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  
Anonymous Ken Elluiott said...

The Wing co and the F/O were not as stated from 296 Squadron that unit was not formed when W/Co Knowles was posted to AndreasThe plane was Whitley target towing from Netheravon (BD417)Flown by P/O Tennyson
I have researched this Accident
Ken Elliott

Tuesday, 11 June, 2013  
Anonymous Ken Ell;iott said...

There was another serviceman killed in this accident a raf policeman lac (acting Cpl) alfred henderson he died a few days later in hospital buried in stirling

Saturday, 22 June, 2013  
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 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 miike crisp said...

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

Saturday, 12 April, 2014  
Blogger miike crisp said...

Major Geoffrey Killigrew WAIT, M.C.
was my grand fahter i alway thought that they had all been drinking rather to much before the flight

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  
Blogger Manx Aviation & Military Museum said...

I would like to correct the saga of the loss of Whitley BD417 of 296 Squadron. This glider tug (not the bomber version) was towing a Hotspur glider from 296 Sqdn's base at Hurn (Bournemouth)to Northern Island. This training exercise also included some dozen Army personnel, taking a ride in the glider for some leave. The tug and glider were 20 miles to the south of the IoM when the glider broke free and ditched in the sea. Probably due to the strong north wind, producing turbulence up to 40 miles to the south from the Island's hills.

After a successful ditching the Army personnel stayed with the floating wooden glider, and the Whitley circled them for an hour and a half, until a Navy Destroyer rescued them. Short of fuel, the Whitley landed at RAF Ronaldsway, the nearest airfield. However, Ronaldsway did not have the correct type of fuel, so it took off again and flew the short distance up to RAF Andreas in the north of the Island.

At Andreas, Wing Commander Knowles and his Sunday lunch guests were still in the Mess when the Whitley arrived. Knowles had previously flown Whitley bombers on operations, and he decided to 'commandeer' the Whitley tug for 'a short flight'. The 296 Sqdn Pilot Officer was outranked, and after a protest he took himself and his crew of five off for some tea.

Knowles loaded the Whitley with his lunch guests, including Thelma Kersley, plus three airmen. The Whitley may not yet have been refuelled, and the strong northerly wind was still blowing. The Whitley tug was lighter than the bomber version, with guns and turrets stripped out. It is also an aircraft with a big thick wing that will blank-out the airflow over the tail and twin rudders, unless the tail is raised early in the take-off run. In the strong wind it is possible that the aircraft lifted (floated) into 'ground effect' before Knowles could react, and maybe his lunch drinks affected his reactions.

Without effective rudder control, and with propellor torque trying to twist the aircraft sideways, he had his hands full. Witnesses describe the aircraft as 'nose high' at 'slow speed', and the northerly take-off direction was taking the aircraft towards the 200 feet Bride Hills. The aircraft wasn't climbing so he had the option to crash-land straight ahead, or to turn away from the hills. Probably the only thing keeping the aircraft airborne was the strong wind, and turning would cancel out this benefit, with loss of airspeed, and a resulting stall at low altitude. The aircraft crashed and burned, but the three airmen in the rear survived.

None of the fatalities were 296 Sqdn personnel. Major Wait was in charge of airfield defence at Andreas, and it has been alleged in print that Thelma Kersley was mistress to Knowles.

There was to be another lunch guest on the Whitley, but as he left with the others the Mess telephone rang, and he was the duty officer. It was his WAAF girlfriend from the nearby Ramsey Radar Sector Control, and although Officers and WAAFs were not supposed to fraternise, she was annoyed that he had failed to turn up for their planned secret rendezvous. He explained that he had been made Duty Officer, and was now going flying in a Whitley. Half an hour later she was in the Radar Sector Control room when news came through of the crash with no survivors. She nearly collapsed with shock, followed half an hour later by great relief when her officer walked in to the Control room - her phone call to the Mess had made him miss the flight! They subsequently enjoyed a long marriage.

Wednesday, 24 June, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Thanks very much to the Manx Aviation and Military Museum for the complete explanation about the crash of Whitley BD417 on 23 August 1942.

The museum is based at Ronaldsway Airport, IOM and is run by the Manx Aviation Preservation Society. Click on the following link to see the website of the society:

Manx Aviation Preservation Society (website)

Friday, 26 June, 2015  
Blogger Martin Harry Watson said...

Hello I'm trying to discover the history of my grandfather's nephew, William Mackenzie Watson, who is buried at KIRK CHRIST LEZAYRE (HOLY TRINITY), Isle of Man. He was a major in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, dying in 1943. I am curious to know how he died, why is buried on the Isle of Man, and anything else available. Thank you in advance


Wednesday, 08 July, 2015  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Below is a link to an online document by the Manx National Heritage (Library and Archives service) detailing the Isle of Man's role in the internment of civilians during WW1 and WW2:

Internment in the IoM during WW1 and WW2 .

There are more surviving primary documents about internment in the Isle of Man for WW2 than for WW1. At the end of the document is a suggested list for further reading / research.

Saturday, 26 March, 2016  

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