“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
[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
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.


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

Family matters

The wealthy Raymond Le Bailly de Tellighem or Tillighem, a Belgian in his 30s, was interned at Reading in 1916. He was finally deported in January 1919. He seems to have been a rather dubious character. Curiously, his wife’s address was to become famous to a later generation as the London home of Jimi Hendrix and is now a museum.

19th March 1918
R de Tillingham [sic]
28.1.16. S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday, the 18th inst, by his wife, Mrs Vera Tellingham, & child, of 23 Brook St, Mayfair, London, W.

The conversation was entirely on family matters.

[to] The Prison Commissioners

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

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

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

A critical time

Reading churchgoers offered their prayers for the war.


For the entry of the British troops into Jericho.


For the spirit of self-sacrifice and perseverance in the nation.

For God’s blessing on Ireland at this critical time, especially on the Feast of S. Patrick (March 17th).

For the Russian people at this critical time in their history.

For all our fighting men and all suffering from the war, especially those in danger from air raids in London and on the East Coast.

For Horace Beesley, one of our altar-lads, just gone out to France as a volunteer carpenter.

For all the wounded, sick and prisoners on both sides.

For the fallen, especially Frederick Mott, Wine Place; John Hannon, Milman Road; William Mason, Stanley Street.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P98/28A/16)

Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

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

Old clothes for distressed people in Europe

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood wanted to help families in areas in France and Belgium occupied, and devastated, by the enemy.


The final result of the Mass Meeting held in the Palace Theatre enabled the society to remit a cheque for £49 8s 0d to the National Federation [of Brotherhoods], on behalf of the distressed people in the countries on the continent. This was a good bit of work, but Brother William Ward wished further efforts to be made in the direction of collecting old clothes.

A small sub-committee met to consider this matter, and they decided it would be a good thing to do. But to ensure success it would be absolutely necessary to have a body of at least 40 or 50 willing helpers, who would systematically visit the various houses in the town, leave literature, and call and ascertain if gifts of old clothes can be spared.

To bring this particular object before the whole body of our members, an open meeting for men and women is to be held on Sunday March 3rd, at which a special speaker will address the meeting. After that it is intended to ask for subscriptions for initial expenses, and also for the names of helpers.

If both subscriptions and helpers are forthcoming, then the committee intend to go forward with this very necessary bit of work; but they feel that they cannot possibly do this unless they are well backed up by the whole body of the Brotherhood.

It has been decided to send to all our brothers on service – whether at home or abroad – a copy of the Broad Street Magazine in the future, instead of the Brotherhood Journal, as a wish has been expressed for a paper with more local news in it. Brother A. T. Doe has again undertaken to do the work of addressing and dispatching these, month by month.

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

Experimental baking

The impact of food shortages is reflected in the new recipes for bread tried at Reading Prison.

9th March 1918
Circular No. 41 – 15.2.18

Referring to the above on the subject of the use of potatoes in breadmaking, I have to report that a new supply of Government Regulation flour has this week been obtained from a local firm, Messrs S M Soundy & Son, and an experimental bake produced. The percentage of only 23 per cent. With previous flour 24 was [used?].

Noted – No doubt the percentage of grain will vary with the flour.
Is the bread otherwise satisfactory?
[Illegible signature]

Yes, the bread is now quite good, we tried adding more water to make a larger percentage, but the flour would not take it up, and the result was bad.
C M Morgan

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

The King offers congratulations and sympathy

A bereaved Newbury mother received a medal on her son’s behalf from King George V himself.

Mrs George, of The Wharf, has been honoured by receiving personally from His Majesty the King, on March 12th, at Reading, the Military Medal for bravery awarded posthumously to her son, Albert Jacob. The King shook hands with her, and spoke words of congratulation on her son’s bravery and sympathy with her in her loss, and we feel proud to think that one of our old National School and CLB boys should have done so splendidly. The account of Pte George’s act may be read in the Newbury Weekly News of March 14th.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine (D/P89/28A/13)

Flag waving children greet the Royal Family

Reading children were excited to witness a royal visit.

George Palmer Boys’ School
12th March 1918

Visit to Reading of H.M. King George & H.M. Queen Mary. Assembled school at 9.30 and marched along Elgar Rd, Field Road, Carey St. & Howard St to Oxford Road, lining the street between the premises of Messrs Callas, Sons & May Ltd, and Messrs Dunlops Ltd. The royal party was seen on its way to No.1 War Hospital & on its return. Flags were kindly lent to the boys by Mr Drew, proprietor R.F.S.C.

St Giles Boys’ School, Reading
12th March 1918

Boys were allowed to go to Jackson’s Corner to see HM the King and his Queen. They returned to school.

Battle Infants School
15th March 1918

The Head Mistress was not in school till 1.50 o’clock on Tuesday [12 March] as permission was granted to witness the ceremony of the reception of representative inhabitants and war workers of the town, by their Majesties, the King and Queen, in the Town Hall.

Redlands Boys’ School, Reading
March 12th 1918
The School marched to Broad Street marching at 1.55, in order to see the King and Queen passing the factory. At 3.30 the Scholars returned and were dismissed when close to the School.

Alfred Sutton Primary School, Reading
12th March 1918

The Infants’ school is very small on account of the King’s visit, the Junior pupils are being taken by the teachers to see the procession.

Sonning CE Girls and Infants
12th March 1918

School closed for children to see the King in Reading.

Lower Sandhurst School
March 12th 1918

I was absent from school during the latter part of the afternoon as I was attending a War Savings Conference at Wellington.

Log books of George Palmer Boys’ School (89/SCH/8/1, p. 149); Reading St Giles Boys School (R/ES2/9, p. 259); Reading: Battle Infants School (SCH20/8/2, p. 312); Redlands Boys’ School, Reading (86/SCH/3/30, p. 335)Alfred Sutton Primary School log book (89/SCH/37/1, p. 246); Sonning CE Girls and Infants’ School (89/SCH/1/4, p. 284); Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL66/1, p. 429)

He lied wholesale

[Internee Max Stephan had been found to be corresponding illicitlywas duly warned he would not be allowed to write or receive letters any more if he tried again to contact anyone secretly.]

11th March 1918
M. Stephan
Order 4.10.17 Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment.

The attached letter from Mr Snowden is forwarded to the Commissioners.

No letter to Mr Snowden has passed through my hands, and I interviewd Stephan this morning. He lied wholesale. First he stated he had never written to Mr Snowden. Afterwards he stated, on being cross-examined, that he wrote to his solicitor, Messrs Rowe & Maw, Amberly House, Norfolk St, Strand, and that the letter was written before he came here. I told him he was lying. He then said the letter was written 10th Feby from here to his solicitor, asking them to acquaint Mr Snowden. I again told him he was lying. Eventually he admitted that he wrote the letter himself and that it was taken out by a prisoner.

Three men – Hasse 22nd Feby, Hodgkinson 27th Feby, Whisperry 5th March, are possible men. Later prisoner practically admitted that it was Hasse or Whisperry, by stating that the man had left this country. From my knowledge of the men, I should say Hasse. All three men were searched upon leaving, but with the large amount of luggage they possess – clothing &c – it would be most difficult to detect a letter.

At present I have directed that all his letters are to be stopped, but I think he should forfeit them for a long period.

It is difficult to punish him beyond this, as he can only forfeit privileges if removed to the reception cells away from other men, and two days ago the Commissioners directed that he should be specially placed under observation on account of suicidal and depressed state of mind.

C M Morgan

[To] The Commissioners

Prisoner does not know Mr Snowden’s letter is to him, but believes it is to me.

Prisoner also has since the above was written, admitted that it was Hasse – and further that he did not take the letter from here, but removed it – wrote it outside and signed Stephan’s name to it by Stephan. [sic?]

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

Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

The wounded soldiers are no longer able to get the cup of tea in the afternoon which they so much enjoyed

The Broad Street Chapel premises had been hosting soldiers since the start of the war. But shortages of food – and, worse, tea – were putting a dampener on things.

Our work amongst the soldiers has been somewhat interrupted by a new Army Regulation which precludes the provision of refreshments to soldiers, except between the hours of 6.30 and 9.0 pm. This means that the wounded soldiers are no longer able to get the cup of tea in the afternoon which they so much enjoyed. Nor can they be supplied with food of any kind. Coffee and cocoa may still be served; but these are not regarded as a satisfactory substitute for the “cup which cheers, etc”. Consequently we have very few men in the rooms which formerly were crowded.

We have to admit that the regulation is reasonable in view of the food shortage, and we can only hope that our wounded friends will soon get accustomed to the near [mistake for new?] conditions, and that we shall have them back again.

Men and women in khaki still crowd the rooms each evening, though they are now strictly rationed.

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

Suicidal tendencies among the interned

Max John Stephan, alias Stephen Friedlander, aged 46, was a mining engineer from Germany, who was among the men interned atv Reading. The experience was making him depressed.

8 March 1918
Reading P.I.

Please inform the Medical Officer that letters have been written by the interned M J Stephan, which indicate the possibility of some mental deterioration or suicidal tendency, under which circumstances the Commissioners desire he should be kept under observation, with a view to a report being furnished if it appears necessary.

[Illegible signature]

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

A model windmill

It is pleasing to know that the authorities had no objection to this internee’s wish to send a toy to his little nephews and nieces.

7th March 1918
R E Lang or Lange

The above named Alien asks permission to send out a little model windmill, which he has made, to his married sister at L’pool for her children.


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