By Gilly Carr
Archibald Lloyd Tardif was born in Guernsey on 6 September 1910. He had previously served in the Royal Guernsey Militia from 1930 to 1931, at the rank of private. At the time of the occupation, he was married and serving as a police constable. On his occupation registration form, he described his distinguishing marks as a scar on his right knee and a scar from a knife wound to his right thigh. It is unclear whether these were received in the army or in the line of duty as a police constable.
Tardif, along with many of his fellow policemen, was to get involved in a case which would cause ripples for decades to come. From the earliest post-war days, these men of military age consistently argued that their actions were inspired by the BBC broadcasts of ‘Colonel Britton’, otherwise known as Douglas Ritchie. These broadcasts were transmitted on the European service to the occupied peoples of Europe but were not aimed at the Channel Islanders because of the precariousness of their situation as sitting ducks in small islands. These broadcasts gave instructions to civilians to sabotage and harass the occupiers in numerous non-military ways. For these young men denied the opportunity of fighting in the armed services, or the older men who had previously served in WWI, such broadcasts appealed greatly. Tardif wrote that ‘Col. Britton was one of our favourites. We did our best to follow his instructions and carried out as much sabotage as we could.’ The men’s role as policemen gave them opportunities for action denied to most other civilians, such as being out after curfew. However, their position was a double-edged sword. Policemen were also required to salute passing German officers, which they found hard to stomach.
We have three main sources of information from which to draw to learn more of Tardif’s story: Bill Bell’s interviews with the policemen later in their lives; Tardif’s compensation claim for Nazi persecution written in 1965; and the memoirs of his police colleague, Kingston George Bailey, from which we can learn much about the experiences of the other policemen.
Bailey described how he and fellow ringleader, police constable Frank Tuck, decided, in the first winter of the occupation, to do all they could to annoy the Germans. From March 1941 they compiled a dossier on their activities, cut telephone wires, put sand in the petrol tanks of German cars, and painted V for victory signs around the island.
By the following winter, the civilian population was suffering from food shortages while, at the same time, the Germans stockpiled food in stores throughout St Peter Port. Bailey and Tuck broke into these stores by night and took tinned food to redistribute to those in need. They brought a number of other policemen into their group such that, by February 1942, ‘the operation was … getting out of hand … practically the whole police force was now taking part and, as we were on different shifts, it was impossible to know what each man was doing.’ Civilian stores run by people trading with the Germans were also entered.
On 3 March 1942, Bailey and Tuck were caught red-handed by German soldiers lying in wait for them at one of the food stores. Of this, Tardif later wrote, with a trace of bitterness, that ‘… two of our members were caught and couldn’t keep what they knew to themselves.’ They and most of the other police were taken to Guernsey prison and their houses were searched. The men were taken to Grange Lodge in St Peter Port, the HQ of the Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei) for questioning. They were beaten and given decreasing rations over the period of interrogation. Tardif recalled later that he was ‘punched, kicked, hit with a wooden ruler … stretched over a stool and my head bashed against a wall. I was shown signed statements by other men and was eventually told that if I did not sign I would be shot so I eventually signed’ (quoted in Bell 1995, 158). Back in the prison the men were kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to wash or change their clothes. Lack of sleep also took its toll. The others were also presented with forged confessions during this period.
Sixteen of the policemen were then taken to Fort George in St Peter Port for four weeks, where they were able to recover from their beatings and receive food from family and friends so that they looked well for their trial.
On 24 April 1942 the men were tried by the Germans and, controversially, also by the local authorities in the Royal Court on 1 June 1942, on account of the civilian stores that had also been entered. This was to be a show trial. Tardif was sentenced to one year and six months imprisonment for ‘serious theft in two cases with extenuating circumstances’ by the German court. After sentencing, the men were taken back to Fort George until their deportation on 13 June 1942, during which they were handcuffed to each other in pairs. They were taken first to Jersey Prison for the night, then on to a prison in Granville for a few hours, and then Caen Prison, all the while still in handcuffs.
They were in Caen from 15 June to 15 July 1942. For the first night they were put in dungeon cells in which straw mattresses, complete with wet blankets, were placed on the floor, in two inches of ‘what smelt like a cesspool’. After that they were placed in a room filled with 100 cubicles, each locked up at night, and each containing a bed. In his memoirs, Bailey wrote that ‘the cubicles and bed frames were full of bugs which were, indeed, as hungry as ourselves … The food was terrible, consisting mainly of cabbage soup, with about 3/4 of a pound of bread each day … Many of the prisoners suffered from a mild form of dysentery, probably caused by too much cabbage water.’
On the next stage of his journey, Tardif and his police colleague Alfred Howlett were separated from their colleagues and taken to Troyes Hauts-Clos Prison, where they arrived on 16 July 1942. The other men were sent to Fort de Villeneuve St Georges Prison near Paris. After only three weeks, on 8 August, Tardif was moved to Clairvaux Prison, where he remained until 29 July 1943 – two months longer than his colleague Howlett, who was sent to Germany. A note in Tardif’s prison records from Clairvaux indicate that that he was kept at the disposal of the SD (Sicherheitsdienst or security service) of Troyes on 29 July 1943, when his sentence was suspended.
A document in Guernsey Archives from the Tribunal of the Feldkommandantur notes that, on 11 July 1943, the Chief of the Tribunal ‘suspended the execution of the judgement, subject to revocation, until the end of the war.’ This document states that ‘the prisoner has served part of the sentence from the 24th March 1942 to the 28th July 1943, and after his release from prison has been transferred to an internment camp on the Continent’. We do not know who intervened to call for Tardif’s early release.
Tardif did not make any mention of a return to Troyes Prison, or a suspension of sentence in his compensation testimony. Instead, he wrote that, after Clairvaux, which he left on 29 July 1943, he was sent to Châlons-sur-Marne Prison. Although Tardif was unable to remember dates in his later compensation testimony, he was able to record that he was next sent to Compiegne Transit and Internment Camp (although we do not know which compound he was in – whether his experience here was akin to that of the Channel Islander internees sent as a group in February 1943, or whether it was the much worse experience of other Channel Islands’ prisoners such as Anthony Faramus or William Symes). As his sentence had officially been revoked by this stage, we might imagine that he was treated more as a civilian internee than a prisoner, but we cannot know for sure.
Finally, Tardif was sent to Saint-Denis Internment Camp. We do not know when this was, but given that his sentence had already been revoked, and in any case was due to expire on 23 September 1943, he almost certainly arrived at St-Denis at this date or earlier; other Channel Islands prisoners were sent to St Denis at the end of their sentences. Tardif later wrote in his compensation claim testimony that, upon arrival, he was given a medical examination by another internee, who ‘when he saw the condition I was in, ordered that I should receive a Red Cross invalid parcel in addition to my ordinary weekly Red Cross parcel.
Tardif stayed in St Denis until the liberation of Paris. In his testimony he wrote that ‘I got away from St Denis in 1944 and spent a month or so in Paris without any money before I was sent back to England by Mr Duff Cooper.’ Tardif’s phrasing of ‘got away from St Denis’ seems to imply that he left the camp unofficially rather than waiting for official repatriation. However, perhaps we can infer that he kept in periodic touch with officialdom at the camp in order to have been sent back to England through the offices of Duff Cooper, clearly someone in a position of authority.
Of his return to the UK, Tardif wrote that he ‘Arrived Croyden and [was] sent to the rest centre at Bloomsbury Square and then on to Glasgow where I got a job with Royal Ordinance at Barfillan Drive, where I worked as a machine turner until my return to Guernsey after liberation.’
Tardif believed that his health was permanently affected by his sojourn in French prisons and camps. At the time of his compensation claim in 1965, he wrote that he was ‘at present under a Doctor having spent several weeks in hospital both in Guernsey and in London having treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis which I feel was brought on by the conditions and treatment we received under the Germans, and the filthy French louse-infested and bug-ridden Prisons we were kept in.’
After the occupation, Tardif was not reinstated as a policeman. He instead found employment as a hall porter at the Royal Hotel. Archibald Tardif, like the other Guernsey policemen, never cleared his name and the judgements against him and the other policemen made by the Royal Court in Guernsey still stand to this day, long after his death.
Bailey, K.G.1979 . Dachau. Guernsey: CI Marine Ltd.
Bell, W.M. 1995. I Beg to Report. Guernsey: Guernsey Press Co. Ltd.
Sanders, P. 2014. ‘Economic resistance and sabotage’, pp. 277-306 in G. Carr, P. Sanders and L. Willmot, Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation 1940-1945. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Archibald Tardif application for compensation for Nazi persecution. The National Archives ref. FO 950/2994.
Archibald, records from Troyes Prison and Clairvaux Prison, Archives départementales de l’Aube, Troyes, France, refs. 1039 W14 and 1360 W362.