The sweethearts separated by war

Germans in a British internment camp
Germans in a British internment camp

LOVE had no bounds for Albert Thompson.

He was a Hartlepool man besotted with his wife, Ethel Kate Payne.

But there was one serious hurdle which stood in the way of love for Albert and Kate, as she preferred to be known. War broke out.

And because Albert was reported to have been of German birth, he was locked up in a camp somewhere in Hartlepool throughout the conflict.

The only time he ever got to see the woman he adored was when he was allowed out on day release.

He took full advantage of those precious moments of freedom. He would cycle through the streets of Hartlepool – taking nylon stockings and chocolates as treats for his sweetheart.

Sadly, no photographs remain of the loving couple. Every image, and most documents, were burned many years ago, said the couple’s granddaughter, Anne Thompson, 68.

But her own love of genealogy means the tale of romance can live on.

Anne admits: “I spend most of my time compiling my family tree.

“I have researched back to the 1600’s. We are mostly a family of seamen and that is how Albert met my grandmother”, said Anne.

It’s Anne’s grandparents who provide her greatest fascination.

Hopefully, with some help from Mail readers, we could be able to further build up Anne’s factfile on the doting couple.

Are there any photographs we could pass on? Can anyone provide us with precious memories that Anne may not know of?

Tell us more.

But first, let’s follow Anne’s research.

The story starts with Albert, who was born around 1881, sailing to Hartlepool from Germany years later as he reached adulthood.

Anne told the Family roots: “I have been researching my grandfather for 10 years. He was German so he was hush hush because of this.

“I have been told he sailed on the same ship as my great grandfather John Henry Payne. This was how he met my grandmother”.

The couple tied the knot on March 30, 1914. The details are confirmed on their wedding certificate, one of the few records which still remain of them.

In times of freedom, Albert lived in Windsor Street, West Hartlepool.

But in times of war, he was locked up, though few details remains as to where he was interred.

Anne added: “I have been trying to find out where he could have been interred during the Second World War and have been told that there is a possibility that there was a camp where Kingsley Avenue is today”.

Is she right? Let us know.

Albert and Kate had a son, Sydney, born in December 1914. He was their only child.

“According to my mother, no other member of the Thompson family spoke of my grandfather’s nationality because of the world wars”, said Anne.

“He was interred during both wars. During the Second World War he was allowed out and about on his bike. 

“He would travel to Lister Street to bring my mother stockings and chocolate.”

One other detail remains of Anne’s grandfather. He is known to have worked at Ward Jackson Park as a gardener until he retired and then did private gardening work.

Sadly, he died of a heart attack in Park Road, Hartlepool, on April 11, 1951, while he was cutting down a tree. “He had foolishly gone out with pneumonia”, said Anne.

We would love to find out more and help Anne with her research.

Do you know more about Albert?

Does anyone know where he was interred or more about his life.

And does anyone have a photograph of Anne’s grandfather?

Contact Chris Cordner by writing to him at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX, via email to, or by calling (01429) 239377.