Historical Background

At the outset of the First World War the British government decided to intern some German citizens living in Britain for reasons of security. There was already a military training camp in Stobs, near Hawick in the Scottish Borders, and it was decided to establish one of the internment camps there. The role of this camp, the people interned, and the circumstances of the internees changed with time, but the camp was in continuous use from late 1914 to 1919. As time progressed, the camp was increasingly used to house military prisoners. One significant group consisted of the sailors who had survived the Battle of the Falkland Islands on the 8th of December 1914. In mid-1916, all the civilian prisoners were transferred to Knockaloe on the Isle of Man, but the continuing conflict ensured that the camp was never empty. However, life in the camp was disrupted by the decision in 1916 to allow an exchange of prisoners involving Switzerland and the Netherlands- countries which were not involved in the war. The decision to establish work camps in other parts of the country, which took effect in 1917, also had a major impact on the camp population.

This web site is devoted to the Stobsiade – the camp newspaper. In all, thirty nine were published, while one (August-September 1918) fell foul of the censors. The newspaper was typeset in the camp by a professional compositor, and was printed in Hawick. It was distributed in the camp and in Germany. While it was clearly subject to censorship – topics such as technical breakdowns in the camp, escapes and the suicide of inmates were not discussed, but the newspaper gives a detailed insight into the nature of camp life, and of the impact of incarceration upon the morale of the inmates. It also highlights the efforts made by the inmates and by charitable organisations – such as the YMCA and the Society of Friends – to make life behind barbed wire more meaningful. The correspondence between members of the Society of Friends provides a useful means of checking the extent to which the Stobsiade was censored. When the civilians departed from the camp this had a disruptive effect on the newspaper. It is interesting to note that in their final edition #14, the editors, who were all civilians took their leave - without saying where they were going – presumably the censor got in the way. When they got to Knockaloe on the Isle of Man some of them established a new newspaper – the “Lager Zeitung”. They chose to start the first edition with the same sentence as the first Stobsiade “We’re stuck here – there’s no doubt about that.”

The military personnel who remained, decided to start afresh, which caused a disruption in the numbering scheme. The first military edition was numbered 1(15), but very soon the old numbers were dropped altogether, which can be confusing for the reader! In this ‘first’ edition 1 the intention of the paper to provide a picture of camp life to readers in Germany is clearly stated. Now, a hundred years later, we can still profit from this intention. This process is further enhanced by the availability of English-language translations on this website.