Concentration Camps of the United Kingdom

It wasn’t only the Nazi and the Russians who used Concentration Camps to hold prisoners throug out the ages. The British used a number of places in their colonies where they held prisoners in dreadful conditions and no doubt using torture in some of these places. Below you will find some destinations used by the United Kingdom – aka Can these be seen as Concentration Camps?

Bermuda
During the Second Boer War, several small islands in Bermuda’s Great Sound were used as natural concentration camps, despite protest from the local government. 4,619 Boers was interned on these islands, compared to Bermuda’s total population of around 17,000; at least 34 Boers are known to have not survived the transit to Bermuda.

Channel Islands
Alderney in the Channel Islands was the only place in the British Isles where German concentration camps were established during the Occupation of the Channel Islands. In January 1942, the occupying German forces established four camps, called Helgoland, Norderney, Borkum and Sylt (after the German North Sea islands), where captive Russians and other east Europeans were used as slave labour to build Atlantic Wall defences on the island. Around 460 prisoners died in the Alderney camps.

Cyprus

After World War II, British efforts to prevent Jewish emigration into their Palestine Mandate led to the construction of internment camps in Cyprus where up to 30,000 Holocaust survivors were held at any one time to prevent their entry into the country. They were released in February 1949 after the founding of Israel.

Isle of Man
During World War I the British government interned male citizens of the Central Powers, principally Germany, Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey. They were held mainly in internment camps at Knockaloe, close to Peel, and a smaller one near Douglas.

During World War II, about 8,000 people were interned in Britain, many being held in the same camps at Knockaloe and Douglas on the Isle of Man. The internees included enemy aliens from the Axis Powers, principally Germany and Italy.

Initially, refugees who had fled from Germany were also included, as were suspected British Nazi sympathisers such as British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley. The British government rounded up 74,000 German, Austrian and Italian aliens. Within 6 months the 112 alien tribunals had individually summoned and examined 64,000 aliens, and the vast majority were released, having been found to be “friendly aliens” (mostly Jews); examples include Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold and later members of the Amadeus Quartet. British nationals were detained under Defence Regulation 18B. Eventually only 2,000 of the remainder were interned. Initially they were shipped overseas, but that was halted when a German U boat sank the SS Arandora Star in July 1940 with the loss of 800 internees, though this was not the first loss that had occurred. The last internees were released late in 1945, though many were released in 1942. In Britain, internees were housed in camps and prisons. Some camps had tents rather than buildings with internees sleeping directly on the ground. Men and women were separated and most contact with the outside world was denied. A number of prominent Britons including writer H. G. Wells campaigned against the internment of refugees.

Kenya
During the 1954-60 Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, camps were established to hold suspected rebels. It is unclear how many were held but estimates range up to 1.5 million – or practically the entire Kikuyu population. Between 130,000 and 300,000 are thought to have died as a result. Maltreatment is said to have included torture and summary executions. In addition as many as a million members of the Kikuyu tribe were subjected to ethnic cleansing.

Northern Ireland

During the Anglo-Irish War, 12,000 Irishmen were held without trial.

One of the most famous example of modern internment—and one which made world headlines—occurred in Northern Ireland in 1971, when hundreds of nationalists and republicans were arrested by the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the orders of the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Brian Faulkner, with the backing of the British government. Historians generally view that period of internment as inflaming sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland while failing in its stated aim of arresting members of the paramilitary Provisional IRA, because many of the people arrested were completely unconnected with that organisation but had had their names appear on the list of those to be interned through bungling and incompetence, and over 100 IRA men escaped arrest. The backlash against internment and its bungled application contributed to the decision of the British government under Prime Minister Edward Heath to suspend the Stormont governmental system in Northern Ireland and replace it with direct rule from London, under the authority of a British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

From 1971 internment began, beginning with the arrest of 342 suspected republican guerrillas and paramilitary members on August 9. They were held at HM Prison Maze. By 1972, 924 men were interned. Serious rioting ensued, and 23 people died in three days. The British government attempted to show some balance by arresting some loyalist paramilitaries later, but out of the 1,981 men interned, only 107 were loyalists. Internment was ended in 1975, but had resulted in increased support for the IRA and created political tensions which culminated in the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike and the death of Bobby Sands MP. The imprisonment of people under anti-terrorism laws specific to Northern Ireland continued until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, but these laws required the right to a fair trial be respected. However non-jury Diplock courts tried paramilitary-related trials, to prevent jury intimidation.

Many of those interned were held in a detention facility located at RAF Long Kesh military base, later known as the Maze Prison outside Belfast. Internment had previously been used as a means of repressing the Irish Republican Army. It was used between 1939 – 1945 and 1956 – 1962. On all these occasions, internment has had a somewhat limited success.

South Africa

Lizzie van Zyl, shortly before her death in Bloemfontein Concentration CampThe term concentration camp was first used by the British military during the Boer War (1899-1902). Facing attack by Boer guerrillas, British forces rounded up the Boer women and children as well as black people living on Boer land, and sent them to 34 tented camps scattered around South Africa. This was done as part of a scorched earth policy to deny the boer guerrillas access to the supplies of food and clothing they needed to continue the war.

The camps were situated at Aliwal North, Balmoral, Barberton, Belfast, Bethulie, Bloemfontein, Brandfort, East London, Heidelberg, Heilbron, Howick, Irene, Kimberley, Klerksdorp, Kroonstad, Krugersdorp, Merebank, Middelburg, Norvalspont, Nylstroom, Pietermaritzburg, Pietersburg, Pinetown, Port Elizabeth, Potchefstroom, Springfontein, Standerton, Turffontein, Vereeniging, Volksrust, Vredefort, Vryburg and Winburg.

Though they were not extermination camps, the women and children of Boer men who were still fighting were given smaller rations than others. The poor diet and inadequate hygiene led to endemic contagious diseases such as measles, typhoid and dysentery. Coupled with a shortage of medical facilities, this led to large numbers of deaths — a report after the war concluded that 27,927 Boer (of whom 22,074 were children under 16) and 14,154 black Africans had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the camps. In all, about 25% of the Boer inmates and 12% of the black African ones died (although recent research suggests that the black African deaths were underestimated and may have actually been around 20,000).

In contrast to these figures, only around 3,000 Boer men were killed (in combat) during the Second Boer War.

A delegate of the South African Women and Children’s Distress Fund, Emily Hobhouse, did much to publicise the distress of the inmates on her return to Britain after visiting some of the camps in the Orange Free State. Her fifteen-page report caused uproar, and led to a government commission, the Fawcett Commission, visiting camps from August to December 1901 which confirmed her report. They were highly critical of the running of the camps and made numerous recommendations, for example improvements in diet and provision of proper medical facilities. By February 1902 the annual death-rate dropped to 6.9% and eventually to 2%. Improvements made to the white camps were not as swiftly extended to the black camps. Hobhouse’s pleas went mostly unheeded in the latter case.

Wales
During the 1910s, there was a concentration camp in Frongoch, Merionethshire. First German POWs, then Irish political prisoners were held there. The prisoners were very poorly treated and Frongoch became a breeding ground for Irish revolutionaries.

Namibia (German South-West Africa)
Between 1904 and 1908, following the German suppression of the Herero and Nama in the Herero and Namaqua genocide, survivors were interned in concentration camps. This occurred when the country was a colony of Germany, not of the United Kingdom.

South Africa
During World War I, South African troops invaded neighboring German South-West Africa. German settlers were rounded up and sent to concentration camps in Pretoria and later in Pietermaritzburg.

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