Constructing of the Camp - Phase 1 (November 1914 - May 1915)

Construction of the Camp - Phase 2 >

As awareness of the scale and logistics of the internment of German, and other nationals who were believed to have German sympathies, became apparent the need for further space and more camps became apparent. On Saturday 24th October prominent officials from the Home Office visited the island in search of locations here enemy aliens could be lodged.

A tour of the Island was made, and various likely localities inspected, and eventually it was decided to establish an alien detention camp on a very extensive lines at Knockaloe, near Peel. The site was considered the most suitable that could be found for the purpose. It is a dry, sloping site, and well-sheltered from the prevailing winds, and can easily be supplied with an abundance of excellent water, as the Peel water main passes along the road which adjoins it. Adequate troops will be sent to guard the camp, and the first arrival of troops and prisoners is expected in about a fortnight’s time. (Peel City Guardian, 31 October 1914: 5).

Among the places visited or reported upon were the following: The Old Hospital at Kingswood-terrace, Crellin’s hill, Douglas (the property of the Noble’s Trustees); Strathallan Hall (formerly a home for orphan children, and now the property of Mr Joseph Cunningham, of the Douglas Holiday Camp); the Howstrake Holiday Camp; Milntown House and adjoining lands; the Holiday Camp at Peel; the late Wesleyan School facing the golf links at Peel; the lands around Knockaloe, near Peel; Perwick Bay, near Port St. Mary, and lands adjoining (the property of Mr Thomas Clague); sites for camps also at Castletown, Santon, and elsewhere (Isle of Man Examiner, 31 October 1914: 7).

Both the delegations from the Home and War Offices and the local press were keen to ‘allay’ many of the fears from the local population over the ‘invasion’ by highlighting the impetus it would make to the local economy through the purchase of supplies locally.

The contract for the erection of the new camp has been placed with Mr Mark Carine, H.K., and some seventy men are at present at work on the undertaking. Large quantities of timber, purchased in Douglas and Peel, are constantly arriving at the site of the camp. Twenty-nine houses, each 130 feet by 30 feet, made of wood, are to be erected, and these houses will provide accommodation for 200 men in each. The buildings will be erected in a large rectangle, with a largo central space, just like the modern farm buildings. The central space is to be utilised for a large dining hall, divided into four sections. Of course there will be separate buildings for the officers. The buildings are well-made, the material used being spruce timber, the roofs of which are to be doubly protected with felting. For sanitary purposes, the interior of each building is.to be lime-washed. There are to be three doors at each side, and two at each end; bright windows, 5 feet square, with ventilators opening above. Arrangements for sleeping has been made on the berth system, bunks being arranged in tiers down the length of each building, double tiers at the sides, and triple tiers in the centre. The water for the camp is to be obtained from the Peel Water Company's main from Glen Rushen, which runs near the camp. This supply of water is noted for its purity and also for its immense quantity. The camp is to be lighted by electricity, the contract for which has been placed with Mr Hanson Perry, of Douglas, the power for lighting being derived from oil engines. By the end of the present week, the contractor hopes to have accommodation for 1.000 men ready. (Isle of Man Examiner, 7 November 1914: 6).

Significantly the courtyard layout described in the newspaper articles differs from the arrangement evident from the maps and subsequent sources, at what point this change in organisation occurred is difficult to gauge. The article also supplied a list of contractors which were used in the construction and the supply of goods for the camp.

 

Blankets

J S Kermode, Port Erin; J Kermode, Ramsey; W G Qualtrough, Douglas; J J Spence and Co, Douglas

Bath Towels

W G Qualtrough, Douglas; Cottier, Junr., and Broadbent, Douglas; J Lay and Co. Ltd., Douglas; W H Looney, Peel

Galvanised Buckets

J B Kaye, Douglas

Galvanised Tubs

Cannell and Harvey, D’glas

Sanitary Bins

Cannell and Harvey, D’glas.

Galvanised Latrine Pails

Wildig, Douglas

Hair Sweeping Brushes

M Sharp and Son, Douglas

Scrubbing Brushes

G Sharp, Douglas

Floor Cloths

W G Qualtrough, Douglas

Mops

J E Kaye, Douglas

Enamelled Ware

Cannell and Harvey, D’glas

Dinner Knives and Forks

Cannell and Harvey, Douglas

Dessert Spoons

F L Hulme, Douglas

Sets Carvers and Forks

Todhunter and Elliot, Douglas

Soft Soap

Quiggin and Co., Douglas

Gossage’s Soap

C Dibb and Sons, Douglas

Spring Balances

Todhunter and Elliot Ltd., Douglas

Picks

Cannell and Harvey, Douglas

Spades

Todhunter and Elliot Ltd., D’glas

Shovels

Clague and Craine. Douglas

Bass Brooms

Wildig, Douglas

Watering Cans

Wildig, Douglas

Canvas Fire Hose

Todhunter and Elliot Ltd., Douglas

Petroleum Oil

M Hampton, Douglas

Catering

A B Crookall, Douglas

Stationery

A Lewthwaite, Douglas

Engines and Dynamos

T P Davie, Douglas

Sentry Boxes

F A Douglas, Douglas

Trestles and Tables

W Clarke, Onchan

Hip Baths

Todhunter and Elliot Ltd., D’glas

Bread Knives

Todhunter and Elliot Ltd., Douglas

Coal Buckets

Cannell and Harvey, Douglas

Cooks’ Knives

J E Kaye, Douglas

Cooks’ Forks

Cannell and Harvey, D’glas

Toilet Stands

Cannell and Harvey, Douglas

Smithfield Choppers

Cannell and Harvey

Tea Pots

Cannell and Harvey, Douglas

Windsor Chairs

J J Spence & Co., D’glas

Ladles

J E Kaye, Douglas

Basting Spoons

F H Cannell, Douglas

Lading Cans

F H Cannell, Douglas

Coal

John Quirk, Peel

Coke

Douglas Gas Light Company

Taken from Mona’s Herald, 4 November 1914: 5.

Many Peel businesses regarded the construction of the camp as a significant opportunity, but the preponderance of Douglas based companies given contracts caused some complaint. The Peel City Guardian published correspondence from Peel tradesmen complaining of the bias (13 February 1915: 5).

By late November 1914, the Peel City Guardian reported that internees were beginning to arrive in Peel on the 17th, but construction of the camp was somewhat behind schedule due to a mix of logistical problems and the prevailing weather conditions. Reporting on progress the Peel City Guardian and Chronicle reported.

The first portion of the wooden buildings for the housing of aliens and their guards, with the necessary kitchens, storehouses, offices, etc., are approaching completion, and the tension of the work is easing. For nearly six weeks 150 or more workmen have been employed, Sunday as well as weekday. A good deal of inside work still remains to be done before the barracks are made tolerably comfortable for prisoners and military. The officers and officials quarters are still incomplete. The rain of the past week has made the ground a quagmire, and some of the soldiers' quarters have been flooded. The prisoners number over 1,800, and the guard about 500. The military, both officers and men, have had very little leisure since their arrival. A temporary hospital has been formed at Mr Counsell’s Restaurant, Glenmaye,  the necessary guards being bilited at the hotel. There have been several cases of illness, both amongst aliens and soldiers….

The lighting of the camp is still imperfect.  Two dynamos have been installed, which are driven by the large engine of the Glenfaba Brickworks. It is expected that next week a large gas engine, dynamo, and the necessary cable will arrive, when the illumination of the camp will be perfected. (Peel City Guardian and Chronicle, 28 November 1914: 5).

There were evidently still problems in January the following year when the Mona’s Herald reported that

The camp was opened on Nov. 17h, and at intervals of a few days other batches of aliens were brought in. There was provision for 1,000, but five huts now completed are sheltering 1,354. Each hut, therefore, has an excess of numbers due to a rapid concentration. In the conditions which exist for the moment building materials cannot be very dexterously handled, and the movements of the builders are necessarily somewhat slow; but despite manifest drawbacks, due largely to bad weather, the work is being pushed forward with all possible speed; and almost immediately 600 prisoners will be removed to a new compound now approaching completion.

A report to the House of Commons in March stated that

There are at the present time 2,578 Germans interned at Knockaloe Camp, and 2,449 at Douglas Camp. Accommodation for a further 2,500 is being provided at Knockaloe. The Isle of Man Government is in charge of both camps, and reports that the cost of fitting them out, including huts, lighting, furniture, and stores, will be when both camps are completed, about £28,000. (Ramsey Courier, 26 March 1915: 3).

Local newspapers reported that the number of internees in Knockaloe had reached over 5,000 by April, with the Mona’s Herald adding that the “all the accommodation now erected is full” (Mona’s Herald, 14 April 1915: 7).

Construction of the Camp - Phase 2 >

Bibliography

Sargeaunt, B E (1922). The Isle of Man and the Great War. Brown & Sons Ltd.: Douglas.