At the outbreak of the Second World War there were lots of foreign nationals living in Britain and the government had to decide who was a risk and who wasn't. Their first reaction was to round up everyone from a hostile country such as Germany or Austria, and put them behind barbed wire in internment camps. These were being hurriedly constructed throughout the UK, and here on the Island they used the local boarding houses forcing the tenants to move out with barely a fortnight’s notice.
All sorts of people arrived on the Island as internees - young, old, men and women. The first ones came ashore here, at Ramsey and they were taken to the empty boarding houses on the Mooragh Promenade which were being enclosed in huge barbed wire fences with sentries posted along their length. This was the Island’s first internment camp.
It was the sight of these people coming to live in these boarding houses, which usually catered for happy holiday-makers, that really brought it home to the Manx that this was for real, and that the Island would soon be a very different place that couldn't avoid the impact of war.
The barbed wire made a striking difference to the towns. In Ramsey most of north shore road was closed off and the filled-in holes where the posts that held the barbed wire stood are still visible.
There was great resentment amongst some locals that the internees were being supplied with food and beer and generally being looked after, whilst people outside the camps had to deal with war shortages and rationing.
It was also noted that women in the camps were given an allowance of 21 shillings a day and access to golf, tennis and the swimming baths, whilst the wife of a soldier serving in the army got an allowance of only 17 shillings a day, and the Isle of Man Examiner's opinion column had other complaints as well:
‘I think you will agree that this takes the biscuit... the Commandant of an alien camp in the Island (I daren't be any more precise on account of the new censorship restrictions) has made an appeal for old tennis balls and other equipment for out-door games, parlour games and playing cards for the use of the internees in the camp. It's a pity the Commandant confined himself to "old" tennis balls. I'm sure it would be much nicer for the aliens (poor things !) to have brand new ones — they bounce ever so much better! What with sea and sun bathing, our alien guests are having the time of their lives over here, and probably they are wondering why the Government was so thoughtless as to leave them at liberty for so long.’
Follow this link to Ramsey Town Commissioners for more information on the history of the town: http://www.ramsey.gov.im/