By Gilly Carr
Harry St Clair Dean was born on 29 December 1898 (or 1889: he wrote different dates on different registration documents) in Battersea, London. We do not know much about his early life, but we know he came to Guernsey in 1907, aged 8, indicating that either one or more of his parents were from the island, or that they moved there for work.
According to his Occupation registration card, he served in the army (probably the Royal Surrey Militia) during the First World War, retiring in 1919.
At the beginning of the German Occupation, Dean was married to Lilian Dean née Hardyway but ‘judicially separated’, a term used before divorce was legal in the island. He was working as the publican of The Plough Inn, and living in Vauvert in St Peter Port. His sons were in the UK and at least one was in the armed forces.
Harry Dean fell foul of the German authorities on several occasions; a number of documents survive in Guernsey Archives showing his presence in court. On 31 May 1943, he was sentenced by the tribunal of the Feldkommandantur in Jersey to a 300 RM fine or 30 days arrest for ‘contravening the Price Restriction Order’. We learn from a post-war news article about him that he was arrested on 23 August 1943 and charged with concealing a radio and camera, which the Germans found after a search, and alleged black market activities. Archival records show that, on 8 October 1943, he was sentenced by the tribunal for ‘continually receiving stolen goods and black market dealings’ to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 3,000 RM. If he was unable to pay the fine, a further 60 days’ imprisonment was to be added to his sentence. It seems likely that Dean’s house was searched because, on 25 February 1944, a letter was written from the German authorities in Guernsey to the Bailiff of that island stating that ‘an amount of 12,000 RM (notes and coins) was seized from him last year’. The Germans extracted the required 3,000 from this and returned the rest to the Deputy Attorney General of Guernsey for safe keeping.
Given his two year sentence in October 1943, one might imagine that he had been deported soon after this date, or at the very least put in Guernsey Prison. However, Dean was charged with yet another offence by tribunal in Jersey. In a letter dated 4 April 1944, the tribunal wrote to the Deputy Attorney General in Guernsey to inform him that Dean ‘has been sentenced by Judgement of the Tribunal of Feldkommandantur 515 for failing to deliver a wireless set, for failing to deliver a photographic camera, and for anti-German manifestation, to three years’ and nine months’ imprisonment. Further, to a fine of 3,000 RM imposed by judgement on 8 October 1943, or 50 more days imprisonment.’
The post-war article in The Star newspaper, shown on this webpage, tells us that Dean spent 7 months in Guernsey Prison; in fact, the actual period must have been closer to eight. The prison diary of Frank Falla, in prison at the same time as Dean, notes on 19 April that ‘Harry Dean left for prison in France at 8.30pm this evening. He is to go to a place called ‘St Lou’ (sic – i.e. Saint-Lo Prison) near Granville.’
Our knowledge that Harry Dean was, indeed, deported comes from the list of British prisoners from Bochum Prison in Germany, where his prisoner number was 360/44. A date of 12 June 1944 also appears next to his name. In the post-war newspaper article, Dean testified that it took 56 days to reach Bochum, meaning that he arrived at this date. He travelled via St Malo, St-Lo, Paris, Zaberne and Cologne, his journey a ‘nightmare of filthy, verminous prisons, without adequate sanitation coupled with brutal inhuman treatment on the part of the Germans.’ We are also told that ‘several times he was in bombing raids and all the time he was half-starved.’
At Bochum he carried out forced labour, making camouflage for wire netting. For over eight months he spent his non-working hours in a small cell, shared with three other prisoners. He was given meagre rations. He testified to a reporter that, as an Englishman, he was brutally treated, punched, kicked and beaten by German guards.
With the advance of the Allies in the spring of 1945 he was moved to Hamelin Prison with the rest of the prisoners. The 50 mile journey from Bochum to Hamelin took seven days because they were constantly attacked by allied plans. All this time, 73 men in Dean’s truck were kept cooped up during this period and given such small amounts of food that they were living skeletons when they came out.
At Hamelin they were put in the prison basement. By then, Dean was ill and unable to walk. The Germans fled with the men still able to walk meaning that, when the Americans arrived, he was still there.
He recovered enough to help the military authorities, who made him controller, police chief and general secretary of the prisoners still remaining. He was able to organise the supply of food and clothes for his prisoner comrades. He was also given a car, which he was later allowed to purchase, and was allowed to drive to Brussels, at which point he ran out of petrol. He was flown back to England where he convalesced before returning to Guernsey in June 1945.
He told the reporter of The Star newspaper that it was difficult for Guernsey people to realise just how unpleasant the Nazis could be; ‘you have to go through it to know the extent and thoroughness of their brutality’. At the end of two years imprisonment, Harry Dean’s weight had gone from 15 stone pre-war to 7.5 stone afterwards.
Bell, W.M. 1995. I Beg to Report. Guernsey: Guernsey Press Co. Ltd.
Frank Falla’s prison diary, in private ownership.
List of Admissions (Guernsey Prison), Guernsey Island Archives ref. HA/P/08-03.
Prison Entry Book (Guernsey Prison), Guernsey Island Archives ref. HA/P/19-01
Harry Dean’s occupation registration card, Guernsey Archives.
International Tracing Service, Wiener Library, ref. 11356580.