By Gilly Carr
Clement Wilfred Bourgaize was born in Guernsey in either 1923 or 1924 (both dates exist on various documents) and, at the time that he comes to our attention, was living with his father at a house named ‘Sea View’ in Torteval. He was unmarried and worked in the greenhouses at Les Fontaine Farm in the same parish. His occupation registration card shows that on 29 May 1943 he changed his job to farm work in the parish of St Peter.
Our knowledge of what happened to him, and our evidence for his deportation, comes from a record in a file at The National Archives dated 12 September 1944, and his compensation testimony written on 2 January 1965. He is described in the earlier file as ‘being on the nominal roll of British Civilian Internees of St Denis Camp, Paris’ who had arrived at Newhaven on 12 September 1944 from Arromanches, and ‘after clearance by Immigration, Security and Medical authorities taken to the Ministry of Health Rest Centre’ in Brighton.
The record states that Bourgaize was a farm worker and lorry driver by profession and that he ‘claims to have been arrested by the German Authorities in December 1943 – sent to France and imprisoned at Clairvaux (12.3.44), Villeneuf St. Georges [sic, Villeneuve Saint-Georges] (22.5.44), Fresnes (26.6.44) and finally interned at St. Denis Camp, Paris on 4.7.44. No friends or relatives in this country [i.e. the UK] and has nowhere to go; He does NOT wish to join the Forces.’
Bourgaize claimed that he was ‘arrested for refusing to work for the German occupational authorities but, after interrogation, the opinion was formed that they were averse to any kind of work and that if they refused to work in the Channel Islands it was not from any patriotic urge.’ Bourgaize was ‘being looked after in Brighton and will remain there pending a decision by the Ministry of Health, London, in conjunction with the Channel Islands Refugee Committee’.
Although no evidence has yet been found of prison entries in the places mentioned by Bourgaize, we need not disbelieve his statement; these are a likely series of prisons for someone deported at this time. Bourgaize was lucky to have been deposited at St. Denis rather than being taken into Germany as the German Forces pulled out of France. Another reason to take the verbal statement seriously is that the same prisons were named again twenty years later when Bourgaize applied for compensation for Nazi persecution.
In his testimony, Bourgaize wrote that he stole a pound of sugar from the German cookhouse in which he was ‘compelled to work’ in October 1943. He was caught, questioned, beaten up and threatened with being killed if he ran away. He was taken to prison. In the first week of November he was tried by the German court and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
‘At first I had to do light work, but as time went by, the work became harder, food was scarce and we became weaker, so I refused to work. I was then beaten up, they punched me across the head and blood was running down my right ear. While I was in Clairvaux prison in France, I was examined by a doctor, who said, my right ear drum had been perforated by constant blows on the head.
On March 11th 1944 when my prison sentence was almost over, the Germans told me I was to be deported to Clairvaux. The following day I was taken to St Malo, where I was put in prison while the German guard who was escorting me rested. The next day we continued our journey as far as Paris, where I was put in another prison for several hours. While I was there, from a small window in my cell I saw 40 or more Frenchmen executed in the square, they were mown down with two machine-guns [note by author – no evidence has yet been found to substantiate this event]. The same day they took me by train to Clairvaux.
I was there for several weeks, the food was very poor and the cells were infested with fleas. I was then transferred to Villeneuve St. George, this was in May. Several times while I was there, the Germans took blood from me to aid the German wounded, in my weakened condition this made me weaker still … Conditions in this prison were terrible, there was no sanitation, we had to use a bucket, which was in the corner of the cell, the smell was sickening and the food we had was terrible. We were only allowed out fifteen minutes a day.
One day I was told that I was to be taken to St Denis prison camp. I was taken in a van with two guards, on the way the van broke down. I was taken out and was made to walk to a prison called Frend [sic, Fresnes], where I stayed for a week or so, in that time I was not allowed out once for exercise.
I was taken to St Denis Camp, where I stayed until we were liberated early in September. After we were liberated my friend and I whom I had met in the camp hitch-hiked to Cherbourg where we were interrogated by the Americans, we told them we wanted to get to England …’
Clement Bourgaize arrived in England and, after a short period in Brighton, he went to Leeds where he worked for thirteen months before travelling back to Guernsey on 4 October 1945.
The lack of evidence in Guernsey of either a court judgement or an entry in the police record book appears to point at yet another example of the German forces simply taking away those they did not like or wanted to remove from the Island without informing the local authorities. This is by no means an uncommon occurrence among those listed on this website.
Clement Bourgaize, occupation registration form, Guernsey Island Archives.
Clement Bourgaize compensation claim for Nazi persecution, TNA ref. FO 950/2196.
TNA ref. 916/2568/4, internees in Germany: repatriation of sick civilians.