Knockaloe Camp - YMCA Pavilion + other entertainments

This pavilion was established just to the north of the camp on the low side of the Knockaloe-beg farm road - it would seem to be a large wooden building raised above the damp ground as at one time an escaped prisoner managed to hide underneath it. The informal opening was described in detail in the Peel City Guardian of 12 November 1915:

An Excellent Start

The lack of amusements, and a suitable place for having free and easy concerts, games, etc., and a place for writing and reading, and light refreshments within easy reach has been felt by the soldiers who guard the Aliens at Knockaloe Camp. An effort to do something in this way was made in the provision of the Soldiers' Home [in Peel], but this was too far from the Camp to be of much service, though it has been largely used by a number of men. The want has now been most effectively met by the Young Men's Christian Association, which has always spared no effort to cater for the wants of our soldiers. The association has gone to considerable expense to to provide accommodation to brighten the lives of the Knockaloe Guard. They have built a large and cheery-looking room in the field adjoining the Camp in which there is seating accommodation for over 600 men. There is an excellent full-sized billiard table, reading and writing tables and tables for games. There is also a piano, and it is expected there will be frequent entertainments. In addition to the entertainments, lectures will be arranged, Bible classes formed, and on Sunday evenings free and easy sing-song services. Light refreshments are provided at moderate charges, and there is a savings bank and a post office for the sale of stamps, postal orders, etc., while writing material is provided free. In fact there is everything to help the men to have a happy and profitable time when off duty. Mr Hall is leader, and he is assisted by Mr Haughton and Mr Scott, while Mrs Laughton has organised a Ladies Committee.

There was an informal opening of the building on Monday evening , and if the attendance at the opening is any criterion, it augers well for the success of the undertaking, and the Association will be able to congratulate itself on having undertaken a much needed and good work. There was also a good attendance of officers for the opening, which in the absence of Lieut.-Col Carpendale through illness, was performed by Capt Smith-Cleburn

Capt. Smith-Cleburn said that in making the opening statement he felt in a very queer position. He was not there to open the Hall, because the formal opening was to be done at a later date, he being at present very ill in London. Col. Carpendale had intended being present that evening, and at his request he had got the ladies to attend and make an informal opening. But on the previous day he had taken ill, and although his illness was not likely to be of long duration, yet it was serious enough to keep him away that night. Capt. Graham Taylor, who was also to have been present, was also laid up. He would like to say one or two words about the Association who had themselves come forward and built and fitted up that magnificent hall. They could not get very much amusements in Peel, and here they would have all the amusements they wanted, at their own doorstep. They should be very thankful to the Y.M.C.A. for providing this building. Those of them who had experience as soldiers - and there were many - would know how largely the YMCA was patronised by soldiers wherever they were put up, and he hoped this branch would be very successful. The Hall was equipped with writing material, postcards, etc., and here they had gone to the expense of providing a billiard table. They would all join with him in thanking the YMCA for what they had done. He would now declare the hall open, pending his Excellency's return to Knockaloe (loud applause). ...

The mention of free postcards would explain the various postcards from the Tuck oilette series carrying the Y.MC.A logo in the top right hand corner - similar local cards were produced for Y.M.C.A. huts at other Military Camps in the UK.

The Pavilion was still hosting entertainment for the troops and also any locals in early February 1919 as the Peel City Guardian [8 February 1919] reported on a concert given by P.C.Moorei's concert party to a full house with a repeat planned. The manager was noted as a Mr Smith.

There must have been an earlier suitable hall in or near the camp suitable for entertainment as the Peel City Guardian of 4 September 1915 reports that on Friday [10th September] the Frivolities - a troupe appearing at Peel's Albert Hall - again give a performance to the Tommies at the Knockaloe Camp, where they have appeared for the last three Friday evenings.

Soldiers' Home

A Soldiers' Home had been established in Douglas in April 1915 conveniently situated not far from Cunningham's Camp.

There was one in Peel though comments made above suggest this was really too far from the camp - a brief description was given by a Mrs Leatham at a fund raising drawing-room meeting at the Hydro Port Erin at which she stated that two rooms had been opened, one fitted up as a writing room and was much patronised and the second as a recreation room for which she would be glad to receive magazines and games. She also stated that short services are held periodically at the request of the men. However as yet I have been unable to determine its actual location..

The Soldiers' Home in Peel would appear to have closed in June 1917 as the Peel City Guardian 23 June 1917 noted:

The Committee of the Soldiers' Home, having been displaced by the claims of a more important work, have to seek a new location for carrying on their beneficent labour. We might suggest the old parish church as a suitable building ...


Public Houses

There had been a significant minority on the Island opposed to the 'drink trade' and in favour of temperance - based in the main part around the Primitive Methodists and also the Salvation Army - Sunday opening of public houses was severely restricted outside of the holiday season though 'bona-fide' travellers could be served. The public houses in Foxdale were just far enough away from Knockaloe to allow soldiers to count as such travellers. The all-embracing DORA or Defence of the Realm Act passed by Westminster and extended to the Isle of Man restricted access by soldier to alcohol in that no soldier was to be served alcohol before 12 noon or after 8 p.m. unless in possession of a permit from the Government Office. This also applied to soldiers who were on leave, who were also required to be in uniform at all times when in public places, - Mona's Herald 14 May 1915 reports the prosecution of a landlady for serving a soldier who had an English rather than Manx issued permit.

At the annual Licensing Court 1915, reported in Peel City Guardian 4 March 1915, there is a comment by Inspector Shimmin that the Foxdale Inn was supplying members of the King's National Guard on Sundays and that two or three such soldiers had annoyed a lot of people in the village and one had lost his hat through having too much drink. A Government decree placed the Inn out of bounds for soldiers.

Another war-time regulation passed by Westminster was the Intoxicating Liquor Temporary Restrictions Act that allow further local restrictions on the opening hours of public houses and also the sale of alcohol to members of the armed forces or workers in munitions factories etc. This was extended by an Order in Council to the Island but its operation was subject to implementation by the local Military Authority which for the Island was the Lieut.-Governor Lord Raglan.. Until the establishment of the camps and the need for guards there had been few if any resident troops on the Island but suddenly Peel in particular saw a large influx of troops, together with some dependent wives, mostly drawn from the Liverpool area. On 21st December 1914 there was a public meeting in the Wesleyan Methodist Centenary Hall in Peel, reported in Peel City Guardian 16 December 1914, that called upon Lord Raglan to bring the Act into force - one speaker mentioned reports of excessive drinking by these English soldiers in Douglas and also in Peel and cited that public houses which at this period of the year had hardly a customer, now were ever-crowded, and even soldiers complained that they were so crowded that one could not get to the bar for a drink. Madoc in his daily log for Douglas Camp is scathing in his opinion of the first batch of reservist troops sent over - on 20 Feb 1915 he includes very strong criticism of No 12 Co. National Reserve men - a blind drunk sergeant of the guard - "appear to be lowest class of dock labourer" - the previous day had seen the court martial of 2 NCOs for taking a prisoner into a public house.

The Act was brought into operation late in 1915

Knockaloe Detention Camp - Earlier Closing of adjacent Public-Houses

The Lieut.-Governor , as Competent Military Authority, has issued an order (Government circular No. 169), dated the 12th October, 1915, under the Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Regulations, 1914, requiring all premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor and situated within a radius of four miles of Patrick Parish Church, to be closed to all members of his Majesty's forces except between the hours of 12 noon and 7 p.m. The holder of a license in respect of any such premises who fails to comply with the order is guilty of an offence under the Defence of the Realm(consolidation) Regulations, 1914.


Other Attractions for the Troops

Previous sections cover the supply of 'wine' and 'song - the third common requirement 'women' was also available - e.g. Mona's Herald 13 June 1917 covers the prosecution of Jane Crellin and Alice Kelly, two women well known to the police, charged with offences against the public morals as they were seen accosting soldiers and continually hanging around street corners - Jane had 23 previous convictions and was subject to an order made under Military Regulations to reside at least 4 miles outside of Peel. However the maximum fine was 40s fine or one month in prison - Jane on being again sentenced when the Receiver General acting as magistrate remarked he wished he could make it 6 months, asked "Can I have six weeks?".

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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
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