Family matters

The wealthy Raymond Le Bailly de Tellighem or Tillighem, a Belgian in his 30s, was interned at Reading in 1916. He was finally deported in January 1919. He seems to have been a rather dubious character. Curiously, his wife’s address was to become famous to a later generation as the London home of Jimi Hendrix and is now a museum.

19th March 1918
R de Tillingham [sic]
28.1.16. S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday, the 18th inst, by his wife, Mrs Vera Tellingham, & child, of 23 Brook St, Mayfair, London, W.

The conversation was entirely on family matters.

[to] The Prison Commissioners

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


Letters home from internees ‘should bear no indication that it comes from this country’

There were severe restrictions on allowing internees to communicate with their home country, at least if it was somewhere like Belgium, which was partly occupied by the enemy. Travel agency Thomas Cook helped with getting letters to a neutral country, which would then send them on. A Belgian internee in Reading decided to give up writing home.

Thos Cook & Son
Ludgate Circus
London EC4

13th March

[To] The Assistant Secretary
Prison Commission
Home Office
London SW1

Dear Sir

We are in receipt of your favour of 11th inst enclosing a post-card for transmission to Belgium which we return herewith. This must either be written on a Dutch or Swiss Post-card, or sent in the form of a letter, and it should bear no indication that it comes from this country. We have no arrangements for dealing with replies from Belgium, and if the sender desires a reply it will be necessary for him to insert on the card or in the letter an address in a neutral country, to which a reply can be sent. We have no Dutch cards at the present time, but we enclose a Swiss card which can be made use of if desired.

Yours truly
Thos: Cook & Son

The Governor, Reading
Please explain to the Prisoner.
J F Wall, Sec

Explained to prisoner.
He states he will not write any more.
C M Morgan

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

A critical time

Reading churchgoers offered their prayers for the war.


For the entry of the British troops into Jericho.


For the spirit of self-sacrifice and perseverance in the nation.

For God’s blessing on Ireland at this critical time, especially on the Feast of S. Patrick (March 17th).

For the Russian people at this critical time in their history.

For all our fighting men and all suffering from the war, especially those in danger from air raids in London and on the East Coast.

For Horace Beesley, one of our altar-lads, just gone out to France as a volunteer carpenter.

For all the wounded, sick and prisoners on both sides.

For the fallen, especially Frederick Mott, Wine Place; John Hannon, Milman Road; William Mason, Stanley Street.

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

He lied wholesale

[Internee Max Stephan had been found to be corresponding illicitlywas duly warned he would not be allowed to write or receive letters any more if he tried again to contact anyone secretly.]

11th March 1918
M. Stephan
Order 4.10.17 Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment.

The attached letter from Mr Snowden is forwarded to the Commissioners.

No letter to Mr Snowden has passed through my hands, and I interviewd Stephan this morning. He lied wholesale. First he stated he had never written to Mr Snowden. Afterwards he stated, on being cross-examined, that he wrote to his solicitor, Messrs Rowe & Maw, Amberly House, Norfolk St, Strand, and that the letter was written before he came here. I told him he was lying. He then said the letter was written 10th Feby from here to his solicitor, asking them to acquaint Mr Snowden. I again told him he was lying. Eventually he admitted that he wrote the letter himself and that it was taken out by a prisoner.

Three men – Hasse 22nd Feby, Hodgkinson 27th Feby, Whisperry 5th March, are possible men. Later prisoner practically admitted that it was Hasse or Whisperry, by stating that the man had left this country. From my knowledge of the men, I should say Hasse. All three men were searched upon leaving, but with the large amount of luggage they possess – clothing &c – it would be most difficult to detect a letter.

At present I have directed that all his letters are to be stopped, but I think he should forfeit them for a long period.

It is difficult to punish him beyond this, as he can only forfeit privileges if removed to the reception cells away from other men, and two days ago the Commissioners directed that he should be specially placed under observation on account of suicidal and depressed state of mind.

C M Morgan

[To] The Commissioners

Prisoner does not know Mr Snowden’s letter is to him, but believes it is to me.

Prisoner also has since the above was written, admitted that it was Hasse – and further that he did not take the letter from here, but removed it – wrote it outside and signed Stephan’s name to it by Stephan. [sic?]

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

The aurora borealis helps the bombers

A bright starlit night was no longer a cause for delight.

8 March 1918
Sudden air raid in London, 11 villas near St Johns Wood. Helped by stars & aurora borealis.

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

Marvellous recuperative powers

A young man from Earley was badly injured.

We greatly regret to say that Pte Walters, our cross-bearer, has been much more severely wounded than we at first supposed. After his Christmas leave he returned to France on Jan 7th and rejoined his regiment. On the 22nd he was struck by an exploding shell, and his leg was so shattered that it had to be removed above the knee.

His recuperative powers were so marvellous that he astonished both doctors and nurses and was able to reach London within three weeks of the operation. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to him and Mrs Walters under this blow.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

“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)

Internees will get the same rations as civilians

Reading Prison (Place of Internment) was issued with new orders for food rationing.

[To] The Governor

The present & proposed dietary for Reading are both based on the ration schemes issued by the Ministry of Food for the general population.

Prisons have therefore been compulsorily rationed since March last, while until quite recently the general public have been able to purchase not only rationed foods in practically unlimited quantities, but other foods to which prisoners have not access. Thus the meat allowance in the present dietary of 2 ½ lbs per head per week is in conformity with the Devonport scale and the proposed dietary 1 ¼ lbs in conformity with the rationing scheme already in operation in the London area & shortly to be applied to the country generally. The quantities of meat shown in the attached scale are uncooked.

As regards the butcher difficulties, he should supply to the P of I meat in proportion to the available supplies: that is, if he is obtaining half his usual supplies he should satisfy your demands up to 50%, or if 8 oz only is available then 8 oz per interned prisoner. When the rationing scheme is applied to the Reading Area on the 25th prox:, prisoners will receive the equivalent of 20 oz meat in common with the general population. As regards the other rationed foods, they are also strictly in accordance with the rationing scheme for the general population.

One result of this will be to reduce materially the canteen privileges. With reference to your remark that the tea ration in Reading is one oz per week, it is assumed that this applies to all members of a family, and that therefore the adult ration is in practice more than one oz. Unless you have any further observations to offer, please proceed as in Min: 1 & submit the dietary as you propose to issue it.

FNI 28.2.18

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

Meat and butter tickets

As rationing began to kick in, wounded soldiers visiting Bisham Abbey for a day out considerately brought their own refreshments.

25 February 1918

Soldiers came in afternoon,bringing their tea, sugar & margarine.

Meat & butter tickets in London & Home Counties.

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

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)

Food control has been in force for many weeks in Reading – but at Henley or Windsor one can buy anything one wants

Workers at Reading Prison were annoyed that the internees got more food than they could get themselves under the new rationing regime.

23rd Feby 1918
Subject Interned Aliens diets

Before issuing instructions as to these diets I think it desirable to point out that they are considerably in excess of those allowed by the Local Food Controller for everyone in the Boro of Reading, and that the Wardens have strongly resented the great excess, especially of meat, which these Aliens and Undesirables have been given in the past over the amount they have been allowed to obtain for themselves and families foe the last four or six weeks. People outside have also expressed their opinion freely – for the present Diet Scale just received the meat ration is:

15 oz meat – presumably cooked
2 ½ oz preserved meat
½ oz bacon (uncooked) – we use pork (salt) in place of bacon

The ration allowed here to be purchased by Wardens and others, is 8 oz uncooked meat with bone per head per week, and this I am today informed is to continue for next three weeks – after that he cannot say. Children half this amount. Bacon – unobtainable.

Tea: ration allowed for the prisoners is 1 1/6 oz per week. Everyone else in Reading, 1 oz per week.

I do not know if the Prison is in the Boro or not, but believe not – at any rate it is the County Coroner who holds inquests and I was informed by Mr Friend who was chaplain here for over 40 years that the Prison was not in the Boro, also non-Parochial – this affected him sometimes, as regarded his preaching in various churches, which he could not otherwise have done – also no officers in quarters have municipal votes. My reason for raising this point is that the butcher states that if he supply excess meat to the Prison, and it is in the Boro, he renders himself liable to prosecution for breaking the local food laws. On the other hand if the Prison is not in the Boro, though he might be called to account for selling meat, he is not supplying it to anyone in the Boro.

Each District appears to make its own laws quite independent of any law issued by the Food Control as managed by Lord Rhondda – & Reading appears to be badly served. I believe the London Scheme begins Monday – here food control has been in force for many weeks. Again, at Henley or Windsor one can buy anything one wants. I think it proper for me to report all this to the Commissioners, who can then give me instructions. If of course the Prison is not in the Boro – it would, I suppose, as a Home Office institution be in the London District, and the Local Food Controls would not apply as regards the Prison receiving – but might and probably would as regards the contractors’ supplying, but it would clear the Prison from legal action.

C M Morgan
[To] The Commissioners

I would suggest that the Aliens receive the same rations of meat, tea and whatever may be rationed, as the remainder of Reading receives – if it increases this would increase up to the amount of the Rhondda fixed scale. If it decreases this would do so accordingly.


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

The pinch will come after the war

The Spencer paterfamilias in Cookham was optimistic, while Florence Vansittart Neale despaired at the situation in Russia.

Will Spencer
23 February 1918

By this morning’s post we received a cheerful letter from Father… Sydney has taken his BA at Oxford. Has received splendid reports from his commanding officers. Was just getting into train at Paddington to come down to Cookham on a Saturday afternoon when he saw Percy on the next platform, whom he hadn’t seen for 2 years. He quickly fetched his luggage out, & stayed the night with Percy, who had just come up from Swindon for a few days, on business.

I was glad to learn from Father that they suffer no privation. The pinch will come after the war, he says, but what can be is being done to provide against that.

Florence Vansittart Neale
23 February 1918

Russians utter degradation, under the heel of Germany.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

An internee tries to join the army

Internee Rudolph Koch was admitted to Reading Prison in January 1916, aged 25. He was a lace agent born in London, but presumably of German parentage.

22nd Feby 1918
R Koch
2.10.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation: Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday by Miss Doris Thain of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.

The conversation was of personal and family matters. Prisoner told his visitor he had petitioned to join the Army, but had been informed his request could not be granted.

The Commissioners

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

A socialist translator is banned from visiting internees

Florence Baldwin seems to have been a figure in the Socialist movement who had translated into English a number of tracts by German Socialists in the years before the war. The authorities did not want her making contact with German internees, and were alarmed when she visited internee and former escapee Ferdinand Kehrhahn in Brixton Prison in January 1918. Kehrhahn had briefly been at Reading. She later became a Communist, and translated the party’s authorised version of Das Kapital.

[To] The Governor
Reading P of I

Please note that Miss Florence Baldwin of 44, Marylands Road, London, W, will not be allowed to visit any persons interned in your Establishment.

A J Wall

C M Morgan

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

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)