Why are we looking at World War 2 Internment Camps as part of our May 18 International Museum Day (IMD) focus this year?
Well, it’s been on the to-do list of topics based on the histories of the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus sites. All the physical campuses to date – at Mona, St Augustine and Cave Hill – have historic sites, all rooted in the region’s plantation past. But Mona also has a World War 2 history still marked in the roadways named after the Gibraltar Camp and a very few remaining wooden huts. A civilian facility, Gibraltar Camp started out as an evacuees camp for displaced persons from the British colony of Gibraltar in 1940; then was also used to house refugees from eastern and northern Europe especially during 1942 and 1943. In mid-1943 and unused portion to the north was carved off and handed over to the military for a low-security family internment camp called the Mona Family Camp. Still later, after the main group of Gibraltarians went home in October 1944, the entire camp was taken over by the military which held it til December 1947. An RAF Transit Camp, for late wartime recruits, used part of the camp; returning soldiers were demobilized there; and an Ex-Servicemen’s school was hosted there.
Then too a documentary film was completed on the camps which held Germans in Jamaica during World War 2, and we were offered the opportunity to show it. The producer, Professor of German at Appalatian State University in the US, Dr Kevin Kennedy, had visited the UWI Museum for information while doing research for the film, titled Germans in Jamaica: Of War, Spies & Camps.
So there you go! As you may have seen, we’ll be showing the short documentary film twice on IMD, May 18 – once at 2 and again at 6, in collaboration with the Jamaica German Society. The 2pm showing will be preceded by a short talk on the Internment Camps in Jamaica during World War 2; and both showings will be followed by a Q&A with Dr Kennedy who is coming in for the showings. The pop-up exhibition is on all week, and we thank the Jamaica Military Museum for their collaboration in getting it up and locating appropriate artifacts.