By Gilly Carr
William James Seargeant was Irish, born in Ballycosgry, County Cork, on 24 June 1919. We do not know why he came to Jersey, but it seems likely that, in common with other Irishmen who arrived in the Island before the Occupation, he came to help with the potato harvest, and felt no need to leave before the Germans arrived, given Eire’s neutrality and dislike of the British.
At the time of the registration of Islanders in January 1941, Seargeant was single and worked as an under-chef for German forces. We do not know whether his decision to work for the Germans was a politically motivated act or whether he faced unemployment otherwise. In January 1941, Seageant was living at 45 David Place in St Helier, moving to 33 Providence Street on 17 August 1942.
Seargeant comes to our attention not because of any court or deportation record (neither of which can be found), but because a record has been located of him in Troyes Hauts-Clos Prison. From this we learn that he had, at the time of his deportation (which was probably in August 1943) been living at 18 St John’s Road in St Helier and working as a chauffeur, most likely for German forces.
On 21 July 1943 he was convicted by the Court of Field Command 515 to one year’s imprisonment for the offence of ‘homicide by recklessness’. More of this case can be learned from the Occupation diary of Leslie Sinel who recorded that, on 27 April 1943, an inquest was opened and adjourned on a ’14 year old boy who was knocked from his cycle and killed by a car’ a few days previously. On 20 July, Sinel reported that Seargeant, who he referred to as ‘an Irishman’, was convicted to two years’ imprisonment, ‘although he tried to save himself by joining the Todts.’ While Sinel was wrong about the length of the sentence, he gives us an insight into when Seargeant first started working for the Germans and why, although his nationality may hint at a preference for working for the Germans.
Seargeant was sent to Saint-Lô Prison, perhaps his first prison, and then on to Troyes Hauts-Clos Prison, which he entered on 11 October 1943. Sargeant was due to be released on 20 July 1944, but was released instead on 7 December 1943 due to a decision made by the German court in St Malo on 21 November 1943.
The implication of this decision is unknown and may hint at Seargeant’s offer to work for the Germans.
The family of William James Seargeant are invited to get in touch with the Frank Falla Archive if they wish to share any further information about his story.
William Seargeant, Occupation registration card, Jersey Archives ref. D/S/A/14/A407.
William Seargeant, Occupation registration form, Jersey Archives ref. D/S/A/14/A407.
William Seargeant’s records from Troyes Haut-Clos, Archives Départementales de l’Aube, Troyes, France, ref. 1039 w 16.
Leslie Sinel, 1945. The German Occupation of Jersey, 1940-1945. Jersey Evening Post.