Original Imperial German WWI Isle of Man Knockaloe Internment Camp Trench Art Bone Carving

Item Description

 Original Item: One-of-a-kind. On 5 August 1914, the day after World War I broke out, the British Government passed the Aliens Restrictions Act, whereby the British Government could control the movement of “enemy aliens”. General internment of all Germans of military age began in May 1915 following the sinking of the “Lusitania”.

Creating the bone carvings such as this example, was one of the ways in which the men passed their time at the camp and each bone, or carved pair of bones, are individual and unique.

Internees had to use whatever materials were readily available. Every week beef was sent to the camp to feed the 23,000 men. The remaining bones, left over from the cook houses, were one such material.

This example appears to have been made out of a beef bone, as mentioned before, every week beef was sent to the camp. The carvings stands at 9” tall and the base is approximately 3” across. The carving features a Rose flower and leaves while the other side is a horseshoe with the words:


This is a very beautiful work of art, but unfortunately has a horizontal crack through the words, but it does not take away from the beauty. The carvings are just incredible and very precisely done.

The men who lived at Knockaloe during the First World War were interned for up to five years in barbed wire compounds, with about 1,000 men in each compound. The men slept in huts with up to 200 men to a hut, either on bunks or wooden beds moved into place each evening. One internee, Paul Cohen-Portheim, later described the difficulties of internment and highlighted the impact of never being alone.

Lack of meaningful occupation and a sense of helplessness was a serious issue, and it did not take long before many started to become ill with a form of depression which became known as ’Barbed Wire Disease’ or ’Barbed Wire Sickness’, so named by Dr Adolf Lukas Vischer, a Swiss doctor working in both German and British camps at that time. The authorities realized that, in order to prevent the men from becoming ill, they needed to be kept occupied.

With the approval of the UK Home Office, assistance was provided by the Quaker Friends Emergency Committee to the men interned in camps in the British Isles, together with their wives and families, many of whom were becoming destitute, with similar help also provided to the British internees and families in Germany.

Quaker James Bailey was sent to the Isle of Man and was fundamental in the development of industries and activities for the internees. He arranged for tools and equipment to be sent to the camp so the men could create artifacts both for industry and occupation.
Some were made for the internees’ families, some as gifts for the guards but many were made to sell, both to other internees but also in England, Germany, Scandinavia and America, so that the internees could buy extra provisions at the camp shop or to allow money to be sent home to their families.

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