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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Spy hysteria

Tuesday, January 12th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Captain Bath and Lieut. Way of Ammunition Column of W. Somersets billeted here yesterday. 40 horses in Dakin's yard. Bath told me a tale of a party of German officers, who spent some time in his town, Glastonbury - I think last year - with a fleet of cars in which they went out every night. They had a field and pretended to be perfecting a process for getting petrol from peat. They showed some petrol stated to be so obtained. Then they departed suddenly and mysteriously. I asked: "Why all this?" He said it was to reconnoitre the country. I asked why they should reconnoitre the country at night when they were free to do it in the daytime, but he had no answer. Anyhow, he was fully persuaded that it was a great case of 'intelligence'.

Danielson came to see me yesterday as to the case of the postmaster at X., an alleged spy. The contents of a military telegram of no importance had been divulged. I knew that this had happened to civil telegrams up there in the past. I sent for the postmaster here, and questioned him, but fruitlessly. Speaking yesterday of the difficulty of dealing with spies, Maj. Danielson said: "It's this damned vote-catching government. They're out to get the vote of the alien." He is a quite honest man, and seemed to believe this. That the spy business was the exclusive affair of the War Office, and that he was arraigning the beloved Kitchener of Khartoum did not seem to occur to him.

Spy hysteria is rife. Only this week I was told by Dr. H. that the village was seething with the news that R. was pro-German, and taking advantage of his position as chauffeur to the military representative to transmit secret information as to English plans through his sweetheart, a German girl, to the German authorities. H. believed it, or half believed it. I took this up with the Police Inspector who told me he was constantly having complaints about signalling etc., all absurd. I told him that R. was engaged to an English girl and that the whole thing was idiotic. he said he had to make a few enquiries, but expected of course no result. A very decent sort.

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