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Tony Flynn
100 YEARS AGO: O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? SALFORD VERSION
This story from the pages of the Salford City Reporter, February 1919 caught my eye and I was amazed at the wording used by the newspaper which verged on the offensive if not slanderous.

 

The story concerned two brothers, both described as being, Russian Jews, however one was described as a fighter and the other a "shirker" - shirker being a common name used at this time for people who did their best to avoid conscription to the armed forces.

The headline to the story read, "Shirker rooted out of his hiding place", strong language to say the least.

The full story unfolded at Salford Magistrates Court when Maurice Miller, 23 who resided at Broughton Lane, Salford was charged with, "failing to furnish to the Registration Officer of Salford as to his change of residence and also with failing to to furnish particulars affecting the accuracy of the information previously supplied"

This was the Alien Registration Act of 1914 when at the outbreak of World War One, all aliens over 16 were required to register at local police stations and to demonstrate a good character and knowledge of English. This was partly due to a fear of spies, informants and basically, wrong 'uns.

Detective Inspector Clark told the Court that the prisoner had registered himself at the Aliens Office in Salford in February 1916, in March 1918 a calling up notice was served upon him by the Military Authorities but this he failed to answer.

The police were informed but a  search of Salford and surrounding areas failed to show any sign of him.

Enter his older, unnamed brother who was born in Russia but had come to England in 1916, presumably with his brother, Maurice, this chap voluntarily joined the British Army and was soon fighting in France.

In early February he had come home on a fortnights leave and was, "disgusted" to find that his brother was missing and even worse had failed to to join the colours.

He told the Court that he vowed to find him even if he spent his fortnight's furlough tracking him down, true to his word a search of the Strangeways area found Maurice.

He dragged him to the Broughton Police Station, remarking, "You are now going to face the music!" and handed him in.

Maurice Miller told the court that he had been sleeping out rough.

Sergeant Smith said that, "this suggestion was repudiated by his tidy appearance" and then added rather sinisterly,

"There is an organised scheme to to keep these foreigners in hiding whilst they are evading the law and they were not sleeping out rough, but were living in known houses in the area"

I assume he his hinting at that so called, "safe houses" were available for foreigners to hide in whilst evading the law.

Detective Inspector Clark added, 

"It is entirely owing to his brothers loyalty to the Crown that the prisoner is here this morning and has set a glowing example".

The Magistrate Mr J. Jackson then sentenced Maurice Miller to, two months imprisonment with hard labour and at the end of his sentence he would be recommended for deportation!

Yes Maurice Miller was a deserter from the army but for the press to label him as a "shirker" and a "foreigner" is biased to say the least.

Also, Sergeant Smith's suggestion there were, "known houses" in a predominantly Jewish area of Salford, presumably for Russian Jews, doesn't that smack of anti-semitism?

After he had served his sentence, Maurice Miller was to be recommended for deportation, but where to? Russia a country I should imagine he had good reason to flee from in 1916, a country that was still in turmoil after the October Revolution of 1917, also the country was infamous for it's pogroms of Jews.

Surely he would have been executed the minute he set foot back in Russia?

As for his older brother, no doubt he was acting in a bout of misguided loyalty to the Crown, did he see it as, "I have done my bit, and now it's about time he did his, and it's my patriotic duty to hand him over to the Authorities".

Possibly but could he lived with the knowledge that he had sent his younger brother to  a possible firing squad by his actions, I doubt it.

Hopefully Maurice Miller learnt his lesson in prison and was not deported back to Russia.

A strange case which shows the jingoism and and fear of foreigners that was prevalent in the country at that time, and on reflection has it changed all that much in the last 100 years?


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