“Of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists”

A suspicious letter from a former business contact in Germany led the authorities to take a look at an internee in Reading. His business used Yorkshire wool to make hair for dolls in toymaking centre Sonnenberg.

Re letter of G Stichl March 18th 1918
Attention should be drawn to this letter from the Mrs D to whom he refers and to say who he is and how he knows her.
J F W 20/3

Papers returned with many thanks. Doms’ connection with Wm Guy & Sons is on record here, but it is not known that the latter firm acquired Stichl’s business or that the branch at Fonneberg had not been interfered with by the Germans; letter posted.

22 March 1918
G Stichl and Mr Doms
20.8.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn, Internment

Stichl states:

He had a wool and dolls hair business in Bradford and at Sonneberg (near Coburg). About 1890 he advertised in Yorkshire for a correspondent – received a reply from Mr Doms, who was correspondent in spinning machine maker’s office, Messrs Wild & Co, Leicester. Engaged him and found him useful – a German speaking perfect English and other languages. Was trained by Stichl at Bradford from about 1890-1896 and then became Stichl’s managing clerk at Sonneberg – used to come to Bradford to see Stichl, and Stichl visited him frequently to examine books &c.

Mrs Doms. Cannot remember her maiden name – was a German woman who was his book keeper at Sonneberg. She married the managing clerk Doms. Does not know that she was ever in England. Cannot speak English. Frequently saw her.

About 6 or 8 years ago the business both at home & abroad was disposed of by Stichl to Mr Guy, under the name of Guy & Sons, Doms and Mrs Doms remaining as before, but Mr Doms severed term… [too faint to read].. to see Mr Guy.

States that Mr Guy still has the business and that from letter he has received from Mrs Doms, business is still carried on successfully and has not been interfered with by the Germans – but of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists.

Mr Doms joined the German Army and he now learns from Mrs Doms has been made prisoner by the British Army.

C M Morgan
[to] The Commissioners

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


“He is not a prisoner of war”

What was the difference between an official Prisoner of War, and an interned Enemy Alien? Sometimes even the authorities weren’t quite sure.

March 19th 1918
Letter received for Max John Stephan, addressed Prisoner of War
I have no information that this man is a prisoner of war
C M Morgan, Gov

He is not a prisoner of war. He is interned under DRR14B, but he was originally interned as a prisoner of war, and as such corresponded with Dr M. The present letter which is in reply to one we allowed him to write may be passed. But this is a special case. 14B prisoners in general are not permitted to correspond with Dr Maskel.


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

Till we meet again


Private Charles Holloway has long been reported missing, and the War Office has now sent an intimation that he must be “assumed killed in action.” Our deep sympathy is with his widow, and his parents, who have now lost three sons in this war.

Lance-Corporal Leonard Cox has been wounded and is now in hospital in England and is progressing favourably.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Privates Broadbent, F. Johnson, and J. Sumner.

The Vicar has received the sum of £1 from sale of waste paper collected in the parish, and this money has been devoted to providing comforts for our two prisoners of war in Germany, Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion.

We hope to send to all our men who are serving an Easter card of greeting with the message “May the Risen Christ, who left His home for us, have you in His keeping till we meet again”; and the assurance that we shall be remembering them at our Easter Communion.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

On leave just before going to the Front, though well over military age

Winkfield men continued to serve – even the more mature who were not liable for conscription.


We much regret to report the death of Private William Tomlinson who died from wounds received in action, and we tender our deep sympathy to his relatives in Winkfield.

We are sorry to have to report that Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion are prisoners of war in Germany.

We are glad to welcome home on leave this month Private J. Winnen, M.M., Lance Corporal F. Beal, Private A. Beal, and Private E. Nicholas. The latter, though well over military age, was on leave just before going to the Front.

We have recived a large number of letters of thanks from our men for their Christmas parcels. All were pleased that they had not been forgotten by friends at home.

On January 6th, the Day of National Prayer, the congregations were good. The offertories, amounting to £10, were given to the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Missing, believed killed

There was news of several Burghfield men.


R T Montagu (East Surrey) missing, believed killed
Harry Woolford (5th Royal Berks) missing
F J Painter (5th Royal Berks) prisoner
Cecil Gibbs (6th Ox. And Bucks) wounded
G Budd discharged (eyesight)

Burghfield parish magazine, February 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“One of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across” offers an answer to U-boats

Gustav Stichl, alias Steel, was a German wool merchant from Hamburg, aged 48 on internment in 1916. He was clearly very disaffected, and the Governor of Reading Prison, or Place of Internment, was annoyed by his complaints of ill treatment. Another internee, Belgian Charles Slingeneyer or Slingermeyer, was an engineer from Bruges, aged 36 when interned in 1916. He was classified as ‘alien, not enemy’, and was trying to support the war effort with his ingenious invention, but remained at Reading Prison until 1919.

9th February 1918
G Stichl

As regards this prisoner’s petition, I have no knowledge of his treatment before he came to Reading – but during the time he has been here every consideration has been shown to him not only by the officers but by the other prisoners.

He is a dirty, untidy and idle man. To my knowledge prisoners have cleaned up his cell for him on many occasions to avoid him being reported – and also because the smell was most offensive.
He has been offered every kind of work time after time, but refused all. The trade instructor by my orders has tried him 4 or 5 times at bags – he only spoils canvas. He refused cleaner’s work, and the only work he has attempted is unravelling some socks & balling the wool which he started a few days ago & which I gave him out of charity – but he won’t work full time even at that & earn the money he could, as after the Prisoners of War were removed to isle of Man, all men were located in one hall – this man considered it a grievance that he had to remove his furniture etc to his new cell & to assist other men in cleaning up the wing. The only one who [grumbled?].

As regards his teeth, his wife offered to pay half the regular charges if prisoner would work & earn the other half – he refused & did nothing. He is one of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across and most of his troubles are of his own making. He has never been punished while here – simply because he is so hopeless & helpless – except by having his petitions stopped for a time by order of the Home Office.

C M Morgan

February 9th 1918

I beg of you to consider the following rough description of a device for dealing with U-boats.

Allow me to explain first on what grounds I based this device.
A Submarine is a very difficult thing to deal with, because:
1st It is always difficult to ascertain the presence of submarines without using detectors. (Without knowing how far the detectors in use are able to discover submarines I humbly remark here that if I had been able to work out my detector referred to in my letter to you on 4th of December 1916, I am almost certain that I would have had the means of not only detecting them but of “spotting” them also. Anyhow a detector, so constructed that by taking for instance the [main?] length for calculating the distance and the strength of sound for giving the direction, would enable vessels to keep out of the way in most cases.)

2nd A submarine is almost or wholly invisible to the vessel she intends to attack.

3rd Minefields are no barrier to submarines.

4th If a submarine is provided with a detector her commander must not fear to come to the surface and is guarded against unexpected attacks.

5th When destroyers or submarine chasers approach a submarine can dive and evade also her enemy.

Those five points are already enough to convince me that the best and surest way for dealing with submarines would be under the water, because it is the only way in which she cannot escape destruction, being caught unawares.

My device therefore would consist of a floating peculiar shaped nutlike structure, which lower part would reach the depth at which a submarine can safely remain under water, so as to prevent her from going under it or passing over it.

Floating body to be made out of mat[erial?] as invisible as possible from the surface.

Special mines to be attached to the aforesaid structure in such a way that, in the case of a submarine striking the structure they would without fail destroy her.

If this device were tried one would have the means of laying minefields against submarines as well as one has minefields against other vessels and the now dangerous zones could be well protected without loss of life or danger and operations by submarines as for instance at present in the Irish Channel could be made impossible.
If laid near a submarine base I am convinced that very few of them, if any at all, would pass through.

Nothing whatever will happen to any surface vessel on striking this structure.

Willing to answer any questions and to give all further necessary information on this subject if required, I remain, Sir,

Your humble servant
Charles Slingeneyer

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.


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

Prisoners of war are unable to earn any money

Today we get a glimpse into the intellectual life of German PoWs, as well as the friendships which developed in internment. John Link und Klinkenburg was a German engineer, aged 37 on internment in Reading in 1916. He was sent to Islington Prison in 1919. Kuhr may be the man interned as William Klare – he was a 46 year old German-born dentist, at Reading during 1917 and then sent to the Isle of Man in November 1917.

6th February 1918
J Link and Kinkenburg
20.10.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation: Internment

A prisoner named Kuhr, who was recently transferred from here to Prisoner of War Camp, Isle of Man, had a son also interned in Isle of Man.

Kuhr used to send his son from £1 to £2 each month to enable him to subscribe to classes arranged by prisoners of war for the study of mechanics, electricity, etc, during internment. Link informs me that the prisoners of war are unable to earn any money – his informant being Stephan, transferred here from Isle of Man. Link asks to be allowed to send the son Kuhr £2, as though they are unacquainted, Link and the father Kuhr were great friends during the time the later was here.

The Commissioners allowed Link to send the son a large parcel of scientific books some time ago.

[To] Commissioners.

No objection is sent to the Commandant for the youth Kuhr.

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

“We had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

Christmas cake was much appreciated behind the front line.

The Vicar has received many letters from our men who are fighting for us or are in training. They all ask for their thanks to be conveyed to all their Cranbourne friends who joined in sending them the cake and Christmas card.

The following extracts from some of the letters may be of interest.

“Please convey my best thanks to my Cranbourne friends for their kindness in sending me the cake and Christmas card. I am sure the gift will be fully appreciated by all to whom it was sent.”

I appreciated the cake very much for it brought with it memories of the dear old village, where we all hope, if it is God’s will, to meet again and enjoy the benefits of an honourable and lasting peace. I offer to Cranbourne friends many thanks.”

“It is quite a treat to get something to remind one of Blighty.”

“It is nice to feel that one is not forgotten”

“The cake arrived in good condition and was quite a treat, for we don’t get many of those nowadays. It makes it seem like home to have one.”

“The cake was all the more welcome as it was so unexpected and came at a time when we had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

We are sorry to hear that Rifleman Ernest Jones is ill in Hospital in Egypt and that Private Alfred Jones is a prisoner in Germany.

News has come that Private W.W. Goodchild previously reported missing is now “assumed killed in action” on the 28th of April, 1917. Our deep sympathy is with Mr. and Mrs. Goodchild in their sorrow.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Why not adopt a prisoner?

The Russian Revolution had led to that country ceasing to take part in the war, which naturally disheartened the Allies. Meanwhile a Reading shop encouraged locals to buy comforts for British PoWs, even taking out advertisements in rural parish magazines.

My Friends

The year 1918 finds us still in the midst of war. Our troops have had the joy of spending Christmas in Jerusalem, but the hopes that peace might at that time be reigning through the world were shattered by the defection of Russia. We have again and again to remind ourselves that

The knowledge is a strong buttress to our confidence and a sure hope. Many have found this thought “as a shadow of a great rock in a weary land”.

Let us begin the year with the prayer that “we may consecrate ourselves afresh to the cause of righteousness, freedom and peace”.
Yours faithfully,

Alfred J. P. Shepherd,

The War Savings Association has been a great success. Over 90 certificates have already been bought.

Alleviate the torture to British prisoners of war by sending parcels regularly.

BAYLIS’ new shop, 7, The Arcade, Reading, is now open exclusively for the sale and despatching of these eagerly welcomed goods.

Why not adopt a prisoner?

Send us the order, we do the rest.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, January 1918 (D/EX725/4)

One of life’s failures

St Augustine’s Home was a home for boys in need in Clewer, run by the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist. It was not strictly speaking an orphanage, as many of the lads had at least one parent living, but they were usually in dire circumstances, and the home gave them stability. Many of the Old Boys were now serving in the armed forces, while the current residents were making little jigsaw puzzles to send to PoWs and the wounded.

A Short Notice of St Augustine’s Home for Boys, Clewer, December 1917

Roll of Honour, 1917
On Active Service

Robert Annesley
Reginald Barber
Frank Berriman
Arthur Booker
Leonard Borman
John Brown
Frank Bungard
William Carter
Percy Cattle
Robert Chippington
George Collyer
Tom Corbett
Jack Corbett
Herbert Cousins
Thomas Cox
Francis Dawes
Charles Douglas
Wilfrid Eccles
Jack Ettall
Edward Farmer
James Frame
James Farmer
Charles Fisher
Wallis Fogg
George Finlay
George Gale
Stanley Graham
Robert Gosling
John Green
John Harrison
George Houston
Ernest Howells
Fred Hunt
Albert Hudson
Arthur Hudson
William Hobart
Albert Jarman
Reginald Jarman
Joseph Kelly
Edward Lewendon
Harry Macdonald
Eric Matthews
Harry Mott
Norman Neild
Alfred Newsome
Robert Parnell
Samuel Perry
Bennie Payne
William Potter
Charles Price
George Pitt
William Robert
Claude Roebuck
Alan Sim
George Simister
Thomas Small
William Smith
Thomas Squibb
Alfred Stroud
George Tate
Graham Taylor
Albert Turnham
Jack Ware
William White
Albert Wicks
Leonard Wicks
William Wicks
Harry Wilden
Edwin Williams
Albert Worth
Leslie Worters
Fred Wright
Seldon Williams

At Rest

Walter Bungard
Albert Braithwaite
Harry Clarke
Joseph Eaves
Russell Evans
Ernest Halford
Frank Lewis
Douglas Matthews
James Matthews
Harry Pardoe
Arthur Smith
Maurice Steer
Thomas Tuckwell
Harry Worsley

A Home for Boys has a special claim on the interest of all at this time, when so many are being left orphans as a result of the war, or who are temporarily without a father’s care and discipline, and letters come very frequently containing requests for information as to the admission and maintenance of boys at St Augustine’s….


Awful explosion in ships

The explosion of a French ship carrying munitions in Canada has been called the worst manmade explosion before the invention of nuclear weapons.

8 December 1917

Awful explosion in ships at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Town almost destroyed! Roumania [sic] having truce….

Wrote to prisoners. Mrs Pack & Mr Rich [visited]. His son died of wounds. My Bubs to start for Paris 4 pm via Southampton & Havre.

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

The internees are settling down for the time

Max John Stephan, alias Stephen Friedlander, aged 46, was a mining engineer from Germany. There was some question as to whether he was an internee or should be classified as a PoW, while the other internees seemed to be settling down.

3rd December 1917
Max John Stephan, otherwise Stephen Friedlander
H.10.17 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation 14B

I have the honour to report that the above named Alien was received into my custody on the 1st inst from Alexandra Palace Internment Camp.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant
[C M Morgan]

[To] The Undersecretary of State, Home Office

Noted: Prisoner received on the 1st inst. He is termed in the War Office communications “Prisoner of War”. Is his treatment regarding letters and visits to be the same as the other men? Or are they increased, with free postage?

He is a 14B prisoner (not a prisoner of war) & should be treated like the rest.

3 December 1917
Reading PI
Please report whether you are still of the opinion that David Stad should be removed from your custody especially as Lehr and all the alien enemies have left.

I do not think this is now necessary. All the men are in one class and appear to be settling down for the time. Stadt has said nothing further to me on the subject of removal.
C M Morgan, Gov

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

Our hopes of having a peaceful Christmas this year have been dashed to the ground

Reading people were encouraged to place their savings in the hands of the war effort as another Christmas approached.

The Vicar’s Notes

We are still at War, and our hopes of having a peaceful Christmas this year have been dashed to the ground; but this great Festival always brings a message of comfort and hope, never more so than at such a time as this: so I still venture to wish all the people of S. Mary’s Parish a happy Christmas.

The War Savings’ Campaign has begun again. I hope we will all back it up to the utmost of our power. Information can be obtained at the bureau, 6 Broad Street. A big meeting for stirring up interest will also be held at an early date. Meanwhile let those of us who have received the special letter from the Mayor and other leading townsmen, do what we can to follow out its suggestions.

Nothing can ever really repay the incalculable debt we owe to our Seamen especially at this time: so let us do our best to support the Flag Day of the Missions to Seamen, which is to be held on Dec 1st.


For the newly confirmed, who are making their first communion at Christmas.

For all our allies, especially the Italians and Russians.

For all our fighting men and more particularly for the sick, wounded and prisoners.

For the fallen, especially George and Hanbury Kekewich; also for Sir Stanley Maude, the victor of Bagdad [sic].


For success granted to our arms in France and in the Holy Land.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

We refused peace terms thinking the Germans were “on the run”.

Inserted at the front of Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary are her notes made sometime in December 1917 on war news. The impact of America joining the war was beginning to be felt.

December 1917

Hear 4 generals sent home without return tickets!

Hear Germans offered good peace terms 3 months ago. We refused thinking they were “on the run”.

Our troops hissed going through Rome. Cadorna hated by Army – he the Vatican’s party.

Coldstreams scared 91,000 prisoners being taken.

One HQ taken – generals and colonels still adding.

Hear American troops to be trained in Ireland to shame the Irish.

500,000 Americans already in France.

Hear through W Grimmett last push we took any amount of stores & clothing, made light railway & sent it to base before 2 days.

Hear another push is to begin soon.

Americans getting to France about 5000 a week.

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