Showing posts with label Butler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Butler. 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.

Joseph Kritzer and Sarah Sophia Tompson

St Wilfrid's, Chelsea

Sarah Sophia Tompson, eldest surviving daughter of Dan Tompson and his second wife, Sarah Jane Baker married Josef/Joseph Kritzer, son of Wilhelm Kritzer and Flora Gleichaufon 24 May 1905 in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. 

Their daughter, Mary Amalie Kritzer was subsequently born on 21 Feb 1906, but she was not the couple's first child. On the census for the household of Sarah's parents, Dan and Sarah Jane Tompson, in 1911, in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire, there appeared a 'mystery' grandchild listed as William Charles Kritzer (7) (although the surname was mis-transcribed at Findmypast as Roizen, which added much to the confusion), who it says, was born in 1904 'At Sea'.

The boy was born, actually in 1903, aboard the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II at Lat 40.45N/Long 56.52W, which is off the coast of North America, I'm informed. Launched at Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), on 12 Aug 1902, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II made regular trips between Germany and New York City. 

Baptised, William Karl Tompson, on 9 Dec 1903, at the church of St Matthew, Stepney, on the baptism record, his mother is listed just as Daisy (as she appears to have called herself), with their abode listed as 3 Monteagle Street, Stepney - which, interestingly, had been the address given by her half-sister (my great-grandmother), Eliza Louisa, at the time of her marriage to Job Sweeney some 10 years earlier. (This child's birth and baptism information was provided to me by Christine Miller of the wonderfully named, GIN AND GENEALOGY.)

In 1911, Joseph Kritzer (33), was employed as a butler in the household of architect, Henry Louis Florence at 9 Prince's Gate, Knightsbridge, London. In that household also was a Rosina Christie employed as a housemaid. She was listed as single, but her year of birth agrees with that of Sarah Sophia - 1876 - born in Whitechapel: Sarah Sophia's birth was registered in Mile End Old Town, which is next door, both in Stepney. (Both of Joseph and Sarah's children later use Christie as an Anglicized version of Kritzer.) Anyway, I'm inclined to believe this is Sarah (who did, after all, have an aunt Ellen Rosina, but if that's not enough circumstantial evidence for you, Joseph's aunt was also called Rosina, named after her grandmother), using this assumed name to hide the fact that she was married to Joseph, which was more than likely verboten for servants.  

Sarah Sophia / Daisy Tompson / Kritzer / Christie isn't anywhere else in 1911.

At that same time, their daughter, Mary Amalia Kritzer (5) was listed as an 'Inmate' at St Wilfrid's Convent School in Cale Street, Chelsea.

On 18 Oct 1912, listed as Willie Thompson (8), this child sailed to Montreal from Liverpool aboard the SS Corsican with his grandmother, Sarah Jane, and his aunt Ivy. On the 1921 Census of Canada, Willie Christie (18) is living at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto, still with his grandparents who have clearly raised him. At Ancestry, there's a note of correction on the 1921 entry suggesting he should be Critzer. I've found no further record for him [yet] under any name. 

As she had married a German, Sarah Sophia had become German and would have been subject to the restrictions of the Aliens Restriction Act 1914:
As the law was at this time, British-born women who had married foreign nationals (who had not naturalised) acquired their husband’s nationality. Many British born women therefore found themselves to be enemy aliens during the war. Except in a very few cases women were not interned. [Source]
A quick search of the indexes of the 1921 Census, in that year, in Totteridge, Barnet were Flora Krtizer (b. 1905), who was the daughter of Karl and Lillian Kritzer, as well as a Molly Kritzer (b. 1906), who must be Joseph and Sarah Kritzer's daughter, Mary Amalie. Then aged 15 and 16, my guess would be that they were at school together, perhaps even St Edward's School for Roman Catholic Girls (we'll see once I can access the original census records).

Joseph Kritzer is not listed in England in 1921. Nor is Sarah Sophia, however, there is a listing of a Daisy Christie in Margate, Kent. Wrong age (only by 6 years younger, which works), but born in Stepney, which looks promising.

In 1939 'Daisy' S S Kritzer, Housekeeper, still listed as married, was living at 1 Pemry Villas, Elm Grove Road, Cobham, Surrey. It looks like a house-share (lodging) situation as there are three other, seemingly unrelated, adults in the household and still no sign of her husband Joseph. Sarah Sophia Kritzer, then of 2 Ashford Cottages, Tilt Road, Cobham, Surrey, again listed as wife of Joseph Kritzer, died, aged 68, on 20 Feb 1945. She left £595 13s (worth £25,849 in 2020) to her daughter, Mary Amelia Melhuish, married woman.

Other than those last couple of records in 1939 and 1945 relating to Sarah alluding to Joseph Kritzer still being alive - where she's described as married and as his wife - there's no further sign of him in Britain and no trace of a record even of his death. Unlike his brother Karl, Joseph did not become naturalised British. Sister, Amalia, will have escaped detention, being a woman. However, initial enquiries suggest that Joseph Kritzer (37) - which he would have been in 1914 - was interned at the Knockaloe Internment Camp Isle of Man during WWI. As "former enemy aliens were to be deported, unless granted a licence to remain", was he perhaps returned to Germany after the war? 

UPDATE DECEMBER 2021: I've now received confirmation that Joseph Kritzer (37), was indeed interned at Knockaloe Internment Camp Isle of Man. "Joseph was interned as part of the mass internment of registered Enemy Alien men aged between 17 and 55 following the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915." 

Joseph’s Prisoner of War Information Bureau (POWIB) Index Card (available from the ICRC website), shows that he was interned on 31 Jul 1915. We still don't know when he was released or what happened to him later, although the pointers seem to be towards him being repatriated to Germany. 

There are many questions that still need to be answered.

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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.