A lazy, mischievous, and highly neurotic man, not fond of work

Bernard Henrick Roehls (Rohls with an umlaut over the o), a Prussian born builder and surveyor, was 45 when interned in 1916. He remained at Reading until he was released on parole in August 1919. Like many of the internees, he worked while interned.

27 March 1918
B H Roehls

Prisoner is a capable workman but exceedingly cantankerous. On two previous occasions he has been employed by the Engineer – on building work and also on repairing wheelbarrows &c, and on each occasion he gave up the work because he insisted on doing it in his own manner & refused to do as the Engineer told him. Further, the Engineer was strongly suspicious that he stole the glue to use for his own private work. However, rather against the Engineer’s advice, I gave the man another opportunity by letting him saw up some wood for firewood – for payment, & later, at his request, allowed him to repair chairs & stools. He did the work well, and I had it done in the building formerly used as an association room in the garden, where things could be under lock &c. Yesterday Roehls asked to be allowed to work there after the officers had gone. [Illegible] not safe. He then [quite a lot too faint to read]…

He then became rather important, stating that he was a British subject, and if I did not allow him to make things & have tools, he would petition against it that way. I ordered him out of the office, and out of his work.

His record from Islington gives him much the same character, & he was removed here for that reason.

He is by no means fond of work – except entirely under his own authority, and invariably has a grievance against someone.

C M Morgan

HM Prison
Reading March 28.18

From the M.O. to the Governor concerning B H Rohls

Recognising that I was dealing with a lazy, mischievous, and highly neurotic man, I advised him to occupy himself with some form of manual labour. His general health appears to me good, very good.

W. Fenman

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

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Time is on our side for a chance of lasting peace and assured freedom

Bad news for Caversham people was countered by hopes that the end was in sight.

“THE END IS NOT YET”

The Archbishop of York, in his new year’s letter to his Diocese after reviewing the military and economic situation to-day, says that all shows as clearly as ever that time is on our side. Therefore it is a question of steadfast endurance. Accordingly, the enemy is busy everywhere encouraging the belief that the time has come to negotiate for peace. For he knows that an inconclusive peace would leave his military system and prestige able to hold up its head and prepare for another day. Let us not fall into his trap. We want a peace that will endure.

But, continues the archbishop, I still believe what I said last year that “to negotiate about peace when the ‘will to war’ (the Prussian Spirit) is still able to vaunt its strength, would only be to give it time to renew its power and prolong its menace”….

If we are hereafter to say of war “never again” I cannot tell how I would shrink from this conclusion when I think of the sorrows and sacrifices, many of which I cannot share, which it involves. But we seem to be drawn to it by all that we owe to the memories of the past and the hopes of the future. These, then, seem to be the alternatives between which 1918 must decide – either faltering of spirit with its attendant divisions and recriminations, and as a result some kind of inconclusive peace, or firmness of spirit with its attendant unity and trust. And as its ultimate result, a decision which will give the world a chance of lasting peace and assured freedom.

REV.T. BRANCKER

It is with very much regret that we announce that Mr. Brancker has been invalided home, and will probably have to resign his Chaplaincy. On leaving here he was at first appointed a chaplain to a Military Hospital at Sheffield. After some months there he was sent to France, but he had not been abroad more than a few weeks when an attack of his old enemy gastritis caused him to be sent back home to a hospital in England, but this time as a patient. He is now undergoing treatment at his home, but it will be some months at least before he is able once more to undertake ordinary Parish work. We all extend to him our sincerest sympathy and wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

Parish Church (St. Peter’s)
Notes

The war continues to take its dreadful toll of human lives, and among them is that of L./Cpl. A.G.W. Gibbons (Artists’ Rifles), of 33, South View Avenue, on July 16th. The only son of one of our most devoted Church Families, a server and Sunday School Teacher; he gave high promise of future usefulness. And therefore, there is more than ordinary sorrow at his death, and more than ordinary sympathy with his bereaved parents. – R.I.P.

Caversham parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P162/28A/7)

We are not fighting the German nation

John Maxwell Image reminds us all that the war was not really against the German people, but against their leaders, the militarised Prussian aristocracy (the ‘Junkers’) and royal family.

29 Barton Road
3 April ‘17

I should like to announce that we are fighting Hohenzollerns and the Junker Oligarchy – not the German nation.

Your affect.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Patriotism is not enough

The Maidenhead parish magazine included various inspiring stories arising from the war, some well known today like that of Edith Cavell, other less so.

Sons of the Clergy.

All classes of the community have vied with each other in manifesting courageous self-sacrifice in the nation’s hour of need. But without drawing undue distinctions it is generally admitted that the sons of the clergy have been conspicuous in the Roll of Honour throughout the War. Week after week the long list of names appearing in the Church newspapers bear eloquent testimony to this fact. The work of the clergy in ministering to those left behind in a variety of ways has been of the greatest value.

“How Can I Help England – Say?”

Miss Helena L. Powell, the Principal of St. Mary’s College, Lancaster Gate, has written an earnest and helpful leaflet for children, showing how children can help in the War. It is addressed to the elder children in our Day and Sunday Schools, and copies required for distribution to these may be had free of charge from Miss Edith Neville, Banstead Place, Banstead, Surrey.

A Daughter of the Parsonage.

Edith Cavell, Directrice d’Ecole des Infirmières, Brussels, who was shot by order of Court-Martial in Brussels on a charge of aiding the escape over the frontier of British, French and Belgian soldiers, was the daughter of the late Rev. Frederick Cavell, Vicar of Swardeston, Norfolk. She was formerly a nurse in the London Hospital. In 1907 she went to Brussels, and when the Germans entered the city she refused to leave.

The Rev H. S. Gahan, British Chaplain at Brussels, has given a touching account of her last hours.

“She said, ‘I have no fear nor shrinking. I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me.’ She further said, ‘I thank God for this ten weeks’ quiet before the end. Life has always been hurried and full of difficulty. This time of rest has been a great mercy. They have all been very kind to me here. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’

We partook of Holy Communion together, and she received the Gospel message of consolation with all her heart. At the close of the little service I began to repeat the words ‘Abide with Me,’ and she joined softly in the end. We sat quietly talking until it was time for me to go. She gave me parting messages for relations and friends. She spoke of her soul’s needs at the moment, and she received the assurance of God’s Words as only the Christian can do.”

(more…)

A girl and a gun

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a number of stories of heroism, treachery and incompetence from her circle of acquaintances. Some of them may be more reliable than others, but it shows the kinds of stories that were circulating at home. Queen Sophia of Greece was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. She and her husband (the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh) sympathised with the Germans, while the Greek government leaned towards the Allies.

11 November 1915

Germans torpedoed “Ancona”, Italian ship.

Heard through Meg of brave French girl aged 17 at Loos. Phil Carr met her & heard story from Dr. Saw Germans were sniping a dressing station & covered the front door so no one could go out to hit them. This girl who lived near & knew the place well ran out behind with a pistol, into the house & killed them both. Came back, put down revolver & just said “C’est fait” & went on with her dressings.

Phil Carr, rescuing people from Loos, met an old woman carrying her mattress & 2 live rabbits! She had been told she could only bring what she could carry.

Kitchener was asked why he sent out such an “awful ass” as Ian Hamilton. He said because he had no other “awful ass” to send.
I hear that why John [Burres?] left the Cabinet on account of us going to war was because he had been so bamboozled by the Germans while he was there some 2 or 3 years ago, & they persuaded him to put all the money he had in German things – he thought after the war he could get them to give him back his money in consequence.

Germans tell our Tommies across trenches “Gott sei dank! You’ve killed our Prussian commander.”

Hear Queen of Greece stabbed Tino [King Constantine]. So he took to his bed…

Hear Captain Kelly gone on secret expedition. Can’t write to Maisie for some time.

Hear English airman caught in German lines. 2 German officers insisted on his taking them to his machine to see the English lines. He looped the loop & they fell out! He had tied himself in.

Hear so many Belgians are spies, helping Germans – will do anything for money.

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

Harrowing scenes with maddened mothers desperate to reach wounded sons abroad

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image wrote to the wife of his friend W F Smith, who was living abroad, with a report on the rush to get passports in order to attend a dying son’s hospital bed.

TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge]
Thursday 29 April 1915

My dear Mrs Smith

Here in England Passport Photographs are being turned out by the thousand – owing to the accursed War. A lady friend of mine whose son – his battalion (Rifle Brigade) will not go out till next month – has already had hers done, to enable her to start at the first moment’s notice for the French Hospital where she foresees the boy will be lying, directly after he has entered the deadly Trenches.

The Photographer at Harrods, who is being worked to death, describes to her the heart-rending interviews he has to undergo with maddened mothers imploring him to produce in a couple of hours the likeness without which the passport is unable to bring her to receive, perhaps, the dying words of the wounded son. The scenes are harrowing, he says.

The world was at peace – Germany itself (despite the wolf lurking secret under every German fleece) would have kept peace, but for these malign Prussian robber-savages.

Who, so prate our Prigs, must not be “humiliated”, or even penalized for their crime.

Leave Prussia unbroken, and let our children, half a century hence, be destroyed by a fresh and bloodier hurricane of these same villains, when maybe there are no France and Russia at their side.

How strange to you would seem Cambridge as an armed camp. We, by this time, are inured to it. Full term is on – yet the streets swarm with khaki only – massed Regiments in the Great Court two or three times a day – the streets blocked with Paddocks echoing to drill – and the River at the backs alive with canoes and punts of an afternoon.

Yesterday, for the first time since January 26, we were allowed electric light, instead of candles, to eat our dinner by: and this with only one half the regular number of burners.

No light in the Great Court (you’ve no conception of the grace and majesty of the buildings seen under the full moon).

St Mary’s Clock restarted its chimes on Easter Sunday, but by daylight only. Silent all the night. A week ago the Trinity Clock resumed striking the Hour, with both voices, but not the Quarters: and by day only.

At 1 pm for the last week a huge hooter has emitted its gigantic wailing, heard all over the Town: this is merely to teach the populace. When that hooter shall rouse us from slumber, it will imply a Zeppelin over Cambridge…

The German war book owns that there is no check save the fear of Reprisals – which they have no dread of from England, the flabby. Possibly France and Russia may be less squeamish.

The 2nd battalion of the Monmouths (how different from the first battalion!) evacuated Whewell’s Courts on the 21st – leaving such filth behind them – broken windows, smashed doors and electric fittings, scribbled walls, etc, that the Junior Bursar demanded over £100 damages before he would consent to admit another Regiment. That Regiment was only a couple of hours off, and the billeting officer was at his wits’ end to put them anywhere else – so the terms were granted.

The Regiment in question is the 4th Royal Surrey – a very different set of men. The finest and best drilled Territorials I ever saw. Their Colonel, Campion (Unionist MP for Lewes, New College, Oxon) – sat next me in Hall, and is as nice a fellow as his Regiment are “smart and snappy”….

I respect the autocratic eraser too much to give you any of the hundred thrilling rumours (or canards) hovering around us. Will he suffer me to say that we lie under a rotten ministry?

Love to both
Affectionately

Bild [nickname]

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don (D/EX801/1)