By Gilly Carr
George James Fox was born on 22 May 1896 in St Helier, Jersey. His name is known to us as one of the Jersey 21 whose name is inscribed on the Lighthouse Memorial in St Helier as one of those who did not return from deportation.
Fox had previously served in the army during WWI with the Royal Irish Regiment. After training in Hampshire and Ireland, he was sent to France where he was wounded in the fighting at Guillemont / Ginchy in September 1916. In 1918 he was gassed while serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was awarded the 1914 / 1915 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
In 1922, three years after he left the army, George Fox married Cecilia Fossey and the couple went on to have seven children between 1923 and 1936. Fox worked as an antiques dealer and cabinet maker but, by 1943, was working as a kitchen helper.
On 23 June 1943, Fox was sentenced by the court of the Field Command 515 to two years’ imprisonment for ‘continual larceny’. In her compensation testimony of 1965, Cecilia Fox testified that her husband had been arrested for stealing food from German barracks to feed his family.
Although the date of George Fox’s deportation is unrecorded, it may be hypothesised that he was deported on the same day as the man with whom he was tried, Clifford Querée. According to Jersey’s political prisoner logbook, Querée was deported on 13 July 1943.
George Fox and Clifford Querée arrived at Fort d’Hautville Prison near Dijon on 19 July 1943, possibly having passed through Dijon Prison for processing. These were not their first prisons; indeed, Querée’s prison register entry indicates that he was first in Saint-Lô Prison. We may therefore conclude that this was also George Fox’s first place of incarceration before Dijon.
On 19 December 1943 Fox and Querée were transferred by the Feldgendarmerie to Saarbrücken Prison. After spending their first Christmas in captivity, on 5 January 1944 the two men were placed on a transport from Saarbrücken with four other Channel Islanders: Walter Lainé, Percy Miller, Frederick Page, and Joseph Tierney. 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.
George Fox was transferred to Naumburg Prison on 24 July 1944 – his first period of separation in more than a year from Clifford Querée, who had been taken to Naumburg three weeks earlier on 3 July. A record card surviving at the International Tracing Service shows that while he was at Naumburg, Fox was made to carry out forced labour, clearing bomb damage; dates on this card show that this work ended on 17 November 1944. Quite how much contact he had with other Islanders during this time 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.’
Of the 11 Channel Islands prisoners at Naumburg only six 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. George Fox died on 11 March 1945 at Naumburg Prison and he was buried in the town’s cemetery; he was joined there by Querée two months later. Querée, ten years younger, had survived his friend by a very short period, and quite possibly lost the strength to fight after his friend died. We can only assume that, like other Channel Islanders in Naumburg at this time, both men could well have been suffering from starvation, dysentery and dropsy. Querée’s actual cause of death was severe pneumonia.
Soon after the war, and at least by 1949, the bodies of both men were exhumed and reburied in neighbouring graves in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, also known as the Britischer Soldatenfriedhof, in Heerstrasse, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Berlin. Fox’s grave can be found in Plot IX, Row G, Grave 23.
In 1965 George Fox’s widow Cecilia successfully applied for compensation for the loss of her husband.
The author is indebted to Michael Viebig of the Gedenkstätte Roter Ochse Halle (Saale) for providing information on George Fox and other Channel Islanders. The author would also like to thank Ina Herge of the Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv for giving permission for George Fox’s records from Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison to be shown here. She would also like to thank Sandra Wakeham for permission to show other documents relating to George Fox, her uncle, and for information about his early life.
Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or: 1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville, numéro matricule 2931.
Compensation claim for Nazi Persecution, George Fox, The National Archives ref. FO 950/2231.
George Fox, Occupation registration card and forms, Jersey Archives ref. St H/5/2525 – 2528.
George Fox, court records, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/6/83
Records for George Fox, copyright International Tracing Service documents, Wiener Library ref. 98385897, 100753727, 21044132, 11554338, 11298273, 11939390/1, 21044125, 21044128, 21044137.
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.