Douglas Privilege Camp

A Privilege Camp was established at Douglas Camp in middle of 1915 - in some respects its establishment was suggested in the early days of the war in late 1914 when it became obvious that the Island's tourist industry would be lost during hostilities and that Douglas in particular would be very affected. Several trade organistions pushed to allow the otherwise empty boarding houses to be used for the detention of the better off interned aliens and their families. A newspaper campaign fought against the idea - according to Samuel Norris most of the letters in the IoM Times were actually penned by James Brown but it was the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915 that totally destroyed any possibility of the use of the Boarding Houses and thus attention turned to using part of Douglas Camp. Internees in the privilege camp would pay 10s a week for which they would receive somewhat better accommodation and food, they could also employ another internee as a a servant. The following sequence of letters gives the background:

Destitute Aliens Committee
Home Office
(Room 216)
Whitehall

13th May, 1915
Dear Sargeaunt
You will remember that when the Isle of Man Camps were first started there was some talk about a better class of aliens being accommodated in the lodging houses. The matter was fully discussed and the question of censorship arose.
As it has now been decided to intern gradually all alien enemies there will be amongst these some very well to do people.
Without committing yourself at all do you think it would be possible to accommodate these in the lodging houses on a system of parole?
Do you think their presence, say in Douglas or elsewhere might lead to trouble from the local populace?
Do you think trouble would be caused by having large numbers of aliens strictly interned and a small number at loose?
Is the Ramsey Hydro available, if so what is the accommodation there?
Do you think there will be an outcry in the Island for stronger military protection?
Have you any unofficial suggestions to make?
Try and let me have a reply to this by Tuesday morning
Yours
E M [This was Edmund Sebag Montefiore(1869-1929) who was attached to the Home Office 1914-1918 and had been one of those who suggested the camps be established on the Island possibly his knowledge of which was due to his education at Clifton College when T.E Brown was there]

16th May 1915 .
Dear Montefiore
With reference to your letter of the 12th, we are of course anxious to do anything possible to assist the Imperial Government, but it seems to me there are objections to having male alien enemies at large in an Island where so many aliens are interned. In the event of certain occurrences the situation might become serious, especially seeing that the Island is so isolated and that we have only National Reserves as our military protection.
Apart from this, there is the espionage question, and the fact that the Manx population, other than Boarding House Keepers, might resent the presence of German males in their midst.
I would suggest that Douglas Camp be converted into a place of internment for the better class aliens (the huts and food could easily be improved) and that
Their wives and families be made to come and live in the boarding Houses. I think there would be no objection offered,on the part of the Manx people, to the latter being allowed to live at large,and their money would be a tremendous help to the Boarding House Keepers at the present time, who are in a sad plight.
This is purely an unofficial litter, but if you could carry this scheme into effect it would, I'm sure, be the best adapted to the situation.
Yours ever
B S [This is Bertram Sargeaunt, Government Secretary who it would seem was the power behind the Lt Governor]

18th May, 1915
Dear Sargeaunt,
Thanks for your letter of the 16th. I am afraid there is not much likelihood of the Government augmenting your female population, and I do not think you would like the wives and families of the interned men to go and bark outside Cunningham's Camp for their suffering swains and brothers.
Yours very truly
E. S. Montefiore, Esq,

19th May, 1915
Dear Sargeaunt,
Thanks for your wires re Hotel accommodation. The question of providing accommodation for the better class of aliens, who could pay for their own keep, is a difficult one.
On the 18th October His Excellency wrote to Mr. McKenna urging that the Isle of Man should be utilized for Germans on parole and pointing out that this might to a certain extent relieve the distress amongst the lodging house keepers. In the interview this body had with His Excellency, as reported in the Isle of Man Times, the distress appears to be very acute.
A deputation saw McKenna to-day and urged that the better class Germans, who would pay for their own keep, should be allowed to go to the Boarding Houses. Could you let the Committee know what has caused His Excellency to change his views on this subject.
Are there any Hotels or Lodging Houses in the Island open and staffed - or which could be opened and staffed at very short notice - capable of providing accommodation
for well to do alien enemies? They would have to be kept within certain confines and guarded. The discipline should not be difficult to maintain is they would know that on the slightest breach they would be sent to a regular Concentration Camp.
Anything the Isle of Man can do to help or propose would be much appreciated, particularly if it relieves distress on the Island. I thought the Ramsey Hydro, if staffed,
would do A 1 and the proprietors would be able to make a good thing out of the Germans. There is also the Hotel at Langness. How would that do? What are its capabilities and that of the Hydro? as regards numbers.

21st May 1915.
Dear Montefiore,
With reference to your letter of the 19th, many circumstances have arisen since October which would account for His Excellency changing any opinion he may have given expression to at that time more notably (1) the way in which the Germans have conducted the War culminating with the sinking of the Lusitania which deprived many persons in the Isle of Man of friends and relatives (2) the submarine invasion of this sea (3) the internment of so many aliens in the Island.
We have no knowledge of the deputation from the Island to the Secretary of State to which you refer, so I can express no opinion on its personality, but I can assure you that there is no way for dealing with alien male enemies in the Isle of Man (no matter how wealthy they may be) except by strict internment. The only way the Boarding Houses could be assisted to be filled is by sending females to then as proposed in my letter of last Sunday.
The Boarding House Keepers after all, are only a section of the community and the other residents of the Island must, not be disregarded.
To place male alien enemies in the Boarding Houses would be inviting trouble.
The Enclosed cutting from today's local paper may interest you.
BS

The deputation was probably a private initiative by Hall Caine who had also written to the Morning Post on 20th May suggesting the use of the Boarding Houses - however the final decision was, as always, made in Westminster as can be seen from the following letter to Lord Raglan

19th June, 1915.
Dear Lord Raglan,
I am greatly obliged to you for giving me the advantage of consultation with you on the affairs of the Isle of Man in relation to the internment of aliens.
The geographical position of the Island is such that it can render a great service to the Empire by undertaking the duties asked of it, and the Government warmly appreciate the patriotic spirit in which Manxmen have undertaken this duty. As the result of the deputation which came over to see me from the Island at the beginning of this month and of our own private conversations since, I hope and believe it will be possible to take full advantage of the willingness of the Island to do all it can for the Empire in this matter, while at the same time avoiding action which might run counter to the considered public opinion of the Island.
I propose, as you know, largely to increase the number of aliens interned in the Island, and the War Office will provide a corresponding increase in the military guards. In view of the difficulties which have been felt I do not propose at present to adopt the suggestion that any aliens should be sent to live in the Island otherwise than in internment; but if hereafter it should prove necessary to do this, I am sure I may appeal to the patriotism of the Island to accept the inconvenience which their presence would entail. In any event the number would be small and they would live under strict supervision; but, as I have said, no such measure is proposed at present.
signed John Simon [Home Secretary]

On the 1 July Madoc was warned that he may have shortly to receive a better class of Germans and replied saying there was no problem and that Mr Cunningham is prepared to do what is wanted - by 31st July the Lieut-Governor came to inspect a tent sent by Mr Cunningham as a sample for use of better class aliens. On the 21st August Madoc notes discusion with Cunningham over arrangements for some 130 aliens paying 10s per week extra - details to be worked out next week - to begin 1st Sept. Three days later Madoc spent a busy morning with lower camp on change of arrangements - some 270? to go to Knockaloe, presumably to make room for the privilege camp to be establed there; 4 days later on the 28 August some 357 were transferred out of the lower camp to Knockaloe and 78 'better class' arrived from Knockaloe to start the new privilege camp. There would be a choice between small shared asbestos huts or tents(possibly individual) - Madoc warns the new arrivals what life in tents might mean in winter. On the 7th September Todhunter + Elliot(a local company) started the work of opening out and wiring in the tower in the lower camp to allow its use for lavatories, which work was complete with working lavatories by the 11th - this tower during peace time served as a gate leading down a steep set of steps to Lower Switzerland and the Douglas Promenade - in the 1920s a chair lift would be installed to avoid the climb.

By the 28th September one row of huts in privilige camp was ready for occupation. Madoc also notes he most carefully worked out the necessary instructions and regulations allowing the use of beer or claret in privilege camp (in the ordinary camp alcohol was strictly prohibited) and forwarded these to the government office.

By 8th July 1916 the camp housed 464 (of whom 120 were Jewish).

The costs were quoted in a report on the costs of the Camps - who wrote

The privilege Camp at Douglas appears to be appreciated, juding from the large number of aliens who avail themselves of it. These men receive better food, better mess equipment and better sleeping accomodation. It is not possible to state the actual cost per head but it may be taken that it is 10/- per head in excess of the the average for the Camp; the payments for the privileges do not pass through the accounts, as arrangements are made direct with Mr. Cunningham to whom the Alien's money is passed.

The better sleeping accomodation is provided in small huts and tents; for 10/- a week an alien has a portion of a hut accomodating three, for 14/- he has a portion of a tent accomodating 2 and for £1 he has a tent all to himself. These apartments can be and many are, furnished by the occupants to suit their individual tastes. One Alien who paid £1 a week informed me he was well statisfied with the arrangement. I consider that the men receive value for their money.

F.L. Dunbar-Kalckreuth wrote extensively about, though how accurately is open to doubt, his stay in Douglas Privilege Camp which he joined after a few weeks at Knockaloe, on 15th November 1915, his father returned from Wandsworth Prison the following day though Dunbar seems to have avoided his company:

[p181] Our new accommodation, coming after our last miserable dump [Knockaloe], made a very friendly impression, because before the War it had been used as a holiday home for English students, but after the outbreak of the War had been leased by the English authorities for internment purposes. From the terrace, on a clear day you can see across the Irish Sea as far as Blackpool in England and also as far as the summit of Snowden, the highest mountain in Wales.

[185] (Douglas, January 1916) In the evenings, the three of us sat in the hut, around the paraffin stove, and drank blended French wine, which the enterprising Englishmen pass off as expensive Burgundy wine. ?

[186] Here, where it's always holiday or where it's always the same daily life, I find the official feast-days particularly emotionally disturbing. I'm not surprised that the men here turn to drink, and that because of this Mr. Cunningham's wine bar makes a considerable profit. ? ...

It was my misfortune to catch a beer glass, which the waiter was bringing expressly for Herr Baldur, with my overcoat when I was taking it off, swash!, off it flew, the contents spilled as far away as the Commandant, whose airdale began to bark loudly. For a minute I stood at the focus of all attention, as if I had just carried out an assassination.

However all was not pleasure especially as the U-boat campaign had begun to see the availability of food reduced:

[233](Douglas, 20th December 1916) Today it's my birthday once again. My friends were going to give me a special meal, but, as today would have it, a new order came out that all special meals had to have prior approval from the Governor of the Island, Lord Raglan. This was because the editor of the Isle of Man Times, whose editor-in-chief is a full-blood negro[incorrect], had complained that the rich Huns were stuffing themselves with food, while the galant population of the Isle of Man was being left to starve.
Von Br. brought a bottle of Palestine wine, Hörns a bottle of portwine. I have been running around all day, trying to get, for money or for good words, at least enough material together for a gugelhupf cake, i.e. five eggs, two pounds of flour, a pound of margarine, three-quarters of a pound of sugar, a pint of milk. When I had partially assembled these things and showed them to the Bohemian baker in the upper camp, he told me it wasn't enough and it was in any case too late.

TBA ...


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