On this Day 16th August 1914

Alien landing in Penzance

We’ve all heard about Mr Goodgame, up in court a few days ago. Possibly a spy. Or possibly, as he convinced the magistrates, not. But one thing is for sure: now there’s a war on, you can’t be too careful. 

Chyandour barracks entrance, Penzance (photo Linda Camidge)As if spies weren’t enough to worry about, we now find that the barracks at Chyandour are full of aliens, sixty of them, taken off ships at Falmouth. Nobody quite knows who saw fit to offer up our hospitality, and nobody quite knows who will pay. There’s all the guarding needed to make sure they don’t escape – this isn’t the Scillies, where they let their prisoners get away in an open boat last week. And that’s just the start of the expense. They’ll have healthy appetites, no doubt, these “young fellows” as the newspaper report put it, and they’re said to be dining on best beef, while the rest of us are queuing at the butcher’s.

There’s even more of them at Redruth, and some benefactor even wants us to find them magazines to read. Magazines in German, if you please. Apparently the aliens over there have already been supplied with cigarettes, and now this chap is worried that they will be “terribly lonely amongst strangers”. All very fine, I’m sure. I know it’s Sunday, and I should be charitable, but there’s a limit to what English flesh and blood can stand. Charity begins at home. And what’s more, we’re already at our wits’ end with the food prices: flour, sugar. The shop-keepers blame the rich, “laying in stores through panic” as they put it, sending out to buy up all they can find room for. The likes of us just stand in the queues. There’s a relief fund being set up, for our own people, while these 60 aliens at Chyandour are being well fed on fine dinners - out of the public purse, no doubt – before relaxing with their free magazines.

At least Mr Cornish, who’s taken charge of the whole business, has the right idea. He had a letter in the paper yesterday, appealing to the “more thoughtful people who may have influence”. Making clear that the prisoners are not to be made a spectacle of; not to be “regarded as a cheap show for the vulgar”; not gawped at, and certainly not spoken to. Apparently – although some of them are just 16 - others are in their fifties; mature “professional” men. There is to be no “intercourse or trafficking” with the aliens without an official permit, obtainable from the barracks. And, these measures being “for the protection of the public”, we may assume that permits will not be given out willy-nilly. Mr Cornish isn’t a man to mince his words. “This request of mine is addressed most particularly to the young people of the district”, he says, “and especially the young women and girls”.

I’ve cut the letter out, and already shown it to a few of the young girls in the street. Yes, and their mothers too.


For Mr Goodgame the ‘spy’, see On This Day August 12th

Mr Cornish’ letter – Cornishman, Saturday edition, 15th August 1914, page 2

Panic buying story - Cornish Telegraph 13th August 1914, page 2

Cigarettes and magazines story - Cornish Telegraph 20th August 1914, page 3

German Prisoners Escape from Scilly” Cornish Telegraph 13th August 1914, page 2 (the same column also carries the appeal for reading material); Cornishman 13th August 1914, page 2

German Prisoners Arriving” was later among the photographic highlights in Gibson’s window – Cornishman 20th August 1914 page 2

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