During the First World War German citizens, or enemy aliens, were required to register with the authorities and had strict restrictions placed on their movements. The following article, taken from the North Devon Herald in May 1915, involves the case of a German alien, Fritz Adler, who was fined £20 (roughly £1,400 in today’s money) for breaching the regulations when he hired a pony and joined two local hunts…Barum Athena
At Braunton Sessions held in Barnstaple yesterday (Wednesday), the magistrates imposed a heavy fines on an alien enemy for proceeding beyond the five-mile limit from his place of registration without a permit. This is the second case of this character which has come before the County Bench during the past month. The magistrates present were Mr. W. P. Hiern (in the chair), Mr. Comer Clarke, and Mr. Geo. Norman.
Fritz Adler, described as an alien enemy, of German nationality, was summoned for proceeding beyond the five-mile limit from his registered place of residence at Lynton on April 24th and on April 27th.
Mr. R. E. C. Balsdon appeared for the defendant, and pleaded guilty.
Supt. Hulland, in outlining the case, said that the defendant was a German by birth. He came to England some time in the year 1900. On March 25th of this year the defendant came to Lynton from London, bringing with him a permit from the London police and certificate of registration. The police-sergeant at Parracombe went to Lynton and re-registered Adler on the 27th March. The regulations were explained to him, but he already knew them, and produced his certificate of registration which showed that no registered alien must travel more than five miles form his registered place of residence. He should prove to the Bench that on the 24th of last month the defendant attended a meet of the hounds at Brendon Two Gates, seven miles from Lynton; and another meet of the hounds at Whitstone Cross on the 27th, the latter place being in the county of Somerset, and ten miles from Lynton. They did not wish to be unduly severe, but the defendant was educated, and there could be no question of ignorance. Considering the way in which they (the police) treated the men of that nationality, he thought they (enemy aliens) should accord them similar treatment, and not give all that trouble. The police got any amount of trouble and complaints. The defendant hired a horse and attended various meets of hounds. Where he went during the day no one knew. Once he left Lynton, no one knew what he did until he returned. They felt it was a very serious case. It might be possible that he wanted to meet someone out that way; they did not know.
P.S. Champion, of Parracombe, gave evidence as to re-registering the defendant on his arrival at Lynton.
Charles Price, chauffeur, of Goring-on-Thames, who has been staying at Countisbury, gave evidence to the effect that on the 24th of last month he attended a meet of the Devon and Somerset Hounds at Brendon Two Gates. He saw the defendant present. On the 27th April he attended the meet of the hounds at Whitstone Cross, Porlock, the defendant being again present.
P.C. Bibbings, stationed at Lynton, said that Brendon Two Gates and Whitstone Cross were seven and nine miles respectively from the defendant’s registered place of residence at Lynton. When he told the defendant he should report him, Adler replied that he did not know he was outside the five mile limit.
Mr. R. E. C. Balsdon said his client had been resident in this country for the past fifteen years. He was at present in partnership with an Englishman, a Mr. Freeland, as a taximeter manufacturer; and was a householder in London. His client also appreciated the fact that German subjects in this country in the main were allowed to be at large subject to those restrictions, while Englishmen in Germany were interned. Up to that unfortunate incident he had obeyed those restrictions in every respect. He had come to Lynton with his wife and family for the benefit of his health, and was informed that some exercise on horseback would do him good. Consequently he learnt to ride, hired a pony at Lynton, and went to Brendon Two Gates and to Whitstone Cross, and on each occasion worked back towards Lynton with the hounds. Had the place at which the defendant was seen been on the coast, or had the gentleman been seen making suspicious signals, or had his movements been of a suspicious character, one might have thought that the case was worthy of the remarks made by the superintendent. The explanation of the whole matter was that he travelled the distance, which was unknown to him in all good faith; he did not think that he had exceeded the limit. It was a perfectly innocent breach of the law. His client felt additionally sorry that he had broken the regulations, because he had had extreme courtesy from everyone since the outbreak of war. If it were not that he did not wish to appear a traitor to the country by birth, he (the speaker) ventured to suggest that his sympathies were far more for the country which he had adopted as his place of residence.
The Chairman: Are you going to prove that?
Mr. R. E. C. Balsdon: No, sir
The Chairman: Then I do not think you had better say that.
Mr. Balsdon, in conclusion, said his client was totally exempt from military service, so that he was not a dangerous alien enemy in the sense that if he could slip out of this country he would go back and fight against England.
The Chairman said there were a couple of points which Mr. Balsdon had omitted to mention. One was as to whether the defendant possessed a thorought[sic] knowledge of the English language.
Mr. Balsdon: He speaks English fluently.
The Chairman: The other point is that the German mile is very much more than an English mile. You did say he was deceived by the use of the word mile.
Mr. Balsdon: He has not instructed me in that. He was so honest in his instructions that I do not think he was deceived.
The Bench imposed a fine of £20 and costs.
transcript taken from the North Devon Herald 6th May 1915 page 8 comun b. This just one of many articles about enemy aliens in North Devon during World War One published in the local newspapers. For more visit our North Devon War Items Album on our Facebook Page…Barum Athena