Whilst I have been looking through our Documentary Photographic Archive images relating to the First World War, I noticed they included photos of the Isle of Man and the internment camps set up there.
I have family on the island and have spent many happy holidays there. Manx people have a great sense of their own past and over the years friends of the family have shared their enthusiasm for its history with me. I was told about the prisoner of war camps during both the First and Second World Wars and this aspect of the island’s past has always intrigued me. To call them ‘prisoner of war’ camps during the First World War is misleading , as those detained were not military combatants.
The Manx Museum has some fascinating displays about the internment camps. They have produced a book ‘Living with the Wire’, full of illustrations, photographs, anecdotes and further sources for investigation.
One of our volunteers knows she had family interned there. These were civilian internees, detained because they were resident foreigners of enemy nationality.
Much research and information has been gathered about the impact of internment for both the Isle of Man and the detainees. I am hoping that we will be able to explore some of the personal stories represented in our collection here in the Documentary Photographic Archive.
Creative activity helped relieve boredom and depression in the camps. Educational and cultural groups were formed and those who had skills in civilian life continued to make use of them.
Cunningham’s Camp in Douglas became one of the interment camps. It was a favourite holiday destination both before and after the wars. Some internees were lucky enough to be in a ‘Privilege Camp’ in Douglas and it has been said that photos of them are indistinguishable from pre-war holidaymakers.
The camp at Knockaloe, near Peel on the West of the island held Jewish and Turkish detainees. Turkish detainees who died whilst living there were buried in a standing position in the local graveyard at Patrick.
Living With the Wire is edited by Yvonne Cresswell and the revised edition was published by Manx National Heritage in 2010