“Essentially German in feeling and made no secret of it”

Some of the foreign internees in Reading Prison were actually pro-British; others were quite the opposite.

10.8.18
B H Rohls

Naturalized British subject. Essentially German in feeling and made no secret of it. A red hot Socialist and little affection for any country, but has been prominent in showing pleasure when Germany has had any success. Was punished by order of the secretary of state for making wilfully untrue statements, & his statements regarding his cell are in keeping with his usual veracity.

The cell he occupied when he lost privilege of association and other privileges was one of the reception cells. It had not been occupied since it was whitewashed a few months previously and was one of the identical cells occupied by the Irish prisoners when here, and with which they were quite satisfied.

After they left all the cells were whitewashed. He is naturally a dirty, untidy man, and the Warder in charge of his landing has frequently to check him on this account. I may add that he was visited in the cell he complains about daily both by the Medical Officer and myself. The mattress, pillow, towels &c, were his own, taken from his own cell.

C M Morgan
Governor

10.8.1918
R Koch

Prisoner appears to be born of German parents in England – educated in Germany – lived most of his life in England.

From his letters, his parents & a majority of relations live in Germany.

States that he has always considered himself British.

His brother was killed fighting for Germany. Has expressed no opinions here.

C M Morgan
Gov

[to]
The Commissioners

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

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“His cell being fungus covered and full of dry rot”

Internee Bernard Rohls was causing more trouble for prison staff. Were his complaints justified? But this was nothing to the fears that a new imflux of dangerous Irish veterans of the Easter Rising two years earlier might pose.

Place of Internment
Reading
20 May 1918

B H Rohls
23.3.16 S of S Order
Defence of the Realm Regn: Internment

The above interned Prisoner who is undergoing 21 days forfeiture of privileges asks that he may be visited by his own medical man from London, his reasons being:

Health.

His cell being fungus covered and full of dry rot – wet and many other things.

He is in an ordinary reception cell – which is clean and dry.

He has been seen by the Medical Officer, Dr Freeman, who is away on 10 days leave, and also by Dr Lambert who has acted as Medical Officer here for many years in the absence of Dr Freeman.

Report from Dr Lambert attached.

He was awarded 21 days by order of the Secretary of State.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

20th May 1918
B R Rohls

The above named interned prisoner has been under my observation since 14th May.

The state of his health is in my opinion as follows:

I. He is a distinctly neurotic & emotional man.

II. He shows physical signs of rheumatism of joints in the past. Has astories [sic] also, show signs of degeneration.

As regards his statements as to the condition of his cell – I have examined it, and I do not find any evidence of the presence of fungus or dampness in it. The cell is well ventilated and well lighted.

I have no grounds whatever for objecting to B R Rohls being visited by his own doctor. In my opinion, however, the case is not one for which a consultation is needed.

G O Lambert, MD, pro W T Freeman, MD (MO, H M Prison, Reading).

20 May 1918
Reading PI

Among the Irish prisoners who are being removed to England for internment, are several who were in custody under PS in Lewes Prison and took part in the mutiny there. It is to be expected therefore that the prisoners coming to your prison will combine together to resist orders, and steps should be taken by you to have an adequate staff present whenever they are out of their cells. To assist you in this matter the Secretary of State is asking the War Office Authorities to grant you a Military Guard and you should approach the local Commanding Officer to supply you with such a Guard as you may think necessary in anticipation of orders which he will receive from the War Office. You can arrange with him as to the number etc.
Please report the result.

[signature]
Secretary

[Added in Governor C M Morgan’s hand:]

The men will come out of their cells from 7 am to 7.45 pm continuously. No information as to arrival has been received.

My staff will allow of one officer being there on week days – none on Saturday afternoons or Sunday. I shall have to call in officers who will be repaid time I cannot say I have.

My present staff is today 7 short of what would be used for ordinary prisoners in normal times, who are locked up in most cases 22 out of 24 hours. I have arranged for a guard and request instructions as to the extent they may be used in case of the trouble the Commissioners anticipate occurring.

CM Morgan

[reply:]
The Military Guard should be used for sentry purposes & for exercising force in the event of an outbreak.

A J Wall
Sec:
24-5-18

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

Hunger striker is a big fat man

Alarmed by the story of internee Schraplowsky’s hunger strike, the authorities wondered if he had been force fed before the fried onions trick, while another troublesome inmate needed sanctioning.

30th April 1918
Reading P.I.

With reference to the petition of Bernard H. Rohls and your report which accompanied it, the Secretary of State is of opinion that the prisoner should be punished for making such untrue statements. Please state what punishment you suggest should be [illegible].
[signature]
Secretary

As this man has repeatedly brought untrue accusations against Warders & other prisoners, I would suggest forfeiture of privileges for 21 or 28 days and a severe warning. Forfeiture of privileges would not affect his dietary, with the exception of preventing him from buying in the Canteen or outside.

It would entail forfeiture of letters, stamps, newspapers, writing, association, and his exercise would be 2 hours a day instead of being practically unlimited during hours from 8.40 -12 noon, 1.45-5 pm, 5.25 pm – 7.40.

CM Morgan
Governor
2-5-18

2.5.18
[to] The Governor, Reading P.I.
It has been decided to approve of your recommendation. You are therefore authorised to deprive Rohls of all privileges for 21 days and to warn him strictly, informing him of the reason why he is punished.

J F Wall
Secretary 10-5-18

[to]The Gov, Reading P of I
If this man [Schraplowsky] was forcibly fed please furnish the particulars called for on enclosed form.
AJW
Sec 1-5-18

Prisoner was not forcibly fed.

He went on hunger strike after breakfast – 24.4.18 until afternoon of 27-4-18. He is a big fat man and the M.O. decided he might remain until morning of 28th when he should feed him. However prisoner gave in as reported.

A report from M.O. was forwarded on 26-4-18.

C M Morgan
Gov

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)

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)