Edward Snee – Camp Interpreter

Alan Roberts tells the story of one of the camp interpreters, Edward Snee:

Mr Snee, the Interpreter

His easy going care-free manner made Mr Snee stand out from the moment the prisoners arrived in Skipton. He himself had attended a school in Kassel in Germany, and his knowledge of German extended to the slang used by students at high school and university. He was also rumoured to have held a teaching post at a South African University.

So what do we know about our elusive Mr Snee? Who better to tell us than Mr Snee, himself in his own words and in his own handwriting?

Form M.T./ 393A

Application for Admission to an Officer Cadet Unit with a view to appointment to a Temporary Commission in the Regular Army for the period of the War, to a Commission in the Special Reserve of Officers or to a Commission in the Territorial Force.

The candidate will complete the following particulars and obtain certificates below as to character and educational qualification. [Stamped: War Office 14 Nov. 1917]

1. Name in full: Surname.

: Christian names.

Snee

Edward Julian

2. State whether desirous of appointment to  ̶

(i)    A temporary commission in the Regular Army

(ii)  A commission in the Special Reserve of Officers.

(iii) A commission in the Territorial Force.

Temporary commission in the Regular Army

 

3. State in order of preference the branch of the Service in which desirous of serving e.g., Cavalry, Artillery, Engineers, Infantry, Army Service Corps, etc.

NOTE. ̶ Unless otherwise stated it will be assumed that a candidate is prepared to accept a commission in any branch of the Service.

R.G.A. Artillery
4. Unit (if any) to which desirous of being appointed.

(If for the Army Service Corps state whether for Motor Transport, Horse Transport, or Supply.)

NOTE. ̶ No guarantee can be given for appointment to a particular unit.

R.G.A. [Royal Garrison Artillery]
5. Date and place of birth. Gunnersbury [London Borough of Hounslow]Jan 28th 1879
6. Whether married. Yes (two children) [He married Florence Evelyn Wilson in Parsons Green, Middlesex, in January 1908. His son Vernon Frederick Julian Cordell was born in 1908 and his daughter Muriel Eileen Noelle was born in 1910.]

 

7. Whether of pure European descent. Yes
8. Whether a British subject by birth or naturalization.

(State which, and if by naturalization attach a certificate from the Home Office.)

British by birth
9. Nationality by birth of father (if naturalized, state date.) British

 

10. Occupation of father. Manger of Bass and Co. (Paris) (he was with Bass and Co. for 30 years) [Bass is a British brewery based in Burton-upon-Trent.]
11. Permanent address of candidate. 4 Glendower Road, East Sheen. [SW14 8NY, London Borough of Richmond]
12. Present address for correspondence. Ditto
13. Schools or colleges at which educated. Private School in Forest Gate [London Borough of Newham]. Univ. Tut. College Holborn. Gymnasium [grammar school] in Cassal [sic] and Universities of London, Heidelberg and Paris [see below].
14. Occupation or employment in civil life. Schoolmaster (Specialist in Fr. and Ger) [French and German]
15. Whether able to ride. I can’t call myself a good rider but I did a bit of riding in South Africa [see note below]
16. Whether now serving, or previously served, in any branch of His Majesty’s Naval or Military Forces, or in the Officers Training Corps. If so, state: ̶

(a) Regiment, Corps or Contingent

(b) Date of first appointment

(c) If serving in the ranks state whether on an ordinary peace engagement or for the period of the war only

(d) Rank and Regimental Number

(e) Date of retirement, resignation or discharge

(f) Circumstances of retirement, resignation or discharge

(g) Whether in possession of Certificate A.

(h) Whether in possession of Certificate B.

When at Borden Grammar School Sittingbourne Kent as an Assistant Master I was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the School Corps, which was attached to the QsO. 4th West Kents [4th Volunteer Battalion, the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)]

I was My Commission bears the date May 7th 1904

‘Not serving’ handwritten in large letters at bottom of this section

[Application form stamped ‘NOT ACCEPTED FORM S.D. [illegible]SENT 27.11.17.’]

[see note below]

 

Education Question 13: Edward Snee attended Buxton College in Forest Lane, Stratford, which is situated in east London. He was recorded as boarding there during the 1891 census when he was 12 years old. He clearly felt it was worth mentioning on his application form that this was in fact a private school.

The town of Kassel was known as Cassel until 1928. Edward actually attended a grammar school within the town. Confusingly ‘Gymnasium’ is actually the German word for grammar school. The town has a population of around 200, 000 and lies more or less in the centre of modern Germany.

University Tutorial College was an institution which operated from two different addresses in Red Lion Street in Bloomsbury. It operated correspondence courses, as well as offering face-to-face tuition for students at its London base. The University of London had only recently (ca. 1900) begun to offer tuition through its affiliated colleges where students took their exams as ‘internal’ candidates. Students receiving tuition at non-affiliated colleges were ‘external’ candidates. University Tutorial College fell into this latter group of colleges.

Edward Snee was awarded an external B.A. from the University of London in 1904, and six years later received his M.A. from the same institution. There are no known records of his periods of study at Heidelberg or Paris. It is also not known where and when he was awarded his Ph.D.

Experience in South Africa Question 15: in September 1914 Edward Snee joined the staff of the prestigious Pietermaritzburg College in what is now KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The June 1915 edition of the school magazine describes him as follows:

‘In September Dr Snee arrived from England, to take charge of one of the third forms. Dr Snee’s experience as a teacher of modern languages has already proved a benefit to the school. He is also deeply interested in the outdoor life of the boys, and I extend to him a hearty welcome to the College and to Natal.’

Edward Snee also worked as an examiner at the University of Cape of Good Hope. The University had been modelled on the University of London, and was able to examine candidates in different subjects, but not to provide any tuition. It was also able to confer degrees on successful candidates. The University changed its name to the University of South Africa in 1916.

Edward Snee appears on lists of examiners for the University of the Cape of Good Hope B.A. Pass and Honours degrees in both German and French. The documents consist of typewritten lists stuck onto white paper with occasional handwritten notes. The notes refer to dates in April and June 1916.

Sachsse and Cossmann’s book Kriegsgefangen in Skipton was therefore correct to connect him with a university in South Africa.

Previous military experience Question 16: clearly Edward Snee was accepted because he was serving as an interpreter after being commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant on 10 December 1917. Presumably it was only his period with the School Corps and the West Kents which was not accepted.

Life at Skipton

In early 1918 he was already in post at Skipton. An inspection of the camp was performed by Dr. A. de Sturler of the Swiss Legation on 13 February of that year. He reports:

‘This camp was opened on January 1st, 1918 for the accommodation of officer prisoners from Colsterdale Camp. It is situated in the town of Skipton, a little over a mile from the railway station.

The Commandant is Lieut. Colonel W.C. Hunter. Captain Shearer, R.A.M.C. is Medical Officer, and Lieut. Sladen and Lieut. Suce, are interpreters.’

In German handwriting the letter ‘n’ is written ‘ū’. The typist was trying to do his or her best to read the original handwritten report.

Sachsse and Cossmann report that Edward Snee stayed with the prisoners in the camp until they finally left in October 1919. In the meantime he had been promoted to become a temporary lieutenant in December 1918. He eventually relinquished his commission in December 1919.

You may well ask what happened to Edward Snee afterwards, or the opposite question which is what else did he do before he entered service with the Army? The answers to these questions and others may be found on a very interesting family tree which has been constructed by his family on ancestry.co.uk. I should also say that this family tree has been the source of much valuable information that has been used to compile this article. It is possible to access ancestry via libraries in Lancashire and North Yorkshire and presumably in other parts of the United Kingdom. As always please contact us with information on this or any other matter using the contact details provided elsewhere on this website.