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)

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“The Irish prisoners give us little peace and quiet”, dancing and singing

The Irish internees at Reading seem to have been partying all night, according to an aggrieved warder. (His request was denied, and he was forced to stay at Reading.)

HM Prison
Reading
3rd Jan. 1918

Gentlemen,

I beg to state that after the sick leave that has been granted to me since November last, I feel able and fit to return to duty again. I attribute my illness to the causes, viz to anxiety and over work created by the unexpected additional duties in connection with the interned aliens here, particularly with the canteen and the large daily dealings with tradespeople in Reading and elsewhere by the prisoners; also to my occupation of the Chaplain’s quarters. When it was arranged that I should occupy that house, I had no idea that any sounds from the Female Wing when the wing was in use, could be heard so easily in the quarters. We soon discovered, however, that the Irish prisoners give us little peace and quiet between 7 pm and 10. There was shouting and cheering, drilling, chorus singing, violin and flute playing with step-dancing, besides much walking and running up and down stairs, all of which we hear evenings most plainly and which disturbed the peace and quiet I ought to have enjoyed after my trying day’s due. I then was going down the hill in health, and the quarters under the conditions stated told upon my nerves, general health, as well as upon my wife’s health.

I have now been in the service 33 years, nine of which have been as Steward, and have always endeavoured to perform my duties loyally and with enthusiasm. Owing to present conditions, the extremely high cost of living, and to my family circumstances which have already been brought to your notice by the Governor, it would be a very great hardship to my family if I am compelled to retire from the Service now. I should therefore be grateful if the Commissioners will allow me to resume my duties and transfer me to another station where I may have the advantage of a more bracing climate and of enjoying better health.

I am
Gentlemen

Your obedient servant

Matthew W Loan
Steward

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

Invisible ink

Francois Schacken was an engineer from our ally Belgium who was interned at Reading Prison. It was feared he might be secretly communicating with the enemy.

1.1.1918
F. Schacken
16.3.16 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment

The above prisoner’s cell was searched yesterday and the attached paper [not enclosed] was found.

It will be seen, if carefully looked at, that the paper has been written on – apparently with invisible ink – or it may be the pencil or pen mark showing when this has been used as a pad.

Perhaps Scotland Yard may be able to ascertain if the marks are invisible ink marks. The papers appear to have been wetted & dried.

The letter also found was sealed in the envelope in which it is forwarded. I cannot read it. Some of it consists of letters which have been passed.

C M Morgan


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

“It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading”

Housing in Reading was in very short supply by this stage of the war. Applying for extra lodging allowance for warder Edward Hubbard, the governor wrote to the Commissioners:

It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading, owing to work and also the influx of people from London on account of the raids. People have their names down for many months to obtain a house.

25.12.17

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

“While interned here he expressed the strongest pro-German sentiments”

Louis Claas, aged 21 when interned in 1916, was a motor mechanic born in Birmingham of foreign extraction. He said he was a Wesleyan Methodist. He escaped from Reading on 3 November 1917 – but now he was back.

24 Dec 1917

Louis Claas
26.8.16 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment

The above named man who escaped from here last November and who while interned here expressed the strongest pro-German sentiments, called at the Prison yesterday wearing the uniform of a Private in the British Army and stated that he had been enlisted into the 30th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, stationed at Reading. He came nominally to enquire about some property – but probably in hopes of seeing other men.

He was not admitted to the Prison.

C M Morgan
[To] The Commissioner

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

War trophies for the interned

Philip Preuss was a Belgian stockbroker, aged 41, when he was interned at Reading.

P Preuss

The above named prisoner states:

The letter is correct. Lieut. Le Cocq who is in the Belgian Army lent him some war trophies and also Lieut. Le Cocq’s father lent him some.

He gave receipts for these trophies to the Le Cocqs, father and son.

Mr Le Cocq wrote to him some time ago asking about the trophies and Preuss wrote a petition to the Home Office asking to be allowed to return the trophies to their owners.

The Home Office refused to allow this until either the war was over or Preuss was released, and Preuss wrote to Lieut. Le Cocq who was in France giving him the Home Office reply. Preuss is unable to give Mr Billings an order to return the articles to their owners, as all the trophies are together, and consist of many things besides those of the two Le Cocqs – and Mr Billings does not know the articles belonging to the different individuals.

He is anxious to return the articles to their owners but has not any facilities for doing so.

C M Morgan
Gov

22/12/17

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

“The prisoner expressed great satisfaction with his treatment here”

Herman von Schraplowsky was a Russian stockbroker, aged 47 when interned in 1915. He had obviously lived here for years and made a home for himself.

17th Decr ‘17
H. Schraplowsky
22.6.15 S of S Order, Alien – Deportation

The above named Alien prisoner was visited on Saturday the 15th inst. by his wife, Mrs Schraplowsky of 66 Station Road, Church End, Finchley N.

The conversation was on family matters. The prisoner expressed great satisfaction with his treatment here.

S [Tanner?]
[To] The Commissioners

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

Pork and potato pancakes on Christmas Day – but it will cost extra

Interned foreigners in Reading were to have a special menu on Christmas Day.

The interned aliens have asked for the Christmas Day diet to be as in attached list.

1. Pork – the contractor can supply this at 1/4 per lb against 1/3 per lb for beef. The ingredients for stuffing would be extra – probable total extra cost 8/-.
2. Potato pancakes. Cost about 8/-.
3. They can buy these except ham & sausages (if they can get them), which I have struck on account of food restrictions.
C M Morgan
Gov.

The Governor of Reading P of I
1. The diet should be so arranged that the Christmas Day fare takes the place of the following on the dietary scale: Bread, potatoes, hot meat (mutton), peas or beans and pudding. That is, to avoid their having three puddings in one week. There is no objection to pork for those who desire it, but the extra cost as well as the stuffing they should pay for themselves.
2. The potato pancakes would be an extra. There is no objection to this, but again they should pay the cost themselves.
3. There is no objection to the purchase of the articles mentioned under this paragraph (ham and sausage being omitted). Wine is not allowed.
S J Wall, Secretary 14-12-17

Noted, but the authorised diet is three puddings per week. Is the order allowing men beer or wine each day cancelled? I’ve received no notification and men have it.
C M Morgan, Gov
16-12-17

Three puddings per week must not be exceeded.
Extra wine is not allowed, beyond the daily allowance.
JW 21-12-17

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

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
Internment

Sir,
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,
Sir
Your obedient servant
[C M Morgan]
Governor

[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?
Governor

3.12.17
He is a 14B prisoner (not a prisoner of war) & should be treated like the rest.
5.12.17

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.
Secretary

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
5.12.17

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

The man who made the escape key

The governor of Reading Prison wrote to the Prison Commissioners about one of the foreign internees he considered to be a bad influence. Paul, alias Henry Mayer, was duly transferred to Brixton Prison in December 1917, for transfer to the Isle of Man. He was a German engineer, aged 26 when interned in 1916.

29 Nov 1917

P Meyer [sic]
S of S Order 12.7.06, Aliens Act Deportation

The above prisoner has been one of the leading agitators here as regards the proposed hunger strike.

He was also in touch with the men who escaped – and though I cannot prove it I am convinced in my mind from all the information I have obtained that he was the man who made the key with which the men opened the gates to the exercise court. His conduct is bad and today he has just completed 3 days No. 1 diet and 14 days No. 2 for refusing to obey orders and using filthy and grossly insubordinate language to a warden.

He is treated in the “Friendly Alien Wing” – now abolished, but claims to be a German and his record shows him born in Berlin – in my opinion he is certainly a German. As his influence is for the bad, I should be glad if he could be removed either to a prison or if he is a German to a Camp.

C M Morgan, Governor

He is an old criminal convicted in this country.

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

An internee complains

Johann Otto Florestan Egestorff was a middle aged chemist, originally from Hannover. He was interned in Reading Prison, and not happy about it.

]7th April 1917
J O F Egestorff, an interned Alien, applied to see the Committee, to complain about his treatment, but decided to petition the Secretary of State.

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)

Complaints about the canteen

Ludwig Paul Selbach, 58, was a German from Hamburg, interned in Reading. Ferdinand Louis Kehrhahn, 33, was an art publisher born in Birkenhead, presumably of German parentage. He was only at Reading for a few months, being handed into the custody of the Liverpool police in April 1917, whence he had come in January.

3rd March 1917

L P Selbach, an Alien Prisoner, asked the committee for assistance by making enquiries why he was not receiving letters from his son who was interned at Knockaloe Camp. The Clerk was instructed to write to the Commandant.

F L Kehrhahn, an Alien Prisoner, made several complaints respecting the Canteen &c. The Chairman informed him that the Committee had no power to interfere with rules laid down by the Secretary of State.

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)

Unjustly punished

The Visiting Committee of justices of the peace who regularly inspected Reading Prison found that they had a more challenging role with the prison now occupied by interned enemy aliens – some of whom would have preferred to be treated as PoWs, even though they were from friendly nations. Milan Christitch or Kristitch was a Serbian tailor, and Rene Stassen a Belgian cornbroker.

2nd December 1916

Rene Stassen, Alien, asked for a reply to his application on various subjects made to the committee at their last meeting [though not minuted then].

Milan Christitch complained that he had been unjustly punished by the Governor, also about his work, and also could he be transferred to a Camp.

Was informed he must petition to the Secretary of State.

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)

Prisoner or internee?

An internee in Reading Prison was determined that his place of detention should be obvious to his friends and relatives. It is understandable that he would be annoyed by his situation, because he was not even from an enemy nation – 32 year old Maurice Dupriez was a Belgian soldier (perhaps a deserter?).

1st July 1916

Maurice Dupriez, an Alien Prisoner, complained that the word Prison had been erased from the top of his letter paper; he was informed by the Committee that it was an Order made by the Prison Commissioners.

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)

Alien prisoners to come to Reading

Reading Prison took on a new war-related role at the end of 1915 when it became an internment centre for enemy aliens.

6th November 1915
A letter was received from the Prison Commissioners asking the Visiting Committee to concur with them in their suggestion for the temporary removal of all the present classes of prisoners now in the prison, to other prisons, to be replaced by Alien prisoners of War. The committee concurred and the Commissioners were notified by them.

[The move duly took place on 1 December.]

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)