By Gilly Carr
Arthur Edward Clarke was born in Finchley, Middlesex, in the UK, on 13 January 1907. We know only a little about his case, such as when and why he came to Jersey, although his son Geoffrey was born in 1935 in Jersey and so we can assume that he was in the Island by that date.
At the start of the occupation, he was living in St Helier with his wife, Eunice, and Geoffrey. A second son, Len, was born in 1942. Clarke was working as a carpenter and joiner. We know that in January of 1940 he was working for Farley and Son Builders and Joiners, based at First Tower, in St Helier. A testimonial was written by his employer at that date which noted that ‘We have pleasure in stating that he is a first class mechanic, an energetic, honourable and sober workman, and we add without hesitation that he is a man we would recommend for anyone requiring his services.’ This testimonial was written because Clarke was moving to the UK; records show that he was in London from 27 January to 20 May 1940, probably trying to set himself up there before bringing the family over. However, the war news brought him back to Jersey; we do not know whether he came back to the Island to help his family pack up and go, or whether he thought it might be safer to spend the war in Jersey. In any case, while in May 1940 his family was living in Ann Street, St Helier by the time that Islanders had to register at the start of the occupation he was living in 18 Clos de Paradis in Almorah, St Helier.
Later on, in December 1942, his occupation changed to that of ‘checker’, although it is unknown precisely what goods he was checking. It is possible, in the light of his subsequent conviction, that he now worked in a warehouse or storeroom checking goods.
Very little is known about Clarke’s experience during the occupation. However, Jersey court records show that on 20 November 1943 he was sentenced by the Court of the Field Command to five months’ imprisonment for ‘receiving stolen articles, and black market activities’. Jersey’s political prisoner logbook shows that he was deported on 2 December 1943.
Thanks only to records kept by his family, we know what happened next to Arthur Clarke. These records are entirely informal, and written on the back of his identity card for Saint-Denis Internment Camp.
They show that he was initially arrested in Jersey on 4 November 1943, and arrived at St-Lo Prison on 4 December 1943 having been deported two days before. He was then sent to Lisieux Prison on 23 December 1943, then Caen Prison on 15 February 1944 (the records of which have subsequently come to light). His prison records say that he was sent to work on an outside building site in Caen – the only known example of a Channel Islander carrying out forced labour in this prison. He was released from Caen on 22 March 1944. On 30 May 1944, according to Clarke’s own records, he arrived in Saint-Denis, although given his release date from Caen, he may have arrived sooner.
Arthur Clarke’s family have inherited a single story about his period of imprisonment, namely, that he escaped from his place of incarceration in France. Whilst hiding out, he saw a British plane land; the navigator had collapsed and died, so Clarke took his place and escaped to the UK. No further details are known, and the precise accuracy and detail of the story cannot be independently verified. While it is hard to fit this tale into the prison narrative above, it is possible that after the liberation of Saint-Denis, in the general chaos that ensued, Clarke caught a lift in a plane heading back to England, although this is only speculation.
We know that Arthur Clarke survived the war: his name survives on a document of those who wished to return to Jersey after the occupation. After the war he stayed in Jersey and, from 1948-1953, worked as a bartender and lounge waiter at the Portland Hotel in Midvale Road in St Helier. Later in life he moved to Sheffield and took up carpentry again.
Arthur Clarke’s wife Eunice died in 1949; Arthur died in 1986. The couple are today buried in St Saviour’s cemetery in Jersey.
The author would like to thank Arthur Clarke’s grand-daughter, Katie Dunn, for sharing family stories with her.
Arthur Edward Clarke’s Jersey occupation registration documents, Jersey Archives ref. St/H/4/4167-4170.
Court records relating to Arthur Edward Clarke, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/6/178.
Political prisoner logbook, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/1.
Arthur Clarke’s records at Caen Prison, Calvados Archives ref. 1664 w 35.
Arthur Clarke’s records at Lisieux Prison, Calvados Archives ref. 1506 w 13.
Applicants wishing to return to Jersey after the occupation, Jersey Archives ref. B/A/L42/3/181.