German sailor’s former restaurant, 108 Alexandra Road, Newport



Max Wulff ran a restaurant in this building in the first decade of the 20th century. He was interned as an enemy alien in the First World War and then sent back to Germany, despite having a Welsh wife.

Photo of carriages for Max and Mabel Wulff's wedding in 1909Max Wilhelm Ludwig Wulff was born in 1881 in Hamburg, where his father Franz was a wood turner and umbrella maker. Max’s work on German cargo ships brought him to Newport, where he met Mabel Phillips of Maindee. She worked at the Mission to Seamen. The photo of the café shows the carriages which took the couple (also pictured) to their wedding in January 1909.

Portrait of Max and Mabel Wulff of NewportTheir son Edward was born in 1911. By the time their second son Leonard was born in 1913, Max was working on a Newport dredger, keeping the docks free of siltation. In 1914 Max was arrested, along with thousands of other Germans who’d settled in Britain. While at an internment camp in Lancaster he carved Mabel’s 1915 birthday present – an animal bone with expressions of his longing for her (pictured below). Their separation continued for the rest of the war, when Max was mostly on the Isle of Man.

After the war he was taken to the Dutch-German border and made his way to Hamburg. Mabel and the boys later moved there. She became caretaker of the city’s Anglican church, which she saved in the Second World War by putting out fires started by incendiary bombs. She also prevented precious church fittings from being destroyed, and bravely withstood Gestapo demands to hand over the church’s Royal British Legion flag. In 1956 she received the British Empire Medal for her wartime actions.

Photo of bone carved by Max Wulff for his wife while he was interned in WW1Edward, uneasy with Nazi rule, moved to London in the early 1930s, where he was a shipping clerk and part-time Metropolitan Police special Constable. He married in 1935 and moved to Newport, where he was a special Constable. Despite his German connections, he was accepted into the Royal Navy in 1942. He served on HMS Rodney and took part in the Arctic Convoys (supplying Russia) and shelling of French ports after the D-Day invasion.

Leonard became an electrician in Hamburg. The Nazis expected young people to join the Reich Labour Service (making it compulsory in 1935). Leonard died of illness in 1934 at a camp run by the Reich Labour Service or by Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth).

Edward died in 1962, aged 50. He was managing a Newport laundry at the time. Two years later Max died peacefully in Hamburg. Shortly after his death, Mabel retired to Newport, where she died in 1978 aged 90.

Postcode: NP20 2JG    View Location Map

With thanks to Eddie Wulff (Max and Mabel’s grandson) and to Madeleine Resühr of Hamburg. Her biography of Mabel was published in 2019, ISBN 978-3-00-064187-9