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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“One notable exception” : how concerns over international and intra-imperial norms shaped Amherst internment camp operations during the First World War Warrington, Lucy


This thesis examines Canadian internment authorities’ actions surrounding operations at Amherst camp, Nova Scotia, during the First World War. Early in the conflict, as part of a broader imperial internment order, British colonial officials arrested and interned over 800 German sailors and merchant seamen in Atlantic waters and subsequently transported them to Amherst for the remainder of the war. While the order affected approximately 7,500 German and Austro-Hungarian immigrants already in Canada by 1914, it also brought these transferred men into the same story. Authorities’ actions regarding Amherst camp operations illustrate the transnational nature of Canadian internment processes. By analysing Amherst camp operations using Canadian, British, and German archival sources, this thesis argues that Canadian internment authorities’ concerns surrounding international and intra-imperial norms shaped Amherst camp operations. In particular, British imperial requests and internment authorities’ concerns over Canadian POWs’ welfare in Germany influenced Amherst camp practices. First, this thesis examines how Canada’s close relationship with Britain during the war guided Amherst camp operations. Next, it explores how internment authorities tried to persuade neutral camp inspectors of Amherst prisoners’ good treatment to prevent reprisals being enacted upon Canadian POWs in Germany. Then, it examines how Amherst POWs’ complaint correspondence negatively affected German perceptions of the internment site which prompted reprisal threats against Canadian POWs in Germany. In response, Canadian internment authorities took measures to improve the image of Amherst camp operations, including the welfare of POWs held within the site.

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