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German Prisoners of War / Internees. 1914 / 1919.

    • German Aliens Act 1914. Background History.

      • In the United Kingdom, the Aliens Registration Act was introduced on 5th August 1914. This and subsequent legislation required that enemy aliens of military age should be interned and others repatriated. The legislation required thousands of enemy aliens who were living and working in the United Kingdom to register with their local police station. People had to supply personal and employment details. From 28 November, it was decreed that everybody (British or foreign) must register with the police when moving into hotels or boarding houses. Internment camps (in addition to prisoner of war camps) began to be set up across the United Kingdom in a variety of locations, including an old wagon factory at Lancaster, the racecourse at Newbury, in London at Alexandra Palace and Islington, and other makeshift camps such as York and Frimley, and also internment ships moored at Southend, Portsmouth, and elsewhere. A number of these were unsatisfactory, and the bulk of the internees came to be housed on the Isle of Man, at Knockaloe and a smaller camp at Douglas. The alien civilian camp at Knockaloe, near Peel, was originally intended to house 5,000 internees, but by the end of the war some 24,500 were held there (effectively over half of the island’s population), in wooden huts covering 22 acres split into 23 compounds divided between four camps each of which had its own hospital, theatre, etc. The wealthier men were allowed to live together in a special camp at Lofthouse Park near Wakefield in Yorkshire and in ‘privileged’ sections of other camps (for this they paid the Government a weekly sum, and in addition they were able to add many improvements to the official quarters provided). Officers were held at Donington Hall, a former stately home near Derby.

      • In Germany, on 5 November 1914, all British males within Germany became subject to internment. These individuals came from all aspects of society, and included merchant seamen, individuals from the professional classes and business community, as well as academics, students, sportsmen and even travellers and holidaymakers. A racecourse near Berlin named Ruhleben became the principal prison camp for the men, who were then interned en mass. During the First World War the camp at Ruhleben had over 4,000 internees.

The Prisoners of War Department, which became virtually independent in October 1916, was wound-up in 1919

  1. Amy permalink

    Trying to find information on my Great great grandfather Richard William Smith, came to England from Berlin and was held here 1914-1919.

    • archman1 permalink

      Hi, its very difficult to find out who was held where, the main depository is the Red Cross in Geneva, they do hold a list of prisoners in camps in the UK, but its not complete.Why was he held here ?

  2. baerbelh permalink

    What happened to the German civilians which where on the prison ships “Royal Edward” and “Saxionia” in Southend-on-Sea until May or June 1915? Were they send to the Isle of Man afterwards?

    A brother of my great-grandfather that worked in England when the war broke out is on the list of the enemy aliens at Southend. He was interned until the end of the war and returned to Germany after the war.

    • Hi

      There was a fair bit of movement between camps based on available space and the various points in the war – including a period of releasing initially interned detained aliens before May 1915 – others went from the ships to Alexandra Palace – some stayed there but many ultimately came to the Isle of Man as its expansion developed. We would be delighted to learn about what you know about his experience and we will be able to help you find out more about where he went – please would you email and we can send out our questionnaire which will give us enough information to take this further for you.

  3. We would be happy to help. We are a registered charity set up in the Isle of Man seeking to reinstate the lost archives of the men interned in Knockaloe, Patrick Village in the Isle of Man and we have now extended this to provide help with any aliens interned in the British Isles, given the considerable movement between camps. Have a look at our website for details. We will search all available records for you and continue to update you as we add new sources and information to our archive. Email details are :

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