By Gilly Carr
Roy Noverraz Machon was born on 7 September 1920 in Guernsey and lived in Richmond Avenue in St Peter Port, Guernsey. He worked as projectionist at the Regal cinema and is best known as one of two makers of V-sign badges, along with Alf Williams, as part of the V-sign campaign of 1941. Williams was never caught but Roy was less fortunate.
The V-sign badge was made from a shilling or a coin featuring the king’s head. The method used by Roy and Alf was to clip the extraneous metal around the head and file around the king’s profile more delicately. A V-sign was carved away underneath the head to represent an Allied victory, and people would wear the badges underneath their jacket lapels, flashing them to trusted friends in the street. Others wore them openly. Alf later estimated that they made around 300-400 V-sign badges.
In June 1943, Roy was informed upon. The Germans came to his workshop and found clippings of silver and copper strewn on the floor. They threatened to beat a confession out of him, but as he sensed they knew about the badges, he confessed. Roy was doubly unfortunate, as an illegal radio was also found in the workshop, along with a news sheet which he had hidden in his tool box – quite possibly a copy of GUNS.
Roy was arrested and put in solitary confinement in Guernsey prison for three weeks and two days. He was convicted on 17 July 1943 to one month’s imprisonment; the trial was conducted in German and not translated. After the trial he was returned to Guernsey prison and ‘subjected to further rough treatment’ and told to sign some papers, which he refused to do until they were translated for him – which they were not.
Six weeks after his release, he was told that he would be deported on 1 October 1943, so he organised a farewell party for 30 September. At the end of the party, the assembled guests loudly sang patriotic songs. German soldiers gate-crashed the party, alerted by the singing, and arrested Roy once again.
The following morning, Roy was taken to the harbour with two other Guernsey men who we now know were Stanley Noel and Stephen Bougourd, and put into the hold of a German ship, the hatch of which was battened down over them. They arrived in St Malo the following morning and then were taken to Laufen civilian internment camp for men, where they arrived five days later. We know that James Bennett from Jersey travelled with them so it seems likely that the ship stopped at Jersey before travelling to St Malo. The men travelled to Laufen together.
In December 1943, Roy Machon was informed, while in Laufen, that he had been tried in his absence and found guilty of ‘holding a forbidden political meeting and singing forbidden songs’. For this offence, he was given a sentence of five months’ hard labour. He appealed, although this was held in German, in Munich, and brought no result. After the appeal he was returned to Laufen until February 1944, and was then transferred to Munich Stadelheim Prison on 11 February 1944, where he was the only British prisoner that he was aware of.
In Stadelheim, Roy carried out forced labour:
Without option I was put to work with a mixed nationality number of prisoners – I was the only one who spoke English – splicing steel cable from 7am to 6pm every day with one break for ‘soup’, The cable was being used for Messerschmitt fighter planes. When I discovered this I pointed out to the head of the Prison that under every known Treaty or Convention it was illegal to employ anyone in this capacity.
If any of we prisoners did not move quickly enough in the execution of this work we were punished by guards who hit us about the head and neck with some heavy metal object or prison keys which they carried in a bunch. So many hittings about the head did I suffer that I sustained a permanent injury which resulted in deafness.
… On Mondays and Thursdays in the prison, guards would call out 10 to 20 names and these prisoners would be marched out to do work outside the prison. Many times of that number, only five would return. The rest were either sent for further sentences … or just killed where they stood … One such, a Pole, had his head cut off for stealing 10 Reichmarks from a German.
Mondays and Thursdays, too, were trial days. Tuesdays and Fridays were the days of killings. On Wednesdays and Fridays we were given a small piece of blood sausage or a small piece of meat in our soup. It was commonly known and spoken about by prisoners, that we were eating the flesh and blood of fellow-prisoners who had been killed by the Nazis.
Roy Machon was returned to Laufen on 10 July 1944 after his release from Munich, and was immediately placed into the camp hospital. While he was there, Stanley Green arrived from Buchenwald concentration camp and was put in the bed next to Machon.
After he was repatriated to Britain, Machon suffered from PTSD:
I could not appreciate that I was free and would not be taken back to Stadelheim like others, supposedly released, only to return on some trumped-up charge.
In 1946, at the first anniversary of the liberation in Guernsey, a cavalcade took place. Roy Machon took part as the ‘V-King’.
In 1965, Roy Machon applied for compensation for Nazi persecution. He wrote a spirited testimony – which clearly matched his character – but was turned down by the Foreign Office. Frank Falla wrote to the Foreign Office a number of times on Machon’s behalf to appeal, but the Foreign Office were adamant that there was a clear difference between ‘German brutality’ and ‘Nazi persecution’, and that Machon was a victim of only the former. It is more likely that semantics were not the real issue. Machon’s lack of compensation was because there were no other British witnesses to back up his version of events in Stadelheim, and the Foreign Office had no evidence from the International Tracing Service about the prison’s regime – or even, at that point, any evidence that Machon had been imprisoned there. Falla’s appeals were ultimately unsuccessful. Machon’s deafness was permanent.
Interview with Alf Williams by the author before his death in 2006.
Nazi persecution compensation claim, Roy Machon, TNA ref. FO 950/1562
Roy Machon, records, International Tracing Service, Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide, refs. 39506966/1, 11869037/1.
Roy Machon, occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Roy Machon, sentence record, CC14-05/212, Island Archives, Guernsey.