Without food for 48 hours

An internee who disliked the food on offer went on hunger strike after he was assigned restricted rations.

Place of Internment, Reading
26th April 1918

H Schraplowsky
22.6.15 S of S order
Aliens Act Deportation

I have to report that the above named Alien, who was on the 24th inst: awarded 10 days No. 2 punishment diet, has refused to take any food since that date.

Report from the Medical Officer is attached herewith.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

HM Prison
Reading

April 26, 18
From the M.O.
To the Governor

Concerning H. Schraplowsky

[Illegible] today he will have [apparently] been without food for 48 hours. He has been drinking water.

His mental condition is sound, and his physical condition is good. Last month… [illegible]

I see no …
[too faded to read the rest]

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

Advertisements

“The main thing that prevents men escaping from here is their foreign accent which would lead to their re-arrest”

Hugh O’Rourke was a 23 year old ship’s steward born in Co. Tyrone and now an American citizen. Interned as a Nationalist following the Easter Rising, he would be transferred to Reading on 9 May 1918 from Islington Prison, and stay until he went to Brixton in 1919. It was feared that he would be a troublemaker.

April 23rd 1918
[To] Place of Internment, Reading

Hugh O’Rourke, an American, was of the Sinn Feiners and was at Cornwallis Road, is [recorded?] to be acting rather out of hand, and will probably attempt to break out if he remains here. So will you please say if you see any [illegible] [objection to be removed?].

[Ilegible signature]

I know nothing of this man.

The Commissioners, who have more information, can judge better as to what effect he would have, remembering that the men here are in constant association and out in the exercise grounds up to 7.30 pm with only one officer on duty, after 5.10 pm, in the grounds. The opportunities for causing trouble or escaping are infinitely greater here than in an ordinary prison, and I am unable to barrack [illegible… ] as is done in other Camps – consequently the safe… can be very general.

I am quite ready to do whatever the Commissioners [say].

C M Morgan
Governor

The main thing that prevents men escaping from here is their foreign accent which would lead to their re-arrest, and the poor results that have attended the many escapes from various Camps, and which they read about in the various papers, they freely admit.

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

“The bread is quite good, and I buy it myself”

Herman von Shraplowsky was a middle aged Russian stockbroker. Neither convicted or an enemy alien, why had he even been interned for over two years?

Place of Internment, Reading
22nd April 1918

H. Schraplowsky
22.5.15 S of S Order, Aliens Act, Deportation

The above named Alien was visited on the 20th inst. by Mrs Schraplowsky and Miss Cornish (friend) of 66 Station Rd, Church Rd, Finchley, London.

The conversation was upon family matters. The Alien stated he had written a letter to his wife concerning the bread, which he was unable to eat, but that the letter was suppressed.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

22 April 1918
H. Schraplowsky

Prisoner wrote a letter to his wife abusing the Medical Officer and stating that he could not eat the bread. I told the man that the letter was untrue and offensive, and that he could rewrite it. He began again to abuse the Medical Officer and said he would write the same thing. So I ordered letter to be suppressed as a forfeit.

C M Morgan
Governor

The bread is quite good, and I buy it myself in preference to bread that can be bought elsewhere.

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

“I do not mind the occasional attacks from a few troublesome men”

Internee Bernard Rohls had made a complaint about his treatment, which he thought unfair compared to that of others allowed to exercise their trades. The Governor’s response gives an insight into the activities undertaken by internees.

20 April 1918
B H Rohls

I have little to add to my report of 28.3.18.

The majority of Rohls’s statements are utterly untrue – or at any rate their inference is.

To take the men he mentions –

Rhodes was allowed by the Commissioners to do fretwork, the tools being kept by the Chief Warder, issued daily and locked up at night. The reason he was allowed this work was that he had been in an asylum, was highly excitable, and it was done to keep him occupied. He left here 21.9.16.

Propper worked as a tailor – tools a sewing machine.

Mullinger as a knitter – tools a knitting machine.

Le Corty as a painter – tools brush & palette.

Shacken in Engineer’s party – tools pocket knife.

Delfosse as cleaner – tools pocket knife.

If there are any other tools they are successfully concealed. Many men made trinket boxes &c with their knives, and Rohls can do the same if he wishes. No man has been allowed to sell any outside – though they do to one another.

At present there are 6 chairs & about 20 stools broken. The Amateur repairing them is the Engineer of the Prison. Rhodes asked to be allowed to make artificial limbs for Red Cross, but it was disallowed by the Commissioners. I have no record of Rohls asking the same thing, but if he did, he would receive the same reply.

The statement regarding “Pack of Aliens” I need hardly say is untrue. I do not express all my thoughts to these men.

With the exception of the work and conditions stated in my last report, Rohls has never done or tried to do any work.

Personally I do not mind the occasional attacks from a few troublesome men the least – but I think from a discipline point of view some notice should be taken of utterly untrue, and known to be untrue, statements made against the head of an Establishment.

C M Morgan
Governor

[to]
The Commissioners

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

“He was the leader and chief agitator” of the internees

Ferdinand Louis Kehrhahn arrived at Reading in January 1917, aged 33. He was an art publisher born in the UK (Birkenhead) of German parentage. He had been sent back to Liverpool Police in April 1917, but now (following an unsuccessful escape) wanted to return to Reading. The Governor of Reading Prison objected to this troublemaker returning.

18 April 1918
Reading PI

The internee Ferdinand L. Kehrhahn, now in Brixton Prison, has petitioned the Secretary of State to take into consideration his present position – no companions with whom to mix with. On that account it is suggested that he be moved back to your custody, but before so doing please furnish your observations and views of the questions.
[?] Wall
Secretary

19 April 1918

In reply to letter … dated 18.4.18 on the subject of F. Kehrhahn, I think it very undesirable that he should return here for the following reasons:

When here before he was the leader and chief agitator amongst the men, and almost all of the men (of what was then C. party) are here, including his special friends.

Secondly, after leaving here he brought most untrue and unfounded charges against Warders, accusing them of stealing prisoners’ food – and they deeply resented his accusations.

Thirdly, when Kehrhahn and others escaped from Islington, information was given to me by Escosuras as to their whereabouts. I communicated with Scotland Yard by telephone, an official was sent from Scotland Yard within an hour to see me, and two of the men were arrested the same night, Escosuras being moved from here before Kehrhahn came. Escosuras is now here.

C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners

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

“He claims that as his friend is a prisoner of war that the letter should go free of postage”

[Gules or Geeles Chasseur, a Belgian in his 40s who was a Commissioner of Police back home, was among the foreign men interned in Reading.]

18 April 1918
G. Chasseur

22.1.16 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment.

The above named interned Alien recently received permission to reply to a letter received from a Prisoner of War interned by the Germans. The letter was received through the Red Cross. Under ordinary circumstances Chasseur would write through Cook & Sons and enclose a PO for 1/-.

He claims that as his friend is a prisoner of war that the letter should go free of postage and that the 1/- should not be paid.

Instruction requested.

C M Morgan
Gov.

[Reply:]
The practice of sending letters through the agency of Cook & Son at a fee of 1/.- must be adhered to.
JW
19-4-18

Noted
C M Morgan
Gov
20/4/18

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

Internees “are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends”

Reading Prison officials got into hot water when they accidentally stopped an MP from communicating with an internee. Fred Jowett (1864-1944) was a Labour MP who was opposed to the war.

Letter & enclosure withdrawn & issued.

It was not known that Mr Jowett was an MP but the letter appeared peculiar & attention was drawn. It was only when this letter was received that it was considered that Mr Jowett might be an MP & reference to Whitaker’s Almanac confirmed it & the Commissioners were told.

No man is allowed to communicate with an MP if it is known – these men are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends.

C M Morgan
Gov

14-4-18

Enclosing:
April 11th 1918

G Stichl
S of S Order 20.8.16 Internment

Special attention is drawn to this letter.

On 8.10.17 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett was submitted to the Commissioners, special attention being drawn. It was passed and posted by them 11.10.17.

On 17.10.17 an answer to this letter arrived from Mr Jowett. It was submitted to the Commissioners same day and retained by them.
On 3.4.18 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett by Stichl was submitted to the Commissioners and posted by them 4.4.18. The letter now submitted appears to be the answer to this last letter.

C M Morgan
Gov

I am informed that Mr Jowett is a Member of Parliament.

[in new hand:]
The letter may be given to Jowett, but any attempt to write Mr Jowett again should be specially brought to the notice of the Commissioners or to any MP. The letter of 3-4-18 was passed on the fact that he was MP was not recognised. The one passed of 8-10-17 was allowed as a special case, through a misunderstanding.
JW 13-4-18

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

Lectures to the interned

A local JP wanted to enliven the lives of the internees stuck in Reading Prison. Sadly, this request was destined to be turned down by the Prison Commission.

11th April 1918

About a month ago Mr Jackson, one of the Borough Visiting magistrates, asked if a friend of his, Mr H M Wallis, Ashton Lodge, Christchurch Road, Reading – also a Borough magistrate, could give a lecture to the interned men here.

I told Mr Jackson his best procedure would be to request Mr Wallis to write to me, and to submit a syllabus of the proposed lecture, and that I would then refer the matter to the Prison Commissioners.

Mr Wallis called on me today, and asked if such a lecture would be allowed, and also left me the attached syllabus of three lectures to select from [not actually attached].

I am informed that Mr Wallis is an able lecturer, but have not met him before. Should the Commissioners approve, the lecture would be held on a weekday in the chapel.

I informed Mr Wallis that I would submit his proposal to the Commissioners. The lecture would of course be voluntary attendance.

C M Morgan

Gov.
[to]
The Commissioners

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

An attack of seagulls

Some of the difficulties arising at Reading Prison during its time as a Place of Internment for foreigners thought to be a threat to the country were outlined by the governor.

3 April 1918
Place of Internment
Reading

Gentlemen

I have the honour to submit my annual report on this Place of Internment.

The conduct of the officers has been good and they have willingly, and without a grumble, come in for extra duty each evening from 5.10 pm to 8 pm to supervise the Aliens who are in association, either in the Halls or garden up to 8 pm. Two officers have volunteered each evening, and been paid back the time owing when convenient.

The conduct of the Interned Aliens has been fair. Last autumn they gave trouble owing to

(a) Long internment with no definite time of release.
(b) The many nationalities, some fourteen in number, with corresponding temperaments, which led to quarrels.
(c) The social grades ranging from ex-officers to the convicts and petty thieves.
(d) The feeling that in many cases they were entitled to be treated as prisoners of war with corresponding privileges, and their knowledge of the few officers available to maintain order in the evenings.

In November a military guard was provided for about six weeks. This enabled active measures to be taken against the ringleaders and the tone of the place at once improved.

Towards the end of November about 40 aliens were re-classified as prisoners of war and removed to the Isle of Man Prisoner of War Camp.

The dietaries have been good and varied and the majorities of letters written speak well of the treatment.

The fire arrangements are satisfactory and fire practice has been regularly carried out.

The water supply is adequate, and there is sufficient pressure to reach to the top of the buildings.

The lighting throughout the prison is good.

The contractors’ supplies have been good except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

The garden has yielded good results, much better than was anticipated owing to the severe weather last spring, and the consequent influx of seagulls, who cleared off every green thing – over 200 being counted one day in one portion of the garden.

The Visiting Committee have attended regularly but have not been called on to adjudicate in any cases.

One man has been certified as insane and removed to the asylum at Moulsford [actually Cholsey].

There have been no deaths.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital have very kindly and generously taken in and treated such cases of illness as were too serious to be treated in cells.

The rules as laid down for this Place of Internment have been carried out except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

I have the honour to be
Gentlemen

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Prison Commissioners
Home Office

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

Potatoes and Passover

David Stad was a Dutch salesman aged 27 when he arrived at Reading in January 1916. He was the only Jewish internee.

2 April 1918
R. Koch
2.10.15 S. of S. Order, Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment
The above named Alien was visited yesterday the 1st by Miss D. Thain (friend), of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.
The conversation was friendly and of personal affairs. The Alien stated he was in good health.
C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

2nd April 1918
D. Stad
17.7.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment
The above named Alien was visited yesterday by Miss Wolfe of 136 Oxford Road, Reading, daughter of the Jewish Rabbi for Reading.
The conversation was about the way he should carry out the rites of the Passover.
C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

2 April 1918
Garden
Have the Commissioners any objection to the garden officer, Warder Coates, having a suit of drill and pair of old boots temporarily, and working in the prison garden? I have one prisoner on medical grounds and another prisoner part time at work – but Mr Coates has volunteered to work himself with them in order to get in the potatoes. This would be better than a larger party who only talk and smoke – besides saving the pay of the other prisoners.
C M Morgan
Gov.
[to] The Commissioners
PS We have suitable stuff in store.

[They received an immediate reply permitting it as a special case.]

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

An interned Norwegian in good spirits

Henrik Maria Ulich had been interned at Reading since July 1917. He was a Norwegian in his early 50s, and worked as a steward.

[to] The Governor
M.O., Place of Internment, Reading

Mar. 30 1918

For the information of the relations of Henrik Ulich. He is in the Royal Berks Hospital. We find an obstruction to the passage of food, and an operation may be necessary. He is in good spirits, and is willing that we should do what we think best for him.
W. J. Freeman

30 March 1918
Henrik Ulich
The attached letter from the Medical Officer is submitted for the purpose of being forwarded to the man’s wife if the Commissioners think it desirable – through the Norwegian Consul. I give the last address his wife wrote from – letter received today –
C M Morgan

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

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)

“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
Governor
[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
(Signed)
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.

JFW
20-3-18

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

Letters home from internees ‘should bear no indication that it comes from this country’

There were severe restrictions on allowing internees to communicate with their home country, at least if it was somewhere like Belgium, which was partly occupied by the enemy. Travel agency Thomas Cook helped with getting letters to a neutral country, which would then send them on. A Belgian internee in Reading decided to give up writing home.

Thos Cook & Son
Ludgate Circus
London EC4

13th March

[To] The Assistant Secretary
Prison Commission
Home Office
London SW1

Dear Sir

We are in receipt of your favour of 11th inst enclosing a post-card for transmission to Belgium which we return herewith. This must either be written on a Dutch or Swiss Post-card, or sent in the form of a letter, and it should bear no indication that it comes from this country. We have no arrangements for dealing with replies from Belgium, and if the sender desires a reply it will be necessary for him to insert on the card or in the letter an address in a neutral country, to which a reply can be sent. We have no Dutch cards at the present time, but we enclose a Swiss card which can be made use of if desired.

Yours truly
Thos: Cook & Son

The Governor, Reading
Please explain to the Prisoner.
J F Wall, Sec
14/3/18

Explained to prisoner.
He states he will not write any more.
C M Morgan
18-3-18

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