Francois Scornet has come to be known as one of the heroes of the German Occupation of Jersey, although sadly his only connection with the island was to be tried by a German Court for escaping from France, sentenced to death and executed by firing squad.
His death in the grounds of St Ouen's Manor in 1941 was followed by a belated funeral service in St Thomas’ Church after the end of the Occupation and has been commemorated regularly since the end of the war.
Scornet was one of a group of 16 young Frenchmen who, inspired by a radio broadcast by exiled French leader General Charles de Gaulle in 1940, set sail in an open boat from the north-Brittany port of Dourduff on 13 December 1940 aiming to reach England and oin the Free French forces. Some had not even told their parents that they were leaving.
Their escape was beset with bad weather which destroyed their navigational equipment and when they eventually sighted land, they mistook the Guernsey coast for the Isle of Wight and sailed into Vazon Bay jubilantly yet foolhardly singing the Marseillese.
They were arrested by German troops and sent to Jersey where they were eventually tried by a German war court. Scornet was identified as the ringleader and, together with three others, was sentenced to death. In the event only Scornet was executed and the other members of the party had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment and were sent to prison in Caen and then to camps in Germany.
Scornet’s parents were sent for to witness his execution and Catholic priest Pere Mare was asked to administer the last rites as the unfortunate young Frenchmen was put before a firing squad for ‘wilfully supporting England in the war against the German Empire’.
In the final letter he was allowed to write to his parents he said:”I believe the end of my existence has come. I will die for France, bravely facing the enemy.”
Scornet was buried in Almorah Cemetery in St Helier but following the Liberation his remains were exhumed and on 18 September 1945 a solemn mass was celebrated at St Thomas’ Church by Pere Mare, attended by island dignitaries, becore the young Frenchman’s remains were returned to Brittany for burial in his native town.