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Letter opener made by an internee in Knockaloe Camp

Date made: 1917

Description: A letter opener carved by an internee at Knockaloe Camp. The blade part of the opener was destroyed by the donor's dog which chewed it off, but the handle has an intricately carved depiction of the huts of Knockaloe with on the opposite side "Isle of Man 1914-1917". The handle is topped with a carved Manx cat.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the Isle of Man was used as an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. Its biggest camp was known as Knockaloe Camp, Patrick, situated in the west of the Island (other historic names referring to the camp include Knockaloe P.O.W. Camp, Knockaloe Prisoner of War Camp and Knockaloe Alien Detention Camp.) Originally designed for 5,000 people, at its peak it housed up to 23,000 men and as many as 30,000 men may have been interned in total. 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.

Materials: wood

Object name: letter opener

Collection: Social History Collection

ID Number: 2010-0284



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