By Gilly Carr
Frederick William Page was born on 20 November 1900 in Portsmouth, England. His name is known to us as one of the Jersey 21 whose names are inscribed on the Lighthouse Memorial in St Helier as one of those who did not return from deportation. However, all was not as it seemed with Frederick Page: this man’s real name was William Frederick White and his real date of birth was 20 November 1894.
His grandson confirmed that his grandfather abandoned his grandmother (Nellie White née Hackett, who he had married in 1915) and their two children in the late 1920s. His family believe that he changed his name and moved to Jersey to join his best friend from his days in the army, a man with the surname Davey who presumably knew Page’s real background; the two men had been in the Grenadier Guards together during WWI. Page married Davey’s sister (also called Nellie) in July 1937.
Page comes to our attention in 1943 when he got into trouble with the German authorities for wireless offences. On 19 and 30 July 1943 he was sentenced by the court of the Field Command for ‘listening in, in company with other persons, to wireless broadcasts’ and for ‘failing to surrender a wireless set’. He was convicted with a group of other people, including Clarence James Davey and Isaac Stanislas Davey, who were very likely to have been relatives of his wife – probably her brothers. Page received an 18-month prison sentence; Davey was given 21 months.
Historian Paul Sanders has established that in all, nine men were involved in listening to an illegal radio at Clarence Davey’s house, where three wireless sets were hidden in the attic, two of which belonged to Page. At the trial, Page did not act wisely:
[He] disregarded all caution and displayed an extraordinarily temperamental attitude: from the beginning he made no secret of the fact that he was English-born, boasting that he had fought the ‘Hun’ as a Guardsman during the First World War … The German judge saw a particular danger in his defiant attitude and there was little hesitation about removing Page, who had already been exempted once from the 1942 deportation, from the island. (Sanders 2004, 33)
No date of deportation (or even mention) of Frederick Page is noted in Jersey’s political prisoner logbook. The next we hear of him is his arrival at Fort d’Hauteville Prison in Dijon on 21 September 1943, where he was imprisoned until 19 December 1943. He probably was processed through Dijon Prison upon entering and leaving Hauteville. He arrived at Hauteville on the same date as Joseph Tierney, indicating that they were deported together. Tierney was deported on 18 September 1943 so we can thus assume that this was also Page’s date of deportation. As Tierney was first sent to a prison in Saint Servan (now part of St Malo) for two days, from 18-20 September, we can also assume this journey for Page.
On 19 December 1943, Page was transferred by the Feldgendarmerie to Saarbrücken Prison. After spending his first Christmas in captivity, on 5 January 1944 he was placed on a transport from Saarbrücken with five other Channel Islanders: Walter Lainé, Percy Miller, Joseph Tierney, George Fox and Clifford Querée. Two days later, on 7 January 1944, they arrived at Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison.
At Frankfurt, Islanders were able to communicate with each other when taking their daily 15-minute exercise in the prison yard. ‘If we could not slyly whisper a few words to each other, we exchanged V – or thumbs up – signs’, as fellow prisoner and Guernseyman Frank Falla wrote in his newspaper article to the Jersey Evening Post after his repatriation to the UK in July 1945.
Frederick Page was transferred to Naumburg Prison on 3 July 1944. On the journey to Naumburg, Frank Falla later wrote that there was a little ‘Channel Islander get-together’, which must have been of great comfort to the men. Quite how much contact Page had with other Islanders at Naumburg is unknown, but Frank Falla stated, in a newspaper article of July 1945, that by September 1944 there were a total of 11 Islanders in separated sections of Naumburg prison, and that ‘any contact was extremely hazardous to life and limb.’
Falla had been able to keep brief notes on a scrap of paper in his cell about his prison experiences and his fellow Islanders as they died. He noted that two days after they arrived at Naumburg, he, Tierney, Querée, William Marsh and Frederick Page, started work in the ‘shoe barrack’, where they worked 11 hours a day, every day except Sundays, until Christmas. In his memoirs, Falla described this work as follows:
We were confined to the wooden shed in one of the [prison] yards where we worked under guards and senior (favoured) German prisoners. There were some murderous bullies among these, and I do mean murderous. In the shed we made clogs – nailing the ersatz-leather uppers to the wooden soles – and were rough-handled if we couldn’t keep up the pace of the practised ‘lifers’.
Of the 11 Channel Islands prisoners at Naumburg only three survived. As each man died, Falla repeated his request to the prison governor that at least two of them be allowed to attend the funeral of their dead comrades but this was refused. Frederick Page died on 5 January 1945 at Naumburg Prison and he was buried in the town’s cemetery; he was joined there by several other islanders that spring, including George Fox, Clifford Querée and Emile Paisnel.
On the scrap of paper in his prison cell, Falla wrote ‘Fred Page … died at 6am on January 5, 1945, two months before his release was due. He died at Naumburg prison and was buried on Saturday 7 January. Four days after his death word came for his immediate release on health grounds.’ In July 1945, after his repatriation to the UK, Falla wrote an article to the Jersey Evening Post in which he testified that, before his death, ‘He [Page] had done very little work and had been ailing for a year.’ By ‘work’, Falla was referring to the forced labour that all of the men were compelled to carry out at various times.
In his memoirs, published in 1967, Falla told an anecdote which involved both Tierney and Page as an example of typical generosity of Tierney, despite his own starvation:
A German warder brought an apple with him for lunch. He gave it to Joe who would have been justified in eating it on the spot for he, like all of us, was suffering from malnutrition and starvation. Instead Joe … gave this apple to a Jerseyman named Page, Two days later Page died … other prisoners snatched the apple from Page as he was dying. (Falla 1967, 126)
Paul Sanders uncovered a recommendation made by Dr Weissgerber, head of the Office of Public Health in Naumburg, written two weeks before Page’s death, in which he noted that Page was suffering from:
Heavy circulation disorders and extensive infections of cell tissue. He is no longer fit to be kept in prison. It is required that he be released as soon as possible. (cited in Saunders 2004, 39)
The request was not given the urgency it needed and the authorisation for his release came too late. Page’s official cause of death was given as ‘heart failure and furnuclosis’ (a condition of multiple infected boils and carbuncles caused by a weak immune system).
In January 1949, the bodies of deceased Channel Islanders were exhumed from Naumburg and reburied in graves in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, also known as the Britischer Soldatenfriedhof, in Heerstrasse, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Berlin.
In 1965, Nellie Page née Davey – now Nellie Billingham – successfully applied for compensation for the loss of Frederick Page.
The author is indebted to Michael Viebig of the Gedenkstätte Roter Ochse Halle (Saale) for providing information on Frederick Page and other Channel Islanders. The author would also like to thank Ina Herge of the Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv for giving permission for Frederick Page’s records from Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison to be shown here. Finally, the author would like to thank Kevin White for information about Frederick Page’s early life and for permission for photographic reproduction here.
Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or: 1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville, records for Frederick Page.
Compensation claim for Nazi Persecution, Nellie Billingham, The National Archives ref. FO 950/1400.
Frederick Page, Occupation registration card and forms, Jersey Archives ref. St.H/7/8510-8512.
Frederick Page, court records, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/6/99.
Letter from Frank Falla to the Foreign Office, 13 April 1965, The National Archives ref. FO 950/765.
Records for Frederick Page, copyright International Tracing Service documents, Wiener Library ref. 11298273/0/1, 45075941, 11555412, 91231357.
Falla, F. 1967. The Silent War. Leslie Frewin.
Falla, F. 1945. ‘Channel Islanders in Nazi Camp’, Jersey Evening Post, 4 July 1945.
Falla, F. 1945. ‘Revelations of Prison Life in Germany’, Guernsey Weekly Press and Advertiser, 11 July 1945.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey: Jersey Heritage.