Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, September 2, 2019

Knockaloe Internment Camp

Rendering of the Camp

On 17 November 1914, thousands of internees began to arrive at  Knockaloe Farm, Patrick Village, on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.In August 1914 the British government had passed the Aliens Restrictions Act which meant anyone believed to be a threat to national security was interned at various camps in the British Isles. The Knockaloe camp–the largest of these–ultimately held nearly 24,000 prisoners in 23 compounds inside barbed wire, with 4,000 old soldiers acting as armed national guard, and 250 civilians attending to their wants and comforts. The camp at Knockaloe was three miles in circumference and 695 miles of barbed wire surrounded the compounds.

Typical Prisoners

Gymnastics Exhibition 
The internees were ordinary men who, by accident of birth, found their lives turned upside down. For some, depression, or “barbed wire disease,” would drag them down as they remained prisoner within a barbed wire compound of about 100 yards square while the world went to war, missing their families and their homes in their own “no-man's-land.” For others, this period away from their normal life did provide new opportunities, leading to new skills being learned which would change their lives or indeed the lives of others.

Some interesting details about the Knockaloe experience:

  • The opening of the camp was a windfall for the islanders. It's operation rescued the local government from bankruptcy. Local tradesmen who were over the age for military service found work at the camp. Contracts with local caterers and supplies resulted in huge profits.
  • Josef Pilates (internee) is said to have developed his method of fitness from working with patients in the hospital, taking the springs from the beds to assist in the patients’ exercises.
  • Within Knockaloe, each of the four separate sub-camps published one or more newspapers. All newspapers were submitted to the censor. They were then printed and sold to the internees.

Employment Workshop

Sources: Website; Photos from the Mannin Collection and Manx National Heritage

1 comment:

  1. A forecast of the Japanese-American experience in WW II.