By Gilly Carr
Pietro Palestra was born in Milan, Italy, on 21 November 1897 and came to Jersey on 2 June 1937. By profession he was a pastry cook. We cannot say what made him leave Italy in search of work elsewhere, but the rising tide of fascism under Mussolini may well have been a factor in making him leave his home country.
When he came to Jersey he was single and took up employment at the Palace Hotel in St Saviours, lodging with Melville Stuart Walker (Managing Director of the Overseas Trading Corporation) of Temperley, Mont Cambrai, St Lawrence, who we assume to have been his employer. In 1938, Palestra moved employment to the Beaufort Hotel in St Helier, and then the Corner House Restaurant, with his work permits becoming curtailed because of his nationality as war grew closer. In March 1939 he moved to St James’ Street; at this point he was no longer in employment. However, he soon moved back to his old lodgings with Mr Walker until, just before the outbreak of the Occupation, he was living in Grosvenor Street in St Helier because Mr Walker had evacuated.
Palestra comes to our attention because, on 28 March 1941, he was sentenced by the court of the Field Command 515 to 5 months’ imprisonment for ‘continual and serious larceny’. His court records state that, at the time of his sentencing, 14 days of imprisonment had already been served while he was being investigated. As Palestra was sentenced by a German court rather than the Royal Court, we might assume that he was accused of stealing from the Germans. Given his job, we might also assume that he was accused of stealing food.
According to the political prisoner logbook kept in Jersey Archives, Palestra, now aged 43, left for France under military escort on 2 April 1941. The following day he arrived in Caen Prison. According to his prison records, he was released on 14 August 1941 and allowed to return to Jersey.
Whether or not Palestra actually returned cannot be ascertained. We can only observe that his Aliens card noted on 16 January 1941 that he had moved to St James’ Street, and that the next entry was dated April 1946, when he reported to the Aliens Office. This indicates that he may have been detained, perhaps drafted into the Italian army, although there is no suggestion of this in the archives. We can only observe that the returned safely to Jersey after the Occupation where he continued to work as a chef. The last record we have for him is January 1954, when he left for France.
The family of Pietro Palestra are invited to get in touch with the Frank Falla Archive if they wish to share further information about his story.
Pietro Palestra, Aliens card, copyright Jersey Archives ref. FILM 133/0606-0611
Pietro Palestra’s Occupation registration card, Jersey Archives ref. D/S/A/29/48.
Pietro Palestra’s court records, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/2/8.
Pietro Palestra’s record in Jersey’s political prisoner log book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7
Pietro Palestra’s records from Caen Prison, Calvados Archives, registre d’ecrou, ref. 1664 w 33.