Island of Barbed Wire: The Remarkable Story of World War Two Internment on the Isle of Man
Many aspects of Britain's involvement in World War Two only slowly emerged from beneath the barrage of official secrets and popular misconception. One of the most controversial issues, the internment of 'enemy aliens' (and also British subjects) on the Isle of Man, received its first thorough examination in this remarkable account by Connery Chappell of life in the Manx camps between 1940 and 1945.
At the outbreak of war there were approximately 75,000 people of Germanic origin living in Britain, and Whitehall decided to set up Enemy Alien Tribunals to screen these 'potential security risks'. The entry of Italy into the war almost doubled the workload. The first tribunal in February 1940 considered only 569 cases as high enough risks to warrant internment. The Isle of Man was chosen as the one place sufficiently removed from areas of military importance, but by the end of the year the number of enemy aliens on the island had reached 14,000.
With the use of diaries, broadsheets, newspapers and personal testimonies, the author shows how a traditional holiday isle was transformed into an internment camp. Boarding houses became barrack blocks, and many hoteliers welcomed the means of earning extra income. Eventually the internees took part in local farm work, ran their own camp newspapers and even set up internal businesses. With inmates of the calibre of Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Lord Weidenfeld, Sir Charles Forte, Professor Geoffrey Elton and R.W. 'Tiny' Rowland, the life of the camp quickly took on a busy and constructive air; but the picture was not always such a happy one, as angry disputes flared between Fascist inmates and their Jewish neighbours, and a dangerous riot forced the intervention of the Home Office. Even now, there remains the persistent question never settled satisfactorily. Were the internments ever justified or even consistent?
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