By Gilly Carr
Leonce L’Hermitte Ogier is known to us as one of the Jersey 21 whose names are engraved on the Lighthouse Memorial in St Helier, Jersey, and who did not return from Nazi prisons and concentration camps.
Ogier was born on 15 June 1881 and studied at Victoria College in Jersey from 1896 to 1900, where he was the cricket captain and a keen rugby player. He then went to Jesus College, Oxford, to read Law and then was called to Bar at Lincoln’s Inn before returning to Jersey to practice as an Advocate. During WWI he was the Recruiting Officer for Jersey and was later awarded an OBE.
At the time that Leonce Ogier comes to our attention, he was a partner in a law firm in Jersey with Advocate John Le Cornu. Ogier lived at 29 Clarendon Road with his wife, Emma Lilian Ogier née Carter, and son, Richard Lermitte Ogier who had chronic health problems. His older children, Kenneth and Barbara, had evacuated before the occupation.
The story of Leonce and Richard Ogier is recorded in private family papers, seen by historian Paul Sanders in preparation for The Ultimate Sacrifice. What follows is a summary of his research.
On 12 February 1943, the Ogier’s home was searched by German police, during which they found a map belonging to Richard marked with military fortifications, and a small camera belonging to Kenneth. Leonce and Richard were arrested, interrogated, and placed in Jersey jail where, perhaps overcome with a sense of foreboding, Ogier wrote a codicil to his will on 27 February 1943. The two men were deported on 4 March 1943, an event not recorded in Jersey’s political prisoner logbook. Jersey diarist Leslie Sinel noted in his diary that day:
After being in prison for some time, Advocate Ogier and his son are taken to Paris to await trial on a charge of espionage; the latter is alleged to have been in possession of an ordnance map on which he had marked various gun positions, and the father is charged with ‘harbouring a spy.
The two men were taken to Paris for interrogation at Gestapo HQ and, later, to Fresnes Prison. Their interrogator, a Major Formanek, suspected that Richard Ogier was suffering from a brain tumour, so he was moved to St. Anne’s hospital in Paris. Leonce Ogier stood trial alone and was given a six month sentence in May 1943. However, the entire charge was so suspect that Ogier was immediately pardoned by the military commander of Paris and, quite extraordinarily, sent back to Jersey. Meanwhile, Richard Ogier was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and remained in hospital until his repatriation to London in November 1944. He lived until 1966.
On his return to Jersey on 24 May 1943, an event also marked in Leslie Sinel’s diary, Leonce Ogier was treated by the Island as a hero, which irritated the Germans to the extent that they deported him again on 13 July 1943 – again, an event noted by Sinel. Unbeknown to all, Ogier was at this time suffering from terminal intestinal cancer.
Ogier was transferred to Biberach civilian internment camp via Compiègne, arriving on 16 July 1943 as recorded in the camp register (prisoner number 16506). The physical and psychological shock of his second deportation, not to mention all that had happened over the last few months, was such that his health deteriorated quickly and he was sent to Ulm hospital nearly 50 miles away from Biberach.
In his diary, fellow internee Vyvyan Ferrers recorded Ogier’s experience in Biberach. He started by explaining the difficulty of climbing into the upper bunk of a bunk bed as an older person, and the problem of occupying the lower bunk as a tall person, as it was not possible to sit up in bed:
Ogier, when he came to this camp, was already a very sick man: like me, he had served a long sentence in a French jail, and like me he had done nothing which the most draconic tribunal could honestly consider a crime. However, sick and shaken as he was, he was turned into a crowded barrack equipped with four poster bunks. He was given an upper berth: these are thought to be the best, because there a man can sit up, and has not the same sense of being in a coffin. However, to Ogier the privilege was the less advantageous in that he was too weak to climb up. He spent the night sitting on a wooden stool. Of course, this did not continue for many nights. The man took the most effectual means of demonstrating his disability. He died.
Leonce L’Hermitte Ogier died on 1 August 1943; two relatives who were interned in the nearby civilian internment camp at Wurzach were allowed to be with him when he died. He was cremated in order that his remains be transportable back to Jersey at the end of the war, and was eventually laid to rest in St Saviour’s cemetery.
No record has been found for a compensation claim for Leonce L’Hermitte Ogier, even though his wife, son Kenneth and daughter Barbara were all alive at the time of the compensation claims for Nazi persecution.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey: Jersey Heritage Trust.
Sinel, L. 1945. The German Occupation of Jersey. Jersey: The Evening Post.
Biberach camp register, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Last Will and Testament (and codicils) of Leonce L’Hermitte Ogier, Jersey Archives ref. D/Y/A/111/60.
Biberach diary of Vyvyan Ferrers, in private ownership.