PoW Camp Summary WW I
Many people think of Prisoner of War (PoW) camps as being a feature of World War II, but there were almost as many in World War I. Although the laws of war stated that prisoners could not be used in war work, this nevertheless happened, and Bandeath Munitions Depot is one such example, constructed around 1916 using labour from a camp on the site.
In contrast to World War II camps, those in 1914-18 were not numbered.
At the start of World War I the camps held mainly civilian internees. The few combatants there were at this time were put into separate compounds within the same camps, with Officers held separately from the lower ranks. Interned merchant seamen were classed as civilians.
Several factors had the effect of changing how they were held. The death of British nurse Edith Cavell, who was tried by a German court-martial in Brussels on a charge of harbouring Allied soldiers, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Cavell had indeed helped hundreds of Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands, in violation of German military law. Her death was skilfully used by the British authorities of the day to boost the recruitment of soldiers at a time when there was no conscription. The sinking of the Lusitania resulted in more civilians seeking internment. The majority of the civilians then went to the Isle of Man, which was used for internment of those from the Central Powers; countries opposed to the Allies during World War I. The Central Powers powers comprised Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria.
When the civilians went to the Isle of Man the camps on the mainland were then filled by combatant PoWs. Senior ranks were not obliged to do manual work, but a change in British policy then expected the lower ranks to work outside of their camps. These new camps were administered geographically in a pyramid system.
Camps were identified by a unique code by the Prisoners of War Information Bureau. The first part of the code identified the administrative camp. The second part identified the Agricultural Depot or Working Gang. Some agricultural Depots had yet another layer of satellite camps attached. Camps in Scotland mirrored camps set up in other parts of the UK. All Scottish camps were administered from Stobs Camp.
When the war began there were no ready made facilities ready to intern aliens. The introduction of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) meant disused factories, country houses, and private schools were brought on line. Some were very short lived as better facilities became available. Late in the war, farmers were able to have small groups living on their farms. In the better weather many camps consisted of tents.
Few tangible remains can be seen today, although there are exceptions like Inverarish on Raasay.
Hospitals were likely to have had wards (or even entire wings) placed under guard for the treatment of prisoners.
The following list was compiled from three sources:
- The Prisoner of War Information Bureau List of Places of Internment, 1919
- Prisoner of War and Internment Camp 1914-20 Project, Nic Nicol
The major concerns with the first source is that it lists ALL PoW camps throughout the British Empire in alphabetical order, which created a major headache when compiling this list, and that it is only a snapshot of the situation in 1919. There are no dates for any camps, so those established earlier in the war may be missing altogether. Nicol's research is more comprehensive, while RCAHMS has only two entries for the period.
It is known that at least ten prison ships were used in World War I. These consisted of two groups: the Leigh Squadron, based in the Thames Estuary off Southend; and the Solent Squadron, situated of Ryde and Gosport. Another two ships based in Hull docks were also used as temporary accommodation. No ships appear to have been used in Scotland. They proved costly to use and were very controversial.
Each row in the table below may have one or two links. The first is for the site, and will open a marker at the camp's location on the map at the foot of the page. The second will jump to our page relating to the camp, if we have one.
Once the link to a marker is activated, the superscript Map jump can be used to jump down to the map. Clicking on the name in the open marker window will jump back the list.
Several of the towns and villages in Scotland would again see prison camps constructed from 1939 onwards. Amongst them, Comrie and Stuartfield.
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