By Gilly Carr
Frank William Whare was born in Guernsey on 13 May 1894. He served in the army during WWI, from April 1915 to April 1918. He first joined the police force in 1918, but left to go to Alderney in 1922. He re-joined the force in 1926 and was working as a police constable at the time of the occupation of the island and lived with his wife, Eva, and son, William, in the parish of St Martin. He had two other children in the island of working age.
Whare, along with many of his fellow policemen, was to get involved in a case which would cause ripples for decades to come. From the earliest post-war days, these men of military age consistently argued that their actions were inspired by the BBC broadcasts of ‘Colonel Britton’, otherwise known as Douglas Ritchie. These broadcasts were transmitted on the European service to the occupied peoples of Europe but were not aimed at the Channel Islanders because of the precariousness of their situation as sitting ducks in small islands. These broadcasts gave instructions to civilians to sabotage and harass the occupiers in numerous non-military ways. For these young men denied the opportunity of fighting in the armed services, or the older men who had previously served in WWI, such broadcasts appealed greatly. Their role as policemen gave them opportunities for action denied to most other civilians, such as being out after curfew. However, their position was a double-edged sword. Policemen were also required to salute passing German officers, which they found hard to stomach.
We have three main sources of information from which to draw to learn more of Whare’s story: Bill Bell’s interviews with the policemen later in their lives; Whare’s compensation for Nazi persecution testimony; and the memoirs of his police colleague, Kingston George Bailey, from which we can learn much about the experiences of the other policemen.
Bailey described how he and fellow ringleader, police constable Frank Tuck, decided, in the first winter of the occupation, to do all they could to annoy the Germans. From March 1941 they compiled a dossier on their activities, cut telephone wires, put sand in the petrol tanks of German cars, and painted V for victory signs around the island.
By the following winter, the civilian population was suffering from food shortages while, at the same time, the Germans stockpiled food in stores throughout St Peter Port. Bailey and Tuck broke into these stores by night and took tinned food to redistribute to those in need. They brought a number of other policemen into their group such that, by February 1942, ‘the operation was … getting out of hand … practically the whole police force was now taking part and, as we were on different shifts, it was impossible to know what each man was doing.’ Civilian stores run by people trading with the Germans were also entered.
On 3 March 1942, Bailey and Tuck were caught red-handed by German soldiers lying in wait for them at one of the food stores. They and most of the other police were taken to Guernsey prison and their houses were searched. The men were taken to Grange Lodge in St Peter Port, the HQ of the Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei) for questioning. They were beaten and given decreasing rations over the period of interrogation. Whare later recalled that he was hit in the face twice, stunning him, and was spat in the face When he instinctively spat back, he was ‘knocked to the ground, but before I reached the floor I was grabbed by the arms by two men standing by and I was kicked in the back, abdomen and thighs until I began to vomit’ (Bell 1995, 157). Back in the prison they were kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to wash or change their clothes. Lack of sleep also took its toll. They were also presented with forged confessions during this period.
Sixteen of the policemen were then taken to Fort George in St Peter Port for four weeks, where they were able to recover from their beatings and receive food from family and friends so that they looked well for their trial.
On 24 April 1942 the men were tried by the Germans and, controversially, also by the local authorities in the Royal Court on 1 June 1942, on account of the civilian stores that had also been entered. This was to be a show trial. Whare was sentenced to two years and six months hard labour for ‘serious theft in two cases and theft in two cases’ by the German court, and three months hard labour by the Royal Court, the sentences to run concurrently. After sentencing, the men were taken back to Fort George until their deportation on 13 June 1942, during which they were handcuffed to each other in pairs. They were taken first to Jersey Prison for the night, then on to a prison in Granville for a few hours, and then Caen Prison, all the while still in handcuffs.
They were in Caen from 16 June to 16 July 1942. For the first night they were put in dungeon cells in which straw mattresses, complete with wet blankets, were placed on the floor, in two inches of ‘what smelt like a cesspool’. After that they were placed in a room filled with 100 cubicles, each locked up at night, and each containing a bed. In his memoirs, Bailey wrote that ‘the cubicles and bed frames were full of bugs which were, indeed, as hungry as ourselves … The food was terrible, consisting mainly of cabbage soup, with about 3/4 of a pound of bread each day … Many of the prisoners suffered from a mild form of dysentery, probably caused by too much cabbage water.’
On the next stage of his journey, Whare was sent to Fort de Villeneuve St Georges Prison near Paris, where he was given prisoner number 3219. He arrived 16 July 1942. Lest there be any misapprehension that life in a French prison was easy, the following description by Whare’s colleague Fred Short of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges was as follows:
‘We slept 50 to a room on beds of straw. Vermin was at its height (lice, bugs, fleas) and the sanitation and washing facilities were practically nil. A galvanised dustbin with a wooden plank for use as a WC was issued to each room for sanitation purposes and was emptied twice daily (morning and night) so the smell in the room as you can imagine was terrible. Washing facilities consisted of four small taps running out of a wall where one had to cup one’s hands in order to gather enough water to swill your face. No baths or showers, so being impossible to wash one’s body. Razors were forbidden, there being no facilities whatsoever for haircutting and shaving so you can imagine what a sorry mess we all looked when we left this Prison Fort … Food consisted of a semi-starvation diet, with two small cups of watery soup daily with two slices of dry bread and one thin slice of meat or cheese fortnightly and finally for good measure the Nazi guards would raid and search the rooms on an average twice weekly (day or night) and each of us in turn would get a beating up by getting struck with their rifles and kicked.’
(Frederick Short, compensation testimony, TNA FO 950/1224)
On 15 August 1942, a month after his arrival at Villeneuve, Frank Whare was transferred to the prison hospital at Fresnes Prison, returning to Villeneuve on 12 October 1942. Whare was not the only Guernsey policeman to be transferred to the hospital in Fresnes; Frederick Duquemin and William Quin, too, spent time there, the three men sharing a room. Thanks to the letters written to his family from the prison hospital, we can learn from Quin why Whare had been admitted. Quin recorded in a letter to his wife that Whare had an operation of 25 August for a hernia, in the ‘same place as his appendix operation’. He elaborated later in the same letter that Whare ‘has had a rupture of his appendix operation caused by slipping in carrying a bucket at Villeneuve. He is ok now’. Quin asked his wife to let Eva Whare know about her husband’s stay in hospital. That Whare was in hospital for almost two months indicates either complications following the operation, or perhaps the need to treat him for further injuries caused by ill-treatment by the Germans in Guernsey, or by the guards at Villeneuve. It is also possible that the cause of the hernia was sanitised by Quin in his letters home in an attempt to avoid worrying Whare’s wife or to avoid the prison censor.
Archival records show that, remarkably, given the length of his sentence, Whare was not deported to Germany, but stayed in Villeneuve until its liberation by the Americans on 17 August 1944. There are few explanations for this relative good fortune. We might conjecture that Whare was not considered strong enough to be sent for forced labour in Germany, or that he was considered to be usefully employed in various labour projects near Villeneuve, such as digging up unexploded bombs. Perhaps he was in Fresnes Prison hospital long enough to miss the key transports to Germany with his police colleagues. Without further information, all we can say is that his trajectory after liberation was likely to be similar to that of other Channel Islanders released at this time, such as Geoffrey Delauney. He would have been brought back to the UK until the end of hostilities.
As for Eva Whare and their son William, they were not left unmolested in Guernsey. Like the wife and children of other deported policemen, they were deported to Compiègne Internment and Transit Camp. In May 1943, Eva and William were moved to Biberach Civilian Internment Camp.
After the occupation, when the Whare family returned to Guernsey, Whare was not reinstated as a policeman as no men convicted of stealing or receiving stolen goods could be employed in the police. He instead found employment as a stoker at the States Dairy. Frank Whare, like the other Guernsey policemen, never cleared his name and the judgements against him and the other policemen made by the Royal Court in Guernsey still stand to this day, long after his death.
Bailey, K.G.1979 . Dachau. Guernsey: CI Marine Ltd.
Bell, W.M. 1995. I Beg to Report. Guernsey: Guernsey Press Co. Ltd.
Sanders, P. 2014. ‘Economic resistance and sabotage’, pp. 277-306 in G. Carr, P. Sanders and L. Willmot, Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation 1940-1945. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Frank Whare, compensation claim for Nazi persecution. The National Archives ref. FO 950/3171.