27 April, 2022

As part of a pilot programme Visit Isle of Man were pleased to work with the Centre for WW1 Internment at Knockaloe to host a pilot event tailored for front of house teams in tourism and hospitality in order to enhance and enrich the local experience of the Isle of Man for visitors.

The event aimed to boost their knowledge of the Island and the attractions and experiences it offers, looked to add value to the service they already offer visitors as well as provide the opportunity to network with like-minded people in the local industry.

As part of the pilot, teams were invited to the Centre for WW1 Internment which officially opened in 2019 to the public. Located in Patrick Village, near Peel, in the west of the Isle of Man, the area was the site of the largest ever WW1 Internment Camp and was central to the British Government's WW1 Enemy Alien Policy.

The Centre tells the story of the Knockaloe Internment Camp, its guards and staff and over 30,000 German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish civilian men who were held as internees behind its barbed wire between 1914 and 1919.

Internee pictures and map at the WW1 Centre for Internment at Knockaloe

The host, Charity Trustee Alison Jones, told the group how plans for the Centre began following an initial Community collaboration to save their Victorian old School building, and the growing awareness of the importance of the site to descendants and others because it was such an important story to tell.

Trustee and Charitably funded, the Centre is expertly designed and holds some fascinating artefacts linking the human stories and imagery of the camp location itself, brought together in an imaginative and interactive way to engage visitors of all ages. A TripAdvisor review describes the Centre as 'A fascinating part of global history presented to the highest standards.'

Initially anticipated to hold 5,000 internees, following the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine on 7 May 1915, The British Government agreed that Knockaloe, safely situated on an Island in the middle of the Irish Sea, should be expanded to house the vast majority of civilian internees held in the British Isles. A huge proportion of the men who were detained would have left their British wife, and children, with many thousands even having sons who were fighting in the war for Britain. Knockaloe was the centre of a huge web of British camps, and held internees even from as far as East Africa as well as those picked up at sea following the outbreak of war.

Allison drew on the WW1 quote highlighted in the model room "Truth, it has been said is the first casualty of war" which was very pertinent to today’s audiences with the current war in Europe unfolding. During her introductory talk, she also related it to the world’s recent experience in lockdown from the pandemic. The vast majority of internees would have spent some, or all, of their internment at Knockaloe. Most were not to leave until 1919.

The model of Knockaloe during WW1 is the pride of the Centre which gives the scale of the camp, while the media and objects draws on key facts and the lives of the internees in the camp which is central to the exhibition.

The model of Knockaloe and Joseph Pilates feature as part of the exhibition

The internees worked, sought opportunity and inspiration albeit contained to their compounds. Joseph Pilates is one of the most famous internees held in the camp, but amongst their collections include carved pieces by Carl Bartel (kindly loaned by his family), the designer of the iconic Liver bird sculptures for the Liverpool Royal Liver Building. Guards included the Island’s famous designer Archibald Knox who was the parcel censor at Knockaloe.

Central to the Centre’s mission is to welcome the descendants of the internees and giving them an insight to what it was like for their ancestors who were sent to Knockaloe. Now, very popular for  pre-booked group visits in the early season, so much so that they intend to review their opening times to general visitors in 2023 to April 1. The Centre is currently open to group bookings on request then to general visitors from end May to end September 2022, Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.

Visitors can also download the Charity’s app to reveal a walking trail taking you around the former camp. The self-guided interactive walk from the Visitor Centre allows visitors to explore the history of the camp in the village and on Knockaloe Farm itself.

Following review of the pilot events, it is hoped a regular programme of events for visitor-facing teams will be hosted in the shoulder season in 2022.

Artefacts made by internees in the camp are on display


Centre for WW1 Internment at Knockaloe
Heritage / Visitor Centre
Centre for WW1 Internment at Knockaloe

The Centre for WW1 Internment tells the story of the Knockaloe Internment Camp, its guards and staff and over 30,000 German, Austor-Hungarian and Turkish civilian men who were held as internees behind its barbed wire between 1914 and 1919.