By Gilly Carr
June Sinclair is a mystery. Our knowledge of her is based entirely on the oral testimony of former Jersey political prisoner Joe Mière, who knew her. Joe made it his life’s work to trace the story of all of Jersey’s political prisoners, which he displayed at Jersey’s Underground Hospital (now Jersey War Tunnels), where he was a curator. His testimony is thus reliable and was accompanied by a photo of June, shown here, taken by his mother. As June came to Jersey alone, shortly before the German occupation, after she disappeared there was no-one (except her friends) to notice her absence.
Joe Mière wrote the following of June Sinclair in his book Never to be Forgotten (2004, 157):
She was a half-Jewish orphan from London. She came to Jersey in 1939. For a time she was our next door neighbour at 27 Midvale Road, St Helier. At the beginning of the German Occupation she worked in one of the hotels the Germans had requisitioned – the Continental Hotel in St Saviour’s Road. She told my mother that all her family had been killed during a German raid on London.
One day at the hotel where she worked, a German officer tried to kiss her and passed rude remarks about her. She retaliated by slapping his face. The next day she was arrested by the German military police, imprisoned and … deported to Fresnes prison in France. Later on she was transferred to the concentration camp at Brens, near Gaillac, France. Later she was put on a transport to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück where she was killed … in 1943. She was 23 years old.
After the war … Marie Boudoin … wrote to my mother in 1946 … [she] had been in Ravensbrück with June Sinclair and informed my mother about the last days of June’s life …
It is important to stress that Joe had long since lost the letter from Marie Boudoin and so its contents were recounted entirely from memory and so his testimony must be read with this in mind.
In a bid to find records relating to June Sinclair, not a single archival record, either in Jersey or elsewhere, could be located. This may well indicate that her name was remembered incorrectly. In 2017, an extensive yet ultimately fruitless search was made of all occupation registration cards in Jersey Archives for women born between 1917 and 1923. The census in Jersey of 1941 was merely a head-count, and that of 1931 in the UK was completely destroyed in a fire in Middlesex during WWII. As June Sinclair is not an uncommon name, her date of birth cannot be pinpointed with any degree of certainty through online ancestry websites.
An extensive search of the records of the International Tracing Service revealed nothing for June Sinclair, not even in Ravensbrück. It is worth noting, however, that not all Ravensbrück records – no death records and few specific inmate records – survive. Her presence in Fresnes and Brens are not verified. In any case, Germans and French authorities in German-occupied France would not have sent a political prisoner down to Vichy France (where Brens was located); people were sent exclusively the other way. Although June’s name appears on a memorial for Cherche-Midi Prison, a prison experienced by other Channel Islanders, it is unknown how or why her name came to be included.
In a final bid to verify Joe Mière’s story of Marie Boudoin, a search for this woman was also made in the records of the International Tracing Service. A record was found for a Marie Baudoin, who was initially arrested in Paris in August 1944. Two transport lists to and from Buchenwald from Ravensbrück exist for her (and are shown here, in her Buchenwald record card). If she came to Ravensbrück after August 1944, then it is perhaps unusual that none of the British women who survived the camp mentioned her, not even Julia Barry née Brichta, who was deported from Guernsey to Ravensbrück, where she became a camp policewoman, and who was able to testify to the death of Louisa Gould from Jersey in the camp in February 1945. Julia Barry had kept an eye on the British women in the camp, something that was possible given her status. If Marie Baudoin was the same person as Joe Mière’s Marie Boudoin, indicating June’s presence in Ravensbrück in or after August 1944, it seems odd that Julia Barry did not note her presence.
Our knowledge of June Sinclair must thus rest solely upon the testimony of Joe Mière.
Helm, S. 2016. If This is a Woman: Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women. London: Little, Brown.
Hoare, P. 2016. Lindell’s List: Saving British and American women at Ravensbrück. Stroud: The History Press.
Miere, J. 2004. Never to be Forgotten. Jersey: Channel Island Publishing.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey: Jersey Heritage Trust.