‘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)

“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
Reading

6th March 1918

Sir

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
Governor

[To]
The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
Whitehall


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

He went up the trenches and 48 hours later had died of wounds

Reading churchgoers were encouraged to pray for our oppressed allies.

S. Mary’s (Lent 1918)
SUGGESTED INTERCESSIONS

In connection with the war

Sundays The gaining of a permanent peace.
Mondays Our own sailors, soldiers and Airmen.
Tuesdays All war workers, men and women at home and abroad.
Wednesdays The sick, wounded and prisoners, and anxious and bereaved on both sides.
Thursdays Our allies, and more particularly the oppressed nationalities of Belgium, Serbia, Roumania, Montenegro, Poland, Armenia and the populations of occupied territories of France and Italy.
Fridays Our enemies.
Saturdays The fallen.

Congratulations
Our heartiest congratulations to Lady Carrington, whose second son Lieut. C. W. Carrington of the Grenadier Guards has recently been awarded the Distinguished Service Order. It will be remembered that her eldest son also gained the D.S.O. and the youngest son the Military Cross.

R.I.P.
Our deepest sympathy has been given to Mrs Montague Brown, on the death of her husband. He went up the trenches on a certain date, and news came forty eight hours later that he had died of wounds. May the God of all comfort console those who are mourning his loss!

S. Saviours District
Our hearty congratulations to Lieut. Fred White on gaining the Military Cross and to Corporal Will Taylor on gaining the D.C.M., and being now out of Hospital.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

“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)

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…

(more…)

The horrors of invasion are brought home

Ascot residents heard a first-hand account of the horrors of war-torn Poland and the flight of refugees.

AT A MEETING held on March 1st at the Ascot Hospital (by kind permission of Viscount Churchill) in aid of the Women’s Maternity and Relief Unit for Refugees into Russia, the horrors of invasion were brought home to us. Miss Geraldine Cooke gave a very feeling address in which she described some of the sufferings of thrice war-ridden Poland, with its host of Refugees driven from their homes, its destitute mothers and lost children; its roads marked with infants’ graves; its cattle crowded off the highways to perish in the swamps; its towns and villages raised to the ground.

She mentioned the noble work being done by the Russian Relief Committee. She explained how the Maternity Unit offered its services to help our Allies in their great undertaking, and how a Hospital is already opened at Petrograd (to work under the Russian Government) for destitute mothers and children; also how, at the request of the Government it hopes to arrange Homes in healthy country places for lost Refugee children, and to bring happiness into the lives of some of these desolate little ones.

The meeting (at which Lady Edwin Lewin took the chair) closed with the singing of the Russian and English National Anthems, and a generous collection was made.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Monthly Magazine, April 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/4)