By Gilly Carr
Ernest Le Prevost was born on 26 November 1905 in Guernsey. As a young man he served for 7 years with the First Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry as a bugler, and that he retired with the rank of private in 1929, aged 24.
At the time of the registration of Islanders in October 1940, Le Prevost was 34 years old, living at Marais Lane in the Vale parish and was married to Alice Le Prevost née Bourgaize. He carried out ground work for a living. From March 1942, Le Prevost had begun to work as a policeman. The couple by now had four children.
Le Prevost comes to our attention because on 23 July he was convicted on ‘failing to deliver a wireless set’ and sentenced by the judgement of the tribunal of Feldkommandantur 515 to 1 year and 2 months’ imprisonment.
On 6 August 1943, Le Prevost arrived at Troyes Haut-Clos Prison, indicating that he was deported from Guernsey the day before. He stayed at this prison until 15 March 1944, when he was transferred to Fort d’Hauteville Prison in Dijon. The records from this prison show that he arrived the following day, on 16 March 1944. Although his sentence was due to expire on 13 July 1944, he was kept in the prison until 24 August, at which point he was transferred to Dijon Prison.
Le Prevost applied (unsuccessfully) for compensation for his imprisonment. It is from the documents in this application that we learn that he was transferred to Germany. Records show that on 30 September 1944, Le Prevost was now imprisoned in the Merchant Navy internment camp of Marlag & Milag Nord (having probably arrived shortly before), and given prisoner number 1595. Also in this same file, Le Prevost gave an account of how he came to be arrested and the regime of the prisons in which he was held. That document is available to read in full on this webpage.
Le Prevost explained that a neighbour, who he had previously had to arrest for a minor offence, had informed on him for distributing the BBC news to the public, and after this the Germans had kept a close watch on him. On 14 May 1943, the Germans surrounded his house, caught him red-handed listening to Winston Churchill speaking from America, and took him to Guernsey Prison. He was asked to write down the names of those who had listened to his radio, but he refused, which caused him ‘a great deal of trouble’.
He was placed in solitary confinement in a small cell for two months, then marched to the harbour in the company of a Russian, two Frenchmen and an Algerian, and taken to St Malo, then Troyes, as we saw above. He described this prison as a place where ‘several thousand prisoners were kept on very restricted amounts of food’. He was then chained ‘hand and foot to an Algerian for 17 hours’, and he and 300 prisoners were marched through the streets to the station and taken to Fort d’Hautville Prison in Dijon where they were kept ‘weak, chilled and very hungry, 48 men in each brick vaulted room, under 21 feet of ground’.
As the Allies approached, the British subjects were taken to Germany, to Marlag and Milag Nord, where medical care and better food was available. On his arrival, Le Prevost’s weight had dropped to 120 pounds (just over 8 ½ stone). In letters kept by the family and written by Ernest Le Prevost during his incarceration, we learn that he arrived in Marlag and Milag Nord via a week in Fort Hatry Prison, Belfort. We also learn that there were other Islanders in Marlag and Milag Nord: Harold Gallienne, Jack Le Caer, Clifford Tostevin, Cyril Hockey, and George Ferbrache, all men listed in the Frank Falla Archive.
The men were liberated on 27 April 1945. Le Prevost was repatriated to the UK, where he helped to repair damaged houses in Greenwich for 8 weeks. He finally arrived back in Guernsey on 27 July 1945 and joined his father in the building firm of E. Le Prevost and Son.
Le Prevost’s children today have a Bible that their father was given in Marlag and Milag Nord. They testified, as did the many inscriptions on the fly-leaf, that his Christian faith as a Methodist helped him and others to survive their ordeal behind barbed wire.
Ernest Le Prevost had health problems after the war; his liver was enlarged and he had problems with digestion. He passed away aged 60, his health no doubt ruined by the war.
When asked how he survived his wartime experience, Brian Le Prevost later said of his father that ‘It was his faith that carried him through, without a shadow of a doubt’.
The author would like to thank Mavis Tardif and Brian Le Prevost, daughter and son of Ernest Le Prevost, for sharing information about their father.
Ernest Le Prevost’s Occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Ernest Le Prevost’s 1942 registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Ernest Le Prevost’s charge sheet, copyright Island Archives, Guernsey, ref. CC14-05/211.
Prison and post-war letters of Ernest Le Prevost, in the possession of his family.
Compensation claim for Nazi persecution, Ernest Le Prevost, TNA ref. FO 950/4038. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.
Ernest Le Prevost’s records, Archives départementales de l’Aube, Troyes, France, ref 1039 W 16.
Ernest Le Prevost’s records, Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or, 1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville
Interview with Mavis Tardif and Brian Le Prevost, children of Ernest Le Prevost, 28 January 2016.