The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War

By Panikos Panayi | Go to book overview

4
The Experience of Internment

The confinement of adult men within camps and away from their families, for periods of perhaps four years and more, proved a distressing experience, leading in some instances to insanity. This chapter attempts to provide details about life behind barbed wire; it begins with a general survey of the various places of internment, which looks at their administration, and then moves on to deal with the conditions within them, emphasising food, work, leisure and health.

The question of camp administration is extremely complex because it was highly chaotic and random. While the Home Office controlled some establishments with little help from other government departments, it looked after others in co-operation with the War Office. In addition, the latter had full responsibility for all camps which held military prisoners as well as for some which contained only civilian internees. Furthermore, most of the camps had their own internal administration controlled by the inmates. The best way of dealing with this subject is by looking at the various civilian camps individually or in groups.1

Little information survives about the earliest of the internment camps. The available material suggests that the War Office, through its Directorate of Prisoners of War, headed by Lieutenant General Herbert Belfield, held responsibility for both the requisition of buildings and sites, and their administration.2 The camp at Olympia became one of the first places to receive internees whose numbers included a wide range of people, from merchant sailors, who had been brought ashore from German, Austrian and British ships, to tourists and permanent residents of London. It acted as 'a

____________________
1
The question of military prisoners of war is quite separate and far larger. Hampden Gordon, The War Office ( London, 1935), p. 313, states that there were over 500 camps in Britain at one stage and that the 'greatest number of prisoners interned by the British at any one time in the United Kingdom, France, Egypt, India and other countries was just over 500,000'. Only a small percentage would have been civilians. But, despite this, no War Office records relating to military prisoners have survived.
2
PRO H045 10760/269116/8.

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The Enemy in Our Midst: Germans in Britain during the First World War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations Used in References x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • 1 - The Victorian and Edwardian Background 9
  • Part I - The Official Reaction 43
  • 2 - Measures Against Enemy Aliens 45
  • 3 - Internment and Repatriation 70
  • 4 - The Experience of Internment 99
  • 5 - Measures Against German Business Interests 132
  • Part II - The Popular Reaction 151
  • 6 - Anti-German Sentiment: Spy-Fever, Anti-Alienism and the Hidden Hand 153
  • 7 - Anti-German Manifestations: Witch-Hunts, Boycotts and Movements 184
  • 8 - Anti-German Riots 223
  • 9 - Support for Enemy Aliens 259
  • Part III - Conclusion 281
  • Conclusion 283
  • Bibliography 292
  • Index 303
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