By Gilly Carr
Philip John Potier was born on 1 February 1886 in the parish of St Saviour’s, Jersey. At the time that he comes to our attention, he was working as a gardener and living at 4 St Clarence Terrace, St Helier. He was married to Florence Potier née Le Brocq, who he had married in July 1913. From his occupation registration form, we know that he served in the First World War as a gunner, retiring in March 1919.
On 19 July 1943, Potier was court martialled and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for ‘disturbing the working peace’. His name appears in the Island’s Political Prisoner logbook only on 1 November 1943, a date which records indicate was taken as the first day of his sentence. This delay is extremely unusual – perhaps Jersey prison was full and he was asked to return at a later date; we know this to have occurred late in the occupation in Jersey. However, when somebody had a sentence over three months, they were usually deported within a month of their sentencing.
Potier was deported on 2 December 1943. According to the logbook, the other islanders deported with him included John Soyer (who had a 12 month sentence), Emma Constance Marshall (a five year sentence), Patrick McCloskey (12 months) and Arthur Clarke (six months). Noting his fellow deportees at this time is a useful exercise as their journey can give clues to the trajectory of Philip Potier.
The only French records so far located which note Potier’s presence is the register for Fort de Villeneuve-Saint-Georges Prison in Paris. This indicates that Potier arrived on 1 March 1944 from Clairvaux Prison (the same trajectory and date as his co-deportees, Patrick McCloskey and John Soyer). Potier was released from prison on 30 April 1944, the end of his sentence. Knowing the end date of his sentence, the President of Agriculture in Jersey wrote to the German authorities on 1 May 1944 to ask for Potier to be allowed to return to Jersey due to the fact that he was an expert gardener and was needed in the Island. This request was turned down.
The normal assumption for somebody released in France at this stage of the war would be a transfer to Saint-Denis Internment Camp, and indeed we have evidence that Potier was here, although his dates of arrival and departure are unknown. Potier would have to wait until this camp was liberated in August 1944, at which point he would have been repatriated to the UK. There he would have had to have waited until Jersey was liberated before he could be reunited with his wife.
Philip Potier’s occupation registration form and card, Jersey Archives Archives ref. St.H/7/1038, 1039, 1040.
Philip Potier’s court records, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/6/117.
Philip Potier’s entry, Jersey’s political prisoner log-book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7. Request for Philip Potier to be returned to Jersey, Jersey Archives ref. B/A/W31/2/119.
Philip Potier’s records at Fort de Villeneuve-Saint-Georges Prison, Val de Marne Archives, refs. Répertoire 500W-3 and Régistre d’ecrou 500W-9.