[From IoM and the Great War, 1922]



The Isle of Man being the playground of Lancashire, the visiting season of 1914 was in full swing when news was received of the declaration of war with Germany. It promised to be a record season, too; visitors had been arriving in their thousands, and, in the ordinary course the total arrivals during the season of 1914 would, without doubt, have exceeded those of any previous summer . There had been a Carnival, Motor Races, and many other attractions. H.M.S. "Neptune "1 had paid a visit to Douglas Bay, her crew little thinking that two months later they would be engaged in actual warfare.

Few people believed that the war would last more than a few months. The majority of the persons in the Island who were dependent on the visiting industry fully thought that in 1915 everything would be as usual for them, and it was the reception of bad news following bad, month after month, that tended to cloud their hopes of better days. They hoped on, however, for four long years, many enduring much hardship in various ways; then light began to shine again.

Except for those directly or indirectly dependent on the visiting industry, the war did not adversely affect the lot of the Manx people as a whole. Agriculture and Fisheries flourished; trade benefited by the contracts for the Prisoner of War Camps, as thousands of these were given out locally. In addition, several new industries were started with a view to manufacturing and supplying the camps with articles of which, in some instances, there was a shortage in England. The Reverend C. Copeland Smith, a Wesleyan minister of great energy, formed the Manx Industries Association, which employed a large number of women and girls, chiefly from the boarding-houses, in manufacturing socks and other articles.

There are not many parts of the British Isles in which the reality of the war was more vividly reflected than in the Isle of Man. The frequent interruption of the steamer communication with the Mainland in consequence of enemy submarine activity, the sound of guns at sea, the darkness of the streets as a result of the Extinction of Lights Order, the frequent landing in the Island of the crews of torpedoed vessels, and the recovery from the sea of bodies washed up around the coast, all helped to bring home to the residents of the Isle of Man the awfulness of the war. Coupled with these conditions, the continuous movement of prisoners of war and troops to and from the Island, the disappearance of the travelling public, who feared to make the sea passage in face of mines and submarines, and the numerous burials of sailors, soldiers, and prisoners of war in the graveyards of the Island, assisted in impressing the Manx public with the reality of the war.

The recovery of the Isle of Man from the effects of the war was, perhaps, more rapid than was the case with other districts of the British Isles, partly on account of the Island possessing its own Government, and it being possible for those in authority to deal with local situations as they arose.2

For the benefit of those readers who are not conversant with the Manx Constitution, it may be stated that the Legislature of the Island consists of two Houses, the Legislative Council (of which the Lieutenant-Governor is President, and whose members are partly official, partly nominated, and partly elected) and the House of Keys, consisting of twenty-four elected members. Legislative measures have to be passed by both Houses, have then to be submitted for the Royal Assent, and, finally, to be promulgated in Tynwald, which is a joint sitting of both Houses.

This procedure necessarily involves some time before a Bill can become law ; even if a measure is "rushed" through both Houses, a period of at, least two months usually elapses between the dates of its introduction and promulgation. This being so, an Act of the Imperial Parliament was passed soon after the outbreak of war, called the Isle of Man (War Legislation) Act., 1914,3 for the purpose of extending to the Isle of Man by Order of the King in Council any war measures enacted for the United Kingdom which it might be considered desirable to make applicable to the Isle of Man.

On the outbreak of war, the Government Office Staff was considerably augmented to conduct the emergency duties necessitated by the war, and ultimately numbered thirty-seven persons . Many duties which, in Great Britain and Ireland, would have been carried out by the Naval and Military Authorities, in the Isle of Man devolved on the Civil Administration, there being no naval or military organizations, other than the Coast Guard, in the Isle of Man at the outbreak of hostilities.

In a report made to the Lieutenant-Governor by the Government Secretary, on the 16th November, 1918, a list is given of the new duties which fell on Government Office during the war . They were as follow:—

1 . The erection, maintenance, equipment, and civil administration of camps for 26,000 prisoners of war.
2. Questions relating to war legislation.
3 . The administration of the Defence of the Realm Regulations so far as they were extended to the Island and involved the Lieutenant- Governor, in his dual capacity of Lieutenant- Governor and Competent Military Authority.
4. The supervision of the preparation and maintenance of the National Register.
5. The administration of the Military Service (Isle of Man) Acts, so far as the Lieutenant-Governor was involved.
6. The purchase, during three successive years, of the wool clip of the Island on behalf of the War Department.
7. Food Control.
8. Petrol and Coal Control.
9. The administration of the Aliens Restriction and Trading with the Enemy Acts.
10. The licensing, for the Naval Authorities, of fishing vessels and other craft in Manx waters.
11 . Royal Engineer and Transport duties for the Military Authorities.
12. Special intelligence.
13. Income Tax (which was introduced for the first time during the war).

The work of Government Office was divided into eight distinct departments, consisting of :—

1. General Administration.
2. General Finance.
3. Prisoner of War Camps.
4. Control of Food, Coal, and Petrol.
5. Wool Purchase.
6. Permits.
7. Income Tax.
8. Registry.

A responsible head was detailed to take charge of each of the above branches, and the nature and extent of the work may be gauged from the fact that the Government Treasurer administered, during the four years of the war, funds amounting to over £3,600,000. In this time no fewer than 20,000 contracts were made, and money warrants were issued to the number of 35,000. No less than 150,000 letters (not including circulars, permits. and other printed matter) . left the Office during the same period. Amongst the members of the permanent staff who rendered most valuable service were:—

Mr. J. H. Aitken, I.S.O.
Mr. H. M. Rogers, M.B.E.
Mr T. A. Craine.
Mr. R. T. Harvey.

Of the temporary staff, Mr. Walter Keig,4 who took charge of the Food Control Branch, and Mr. W. A. Craine,5 who superintended Coal Control, discharged their duties with conspicuous success, as also did Mr. T. Nesbitt, who, for a long period, was in charge of the Prisoner of War Camps Branch, and Mr. S. Cubbin, who was, first, in the Administrative Branch, and subsequently was transferred to the Income Tax Branch.

The temporary Staff had to be re-organized on at least three occasions, in consequence of its members joining the colours, from time to time, as a result of the operation of the Military Service Acts; finally, of the 37 members of whom the entire staff consisted, nearly one-half was composed of females,6 and the remainder, almost without exception, were men of non-military age or who, for medical reasons, had failed to pass for the Navy and Army for active service.

Three 7 of the Office Staff who joined the colours met their deaths on active service, and a tablet to their memory has been erected in the entrance porch of Government Office.

Not the least interesting work undertaken at Government Office was that dealing with Special Intelligence. For obvious reasons, details of this work cannot be given. Suffice it to say that the movements and activities of many persons were under observation. As a rule, the persons regarded with suspicion by the public were found to be harmless . Several persons were dealt with by Orders under the Defence of the Realm Regulations and removed from the Island, some for detention in custody for the period of the war.

A fire at Government House in the Spring of 1914 necessitated the re-building of a portion of the house, during which the Governor, Lord Raglan, and his family, had to reside elsewhere. His Excellency was staying with the Government Secretary 8 in August, 1914, when war broke out, and many nocturnal meetings took place between them in those early days of the war. It so happened that telegrams from Whitehall announcing the declaration of war with Germany and other enemy belligerent countries, and on important subjects generally, invariably arrived between midnight and 2 a.m. , and action on these had to be taken without delay. On one occasion a meeting of the Executive Council was held at Government Office at midnight.

During the days of peace, there had been Coast-guard Stations at Knockaloe, Castletown, and Ramsey, under the command of Divisional Officer C. J. Weales, R.N. , whose headquarters were at Peel, but which were transferred subsequently to Douglas. On the outbreak of war, the two war signal stations erected at Port Cranstal and Spanish Head were at once manned, and were under the charge of the Divisional Officer,9 the Coastguard duties being undertaken by Coast Watchers taken on by him for the purpose, with headquarters at Douglas, Ramsey, Peel, and Castletown.

The crew of the first vessel to be sunk by a submarine in the Irish Sea was brought into Douglas on 30th January, 1915, by a small collier, whose normal route lay between the Mainland and the Island; five more vessels were sunk on the following day. The Harbour Master at Douglas, Mr. George Kelly, who is the local representative of the Shipwrecked Mariners Society, was always most energetic in providing for the comfort of shipwrecked crews brought into Douglas.

A Wireless Station was installed at Government Office early in the war, for communicating with the Mainland in the event of the submarine cable being cut or breaking down . For a time the station was taken over by the Naval Authorities, and controlled by Commander William Sims, R.N. In the early days of submarine activity, the Naval Authorities were able to use this station, in conjunction with others around the Irish Sea, for locating enemy submarines operating in these waters. On various inventions being contrived for marking down and destroying submarines, the Wireless Station was abandoned by the Admiralty, and handed over to the charge of the Post Office. From this time it was used merely as an alternative and emergency means of communication with the Mainland. The submarine cable was out of action once for many days, when it was cut some 500 yards from the place of landing in the Island; it was believed at the time that the damage was inflicted by a mine sweeper during operations.

After the Wireless Station had been handed over to the Post Office it was worked by operators from the General Post Office at Douglas, who had been specially trained for the purpose. Throughout the war, an operator was in daily attendance at the station for interchanging calls with Seaforth Station, near Liverpool. The Postmaster of Douglas and his staff were exceedingly helpful and obliging on many occasions.

The Wireless Station proved most useful, more so, perhaps, in the reception than in the despatch of messages. The approach of Zeppelins towards the English coast was frequently registered at the station, and on the one occasion when a Zeppelin raid 10 threatened the Isle of Man, information of its approach was conveyed to the Government Secretary from the Wireless Station in advance of the official intimation by cable. The announcement of the signing of the Armistice was received at Government Office Wireless Station from the Eiffel Tower, Paris, on the 11th November, 1918, at 11 a.m. , in the following words:—

4509 Q.F.716 C.Q. C.Q. C.Q.
V By B. L.37 ya 871.
Armistice was signed at 6 a.m. to-day, November 11th, aaa.
1052 CQ C.Q. 871 aaa.


1 Captain Allen Hunt, C.S.I. , and some of his officers honoured me with their presence at tennis ; there also came the Reverend H. D.Woodhouse, Vicar of St. Ninian’s, Douglas, who later died on active service, and his cousin, Captain Woodhouse, R.A. , subsequently killed in action. It was a most enjoyable afternoon. The Governor, Lord Raglan, had left the Island that morning, and the " Neptune " had saluted his flag on departure.

2 The Manx Legislature adopted several measures during the war for relieving the local situation. The Relief of Rates Act provided for contributions being made by the Government to the Local Authorities in aid of rates. There being no visitors to the Island during the war, many boarding-houses became vacant, and the value of house property temporarily fell, but it soon recovered with the end of the war in sight and with the influx of English people to reside in the Island, owing to the heavy taxation on the Mainland. The "English Invasion" sent up the value of house property far above the pre-war level.

The Legislature voted a sum of money for lending to distressed boarding-house keepers. It was distributed by a Committee consisting of the First Deemster, the Government Treasurer, and Mr. J. D. Clucas.

3 Some of the many measures applied to the Isle of Man under this procedure were the Defence of the Realm Act and certain of the Regulations made under it; the Aliens Restriction Act the Trading with the Enemy Act; the Daylight Saving Act; the Maintenance of Live Stock Act ; the Rent Restriction Acts and the Military Service Acts.

Under the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Regulations as applied to the Island, the Lieutenant Governor was empowered to make Orders, similar to English Orders, for controlling foodstuffs coal, petrol, and other articles.

4. Mr Keig was manager of the Sefton Hotel, Douglas.

5. Mr. Craine was the Manx Agent of the English Midland Railway Company, whose vessels were not running to and from the Island during the war. For some time he was Chief Accounting Officer in the Quartermaster’s Department at Knockaloe Camp.

6 I am indebted to Miss Dorothy Chappell, who came on to the Staff of Government Office during the War, for having devoted so many evenings to taking down in shorthand, from dictation, the chapters of which this book is composed.

7 W. H. Jones, C. H. Kewley, J. Wallace.

8 On the 27th July, 1914, I was present at Speech Day at Bedford School, my old school. Lord Roberts presided and gave a most excellent address to the school. It was one of the last occasions on which he spoke in public, for he died on the 14th November of the same year. On 31st July I returned to the Isle of Man owing to the political situation, having only had a few days of my leave.

9 Few people were aware at the time of the arduous duties which the Divisional Officer of Coastguards had to perform. When the enemy submarine activity was at its height, he and I were in communication almost nightly on matters connected with the crews of torpedoed vessels.

10 At 1 am. on 26th September, 1916, a Field Marshal’s warning was received at Government Office to " take Air Raid action." The prearranged plans were at once acted on ; lights in lighthouses were extinguished ; the Police, members of the Loyal Manx Volunteer Corps, the Fire Brigade, doctors and others, took up posts allotted to them. This was the first air-raid alarm received in the Island, and, in order to remedy certain defects in the official scheme for action on such occasions, a meeting was held at Government Office on the 27th September, 1916, at which were present : His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, the Government Secretary, the Officer commanding troops (Ramsey), the Postmaster, the Divisional Officer of Coastguards, the Deputy Chief Constable, the Officer commanding Isle of Man Volunteers, the Officer commanding Loyal Manx Volunteer Corps, and the District Manager of Telephones.


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