Showing posts with label Bagillt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bagillt. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The Great Spy Peril: Enemy Aliens in Great Britain

Cathedral Road, Cardiff
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robin Drayton - geograph.org.uk/p/1496808

Karl Kritzer (25), son of Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Gleichauf, in 1901, was employed as butler to John P Ingledew, Solicitor, at 9 Cathederal Road, St John, Cardiff. There, in the 1st Quarter of 1905, an Anglicized, Charles Kritzer married Lilian Emily Jones, daughter of Samuel and Fanny Theresa Jones. 

Karl and Lilian's daughter, Flora Theresa Lillian Kritzer was born at the end of 1905 and, in 1911, was living with her grandparents in Gloucester, while her father was employed as butler to Henry Webb (Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Webb, 1st Baronet), Liberal MP for the Forest of Dean, at 2 Seymour Street, St Marylebone, London, while her mother, Lady's Maid to Lady Webb, was at the Webb's country house at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Monmouthshire.

When I saw who Karl was working for in the run up to WWI, I knew there was going to be a story. By accident of his birth and the position of his employer, Karl found himself under scrutiny. Hardly surprising, but quite shocking. 

For context, it's important also to understand that Sunday newspaper, John Bull, was at that time a platform for Horatio Bottomley's "trenchant populist views" (read gammon: clearly reactionary and given to melodrama by the style of his writing), but it had estimated sales by August 1914 in excess of three quarters of a million copies a week. Bottomley was described as an English financier, journalist, editor, newspaper proprietor, swindler, and Member of Parliament. (When exposed, he was convicted, imprisoned and expelled from parliament.) Evidently, he judged others based on his own standards. 

Secondly, as to the actual level of threat from Espionage in 1914, it was shown to be predominantly paranoia and put down to Journalistic fantasy:
"An unprecedented 'spy mania' gripped Britain. Although 21 real German spies were arrested on 4 August, thousands of imaginary acts of espionage were reported to credulous police and military authorities." 
In an article published in John Bull on October 24th, 1914, Bottomley starts off by referring to German people as "Teutons", a word that has been used - and it feels this is the intent - as a derogatory term. Mentioning Karl Kritzer by name, Bottomley tries to make something out of the observations - of him merely going about his duties - and imaginings of a cook, the so-called Mrs Stacey (having researched, I find she is single and strongly suspect that 'elevating' her status to that of a married woman was an attempt to make her seem a more reliable witness), who opines that "Kritzer was always an objectionable person." (Probably nowhere near as objectionable to someone less bigoted.) Bottomley calls her "loyal and patriotic", while referring to Karl Kritzer as "a traitor to her King and country" and "one of the Kaiser's blood". He offers no evidence for these accusations. It's not every day one's relatives are mentioned in the same breath as then Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith; Home Secretary, Reginald McKennaPrince Louis of BattenbergWilhelm II, German Emperor and the House of Hohenzollern, though for all the wrong reasons. 


They have no evidence, of course, but also attempt to make an issue of Karl returning to Germany shortly before the war. The records show that Karl's father was born in 1844, which would make him 70 in 1914. An entirely plausible age then for the man to be ill or dying. It's a particularly low blow.

Another article in The Strathearn Herald, published on the very same date, October 24, 1914 - which frankly reads like Bottomley wrote it himself - praises the John Bull and Bottomley for doing "a national service in calling attention to the spy peril in our midst" and goes further, saying "Karl Kritzer, in the employment of Mr Webb, a member of His Majesty's Government, may not be a spy; neither may the humblest German barber: but there is just this - they are both alien enemies, and as such a danger to the country ..." Evidence?

We learn quite a bit about Karl Kritzer from a follow-up article in the Western Mail, on Friday October 30, 1914, where Harry Webb, MP, is given the opportunity of responding. Apparently, Karl had been in his employ since 1908 and it confirms many of the details that I have also been able to research, such as Karl's naturalisation, Certificate A21115 issued 18 October 1911, which was signed by then Home Secretary, W. S. Churchill (I have a copy). Webb's manner of defending Karl Kritizer, does indeed seem to me to be the behaviour that a "decent, honourable man ought to pursue towards his servant."

Despite all this, we know Karl kept his job long after the end of the hostilities, because the following appeared in the Western Mail of 8 January 1921:
LLWYNARTHAN STAFF DANCE
After a lapse of six years, occasioned by the war, the annual staff dance at Llwynarthan, Castleton, Cardiff, the residence of Col. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, was revived on Thursday evening. The ball-room and smoke-rooms, originally a part of the old farmhouse, were converted into hospital wards during the war, and since being vacated by the patients, several alterations have been carried out. A happy party, numbering between 60 and 70, were entertained. Sir Henry and Lady Webb, and the members of the house party, did everything in their power to ensure the success of the function. Supper was laid in the dining-room, and after mutual expressions of esteem and goodwill, Sir Henry and Lady Webb left the staff and their friends at about midnight to their own devices. Thanks to the very admirable arrangements made by Mrs. Wynn and Mr. Charles Kritzer, a thoroughly happy and enjoyable time was spent.

Now who's the loyal servant, eh?  

The indexes of the 1921 Census show Charles Kritzer and Lillian Kritzer, both in Monmouthshire, where they'll still be in the employ of Sir Henry Webb.

Their daughter, Flora Kritzer (b. 1905) and Molly Kritzer (b. 1906), who must be Karl's brother, Joseph's daughter, Mary Amalie Kritzer, in 1921, are both listed in Totteridge, Barnet, Middlesex. Then aged 16 and 15, respectively, I imagine that the cousins are at a boarding school together, probably this one.

Flora T L Kritzer married a William B Connors, in Cardiff, in 1929. It appears they had one child, in 1939. Karl Kritzer had died in 1933, in Faversham, Kent, aged 57 and on 6 Feb 1935, Lillian Emily Kritzer departed Southampton for New York, aboard the RMS Berengaria (formerly SS Imperator) The first Cunard "Queen". The trip appears just to have been a holiday / visit. Lillian, then employed as a barmaid, was living at 20 Effingham Street, Belgravia in 1939. Retired, Lilian Emily Kritzer of 2 Cross Roads, Holywell, Wales, died, aged 75, and was buried on 13 Mar 1962 in Bagillt, Flintshire, Wales.

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If you're related to any of the people written about, I'm guessing you'll recognise them from the surnames. If you are, do please get in touch.