By Gilly Carr
Evelina Kathleen Garland née Weston was born in Woolwich, London, on 23 April 1911. She came to Guernsey in March 1927, aged 16, indicating that she may have moved to the island for work. She was married to Walter Garland and working as a cleaner at the time of the occupation of the island. Her later German prison records indicate that the couple had a daughter called Florence, who must have been evacuated to England as she did not live with Evelina and Walter during the Occupation.
At the time that she comes to our attention, she lived at 2 Valnord Hill, St Peter Port, in Guernsey, and was housewife. On 28 March 1944 she was convicted for ‘failing to deliver an anti-German leaflet, and for making and spreading the leaflet’. For this offence, she was given a sentence of two years and three months imprisonment.
We are most fortunate in having detailed information about Evelina’s case because her court transcript survives, along with a number of records from German prisons. We also have Evelina’s testimony which survives within her application for compensation for Nazi persecution from 1965.
In her own words, Evelina wrote that she was convicted for ‘composing a stupid song, which I suppose at that time was something very serious.’ To see just how seriously the Germans chose to take this offence, her court transcript is worth quoting in full:
At some point in October 1943 the accused found, according to her statement, a typed paper with satirical song lyrics on the street in St. Peter Port. In this satirical song, which was to be sung to the tune of the English melody ‘Bless them all’, one hears how the ‘blockheads’ with their ‘green backsides and the OT (Organisation Todt labour battalions) and the whole bloody lot’ shall leave the island. The populace is encouraged to drive the ‘blockheaded Huns’ to the harbour and bid them ‘good riddance’ and prepare them for ‘hell’ with spades and pitchforks.
The purpose of this satirical song is to encourage the populace to commit violence against the occupying forces during the, as the writer suggests, upcoming leave-taking of the island by the forces. This is undoubtedly clear to the defendant. According to her testimony, her husband, to whom she showed it, had requested that she burn it immediately. The satirical song should also be classified as a flyer, since it was written on a typewriter and the content as well as the intent is satirical, and since written for a specific melody, shows it was prepared with the intent of inciting the populace.
The accused did not acquiesce to her husband’s request and did not, according to the requirements of law, turn the document into the German occupation authorities or even the English police, but instead kept it.
As the defendant and her husband were visiting the Brighton Hotel in November 1943, she was introduced to the lorry driver Gerald Bird from Alderney, who in the meantime has been convicted of not turning in this flyer to the authorities. They met again several days later at a friend of the defendant’s, a Ms. Pinney. Her young adoptive son began to sing the forbidden song again, which his mother then forbade. When Bird asked who could get him a copy of the lyrics of the song, the defendant stated that she would make him a copy. She made a copy of the flyer and gave it to Bird. When he told her a few days later that he had lost the copy she gave him, she gave him the flyer she had found. The handwritten copy was later seized in Bird’s possession.
The defendant thus made herself guilty of the production and distribution of a flyer (a crime according to par. 14 d.VO. of 18.12.42).
As regards the sentencing, a heavy emphasis has been placed upon the fact that the content of the flyer that the defendant failed to turn in, reproduced and distributed, as noted above, is especially dangerous in that it incites the island populace to rise up and indeed perform violent acts against the German occupiers.
If the court has seen fit not give a penal punishment it is because the defendant, as a woman, was perhaps unaware of the seriousness of her actions, because she fully confessed to them, and because she has no previous convictions. A mild jail term should be avoided, however, if the purpose of the punishment is to be achieved.
The following sentence is pronounced:
For failing to turn an anti-German flyer into the authorities:
8 months of prison
For the reproduction and distribution of a flyer:
1 year and 9 months of prison.
This sentence is according to par. 74 RStGB. for a total punishment of 2 years and 3 months of prison.
The seizure of the flyer is in accordance with par. 2 of the mentioned VO of 18.12.42.
Signed Dr. von Tresckow
War Court Advisor, 28.3.1944
This transcript is illuminating on a number of grounds, not least because the involvement of Gerald Bird in her case was unknown until this point. Gerald Bird lived in Jersey but had been working in Alderney and presumably was able to also travel to Guernsey, which is where he met Evelina. Bird was deported in January 1944 and ended up in Buchenwald Concentration Camp (among other places). Evelina was also soon to suffer a harsh journey of her own through the Nazi camp and prison system.
Our initial point of reference is her own testimony of her journey. Evelina wrote that:
I have no documentary proof of my imprisonment … when I came home … I weighed only 4 stone and 13 lbs [69 pounds / 31kg]. After leaving France I was taken to various prison camps including big prisons in Gotteszell, Nuremburg, Dresden, first stopping place was Breslau where we were assembling some sort of electrical cones with a lot of wires and were there for about six months, then we were moved on to Bautzen prison camp where we used to go out to a sort of cotton mill to work constantly under armed guard but we were driven so hard with only about half a cup of food, whatever it was, and one slice of bread a day, with the consequence my right [missing word] got really bad, exactly what I do not know, but finally they decided they would have to take me to the civilian hospital in Bautzen where they opened it up from elbow to under arm and in front shoulder I was in hospital for about eight weeks but when I finally returned to the camp I could not use my arm at all, in fact the doctor said it was finished, I do use it now but I cannot do all I would like to be able to do, as sometimes I suffer quite a lot with it especially in bed at night I cannot bear the weight of bed covers on it. Finally I ended up in Leipzig in a big prison with all nationalities where the Americans finally released me I had to wait about three weeks before I could get transport back to France and then another 3 or 4 weeks before getting back to England.
Evelina named numerous prisons here (not necessarily in order), but unfortunately did not name her French prison, for which no records have yet been located. However, it is quite possible that she was sent to one of the more severe prisons in Paris, as were others deported late in the war.
In terms of records kept at the International Tracing Service (ITS), there is evidence that she was in the women’s prison of Gotteszell from 28 April 1944 to 27 June 1946 – the latter date clearly indicates the intended end of her sentence. It shows us that she was in France for no more than a month, and that she was removed from this prison to carry out forced labour. However, information at the ITS is limited, and for further information we must turn to the Saxony Archive. This shows that as early as 2 May 1944 Evelina was moved from Gotteszell to Kirshau-Bautzen Prison, arriving there on 5 May 1944. Whether she had been in transit in Nuremburg has not been established. Evelina was in hospital (as we’ve seen, with problems with her right arm) from 8 October 1944 to 15 November 1944, which resulted in a new end-of-punishment date (from 27 June 1946 to 3 August 1946). After this she was declared unfit for work and needing further medical attention. She was then transferred to Dresden on 30 December 1944, and then on 3 January 1945 was taken to Leipzig-Kleinmeusdorf Women’s Prison, arriving there on 6 January. On 23 March 1945 Evelina was moved to Kirschau-Bautzen Prison, where she was still declared not fit for work. It seems that Evelina was back in Leipzig by the end of the war because orders exist to release her on 19 April 1945, one day after US troops liberated the city.
The records from the Saxony Archive are detailed and do not mention Breslau; instead, Bautzen appears to be the place where she spent an extended period. However, at the time that Evelina was applying for compensation, only the ITS and Red Cross were consulted. They were able to confirm only her presence in Gotteszell and transfer to Bautzen. The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, Michael Melish, was also consulted by the Home Office and presumably furnished with the records from the Red Cross. He wrote that ‘it seems most likely that Mrs Garland was only in the women’s prison at Gotteszell’. This was the position taken by the Foreign Office, who also decided that this prison was not comparable to a concentration camp. Evelina Garland’s testimony was disregarded and she was not given compensation. According to her grandson, this rejection hurt her deeply.
Evelina’s grandson was also able to share an anecdote about the song his grandmother composed. He said that his uncle told him that ‘people used to whistle Gran’s song in the street and nod and smile knowingly when someone coming the other way would whistle it back.’
The author would like to thank Ted Wild, Evelina Garland’s grandson, for sharing anecdotes about his grandmother.
Evelina Garland’s occupation registration form, copyright Guernsey Archives.
Evelina Garland’s conviction charge sheet, copyright Guernsey Archives ref CC EC 06-02/322.
Evelina Garland’s compensation claim for Nazi persecution, copyright The National Archives ref. FO 950/1162.
Evelina Garland’s records, Wiener Library, copyright International Tracing Service ref. 91227359.
Saxony Archives relating to Evelina Garland, ref. 20034-195. Copyright Sächsisches Staatsarchiv (Saxony State Archive) Records on Leipzig Kleinmeusdorf Prison 20034, Garland 195.