By Gilly Carr
Louisa Mary Gould (née Le Druillenec) from St Ouen, Jersey, was born on 7 October 1891. She was already a widow at the time of the occupation and ran the Millais Stores at La Fontaine in the parish of St Ouen. Louisa had two sons; the eldest was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during the war, but in July 1941 she discovered, through a Red Cross message, that he had been killed in action in the Mediterranean four months earlier.
Around seventeen months later she was approached by Feodor ‘Bill’ Buryi, an escaped Russian forced labourer from Lager Immelmann forced labour camp in the parish of St Peter. He had nowhere else to go, and Louisa wanted to do something for ‘another mother’s son’, as she put it, so she took him in. As time went on, Louisa became less careful about hiding traces of her guest, taking only the most basic of precautions against being found out. She also had a hidden radio and passed on the news to her customers. Only at the end of the occupation was it discovered that there were some people who didn’t like the fact that Louisa was ‘getting away with it’ and informed upon her. In a Channel TV documentary, Betrayed to the Nazis, made by journalist Eric Blakeley in 2008, the names of the informers were revealed to the public, having already been placed in the public domain through files at The National Archives. Local people in St Ouen, and Louisa’s sister Ivy Forster, strongly suspected two sisters living close to Louisa, Maud and Lily Vibert. A statement about them was drawn up by British security officers in 1945, and in it they reveal that the handwriting on the informers’ letter was the same as that which signed the German document confirming receipt of the £100 reward money paid to the informers.
The document also reveals that when Louisa Gould learned that it was no longer safe to shelter the Russian (after the informers’ letter was intercepted), ‘Bill’ went to stay with Ivy Forster and her husband for the next five days. When the Geheime Feldpolizei (GFP) searched Louisa’s house, they found papers showing that he had been there, including labels of Christmas gifts showing that ‘Bill’ was the recipient, and Louisa and Ivy the givers. They also found a camera – a forbidden item. Although they did not find Louisa’s hidden radio, which her maid, Alice Gavey, hid, the GFP returned the next day and found it then.
Louisa and Alice entered prison on 25 May 1944. One week later, the GFP searched the Forster house and Ivy was arrested. ‘Bill’ had meanwhile been entrusted into the care of Bob Le Sueur, who helped to place escaped forced labourers in safe houses. After another week, two of Louisa’s close friends were arrested: a French house-keeper, Berthe Pitolet, and schoolteacher Dora Hacquoil. Both were regular visitors to Louisa’s house, and Dora joined Louisa and ‘Bill’ every evening to listen to the news on the forbidden radio. Berthe used to stay with Louisa for several weeks at a time. Harold Le Druillenec, Louisa’s brother, was also implicated in the affair, because although he did not shelter ‘Bill’, he visited Louisa in St Ouen (and was presumably seen visiting her) and listened to the radio with her.
Although the court found it difficult to verify the role of each of the accused, Dora Hacquoil’s sentence was more lenient than the others because Louisa testified that she always arrived too late to listen in to the news. Her word was accepted and Dora was not deported. Instead she served her sentence in Jersey jail.
Louisa Gould was convicted on 22 June 1944. She received a sentence of two years for ‘failing to surrender a wireless receiving apparatus, prohibited reception of wireless transmissions and abetting breach of the working peace and unauthorised removal’. Harold Le Druillenec received five months for listening to the radio. Sentences of between two and four and a half months were given to the Alice Gavey, Berthe Pitolet and Dora Hacquoil. Ivy Forster received a sentence of five and a half months, but she avoided deportation thanks to a doctor who wrote her an exemption on health grounds, switching medical samples to pretend that she had TB. Alice, Dora and Ivy served their sentences in Jersey prison and were not deported.
On 29 June 1944, Louisa Gould, Harold Le Druillenec and Berthe Pitolet were deported as part of a group of twenty Jersey political prisoners. The Germans were anticipating an Allied landing and wanted to get them out of the island while it was still possible. This fear caused the boat to return to Jersey, but it set off again in the early hours of 30 June.
The prison locations and dates available to us today are approximate and based upon the recollections of Harold Le Druillenec, and the women who travelled to Jersey after the occupation to tell the family about what happened to Louisa.
Louisa, Harold and Berthe were taken first to L’Espérance Prison in St Malo from 1 to 8 July 1944. They were then taken to Jacques-Cartier Prison, Rennes, Brittany, from 9 July to 3 August, although Harold was soon moved from there to Fort Hatry, Belfort in eastern France. Rennes prison was badly hit when the nearby railway station was bombed in the Allied advance. Berthe Pitolet took the opportunity to escape, but couldn’t persuade Louisa to come with her. Berthe was not caught and stayed in the town until it was liberated by Americans less than a week later.
Louisa was then taken to Fort Hatry, Belfort from 17 to 31 August. Although the journey is said to have taken a fortnight, there are slight problems with these dates, as, by coincidence, Louisa’s train carriage pulled into a railway siding at Belfort station alongside the carriage of her brother Harold. It was his birthday, dating this event to 5 August 1944, and they managed to exchange a few words; Louisa even managed to give him a tin of tobacco.
An existing document from the International Tracing Service shows that Louisa was on a transport to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, arriving on 4 September 1944, where she was given prisoner number 62871. What we know about Louisa from this point was brought back to the Channel Islands by three survivors of Ravensbrück who had befriended Louisa there.
The first was a Mrs Tanguy from Rennes who arrived in Jersey in 1946. She had worked in the camp with Louisa. In February 1945, by then an invalid, Louisa was selected and sent to the gas chamber. The second person to bring back news, in April 1946, was a Mme Ballard, also from France, and coincidentally the niece of a Jerseywoman. Mrs Ballard and Louisa had come to know each other on the 15-day transport from Rennes to Belfort. They were in Belfort and then Ravensbrück together. Mme Ballard testified that Louisa left a deep impression on other prisoners and set an example of courage. She gave English lessons and kept in good spirits in the camp.
Julia Barry, a Hungarian woman who had arrived in Guernsey just before the war, had been a policewoman in Ravensbrück and, when she was in Sweden recovering from her ordeal after her liberation, she told a British officer that Louisa Gould had been taken in February 1945 to the camp hospital ‘suffering from swollen ankles and gassed shortly afterwards’; she said that she ‘informed Mr Gould’ while still in Sweden. Whether Julia Barry successfully delivered the message is unknown, but it seems unlikely given that the family first heard definitive news of Louisa’s death in 1946 from Mrs Tanguy and Mme Ballard.
Sanders, P. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey: Jersey Heritage Trust.
Louisa Gould registration forms and card, Jersey Archives ref. St/O/2/639-641.
Louisa Gould court records, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/7/102
Louisa Gould records, International Tracing Service, Wiener Library.
The National Archives ref. KV 4/78, ‘Collaborators in the Channel Islands’.
The National Archives ref FO 371/150982, information given by Julia Barry about Louisa Gould.
The National Archives ref. FO 950/2700, Nazi Persecution claim, Louisa Gould.