Papers of Cyril R. M. Cuthbert, one-time Commandant of the Married Internees Camp during the Second World War

Scope and Content

The content consists of Commandant Cuthbert’s annotated copy of the International Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War Geneva July 27, 1929 (London H.M.S.O. 1931), correspondence relating to a forensic science course run by Cuthbert for members of the local constabulary (1943), letters of appreciation for Commandant Cuthbert (1941-1947), a letter from a former police colleague (1945), bound volumes of Isle of Man newspaper cuttings (1940-1945) and loose leaf newspaper cuttings.

Further material includes a postcard of SS Drottningholm informing Commandant Cuthbert of the safe arrival of repatriated internees (1944) and personal Christmas and New Year Greetings cards from the internees under his care (1941-1943).

Administrative / Biographical History

At the outbreak of the Second World War there were approximately 75,000 people of Germanic origin throughout the British Isles. Of these, roughly 60,000 were refugees running from Nazi persecution. It was decided that all Germans and Austrians (male and female) should be classified into three categories -

  • 1) a potential security threat and to be interned immediately
  • 2) loyalty was suspect but could yet remain at liberty with some restrictions
  • 3) loyalty was satisfactory and no internment was required.

Once again, the Isle of Man was chosen as a suitable location for an internment base for civilian ‘enemy aliens’. Unlike the First World War the requisitioned accommodation was hotels and boarding-houses: occupants were ordered to vacate premises, leaving furniture but taking personal items. Camps established in Ramsey, Douglas, Onchan and Peel housed male internees and the Port St Mary and Port Erin camps housed women (and later married couples) and children. By June 1940 Italy had joined the war. Large groups of Italians living in Britain were rounded up, treated as enemies of the state and interned. Other nationalities interned on the included Austrian, Hungarian, Romanian, Finnish, Norwegian and over 100 Japanese nationals. There were also political detainees including those held under section 18B of the Defence (General) Regulations. This enabled the Government to imprison those thought to be a danger to national security without charge, trial or set term.

The married camp was based in Port St Mary and the single women’s camp was based in Port Erin. After the departure of the Women’s Camp Commandant Dame Joanna Cruickshank (1875-1958), the Commandant of both camps was Cyril Roy Mitchell Cuthbert (1902-1984) a Divisional Detective Inspector for the Metropolitan Police. Born in Middlesex he was the son of Albert Edward Cuthbert (1873-1903), an advertising manager and Elizabeth Ellen Mitchell (1873-1957). Before coming to the Island Cuthbert acted as secretary of the Alien Tribunal at Bow Street, London and prior to the war was engaged in scientific forensics of crime investigations. Cuthbert arrived on the Isle of Man in September 1940 and joined the alien tribunal administrative team in Douglas. By March 1942 Cuthbert was promoted to Chief Inspector and appointed Commandant to the Rushen Camps in the south of the Island. During his time as Commandant, he was widely respected for his tact and courtesy to residents and aliens alike. A former camp leader Herd Hanwerck, when asked about his treatment in the Isle of Man said, “We have no complaints and all of us are grateful for many considerations and the fair treatment we received from Commander Cuthbert, the British chief on the Isle of Man camps”. In September 1944 Cuthbert and his wife Barbara Cuthbertson née Barter (1911-2005) had a son John Anthony Cuthbert, baptised in St Catherine’ Church, Port Erin.

After the war Detective Chief Inspector Cuthbert re-joined Scotland Yard’s forensic team at the Forensic Science Laboratory at Hendon. A world authority on forensic medicine, Cuthbert toured Britain and the United States lecturing to various police departments. In 1950 while a guest of the United States Government, Cuthbert lectured to the Medico-Legal School of Harvard University. Afterwards he was created an Honorary Fellow of the University and invited to deliver similar lectures the following year. Also in 1950 Cuthbert, now Detective Superintendent, was awarded the King’s Police Medal for distinguished services. In 1951 Cuthbert retired from the Metropolitan Police and accepted a position on the Board of several companies engaged in the sale of British scientific apparatus in India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Malaya. By 1958 he published a criminal investigation book Science and the Detection of Crime. In 1984 Cuthbert died in Haywards Heath, Sussex, at the age of 81.

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Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Connery Chappell’s Island of Barbed Wire: The remarkable story of World War Two Internment on the Isle of Man. (2005: Chapters 2, 3, 7 & 23) and Manx newspapers, the Ramsey Courier (1 September 1944), the Isle of Man Examiner (10 June 1949 & 8 December 1950) and the Isle of Man Times (21 January 1950 & 10 November 1951).

Isle of Man newspapers available online at

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), April 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage includes an accompanying photograph of boys from the Rushen School Camp, participating in physical training exercises on Port Erin beach. Reference number: PG/7782.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes a copy of Cuthbert's UK Government report on internment in the Second World War - The Internment of Women, Children and Married Couples 1940-1945. Reference number: MS 11235. The original report is held in The National Archives, Kew. Reference number: HO 213/1053.