Escapes from Jersey in the Occupation
Towards the end of the Occupation, when the allies had recaptured the Normandy coastline opposite Jersey, a number of attempts, some successful, some not, were made by young men to escape from Jersey, with a view to joining the armed services.
Fauvic 'embarkation point'
Some of the escapes rook place in the first year or so of the Occupation, but the large majority of attempts were made in 1944 and 1945. One particular spot became very popular among would-be escapers as the place from which to launch their attempts - so popular that it became known as the ‘Fauvic Embarkation Point’.
The Fauvic area was not only on the nearest coast to France, but there was a cart track running from the main road to the coast just to the north of Fauvic Tower. Even more important was the support given so many times by the members of a family living nearby.
Deputy Wilfred (Bill) Bertram lived at East Lynne, a farmhouse on the inland side of the main road. Fifty yards to the north of East Lynne, but on the beach side of the main road, Thomas Bertram, Wilfred's cousin, lived at Bellair. directly opposite a cart track which led out of a field adjacent to the Deputy's farm. Bellair was bounded on one side by open common land and on the other by Fauvic Tower, the residence of Mrs M A Ching.
Bill Bertram was a bachelor in his early 50s and a veteran of World War 1, when he had fought with the 24th Canadian Rifle Brigade and was twice wounded in action. He lived with his 46-year-old brother Charley, two elderly ladies, his sister Clarice and cousin Mrs Gladys Blampied, and nephew 20-year-old John Bertram. Tom (who became known as the Harbourmaster of the Fauvic Port) lived with his wife Emily, son Ronald, daughter-in-law Ida and daughter Mrs Eileen Hughes. It was to Belair that many of the escape groups came, and where those awaiting their time for embarkation, on cold nights in a shed which had been placed at their disposal, would have received much welcomed hot drinks supplied by Emily Bertram and Eileen Hughes.
There were also a number of individuals in the immediate vicinity who offered generous support in all the escapes. Among these were Colin Marie (of The Cottage, Fauvic), P G Cabot, Syd Le Clercq - a fisherman from La Rocque whose intimate knowledge of the rocks and tides was invaluable, as was the advice of Len Le Cuirot - and Ted Le Gros of the Eastern Motor Works, Pontac, who tuned many engines in his workshop. Those who supplied transport to move boats, engines and equipment to Fauvic included Bertram Payn, Dennis Ryan, A C Halliwell, and Arthur Mallet.
Vital information was supplied by local fishermen on sea lore and navigation and advice was given to many parties by the Company of Town Pilots, such as Peter Guiton, Ted Larbalestier and Silver Le Riche, to mention but three. Those who provided shelter and safe houses must not be forgotten, along with the many unnamed and unknown locals who cheerfully accepted the risks they ran, not just once but many times, in order that young people might get away to help their country and take information with them that might be of value to the Allies.
Looking back at the recent past months soon after the end of the Occupation, Wilfred Bertram summed up the support that had been received. When asked during an interview with the Jersey Evening Post if there had been any fear of informers, he replied 'No, not at all. I am glad to say that in this little area (Fauvic), they are all 100% British and, though many people must have known or suspected that something was going on, no one was ever given away.'
The last attempt to escape from the Fauvic Embarkation Point was made on 23 February 1945. Some time before that five young men - Rene Havard, C A Luxton, J Foster and P and J Le Gallais - arrived at the house of William Gladden in St Martin, where they had heard not only that he had huilt a boat (12 feet long and 5-foot beam), but he had kept it continually soaked with water so that it would not leak if - or when - it was ever launched.
He agreed to make it available to them and they then had to face the problem of transport both of the boat (from St Martin to Fauvic) and two outboard motors and petrol from Rene Havard's house in West Park Avenue, St Helier.
They found that a farmer, Charlie Biles, had an old horse-drawn furniture van at Bellozanne, a mile or two to the west of St Helier, but could not provide a horse. So the five lusty youngsters, probably fortified by some of the contents from their recently-received Red Cross parcels, decided to push and pull the van themselves - all the way from Bellozanne to West Park Avenue and then the three miles or so, mostly uphill, out to St Martin.
They had a meal from their parcels, loaded the boat and covered it with a tarpaulin and at 7.15 pm set off for Fauvic, a further four miles away, with one man between the shafts and the others pushing, all laughing and joking. It was a foggy night and the usual 'reception party' heard them 'still laughing and joking as though they were going to a carnival' as they appeared through the gloom.
The van was pulled on to the common land adjacent to the road, the boat unloaded and man-handled onto the beach, the engines and other equipment loaded, together with a sheaf of intelligence that had been collated by the HQ of Air Raid Precautions in Jersey, and including all the information that Pop Gladden had made it his business, as Head Air Raid Warden for St Martin, to obtain about the German fortifications from Trinity to Gorey.
They embarked at about 8.45 pm and rowed out to sea for a considerable distance before starting one of the outboard motors. This functioned perfectly and the second was never needed. After a trip that was completely without incident, they landed at Granville at about 4.45 pm the following day. Their arrival followed the pattern set after all the previous attempts: the Americans, after questioning the party, fed them and took them to Cherbourg where they were handed over to the British authorities.
They were then transported to Southampton, questioned by Immigration and then taken to the War Office in London where they handed over the papers that had been entrusted to them.
Reminiscing after the War, William Gladden recalled that at 8 am on the day after they left, a boat was sighted a few miles from St Catherine, making for the Ecrehous, in the direction of Carteret, and flying a flag.
The boys had said that they would fly a flag when they thought it safe to do so. He had arranged that at 8 pm six flashes of light would be made from France if they had arrived. Unfortunately, it was hazy and the flashes would not have been visible but, dead on time, there was a distant boom, followed by five further explosions at one minute intervals.
The next day, the 70-year-old Mr Gladden walked to St Holier and back to inform the mother of one of the boys of his safe arrival in France, thus relieving her - and the other parents - of the constant worry felt by the next-of-kin of every escaper.
- Three Frenchmen escape - Probably the first to escape from the Island, in August 1940, were three Frenchmen had arrived only two months earlier, having escaped to Jersey from occupied Normandy, only to discover that the Germans had just arrived.
- Francois Scornet - Francois was one of a group of young Frenchmen who escaped from Brittany, only to go ashore in Guernsey mistaking it for the English coast. He was brought to Jersey, tried and executed by firing squad
One of the earliest to escape from Jersey was Dennis Vibert, who reached the south coast of England in 1941 in an eight-foot boat. It was his second attempt. When he arrived in England he wrote a comprehensive report for the British Government on what life was like in Jersey and the other Channel Islands.
Peter Hassall, Dennis Audrain and Maurice Gould
In May 1942 three teenage boys attempted to escape from Jersey. The attempt by Peter Hassall, Dennis Audrain and Maurice Gould ended in disaster, Dennis drowned and Maurice and Peter were captured and deported to camps in Nazi occupied Europe. Maurice Gould died as a result of the mistreatment he received. Only Peter survived.
They were just two miles out when their boat sank. Audrain, who could not swim, drowned, but his companions swam back to shore where they were arrested by German troops.
They were discovered to be carrying information about the occupying forces and were taken to Paris where they were questioned by the Gestapo and SS at Fresnes prison. They were then moved to a concentration camp, SS Sonderlager Hinzert.
Maurice Gould died of tuberculosis on 1 October 1943, shortly after being transferred to Wittlich prison.
Peter Hassall worked in a Polish coal mine for four months and than a salt mine for a further two months. He was then transferred to Wittlich and allowed to attend Gould's funeral. He was buried near the graves of SS soldiers, but Hassall vowed that one day he would return his friend's remains to Jersey. He fought against all the odds for 55 years before he was able to track down Gould's relatives and persuade Jersey States to pay for the repatriation of the body.
Finally, 55 years to the day after the failed escape attempt, a memorial service was held at St Luke's Church and Maurice Gould's body was buried with full honours in the adjoining military cemetery.
Peter Crill, John Floyd and Roy Mourant
The man who was eventually to become a States Member and Jersey's Bailiff, and to be Knighted as Sir Peter Crill, escaped to France on 11 November 1944 with fellow Old Victorian Roy Mourant and John Floyd, sailing from Fauvic in the 12-ft dinghy Alouette. He finally made his way to England but was dissuaded from joining the armed forces, as he had planned, by his brother, as their elder brother had been killed.
In his last year as Bailiff, Sir Peter said of young people's behaviour today:‘Who am I to talk? For what I did during the Occupation, I could have been shot.’
- Peter Crill's own story
- Escape from Jersey an article in the Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise by Peter Crill
Basil Le Brun and Roger Lerouille
Basil Le Brun was a keen yachtsman and often sailed between Jersey and France. In September 1944 he escaped from Jersey with Roger Rouille in a small wooden boat and reached the coast of Normandy.
An escape that carried with it great risk, as they were American prisoners of war, having been captured in Normandy, was that of Captain Ed Clarke and Lieut George Haas in January 1945. Not only did they escape from custody twice, with the assistance of islanders, but after their second attempt on 8 January they made their way from St Helier to Gorey without being detected, where at their second attempt, onm 19 January, the first one having failed because they had forgotten to untie the painter at the stern of the boat, they succeeded after having spent a miserable night listening to the German sentry walking up and down Gorey Pier. They rowed the full distance to the French coast in bitter cold and a snow storm. Each attempted "to go over the side" but was hauled back by his companion, and they successfully landed at Carteret.
Hugh La Cloche and colleagues
On 20 September 1944 Hugh La Cloche, apparently accompanied by nine other young Jerseymen, attempted to escape from Jersey to the Normandy coast in five canoes. Their story appears never to have been told, but eight of them are included in the official list of escapers which shows that five reached France and three were captured on their return to Jersey after their craft capsized.
The story was brought to light by La Cloche's step-daughter Melanie Taylor, as told to her by her step-father in the 1950s. Based on his recollections she believed that eight of the would-be escapers did not make it and were imprisoned when they managed to get ashore in Jersey. She believed that the photograph below of political prisoners released from Jersey's prison on Liberation Day in 1945 showed her stepfather in the centre, surrounded by his seven colleagues.
But the picture is known to include men imprisoned for offences other than attempting to escape from the island and if only La Cloche and two colleagues were captured, the photograph could not be just of members of their group.
Exactly how many men attempted to escape and what happened to all of them remains a mystery, but Melanie Taylor revealed to us that of those who made it to Normandy, two got to a farm where the farmer's wife gave them omelettes. While today this would be looked on as fairly plain food, the two were not used to protein rich food and their stomachs could not cope and they vomited the lot back up.
Hugh La Cloche's time in Newgate Street prison is commemorated by a scroll signed by 37 fellow prisoners and now in the possession of his son in Thailand. It is uncertain whether all 37 were in the prison on Liberation Day or whether some signatures were collected later.
The following story was received from Marleen van der Hout, granddaughter of a Dutch escaper, whose story has not previously been told:
- "I would like to inform you that in your list of escapes my grandfather is missing. He was a dutch fisherman. He escaped succesfully and by miracle from St Helier on 6 April 1945 with three other Dutchmen. They arrived the day after, somewhere south of Granville. His name was Leendert Roeleveld.
- "He documented his escape in a long letter to his wife. He wrote over 100 letters during the war, of which most were sent from Jersey. My mother, who researched her father's history during a visit to the island, found out the escape was noted in a book at the war museum. No names, just four dutchmen who escaped, no more information.
- "My mother was given her father's letters some time before her mother passed away. She was only 3 years old when he drowned at sea. It is important to her that his story is told. She wants to write a book based on the many letters. She already found out a great deal when she was in Jersey. She also met the family he stayed with. Nevertheless, if anybody happens to know any more useful information or records about the life of the Dutch fishermen in Jersey we would absolutely love to know.
- "I am quite curious if anyone still knows about these Dutchmen, since there is very little documentation. They volunteered as fisherman because they were unemployed at home, their harbour was sealed, and they were otherwise to be sent to Germany to work in the 'arbeidseinzats'. They volunteered, to escape German forced labour. I would like to know how the Jersey people saw these men."
[If anyone can provide further information about these three Dutchmen, please contact us (email@example.com) and we will pass the information on to Marleen - Editor]
A policeman's brave stand
Policeman Albert Chardine took a remarkable stand against attempts to prevent escapes. In the final weeks of the Occupation members of the Paid Police were required to patrol near the Prison in Newgate Street to detain those attempting escape. He refused, and wrote the following memorandum to his superior officer:
- "Albert Chardine - Police Report 15 February 1945, 6.50 pm
- "Subject: Patrolling of Gloucester Street and Newgate Street, Re Escaping of Political Prisoners
- "I beg to report that at the above stated time I was instructed by P Sgt Griffin to patrol Gloucester Street and Newgate Street re Political Prisoners attempting to escape from prison.
- "On receiving the instructions I refused to carry them out because I don’t think it is the duty of a civilian policeman, and I have friends who have been put in prison by the Germans for very little reason, and I would not like them to know that I was outside waiting to catch them if they tried to escape; and as you know I, and several other policemen have been in prison for the Germans, and I am sure if any of us were in there today we would not like to know that our own workmates were waiting to try and stop us from escaping.
- "A A Chardine
It is said that Albert Chardine's courageous stand did not get him into trouble with his superiors.