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Castle Green, York: German Reservists Marched Through York

Anti-German prejudice resulted in many of York’s citizens being rounded up and imprisoned

The daffodil-lined mount of Clifford’s Tower in York is a remnant of an impressive fortified structure within York’s castle compound, and overlooks a patch of land which was once a symbol of the fear that gripped the country during World War One. On Castle Green, within walking distance of the River Ouse and adjacent to the Castle Prison, was a tented encampment for detained ‘enemy aliens’.

With the outbreak of World War One came a great deal of prejudice and anxiety across Great Britain. A fear of German spies saw the Alien Registrations Act and British Nationality Act passed in 1914. This act resulted in more than 32,000 men being interned during the war and the authorities in York quickly followed Home Office orders as large numbers of German reservists were imprisoned at the camp.

These arrests were not confined to those in the military. Namely, in the case of long-time resident of the city, Edward Schumacher, a man aged about 62 years whose son fought for the Royal Field Artillery.

As the influx of interned men continued to grow, a secondary encampment at Leeman Road was established and by October 1914; 1,200 men were interned there. It soon became a point of interest for many local residents who would gather to watch the prisoners take exercise and pass over food parcels and messages.

Location: Castle Green, York, North Yorkshire YO1 9RY
Image: Tented village, courtesy of Yorkshire Museum
Reports of the internment camp from Yorkshire Evening Press, 1914
Presented by Jonathan Cowap
Historyworks production for BBC Radio

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