By Gilly Carr
Edgar John Guille was born on 7 October 1909 in Guernsey. At the time of the registration of Islanders in October 1940, Guille was married and worked as a greenhouse worker.
Guille comes to our attention because of the unusual wealth of paperwork that his case provoked, now stored in Jersey Archives. From these we learn that he had been put in Guernsey prison on 31 December 1941 by the German police, accused of slaughtering cattle for sale on the black market. Three other men were put in prison at the same time: Walter Nicolle, Stanley Lihou and Hedley Le Tissier, who were also accused of similar offences. It was expected that they would be tried by the civil court and they was due to be defended by Advocate Martel of Martel and Le Pelley Advocates. Both the civil court and the Germans had decreed against black market activities at this time.
The Germans decided to try the men by military court in Jersey, and so the four men were deported to that Island. Advocate Martel wrote on 11 January 1942 to Duret Aubin, the Attorney General of Jersey, to ask that the men might be defended in court by a Jersey advocate. In his letter, Martel reveals that he had planned to cite Article 43 of the Annex to the Hague Convention to argue that the men should be tried by the civil court. He quoted the relevant part to Aubin as ‘The ordinary courts of justice and the laws they administer should be suspended only when the refusal of the judges and magistrates to act …’ [rest of letter missing but the line is believed to finish ‘or have fled’]
Three days later, a rather frantic Martel wrote again to Duret Aubin saying that the men would be sent to Jersey on 15 January 1942, and asking once again that they might be represented in court. He added that the men were prepared to pay a fine rather than be deported.
Duret Aubin replied to say that the men were being tried on 16 January 1942 and would be defended by Advocate Valpy, who was informed that the men had infringed an Order of the Military Commander in France relating to trade in rationed foodstuffs and forage dated 9 April 1941. On 20 January, Duret Aubin wrote again to say that these were the first military prosecutions in Jersey for black market offences, although the Royal Court had charged three men the previous year of these offences, and they had been fined. He added that because the four men had admitted the facts of the case, Advocate Valpy had only been able to plead in mitigation of sentence, and the men had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
Thus, on 16 January 1942, Edgar Guille was sentenced by the Court of the Field Command 515 to 8 months’ imprisonment and a 2,000 RM fine for ‘infringing the orders prohibiting traffic in rationed foodstuffs. In the case of non-payment of fine, 40 days’ additional imprisonment will be served.’ Guille later wrote that he had actually ‘slaughtered two steers belonging to me, on my premises in Guernsey, and not registering same’.
Guille was kept in prison in Jersey until 24 March 1942, on which date he was deported to France. He was sent first to Caen Prison, where he arrived the following day, on 25 March. On 15 July 1942 he was transferred to Fort d’Hauteville Prison in Dijon. He was transferred between the prisons ‘handcuffed and chained to each other, two to each set of handcuffs and leg chains’. Edgar Guille later described Caen Prison in the following way:
We were 19 men in one room of approximately 16 x 12 in that prison, the food consisted of 358 grammes of black bread daily and one small tin of watery cabbage at midday. No other food was available. The facilities for toilet consisted of a wooden tub in the corner of the room. This was emptied by ourselves once every Saturday. Many times, this receptacle was brimming over days before it was due for emptying. The washing facilities were also non-existent, very little water, no soap and no towel of any description for drying.
About Fort d’Hauteville, Guille wrote:
We were herded into a large underground barrack room with 80 other men already imprisoned there. There was no lighting and no beds and no bedding, we just all huddled together on the floor, which was a concrete one, many of our inmates were Jews and many of them had very little clothing or footwear. The food and conditions here were of the worst possible order. What little water available had to be brought in by water cart, and with no washing facilities we were even more verminous than at Caen. Bugs were cooked in the soup we received once daily. This was fought for, as was the bread ration thrown through a hole in the door at 11am daily, the weaker having to put up with the smaller portion of the ration. I did, on one occasion, count 53 flies in a cell mate’s soup … most of us could no walk as we were so weak.
The records of Fort d’Hauteville Prison showed that Guille arrived on 16 July 1942. He was supposed to be held at this prison until 25 October 1942, but on 19 November 1942 he was transferred briefly to Dijon Prison. Guille was then sent to Saint-Denis Internment Camp, arriving in November or December 1942 according to a document in The National Archives. Guille wrote that he was nursed back to health in Saint-Denis and that he arrived at the camp wearing the same clothes in which he left Guernsey and weighing around 6 stone.
On 29 December 1942 he was released from Saint-Denis with Walter Nicolle. He was accompanied by the Feldgendarmerie of Saint-Denis as far as Granville, from where he was accompanied back to Guernsey, arriving home on 3 January 1943.
However, because Edgar Guille had been imprisoned, once he returned home, he was deported on 16 February 1943 to Laufen Internment Camp for the rest of the war.
Although Edgar Guille applied for compensation in the mid-1960s, he was turned down, as were all Islanders who had been imprisoned only in French prisons or internment camps.
Edgar Guille’s Occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Edgar Guille’s charge sheet, copyright Island Archives, Guernsey, ref. CC14-05/119.
Correspondence surrounding the case against Edgar Guille and his court charge sheets, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/3/23.
Edgar Guille’s entry, political prisoner log book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7
Edgar Guille’s prison record, Caen Prison, Calvados Archives ref. 1664 w 34.
Edgar Guille’s record for Fort d’Hauteville Prison, Dijon, Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or, 1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville.
Compensation claim for Nazi persecution, Edgar Guille, TNA ref. FO 950/1251.
Edgar Guille’s pass for his return from St Denis to Guernsey, Guernsey Archives ref. FK 4-7.
The National Archives, ref. FO 916/496.