The epidemic of influenza now spreading on the Continent

Neutral Switzerland was ravaged by the new virulent form of influenza.

8 July 1918

J[ohanna]. tells me that she had heard from Fraulein Emilie that the woman who had died in Geissental (Frau Schneiter), had died of influenza. A son of hers, a soldier, had come home on leave a fortnight ago & then sickened with influenza (“Grippe”), & she had then caught it from him. The epidemic of influenza now spreading on the Continent first appeared in Spain.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

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“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)

Internees have been shut up for so long they are heartily sick of each other

Jewish-Dutch internee David Stad/Stadt was isolated in internment. Fellow Dutchman Johannes Van Zwol, also mentioned here, was a seaman.

23 May 1918
D. Stadt [sic]

The above man was interned at Islington 17.7.15. Transferred to Reading 11.1.16.

On the back of my copy of his internment order appears

Leman[?] St Police Station
23rd July 15

I certify having this day served a true copy of this order on David Stadt

Signed Charles Chapman CID.

Prisoner has always seemed to me to be not very “bright”. At one time there were 7 or 8 Jews here – now he is the only one. I believe in the past he did not have a very good [illegible], though he seldom complained. When he did, I tried to help him. At the present time there are 13 nationalities here & being shut up for so long they are heartily sick of each other. When any few are friendly together it usually means they are plotting mischief.

Stadt keeps to himself, partly from choice and partly from being unpopular as a Jew. Few men speak to him – they appear to ignore him. Generally speaking he is fairly conducted and I recommend him for favourable consideration.

Letters from Holland are irregular. Stadt writes twice a month to his wife but receives very few replies.

My book shows that he received letters on Dec. 16, 1917, Jany 1st 1918, & 23 March 18 the last. I cannot say how often his wife writes.

Other Dutchmen complain of the same thing. Van Zwol received his last letter on 18th March and it is dated 18th Dec 17.

From the contents of letters received it would appear that letters take about 2 months after being written here to reach people in Holland.

Stadt appears in very fair health, his weight on reception here 11-1-16 was 168 lbs, today it is 157 lbs.

Report from MO is attached.

C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners

23rd May 1918
Re David Stadt

I have this day examined the above-named interned prisoner. This is a neurotic man…

I am inclined to regard the various symptoms of which he complains as arising from functional disturbance of the nervous system. He is well nourished, and I do not find any evident signs of loss of flesh in his case.

G O Lambert, MD, pro W T Freeman, MD (Medical Officer)

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

“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.

22.5.18
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)

“Men who were interned had to write through a friend in a neutral country”

Following yesterday’s query, it emerged that an internee’s foreign correspondent was innocuously enough his sister, who had also helped another internee communicate with his wife in Germany.

Place of Internment
Reading

1st May 1918

I have made enquiries and Hemmerle states that Fraulein Maria Hemmerle, per Witwe Hasler, is his sister. She works in a factory in Kanton Schwyz, and the Widow Hasler is the woman who keeps the lodging house where she lives. He does not know Hasler.

Fraulein Anna Hemmerle is another sister who worked in a factory in Kanton St Gallen. Johan Ulrich Wohlwerk was the proprietor of an inn where she lodged. She has now left the factory and returned home to the Hemmerle address of – Dominikus Hemmerle (father), Vaduz, Lichtenstein.

Hemmerle says that when men who were interned had to write through a friend in a neutral country, Bushe wrote through Hemmerle’s sister Maria Hemmerle to his wife in Munich. Maria Hemmerle had the wife’s address and forwarded on the letters.

Bushe’s wife was deported from England during the time Bushe was interned.

I may add that Bushe nearly always wrote through Fraulein Hemmerle while he was at Reading.

C M Morgan

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
14/3/18

Explained to prisoner.
He states he will not write any more.
C M Morgan
18-3-18

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

A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

Escaped internee “did not make friends with the dog”

Carlos Kuhn Escosura y Diaz was a Spanish electrical engineer from Vigo, aged 28 when he first arrived at Reading Prison as an internee in May 1916. He escaped custody in 1917, and shocking claims were made in the papers about the way he had allegedly suborned a guard dog.

16 January 1918
Reading PI [Place of Internment]

Please note that arrangements are being made to bring back Carlos Kuhn de la Escosuras to your custody from the Spanish Embassy, whither he fled on escaping from your custody some time since. He will not be punished for his offence, and precautions will be taken to prevent his making any fresh attempt to escape.

[Illegible]
Secretary

Noted. Prisoner was received on the 15th inst.
C M Morgan
Governor

The attached cutting from last night’s “Evening News” [not attached] may interest the Commissioners. It is the average veracity of the Northcliffe Press.


C K de la Escosuras

1. He did not make friends with the dog.
2. The dog did not come into the Prison.
3. The dog does not exist – the only officer who has a dog is the Chief Warder and far from being friendly to strangers, it bit a policeman in the “tail” when he was searching the Forbury Gardens on the night of the escape – it is a bull dog.

He did not pick his cell lock with a wire. He was not in a cell – but free to walk about the prison till 8 pm – and this escape took place about 7.30 pm.

He does not collect Prison Keys – neither are they left for him to collect.

The key was made by another man out of tinfoil and the garden door unlocked as previously reported.

As regards his prolonged conversation with Police and other officials – he is the only man of the four who cannot talk English.

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

Escape in a barrel

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Lieutenant Paul Eddis was a submarine officer who had been interned in neutral Denmark for some time. He made a daring escape hidden in a barrel.

Florence Vansittart Neale
30 September 1917

Exciting letter of Paul’s escape. He home Friday. Got in barrel….

Too full moon! Fear raids. General Maude’s victory in Mesopotamia very good.

30th week of air raids. Met by barrage of fire. 3 balloons brought down.

Heard of Paul’s arrival & escape in barrel to waiting yacht 15 hours! Evading destroyers [illegible] to Helsingborn.

William Hallam
30th September 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and working from 6 till 1. Beautiful weather still and the nights as light as can be with a full harvest moon – just right for those air raiders. After dinner – roast lamb fowl too dear; 1/9 a lb, I went to bed … A gloriously bright moonlight night.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“We are enemy aliens”

Cookham-born expat Will Spencer’s German wife Johanna, living with him in Switzerland, missed her family very much. In the autumn of 1917, she hoped it might be possible to meet up with her sister Agnes.

29 September 1917

Johanna having received a letter from [her sister Agnes] yesterday, in which she said that she had heard from the Ohlers, who had heard it from Herrn Rob. Loeliger, in Frankfurt, that persons were allowed to cross from Rheinfelden to Badisch Rheinfelden on showing an Ausweis, asked whether Johanna could not meet her at the other side of the bridge. I despatched a telegram to Agnes for Johanna after breakfast – “Es is nur unmoglich Inez (i.e. Agnes) aufzusuchen”. (We are not Swiss that have business that calls them to the German side of the river, but “enemy aliens”.).

At 4 we had tea … [with friends] to meet Frau de S., a Polish lady, a daughter of a Prince L., who has visited Rheinfelden regularly for 18 years. She lost her only daughter in 1911, her only son in the war.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

Safe in Sweden after escaping

Florence Vansittart Neale was thrilled to hear that her nephew Paul Eddis, who had been interned in Denmark with his submarine crew, had managed to escape!

22 September 1917

Exciting news about Paul’s escape. Safe at Gothenberg!!

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

A continuous bombardment

The war was getting closer for British expat Will Spencer. On holiday in the town of Rheinfelden, on the River Rhine near Basel, close to the German border, he and wife Johanna could hear the guns at the Western Front. Alsace was contested territory between France and Germany.

Will Spencer
4 September 1917

Saw a soldier on the tower of the Town Hall looking westward through a binocular. (Watching for aeroplanes?) Afterwards I went for a wander in the woods. Again heard the sound of a continuous bombardment in Alsace, as we did on Sunday [2 September].

Florence Vansittart Neale
4 September 1917

Lt Kelly returned after smash from aeroplane….

Air raid in London – Chapel St, Edgware Rd. Mr A[ustman] slept under tree at night!!

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

A Swiss doctor checks up on Broadmoor

A Swiss diplomat planned to inspect the treatment of mentally ill German PoWs.

Swiss Legation
German Division
9, Carlton House Terrace
London, SW1

August, 1st, 1917

Sir,

As representative of the Swiss Legation, which has charge of the German interests in this country, I have been visiting prisoners of war camps and hospitals in the United Kingdom, and should very much like to visit your hospital within the next fortnight.

I should be very glad if you will let me know whether you have any objection to my visit.

I would add for your information that I am a Medical man.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant

F. Schwyzer
Special Attache
[to] The Medical Officer-in-Charge
Military Hospital
Crowthorne

Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

Trapped in London

A Swiss acquaintance of Will Spencer had a business journey abroad interrupted by the British fear of anyone with German connections.

16 May 1917
After supper Frau Block chatted with us in the veranda. Her husband only got as far as London on his way to America. By the time he had got the papers which he required for travelling to America, the Dutch boat by which he intended to cross had sailed. Then came the “verschaufter U-Boot Krieg”, & now, as the son of a German mother, he has not yet obtained leave to return here.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

This is a War the determination of which lies quite as much with the non-combatants as with the combatants

Civilians were urged to make sacrifices at home.

The National War Savings Committee

Dear Sir,-

The splendid work which is being done by the Members of our Committees and Associations all over the Country encourages me to send you this appeal.

There are still many people at home who do not appear to realise that having decreed that others shall fight for us, it has become our most sacred obligation to see that no single life of our fighting men shall be sacrificed by reason of failure on our part to do everything we can to shorten the conflict and make victory certain and complete.

We all know that three of the most pressing questions of the moment are supply of man power, the maintenance of our payments to Neutrals for War supplies and the checking of the continuous rise in prices of food stuffs and other commodities. Personal expenditure has an immediate influence on these problems. If we keep our private purchases within the narrowest limits compatible with health and efficiency, we release the labour of men and women which we should otherwise be using for our personal satisfaction and set it free for more urgent National work. We increase our available man power, we enable more of the necessities of life to be produced, and we can make more Munitions of War and more goods to be exported in exchange for War supplies or food stuffs from abroad. By reducing our expenditure we tend to reduce our imports and we lessen the competition for food stuffs and commodities of all kinds, and thus help to keep prices within reasonable bounds.

In the final stages of the War, Man Power, financial stability and the cost of living will be the governing factors. Every shilling we now spend unnecessarily weakens the staying power of the Allies, and will make it more difficult to bring about a satisfactory and lasting peace.

It is doubtless very difficult for many people to appreciate the extraordinary problems which this World War has provided, and to see clearly the close relationship of cause and effect that there is to-day between personal expenditure and the expenditure of life at the front. But the truth of the matter is, that this is a War the determination of which lies quite as much with the non-combatants as with the combatants.

Great efforts are being made by the National Committee and the War Savings Committees throughout the Country to bring home this truth to the whole of our people. The response in many quarters has been remarkable, but it is common knowledge that there is still a great deal of extravagance and unnecessary expenditure. It is essential that those whose position is such that this example carries great weight among their neighbours, should adopt the utmost simplicity in their mode of living, and in every way possible give an outward and visible sign of their determination to help their Country in its time of need by abstaining from every kind of indulgence.

It is not necessary to go through all the different items upon which we are accustomed in peace time to spend our money. The principle, once understood, can be applied to the whole of our personal expenditure, which can be brought into review and considered in the light of the fundamental necessity for releasing labour for National Service.

The Members of the many hundreds of War Savings Committees, and the many thousands of War Savings Associations now affiliated to the National Committee, are in a position to make known the essential facts to the people of this Country, and I make this personal appeal, trusting that you will not spare yourselves in the effort to convince all those with whom you may come into contact, of the grave responsibility which rests upon the Civilian population to-day to support with all their means those who, with supreme self-sacrifice, are risking everything in dangerous Service for their Country in every part of the world. –

Yours Faithfully,
R.M. KINDERSLEY,
Chairman
Salisbury Square, Fleet St., E.C., 14th Dec., 1916

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)