Seditious articles to be censored from Irish newspapers

A series of short exchanges reveals internees’ complaints about prison food – and their captors’ conscerns about censoring Irish news.

HM Prison
Reading
Sep. 6 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the remarks of F. Thorton, J. McDonagh and P. C. O’Mahony.

As far as I am concerned they appear to relate to complaints about the food.

I agree with your remarks. I believe the porridge to be nourishing and that it is of the same quality as is obtainable outside the prison.

I have satisfied myself from time to time as to the condition and quality of the meat. It has appeared to me to be as good as I can get at my own house.

W T Freeman, MD.

Prison Commission
HO
6-9-18
[to] The Gov
P of I Reading

Please note that correspondence between the Irish Internees in your custody and those at other prisons is forbidden: no written communication should therefore be allowed to pass between them.

Sgd W J Pond
For Sec:

Noted.
C M Morgan
The letters are not read here, but a notice to this effect has been posted in the hall where the Irish are located.
9.9.18

Prison Comm.
HO
SW1
6-9-18
[to] The Gov
P of I Reading

In the event of a copy of the “Waterford News” reaching your prison for the use of any of the Irish internees, care should be exercised that its columns are duly examined, with a view to seeing whether articles having seditious tendency appear prior to the delivery of the paper to the prisoners concerned.

Sgd A J Wall
Sec:

Noted.
C M Morgan
Gov 9/9/18

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

Advertisements

“Any letters which contain obscure expressions, abbreviations and indirect references to prohibited subjects are liable to delay, and may have to be stopped”

Complaints about how internees were treated were strictly forbidden.

19.7.18

[to] The Gov
Reading P of I

The U S of S [Under-Secretary of State] requests that the Irish interned prisoners in your custody may be informed as follows:

The S of S has asked that you may be reminded that letters are allowed for the purpose of communicating with your relations & friends on domestic matters and matters of business in which you are personally interested. They must not be used for the discussion of public events or for complaints about your internment or treatment; any such complaints should be made to the S of S.

Communications which offend against these rules will be stopped by the Censor.

Arrangements have been made to deal with all letters as quickly as possible, but any which contain obscure expressions, abbreviations and indirect references to prohibited subjects are liable to delay, and may have to be stopped.

If your correspondents understand English you are recommended to write to them in that language.

A J Wall
Secy

Each man was informed of this on reception and also a notice was placed In the hall.

A further notice embodying this letter has now been placed in the Irish Prison.

C M Morgan
Gov:
20-7-18

HM Prison
Reading
July 19. 18

From the MO to the Governor

Regarding the petition of H. Shlapowsky, I reported fully upon May 8th of this year.

He is [illegible – herplocked?] on the right side (not badly) and there is a weakness on the left, but … [illegible] behind. He has done no heavy work here, but has … [illegible] pretty, fights with fellow prisoners and has been on hunger strike.

What he says about us is nonsense, and I have declined to allow him to bug Alber from the Chemist.

Since his hunger strike in April, he has registered a weight of over 110 lbs. I am willing to supply him with a … [illegible] but I find we shall have a [illegible].

At the present time I see no necessity for increased rations.

W T Freeman.

Prison Commission
HO
SW1

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

“The Irish internees will attempt to communicate with their friends by secreting letters in returned egg-cases”

The government was paranoid that interned Irish nationalists might communicate secretly with others.

17 June 1918

[to] The Gov
Reading P. of I.

As there is reason to suspect that the Irish internees will attempt to communicate with their friends by secreting letters in returned egg-cases or other empties & that their friends will make a similar effort by means of parcels sent in, particularly in paper wrapping round such an article as butter, you are requested to spare no pains in closely examining all packages and and from these prisoners. All articles of clothing coming in or going out should be minutely searched.

A J Wall
Secy

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

The apparent quiet and satisfied demeanour of the Irish prisoners in Reading

The Governor of Reading Prison wanted to keep a military guard to deter the Irish internees from escape.

1.6.18
Prison Commission HO
[to] The Gov, P of I, Reading

Please report what numbers of men the Mil: Guard appointed to your prison consists & what duties they perform.

Having regard to the apparent quiet and satisfied demeanour of the Irish prisoners now in your prison, be good enough to furnish the Commissioners with your observations as to whether such a Guard is any longer required. Should you consider the presence of such a guard absolutely indispensable, in the interests of safety and security, what in your opinion is the minimum number required.

A J Wall
Sec:

Taking into consideration the past histories of the men here – and that on week days for a considerable portion of the day only one officer can be present – and on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday only one officer, a guard is desirable. I made my own arrangements regarding the guard with the officer commanding troops – and asked for & received the Min. Guard that mounts 1 NCO & 3 men – i.e. one sentry post. Sentry patrols from Female Prison entrance – round part exercise ground (Female) to Boundary Wall. NCO & relief are stationed in temporary guard-room on top of main Prison entrance.

C M Morgan
3.6.18
Gov.

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

The internees may let their friends know where they are as soon as possible

The Irish internees were now to be allowed to communicate with their friends and relations, if under strict censorship.

H M Prison
Reading
May 31 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of Max John Stephan.

I recommend that he be allowed to go to the dentist’s house under escort.

W Freeman

31.5.1918
[to] The Governor, Reading Prison

It has been decided that the privilege of writing & receiving letters, which has hitherto been suspended, shall now be granted to the interned Irish prisoners.

The examination of the letters will be undertaken on behalf of the Commissioners by the Postal Censorship. Accordingly all letters written by and all letters received for these prisoners, including P’Cards, telegrams, books, & newspapers, and any messages contained in parcels, will be sent by you – the envelopes remaining unopened – to the Chief Postal Censor, Strand House, Portugal Street, London, WC2. With each packet of letters, you will send a covering note as follows: This parcel contains letters received on – date -, for the Irish prisoners interned in Reading P. of I. signed – Governor; or This packet contains letters posted on – date by the Irish prisoners interned in Reading P. of I., signed – Governor.

If passed by the censor, they will be posted to the addresses, or returned to you to deliver to the internees, as the case may be.
The internees should tell their friends to address all letters, postcards, telegrams, and newspapers as follows:

Name
Prison – in brackets
c/o the Chief Police Censor, Strand House, Portugal St, WC2.

This will save delay, as ant letters &c sent to the Prison direct will have to be referred to the Censor in the first place.
Parcels should be addressed direct to the Prison: they must be carefully examined, and any written or printed matter contained in them must not be given to the prisoner until passed by the Censor.

In order that the internees may let their friends know where they are as soon as possible, they should be advised to limit their first communication to a postcard or telegram, stating where they are held, and explaining how letters, parcels &c should be addressed.

For the present, no visits can be allowed.

Signed A H Wall
Sec:

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

“Irish National Poems were not allowed when they were here before, but I suppose they know them all by heart”

The new Irish internees arrived at Reading – and their books were immediately (and unlawfully) confiscated.

Place of Internment
Reading
27th May 1918

Walter L Cole
William T Cosgrove
Richard Davys
Frank Fahy
Richard Hayes
John Hurley

17.5.18 Chief Secretary for Ireland’s Order, Defence of the Realm Regn (14B) Internment.

Sir.

I have the honour to report that the above named Irish prisoners were received into my custody on Saturday the 25th inst: from HM Prison, Gloucester.
C M Morgan
Governor
[to]
The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
Whitehall
SW

27.5.1918
Place of Internment
Reading

The attached papers & book entitled “Irish National Poems” were taken from the Irish prisoners when they arrived here. They have had them in their possession up to the date of arrival here on Saturday evening. Irish National Poems were not allowed when they were here before, but I suppose they know them all by heart.

[reply]

Please say why these are submittted to the Commissioners. There does not appear to be anything to object to in them.

A J Wall
Sec.
28/5/18

Noted. These were submitted because I cannot read Gaelic. As regards the book of poems, its approval is noted. It was submitted because it was disallowed when the Sinn Feiners were here before – to the best of my belief.

C M Morgan
Gov
30/5/18

The instructions as to their treatment and that they may retain papers &c in their possession was only received today.

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

“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)

Who are Frauleins Maria and Anna Hemmerle?

Internees were allowed to keep some contact with friends and relations, but the authorities kept a close eye on everyone.

Place of Internment
Reading

30th 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 29th inst: by Miss D. Shain (friend) of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.

The conversation was of private and family affairs.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

30th April 1918
Reading PI

Two letters from the War Office are enclosed having reference to certain correspondence that is taking place between Albert Hemmerle in your custody and – Bushe interned at the Cornwallis Road, Islington, with one Fraulein Maria Hemmerle, together with a letter written by Bushe to this latter person.

Please question Hemmerle on the following points:

1. Who are Frauleins Maria and Anna Hemmerle, where do they live, and who do they live with?
He should then be asked
2. Who is the Widow Hasler?
3. Who is Johann Ulrick Wohlwerk?
4. Where does the Hemmerle family live?

The letter written by Bushe may be shown to him after he has answered.

J F Wall
Report attached:
Place of Internment
Reading

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)

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)

Many anti-submarine proposals have been received

An internee’s proposals for trapping enemy submarines were greeted with a signal lack of enthusiasm, while the imposition of rationing meant the Place of Internment (aka Reading Prison) had to revamp menus.


Board of Invention & Research
Victory House
Cockspur St
SW1

21-2-18

Sir

I am directed by the Board of Invention & Research to thank you for your letter of the 14th inst: transmitting particulars of anti-submarine proposals put forward by alien C. Slingeneyer, interned at Reading.

In reply, I beg to inform you that many similar proposals have already been received from various sources. If however the Inventor will be good enough to furnish a full description of the device to which he calls attention, the matter will receive careful consideration; and I am to ask that, if no objection be seen, alien C. Slingeneyer may be informed accordingly.

I am, sir,
Your obedient servant
Walter J. James

21-2-18
The Gov. P of I Reading

With ref: to the system of rationing which will shortly come into operation, the enclosed scale of dietary will be taken into use at your Establishment – as soon as you can make the necessary arrangements. The Commission desire to leave you a free hand as to the manner in which the ingredients shall be prepared and the Con: Pn: dietary is enclosed for your information. This, together with the present dietary for interned prisoners will be a guide as to the distribution of the various articles.

Fresh fish will be issued alternately with salt fish. The Commission are arranging for the supply of fresh fish to all Establishments and instructions will shortly reach you on this point.

The dietary cards at present in use will be withdrawn when the new dietary is introduced. On the introduction of the new dietary, no prisoner will be permitted to purchase rationed articles, or articles containing ingredients which are rationed. The rationed articles are bread, cereals (including flour, oatmeal, rice, tapioca, barley, beans, peas etc), meat, sugar, margarine or butter, fats, oils etc.

Signed Alfred Wall, Sec:

Breakfast Bread 6 oz
Porridge 1 pint
Margarine 1 oz
Tea or Coffee

Dinners

Sunday Bread 2 oz
[Illegible] Meat 2 ½ oz
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz (uncooked)
Jam 2 oz

Monday Bread 2 oz
Soup 1 pint (containing 3 oz clods, 4 oz peas, 2 oz vegetables, 2 oz onions)
Potatoes 16 oz

Tuesday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz uncooked made into puddings

Wednesdays Bread 2 oz
Salt Pork 13 oz
Haricot Beans [1 ½ oz?]
Potatoes 16 oz
Apple rings or fresh fruit

Thursday Bread 2 oz
Beef 6 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz

Friday Bread 2 oz
Vegetable soup 1 pint consisting of 2 oz vegetables, 1 oz onions, ¼ oz fish, 5 oz peas
[Illegible]

Saturday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Tapioca 3 oz
Jam 2 oz

Suppers Bread 6 oz
Cocoa or Tea 1 pint
Margarine ¼ oz
Potatoes 6 oz
Cheese 1 oz

Fish – fresh and salt alternate days.

As the meat ration increases, the vegetable soup on Fridays will contain clods.

Fresh vegetables for part ration potatoes when obtainable.

These men can of course buy at the canteen or elsewhere such things as eggs, fruit, tinned fish &c: in fact anything that can be bought outside, not rationed, as in the past.

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

A socialist translator is banned from visiting internees

Florence Baldwin seems to have been a figure in the Socialist movement who had translated into English a number of tracts by German Socialists in the years before the war. The authorities did not want her making contact with German internees, and were alarmed when she visited internee and former escapee Ferdinand Kehrhahn in Brixton Prison in January 1918. Kehrhahn had briefly been at Reading. She later became a Communist, and translated the party’s authorised version of Das Kapital.

14.2.18
[To] The Governor
Reading P of I

Please note that Miss Florence Baldwin of 44, Marylands Road, London, W, will not be allowed to visit any persons interned in your Establishment.

A J Wall
Sec:

Noted
C M Morgan
15-2-18

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

Ordered to be deported to Russia

Nicholas de Tcheriadieff, alias Max Priatel, was a theatre manager born in Dresden in Germany of Russian parentage, aged 39. He was sent to Reading from Manchester Prison on 8 November 1917, aged 39, ordered to be deported, and sent on to Newcastle Prison for that purpose on 15 December.

Prison Commission
Home Office
Whitehall SW1

11th February 1918

[To] The Governor
Reading Prison

With reference to the warrant issued today for the transfer of the Alien Nicholas de Tscherriadeiff [sic] to Newcastle Prison for the purpose of Deportation, please note that he should arrive there in good time before the 17th instant.

The man should be informed by you that (1) it is intended to send him to Russia within the next few days and he can be allowed a visit from any relative if he wishes and (2) if he wants to get any warm clothes for the voyage, which is desirable – or money etc, he should take immediate steps to have them sent either to your Prison before the date on which he is to be transferred or after that date to Newcastle Prison.

J F Wall
Secretary

Noted and prisoner duly informed. He is provided with clothing and money, and the transfer was carried out today.
C M Morgan
Governor
15-2-18

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

Pork and potato pancakes on Christmas Day – but it will cost extra

Interned foreigners in Reading were to have a special menu on Christmas Day.

The interned aliens have asked for the Christmas Day diet to be as in attached list.

1. Pork – the contractor can supply this at 1/4 per lb against 1/3 per lb for beef. The ingredients for stuffing would be extra – probable total extra cost 8/-.
2. Potato pancakes. Cost about 8/-.
3. They can buy these except ham & sausages (if they can get them), which I have struck on account of food restrictions.
C M Morgan
Gov.

The Governor of Reading P of I
1. The diet should be so arranged that the Christmas Day fare takes the place of the following on the dietary scale: Bread, potatoes, hot meat (mutton), peas or beans and pudding. That is, to avoid their having three puddings in one week. There is no objection to pork for those who desire it, but the extra cost as well as the stuffing they should pay for themselves.
2. The potato pancakes would be an extra. There is no objection to this, but again they should pay the cost themselves.
3. There is no objection to the purchase of the articles mentioned under this paragraph (ham and sausage being omitted). Wine is not allowed.
S J Wall, Secretary 14-12-17

Noted, but the authorised diet is three puddings per week. Is the order allowing men beer or wine each day cancelled? I’ve received no notification and men have it.
C M Morgan, Gov
16-12-17

Three puddings per week must not be exceeded.
Extra wine is not allowed, beyond the daily allowance.
JW 21-12-17

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