Knockaloe Camp - Feeding Arrangements

It would appear that the original plan for Knockaloe was for each compound to have its own dining hall with food cooked in a compound kitchen, the staff and menus to be under the control of a contractor who agreed to meet the dietary set by the War Office for a fixed price. This contractor was Arthur Binns Crookall - he died 1935 leaving £30,000.

The use of a single dining hall went very early, partly I think driven by the shootings at Douglas Camp which illustrated the potential of such large gatherings to be a focus for agitation and also by the internees who expressed a willingness to eat within the living huts thus allowing the large hall to be used for recreational activities.

Government Circular No 159 dated 27 July 1915 set out the new arrangements from August 12th onwards:

Knockaloe Camp Dietary

Owing to numerous complaints having been made by Prisoners of War respecting their Food, it has been decided to discontinue the existing dietary on August 12th. On and after that date a new system of dietary will be introduced whereby each Prisoner of War will receive the following daily ration :-

Bread 18oz.
Meat (fresh or frozen) or 8oz
Meat, preserved (tinned) 4 oz
Potatoes 8 oz
Margarine 1 oz
Tea ½oz
Moist Sugar . 1 "
Milk (condensed) 1/20 of 1lb tin
Salt ½ oz
Pepper (black) 1-72 oz
Also a second vegetable twice weekly
consisting of Haricot Beans or Rice
1½ oz
Cabbage or Turnips 2 oz

The food for each Compound will be issued to the Compound daily in bulk, and the Prisoners must make arrangements to cook it themselves. All necessary cooking utensils and fuel will be supplied by the Government.

A Government Agent will be appointed to superintend the weighing and distribution of the food to the Compounds, and in future all complaints by Prisoners respecting food and all requistions for kitchen requirements should be made to him through the Compound Captain.

In view of the fact that the new dietary will deprive Prisoners of many of the items of food which they have hitherto been accustomed to have, steps will be taken to keep as large a stock of such articles as is possible on sale at the Canteens.

The Prisoners of each Compound should elect a Committee forthwith to conduct their kitchen arrangements and to appoint cooks.

By Order
B.E, Sergeaunt Government Secretary

The Government Agent or Messing Superintendent appointed to what turned out to be a rather difficult job was Joseph Garside, owner of one of the largest boarding houses on Douglas Central Promenade and in 1914 chairman of the Douglas Boarding House Association. Garside's daily diary of problems etc is one of the surviving Knockaloe documents - it exists in two forms, what appears to be the original notes, usually in pencil, and a very good typed set of pages done sometime afterwards from those notes possibly as a permanent record in case of complaints sent to the Neutral Powers.

The before mentioned Circular thus initiated the all important and powerful Kitchen Committee - it also meant that the actual meals constructed from the same basic ingredients depended heavily on the knowledge and skills of the cooks and also on whether the compound could gather additional resources from money paid for extras by the internees. Some Compounds could draw on many who had worked in, or in some cases ran, the kitchens of major Hotels - others were less fortunate in this respect and meals would be plain and very monotonous. The Kitchen staff was drawn from the internees and paid by the Government at prisoner rates not exceeding 1s per day though it would appear that other internees were expected to take an unpaid share of the menial tasks.

Within the surviving documents Garside had collected the week's menus from all compounds for the week ending 27 May 1916 and the difference between compounds can be very large. One of the sources of money for these all important additional items to relieve an otherwise monotonous diet derives from Government Circirular 167 dated 20 September 1915 which included the same dietary as in Circular 159 with the small change that Cocoa or Tea could be provided but added the following

Free Issue to each Compound

Flour 1 sack of 280 lbs daily
Onions 1 crate weekly

Where compounds accumulate ten sacks of flour application may be made to the Messing Superintendent for the flour to be purchased by the Government. A sum of £2 per sack is paid. Kitchen Committees must devote money so obtained in generally improving the dietary of the Compound.

According to Schonwalder's diary this was presaged by a copy of a letter dated 23 August posted in Camp 3 (and presumably in other Camps) from the Government Secretary noting "that in order to prevent waste the bread ration under the new dietary was reduced from 24oz to 18oz. In most compounds 18oz of bread per man appears to suffice, but in one or two there appear to be complaints that this quantity is inadequate. It has therefore been decided, that in and after Aug 30th one sack of flour per diem shall be issued free to each compound ..."

This dietary was changed by Government Circular 244 dated 13 November 1916 :

Bread 18oz.
Meat (fresh or frozen) or 8oz
Meat, preserved (tinned) 4 oz
Fresh Vegatables 8 oz
Margarine 1 oz
Tea or Cocoa or ½oz
Coffee 1 oz
Moist Sugar . 1 "
Milk (condensed) 1/20 of 1lb tin
Salt ½ oz
Pepper (black) 1-72 oz
Peas, beans or rice (twice weekly 2 oz
Free Issue to each Compound

Flour 1 sack of 280 lbs daily
Oatmeal 4 sacks of 180lbs weekly
Syrup 1 cask of 3½ cwt weekly
Onions 1 crate weekly

Where compounds accumulate ten sacks of flour application may be made to the Messing Superintendent for the flour to be purchased by the Government. A sum of 50s per sack is paid.
Kitchen Committees must devote money so obtained in generally improving the dietary of the Compound.

This new Dietary will operate after November 20, 1915

However complaints still came in, Schonwalder in his diary entry 25 August 1916 less that 2 weeks post transfer from Handforth suggests that "The chief feature here seems to be to keep you short of food and ordering you about.", on the 1st of September he noted that "1 doz men from our Compound [Camp 3 Compound 5] had to go before the Commander because they put in their letter about not getting enough to eat & were threatened with punishment should it occur again." .A more serious response and based on scientific principles came from Camp 1 in a complaint dated 31st March 1916 to the Sub-commandant they stated;

We regret to have to state, after 7 months' experience, that the question of our food supply is as yet far from satisfactory. The lack of Vegetables and Change impair the health of the Camp and form a source of discontent.
We have stated the conditions and formulated a request in the enclosed "Reasons for Request of Grant of dry Vegatables, and exchange of Articles of Food at equivalent [calorific] Values" and should be greatly obliged if you pass the document on to the Authorities through the proper Channels and give us your support in this matter which is of great concern for the welfare of the Camp.
We beg to point out that our request is not extraordinary. The Dietary in English Camps such as Lancaster, Dorchester, Handforth, included in their later stages, 2 oz of Dry Vegetables per man per day, and every facility in regard to exchange was accorded.
If our request could be granted we could see our way through and shall have all good elements on our side.
In the conviction that the conditions and the remedy apply to all Camps alike, and that a unifirm solution of the problem might be desireable to the Authorities, we beg to suggest that Kitchen Committees of other Camps are notified of the request, and beg to enclose the respective Copies and accompanying letters.

Signed by the chaimen of all 6 Compound Kitchen Committees of Camp 1.

The referenced Document states:

The quantity of vegatables - apart from potatoes - supplied by I.o.M. Government is insignificant; Dry Vegetables are not now supplied.
With bread and margarine, night and morning, the men look for a solid midday meal.
Potatoes and Frozen Meat do not satisfy the craving the system for the Nourishing Salts of Vegetables, and for Change, so important for food assimilation. Nor do men used to heavy work, and the many youths in a growing age, appear to be satisfied by the protein offered by the midday meal in its present composition.
There is persistent quest for Pulses (Peas, Beans, Lentils), to which the men are accustomed since youth and which combine the supplies of the various needs; and for more Fresh Vegetables.
Men try to satisfy their craving by eating bread between meals, and we supply dumplings at dinner, At night, frquently no more bread is available and some find no sleep for long, through being hungry.
In this way the system has to assimilate what under such conditions it should not have and remains without what it needs and is craving for.
The result of this defect is, on the one hand, malnutrition with, often considerble, loss of weight, or exciteability or depression; on the other, an accumulation of poisonous waste products in the blood often producing Itch, Pimples, Boils, in some case to such an extent as to necessitate Hospital treatment.


In our attempts to diminish these evils we have, first of all, cultivated the principle of change for its stimulating effect upon digestion and the nervous system. Making use of the facility accorded by I.o.M. Government we sold part of the flour we receive in place of part bread and bought, instead, Yeast for Bakery purposes, Soup Herbs etc., and now and then Dry Vegetables.
But this - good as it was - was only like a drop on a hot stone.
Kitchen Committee, then, took in hand the sale to those who have money to spend of fats, cake, coffee etc. and out of the profits bought cabbage, potatoes etc. for Compound Meals.
But the possible means are not nearly sufficient to cover the demand for Pulses and other Vegetables.
We have amongst us many men of delicate digestion, old men, men used to very different food requirements but deprived of their former means to supply them. There are requests for possidge, additions to bread, or fruit in some form, etc.
In consideration of the afore conditions, and with regard to a straight and simple way for the I.o.M. Government of meeting the emergency we have formulated our request as follows:

1) To be supplied, in addition to the stipulated quantities of meat and potatoes for our midday meal , with 2 oz per man and per day of dry vegetables especially Peas, Beans and Lentils.
2) To be granted the opportunity of equivalent exchange of articles of food supplied by Government as, for inst., a quantity of flour into its equivalent of Oatmeal, Milk, Cabbage.


Come 1917 and the shortage of food brought about by U-boat activity started to bite into the dietary - on 27 Jan 1917 (Gov Circular 264) stated that from 12th Feb on Sundays 12oz of salt-cured herring or 12oz of dried salt codfish may be substituted for 8oz of meat. Government Circular 283 dated the 2nd March to come into force just 3 days later cut the bread ration to 8 oz per day, the meat ration to 6oz (3oz if tinned) on 5 days a week, with salted fish on 2 days and the potatoes down to 4oz per day.

This salted fish need to be well soaked for some considerable time to remove the salt in order to make it palatable - empty tins used originally for meat were pressed into use.

The potato ration was removed in its entirity 10 days later as there is a pencilled note by Garside on his copy of the circular that potatoes must be discontinued and 8oz of turnips or other vegetables added (one other vegetable supplied was Mangel-wurzels generally fed to cattle and almost uniformly refused by the compound kitchens). There was an implicit admission that this was insufficient for a working man as those in a working party outside of the camp were to be paid an extra 2d per day to spend on food from the Canteen. A small reduction in the daily fresh vegetables to 10oz (still no potatoes though) was seen in Government Circular 297 dated 13 April which, as a confirmation that 2d extra per day could not buy sufficient additional food, allowed those prisoners employed on authorized work to get 4oz of bread and 1oz of cheese daily.

Changes to the dietary became very frequent - on 28 April the dry vegetables were raised from 2 to 3oz per day but the fresh vegetable or fruit (rhubarb was mentioned) were reduced to 4oz and could be substituted by rice. By 28 May 1917 the dry vegetables were back down to 2oz but with a 4oz of rice (+ a further 2oz if no fresh vegetables). Potatoes were slowly re-added as by 2 July 4oz of potoes were added which was increased to 6oz by 25th July, the next circular came a week later and brought the dry vegetables back to 3oz and upped the potatoes to 8 oz - however dried biscuits (?= to ships biscuits) started to appear as an addition to the workers extra allowance. Three weeks later the workers additional bread was halved and biscuit substituted, with the dry vegetables reduced down to 1oz though with the potato crop now in this had been increased to 16oz..

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