Irish refuse to pay for postage

Irish internees protested against the censorship of their correspondence.

14 Oct 1918

The Irish prisoners stated today that after Monday the 21st they refused to pay for my postage of letters or parcels, as letters are not read here but sent in a covering letter to the Postal censor.

Instructions are requested.

C M Morgan
Gov
[to] The Commissioners

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

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Seditious articles to be censored from Irish newspapers

A series of short exchanges reveals internees’ complaints about prison food – and their captors’ conscerns about censoring Irish news.

HM Prison
Reading
Sep. 6 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the remarks of F. Thorton, J. McDonagh and P. C. O’Mahony.

As far as I am concerned they appear to relate to complaints about the food.

I agree with your remarks. I believe the porridge to be nourishing and that it is of the same quality as is obtainable outside the prison.

I have satisfied myself from time to time as to the condition and quality of the meat. It has appeared to me to be as good as I can get at my own house.

W T Freeman, MD.

Prison Commission
HO
6-9-18
[to] The Gov
P of I Reading

Please note that correspondence between the Irish Internees in your custody and those at other prisons is forbidden: no written communication should therefore be allowed to pass between them.

Sgd W J Pond
For Sec:

Noted.
C M Morgan
The letters are not read here, but a notice to this effect has been posted in the hall where the Irish are located.
9.9.18

Prison Comm.
HO
SW1
6-9-18
[to] The Gov
P of I Reading

In the event of a copy of the “Waterford News” reaching your prison for the use of any of the Irish internees, care should be exercised that its columns are duly examined, with a view to seeing whether articles having seditious tendency appear prior to the delivery of the paper to the prisoners concerned.

Sgd A J Wall
Sec:

Noted.
C M Morgan
Gov 9/9/18

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

The Aliens are not allowed to have articles sent to them by friends – in theory

One Irish internee was for some reason regarded as one of the ordinary foreign internees, highlighting differences between the way the two groups were treated.

5 Sept 1918
J S McConnastair

Prisoner is interned with the Aliens, not with the Irish.

He can write & receive 2 letters a month, but I grant additional letters should there be any reasonable cause.

Prisoner’s statement regarding parcels is incorrect. The Aliens are not allowed to have articles sent to them by friends, except those that he mentions, but in the event of a parcel coming from abroad, it has invariably been issued. Very few are received, not one a month.

The Irish are allowed to receive parcels. All lights are extinguished 9 pm to 9.15 pm, but the Aliens grumble that the Irish have been given lights up to 9.45 pm.

He states that he has lights at Brixton till 11 pm – of this I know nothing.

There is no delay in his correspondence here.

C M Morgan

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

“I can occasionally employ a prisoner in a spare cell”

With employees off fighting, Reading Prison wanted to use internees to carry out some of the office work.

23.8.18 [in response to a government circular of that date]

Owing to the conditions under which prisoners are interned here, and to the fact that there are only two members of the clerical staff – the Steward and a clerk & schoolmaster – I do not think it desirable that a prisoner should be employed in the office. It frequently happens that both members of the clerical staff have to be out of the office – canteen – tradesmen with clothing – articles of food, etc.

I can however occasionally employ a prisoner in a spare cell, where he could do such work as checking & posting ration tickets, posting demands, “heading” books.

It would not be advisable to let him enter sums in the trial earnings book, which is a big item here – some hundreds of entries a week.

Probably he could be employed daily, for the morning. What would his rate of pay be, please?

Under normal conditions here, he could earn 14/- a week by 7 days.
Would 1/- for each half day he was employed be approved? This would not be in addition to the 14/-.

C M Morgan

[The HO replied that the pay rate was correct, but they preferred that prisoners not be used in clerical work.]

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

“Avoid anything which would give the Germans ground for retaliating on our people interned in Germany”

Internees, like prisoners, were able to earn small sums of money by working.

[18 Aug 1918, in response to a complaint]

No man is paid more than 14/- a week for any work – upkeep of Prison or Mailbag by Prison. The system approved was that one man could work for another man and be paid by that other man: the actual sum is arranged between them.

As I have never allowed men to retain money in their possession, though there was no rule against it and it is done in every other Camp, the only way men can pay another for doing the work is by transferring the agreed sum of money to him, and consequently it appears in the earnings book.

In a similar way men who were tailors bought cloth and made civilian clothes for other men who were interned, the transfer in these cases sometimes amounting to several pounds. My instructions from the Commissioners were that this place was so far as possible to be run as a Camp and not a Prison – and Prison was to be kept out of it – especially as there were over 40 prisoners of war here.

In all forms, books, writing paper &c, the word “Prison” was to be erased & the name of Trial earnings book is a misleading one. It is really a book shewing a man’s receipt of money from whatever sources, and his expenditure, which may be canteen, clothing, any outside shop, watch repairs, transferring money to another man, &c. In each case the man spending signs for the expenditure, & if it is a transfer the man receiving does the same. I only allow men to transfer or send money once a week – each Tuesday.

As this is the only Place of Internment under the Commissioners, they gave me a free hand to draw up rules as were found to be practicable by actual experience. This I have done from time to time, and had them approved by the Commissioners. A point kept in view by Mr Dryhurst, instructions being to avoid anything which would give the Germans ground for retaliating on our people interned in Germany and which would enable these men after release to say they were interned in a Prison under Prison rules.

C M Morgan
18.8.18

[to] The Gov

Please note the following modifications.

I. The practice of one Alien working for another on Governor work will cease.

II. As from the 21st inst, the maximum amount of weekly earnings may be extended to 21/- in future in individual cases at your discretion.

By order EB 19/10/18

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

“He hated Germans, who had ruined his country, Russia”

The perennially dissatisfied internee Herman von Schlapowsky was certainly not pro-German.

15 August 1918

That I spoke to Herman von Schlapowsky this morning about his health, and suggested that he might write a petition to be sent to Germany as the newspapers talked about repatriation of certain Germans.

He stated that he was not a German, and would not go to Germany or Poland or any country under German rule or in the occupation of Germans, and wished to be sent to Russia or to Switzerland, of which country his wife is a native, but he hated Germans, who had ruined his country, Russia.

C M Morgan

[to] The Under Secretary of State
Home Office

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

“Irish prisoners have been offered the blue dress & prison boots but decline both, and expect to be allowed to have ordinary clothing selected by themselves and paid for by the Commissioners”

Irish internees demanded special treatment – but the prison authorities were scared of setting precedents.

13 Aug 1918
W L Cole

Lights are extinguished at 9 pm.

Instructions have been received that gas consumption is to be reduced by one sixth. If lights are continued beyond 9 pm, which is the same as last year, the gas consumption will be increased as compared to last year and not reduced – and other men will expect the same.

Irish prisoners have been offered the blue dress & prison boots but decline both, and expect to be allowed to have ordinary clothing selected by themselves and paid for by the Commissioners. They have every opportunity of obtaining clothing from their homes, but want to make what they can. Cole is the leader of all this.

I have already reported on the subject of letters and parcels. There is no delay here.

C M Morgan
Gov.

[to] The Commissioners


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

Internees allowed to purchase anything that can be purchased by ordinary outside people

A series of exchanges about food supplies at Reading Prison shows how internees could supplement the official rations.

30 July 1918
As bacon is now obtainable without coupons, some of the interned prisoners are asking if they may buy some, if they can get it.
Instructions requested please.
C M Morgan
Gov

Please state what articles of diet the Internees are permitted to purchase & whether there is any limit in quantity.
OFNT
6-8.18

They are allowed to purchase anything that can be purchased by ordinary outside people – except extra cereals, ie cake, biscuits; and their jam purchase is limited to 8 oz per head per week (in addition to what is issued to them).
C M Morgan
Gov
8/8/18

This may be permitted if it can be obtained locally and does not interfere with the supplies available for the general population in the neighbourhood.
OFNT
13/8/18

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

“Essentially German in feeling and made no secret of it”

Some of the foreign internees in Reading Prison were actually pro-British; others were quite the opposite.

10.8.18
B H Rohls

Naturalized British subject. Essentially German in feeling and made no secret of it. A red hot Socialist and little affection for any country, but has been prominent in showing pleasure when Germany has had any success. Was punished by order of the secretary of state for making wilfully untrue statements, & his statements regarding his cell are in keeping with his usual veracity.

The cell he occupied when he lost privilege of association and other privileges was one of the reception cells. It had not been occupied since it was whitewashed a few months previously and was one of the identical cells occupied by the Irish prisoners when here, and with which they were quite satisfied.

After they left all the cells were whitewashed. He is naturally a dirty, untidy man, and the Warder in charge of his landing has frequently to check him on this account. I may add that he was visited in the cell he complains about daily both by the Medical Officer and myself. The mattress, pillow, towels &c, were his own, taken from his own cell.

C M Morgan
Governor

10.8.1918
R Koch

Prisoner appears to be born of German parents in England – educated in Germany – lived most of his life in England.

From his letters, his parents & a majority of relations live in Germany.

States that he has always considered himself British.

His brother was killed fighting for Germany. Has expressed no opinions here.

C M Morgan
Gov

[to]
The Commissioners

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

A very big business lying in abeyance owing to owner’s internment

In a follow up to a letter of 22 March, the prison authorities had investigated the past of a German internee – which sheds light on the history of dolls.

From further information I have obtained from Stichl today it appears that he ran two sets of business – and his history seems to be:

Some years ago a German Jew named Ephraison started a business in Bradford making dolls’ hair out of wool – before that the hair on dolls was obtained from China & was human hair – often from deceased persons – before that again imitation hair was simply painted on the doll’s head. Stichl saw that Ephraison (who died in 1915) made a good thing out of it – so improved on the invention & started the work himself – as well as being a wool merchant.

The German Firm at Sonnenberg that he started made dolls’ hair only – there is no wool trade there – and the profits were very big – 50% and sometimes 100%, and it became a very big business. It is this part – dolls’ hair – that he disposed of to Mr Guy, both at home and at Sonnenberg – not the wool portion which in Stichl’s case is lying in abeyance owing to his internment. He was a wool merchant not manufacturer.

I will send in Mr Guy’s letter with special note to it – if he replies.

C M Morgan
Gov.

8.8.18

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)

“There was no mention of a diamond ring”

A Swiss internee claimed to have had a diamond ring stolen while he was interned.

5th July 1918

The attached letter [no copy found so far] from the Swiss Legation is submitted.

It has been acknowledged to the effect that it is having attention.
P. Theisen was received with other Aliens from Woking Military Prison 31.10.14 for internment.

He was transferred to Brixton 22.2.15.

When received here from Woking, his property consisted of a gold watch – gold chain – gold ring – attached to the chain. As the reception officer was doubtful as to the “gold” it was entered in our property book as metal watch – metal chain – metal ring, and signed for as correct by Theisen. There was no mention of a diamond ring, and none was received or entered.

The day prisoner was transferred he asked for a diamond ring, and was told there was no such ring. He admitted that he had not seen it after Woking Prison. Two officers received him and stated that he had no ring, neither was one entered on the transfer document, except the metal one referred to.

Prisoner apparently applied to the Governor of Brixton on this subject and a reply was sent to Brixton to the above effect. Nothing can be traced as having come for him at the end of 1915, which would be several months after his removal. If anything came, it would of course be sent on unopened from here. Perhaps Brixton can answer this.

C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Commissioners

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

More fool than knave, an excitable kind of man & not very evenly balanced

One of the Irish internees in Reading had a nasty skin infection.

4 July 1918
Irish Joint Petition

Report from Medical Officer attached.

Davys told me on Sunday that he thought he had a skin disease caught from the soldiers at Holyhead as the beds there were dirty, and that he did not catch it here. He also asked to be allowed to occupy a cell on second floor so as to be isolated. I allowed him to do so, but he plays handball with the others.

Coles and Hayes stated that they petitioned in hopes of getting Davys released; that he was excitable and eccentric, but had conducted himself here much better than they had anticipated, and that whatever offences they had committed, Davys had not done anything and was more fool than knave. My own opinion is that they rather want to get rid of him as he is an excitable kind of man & not very evenly balanced. The others are more reading men.

The Prison was whitewashed throughout since it was last occupied by the Sinn Feiners.

C M Morgan
Gov.

[to] The Commissioners

They were anxious that he should not know that they had [illegible].

H M Prison
Reading

July 4.18

To the Governor
Concerning R. Davys

He has been suffering from an eczema of the face since the 17th of June. It may be a little troublesome to get well. In the ordinary sense of the words it is neither infectious nor contagious.

In fact, it [sic] technically I am satisfied that it is not a hyphogenic sycrosis and if there be any colligenic element about it, it is secondary.

It is in my opinion ridiculous to make any scare about it.

The mask is an ordinary and useful element in the treatment. I have felt for some days that such a petition might be forthcoming and mentioned my suspicions, you may remember, to you.

W T Freeman, MD, FRIS

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

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)

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)