Monday, January 11, 2010

The Isle of Man during World War Two

The modern day 'Ben-my-Chree' ferry going into Douglas harbour, I.O.M.
During WW2 civilians who were born in enemy countries were sent to internment camps in the Isle of Man. Prisoners of War from the Axis countries were also sent to the island and detained in POW camps. Many of these people travelled to the island from mainland Britain in one of the Manx Steam Packet Company vessels, such as a previous 'Ben-my-Chree'.

For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

(1) The IOM in WW2

The Isle of Man is situated in the Irish Sea, approximately halfway between St Bees Head, Cumbria (NW England) and Strangford Lough, County Down (N. Ireland) and 16 miles south west of Burrow Head, Wigtownshire (Scotland). It covers an area of 227 square miles and is largely mountainous inland.

During the Second World War (1939 – 1945) a number of internment camps for civilians from enemy countries were established on the Isle of Man. These were based at Peveril Camp, Peel (on the west coast of the island) and Mooragh Camp, Ramsey (on the NE coast of the island). Some civilians lived in the pre-war guest houses at Douglas and other Manx towns. Prisoner of War camps were established at Base Camp, Douglas and one nearby at Onchan.

Additionally, the RAF established an aerodrome at Jurby for training purposes on the NW coast of the island. There were several bombing and air-to-air firing ranges and schools for Air Gunners at Jurby and Andreas (also in the north of the IOM). The main airport at Ronaldsway was also the base for an important Ground Defence Gunners School.

Some of the internees and service personnel - those who died - would never the island. German POWs who died while imprisoned on the island were initially buried there although their remains would be transferred to Cannock, Staffordshire after the war.

(2) CWGC burials on the I o M

Inevitably, during the six years or so of the war there were a number of casualties among the service personnel, other services and civilians. By the end of the war these numbered 227 from WW2, and are found in 16 cemeteries and churchyards throughout the island. These are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, along with the burials from First World War.

The 227 WW2 burials on the island are classified as follows:

British - 142 (21 Navy, 61 Army, 50 Air Force, 9 Merchant Navy, 1 ‘Miscellaneous’)

Canadian – 27 (1 Army, 26 Air Force)

Australian – 7 (7 Air Force)

New Zealand - 1 (1 Navy)

Polish - 7 (7 Air Force)

Netherlands - 3 (2 Navy, 1 Air Force)

Italian - 1 (1 Merchant Navy)

German internees - 18

Internees from other nations - 18 (15 Italian, 1 Belgian, 1 Danish, 3 Finnish)

‘Non-War’ Grave - 1 (UK civilian)

Those German POWs who died on the island were initially buried in Douglas Cemetery. However, at the request of the post-war German authorities, the remains of these servicemen were exhumed and transferred to the German War Cemetery at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire.


Monday, 11 January, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

(3) CWGC 'Non-War' Graves ("Incidental and conducive")

In a small number of cases the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will look after a WW1 or WW2 grave that is not normally classified as a 'war grave'. This is the case for one WW2 grave found on the Isle of Man. In this instance the 'Non-War' grave is of a British lady civilian who - according to the CWGC was accidentally killed on 23 August 1942 along with three serving officers. The graves of the three servicemen are classified as war graves and the fourth grave is also looked after because it is classed as 'incidental and conducive'.

While the 'Non-War' graves are maintained by the CWGC the casualties are not normally listed in the usual registers or on the CWGC website. However, the Commission will supply the relevant information upon request.

In this instance the casualty was Thelma Kersley, who is buried alongside the three service casualties in the Service Plot at Andreas (St Andrew) Churchyard. The other three service casualties who died in this particular accident on 23 August 1942 are listed in the Commission's registers:

(a) Wing Commander (Pilot) Edward Vincent KNOWLES, D.F.C., B.A., Mus.B, A.R.C.M., A.C.T.L
Service No: 32126
Age: 33
Unit: 296 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
Other information: Son of Joseph and Martha Knowles of Warboys, Huntingdonshire; Husband of Gladys Knowles of Warboys.
Buried: Andreas (St Andrew) Churchyard, Service Plot, Grave 9

(b) Flying Officer Andrew Bryce PATON
Service No: 62072
Unit: 296 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Buried: Andreas (St Andrew) Churchyard, Service Plot, Grave 7

(c) Major Geoffrey Killigrew WAIT, M.C.
Service No: 9522
Unit: The Wiltshire Regiment
Other information: Husband of Laura Mabel Wait of Cromer, Norfolk.
Major Wait's son, Richard High Killigrew Wait also died during the war.


(4) The Andreas airfield

The Andreas airfield site began in late 1940 and completed by September 1941. It was envisaged as a second fighter station (in addition to Jurby) defending the Irish Sea area against German bombers heading towards Northern Ireland. Another purpose was as a second emergency diversionary airfield, such as in the event of bad weather. In practice, it was also used by Allied squadrons as a 'transitory' stop-off between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland or on cross-country exercise.

From September 1941 until 27 November 1941 the first Station Commander was a Wing Commander Gomez. On that date he was replaced by Wing Commander Knowles - the one who was accidentally killed on 23 August 1942. Replacing Wing Commander Knowles as Andreas Station Commander - on 1 September 1942 - was Wing Commander S. G. Beaumont. The AF ceased using the airfield in September 1946.

According to a 2006 book by WW2 researcher Martyn Chorlton about the airfields of Cumbria and the Isle of Man, the accident in which Wing Commander Knowles and the others who were accidentally killed on 23 August 1942 happened during a routine flight to the mainland. According to Martyn Chorlton, Armstrong Whitworth Whitely V BD417 from 296 Squadron stalled two minutes after take off.

The plane crashed on the northern road outside the perimeter fence and burst into flames. This may have been on the road near the perimeter fence as the CWGC war graves booklet I consulted about the Isle of Man suggested Thelma Kersley’s death was the result of a ‘road accident’. As mentioned above, the three service fatalities and the one civilian fatality from 23 August 1942 were buried in the Service Plot of Andreas (St Andrew) Churchyard.

Monday, 11 January, 2010  
Anonymous S W Holmes said...

Perhaps the lady civilian was buried in CWGC grave because the bodies of all killed were incinerated in the accident on 23/8/42

Friday, 10 February, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks very much for your input, Mr Holmes.

I have contacted the CWGC a number of times about the adoption of civilian graves. In this instance, the Commission has adopted Thelma Kearsley's grave in addition to the three service casualties because her death was 'incidental and conducive'. In other words, her accidental death was at the same time and due to the same cause as the three servicemen.

There are separate plots for each casualty which would indicate there was no problem with identification. There seems to have been other accidents with multiple deaths where the individual bodies could not be identified and they were placed in a joint grave.

Friday, 10 February, 2012  
Blogger Jayengee said...

There is a chapter about Wing Commander Edward Knowles in Dr Roland Winfield's book 'The Sky Belongs To Them' published by William Kimber 1976 which tells of his work flying SOE agents to Europe. He was an inspirational pilot.

Tuesday, 02 July, 2013  
Blogger miike crisp said...

Major Geoffrey Killigrew WAIT, M.C.
was my grand fahter

Saturday, 12 April, 2014  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks for the information, Mike.
Major Geoffrey Killigrew WAIT, M.C., R.I.P.

If you would like to add your own tribute to your grandfather please feel free to do so.

Monday, 14 April, 2014  

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