Albert Henry Jones and Auckland University College graduate Horace Hunt were interned as enemy aliens in Ruhleben camp in Germany during the First World War. Jones did not attend Auckland University College, but his eloquent wartime letters to his family and accompanying photographs are held in Special Collections and offer an insight into the experiences of both men.1
`I am conceited enough to imagine this is the best photo of me from Ruhleben. I hope you are satisfied with your six-foot-one son.’
Born in Christchurch in May 1884, Jones was the eldest child of John Henry and Sarah Jones (nee Carter). He had four siblings, Margaret (known as Daisy), Gladys, Lina and Clarence. His father, a fitter and turner at the Addington Railway Workshop, was a keen sportsman who refereed hockey well into his 80s. Both parents were committed Methodists and the family attended the local church where his father was choirmaster and superintendent of the Sunday school.2
We do not know where or for how long Jones attended school, however in his early twenties he was an active member of the Christchurch Methodist Young Men’s Bible Class Union, attending Easter camp in 1905 and editing the Union’s journal in 1906.3 In May 1907, Jones sat the New Zealand Accountants and Auditors’ Association accountant’s exam.4 Later that year, he was selected to manage the office of the Christchurch Technical College, a new position with an annual salary of £120.5 By early 1911, Jones was the College registrar and commercial instructor.6
Aged 27, Jones left New Zealand in June 1911 to study in England. He sailed from Sydney aboard the S.S. Runic, travelling via Hobart, Albany, Durban and Cape Town. Jones compiled and edited the on-board Runic Town Chronicle, a souvenir publication documenting the fancy dress balls, lectures and concerts held during the journey.7
Jones originally planned to study commerce, but instead studied a range of subjects including languages, literature, psychology, phonetics, sociology and ethnology.8 In early 1913, he moved to Hamburg, Germany and continued his studies. He also travelled extensively and in the summer of 1913 was joined by his cousins Liz (Elizabeth) and Nell (Helen) Jones from Birmingham for a tour of Northern Germany and Belgium. Jones wrote an entertaining account of their travels which he sent to his family in New Zealand for Christmas 1913.9
When war broke out in August 1914, Jones was on holiday near the Swiss border. His travelling companion chose to cross into Switzerland but Jones returned to Hamburg.10 Classified as a Kolonial Englӓnder, he was required to report to the police every two days and was subject to a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 7am.11
In a moving letter from Christmas Eve 1914, Jones wrote that while he was grateful for what freedom he had, he was no longer able to pursue his studies and was lonely as his friends had either been interned or joined the army. Also, he had not received any letters from home for five months.12This letter and another dated New Year’s Eve 1914 were in German, perhaps fulfilling a condition of his police surveillance.
In early 1915, German authorities extended their internment order to include all male subjects of the British Empire, not just those born in England.13 Jones was arrested and transported to Ruhleben civilian internment camp, near Berlin. Arriving in Ruhleben on 6 February 1915, he joined around 4500 other British civilians who had mostly been interned since November 1914.14
‘Ruhleben has been my education – my university even… the opportunities of conversing with, and hearing men from all over the world; and the time available for reading have together led to greater development than would otherwise been possible.
Ruhleben camp was a harness racing track before the war. The existing brick stables, renamed barracks, were used to accommodate the prisoners who were allocated sleeping spaces in the horse boxes and cramped upstairs hay lofts. Jones’ camp address was Barrack 3, Box 14. The prisoners named the alleys and spaces between the barracks after famous London landmarks and the latrines after nearby German towns.15
Basically left to administer their own affairs, the prisoners established a lending library, tee haus, theatre and even a casino. They also formed choirs, orchestras, clubs and societies, and various sporting leagues.16 The Ruhleben Camp School and Arts and Science Union provided a wide range of educational opportunities and enabled Jones to continue studying. He regularly attended lectures and debates and in mid-1916 gave a presentation on Māori culture.17
Jones also spent time writing, translating German texts and directed a number of plays which were performed at the Ruhleben Theatre. Some, like She stoops to conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith, and Typhoon, by Hungarian Melchior Lengyel, were pre-war favourites. Others, like Hinemoa and Hawaiki, were original pieces written by Jones in the camp. He was also a member of the Christian Union and played cricket, hockey, tennis and tried Morris dancing.18
Jones was released from Ruhleben in November 1918 after three years and nine months. With other released prisoners, he travelled by train to Sassnitz, then by boat to Hull via Copenhagen, arriving in England to cheering crowds. Jones was transferred to Ripon Reception Camp in North Yorkshire for medical tests, then spent time visiting friends and recuperating both physically and mentally with his uncle and cousins Liz and Nell in Smetheick, Birmingham.19
Jones remained in England and took up a career in psychology.20 In September 1920, he married Florence Mary Elizabeth Fletcher, the niece of Benjamin Wilkinson, a Leeds schoolmaster with whom he had corresponded while in Ruhleben.21 Jones died in Leeds in March 1964, aged 79.22
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections.
- The Jones family papers were generously donated to Special Collections by Albert Jones' grand-nephew and University of Auckland University graduate, Dr Chris Kyle. Eventually, all of Albert Jones’ wartime papers will be available online. Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- George Carter, Valuable beyond price: the story of Sister Lina M. Jones, 1890-1979 , Rotorua, 1985, p.7.
- Auckland Star , 28 April 1905, p.3; The Press, 28 August 1906, p.9, accessed via Papers Past.
- Auckland Star , 22 May 1907, p.1, accessed via Papers Past.
- The Press, 6 July 1907, p.10, accessed via Papers Past.
- The Press, 16 December 1915, p.5, accessed via Papers Past.
- Runic Town Chronicle, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/1/2, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- Sun, 29 January 1919, p.4, accessed via Papers Past; Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/8/4.
- Albert Jones, ‘The wanderers, three deevils [sic] and a colonial in northern Germany and Belgium’, Hamburg, 1913, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/4.
- Carter, p.7.
- Jones to family, 24 December 1914, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/2.
- Matthew Stibbe, ‘A community at war: British civilian internees at the Ruhleben camp in Germany, 1914-1918,’ in Jenny Macleod and Pierre Purseigle, eds., Uncovered fields: perspectives in First World War studies, Leiden, 2003, pp.79-94.
- ibid; Jones to family, 28 March 1915, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/6/1.
- ibid; New Zealand. High Commission (Great Britain), A short sketch of the work of the New Zealand Prisoners of War Department in London : and of other undertakings connected with the war, London, 1917, p.43.
- Jones to family, 25 March 1916, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/8/3.
- Jones to family, 1 August 1915, 5 September 1915 and 14 July 1916, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/6/7, 1/6/10, 1/8/9.
- Jones to family, 15 December 1918, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/15/14.
- Carter, p.7.
- The Press, 12 November 1920, p.1, accessed via Papers Past; 1911 England Census, accessed via Ancestry.com; Jones to family, 15 December 1918, Jones family papers. MSS & Archives 2014/6, 1/15/14.
- England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007, accessed via Ancestry.com; Carter, p.7.