“At least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew”

David Stad was a Dutch Jew aged 27 when he arrived at Reading Place of Internment in January 1916. He did not enjoy his internment, feeling isolated and discriminated against. In June 1918 he was transferred to Islington.

The Governor
P of I Reading

With ref: to the petition of D Stad dated the 13th inst of which the following is a precise translation:

He says that on the 23rd June he will have been interned 3 yrs, and that he has never been told the reason for his internment.

He has never received any order, as many other interned [prisoners deleted] persons have. He asks to have one.

He asks if, after 3 yrs, he may be allowed to go to Holland, and is prepared to give an undertaking not to leave that country again, at any rate in war-time.

He says that out of a total period of nearly 3 yrs internment he has been 2 yrs & 3 months at Reading Gaol, and feels his vitality diminishing: his appetite is bad, and he suffers from sleeplessness.
This, he says, is due to the unpleasant life he leads at Reading, where at least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew.

He accordingly begs to be sent to Holland, or failing that to another camp, saying he even prefers Brixton so as no longer to meet the men who dislike him.

Unless this is done, he cannot hold himself responsible for himself.
He asks that all attention may be given to the question of his correspondence with Holland; he feels sure that his wife and relations write to him at least 3 times a month, but he has had no letters for 6 months.

Please furnish your observations on the statement as to his life at Reading, and the need, if any, for his removal, and also as to the facts respecting the letters he receives and sends.

W J Pond for Sec:

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)

Fight in North Sea

Florence Vansittart Neale heard of a naval battle – the Battle of Dogger Bank.

24 January 1917

Fight in North Sea by Dutch coast. German ships injured & fled – we lost 1 destroyer, sunk it ourselves. 40 men lost.

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

Are civilian lives so much dross?

John Maxwell Image was taking a rest cure at spa town Harrogate. Writing to a friend, he fulminated against German targetting of civilian vessels. His Cambridge colleague (a fellow of the same college) Sir Joseph John Thomson was a pioneering atomic physicist and Nobel Prize winner.

Monday 12 July 1915
D[ear] O[ld] M[an]

It is sickening the toll of ships and honest lives which the pirates continue taking, unchecked. Does the Admiralty regard civilian lives as so much dross, that they cannot spare a Destroyer now and then to patrol the regular routes…

You ask: “Can our people invent nothing to counter the German Submarines”? When all communication with Holland was cut off, we heard that, during those few days, the Straits were worked with huge steel netting, a mile wide, and that, when it was clear that something was entangled, the trawlers would close and sink the net to the bottom. We were told that 6 or 8 presumed US boats became asphyxiated and will never return to G[ermany]. If this statement reaches you, be sure that the Censor doesn’t believe it!

I heard also that J J Thomson was busy over a device to neutralise the torpedo, and that the invention was being tested on the Cam. I alluded to this before Sir Joseph (or is it John? His wife always speaks of him as “John”). He smiled on me blandly and sweetly, and neither said Yes nor No.

God bless you both.

Yours ever,

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

Feeling queer in the face of the war cloud

William Hallam and Florence Vansittart Neale both continued to record their feelings about the war. One was an ordinary working man, the other an upper class lady, but both had strong feelings and followed the news closely. The heroic M. Garros, referred to in Florence’s diary, was Roland Garros, a pioneering airman after whom the Paris tennis stadium where the French Open is played was named. The alleged feat may or may not have actually happened.

William Hallam
In to work at 6 and a fine day. War cloud blacker than ever this morning and seems almost at breaking point. To-night just as I was finishing the entry for yesterday at a ¼ to 8 the Works Hooter [at the Great Western Railway works in Swindon] began blowing and gave 10 blasts to call all the Territorials and Reservists up. I thought it meant war was declared & went out on the street and saw lots of people rushing down to the town. Then I went along to the Reading Room to look at the papers this evening but not much news but when I came back home Davies next door came up from the Institute and said Germany had declared war on Belgium so that means us as well. I think every one went to bed to-night feeling queer.

Florence Vansittart Neale
So glad Sir E Grey made manly speech – abiding by promises to France, Belgium & Holland. War inevitable but mercifully England not dishonoured….

Ultimatum to Germany to preserve neutrality of Belgium – ending 12 pm tonight. Burns & [illegible] left Cabinet. Kitchener War M[inister]. We sent ultimatum to Germany not to violate Belgian neutrality – war practically dec[lared, mobilization. Splendid heroism of Garros (French aeroplane rammed Zeppelin).

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/22) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)