Free to leave internment

The Cusden brothers from Reading had spent the entire war cooped up in a German internment camp. Now they were free. Albert was interested in the revolutionary movement and headed for a day in Berlin; back home he would become a member of the Labour Party, and 30 years later his wife Phoebe, as mayor of Reading, would welcome German children from war torn Dusseldorf to the town.

Spandau-Ruhleben 21 November 1918

Der hier internierte
A. E. Cusden & R. G. Arthur
Ist heute aus dem Englanderlager Ruhleben nach Berlin von neun bis sechs Uhr nachmittags beurlaubt worden.

Der Kommandant [signature]
Feldwebelleutnant

Der Soldatenrat

Pass for Albert and a friend to leave the camp at Ruhleben (D/EX1485/4/6)

“They deserved to be left behind”

Albert Cusden, one of the four Reading brothers interned in a German camp, wrote to one of his sisters. Some of the older internees had been repatriated, and it was a bittersweet farewell.

Jan. 19th 1918

Dear Iris

Two letters received from Father and Ruby to Vic, yesterday. Have had no other news for quite a long time, but I believe there is only one mail boat running a month now, so if this is the case your letters and ours will arrive in bunches.

We had quite a memorial day on Jan. 2nd. About 350 men over forty five left here for England. You will of course have read of their arrival long before this is written. Four men went from our loft. As you can imagine all the men were very excited the night before. I know of some men who dressed themselves the night before, and spent the night just waiting. I think there were very few who got much sleep. One man gave a farewell breakfast to his chums at four o’clock in the morning. They had to leave the camp between six and seven in the morning, and three were actually late! They deserved to be left behind.

A train was waiting for them on a siding just outside the camp, and we who were left climbed on to sheds or anything that was handy to wave farewell to men who had been interned with us for over three years. One or two attempts were made to sing such songs as “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and “What’s the use of worrying?”, but they were not very successful. Fellows just watched the train and shouted. Well, they’re gone now, and some day I suppose we shall follow.

We have had very peculiar weather for quite a time. We must have had close on eighteen inches of snow during the last ten days. Most of it has now disappeared. In the first few days we had a frost, so that it was very slippery. Now a thaw has set in and it is very mild.

Our new school term has not yet started, we have been waiting for warmer weather. Probably in another week’s time it will start. It is impossible to do much work in the winter.

We are all four keeping in good health. Love to all.

Your affectionate brother, Albert.

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss Iris Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/9)

Swollen tins of rotten food

Reading-born internee Albert Cusden (one of four brothers in the Ruhleben camp near Berlin) wrote to one of his younger sisters to report that some of the food sent by the family was not fit for consumption.

Nov. 23rd 1917
Dear Lucy

Latest letter received, Len to Arch dated Oct 8th….

Now and again a tin turns out bad. Such a tin is usually somewhat swollen and so is regarded with suspicion from the start and is opened very gingerly. The remarks that are passed in the neighbourhood of such a tin as the aroma gets around are quite interesting.

We are all four keeping well. Have received thick boots from the Savoy as well as the clothing mentioned so you can rest assured we shall be all right this winter…

With love to all
Your affectionate brother,
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss L Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/8)

Art in an internment camp

Albert Cusden, one of four Reading brothers in a civilian internment camp in Germany, wrote home enclosing some pictures of the camp. Albert was a talented amateur artist, and many of his sketches from Ruhleben can be seen at Berkshire Record Office. The camp was famous in later days for the educational efforts run by the internees themselves, many of whom were teachers and academics. Please forgive the non-PC description of an internee from the Caribbean.

Oct 13th 1917
My dear Parents

As mentioned on my card last week, Dick sent off a photo addressed to you, and I sent off five drawings, so they should have arrived by now. Early this week Dick sent off a second photo. There was a special one signed by the group… The ink sketch I sent was of the chemical lab[oratory in] the Camp School. Then there were two charcoal sketches, one a landscape scene and the other a head study. And two pencil head studies, one of a fellow dressed for a part in a play and the other of a darkie. This young darkie, who is from the West Indies, is himself an amateur artist, and has worked at sketching, painting etc quite diligently since he has been here. We have acted as models for one another….

The Savoy Association has been sending clothes parcels to men on their list. Arch & I have just received ours. They are very nice parcels and include a thick overcoat. We shall all four be well provided for in this respect this winter, so don’t worry. If you could send on a couple of reels of black cotton or thread we should be glad, as we cannot obtain this here now. Also just a little tape. Don’t send much. Thanks in advance…

We are keeping well in all kinds of weather…

With love to all,

Your affectionate son,
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Mr & Mrs Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/7)

“So long since they have had any news”

Reading-born Albert Cusden, interned in German camp Ruhleben, wrote to his young sister. He and his brothers were anxious because the post seemed to be disrupted.

May 31st 1917

Dear Ruby

Your & Mother’s letters of April 15th & 20th recently received. This morning I sent off 5 drawings which I should be glad if you would kindly put by with the rest… I do not think we shall be able to send anything else like this away after this month. Three of the sketches were head studies, one of the others showed an evening in a loft, and the other a charcoal drawing of our hot water boiler upon a winter’s evening. This month has been a very warm one, quite as warm as April was cold.

Three o’clock. Post has just arrived. Letter from Lucy to myself & from Iris to Arch, dated April 29th. It is a considerable time since any letters have been acknowledged. I do like to know whether they arrive. On the average, quite one out of my two monthly letters are sent home, apart from cards. Maybe it is owing to delay in post, most fellows are receiving letters from their relatives complaining it is so long since they have had any news…

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss R Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/6)

Quite a jolly time when we are together again

Reading-born Archibald (“Arch”) Cusden wrote optimistically from Ruhleben internment camp in Germany to his little sister.

May 11th 1917

Dear Iris

Will you please thank father & Mother and all (including yourself, of course) who have sent letters recently. We are always glad to get news of you at home. Before long we hope there will be no need for sending letters, since we shall all be together again. That will be quite a jolly time, do you not think so?…

Bye-bye,

Your old brother Arch

Letter from Arch Cusden to Miss Iris Cusden, Castlestrasse No 57, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4)

Some internees mope about all day long

Artistic Albert Cusden, interned in Ruhleben camp near Berlin with three of his brothers, wrote regularly to his family safe in Reading. Brother Len was the recipient of this letter. In return, the family and other friends back home sent the Cusdens food and other essentials.

18 Jan 1917

Dear Len

I received Lucy’s letter of the 4th a few days ago. The money sent for Swiss bread in December was apparently used for sending a small parcel of food in place of the bread, as Dick received a card from the Bureau to the effect that a small parcel of provisions was being sent from Shrimpton’s, and Arch & I received similar advice as from you. These parcels arrived early this week, so suppose everything is now settled. I note Lucy states you still do not know particulars of the new parcel system, but I gave details in my letter to Father & Mother, so I daresay you understand everything now. We are receiving the new parcels regularly and as regards quantity, quality & variety, the food is very good and we shall be very satisfied if things go on like this. We are also able to obtain as much bread as want, as regular supplies of Danish bread are sent to our camp captain for distribution. This Danish bread is white and superior to the Swiss. I wrote sometime ago asking for soap, but just too late for you to send before December. Since then we have obtained some extra soap and one of the standard parcels contains soap, so we have now enough. But I believe that anything not in the nature of food, e.g. clothing etc, can be sent by private individuals, but through the Central Organisation. So if we require anything like this we will let you know….

I haven’t been doing so much drawing lately, the weather isn’t so favourable. Winter seems really to have come now, plenty of snow and frost, but it is chiefly dry and as long as it remains so I don’t mind how cold it be, except of course from the point of view that I don’t do so much drawing. The changes in the weather form, I suppose, the chief changes in the life here, but the time doesn’t hang so much as it might easily do. It depends mostly upon the person. There are some who mope about all day long and won’t or can’t take up anything. Did the Camp magazine reach home? My drawings didn’t come out well, the originals were too small. And I haven’t done much with ink yet…

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/5)

Internees “often express the wish to be able to fall asleep and not to be awakened until it is time to be released”

The Cusden brothers, interned in Germany, were grateful to family and friends back home in Reading for sending them food parcels.

Dec 1st 1916
Dear Lucy

Since last wrote are very much obliged for parcels up to C. With exception of jam everything has been coming in perfect condition and all has been much appreciated.

Unfortunately the jam tins have often leaked, usually at lid. The parcels take two or three weeks on the way so unless lids are quite tight liquids find their way into rest of parcel. Carr’s biscuit tins were I think the worst. They were this shape [small sketch of oblong] and lids did not fit at all. Usually the juice escaped leaving the solid. Some of the other tins were allright. I know you have a lot of bother in packing anything like this, but it is better to let you know exactly how the things come.

Was pleased to note that the batch of drawings arrived safely. Apparently you did not recognise the self-portrait which was sent, as you don’t mention it, but it was a very good portrait of me. I don’t know if I have changed much since you last saw me.

On other side is [a sketch of] a rough idea of an early morning scene. Waking the sleepy ones up for the morning line-up in order to be counted. Some persons always find it so difficult to get up, they don’t see the use of it! Persons often express the wish to be able to fall asleep and not to be awakened until it is time to be released, however near or distant that may be. Perhaps it won’t be so long after all.

Father asks if I would like a little drawing paper sent. I should not mind a little, I can obtain some here, but it is rather dear. A little middling stuff and some cheaper sort just for rough practice. Many thanks for same. Swiss bread still coming. I presume that under new system you will not need to send at all. As a matter of fact supplies of bread have been coming into the camp for several weeks past, so in any case you need not send any more to us now….

Vic’s leg is practically quite well, and we are still keeping reasonably well.

With love to all
Your affectionate brother
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to his sister Lucy Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/4)

Learning French in internment

The four Cusden brothers from Reading who had been teaching in Germany before the war were among those British and other foreigners who were interned in the Ruhleben camp near Berlin. There was an active education and activity programme run by the internees, and which they took very seriously. Victor Cusden taught French, and the other men may have attended classes. The camp ‘school’ issued a detailed prospectus for the autumn term, 1916.

Ruhleben Camp School
Prospectus of work for autumn term 1916

In issuing this special prospectus the Committee of the Ruhleben Camp School wishes to draw the attention of students to the following points:

1. The School Premises are now simply but adequately equipped.
2. The Laboratory arrangements enable satisfactory practical work to be done.
3. A good Library dealing with a wide variety of Subjects is already in Camp and further volumes can be procured easily from England.
4. Public Examinations are being arranged for: those of the Royal Society of Arts have already been held.
5. The Board of Education has arranged a Scheme for Recording Study which may be used 1. as a testimonial 2. in connection with certain Examinations.
6. In most subjects the tuition provided by the School ranges from that required by absolute beginners to that required by Advanced University Students.

The Autumn Term begins on September 11th: the enrolment of all students, old and new, in all Departments, takes place in the Loft of Barrack 6 on Monday and Tuesday the 4th and 5th of September, 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm.

DEPARTMENT FOR FRENCH
Last term: 2 lecture classes, 43 classes, 39 teachers, 284 individual pupils
Special Classes for absolute beginners (grammar and pronunciation). Special class for coloured men.
Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Grammar Classes, based on Otto-Onion’s, Hugo’s, Berlitz’ I and II, Siepmann’s 1, 2 et 3, Gouin’s I and II, Larive and Fleury 2me et 3me Annee, Dent’s and Wright’s Methods and Grammars.
Conversation, Pronunciation and Reading Classes for Intermediate and Advanced Students are based on the following text books: le Petit Parisien (Kron), Gouin 2nd Book, Tartarin de Tarascon, Tartarin sur les Alpes ( A Daudet), Tour du Monde (J Verne), Emeraude hdes Incas (Charles Normand), Luois XI (Casimir Delavigne).
Style, Composition, Synonyms: for advanced students.
Special Class for “Orthographe”, by P Elies.
Preparation Classes for London University Matriculation and London Chamber of Commerce Examinations.
Lectures on Idioms, Gallicismes and general subjects; literary and otherwise.
Reading and explanation of Labiche’s plays, and other modern plays, to familiarise students with colloquial French, by P Elies and H A Bell.
Course of lectures on Victor Hugo (his life and works) by M Bordelain.
Series of lectures (in French and English) on “le Pays de France” dealing with different aspects of French life (Literature, Art, Music, Commerce, History, Geography, etc).
Commercial French classes: correspondence, expressions, etc, based on Gouin’s and Pitman’s methods.

In order to classify students adequately and place them in an appropriate class, a general entrance examination for all those intending to join or to continue classes in the French Department will be held on September 1st and 2nd at 9.30 am in the YMCA Hall.
This examination is compulsory for all students whether already in the school or not, only absolute beginners are exempted. A general “end of term” examination will also take place in December to test the progress made by students during the term.

Teachers… [include] V Cusden

[D/EX1485/4/10/1]

Please don’t send too much from home

Interned in Germany, Albert Cusden wrote to one of his brothers in Reading. He and the brothers he was with in Ruhleben (Arch, Vic and Dick) were grateful for the support they were getting from friends and family.

Aug 22nd 1916
Dear Len

Since my letter to Father & Mother last week, many thanks for parcels Y, Z, A & B. Note from last letter received that Mrs Shrimpton will in future send Swiss Bread to Dick and you will therefore send to me instead. If Mrs S. does send, please don’t send any to me or we shall have more than we need. The one lot to Arch will be quite sufficient. As already stated, Vic receives Swiss bread each week.

Please don’t send too much. Last four parcels have contained toast, but this does not always keep now, so please do not send any more. Our needs in the bread line are quite met by Swiss as above. All the same thank you very much for trouble. As regards parcels generally, we now receive regularly from a number of friends, so would prefer you to act upon my previous suggestion not to send so much from home. We are receiving quite sufficient now, so please don’t think we should be short at all. Even if we received nothing from you we should manage quite alright. And we are sure it would make a little difference at home.

We are very grateful for what all of you at home have done. We have a fair amount of tea in hand and shall not need any more for quite a good time. Please also do not send any fresh winter clothing, or blankets, etc, as we have plenty left over from last year and shall not require any more whether we have to stop here right though another winter or not. The dripping just received was very nice, but from the jars they were in it looked as though you got these specially for same. A cardboard box would have done, or probably waterproof paper. Among those who send to us are Reading Teachers’ Association to Arch, & Vic’s old school…

I stick to the drawing here as much as I can, but you will readily understand the circumstances are not the best, and there are so many interruptions during the day that the time left at one’s disposal is not so great. Last week sent off to Mother 14 sketches (12 pencil, 1 charcoal & 1 ink). Please keep for me. Charcoal sketch is of wood seen through the wires….

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/3)

“It is a long time since bread from England has arrived without being mouldy”

Albert Cusden, one of four Reading brothers interned in Germany, and a talented amateur artist, wrote to his parents. They were dependent on food supplies sent from home, as their captors had little to go around due to blockades of trade. Some of Albert’s Ruhleben drawings are in the BRO archives.

Aug. 14th 1916
My dear parents

Since my letter to Lucy, very many thanks for parcels from S to X. Everything arrived in good condition with exception of bread. As I mentioned before, it is a long time since bread from England has arrived without being mouldy. Everyone makes same complaint, so it must be weather. The Swiss bread has been coming regularly to Arch & Dick in good condition and is sufficient for us. I presume that before receiving this you will have stopped sending any more from England as advised. Could someone drop a card to Mrs Miller and inform the Sawyers not to send any more bread either. Arch wrote to Mrs Miller a week or two back asking her not to send any more with cheese as she had been doing, but now it is better than none at all. The Sawyers’ toasted loaf had been coming all right, but last twice has been bad, so would be better not to risk any more. As an example, on Saturday four parcels came for us, being from home, Mrs Miller, Mrs West & Aunt Eliza. Each contained bread, I think seven loaves in all, which had to be thrown away being mouldy right through. So it would be a pity to risk any more, and as said before the Swiss is enough. Could you perhaps also drop card to Mrs West thanking her for parcel, as I cannot write her this week, and it would stop her from sending any more a little earlier. The biscuits she sent with bread were all right. The home made jam was extremely nice. Congratulations to Edie from us all. Hope she and the baby are both getting on perfectly. I must say you kept it very secret, no-one having a word of the coming event….

Dick received parcel from Poole through Mrs Ward of Donnington Gardens and acknowledged it to Mrs Ward as he had not Poole address and suggested she might send letter on. Since your letter came to me, he has written Mrs Ward, so I suppose it is now all right.

Probably this week will send off some sketches, mostly head studies. Should like you to put them by for me until I return, whenever that will be. I have been doing a deal of portrait sketching of late, and in most cases the fellows have sent the sketches home. I get the practice, the sitter the sketch, and I have no trouble in finding sitters. In one or two cases have later on commissions. We are keeping well, and you are all the same?

With love to all,

Your affectionate son,

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Mrs J Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/2)

Bread and butter in Ruhleben

Victor Cusden, one of four Reading-born brothers held in the civilian internment camp Ruhleben, near Berlin wrote to his little sister Iris in Reading. is main concern was the supply of bread, as much of their food had to be sent by their families via the Red Cross.

11 February 1916
Dear Iris

It is a very long time since I wrote you last but I know you won’t scold me too much for not having written more often. You must however not think I have been ill. This winter I have not even been troubled with colds – as yet at any rate. Arch & I have also to write every now and again to our friends in Giessen and in Holland who have from time to time helped us in various small ways. You must not be surprised then that it is Albert who usually writes our letters home, since it would look strange were he to answer these others for us.

We all thank you for the letters received from the various ones at different dates, & thank all concerned for the parcels we have had sent us.

The last kind of bread sent keeps very well and is very good. The toast too keeps admirably. I relish it even when we have nothing to put on it. The butter and margarine arrives also in good condition. There is no need to state whether it is appreciated or not as neither butter nor margarine can be obtained at the canteen.

We do not require any more composition powder as we have now two tins of it. Albert asks me to thank you Len very much for sending him the drawing materials. He has done some quite nice drawings, besides the caricatures that is always at. I’m afraid I do practically nil in this line at present as study is more pressing.

When sending again will you please enclose three or four copying-ink pencils of the durable variety such as the Koh-i-Noor. They need not of necessity be this make however…

I have occasionally written to the Headmaster & one of the other masters, and have received nice letters in return. Numbers of my old school-fellows have either been killed or wounded. Of Sammy Hall I have heard nothing since the war began and for over 6 months nothing of Mr Naulty. Many fellows who were little “squirts” when I was at school have been doing conspicuous things at the front. It does seem strange…

Love to all & much for yourself,
Viccie

Letter from Victor Cusden to his sister Iris (D/EX1485/4/5/1)

Hard bread, but making Christmas as cheerful as possible in internment

The four Cusden brothers, originally from Reading, had been teaching languages in Germany before the war. Together with thousands of other expatriate Britons, they were interned in a camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. They were allowed to keep in contact with family back home, and in fact food parcels were an essential supplement to the meagre supplies doled out by the Germans. Here Albert Cusden writes to another brother, Len.

Jan 5th 1916
Dear Len

Since my letter to Mother many thanks for parcels N & O & one from Edie to Arch, leaf from Sawyer’s received Dec. 28th, parcel from Aunt Mary to Dick received Dec. 31st. If anyone sees Aunt Mary, please thank her very much. We do not much care for the bread batons, they are very hard when received. Would much prefer the toasted bread.

Christmas went off here much better than the previous one, and we are very thankful to all who helped to make it so. I don’t think anyone here was left out in the cold, arrangements being made by those who received plenty of parcels that others not so fortunate should have a share. On Christmas Day we were allowed to go to bed at 9.45 instead of 8.45. We also had our Xmas “parties”. Had Harris up on one day, and Arch’s chum Pinder on another. So you see, we made Christmas as cheerful as we could, and although we cannot ourselves thank all those who helped, we know you will do so for us.

Father asks whether we can manage with parcels we receive from various quarters. We are quite all right in this respect at present. I daresay the parcels we receive from other quarters will continue. The parcel Father mentions as being sent from your office we will distribute as desired. Thanks for information re ABC School of Drawing. Am very pleased to hear how you are getting on with your drawing, and am, looking forward to seeing some of your work. In letter to Vic you mention picture of Ruhleben in the Daily Mirror and think you recognise Vic there. Have seen the picture, but none of us are there, unless we are somewhere in crowd behind.

Father mentions Miss Pietz in letter. She has been a brick all along. Had not been here three days when she wrote Dick [she] was sending him a parcel, and has sent periodically since and always requests Dick to write stating his desires. In a recent letter (have not same before me) believe Father says Miss Shrimpton had said some parcels had been sent Dick which he had not acknowledged. The Aldershot News, through agency of Shrimpton, sent parcels to Dick for a time, each one was acknowledged to the firm, and Shrimptons written to several times. Dick wrote them again after the above, so daresay the matter is now right. Vic says will you tell Sawyers Reni is suffering from peritonitis, but she is getting better. They asked how she was. As we received more mittens and socks than needed ourselves, found others who needed them.

Love to all.
Albert.

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/1)