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Douglas Camp carved wooden picture frame

Date made: 1915

Description: This wooden picture frame carved by a prisoner in the Douglas Aliens Internment Camp carries the dates 1914-15 and shows the tents which made up the camp. Douglas Camp was in fact the Cunninghams Young Men’s Holiday Camp, requisitioned by the War Office for the purpose of holding prisoners. However the tented accommodation proved unsuitable in winter, and this along with overcrowding provoked a riot in December 1914. Conditions eased when the purpose built Knockaloe Camp was opened at Peel in the following year.

A rectangular wooden picture frame, handcarved in bas relief with the details hand drawn in black ink. The circular picture frame is in the shape of a life belt with the incised inscription 'Alien's Camp Douglas 1914-1915'. The lifebelt appears to be suspended from a ribbon and is surrounded by garlanded ribbons with decorations, these may be Christmas decorations. The scene beneath the lifebelt is of a view of the bell tents with the town of Douglas, the Tower of Refuge, Douglas Head lighthouse and a ship in the background. The picture frame is glazed and originally had a hinged stand at the back so the picture frame could be stood upright on a shelf. The back panel is held in place by wooden clips.

On the back panel there is a handprinted paper label with the inscription 'Prisoners of War Art ... Douglas, I.o.M. 1915'. and a drawing of a helmet with wings on the side.


During the First World War (1914-1918) the Isle of Man was used as an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. They were held in two camps, a requisitioned holiday camp in Douglas and a purpose built camp located at Knockaloe near Peel on the west coast of the Island. These held at their peaks over 4,000 and 23,000 men in some cases for nearly five years between opening in 1914 and final closure in 1919. Over 30,000 men passed through Knockaloe between 1914 and 1917, more than the population of Douglas. Other historic names referring to the camp include Knockaloe P.O.W. Camp, Knockaloe Prisoner of War Camp and Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp. The confinement of the prisoners led to specific behavioural issues known as ‘barbed wire disease’. Receiving its name from the aimless promenading of inmates up and down the barbed-wire boundary, other symptoms included moroseness and avoidance of others. It was decided that providing practical stimulation would help. The Friends’ Emergency Committee (a Quaker organisation) based in Great Britain was invited to the Island from 1915 onwards with the aim of providing books, tools, equipment and materials for the inmates to work and establish workshops.

Measurements: overall: 24.5 x 19 cm

Materials: glass, steel, wood

Object name: picture frame

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: 1995-0085



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