Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010
The bone vases were crafted by WW1 internees on the IOM
Bone Vases: courtesy of Manx National Heritage
The vases are on display at the Leece Museum in Peel on the Isle of Man

These vases were crafted on the Isle of Man by internees who had been arrested and brought to the island during WW1.

The Isle of Man was used by the British Government to house thousands of 'enemy aliens', thought to be potential spies.

The majority of internees were Germans and Austrians and many had lived and worked in Britain for several years.

There was a wealth of talent amongst the internees with various eminent academics, gifted artists, musicians, together with craftsmen of every kind.

The first internment camps were set up in Douglas and housed around 5000 internees but it soon became apparent, said Roy Baker of the Leece Museum, that more space was needed.

"The Knockaloe camp was then set up and eventually it took on around 23,000 prisoners plus the civilian workers. This was a massive undertaking for a little village which previously only had a population of around 100 people.

"This was, and still is a rural area and the people who lived there during WW1 were all farmers. The people of the village had this enormous town sprung on them almost overnight, so you can imagine the changes they faced. The noise alone must have been terrific."

Image courtesy Manx National Heritage
The Knockaloe camp provided internees with creative opportunities

When moments like this spring up in history, the stories that surround the event live on through time. Roy Baker has heard his fair share of anecdotes from this time.

"There was a definite hierarchy within the camp and some of the higher status prisoners are said to have sent their servants through a hole in the fence once the sun went down. The servants would then nip across the road to the local pub to fill up jugs with beer.

"The landlady of the Manchester Arms, as it was called, came to expect this and she would have made quite a lot of money providing a service like this to the well to do prisoners. Apparently she hiked up the price for requests like this!"

The people of the village had this enormous town sprung on them almost overnight
Roy Baker

Boredom was the internees' biggest enemy, so they found things to do and most importantly found things to make, using whatever they could find and recycle.

Feeding over 20,000 internees in the Knockaloe Camp ensured that there were plenty of cattle bones to carve in the camp.

Internee craft and artwork provided 'mementoes' for those who lived and worked behind the wire and provides an insight into the time they spent on the 'Island of Barbed Wire'.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific