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Charleschandler

Newbury Racecourse POW Internment Camp

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I've put the following together from reports in the Reading Mercury newspaper. My interest is that my grandfather Pte Charles Chandler was one of the Berkshire National Reserve guards at the camp who was subsequently transferred to one of the ships in the Solent. How long the ships, or the Berkshires, stayed there I have been unable to find out, however I believe the unit was eventually incorporated into the Royal Defence Corps. I would be very interested to hear from anyone with further information on this. Regards, Charles

References to Newbury Internment Camp in Reading Mercury, 1914 – 1915

29 August Camp set up on Racecourse by East Lancashire Regiment Reservists and ASC.

5 September Colonel G HAINES is Commandant of Camp. It is understood that the Camp Guard will be formed of National Reservists.

12 September First arrivals at the Camp including several wounded German officers. Being guarded by East Lancashire Regiment at present but ultimately will be the National Reserve.

19 September Still 260 East Lancs on site but now supplemented by Berkshire Service Battalion of the National Reserve, who assembled at the Camp as ordered on Tuesday. Colour Sergeant WIGMORE marched with band to railway station, then Camp. 600 Berkshire National Reservists have enlisted as guards at the Newbury Detention Camp - 5 Companies of 120 each. Major W J LANGFORD of Littlepark appointed Officer In Charge. Lieut Stephen KNIGHT, Adjutant to Service Battalion. 1,300 POWs at Camp including Uhlans.

26 September 3 Companies of Berkshire National Reserve are guarding the Camp, with 2 more being formed this weekend. Mentioned: Capt F B FANSHAWE; Capt J H COOPER; Capt M WHEELER; Lieut C N LACEY; Lieut P C FONWICKE-CLENNEIL; Lieut Adjutant Stephen KNIGHT; QM Sgt WIGMORE; Sgt Major FORBES; Sgt George PLATT (former Constable of Hungerford and ex-Berkshire Yeomanry).

3 October 1,400 POWs at Camp now being guarded entirely by 600 Berkshire National Reservists.

10 October Inspection by Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire. 400 prisoners to be moved to Isle of Man.

17 October Decision to dispense with tented compound & retain just the stabling accommodation. 400 prisoners and guard of 100 National Reserve to Ramsey, Isle of Man. New batches of prisoners arriving daily.

24 October All civilian prisoners removed to Isle of Man and being replaced by military prisoners. Berkshire National Reserve parades the town with their own drum and bugle band. The Battalion has secured a goat as a mascot from Mr W ALLEE.

31 October Very busy week at the Camp, large numbers of German and Austrian prisoners arriving. 2,000 in Camp. Some sent to Isle of Man.

7 November Visit from Prime Minister and Mrs Asquith. 500 prisoners arrive from Edinburgh under escort of the 5th Royal Scots.

14 November Berkshire National Reserve march the town with bugle and drum band. Possibility that prisoners may be removed to ships off the south coast.

21 November 2 Companies of the Special National Reserve will remove with the prisoners to ships whilst the Newbury Company will remain on guard at the Camp.

28 November Berkshire National Reserve march the town as part of a recruitment drive. 50 men enlist. Several batches of German prisoners have been removed from the Racecourse to ships at Hayling Island.

5 December More removals from Camp, majority to ships anchored off Hayling Island. Among officers in charge of a batch is Lieut BORGNIS of Curridge. Tented compound now closed and stabling accommodation reduced.

12 December Notice issued that Racecourse Camp is to be closed from next Tuesday. 700 prisoners are currently remaining. Berkshire National Reserve marches at a recruiting demonstration – Major LANGFORD speaks.

19 December Notes that Camp was established by War Office on 26th August 1914.

26 December Only occupants now are 60 guards who are clearing the premises of stores, putting straight etc. A further batch of guards will leave on Tuesday. Invited to Service with Mayor of Newbury, they will then join the Prison Guard on one or other of the ships now being utilised for the internment of prisoners.

9 January Last detachment of prison guard will be leaving this Saturday for Ryde. Colonel HAINES will take up a similar post in Jersey.

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Interesting stuff Charles. On the other side of the coin this is a list of 92 male 'Brummie Germans' arrested and sent to Newbury. The date is when they registered under the aliens wartime legislation.

1914 Aug 10 ALFS PETER

1914 Aug 9 BACKER PAUL

1914 Sep 1 BAROUCHE-SCHULZ FRITZ

1914 Aug 8 BENECKE CURT

1914 Aug 10 BERNSTEIN EMIL

1914 Aug 8 BISCHOF ALFRED

1914 Aug 10 BLESER JOHN

1914 Aug 7 BOHL EUGEN

1914 Aug 8 BOHR JOHANNS

1914 Aug 10 BOLLENBACHER PETER

1914 Aug 9 BRETSCHNEIDER FELIX

1914 Aug 7 BUCH MAX

1914 Aug 8 CAEMMERER MARTIN

1914 Aug 15 CAPPESSER OTTO

1914 Aug 12 COHN RUDOLPH

1914 Aug 8 COLLONG PAUL

1914 Aug 8 DAUBERSCHIMDT OTTO

1914 Aug 8 DECKER JACOB

1914 Aug 9 DIETRICH WILHELM

1914 Aug 9 DIMLER JOHANNE

1914 Aug 8 DOCKENDORFF PETER

1914 Aug 8 DORFFEL HANS

1914 Aug 9 DORNBUSCH JOHANN

1914 Aug 8 ECKEL DANIEL

1914 Sep 5 EICH HERMANN

1914 Aug 6 EPPING FRITZ

1914 Aug 8 ESPENLAUB FRITZ

1914 Aug 8 EULENFELD AUGUST

1914 Oct 10 FALK ERICH

1914 Aug 8 FRISCHEN LEO

1914 Oct 16 GRAF GUSTAV

1914 Aug 8 GUNTHER PAUL

1914 Aug 10 HAAS LUDWIG

1914 Aug 9 HARL JOHANNES

1914 Aug 10 HEDT KARL

1914 Aug 9 HENSEL PAUL

1914 Aug 11 HERBERT ALFRED

1914 Aug 8 HERMES WILLIAM

1914 Aug 8 HERZOG JOHANNES

1914 Aug 9 HILLE HERMANN

1914 Aug 10 HOERGER OSCAR

1914 Aug 8 HORNE PAUL

1914 Aug 8 HUBER GEORGE

1914 Aug 8 HUBERTI JOHANN

1914 Aug 9 ISRANG CARL

1914 Aug 11 JAEP FRITZ

1914 Aug 10 JEPKENS MAX

1914 Aug 9 KAUERT WILHELM

1914 Aug 9 KELLER CHRISTIAN

1914 Aug 7 KISSEL KARL

1914 Sep 9 KNAUFT KARL

1914 Aug 7 KOHLER FIDEL

1914 Aug 7 KOHLER OTTO

1914 Aug 8 KOLKER WILHELM

1914 Aug 10 LINNHOFF FREDERICK

1914 Aug 7 LIVI HERBERT

1914 Aug 25 LOHMANN GUSTAV

1914 Aug 12 LORENZ OTTO

1914 Aug 7 LYNEN RICHARD

1914 Aug 10 MARTENS CHARLES

1914 Aug 10 MASCHKE PAUL

1914 Aug 9 MEDARDT JACOB

1914 Aug 8 MERGENTHALER FRIEDRICH

1914 Aug 12 MEYER GEORGE

1914 Aug 11 MEYER HENRY

1914 Sep 9 MULLER KARL

1914 Aug 9 MULLER OSCAR

1914 Aug 10 NEFF EDWARD

1914 Aug 9 QUAMBUSCH RICHARD

1914 Aug 9 RASSMANN JOHANN

1914 Aug 9 REISS WILLIAM

1914 Aug 8 RHINESTEIN HERMANN

1914 Aug 9 ROGALSKI HERMANN

1914 Aug 8 RUTTGERS FRITZ

1914 Aug 10 SCHMAHL ALBERT

1914 Aug 8 SCHROMGES JACOB

1914 Aug 8 SCHUCK LUDWIG

1914 Aug 10 SCHULTE CHRISTIAN

1914 Aug 9 SELIGMANN FERDINAND

1914 Aug 10 SINGER GEORGE

1914 Aug 7 SPATZ PETER

1914 Sep 19 STEHLE IMANUEL

1914 Aug 16 STOLL WILHELM

1914 Aug 8 TIATOR ERNST

1914 Aug 8 TROCHE BRUNO

1914 Aug 10 ULFIG WILHELM

1914 Aug 8 VETTER GUSTAV

1914 Aug 7 WEGERLE WILLY

1914 Aug 7 WEICHERT JOHANNES

1914 Aug 9 WEISS CARL

1914 Aug 10 WENZ JOHANNES

1914 Aug 10 WILSON WALTER

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From the Birmingham Daily Post..

MONDAY NOVEMBER 16 1914

THE CONCENTRATION CAMP AT NEWBURY

A REPLY TO GERMAN COMPLAINTS

A representative has paid a visit there. Camp contains POWs and aliens,roughly 3400 in number. Grave charges have been made in the German press. Has had conversations - men in service grey of the German infantry soldier and 20+ aliens in civilian attire.“on the near outskirts” “horrors” unavoidable…masses of men thrown together. Rooms into which stables converted are spotlessly clean. Each occupied by nine men. Camp Hospital has no record of 13 deaths from ill treatment. Not a single death since camp opened. 14 under treatment..one with a fractured arm-the result of an accident. Position of ‘better class prisoners’ hard in many ways..lower class prisoners probably better off.

NOVEMBER 28 1914

THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS

NO GROUND FOR COMPLAINT AT NEWBURY

Two officials of the American State Department who lately returned from a mission to Germany and Austria on the condition of British subjects interned..now complete further investigations of those interned in this country. Visit just concluded to camp at Newbury…ill treatment alleged in German press saying deaths were the result. Complete report telegraphed to Washington to be forwarded to the German government. Until this is done contents cannot be divulged. Will find no signs of ill treatment. Commandant on best terms with prisoners. Conditions now been improved. Only one death-natural causes.“the outdoor part of the camp on the racecourse has been discarded,the only portion remaining consisting of the stables, where the men are housed and that these were being fitted up for permanent use”

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It's quite a strange feeling to see those names and think that my granddad was guarding some of them...

Apparently he was quite disappointed that he wasn't going on active service abroad and having an 'adventure' like some of his neighbours....I often wonder if his opinion changed as the war went on. Over 20 men from his parish, and two of his nephews, did not return from the war.

I suppose the alleged mistreatment of prisoners has been used as a justification for reciprocal mistreatment in every conflict since war was invented. However, having seen photos of the Newbury guards - portly middle aged old soldiers to a man - it's hard to imagine anything too awful went on there.

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[quote I believe the unit was eventually incorporated into the Royal Defence Corps. .

The Royal Defence Corps was formed from the former Garrison Battalions of the county Regiments

The fomer National Reserves were drafted into the Rifle Brigade as their 18th to 24th battalions under ACI 28 of Nov 1915. These all went overseas in 1916 to do guard duties etc

18th London to India

19th Western to Egypt and Palestine

20th Northern to Egypt and Palestine

21st Midland Egypt then India in Sept 1918

22nd Wessex and Welsh to Egypt and then Salonika

23rd North Western to India

24th Home Counties to India

Have you seen the pictures of the Newbury Racecourse camp and guards in Berkshire and the War and in Newbury weekly News?

regards

John

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Excerpt from 'Prisoners of War in British Hands during WW1' by Graham Mark:

"The Times 8 Feb 1915 carried an article by an Austrian, previously at Newbury, which countered German reports of attrocities there. The man, then on parole, wrote that he was at Newbury from 25 October until 13 December. He described the stables and two tented compounds, with 4,000 prisoners there. He also mentioned the hierarchical arrangements of the "seniors" and "captains" elected by the inmates for the internal administration. He wrote complementary remarks about the running of the camp. He declared that the food was good and sanitary arrangements were adequate."

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Been looking at the Newbury Weekly News stories of the Camp in their Local War Notes column over the last few days. The story is much the same as the Chronicle though, amazingly, they omit the Asquith visit (which probably means there was a separate article on the event).

Initially the emphasis is very much on its use for civilian internment, only when the internees are sent to the Isle of Man do the POWs get much mention. The National Reserves going with the internees to the Isle of Man are only escorts, they return immediately after handing over their charges.

One article mentions the wide range of social class between the prisoners - and pities the wealthy Germans for having to put up with low class Germans.

They do give more idea of the interactions between the guards and the town - entertainments put on by townspeople, soldier's clubs opened in town, collections to equip the guards with scarves. Though there is a lot of overlap here with the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade which was also on the Racecourse for most of the duration of the Detention Camp.

One detail is the name of the only inmate to die - Hock Jacob, aged 29 - but no indication of the cause of death. It would be nice to know more about him - especially where he was buried.

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If you want to discover the cause of Hock Jacob's death, you could buy a copy of his death certifcate from the Registrar General (that's cheaper than going through any commercial company that advertises on various websites). I've just looked up the details for you in the RG's indexes, and you need to quote that the death was registered in the December quarter of 1914, in the Newbury Registration District, and the reference is: Vol. 2c, p.359. The address to write to is: General Register Office, PO Box 2, Southport, PR8 2JD. You can also order certificates on line - simply put General Register Office into Google to work that out.

My main involvement is with WW1 POW Camps in the British army Eastern Command area (for which Eastcote/Pattishall was the parent camp) and in Gloucestershire (for which Dorchester was the parent camp), but I have some interest in other WW1 POW camps in Britain, hence following this string on Newbury.

Cheers,

Pattishall.

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I am currently researching the POW camp at Newbury Racecourse for the BBC's WW1 At Home project. I'm looking for relatives of guards who worked at the camp or POWs to help explain what happened during the war. If you can help in any way, I'd be grateful if you would contact me via this forum or alternatively email berkshire.war@bbc.co.uk

Thank you

Best wishes

Janice

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Regarding the death of Jacob Hock (as he is called in the Reading Standard) or Hock Jacob as per his death certificate -

Here is a report of his death in the Reading Standard, 31 October 1914, p. 10, which seems to have beem taken from the Newbury Weekly News

THE PRISONERS' CAMP

Armed sentries at Austrian's funeral

A strange scene

A funeral service of a character probably unprecedented in local history was conducted by Father Green at the Camp on Friday afternoon. The deceased bore the name of Jacob Hock, an Austrian prisoner who died from illness at the age of 39 [sic]. A few prisoners and others assembled for the burial service, which was held over the corpse, while armed sentries stood around and kept guard. There was some singing, after which the cortege - including a glass hearse and three closed carriages - left the camp and proceeded to Greenham Churchyard where the interment took place. The coach attached to the hearse contained two bearers and two armed guard of the National Reserve.

It was a somewhat melancholy procession. Arriving at Greenham Churchyard, the body was taken direct to the grave, being borne by four fellow countrymen of the deceased, to whom it was evidently a new experience. The sexton tried to explain but the bearers did not understand the language, and he had to convey instructions by motioning to them. In this he was more succcessful, and the lowering of the coffin into its lasting place was carefully conducted, the guard standing with fixed bayonets the while. The committal sentences were said by Father Green, and at the close each of the fellow countrymen of the deceased took a handful of earth and dropped it upon the coffin. Two tall prisoners of gentlemanly demeanour, who took the position of mourners, were presumed to be wealthy Austrians. They paid over a sum of money to the sexton, and there is every reason to believe they also paid for the whole of the funeral expenses. - "Newbury Weekly News"

The details on his death certificate give him as: Hock Jacob - Male - 29 years - of Olympia, Kensington, S.W[or M].U[or L].D., occupation unknown - Cause of death: 1. Heart disease 2. Ascites. He died on 20th October 1914 at Prisoner of War Camp, The Racecourse, Greenham

I am interested in this as I am a volunteer for Reading Libraries' Berkshire in World War I project, for which I am researching the various ethnic minorities/foreigners the war brought into Berkshire. So far I have found: alien internees, German POWs, Irish internees, Belgian refugees, Canadian troops and Chinese road menders. The project also involves digitisation of local newspapers, directories and electoral lists from the war period.

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Newbury Weekly News - 29 Nov 1914: A funeral service of a character probably unprecedented in local history, was conducted by Father Green at the Prisoners’ Detention Camp on Friday afternoon. The deceased bore the name of Jacob Hock, an Austrian prisoner, who died from illness, as stated in last week’s NWN. A few prisoners and others assembled for the burial service, which was held over the corpse, while armed sentries stood around and kept guard. There was some singing, after which the cortège – including a glass hearse and three closed carriages – left the camp and proceeded to Greenham Churchyard, where the interment took place. In the first carriage was Father Green and the Very Rev Canon Gunning of Winchester, who was staying at St Joseph’s. The coach attached to the hearse, contained two bearers and two armed guard of the National Reserves. The other two each contained two prisoners and two guards.

It was a somewhat melancholy procession. The guard had a duty to perform, and they discharged it unobtrusively, and with becoming deference. Arriving at Greenham Churchyard, the body was taken direct to the grave, being borne by four fellow countrymen of the deceased, to whom it was evidently a new experience. The sexton tried to explain, but the bearers did not understand the language, and he had to convey instructions by motioning to them. In this he was more successful, and the lowering of the coffin into its last resting place was carefully conducted, the guard standing with fixed bayonets for a while. The committal sentences were said by Father Green, and at the close each of the fellow countrymen of the deceased, took a handful of earth and dropped it upon the coffin. Two tall prisoners of gentlemanly demeanour, who took the position of mourners, were presumed to be wealthy Austrians. They paid over a sum of money to the sexton, and there is every reason to believe they also paid for the whole of the funeral expenses. The inscription on the coffin was: “Jacob Hock, died October 20th, 1914, aged 39 years.” The procession thereupon returned to the Detention Camp.

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Where can I get information about the Chinese road menders you mention? Any snippet would be greatly appreciated.

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It is a very tiny snippet, I'm afraid, from a book by John Trigg called A county at war, Berkshire 1914-1918 (Berkshire, 2007). If you happen to know anything else, I would be very interested

p.145 in a chapter headed Rationing

‘There was also a shortage of labour and 200 Chinese were reported to have been imported and resident in compounds at the Army Ordnance Station in Didcot and were employed in road building.’

Most of the information in this book is taken from the Newbury Weekly News. Unfortunately exact citations are not given but, from the context, and the fact that the book is arranged chronologically, the date of this report is most likely 1918, after 25th March, when rationing was introduced.

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