Charles Frederick Priestley
Batley News – News from Ruhleben section, part of an almost weekly update on Prisoners of war abroad
Comments on “the Parcel business”
Mr. C.F. Priestley (son of Alderman F. Priestley, of Soothill), writing to his wife from the Ruhleben Internment Camp, expresses his thanks for her greetings for the New Year, “which I also hope will be a year of homecoming and re-union” Referring to the “parcel business” Mr. Priestley records the receipt of two parcels, and adds: “The contents were as was made known beforehand. Mine today contained sugar, jam, tea, cheese, ration, vegetable, biscuits, sardines, margarine and corned beef; all in good order, and also 50 cigarettes and you know I don’t smoke them. Where the people get their list from I can’t say, but when I tell you I saw one parcel for A. Barclay, who went home a year ago, and about 150 for others who are not here (these parcels are turned over to Relief Committee) whilst several people whom I know are still waiting for their first parcel, you will be able to form an opinion for yourself. The bread is coming through in good condition from Denmark. You need not worry for George, and I have a good stock to go on with of all kinds of things, but, as I have said before, it is a mistake to standardise everybody’s requirements as to food, and what agrees with one does not with another. Some months ago we were asked to order anything we required in the shape of underwear and stockings, and the things would be sent out and sold to us at a reasonable price. First of all it was Christmas before the stuff came, and it is all second-hand. Some of the socks are actually in holes” Mr. Priestley adds; “On December 30th I was at a performance of ‘Mikado.’ The American Ambassador was there and about a dozen ladies. It felt like coming back to civilisation after being in the wilds. The acting was good, and you would be surprised to see how well some fellows make up as girls.”
Ruhleben prisoners coming home
British civilians interned in Ruhleben are to be conveyed in Danish and British ships to Manchester, via the Ship Canal. The first batch will arrive at Copenhagen tomorrow night and will be taken on board the liner Frederick VIII., on the deck of which a service of thanksgiving will be held on Sunday morning. It will take two or three months to get the other men home from Ruhleben. Danish doctors are offering their services, and the Danish War Office will provide clothes and books for men who require them. Whilst it is true that British prisoners, who have been kept in Belgium by the Germans and compelled to work like horses on starvation diet, have been cast adrift without food or adequate clothing, it has been ascertained that most of the men captured by the Germans are still in camps where there are supposed to be reserves of food parcels. Every effort is being made to ensure the feeding of the unhappy captives.
Aug - News from Berlin – Americans bring a letter from a Batley Lady
Mr. Willie Chew, Batley, received news from his wife in Berlin on Monday. Mrs. Chew and her child were spending a holiday with her sisters, Mrs. Windisch and Miss Maggie Longbottom, when war broke out. Postal and telegraphic communication with England being impossible, Mrs Chew hit upon the expedient of conveying news to her husband through the medium of some Americans returning home via London. These carried Mrs. Chew’s letter to London, where they posted it to Mr. Chew. In the letter, Mrs. Chew stated that all were safe and well and in good care. “Don’t worry” she added. Mrs. Windisch’s husband was a reservist in the German army with the rank of lieutenant, and he has rejoined the colours. No news has been received this week in Batley of Mr. Mark Blackburn, a cousin of Alderman J. W. Blackburn, J.P., or other members of the Blackburn’s in Berlin; of Mr. Jack Ferguson, a native of Batley and a dyer to a textile syndicate with mills in the Berlin district or of Mr. C.F. Priestley, son of Alderman Priestley, Soothill. Relatives were anxious about the safety of Mrs. Lobley, 5 Queen Street, Batley, who left home three weeks ago to spend a holiday with her daughter in Freiburg, Germany. Mrs Lobley’s daughter is married to a German. No communication has been received from her since her arrival in Germany
26th September 1914 – News from Wittenberge
From a Batley Alderman’s son: “To anybody in Batley who has relations here”
A letter reached Soothill on Tuesday, and was sent on to Alderman F. Priestley in the Isle of Man (where he is holidaying), from his son Mr. Chas. Priestley. The latter is a dyer for Messrs Naylor and Co., of Wittenberge, and has spent nearly all his life from the age of seven in Germany, practically the only exception being a period of about a year , during which he was with Messrs. Geo. Hirst & Co. He only left them about six months ago, to rejoin his former and present employers in Germany. Under date September 14th he writes; ”Just a line to let you know we are all well here, as expect you will be anxious to hear from us” He refers to his daughter Lucy and her requirements at the school where she is being educated in Ingleton, and regrets that the international situation precluded him and his wife writing home in commemoration of his mother’s birthday; “but we thought of it all the same” he adds with a world of meaning. He apologises too for being unable to write to a number of relatives and proceeds; “will you please let Mrs. Parr know that her son is well. Also if you see anyone in Batley who has relations here, let them know they are all right. After pleasant references to his boy Eric and his daughter Lizzie, he gives the following instructions for those writing to him. “Leave the letter open and stamp it and then ? it ? envelope addressed to the U.S. Embassy ? with a note requesting the Ambassador to forward it.” The Mrs Taylor he refers to resides in Bath Street, and one of Alderman Priestley’s sons conveyed the glad tidings to her as requested. She was naturally delighted to have two months suspense ceased, whilst still waiting news direct from her son.
27th January 1917 – Our Prisoners-of-war
Textile experts in Ruhleben
A working power-loom made out of broken chairs and biscuit tins
Sensation in the Civilian Camp near Berlin
Splendid work by Dewsbury and Batley Men – Exclusive to the “News”)
We are indebted to friends in Ruhleben for keeping us informed of the progress of the Textile Circle ? by men interned there. There are now over 150 registered members increasing textile experts who have had unique experience. “Besides the men who have worked in Germany and (Ardenne ?)” says one correspondent “we have ? very capable men who have been in some of the largest mills of Russia, Poland, Belgium, France, and, indeed, practically all parts of the world, including Japan and China. In a review of the work done by the Circle up to the end of 1916 a member writes “We started as you know with lect? Of raw materials, their production and use, the buying and selling of the same then ? ?. Mr John Fergusson (Batley) followed with a lecture on disinfecting, carbonising, stripping and dyeing of rags illustrated by models of carbonising drums, shakers and dyeing machines. Mr. Frank Oldroyd (Dewsbury) gave us the theory of weaving, as practised in every age-ancient and modern. Then Mr. Pickering (Batley) and Parr (Batley) explained the process of w---ing, sizing, beaming, weaving, (with practical calculations) designing, dissecting, production of designs in warp and weft. “Mr. Fergusson, at the committee’s request, re-appeared with two imaginary pieces-one woollen and the worsted-fresh from the loom. He told us how to scour, wash and mill pieces of different ?, how to make soap, treat waste products, and recover black oil-the various processes being illustrated by models. Mr. Fred Oldroyd was good enough to come before us again and he gave a practical demonstration of weaving
A wonderful loom
“Your readers will wonder how he could give a practical lesson, seeing that we have no looms here. Knowing Mr. Oldroyd so well you will not be as much surprised as some of our members here were when a mechanical power loom was produced for Mr. Oldroyd’s demonstration. It was a masterpiece, I can tell you. Men rubbed their eyes in amazement when they saw it perform its functions accurately and actually weave cloth. It is a lot ? Shaft tappet loom and has been built from the odds and ends picked up in ? and recovered from dustbins, except that the ? and gear bands were obtained from Messrs Pickering’s factory in Alance-?. ?loom has been built by Messrs Wyfiled, ?, Booth and Fielding and Mr. Oldroyd said the students it represented the ? more than 900 full working hours of the fo----. The ? shafts, cranks and heavier parts are ? of hard wood from broken deck chairs and picked up bits of iron and from biscuit tins was made ? wire used in it.
Forty picks per minute
“This will give you a fair idea of the ingenuity and patience exercised. The loom, mark you, is no toy, but a proper piece of machinery which, with man power, gives no fewer than 40 picks per minute. It caused a great sensation, as you may well imagine, not least among the marine engineers in camp, and it sent up our membership. The next lecture was on the theory of light and colour as known and accepted by modern colourists. Again we were indebted to Mr. Fergusson who explained mordants and their uses in dyeing and printing, and then gave a practical demonstration of wool dyeing. He invited the students to select their own colours, and then showed how to produce the chosen colours by various methods, explaining as he did so the difference in the cost and time. His comparisons of the labour cost involved in the different processes were most valuable. He described ranges of modern colours and dealt with artificial colouring matters and up to date methods of employment. Wool washing and scouring with different methods and machines-English and Continental followed, and again we had to thank Mr. Fergusson for revealing to us so much of the available knowledge he has gained in his unique experience. You will agree that our vo---- g a---ents particularly are fortunate in being able to benefit to such an extent. Our Textile Circle is totally self supporting. We have never asked for assistance either from the Embassy or elsewhere, although the educational work that is being done here entails no small cost.
Batleyite back in Cottbus
Private ?amond Smith KOYLI of Crossbank, Batley, who was taken prisoner on November 18th has sent to his parents a card showing that he has been discharged from his hospital in Berlin, where he was sent for sick treatment and has returned to his internment at Cottbus. Food and clothing have been sent to him there.
Local men’s inventions
We are pleased `to hear from another correspondent that the first model made for the Circle was a small washer and cistern made by Mr. Clifford Leach, son of Mr. Harry Leach of Batley, who, when war broke out, was a pupil of Mr. Fergusson at Neider Schonweide. When the model washer was exhibited others began to show their inventive genius, with the results ---ed. In the work of model making Mr. Oldroyd has taken a most absorbing interest. When the Circle was formed he was in very bad health, the strain of a long confinement having laid very heavily upon him, but the occupation of mind and fingers which has followed the establishment of the Textile Circle has, to note the language of a friend, “ re----ed” him. We venture to think that similar benefits more or less have been derived by every member of the Circle.
An effort that ought to succeed
We wish Mr. Timothy Eden, of Ferry Hill, Durham every success in the gallant efforts he is ? to bring pressure to bear upon Parliament in the interests of 4,000 British civilians interned at Ruhleben. He can speak from personal experience of the miserable condition there, and in a memorandum which is being sent to each Member of Parliament, he says; “From the white paper miscellaneous No. 8 ?? page 4 – It is clear that in November 1914 the Germans offered a man for man exchange, refused by us for fear of some military advantage. After a few weeks we withdrew our refusal , but too late. It has recently been agreed to exchange civilian prisoners over 45 years of age, but Mr Eden in asking the Government to make an effort to secure the release of all civilian prisoners young or old. The only argument that can be urged against this is; The possible gain for Germany of 26,000 fighting men and possible information given to the enemy.
Against this Mr. Eden urges;
1 The possibility that after 2 years confinement, not many Germans would be fit for military service.
2 The impression that would be created in Germany by 26,000 men who could vouch for
a) Our strength
b) the small effect of the war on our business prosperity
c) our plentiful food supply compared with that of Germany
d) the failure of the Zeppelin campaign
e) the kind treatment of prisoners etc
3 The guards of the camps in England would be freed from military service.
4 The expense of feeding 26,000 men would be borne by the Germans instead of us.
5 The improbability that 26,000 more fighting men would have any effect in a war of millions.
6 The danger of such a large number of enemy aliens in our midst would be removed and the consequent leakage of important secrets would cease.
“ If the British civilians in Ruhleben were suffering at home as they are now suffering abroad, there would be a popular outcry and a demand for their immediate release, adds Mr. Eden. It is only owing to the fact that they are in an enemy country cut off from their home and consequently forgotten by most of their compatriots, that they continue to remain in captivity.
Parcels for prisoners-of-war
The Batley and Birstall packing depot scheme
Before a depot for the packing of parcels for Batley and Birstall prisoners of war can be established, the lines upon which a local committee can work under the new regulations laid down by the Central Prisoners-of-War committee call for much inquiry and careful consideration. When the certificate to establish a depot for Batley and Birstall was received a few days ago, the hon. Secretary to the committee (Mr. R. Roberts, “News Office”, Batley) wrote to the central authority in London asking for a copy of the new rules under which a packing depot may be carried on, but up to the present, the necessary information has not been received. Consequently the committee have not been able to have a meeting. In the mean time, however, useful information is being collected from other sources and the hon. Secretary is daily answering inquiries of relatives and friends of Prisoners-of-War and giving useful assistance. Food is being sent to every Batley and Birstall prisoner whose name and address has been received.
24th March 1917 – Our Prisoners-of-War
How food and clothing are needed by captured soldiers
Useful work done by a local Prisoner-of-War committee
Packing depot scheme abandoned, owing to War Office restrictions
Local Mill manager released from Ruhleben
England a paradise after Germany
Batley and Birstall Prisoners-of-War committee, who recently received from the Central Prisoners-of-War committee a licence to pack and despatch parcels for British prisoners interned abroad, decided, on Wednesday night, in view of the regulations and restrictions sought to be imposed by the War Office, that it is no longer an advantage to further entertain the question of establishing a local packing depot. The committee will, never the less, combine its work on behalf of local prisoners, and the Mayor of Batley (Alderman J.W. Blackburn, J.P.) at the request of the committee, will continue his appeal for public subscriptions to his Prisoners-of-War fund. Parcels of food are being sent regularly to all British prisoners whose place of internment is known, through the Central Prisoners-of-War committee. Those parcels are packed and despatched from London and monies subscribed to the Mayors fund will be transmitted to London towards the cost which represents over £2 per head per month. At a meeting of the Batley and Birstall committee in the council chambers at the Town Hall on Wednesday, the Hon secretary (Mr. Rayner Roberts) reported that although he had succeeded in obtaining the permission of the Central Prisoners-of-War committee to take over the care of local men interned in the civilian camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin, consent to deal with parcels for soldiers refused as they are already in charge of their regimental care committee. Consequently the Batley and Birstall committee’s licence to pack parcels could be applied only to about 10 civilian prisoners.
War Office censors visit
Mr. R.G. Rutter, borough treasurer stated that on Saturday Mr. F.E.O. Gorman, deputy assistant censor from the War Office paid a visit to Batley and explained that the room selected for a packing depot would require to be kept under lock and key, and open only to authorised persons. Food intended for prisoners would have to be purchased in bulk from an authorised firm of provision merchants. On no account would relatives be able to send food from their homes to the depot for packing. Alderman Fred. Priestley said the restrictions the war Office sought to impose nullified the value of the licence granted by the Central Prisoners-of-War committee. (Hear, hear). Up to the end of November relatives and friends were able to send parcels to individuals in Ruhleben or elsewhere. and it was hoped that permission would be forthcoming to continue those ‘home parcels’ subject to examination by some duly authorised person in charge of a local packing depot. If they could not do that, the privilege to pack was worthless (Hear, hear)