Why do we know so little

Photo Credit: Mannin Collections Archive

Panikos Panayi, Professor of European History at De Montfort University, Leicester, writes that “While former German prisoners held on to their memories after the war, Britons quickly forgot about them, focusing instead upon the former internees of Ruhleben and the other German camps. The popular Germanophobia of the Great War, which had resulted in mass deportation of German civilians at the end of the conflict, would survive well beyond 1918. One of the few Britons who tried to preserve the experiences of German internees was the Manx writer Hall Caine (1853-1931), who published The Woman of Knockaloe in 1923.” 

Searching the internet, despite many postings on genealogy/family history sites of individuals seeking information about relatives interned in the camp, there is little information available and certainly no overall central database of what is currently known. It would appear that very few records of individual internees survived from the First World War, however there are some lists held at the UK National Archives. According to the National Archives' catalogue, however, these records have not been digitised and cannot be downloaded and would need work to bring onto a central digital database. Interest in the centenary of the First World War surrounds us and is leading to increased interest in this area and it is an appropriate time for the Island to develop the definitive central record of these temporary residents on its shores over that period, and the life they experienced here, both for individuals wanting to visit Knockaloe and for those wanting to search for this information on-line from off Island.

As the central location for the Knockaloe Visitors Centre, Patrick Schoolrooms then becomes the ideal solution to house a central record/database for those searching for details of relatives who temporarily lived on the Island, either by visiting the Island and the Knockaloe site, or online. This can then become part of the computer linked aspects of the Visitors Centre allowing visitors (in particular school children) with ipads, smart phones and similar devices to link into areas of the website for further information or to teaching resources whilst going around the Visitors Centre.