By Gilly Carr
Maurice O’Connell was born in Fermoy in County Cork, Ireland, on 2 August 1919. At the time of the registration of Islanders in January 1941, O’Connell was single and working as a labourer. We do not know for sure, but we might imagine that he first came to Jersey to help with the potato harvest, like other young Irishmen.
Although his first address was 25 Midvale Road in St Helier, he moved in March 1942 to 18 Providence Street and then in September 1942 to the Soldatenheim in St Brelade. The Soldatenheim was a form of social club for German soldiers. We can only guess at what O’Connell’s position was at this establishment, and we can imagine that it would not have been a job eagerly sought out by many Islanders. The Irish were neutral in WWII and they were reputed in Jersey to have no love for the British. However, we do not know what Maurice O’Connell’s personal politics were. We might also observe that September 1942 was the month in which those Islanders born outside the Island were deported to Germany. It is possible that O’Connell was given a choice of working for the Germans or being deported, but this is pure conjecture.
O’Connell comes to our attention because, on 22 December 1941, before his period at the Soldatenheim, he was convicted by the Court of the Field Command to three months’ imprisonment for receiving stolen goods. He was convicted with Arthur Querée, Michael McGrath, Francis Ferrand and John Coutanche, all of whom had sentences of three to four months for the same offence, and all of whom were said by John Coutanche to have purchased German cigarettes that were, presumably, stolen.
On 12 January 1942 eight men were deported, including Maurice O’Connell and his four colleagues. Records at Caen Prison show that O’Connell arrived on 13 January 1942 and was let out of the prison on 26 March 1942, free to return to Jersey.
Maurice O’Connell, registration card Jersey Archives ref. St.B/3/715.
Maurice O’Connell, registration form, Jersey Archives ref. St/B/3/716.
Maurice O’Connell, court charge sheets, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/9.
Maurice O’Connell entry in Political Prisoners’ logbook, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7.
Maurice O’Connell, Caen Prison records, Calvados Archives ref. 1664 w 34.