Effects of Internment: ‘Barbed-Wireitis’

JT Baily was a Quaker charity worker and professional carpenter. He was involved in setting up workshops and activities in internment camps, and later became the Industrial Superintendent at Knockaloe.


These were his observations of the internees in October 1915:

Probably the worst disease to be combated in a civilian internment camp came to be known as ‘barbed-wirelitis’ [sic]. It could soon develop into incipient insanity; prisoners of war who were readily subject to it were those who felt most acutely the injustice of their incarceration, particularly when they had adopted Britain as their home by having been resident over many years; such had usually married a woman of British nationality and had British born children – it was remarkable that such men had failed to take out naturalisation papers – their feelings were accentuated by the sudden unexpected separation, the loss of the means of a livelihood and the consequent anxiety concerning the family’s welfare. Another contributory factor to those of a more cultured life was the promiscuous herding together of all types and the lack of privacy; then again to have no idea of the duration of their internment was a care of ‘hope deferred maketh the heart sick’, and further to all this was the absence of occupations.

…The symptoms of the disease were moroseness, avoidance of others, and an aimless promenading up and down the barbed wired boundary of the compound…. if this could not be stopped insanity would follow and probably suicide…”



From the JT Baily papers [MS 10417]

In 1917 he wrote:

“The Industrial Committees of all four camps, together with myself, are viewing with much anxiety the prospect of another winter for the interned spent under trying conditions of camp life and Manx winter… there are now large numbers seeking occuptation who have hitherto held indifferently aloof, and even those who opposed all such efforts from a mistaken idea of being patriotic to Germany are now co-operating in these efforts.”

From the JT Baily papers [MS 10417]
Back to top