By Gilly Carr
Emma Constance Marshall née Gander was born in Chislehurst, Kent, on 22 April 1894. During the First World War, Emma worked as a shell-turner for Vickers in Erith, London, a munitions factory. In 1915 she moved to work at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich as an overseer until the end of the war. The air raids had made it too difficult for her to continue working in Erith.
In 1939, Emma came to Jersey with her husband, Henry Marshall, who was born in London. Harry Marshall, their son, was with them; he was also born in London, on 3 July 1925. He worked as an errand boy, a position that changed to that of carter later in the Occupation. His marital status changed from single to that of widower, as reported in May 1944, when he was still only 19 years old. No information about his wife has been located.
The family came to Jersey in 1939 to run a guest house. They had just got everything ready when the Germans invaded the Island. They chose not to evacuate because they thought that the war would not last long.
At the time of the registration of Islanders in January 1941, given that there were no tourists for their guesthouse, Emma was now working as a housewife and her husband Henry worked as a labourer. They moved house several times, starting in Midvale Road before moving to Victoria Park Terrace in St Saviour in 1941 and Ryburn Road in St Clements in 1942.
Emma comes to our attention because, on 1 October 1943, she and her husband were placed in Jersey prison. On 27 October 1943 she was convicted by the Court of the Field Command 515 of ‘continued larceny’ and given a five-year sentence. Henry was also sentenced at the same time to six months’ imprisonment for ‘continued receiving of stolen articles’. It is important to state that Emma’s sentence is almost unprecedented. The only other Islander to be given such a long sentence was John Ingrouille of Guernsey, sentenced to five years for sabotage. Emma must have been accused of stealing on a very large scale from the Germans.
Emma later described the circumstances that led to her arrest:
In October 1943 they came and searched our house as they did to the other people in the Island. As my husband was an invalid owing to stomach trouble I had bought food, black market prices [pieces?], he could not have an operation as there were no medical supplies. After putting us in Jersey prison, they said I hadn’t bought the goods they found, so they sent me to Germany for five years.
Emma did not give many details; she suggested that she was arrested for buying food on the Black Market, but her prison record stated that she was accused of ‘theft of postal packets’. We can only imagine what these contained. Her sentence was extraordinarily long for either Black Market activity or theft; we might also observe that English Islanders often received longer sentences, on average, than indigenous Islanders.
Jersey’s prison register shows that Emma and Henry Marshall were in prison with their son Harry, now 18 years old and working as a milkman. He was not convicted but let out of prison on the day of the trial of Emma and Henry. Henry was kept in prison until 2 April 1944 according to the prison register.
Emma was deported on 2 December 1943, indicating that she spent 2 months in Jersey prison before her deportation. She later wrote that she was sent away with five Jersey men. The political prisoner logbook reveals that these included Arthur Clarke and Patrick McCloskey; no other people are named as having been deported on this day, indicating either a faulty memory, or the deportation of people whose records have not survived or were never created.
According to the prison register, she was sent straight to Germany. In order to find out what really happened next to Emma, we must move to the application for compensation as a victim of Nazi persecution that she filed in 1965.
By now living in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, indicating that the family has relocated from Jersey, Emma wrote that she was sent first to France rather than Germany:
I stayed at St Malo one night, they took me to St Lo and put me with a lot of German soldiers (prisoners). I was the only woman there. I stayed there until Dec. 28, and then went to Fresnes Prison, just outside Paris. I was there 9 days, never went out of the cell. There were 4 Frenchwomen in the same cell. Had to sleep on the stone floor.
Emma’s testimony was a long one, and comprises mostly a litany of being moved from place to place across Germany and Poland, having to undergo different kinds of forced labour. She resumed her story with her transfer from France to Germany:
I was then put on a train with the other women and taken to Goddesell [Gotteszell Women’s Prison], a very large prison in Stuttgart. We were there 8 days. We stayed at three different places. I have forgotten the names. We then went to Plauen and Oft [sic, she probably means a forced labour camp in Hof, Germany] and stayed in wooden shacks, each place a couple of days and nights and slept on the floor. Then on to Nuremberg, put into a basement, pitch dark no lights, stayed there a couple of days, only one meal a day.
We then went to Dresden, another soldiers’ prison, stayed there, 50 of us and slept on straw. We were then put into a cattle truck on the railway siding; it was a horse-box. Slept on straw, no sanitation, stayed there 2 days and 1 night, only 1 meal. As I was English, the French and Belgian women wouldn’t give me anything to drink. They had one issue of coffee. Dresden [was] bombed while we were there. After that we were taken to Bautzen, into a camp in fields, had to work in a spinning [?] factory, taken each day at 5.30am to 6pm. Had our midday meals at the machines while working. My longest stay there about 11 months.
Leaving there we were taken to a place called Gommo [Gommern], staying at 2 places on the way. We were put into a kind of castle with a moat around it. There they put us on sawing up trees and cleaning out cess pools. Stayed there 10 days.
Went to Magdeburg. It had just been bombed and was on fire everywhere. We left our clothes there, they gave us prison clothes. Up to that point we had used our own. They then took us to Schoneabech [Schönebeck] and put us on munitions, filling shells etc. We had very little food, 1 slice of bread and 3 potatoes, working 5.30am until 6pm daily. Only been there 8 days when the Americans overran the place, April 12 1945.
Emma also gave details of her repatriation back to the UK and then to Guernsey, stating that her weight had been ten stone and four pounds (144 pounds) on leaving Jersey, and was just over five stone (70 pounds) upon her liberation.
Having detailed her three French prisons and nine German prisons and camps and forced labour, Emma’s was surely a very good case for compensation. The Foreign Office, who were administering the compensation claims, wrote to the International Tracing Service (ITS) to see what records they had relating to her. The ITS replied to say that they had records of her only in Gotteszell Women’s Prison, which had a record of her incarceration from 11 January 1944 to 14 March 1944.
The Foreign Office decided that Emma Marshall, like Evelina Garland of Guernsey, who had been sent to many of the same prisons and camps for forced labour, should be turned down for compensation, given that her experiences were ‘in no way due to Nazism’ and were just examples of ordinary imprisonment for black market offences.
Emma Marshall died in Maidstone, Kent, in February 1987. Nothing further is known about her.
The Frank Falla Archive would like to invite the family of Emma Marshall to get in touch with further details, family stories or photos of Emma for this website.
Emma Marshall’s Occupation registration card, Jersey Archives ref St.H/6/4047.
Emma Marshall’s Occupation registration form, copyright Jersey Archives ref St.H/6/4048.
Charge sheets of Emma Marshall, copyright Jersey Archives ref D/Z/H6/6/166.
Emma Marshall’s record in Jersey’s political prisoner logbook, copyright Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7.
Emma Marshall’s compensation claim for Nazi persecution, copyright The National Archives ref. FO 950/1185.
Emma Marshall’s records, Wiener Library, copyright International Tracing Service ref. 40121234/0/1.