Thursday, 23 October 2014

Miss Pepita Eleanora Henrietta Ottilia Behrend

Former police station and court at Sharnbrook, 2013

Friday 23rd October 1914: A long time resident of Sharnbrook appeared at the Petty Sessions today charged with failing to register as an enemy alien. After war was declared it was rumoured that Miss Pepita Eleanora Henrietta Ottilia Behrend was of German nationality. Police Inspector Bliss made enquiries and found she had left England for Berlin on 30th July to visit relatives. He heard on 23rd September that she had returned to Sharnbrook. He paid her a visit and told her she would need to register under the Aliens Order 1914 unless she could produce naturalisation papers. She showed him a passport signed by the American Ambassador in Berlin and told him that she had returned to England as a British refugee. She admitted to him that she had relatives in high positions in Germany, one of them a countess. He told her that the passport was not sufficient proof of her nationality. She said that her father had been German and her mother Hungarian, but that she herself had been born in Upper Seymour Street, London. Inspector Bliss told her that she would need to obtain her birth certificate as proof and she agreed to do this.

Inspector Bliss visited Miss Behrend again on October 21st. She had tried to obtain a birth certificate, but although a search had been carried out no birth had been registered between 1863 and 1867 which matched her details. There was supposedly a letter accompanying the results of the search stated that compulsory registration of births and deaths was not in force until 1875, but Miss Behrend had lost this. She suspected her parents had failed to register her birth. She had older brothers and sisters, all born in Germany before the family moved to England in 1864. She herself was the youngest and the only child to be born here, and her sister recalled being present at her baptism at a church in the parish of St George’s, Hanover Square. Her second brother had registered as an alien but her eldest brother was a naturalised Englishman. She herself had not bothered to take out naturalisation papers as she always understood she was born here and believed herself to be a British subject. She had not realised the gravity of her situation and had not taken any legal advice as she thought it was simply a matter of finding out where she was born.

The Chairman recommended that Miss Behrend should obtain legal advice and remanded her in custody for a week. She pleaded to be allowed to go home but initially was told this was outside the power of the Bench. After some discussion and after hearing that Miss Behrend had lived in Sharnbrook for over ten years and that local men of substance would vouch for her she was bound over to appear again the following week and released.

Source: Bedfordshire Times 30th October 1914

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