“They do not care for anyone here or for their blasted Hunnish masters!!”

The Governor of Reading Prison was finding the Irish internees difficult to deal with.

13 October 1918

I shall be glad of the advice of the Commissioners regarding the Sinn Fein prisoners.

These now number 17, and are a pretty objectionable set, different in many ways from those I had in 1916, and comprise the leaders of hunger strikes and smashers up in other prisons.

Their conduct is most offensive, in some cases, and the leaders are Ginnell, MP, McDonagh, Cahill, Thornton – though some of the others are nearly as bad.

When visited by the Visiting Committee member, Ginnell called him a “blasted Hun”, and fortunately the Member took it as the raving of an illmannered man & simply told him that he was not now in the House of Commons. At the same time this sort of thing cannot go on and their behaviour is abusive and contemptuous [sic]. I am quite prepared to enforce discipline and to separate & punish a man who behaves in such a manner, but as they have openly said that 17 men will raise all the trouble they can, & will probably go on hunger strike or smash up, I think it well to refer the matter to the Commissioners before taking action, and to know if I have their support.

My Warders complain of them, and I wish to stop it at once. They refuse to petition for things they want and say they do not care for anyone here or for their blasted Hunnish masters!! This sort of thing cannot go on. It’s just beginning now but the first man punished will begin the [illegible].

The man who is most offensive is L. Ginnell, but his reputation is doubtlessly known to the Commissioners without any comment of mine.

He must either be taken seriously or ignored – I prefer the latter and act on it, but am not at all sure that the Visiting Committee will stand his remarks when they visit him. He has collected a few men round him – Cahill, Thornton – much like himself.

I will see how things go on.

With reference to prisoners interned elsewhere I would refer the Commissioners to their instructions to me when the Irish came – that the men sent to Reading were largely composed of men who had mutinied elsewhere and that they anticipated trouble from them.

Of men elsewhere interned, some 40 were previously here and with the exception of 4 or 5 gave little trouble, preferring to pose as martyrs.

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

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The difference between fair terms & absolute surrender

The son of the vicar of Radley, Captain Austin Longland was serving in Salonika with the Wiltshire Regiment, where he struggled with the heat, but hoped the Germans were about to give in.

Thursday July 6th [1916]

Temperature in here continues at 95-105 degrees I’m told by the doctor. Also I’ve just had my 2nd dose of typhoid & perityphoid inoculations & have a day off duty in consequence. Twice clouds have gathered, & once we had a violent storm of thunder & lightning but never a drop of rain. Needless to say all beauty’s gone. The sun glares down, trying the eyes, and our view of the town is blurred by a continuous cloud of fine grey dust. I have told you that from the sea up to the hills the ground rises steadily till the last steep ascent, & we’re therefore, tho’ considerably below the level of the actual hills, some height above the town which is about 5 miles away. We are to the left of the road this time, but we can see the sites of our 2 early camps and get a rather different view of the town & the citadel. You remember the shock I had on returning our bivouacs last Sunday fortnight & finding them gone and all my kit packed. My first idea then was that we were going forward – first stop Nish or Sofia, but when it was known that we were to march back over the hills no one knew what to expect.

The men were more cheerful than I’ve seen them in this country – all firmly persuaded that they were going back to France – an opinion which I hadn’t the heart to discourage, but did not hold myself.
Since then nothing has happened. From about 6 to 6.45 each day in the morning the battalion does its old physical drill, & parade which the officers, except Waylen who takes it, do not attend, going out instead to study tactics with the NCOs, each company by itself. This lasts 6 till 9. Three days a week we go a route march from 5-8 a.m. In the evening we parade from 5.45 till 6.15. doing physical exercises gain, officers & all – & that is the day. The NCOs class was ordered by the Brigade & is most useful – tho’ of course it’s what we ought to have done at Marlboro’. So from 9 till 5.45 every day & from 6.30 onwards we have nothing to do except sit in our hut.

Wood as usual is scarce, so there’s not chance to make a chair. At present I am seated on 2 sand-bags, which raises one off the ground a bit. We have a hut for a common room, but tho’ it has forms and a table, it’s very hot & full of flies. Here the flies grew so unbearable that I ordered yards of muslin from the town & with its aid we ae at last at peace. We feed in a hut off a sand bag table & seated on sand bag seats. I’ve just been busy trying to make that fly-proof – harder but even more necessary. If you sit still for a moment you can always count over 50 on the plate in front of you.
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