The German farm colony

Hertfordshire Mercury, 24th July 1915


The German farm colony

At the quarterly meeting of Herts. County Council, the Earl of Essex asked if the German Farm Colony at Libury Hall, Munden, was still in use as a detention camp for alien enemies, or whether it was only used for Germans physically unfit and destitute.

The Deputy Chief Constable replied that a number of the men had been repatriated, and there were now only about 100 in residence.

The Earl of Essex said that when he visited it there were only 98 men there, and some 400 beds were vacant, and he thought they might be used for some other purpose.

The Chairman said they had objected to the place being fully occupied, because it incurred a great expense to guard the occupants not only from escaping but also from public indignation when any German outrages took place such as the sinking of the Lusitania.  They had been fighting the Government ever since the war began as to who was to guard the place, and sometimes the military authorities gave way and allowed a guard, then shortly afterwards removed it.  They could not spare any police officers at the present time to guard the place, because the Force had been depleted very considerably, and there were now barely sufficient men to keep the peace of the county.

Mr Herbert (Watford) asked if the War Office could not be prevailed upon to allow the Volunteer Corps in the county to guard the colony, as the members had offered to do such duty that they could possibly carry out.

The Chairman said that any suggestion of that kind would be carefully considered by the Standing Joint Committee.

The Standing Joint Committee presented an interesting report respecting the colony, from which it appeared that the Army Council had consented to its use as an internment camp for alien enemies, who through age or infirmity were physically incapable of any mischief, and who owing to long residence in this country had lost connection with their native country, and would not be a source of danger.  The Secretary of State is satisfied that it is desirable that use should be made in this way of the colony, which is a charitable institution with a substantial income from invested funds for the benefit of Germans, which the trustees are willing to use towards the maintenance of the persons whom it is intended to send there.  Considerable uneasiness had been felt in the neighbourhood of Libury Hall on account of the presence of Germans, but the Secretary of State is satisfied that under the conditions proposed no danger or inconvenience to the neighbourhood can be involved.  In order to remove all grounds for misgiving he has placed the colony under the supervision of an officer in His Majesty’s forces, who has been granted complete control of the establishment, and is directly responsible to the Secretary of State through the Destitute Aliens Committee.

With the approval of the committee an armed police guard was placed at Libury Hall on the 9th September, 1914, and after considerable negotiation the Secretary of State undertook to defray the cost thereof.  As the colony was not provided in the interests or for the special purpose of the locality the committee came to the conclusion that the necessary guard should be provided by the military authorities, and they decided to press for a force of National Reserve to be provided in lieu of the police guard.  The armed police guard consisting of one Sergeant and Six constables was therefore withdrawn on the 15th April, 1915, as the men were urgently required for regular police duties, and was relieved by men from a supernumerary company of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Herts. Regiment.

The military guard was, however, removed by order of the War Office on the 22nd April, 1915, and has again been replaced by an armed police guard consisting of one Sergeant and eight Special Constables.  There are at present about 98 aliens under detention at Libury Hall.  Should the number of aliens at the colony be increased the committee will, for the security of the public and the colonists, press for the provision of an adequate armed guard or the cost thereof.  The Home Office have, on the representation of the committee, agreed to the augmentation of the armed police force by two.  The committee have furnished the Secretary of State with an account of the expenses incurred in connection with the provision of the armed police guard from the 9th September, 1914, to the 15th April, 1915, inclusive, amounting in all to £530 15s. 4d.


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