The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

By Panikos Panayi | Go to book overview

3
Internment and Repatriation

Another good example of the move away from pre-War liberalism was the adoption of a policy of interning alien enemies either merely on suspicion or, worse still, simply because of their nationality. Although not a totally new procedure, because all enemy subjects had faced imprisonment during the Napoleonic Wars, it provided a break with the immediate past, if only because Britain had participated in few conflicts during the preceding century.1 This last point indicates the importance of political stability in the durability of Britain's liberal tradition. In times of instability, such as war, the situation altered. Together with the decision to intern male alien enemies of military age went one to repatriate all others. The latter action did more than any other to destroy the German communities in England. In this chapter we shall deal first with the shift in internment and repatriation policy before moving on to look at the experience of life behind barbed wire in the next section. We will again see the importance of public opinion in the formation of government action.

In fact, during the years immediately before the outbreak of the First World War, no plans existed for the internment of alien enemies. Instead, in August 1913, a meeting of the Committee of Imperial Defence(CID) decided that if hostilities broke out all enemy subjects should be allowed to leave, with the exception of those suspected of spying. Those who wished to remain should register themselves and face certain other restrictions. The Committee did not recommend confinement in concentration camps or expulsions en bloc.2

As we have seen, on 5 August 1914, the day after the declaration of war, the Aliens Restriction Order entered the statute book. In addition, twenty-one suspected spies were arrested up and down the country. On this day no move was made to round up Germans

____________________
1
R. F. Roxburgh, The Prisoners of War Information Bureau in London ( London, 1915), p. viii.
2
2. PRO WO32/5368, letter of A. H. Dennis to the deputy assistant Adjutant General, 12 November 1914.

-70-

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The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations Used in References x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • Part I - The Official Reaction 43
  • 2 - Measures Against Enemy Aliens 45
  • 3 - Internment and Repatriation 70
  • 4 - The Experience of Internment 99
  • 5 - Measures Against German Business Interests 132
  • Part II - The Popular Reaction 151
  • 6 - Anti-German Sentiment: Spy-Fever, Anti-Alienism and the Hidden Hand 153
  • 7 - Anti-German Manifestations: Witch-Hunts, Boycotts and Movements 184
  • 8 - Anti-German Riots 223
  • 9 - Support for Enemy Aliens 259
  • Part III - Conclusion 281
  • Conclusion 283
  • Bibliography 292
  • Index 303
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