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.: Knockaloe Camp
Henry the Hat's Knockaloe Post OfficeKnockaloe Camp was set up in the Isle of Man in 1914 to house British citizens who were judged to mentally unstable to join the army and fight in World War I.

The site, in the West of the Island, was chosen because it was hidden away in a deep valley between two high hills which were covered in dense forests. The huts to contain the prisoners were built on a flat piece of cleared land, and the camp was given its own railway station.

No track was laid to the station, however, and no trains ever ran there but the internees were told the next locomotive would arrive soon and they were encouraged to wait on the platform where they were more docile and manageable.

The camp was a test site for many psychoactive drugs which were given to prisoners to judge their efficacy. It wasn’t unusual, as one Peel police report put it at the time, to see internees ‘talking to flowers, barking like dogs and attempting to flee from satanic pebbles’.

The Manx government was initially reluctant to set up the camp, but was given huge amounts of money from the UK government as part of the deal. This was used to set up many facilities in the camp to make it appear like a normal town, although as the disturbed inmates were allowed to design it whilst under the influence of mind-altering substances, it bore little resemblance to any sort of town that’s been seen before or since.

In the picture is Henry the Hat, a popular and well-known inmate who set up the camp’s Post Office. He was instrumental in the postal service which allowed inmates to send internal mail to each other – the government would not, however, allow them to send or receive mail from outside the camp.

Henry the Hat was known for his inability to judge size or perspective and often wore huge oversized flat caps. When he set up the first postal service, he was asked to design stamps and came up with a series of A4 sized postage stamps.

These can be seen clearly in the photograph and would have been illegal under Manx law because they weren’t sticky on the back, had no portrait of the Queen, and often contained tiny, printed swear words.

Today, Henry the Hat’s stamps sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction, and in 1998 Sotheby’s announced one had broken the world record when his original design for the ‘Mona’s bastard Isle’ stamp sold for £8.2 million.

After the war, the camp was closed down and the Manx government found itself in charge of hundreds of mentally ill and incapable people who had nowhere to go. In response, the Isle of Man set up a new town in Upper Foxdale and housed most of the population of Knockaloe there. Many of those still live in Foxdale to this day.

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Written at 14:58 by G
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