Mt Barker Police Station Letter Book, vol. 5, 1914-1917, Mt Barker Police Station Letter Book, vol. 5, 1914-1917, State Records of South Australia, GRG5/170/00004.

Report - R. G. Birt, Constable to Inspector Orr [?], Adelaide.

Mt. Barker Police Station


[...] The residences of a number of the inhabitants of Hahndorf who are said to be disloyal have been visited, but nothing at all suspicious discovered.   There is an artist named Hans Heysen & his wife living near Grunthal whom from reports the police look upon with suspicion owing to their anti-British attitude & strong sympathy with Germany.   Under a disguise MC [Mounted Constable] Ellis visited Heysen's residence & satisfied himself that there are not any wireless installations at work on the premises at present altho' the situation would be an ideal place for the purpose being isolated in the Hills & surrounded by very lofty poplar trees. [...] Heysen's premises will be kept under close surveillance & action taken at once in accordance with instructions in P.G. [?] should anything suspicious be discovered.

            I have the honor &c
R. G. Birt

Transcription of a letter forward by the Commissioner of Police, Adelaide.

13 October 1914

Copy               Private

Is it possible, without wasting precious time, for you to give an urgent warning to our Military Heads concerning the number of German spies we have in our midst and most particularly to ask them to warn all the Authorities in Adelaide, which is Australia's big danger centre.   The absurd naturalization of these people, which oath they only take so that they can more securely do their work, and help [illeg - to our ruin?].   Their wireless plant is up after midnight & buried in the day.   They are all armed.   Warn all Adelaide for you have no idea of the German element there.   I speak because I know, not because I want publicity or will have it.   Watch all Germans and never trust their oaths.   Watch the artists who are on the mountains and the seaside cottages, where the wireless is unsuspected.   Remember there is a great power behind them & money without end to back them.   I swear to you that Australia will curse the day when it is to[o] late, if you do not force this home to them.   You are a strong man, but even in your own office you may have a spy.   Awake Australia.   We are too easy.

            Anonymous communication to the Inspector General of Police
Received 13th October, 1914.

Re. Disloyalty at Hahndorf

[Senior Constable] R. G. Birt to Sub Inspr Blake.

Mount Barker Police Station, 26 September 1917.

I have the honor to report in compliance with the Commissioner’s Confidential Memo attached, that the loyalty of Hans Heysen or Ambleside has been under suspicion ever since the War started in 1914.   The Police as well as the Military Authorities received complaint regarding this German[']s disloyalty during that year and the fullest enquiries were made, and the Police watched Heysen's movements & his premises for weeks at a time, during the night as it was thought on account of the situation of his Home being an ideal one for the purposes of Wireless Telegraphy, he might be secretly working such an apparatus but the observations and enquiries resulted in nothing being ascertained which could confirm the complaint of disloyalty.   Since receiving this Communication, I have interviewed persons whom I can trust and know to be loyal mostly English with regard to this matter but they cannot enlighten the Police any further neither can they mention one Act of disloyalty that Heysen has been Guilty of.   This Artist with his Wife & children leads a very quiet life and the only visitors they have are a few ladies on Saturday afternoons to play Tennis.   It is quiet [sic] true that Heysen is a very clever shrewd man and would be particularly careful of his utterances and actions, but in Justice to him although it is not guarantee of his loyalty, I should like to mention that with his Wife and family he always patronises any patriotic gathering in the District and during the Australia Day proceedings at Hahndorf recently Heysen and family took a very prominent part in the function and gave liberally.   The Police do not for one moment believe he is loyal, but like a number of his Country men [sic] residing in Hahndorf whom I could name his disloyalty is not dangerous & goes no further than that you can be morally [?] certain his sympathy is with the Fatherland.
Having lived amongst these Germans for over five years and being well acquainted with their dispositions I can speak with some authority, therefore, I can assure my Superior Officers the time has passed for Heysen or any Hahndorf Residents to commit sedition, at heart they are rank cowards and it would only be if by some miracle Germany should win this War these Germans might show their hands but not otherwise.   I might mention one of my informers is an Englishwoman a neighbour of Heysen living within full view of his home and residence, has been residing there for years, Heysen's movements & premises will be closely watched for a month and the result reported at end of that period.

            I have the honor to be &c
(signed) R. G. Birt, S.C.

Thomas Edwards, Com. of Police to Sub. Inspr Blake,

P.C.D. [?] Adelaide, 24 September 1917.

Sub. Inspr Blake,
I have received a confidential Communication which sets out that the loyalty of one Hans Heysen an Artist of Hahndorf & Ambleside is of a very doubtful character please instruct your man or men stationed in that locality to make very careful enquiries into this matter and report quickly upon getting any evidence which will support that suspicion.
If there is none forthcoming just now to keep a lookout for three or four weeks & then report result of enquiry and observation.   I am given to understand that Heysen has been suspected for some time of disloyalty but is very careful in his utterances &c.   It is therefore all the more necessary to keep a careful watch on him as far as possible.
Thos. Edwards
Com. of Police.

Forwarded to S. C. Birt for his attention & report in compliance with the above minute of the Com. of Police.     Blake, Sub. Inspr, 25/9/1917

R. G. Birt, S.C. to Sub. Inspr Blake, Adelaide

Mt. Barker Police Station, 23 October 1917.

I have the honor to report with reference to my report of 27 ulto. re. Supposed disloyalty of an Artist named Hans Heysen of Ambleside.
As advised therein I have with the assistance of reliable Residents of the localty had this German[']s Movements & residence carefully watched for this last month.
During that period nothing has transpired that would give the slightest suspicion that Heysen was disloyal.   He and his Wife appear to be leading a very quiet life.   Heysen has been often seen in the surrounding Hills occupied in his work as an artist.   One day when one of my Informants was passing Mr Heysen called out "The war situation looks better.   The British are too good for the Germans and are giving them H-ll."
From this it will be seen that although Heysen's sympathy may be with the Germans he is too clever & cunning to show any sign of disloyalty therefore the Police do not look upon him as dangerous, but all the same a careful watch will always be kept upon his movements & home & any thing [sic] at all suspicious will be at once reported.

            I have the honor to be &c.
R. G. Birt, S.C.


Mt Barker Police Station Letter Book, vol. 6, 1917-1920

Nothing of relevance.

With Sincere Thanks:

Material supplied by Mr Ralph Body. A PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide, researching the art world networks of Hans Heysen.