Work, Leisure, and Sport in Military and Civilian Internment Camps in Britain, 1914–1919

Panikos Panayi

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A full understanding of the importance of sport in British internment camps during the First World War should take into consideration that sport was just one of the many activities the tens of thousands of civilian and military prisoners incarcerated on British soil undertook. Military prisoners, transported to the country from the Western Front for the purpose of working, would have had less leisure time than their civilian counterparts who were not obliged to work under the Hague Convention of 1907.1 Civilians therefore had plenty of time and needed to develop a range of leisure activities for the purpose of killing time but also for the purpose of creating community. Despite the fact that military prisoners worked all day, during their more limited free time they also participated in activities similar to those of civilians. This chapter will place sport in British camps in context, beginning with an outline of the system of incarceration which evolved in Britain during the First World War and proceeding to discuss the function that work, leisure and sport played in British internment camps as a way of overcoming the onset of “barbed wire disease” and creating community. The conclusion addresses the importance of sport in a wider context including the consequences of modernisation...
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSport Under Unexpected Circumstances
Subtitle of host publicationViolence, Discipline, and Leisure in Penal and Internment Camps
EditorsGregor Feindt , Anke Hilbrenner, Dittmar Dahlmann
Place of PublicationGöttingen
PublisherVandenhoeck und Ruprecht
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print) 978-3-666-31052-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • World War 1
  • prisoners of war
  • civilian internment
  • British internment camps
  • leisure
  • work
  • sport


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