The Island Home Front

Not all Manxmen were able to join the army and fight, but many of them nonetheless wished to contribute to the war effort. In August 1914, Lord Raglan announced that a National Reserve would be formed, which would practice shooting and drilling, perform important duties at home, and work to fill the gaps left by men on active service. Its name was the Loyal Manx Association.

By 1915, when the name was changed to the Loyal Manx Volunteer Corps, membership stood at nearly 700 members. Men from different backgrounds, classes and occupations worked to guard the government offices, post office, harbours and internment camps alongside their usual jobs.

Conscription and Conscientious Objectors

Men who chose not to go to war were already unpopular on the Isle of Man and derided as ‘shirkers’. However, when conscription was introduced in 1916 it forced into the limelight those who disagreed with Great Britain’s involvement in the war. There were 16,000 conscientious objectors in Britain during World War One, and some men on the island shared their views.

One of these, Elijah Oliver, was a staunch Primitive Methodist whose father and brother died in the Snaefell mining disaster of 1897. He argued against the war on religious grounds, and refused to take part in something that caused human suffering. Harold Lilley refused to fight on socialist and humanitarian grounds. Both men were absolutists who refused to serve in a non-combatant role, and both served time in prison because of their beliefs.

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