By Gilly Carr
Eric Charles Kibble moved to Guernsey from Liverpool, England, in April 1938. He lived with his wife Emily in the parish of St Saviour’s, Guernsey, during the Occupation. In October 1941 he moved to the parish of Castel and started working as a motor engineer for the Organisation Todt. His occupation registration form indicates that in January 1944 he started work at St Peter Port garage where his employer was given as the ‘German forces’.
Working for the Germans came with the problem of being directly under their eye. On 23 July 1942, Kibble was sentenced by the German army court martial to three weeks’ imprisonment for theft. On 14 July 1944, he was sentenced again for ‘refusing services in kind’ to 9 months imprisonment. Guernsey’s police record book also records against his name a second charge: that of ‘heavy ordinary theft’, for which he was convicted on 9 February 1945 to one year and eight months’ hard labour.
Little elucidation of these recorded offences exists, save for an affidavit that Kibble swore before the British security forces after liberation, now to be found in The National Archives (WO 311/12). In this testimony, Kibble asserted that an anonymous letter was sent to the ‘Gestapo’ (in reality, the Geheime Feldpolizei), informing them that he was in possession of a radio. He reported that he was first imprisoned for three weeks and then court-martialled. His son was ‘sent to Germany’ (where, he did not state) and he was given a sentence of 9 months of which six was served in Guernsey and three in Alderney, where he was sent in February 1945. He wrote:
When in prison I was severely bullied (made to work when not fit) but the other nationalities were knocked about, bullied and starved. I was the only Englishman out of about 30 in the prison. People were in prison for minor offences, e.g. stealing potatoes, being in possession of pamphlets dropped by the RAF, etc. Prisoners were knocked about … the worst incident was when a man named Ben Abbitt, an Algerian, was knocked about all over the room … knocked to the floor and had great difficulty in getting up. No-one died as a result of the beatings but they were physical wrecks. … Part of the rations were set aside by a Georgian interpreter to give to [Obergefreiter Fritz] LENDERING in order to appease him and to ensure that he did not impose extra punishment on the prisoners after the days work had been done.
Meanwhile, Kibble’s wife Emily was also involved in her own misadventures. In a story given to the Guernsey Evening Press after liberation, she told how their house was searched on 30 June 1944 and a radio was discovered, which caused her husband to be arrested. Two days before he was due to be released, he ‘broke into a German store at Granville House, Mount Durand, taking about ‘400 tons of foodstuffs. Unfortunately he was caught and was again sentenced by German court … The Feldgendarmarie came immediately and searched the house and took all I had in the way of food: beans, flour and other odds and ends. They sentenced me to three months for receiving stolen goods and told me to be ready at the prison by 5pm on February 12th last.’
Rather than going to the prison, Emily faked her suicide and spent three months in hiding at the home of her friend, Réné Bessin. Her whereabouts was denounced to the Germans by a local woman, and the Guernsey police visited Bessin’s home. However, he told them to behave patriotically or to leave. Bessin himself had already served time in a French prison earlier in the Occupation.
Age 71, Eric Kibble asked the Foreign Office to send him a form so he could claim compensation for Nazi persecution. However, he did not file his claim.
Occupation registration card, Guernsey Island Archives.
Copy of Guernsey police records of German army tribunal records, Guernsey Island Archives, reference CC14-05-77 refs 29 and 139.
Affidavit of Eric Kibble, The National Archives ref. WO 311/12.