A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 73

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
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ALIENS IN GREAT BRITAIN


scattered over the city and the west end. Many people with German names and of German descent were naturalised; very many more were not.

What was to be done with these people? The problem was admittedly not easy. Among the German and Austrian subjects were some, like the Czechs, who hated Germanism, and who had fled to Britain as a refuge against its tyrannous rule. There were others who had lived in the country for many years, had married English wives, and had sons serving in the British army and navy, and who were passionately English in sentiment. But these were the exceptions. The vast majority of the Germans here were, as might be expected, devoted to the fatherland. Tens of thousands of the young men were army reservists, eager to return to their regiments.

The government hesitated to employ its authority against these people. Even when it was seen that British subjects caught in Germany at the beginning of the war were to be treated in the harshest possible fashion, they still held their hand. Known spies were arrested, and some 200 suspected spies were kept under watch. A few hours after war broke out the home secretary issued a notice allowing Germans to leave this country during the subsequent six days. Thanks to this extraordinary permission, young German reservists, amounting in numbers to a division of the army, were enabled to return home, rejoin their colours, and fight. Some precautions were taken, but they were inadequate. German financial undertakings were placed under special supervision, and a series of minor checks on alien enemies were instituted. Espionage was made a military offence, punishable with death. Alien enemies were not allowed to keep carrier pigeons, photographic apparatus, or arms. The houses of Germans and Austrians were searched. Later on a certain number of Germans and Austrians of military age — at first 9,000, rising afterwards to 19,000 — were arrested and confined in detention camps as prisoners of war. A number of Germans and Austrians attempted to change their names in order to pass as British. This was forbidden by a special order-in-council. Germans and Austrians remaining in Britain were ordered to register, and to submit to certain regulations which were intended to limit their right to travel over the country.

It soon became evident, however, that these measures were utterly insufficient to counteract the activity of German secret

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