Manx Museum Explores History Of WWII Women Internees

By Graham Spicer | 22 August 2005
Shows a black and white photo of a group of eight women and two small children sat on the steps leading up to the entrance of a house

Internees mingling with young boarding house keepers. More than 4,000 women and children were interned on the Isle of Man during World War Two. Courtesy Manx Museum

A little-known aspect of wartime history is explored in a new display at Douglas’ Manx Museum on the Isle of Man.

The exhibition, From Paying Guests To Prisoners, traces the story of the internment of women on the island from 1940 to 1945 and runs until December 2006. More than 4,000 women and children were interned on the island during the Second World War.

Shows a black and white archive photo from the 1940s of three smartly dressed young women standing outside with a row of houses in the background

Female internees at Port Erin. Other women were held at Port St Mary. Courtesy Manx Museum

Manx National Heritage Archivist Wendy Thirkettle explained: “Internment was introduced by the British Government as a means of controlling the perceived threat of enemies within the state who might spy for, or have allegiance to, Germany and its allies, and later Japan."

“For the women who held the wrong citizenship or credentials in the spring of 1940 and the months which followed it meant an enforced stay of up to five years on the Isle of Man.”

Shows a colored drawing of hills and fields behind a wire fence

Exhibits include this depiction of the Manx countryside drawn during captivity by an internee. Courtesy Manx Museum

The experiences of the internees are included, as well as archive material focusing on other people involved in the process, with photographs and documents from a Camp Commandant and a Methodist Minister. It also examines the transformation of the boarding houses and hotels in Port Erin and Port St Mary used to accommodate the women, married couples and families.

“The programme has attracted ex-internees who will be returning to their enforced island home,” added Wendy.

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