“Rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month”

Broad Street Church had endured many sad losses through the war, and the toll was not yet over.

CONDOLENCES

It is our sad duty to report from time to time the death of members of the church and congregation. But rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month….

Private Ernest Layton Francis, son of our esteemed Deacon, Mr Ernest Francis, and Mrs Francis, was well known and greatly beloved at Broad Street. Up to the time of his enlistment in the London Scottish Regiment he was a most faithful teacher in the Sunday School, and he exerted a powerful influence for good over his boys. Both teachers and scholars alike bear testimony to his patient and enduring work, and they all deplore his loss.

Mr Witcombe, Chief Warder at Reading Gaol, had been a loyal member of the church since 1911. During the whole of the war period he has given unstinted and devoted service in the work for men and women in khaki attending our rooms, and his cheery presence was always an inspiration. His early and unexpected death from pneumonia has fallen as a sad blow upon his wife and family.

Mr Harry Haydon was, in early days, a loyal worker in connection with the C[hristian] E[ndeavour] Society and Sunday School… a few months ago he had to join the army, but, as he was never strong, the period of training proved too great a strain on his constitution, and the influenza scourge found in him a victim. He leaves a wife and two young children to mourn his loss…

[Miss Rosa Millard and Miss Christina Codiferre are also named as among those dying of influenza.]

The influenza epidemic, which has been raging throughout the country lately, seems to have been worse in Reading than in most places. For several weeks the Sunday School had to be closed. So, too, had the Soldiers’ Rooms. Very many of or Broad Street homes have been visited, and some, unfortunately, with fatal results. It is a relief to know that the evil is now abating, and we trust that those friends who are still suffering may speedily be restored to health.

PTE E. LAYTON FRANCIS

The deepest sympathy has gone out from our whole community to Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis and their family, in the sad loss they have sustained through the death of their second son, Private E. Layton Francis. Layton Francis was a fine type of strong, intelligent, upright manhood, and his passing is deeply regretted by all who knew him.

When the war broke out he was anxious to volunteer at once for active service, but he was prevailed upon to complete his course of training as a Chartered Accountant before doing so. After successfully passing his final examination, he voluntarily joined up in the London Scottish Regiment, and saw much active service in France, Macedonia and Palestine. Readers of the magazine will remember the interesting descriptions he sent of various places in the Holy Land.

At Es Salt, on May 1st, 1918, he was seriously wounded in the right arm. After undergoing treatment in several Military Hospitals abroad, he ultimately reached England and was taken to the Military Hospital at Napsbury, near St Albans. Here, unfortunately, he was seized with influenza, and, pneumonia supervening, his weakened constitution was unequal to the strain.

We give below a couple of extracts from the many letters received by his parents. They testify to the very high regard in which he was universally held:

From a school friend:

“To me Layton was the best chum I ever had, or can hope to have. In fact he was more than a friend, he held the place of a brother. He was a real gentleman, and the life that God has taken will always be a great example and ideal for me to live up to.”

From a friend and former worshipper at Broad Street:

“Although I was considerably older than Layton you know what friends he and I were whilst I was at Reading. It was a friendship of which I was proud. He was the finest boy I have known. He was such a splendid combination of strong character, high principle and lofty ideals. He was absolutely straight – too great a character either to tell a lie or to harbour a mean thought. He was a fine example of young muscular Christianity.”

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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Members of Parliament stripped naked?

Even the Irish internees were being allowed short periods out on parole. The Governor of Reading Prison, not exactly a sympathiser, still refised to have them strip-searched on their return.

29 Nov 1918

F M Reynolds, Irish interned prisoner, was released on parole on 17 Nov 1918 and returned today.

No – these men on parole are not searched and the same procedure was [observed?] in [illegible] except a “special search” was made [illegible] was stripped. It would be of no use, and if this course was adopted there would be [illegible] of Members of Parliament stripped naked & c &c. Besides, these men can carry any mental messages they wish.

If the Commissioners wish it, of course I will specially search the men, but as they are on parole, I do not recommend it. At the same time, I have no doubt that many [do pass] messages & apparently written ones go [illegible].

C M Morgan
Gov
[to] The Commissioners

29th Nov 1918
Frank Reynolds

This Irish prisoner, who was released on parole on the 17th instant, returned to my custody today.

[C M Morgan]
Governor

[to] The Commissioners

29 Nov 1918
J. MacDonagh

Prisoner applied to me this morning for a petition to be released on parole on account of the illness of his brother.

He was given permission and I told him I would mark it “urgent” if the petition was sent in & he wished it.

He thanked me & left.

About 10 minutes afterwards he sent in a slip of paper requesting me to telephone to the Secretary of State and ask for him to be released on parole. I told the Warder I could not telephone to the Secretary of State, but would mark his petition urgent, and besides I had no knowledge of the case.

As no petition came from him this evening, I sent over to inquire. The reply was that as I had refused to telephone he would do nothing. I told him he could telegraph himself, but he refused.
I attach the telegram he has sent in.

C M Morgan
Gov

[to] The Commissioners

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

Working to be repatriated as quickly as possible

The question of hiow to repatriate internees was beginning to be considered.

HM Prison
Reading
Nov. 26. 18

From the MO to the Governor
Concerning the state of body & mind of Ion Perrocino [?].

He has maintained his weight on a special diet that I have allowed him. No doubt he feels the cold weather.

He is depressed about his internment and gets very excited when he insists upon discussing his return to Brazil.

He is evidently working to be repatriated as quickly as possible. I do not believe he will take his life or go mad.

His behaviour to myself has always been correct.

W T Freeman

Reading Prison
26 Nov 1918

Sir

Owing to the absence of Clerk & Schoolmaster Mr Stevens, through influenza, I was working alone for a fortnight, during which the error in W Horlock’s account occurred. I greatly regret the submission of this error, but I was working under considerable pressure and difficulty, and did my best to keep the office work going and to carry out what checking I could.

I am
Sir
Your obedient servant
M N Loarn
Steward

[to] The Governor

[The error related to a purchase of liberty clothing for the internees.]

HM “Place of Internment”
Reading

26th November 1918

Sir

I have the honour to acknowledge your letter … dated 21st November 1918 on the subject of the interned Alien Albert Hemmerle.

The prisoner states that the Duchy of Lichtenstein is at present in a state of revolution, but that he will write to his parents and request them to obtain from whatever form of Government there may be, the required guarantee that he will remain in Lichtenstein if deported there.

I have the honour to be
Sir
Your obedient servant

F G C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
London SW1

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

On the sick list with influenza

Flu continued to strike down the prison staff.

21 Nov [1918]

Temporary Officer Night Watchman Novell being on the sick list with influenza, I have appointed temporarily Mr D Wilson, a pensioned Metropolitan Police Constable, to perform the duties. Mr Wilson was employed here before the war but rejoined the Metropolitan Police about 4 years ago. He has now returned to Reading. His former employment was approved by the Commissioners.

C M Morgan

Gov
[to] The Commissioners

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

The interned Germans and pro-Germans could hardly be expected to show much enthusiasm at the defeat and downfall of the Central Powers

Not everyone in Berkshire was pleased by the outcome of the war.

18 Nov 1918

Circular no. 172 of 14.11.18.

A thanksgiving service so far as it is applicable to this Place was held at both the RC service and that conducted by the Nonconformist Minister. There is no [Anglican] Chaplain.

I requested that the service should take the form of thanksgiving for the cessation of hostilities, without any reference to Victory as the Germans and pro-Germans who compose the congregations could hardly be expected to show much enthusiasm at the defeat and downfall of the Central Powers.

C M Morgan
Gov.

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

“Services no longer required”

The end of the war meant one priosn officer had a very short time in the army.

14th Novr 1918

Warder Northam

This officer who was mobilized on the 5th instant was yesterday discharged from the Army, “services no longer required”, and he returned to Prison duties today. His Record of Service and Medical History were returned to the Head Office on the 6th instant – also the Exemption Card.

C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Commissioners

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

Prison staff very short owing to Influenza

Reading Prison staff members were falling prey to influenza. The Governor issued a desperate plea for help. In reply he was sent a clerk and schoolmaster from Canterbury Prison.

7 Nov 1918

I shall be glad if the Commissioners can lend me a few officers for a time. My staff is very short owing to Influenza &c.

Principal Warder Witcombe dead.

W. Northam joined up last Tuesday.

Wr Bilke influenza last 3 weeks & likely to be ill for some time.

Engineer Hooper influenza today.

Clerk & Schoolmaster Stevens influenza last few days and likely to be away some time.

The Steward is carrying on, but is not well, & if he collapses, I have no one at all in the office, Mr Stevens being already sick.

I should be glad of a clerk who understands office work & returns, and two warders – temporary officers are unfortunately unobtainable – and the two prisons – Irish and Aliens make it [illegible].

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

Christmas cards only

Irish internees were allowed to send Christmas cards.

4.11.18
[to] Governor
Reading P of I

The Secretary of State has decided to allow the Interned Irish Prisoners to obtain a supply of Christmas and New Years cards for the purpose of sending them to their friends if they so desire. The cards must be ordered and obtained by correspondence through the censor in the ordinary manner and then the time arrives they may be sent to the friends. These cards will not count among the number of letters allowed the prisoner each week and they must carry no communication beyond the printed greetings and the signature and address of the sender.

The cards permitted should be of a simple kind & printed on glazed paper. When ready for despatch they should be examined first at the prison and then sent in bundles bearing the label “Christmas cards only” to the Chief Postal Censor.

Sd A J Wall
Sec

A copy of this has been placed in the Sinn Fein prison.

C M Morgan
Gov
11/11/18

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

An impossible position

Yesterday the Irish internees had asked for their own doctor to be allowed to exercise his skills. Dr Freeman, the prison doctor, was against the idea.

H M Prison
Reading

Oct. 26.18

From the MO to the Governor

I certainly would not be answerable for Mr Hayes’ treatment and care of the Irish prisoners here. I am of course responsible for their condition.

Furthermore I should object to Mr Hayes interfering in any way with my stock of drugs here, and should decline to dispense for him. Such a position would be impossible.

If the Commissioners desire it, I should see no objection to Mr Hayes prescribing for his fellow prisoners if the medicines &c were obtained from outside, but even in such a case I decidedly think I should see and approve of all prescriptions.

W T Freeman

I can imagine the nature of Mr Hayes’ reports if he is allowed to send them to the Commissioners.


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

There will be no volunteers during winter & spring

The authorities agreed that internees should continue to work in the prison garden – but would not let the Irish bypass the prison doctor, who they did not care for.

Commissioners’ Minute

Work in the Garden cannot be considered as the “Service of the Prison” and interned Civilians cannot be forced to work at it.

The punishment must therefore be cancelled.

JW
24.X.18

Noted.

Hitherto the service of the Place of Internment has been considered to be such things as are necessary for its ordinary upkeep, and consisted of – cooks, bakers, laundry, engineers’ party, garden party (the vegetables are grown for the Place of Internment only), cleaner, whitewashers, and this has been the practice throughout, men being paid according to the scale for each class of service approved by the Commissioners. Will the Commissioners please instruct me as to what is to be done about the garden? It grows a considerable amount of vegetables, but there will be no volunteers during winter & spring when all the digging & planting has to be carried out, and unless kept up, both it and the paths will be soon overgrown with weeds.

The garden party in the past also assisted the stoker with ashes, & in wet weather cleared out the basement.

My practice throughout has been for men to arrange for all the duties amongst themselves and no man to leave such employment until his successor is appointed.

I hope the Commissioners will not think I am saying more than I should if I say that I regret their present decision and inability to support me.

C M Morgan
Governor

25.10.18

The commissioners do not wish to alter the practice which has hitherto been in vogue at Reading, but digging etc in the garden was not included when Reg 9 was approved. As it appears to be understood that gardening is part of the upkeep of the P of I, the practice will be continued.
JW 30/10/16

25th Oct 1918

F. Thornton, Irish prisoner, applied today. He states on behalf of the Irish prisoners that Dr R. Hayes, who is an Irish internee, act as Medical Officer for them in place of the Medical Officer appointed for duty here, and that Dr Hayes be allowed to write to Ireland for his medical appliances. Drugs to be obtained from here.

Report from Medical Officer attached.

C M Morgan
Gov
[to] The Commissioners

The Commissioners are unable to sanction the proposal.
A J Wall
Sec: 30/10/18

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

“As the interned Irish prisoners refuse to put stamps on their outgoing letters, it has been decided to post them without stamps”

The officials at Reading had to give in to the Irish protests.

[to] The Gov

Please report how these [Irish] internees are now behaving. The Internees at the other Prisons have not given any trouble & it is hoped that things will improve at Reading without resorting to punishments, which would only exasperate the men & probably make things worse.

A J W
Secy
23/10/18

23rd October 1918
Reading

As the interned Irish prisoners refuse to put stamps on their outgoing letters, it has been decided to post them without stamps, and the recipients will have to pay the excess postage if they wish to have them.

The Censor has been informed accordingly, and you should send the letters to the Censor in future in the ordinary way. The two packets sent up by you have been sent on to the Censor.

A J Wall
Secy

Noted. Irish Internees informed.
Governor 25/10/18

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

Irish refuse to pay for postage

Irish internees protested against the censorship of their correspondence.

14 Oct 1918

The Irish prisoners stated today that after Monday the 21st they refused to pay for my postage of letters or parcels, as letters are not read here but sent in a covering letter to the Postal censor.

Instructions are requested.

C M Morgan
Gov
[to] The Commissioners

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

“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)

“No menial in a minister’s house gets such a quality and I defy them to contradict it”

Irish MP and internee William Cosgrave disliked the food on offer in Reading Prison. His letter of complaint was intercepted by the official censor.

7.10.18
W T Cosgrove
P of I Reading

To Mrs B Burke
174 James St
Dublin

Complaint of prison treatment
Extract

I regret to have to complain of the diet. No menial in a minister’s house gets such a quality and I defy them to contradict it. They actually depend [on] us getting food from Ireland. I reported to the Dr that I did not use what was supplied and he enquired did I not get some from home.

They know I do not use it and just continue sending it on and then examining professionally the victim. I shall not submit to a further examination by the Dr for the benefit of experimentation. I have already been twice subjected to this foolery.


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

Full of political excitement

The Reading Prison doctor was unimpressed by claims of ill health among Irish internees.

Sept. 23 18
From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the report of the Secretary to the Prison Commission for a report upon the mental and physical condition of W T Cosgrove.

In the petitions of Laurence Ginnell and Richard Hayes, dated respectively Sept. 11 and Sept 12 1918, I have already dealt with this matter.

I have again carefully examined him today. His mental condition is sound. His physical condition is [illegible]. There are perhaps indefinite signs of some past [illegible] in the left lung but it is quiescent now, and there are no subjective symptoms.

He is full of political excitement and in my presence at all events quite cheerful.

He certainly is not in imminent danger.

W T Freeman

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