By Gilly Carr
Ronald Bernard Kent was born in St Helier on 2 January 1926 and was just 14 years old at the beginning of the German Occupation. At the time of the registration of Islanders in January 1941, Kent was working as a labourer and living at 37 Midvale Road.
Our knowledge about his activities during the Occupation are slight and boil down to three key documents. The first is his Occupation registration card, which states that, on 16 March 1944, he was ‘reported by the German authorities to have left the island. No advice regarding return.’ This date is not synonymous with any deportations of Islanders, and one might imagine that he was deported for some offence; however, no court records for this period have been identified for Kent, and neither is there any record of him in the records of Jersey Prison. However, his form also reports that on 16 September 1944 he had moved to a new address, this time in the parish of St Saviour. This leads us to wonder whether he had perhaps gone to work in Alderney or France for the Organisation Todt for a period of 6 months or less.
However, we note that Jersey’s charge sheets do include a record for one Basil Reginald Kent, who also lived at 37 Midvale Road, and who was charged with participating in larceny in January 1944 and given a month’s sentence. This young man seems to have been a brother of Ronald Kent and we might wonder whether Ronald was also involved and deported without any records surviving. However, the fact of Ronald’s return to the island after 6 months at this stage in the war gives us grave cause for doubt. Had he been sent to prison on the continent, he would not have been able to return to Jersey at this point.
Our next piece of evidence comes from oral testimony collected by the late Joe Miere, a former political prisoner, whose personal archive exists as information on the walls of the café of Jersey War Tunnels today. He noted that Ronald Kent had been:
… arrested with his brother Joseph in September 1942 after taking part in demonstrations against the deportation of English-born Islanders, was arrested again in 1944 by the German military police. Charged with an unsuccessful conspiracy to carry out a large-scale robbery, he was sentenced to a term of 4 months imprisonment and was deported to France on 16 March. He returned to Jersey the following June. Arrested again in 1945, Ronald was tried on 23 April when he received 2 months, for an unsuccessful plan with a view to commit serious military larceny.
Records survive of charge sheets for Ronald Kent dating to 13 April 1945 noting that he was sentenced by tribunal to two months’ imprisonment for an ‘unsuccessful conspiracy to carry out a large-scale robbery’.
No other documents have been found which shed light onto Kent’s deportation in 1944. His return to the Island in 1944 is a very strong indication that he was not deported to France or Germany for simple imprisonment; it seems likely that he was sent away to work for the Organisation Todt in some capacity.
We might make one last observation about Ronald Kent: he lived at the same address as Frank Le Villio, one of the Jersey 21; Frank was four months older than Kent and deported for larceny. It is certain that the two young men knew each other and we might wonder whether they egged each other on in their theft of German property.
The Frank Falla Archive would like to invite the Kent family to get in touch to help complete his story.
Ronald Kent’s registration card, copyright Jersey Archives ref. St/S/8/294.
Ronald Kent’s registration form, copyright Jersey Archives ref. St/S/8/295.
Ronald Kent’s charge sheets, copyright Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/9/59.
Information on Ronald Kent from Jersey War Tunnels café.