By Gilly Carr
Charles Gordon Burley was born on 19 February 1888 in St Helier. His presence on this website is backed up by the oral testimony of the late Joe Mière, a former political prisoner and guardian of memory of political prisoners in Jersey. We know little about his story.
Burley served in the First World War in the 9th Field Battery of the Canadian Artillery Militia, in the 9th Mississaugua Mounted Horse Canadian Militia and the 12th York Rangers. He retired on 27 August 1919. During the war he was wounded and was left with gunshot and shrapnel scars in his hands, arms and legs.
On 12 April 1928, Burley was sentenced to one month’s hard labour in Jersey jail for theft.
During the occupation, Charles Burley was married and lived at 52 Garden Lane in St Helier; he worked as a painter and glazier. No woman with the surname Burley lived at this address so it seems likely that either the couple were separated or else she had evacuated to England before the occupation.
Burley comes to our attention on two occasions during the occupation. On the first occasion, on 23 August 1943, Burley was sentenced by the Court of the Field Command to one month’s imprisonment for ‘failing to surrender wireless receiving sets’. He served his sentence from 30 August to 29 September 1943. On the second occasion, he was sentenced, once again by the Court of the Field Command, on 11 January 1944, to one year and nine months imprisonment for ‘manufacture of a leaflet, prohibited reception of wireless stations and dissemination of anti-German information’.
Joe Miere, Jersey’s guardian of memory for political prisoners, stated in his exhibition in Jersey War Tunnels that Burley was ‘deported to France where he served some of his sentence before being moved to Germany.’ While we have yet to find evidence of which French prison he was sent to, records from the International Tracing Service (ITS) indicate that he arrived in Kislau Workhouse on 15 April 1944, where he spent an unspecified period of time. He is the only Islander we know in this camp, and is registered there variously as a painter and driver as well as stoker by occupation. We believe that he was, at some point, in Karlsruhe Prison, from where he was sent to Bernau Prison and Forced Labour Camp on 22 December 1944, where he was released on 11 May 1945. In all of the German records from the ITS regarding his places of imprisonment, he is labelled ‘P.P.’ for ‘political prisoner’. This final date is, judging by the entry for other Islanders, quite possibly speculative. Some Islanders stayed in Bernau for a long time; others were loaned out to other forced labour camps.
Charles Burley survived the war. This is all we know. We might observe that a man of his name and year of birth died in Leeds in 1958, but we cannot be sure that it was the same man.
Prisoners’ register, 1911-1931, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B1/3.
Charles Burley’s Jersey occupation registration documents, Jersey Archives ref. St/H/4/2511-2513.
Court records relating to Charles Burley, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/6/122 and D/Z/H6/7/25.
Political prisoner logbook, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/1.
Information on Charles Burley from Joe Mière, Jersey War Tunnels exhibition.