Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Kirrawee

Aliens in Britain

Recommended Posts

Kirrawee

The father of a friend of mine, a German, was in England with his English wife when the war was looming. He was offered the option of being interned or of leaving Britain to go to a neutral country of his choice. At least, that 's the story as my friend, his son, understood it. He chose to go to Spain with his wife, as he was a fluent Spanish speaker.

My question is this - there is some evidence that he might have been a spy and I wondered if the British could have offered him the option of leaving instead of being interned in exchange for his sending information he might gather in Spain back to Britain.

Is this a far-fetched idea? Why else would a German be allowed to escape internment? Can someone comment on the treatment of aliens at the outbreak of the war, please?

Mary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

The option of going to a neutral country was offered to a number of enemy aliens, especially if they were past the age for military service or had some other reason why they would be unlikely to serve. Being married to a British citizen could be a factor. There was no internment until after war was declared and no evidence of anyone being prevented from leaving even at the very last minute.I would be surprised if there was an espionage element in this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kath

His wife would have German nationality because she married a German.

Have you asked the Anglo-German History Society?

http://www.agfhs.org.uk/

Kath.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

His wife would have German nationality because she married a German.

She might well have had dual nationality but she would not have automatically have voided her British nationality on marriage

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
CarylW

Mary you asked 'can someone comment on the treatment of aliens on the outbreak of war please'

Quite a bit on this site (scroll down) about the Alien Registration Act of 1914 with links to National Archives pages where you could possibly discover more information

http://www.bbc.co.uk...theme=migration

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kenf48

On the outbreak of war 'spy-mania' which had been building up in the years preceding the war reached unprecedented levels of panic, as did anti-German feeling, initially the Government did not introduce internment as a policy until May 1915, although prior to that there were individuals, including for example Belgians(!), who were interned on a more selective basis. The introduction in May 1915 followed riots in London after the sinking of the Lusitania.

In the end the consensus was that it was probably safer for the aliens to be interred than not. The Government adopted the policy, not always enforced, that all enemy aliens should be interred unless they could prove themselves to be harmless. At least 32,000 (mostly, but not exclusively men of military age) were interred in both temporary and permanent camps, most notably Knockaloe on the Isle of Man. Initially on the outbreak of war civilian internees were held in camps, segregated from, but alongside POWs, and there are accounts that these camps became 'tourist attractions'.

In addition to those interred at least 20,000 (mostly women, children and men of non-military age) were repatriated or as noted above sent to a neutral country. Any remaining were subject to restrictions including for example, registering and reporting to the police. I tend to agree the fact he had an English wife meant it was probably easier for him to go to Spain especially before 1915.

There is an extensive bibliography on WW1 internment in this RootsChat thread

http://www.rootschat...?topic=112434.0

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

The first Alien Restrictions Act was pased on August 5th 1914. All aliens were to register with the local police station. Additionally, Germans were restricted from travelling more than five

miles without a permit and could not reside in areas deemed militarily sensitive.On May 13 1915, Prime Minister Asquith announced to the Commons that all German males of military age (aged seventeen to fifty-five) would face internment while German females would be repatriated. There was no need for legislation as under the Alien Restrictions Act this could be done by an order in Council. By November 15 the British government had interned 32,440 German men but some were offered the opportunity to travel to a neutral country. There was virtually no direct repatriation until after the war. All would go to a neutral country from which they could travel on to Germany if they so wished. A number did not so wish having been living in Britain because of issues (often political) with the German authorities. Those with openly republican sympathies were not much tolerated in Germany for example. Conscientious objection to military service was not recognised either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
kenf48

On Friday May 14 1915 the Times leader was in 'thundering form' regarding the internment of enemy aliens:-

'The Government have at last decided to do what they should have done nine months ago. They propose to make a clean sweep of enemy aliens. Mr Asquith told the House of Commons yesterday (following riots in the East End of London and elsewhere as well as marches on Parliament the previous days) that at present there are 19,000 Germans and Austrians interned, while 40,000 are at large. Of the 40,000 still at large 24,000 are men and 16,000 are women. Of the men all who are now of military age are to be segregated and interned. If they are above military age they are to be sent back to Germany. The women and children 'in suitable cases' will be repatriated, but their exclusion will not be enforced without discrimination.'

Asquith then went on to discuss the situation regarding the 8,000 naturalized Germans and Austrians, technically British citizens they were described as 'of hostile origin'. They were to be interned in cases of 'proven necessity or danger'. The Times demanded any exemptions should be 'sparingly employed' and in all cases exemption should be recorded in a manner accessible to the public.

The leader writer went on to say "the most dangerous Germans in this country are not the poor Germans. For the wild and deplorable excesses of the last two or three days the Government are largely to blame and they will be equally to blame if they practise exemption in a manner that revives popular feeling"; concluding that those excesses were the result not of 'newspaper incitement' but 'a state of public anger which…is most thoroughly justified".

As an example of the paranoia it's perhaps worth mentioning that during the debate the previous day Lord Charles Beresford asserted that 'unless something drastic was done he was convinced that when the Zeppelins dropped incendiary bombs on London many of the Germans among us would set fire to the City in 20 or 30 places".

Within a month there were 2000 claims for exemption and it was noted 'Many women who are British born, though married to enemy aliens, are unwilling to be repatriated and their cases await the decision of the judicial body (set up to consider the appeals) whether it would not be just and humane to allow them to remaining this country."

Which perhaps suggests there was some sympathy towards these women though from your OP it looks like your friend's father left the UK before these additional restrictions came into force.

Ken

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

Asquith then went on to discuss the situation regarding the 8,000 naturalized Germans and Austrians, technically British citizens they were described as 'of hostile origin'. They were to be interned in cases of 'proven necessity or danger'. T

In fact under 40 men of Austro Hungarian origins in total were interned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
David_Underdown

She might well have had dual nationality but she would not have automatically have voided her British nationality on marriage

My understanding was that a woman did indeed lose British nationality on marrying a foreign national at that time (the rules were different for men). This only changed with the passing of the British Nationality Act 1948. Prior to that a woman could lose all nationality, she automatically lost British nationality, but depending on the nationality of the man she married, she might not automatically acquire his.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Roger D

There are cases in the Aldershot paper of British women who had never visited Germany being prosecuted for failing to register as an alien. They were usually widows who had married a German thus losing British citizenship and legally taking on German nationality. Some were bound over on condition they revoked their German nationality however some were fined. There were also cases of soldiers being interned, some after active service, due to nationality issues.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
centurion

My understanding was that a woman did indeed lose British nationality on marrying a foreign national at that time (the rules were different for men).

If she married after August 4th 1914 and he was German . If she was married before then no. Attempts to apply the change in nationality retrospectively to women married before the outbreak of war ran into so many legal challenges, appeals etc that the authorities appear to have tacitly abandoned attempts to enforce it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Charpoi Warrior

There are cases in the Aldershot paper of British women who had never visited Germany being prosecuted for failing to register as an alien. They were usually widows who had married a German thus losing British citizenship and legally taking on German nationality. Some were bound over on condition they revoked their German nationality however some were fined. There were also cases of soldiers being interned, some after active service, due to nationality issues.

Do the reports say what legislation this was under?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Myrtle

If she married after August 4th 1914 and he was German . If she was married before then no. Attempts to apply the change in nationality retrospectively to women married before the outbreak of war ran into so many legal challenges, appeals etc that the authorities appear to have tacitly abandoned attempts to enforce it.

Centurion, I would be interested to find out where you have acquired this information as I was under the impression that women married to Germans before 4th August 1914 also automatically became German on marriage. I know of cases where elderly British born wives have been expected to sign in at police stations when travelling away from home where their German born husbands have been kept under curfew conditions. These women's papers have stated their nationality as German although born in England.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Charpoi Warrior

I find this slightly odd since the King was the son of a German and his Mum, the old Queen, Gawd Bless 'er, was the widow of a German.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
egbert

I find this slightly odd since the King was the son of a German and his Mum, the old Queen, Gawd Bless 'er, was the widow of a German.

Isn't the royal family interred since then in the Buckingham Palace?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Roger D

I'm away on business so don't have access to my notes but from memory people could fall foul of The Registration of Aliens laws or DORA. It should be said the presence of Germans in Aldershot was particularly sensitive. There were many German traders here in 1914. They were quickly detained however many were then released, but banned from returning to Aldershot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kirrawee

I started this topic a year ago and now those kind enough to have replied to me might be interested to know that a book is due to be published by Spanish historian, Fernando García Sanz, called España en la Gran Guerra. According to the media promotion Sanz says that Elizabeth Bedlington (who was the woman I referred to in my first post, without naming her) spied for the Germans in Spain. If you type into your browser "dancer La Titanesca" you'll find the newspapers which took up the story. Sanz's facts are not all correct and when his book is published his sources should become known. For instance, Elizabeth did not, as claimed, die in Spain. She died in Australia. I know, because I knew her son who lived here. So, it does seem that Elizabeth was indeed a spy, and her husband also. As far as I know he was German, not Austro-Hungarian as Sanz's appears to claim.

Can anyone tell me where to go to find information in English archives about why this particular couple was allowed to leave Britain to avoid the husband's internment? And, how could I find out if Elizabeth was, as claimed, a famous English ballerina? I'd not heard that from her son, and it's surely something he might well have mentioned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kirrawee

Thanks Kath. It's rather a lovely picture, isn't it? But I still don't know if she was a dancer before moving to Spain. I know she was afterwards. Her "stage" name was La Titanesca.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...