

On 27th April, as the Chairman of the Visiting Committee called at the Prison, I suggested that he should go and see Shraplowsky without me – he did so. Schraplowsky turned his back on him and refused to speak.

I then tried a method of my own, and had some onions fried over his cell, and when the smell was at its best had then placed with potatoes in his cell. In a few minutes he was eating everything at hand.

He was not forcibly fed – neither was he confined to bed.

I have not under the circumstances informed him as to your letter today regarding his nationality, but when I visited him this morning I asked him in conversation the questions, and his reply is that he is a Russian Pole, and that he would not go to Germany, but to Poland or to Switzerland where his wife comes from.

I may add that he completed his ten days today and his conduct is normal, in fact civil.

I have the honour to be
Sir

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan, Governor

[to]The Secretary of State, Home Office

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

Hunger striker is a big fat man

Alarmed by the story of internee Schraplowsky’s hunger strike, the authorities wondered if he had been force fed before the fried onions trick, while another troublesome inmate needed sanctioning.

30th April 1918
Reading P.I.

With reference to the petition of Bernard H. Rohls and your report which accompanied it, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the prisoner should be punished for making such untrue statements. Please state what punishment you suggest should be [illegible].
[signature]
Secretary

As this man has repeatedly brought untrue accusations against Warders & other prisoners, I would suggest forfeiture of privileges for 21 or 28 days and a severe warning. Forfeiture of privileges would not affect his dietary, with the exception of preventing him from buying in the Canteen or outside.

It would entail forfeiture of letters, stamps, newspapers, writing, association, and his exercise would be 2 hours a day instead of being practically unlimited during hours from 8.40 -12 noon, 1.45-5 pm, 5.25 pm – 7.40.

CM Morgan
Governor
2-5-18

2.5.18
[to] The Governor, Reading P.I.
It has been decided to approve of your recommendation. You are therefore authorised to deprive Rohls of all privileges for 21 days and to warn him strictly, informing him of the reason why he is punished.

J F Wall
Secretary 10-5-18

[to]The Gov, Reading P of I
If this man [Schraplowsky] was forcibly fed please furnish the particulars called for on enclosed form.
AJW
Sec 1-5-18

Prisoner was not forcibly fed.

He went on hunger strike after breakfast – 24.4.18 until afternoon of 27-4-18. He is a big fat man and the M.O. decided he might remain until morning of 28th when he should feed him. However prisoner gave in as reported.

A report from M.O. was forwarded on 26-4-18.

C M Morgan
Gov

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

Fried onions too much for a hunger striker

The Governor of Reading Prison had an ingenious way of ending a hunger strike.

Place of Internment
Reading
27 April 1918

H. Schraplowsky

With reference to my report yesterday as to this man going on hunger strike, I have now to report that I had some onions fried near his cell and placed in his potatoes. The smell was too much for him & he is now eating all he can see.

C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners

Without food for 48 hours

An internee who disliked the food on offer went on hunger strike after he was assigned restricted rations.

Place of Internment, Reading
26th April 1918

H Schraplowsky
22.6.15 S of S order
Aliens Act Deportation

I have to report that the above named Alien, who was on the 24th inst: awarded 10 days No. 2 punishment diet, has refused to take any food since that date.

Report from the Medical Officer is attached herewith.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

HM Prison
Reading

April 26, 18
From the M.O.
To the Governor

Concerning H. Schraplowsky

[Illegible] today he will have [apparently] been without food for 48 hours. He has been drinking water.

His mental condition is sound, and his physical condition is good. Last month… [illegible]

I see no …
[too faded to read the rest]

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

The man who made the escape key

The governor of Reading Prison wrote to the Prison Commissioners about one of the foreign internees he considered to be a bad influence. Paul, alias Henry Mayer, was duly transferred to Brixton Prison in December 1917, for transfer to the Isle of Man. He was a German engineer, aged 26 when interned in 1916.

29 Nov 1917

P Meyer [sic]
S of S Order 12.7.06, Aliens Act Deportation

The above prisoner has been one of the leading agitators here as regards the proposed hunger strike.

He was also in touch with the men who escaped – and though I cannot prove it I am convinced in my mind from all the information I have obtained that he was the man who made the key with which the men opened the gates to the exercise court. His conduct is bad and today he has just completed 3 days No. 1 diet and 14 days No. 2 for refusing to obey orders and using filthy and grossly insubordinate language to a warden.

He is treated in the “Friendly Alien Wing” – now abolished, but claims to be a German and his record shows him born in Berlin – in my opinion he is certainly a German. As his influence is for the bad, I should be glad if he could be removed either to a prison or if he is a German to a Camp.

C M Morgan, Governor

He is an old criminal convicted in this country.

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