By Gilly Carr
James Tardivel was born on 16 November 1906, making him 34 years old when the Germans arrived in Guernsey. At the time of the registration of Islanders in October 1940, Tardivel was single, living in the parish of St Pierre du Bois, and was employed, according to his registration form, doing ‘ground work’ (probably working on the land). By 1942, during the second round of registration of Islanders, Tardivel’s situation was unchanged. From his 1942 registration form, we learn that Tardivel was still carrying out ground work and that his employer was one ‘J. Guyomard’
Tardivel comes to our attention because, on 15 February 1944, he was sentenced by the Tribunal of Feldkommandantur 515 for ‘abusing the Occupying Power’, to six months’ imprisonment. The records indicate that this tribunal was held in Jersey, which indicates that Tardivel was probably eventually deported from that island. His name does not appear in the surviving records for either Guernsey or Jersey prisons, suggesting that he was deported to Jersey immediately after his arrest and deported to France immediately after his trial.
We next hear of James Tardivel in the prison of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, on the outskirts of Paris, where he arrived on 3 April, having arrived from Saint-Lô Prison. We can thus assume that he had been in this prison since his deportation. Also arriving from Saint-Lô to Villeneuve that day were Jerseymen Geoffrey Delauney and Thomas Nelson. These men were deported on 29 March 1944, and it seems possible that, instead, Tardivel travelled with them.
Tardivel was due for release on 4 August 1944, but a note in his prison record tells us that he escaped from the ‘chantier extérieur’ – the outside construction site. This tells us that not only was Tardivel carrying out forced labour, but hints to us that perhaps his case was like that of John Soyer from Jersey, who also escaped from this prison while working outside digging up unexploded bombs. Did the escape of Soyer on 21 May 1944 inspire Tardivel?
The story of Tardivel might have ended there, but an article in the Guernsey paper The Star, dated 31 July 1945, tells a thrilling story of how Tardivel joined the Maquis, just like Soyer, after his escape from Villeneuve. Unlike Soyer, Tardivel would survive to tell the tale.
In this article, we learn that Tardivel had insulted a German officer and that this was the cause of his deportation. After being imprisoned in Paris, Tardivel was sent to work for the Germans in Calais, and it was here that he escaped. He joined the local resistance movement and was given a new identity card and a new name – just as John Soyer was.
It was important for Tardivel to leave the Calais area, so he walked, with a guide, to the village of Quessoy-sur-Airaines near Amiens. On 3 July 1944, we are told, he was put in the care of a local resistance movement. This date is important as it indicates to us that he probably escaped at the end of June.
He worked in the fields with a family of the surname Lanseman, and seemed to have lodged with them. Some days after his arrival, around 50 Germans arrived at the house. Although they searched the house and looked at Tardivel’s identity card, they were actually searching for a parachutist dropped in the district.
On 31 August, the village was liberated by the Allies, although some Germans hid in the local woods. Tardivel immediately took up arms with the resistance and, by 1 September, around 50 Germans had been rounded up and imprisoned in the local school. Tardivel was taking his turn in guarding them, when a night patrol of 12 Germans attempted to free the prisoners. They did not succeed, but in the fighting, Tardivel was wounded, by a grenade, in the ankle, thigh and forehead. He was taken to a Canadian field hospital but did not need to stay long.
After his recovery, he stayed in the village until June 1945, and returned to Guernsey on 26 July 1945. Before his departure, he was presented with a certificate by the mayor of the town, which testified to his activities with the Maquis.
The Frank Falla Archive would like to invite the family of James Tardivel to get in touch so that we might share a copy of that certificate on this page and celebrate such a brave man.
James Tardivel’s Occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
James Tardivel’s 1942 registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
James Tardivel’s charge sheet, Island Archives, Guernsey, ref. CC14-05/06
James Tardivel’s prison record, Villeneuve-Saint-Georges Prison, Val de Marne Archive, ref. 500w 9.
Newspaper article from The Star, 31 July 1945.