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Remembered Today:

Germans in the British Army


Mark Hone
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I am currently gathering material for my 2006 Somme Tours. One person I am planning to feature is a distant relative of my wife's, Private Frederick Strolin of 2nd Cameronians who was killed in October 1916 and is commemorated on Thiepval. I have mentioned him before on the forum. His real name was Friedrich Strolhein, and he was born in Germany, the family emigrating to Liverpool before the war. An earlier thread identified Edward Winterhalder of the Public Schools Battalion, killed on 1st July, as another 'German' commemorated on Thiepval. I wonder if there are any others?

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Mark,

I can't comment on ones commemorated on the Somme, but there was at least one battalion of the Middlesex Regiment (? - Fusiliers? Not sure of title, but it was certainly Middlesex) made up largely of volunteers with names. I found a man named Seligsohn on the same Gazette page as someone I was interested in.

If you search for Middlesex and Kaiser's (I seem to recall they were nicknamed the "Kaiser's Own"), you may find a profitable line of enquiry.

Hope that helps,

Adrian

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  • 12 years later...

Just discovered this thread in looking up  2nd Lt Seligsohn.... so for anyone following now in 2018!  ....   he was in the 2/3rd London Regiment and near my g-uncle Capt Richard Agius on the day he was killed at Poelcapelle 26th Oct 1917.  We have a letter of sympathy he wrote to Richard's brother Edgar, also in the 2/3rds but not present  on the 26th Oct.    Seligsohn got his MC for action  22nd March during Operation Michael (in the re-organised 3rd London Regiment), and a Bar for action 8th Aug 1918. His father was a german who settled in London in the 1880's and married a cornish girl Esther Ford  and grew up in Friern Barnet , so was probably very English sounding despite the name.

Seligsohn MC and Bar.jpg

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Until the immigration of large numbers of Jews fleeing Tsarist pogroms in the late 1800s (which prompted public and political discourse that would sound very familiar to modern ears), Germans formed the largest immigrant group in Britain.  Panikos Panayi has written extensively on this - 'The Enemy in Our Midst' is probably the most relevant.  Although there were attempts to corral men of 'enemy alien parentage' in (two ?) UK based labour battalions of the Middlesex, large numbers of men of German descent who were British subjects either by birth or naturalisation served in the wider British army - obviously those who were still German nationals did not, they were interned. 

 

One example is Vince Schurhoff of the Warwicks and later the RE, product of a German father and English mother, whose German language ability saw him employed intercepting German communications.  His diaries have been edited and published as 'The diary of Corporal Vince Schurhoff, 1914 - 1918'  Editor: Beach, Jim  The History Press for the Army Records Society, 2015.  

 

There were some instances of men Anglising forenames, or even surnames - Schurhoff was actually Fritz Vincent Schurhoff, and Kurt Schwarz became Curt Black before enlisting in 1914  - but this was not universal.  

 

And devotees of the 'ANZACS' mini-series will be familiar with 'Kaiser'

 

Edited by QUEX
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Hi,

this happened within my familiy. Cousins of my grandfather settled in Liverpool before WW1 and considered themselves British. If they were indeed naturalised, I don´t know. As the names are known, is there any chance to find records of naturalisation and maybe service records online?

GreyC

Edited by GreyC
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24 minutes ago, GreyC said:

Hi,

this happened within my familiy. Cousins of my grandfather settled in Liverpool before WW1 and considered themselves British. If they were indeed naturalised, I don´t know. As the names are known, is there any chance to find records of naturalisation and maybe service records online?

GreyC

GreyC

Naturalisation Certificates between 1870 and 1916 are available via Ancestry. Any record of military service will depend on whether the records survived ww2 but it should be possible to find something.

 

Charlie

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A distant relative family had three sons served two KIA and one discharged SWB. whos father was born in Germany 1843 and settled in Liverpool. One son was awarded the Military Medal

Eddie

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I suspect this is more common than you might think.

 

I have researched around 2000 ex-officers who joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary. And I was surprised at the number who changed their names to appear more British

 

An example is Major Frederick Hugo OBE . MC who was born Hugo Friedrich Eichenbrenner. son of Carl Hugo Eichenbrenner, both he and his brother changed their surnames to "Hugo". Their father was born in Germany on 11 Apr 1853 at Evangelisch, Heilbronn, Neckarkreis, Württenberg. Their parents married in London in 1876. e ended up being killed in the Kilmichael Ambush in 1920 in Ireland

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I started a thread here about Frederick Schneider who was kia 1917.  (sadly I didn't get any answers!)

 

One of the questions I asked was this:

His father Johann Trangott Schneider is shown on his own (UK) marriage cert 1886 as son of Alexander, a farmer, and on the 1911 Census as born Berlin. He fibbed about his age on his marriage, knocking of 7 years. Actually born 1844 he died Ilford, May 1916.
   I couldn't see he was ever naturalized. Would he have risked internment 1914 ? London Club waiter, spy mania and all that?

 

Charlie

 

 

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4 hours ago, charlie962 said:

I started a thread here about Frederick Schneider who was kia 1917.  (sadly I didn't get any answers!)

 

One of the questions I asked was this:

His father Johann Trangott Schneider is shown on his own (UK) marriage cert 1886 as son of Alexander, a farmer, and on the 1911 Census as born Berlin. He fibbed about his age on his marriage, knocking of 7 years. Actually born 1844 he died Ilford, May 1916.
   I couldn't see he was ever naturalized. Would he have risked internment 1914 ? London Club waiter, spy mania and all that?

 

Charlie

 

 

 

I'm not up on the detailed implementation of internment, but as 'officially' aged 63 in 1914 and actually 70 (have I got that right?) I think he would have been considered as above fighting age and hence not interned.  

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7 hours ago, GreyC said:

Hi,

this happened within my familiy. Cousins of my grandfather settled in Liverpool before WW1 and considered themselves British. If they were indeed naturalised, I don´t know. As the names are known, is there any chance to find records of naturalisation and maybe service records online?

GreyC

 

In addition to Ancestry, I've found you can sometimes find naturalisations by trying the names in the London Gazette, and in TNA's catalogue with the search restricted to 'HO' files.  In addition the census returns sometimes give an indication of an individual's nationality status.

 

As  @charlie2  says, for service records it's largely a case of whether or not other Germans (the Luftwaffe ) destroyed 'your' Germans' records in WW2.   

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Not actually a German, but with a German mother

 

Robert von Rank Graves

 

later to become a well-known author and poet.

 

Within the First Canadian Contingent on Salisbury Plain, some 46 "aliens" (some with German family connections)  were weeded out and returned home. Captain Hubert Klotz of the 3rd Battalion was of German descent but had been born in Hamilton, Ontario and had served in the Militia, this presumably placing him above suspicion. He was killed at the Battle of Ypres in May 1915.

 

IIRC, there was an RFC pilot called von {German-sounding name], but I can't recall who he was.

 

Moonraker

 

 

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35 minutes ago, Moonraker said:

Within the First Canadian Contingent on Salisbury Plain, some 46 "aliens" (some with German family connections)  were weeded out and returned home.

 

Why?  If I remember my reading of the book 'German Anzacs' correctly, the AIF included a number of men who were actually German citizens, in addition to many who were of German ancestry.

 

Robert von Ranke Graves, by the way.

 

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5 minutes ago, SiegeGunner said:

 

Why?  If I remember my reading of the book 'German Anzacs' correctly, the AIF included a number of men who were actually German citizens, in addition to many who were of German ancestry.

 

Robert von Ranke Graves, by the way.

 

 

Interesting.

 

The British position would have been that such men were enemy aliens and, being of military age, subject to internment.

 

Until 4 Aug 14 aliens of any description were free to enlist in the British army (not the navy, however) up to a limit of 2% in any one corps.  Obviously that stopped for enemy aliens on the outbreak of war - others (French, Americans, etc) were free to enlist.  To complicate things slightly some men who were of enemy nationality were considered to be from 'friendly races' and could enlist e.g. Czechs.

 

Anybody not an alien was by definition a British subject having achieved that in one of two ways - by having been born in Britain and its possessions ('natural born British subjects') or having become a subject through naturalisation.  These were free to enlist in the British army with restriction.

 

At some point (in 1916 IIRC) the War Office began to worry about men who, although themselves British subjects, were of 'enemy alien parentage' and sought to gather these into two UK based labour battalions of the Middlesex and direct further recruits to these units.  But large numbers of such men already serving in the army were not transferred and the WO fairly quickly changed the rules to allow men to continue serving or to be posted to other units where justified.  The subject raised itself again towards the end of the war, with a number of instructions being issued regarding the re-enlistment of such men in the post bellum army.

 

That's all off the top of my head, and I've probably skipped some really important details.

 

Q

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26 minutes ago, SiegeGunner said:

 

Why?  If I remember my reading of the book 'German Anzacs' correctly, the AIF included a number of men who were actually German citizens, in addition to many who were of German ancestry.

The weeding out was probably due to the near-hysteria about spies in the first months of the war. The Contingent had been hastily recruited (and once in England more than 500 other members were returned home for various reasons). There were several reports/rumours of spies on board the ships that brought the Contingent to England and in the camps on Salisbury Plain.

 

On 30 October 1914 German-speaking Major Wilfrid Howell arrived on the Plain 'through Scotland Yard' to assist with the investigation into possible spies. Next day the 5th Battalion's war diary reported that the: "Intelligence Department appointed an Intelligence Officer for the Battalion, whose principal duty has been getting information regarding German Suspects & Spies and from the information gathered, this appointment has been warranted, and there is no question that we have several men whose correspondence and actions are very suspicious."

 

Moonraker

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Hi Quex and Charlie2,

thank´s a lot!

GreyC

6 hours ago, corisande said:

I have researched around 2000 ex-officers who joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary. And I was surprised at the number who changed their names to appear more British

and then, of course the family by the name of Battenberg-Mountbatten.

GreyC

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On the Galashiels War Memorial there are at least 2 men of German descent Lt Hugh Schulze of the Dorset Regiment and his brother Pte W Rudolph Schulze of the Cameron Highlanders.  Their father was a wealthy  wool merchant and had been based in Galashiels for decades - despite being well over military age he was almost interned for running up a German flag when war was declared.  The two sons ran a chocolate factory in Portobello a suburb of Edinburgh and the robust construction of the factory using "continental methods " brought them under mores suspicion - the whole story is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-26852487

 

But they both did their bit for their adopted country and made the ultimate sacrifice 

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16 hours ago, gmac101 said:

On the Galashiels War Memorial there are at least 2 men of German descent Lt Hugh Schulze of the Dorset Regiment and his brother Pte W Rudolph Schulze of the Cameron Highlanders.  Their father was a wealthy  wool merchant and had been based in Galashiels for decades - despite being well over military age he was almost interned for running up a German flag when war was declared.  The two sons ran a chocolate factory in Portobello a suburb of Edinburgh and the robust construction of the factory using "continental methods " brought them under mores suspicion - the whole story is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-268524

 

Coincidentally enough another son Charles Schulze survived the war, and joined the ADRIC in Ireland in 1920

 

I have his CV on this link - click. I recent book accused him of being the man who burnt down Cork in Dec 1920 , on the basis of flimsy evidence. (Basically the IRA claimed to have intercepted a letter from him to his family, but the letter itself does not exist as evidence, only what an IRA man says he read.  It is impossible to know with this secondary transcription how much is the original letter and how much , if any, added spin. )

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6 hours ago, corisande said:

 

Coincidentally enough another son Charles Schulze survived the war, and joined the ADRIC in Ireland in 1920

 

I have his CV on this link - click. I recent book accused him of being the man who burnt down Cork in Dec 1920 , on the basis of flimsy evidence. (Basically the IRA claimed to have intercepted a letter from him to his family, but the letter itself does not exist as evidence, only what an IRA man says he read.  It is impossible to know with this secondary transcription how much is the original letter and how much , if any, added spin. )

 

Thanks for the link, they were a rather colourful family and there are plenty of tales about the father and the violin playing daughter escapades. I don't think they were the most level headed of people and seem prone to feuding (Old man Schulze argued  for more than 40 years with the Galashiels town council over a property boundary) .  My Mothers family came from Galashiels and my father from Portobello and he lived a couple of doors down from Charles Schulzes home in Portobello so I've always kept an interest in them.

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  • 1 year later...

Having just discovered via DNA that my grandfather was actually Rudolf Heubach, (later Haybrook) born 1898 as Rhudolf Augustus Howard Harries I am now on catch up to fill the missing section in my family tree. Rudolf seems to be listed as Henbach in his WW1 career in 6th I.L Coy Middlesex Regiment. I understand this means he was  considered an enemy alien by parentage, his father having naturalized in 1911 having been born in Konigsberg (kaliningrad) in 1871. The family seem well-to-do property owners and the sons seem to have attended Brighton College etc. I was wonderig how anti German sentiment would have affected a wealthy German family in the UK beyond having their son put in a Labour corps. Would their affluence have otherwise shielded them?

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