By Gilly Carr
Walter John Nicolle was born on 13 October 1906 in Guernsey. As a young man he served in the Royal Guernsey Militia, from which he demobilised in 1926 with the rank of Private.
At the time of the registration of Islanders in October 1940, Nicolle was married and worked as a greenhouse proprietor.
Nicolle comes to our attention because of the unusual wealth of paperwork that his case provoked, now stored in Jersey Archives. From these we learn that Nicolle had been put in Guernsey prison on 31 December 1941 by the German police, accused of slaughtering cattle for sale on the Black Market. Three other men were put in prison at around the same time: Edgar Guille, Stanley Lihou and Hedley Le Tissier, who were also accused of similar offences. It was expected that they would be tried by the civil court and they was due to be defended by Advocate Martel of Martel and Le Pelley Advocates. Both the civil court and the Germans had decreed against black market dealings by this time.
The Germans decided to try the men by military court in Jersey, and so the four men were deported to that Island. Advocate Martel wrote on 11 January 1942 to Duret Aubin, the Attorney General of Jersey, to ask that the men might be defended in court by a Jersey advocate. In his letter, Martel reveals that he had planned to cite Article 43 of the Annex to the Hague Convention to argue that the men should be tried by the civil court. He quoted the relevant part to Aubin as ‘The ordinary courts of justice and the laws they administer should be suspended only when the refusal of the judges and magistrates to act …’ [rest of letter missing but the line is believed to finish ‘or have fled’]
Three days later, a rather frantic Martel wrote again to Duret Aubin saying that the men would be sent to Jersey on 15 January 1942, and asking once again that they might be represented in court. He added that the men were prepared to pay a fine rather than be deported.
Duret Aubin replied to say that the men were being tried on 16 January 1942 and would be defended by Advocate Valpy, who was informed that the men had infringed an Order of the Military Commander in France relating to trade in rationed foodstuffs and forage dated 9 April 1941. On 20 January Duret Aubin wrote again to say that these were the first military prosecutions in Jersey for black market offences, although the Royal Court had charged three men the previous year of these offences, and they had been fined. He added that because the four men had admitted the facts of the case, Advocate Valpy had only been able to plead in mitigation of sentence, and the men had been sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
Thus, on 16 January 1942, Walter Nicolle was sentenced by the Court of the Field Command 515 to 6 months’ imprisonment and a 1,400 RM fine for ‘infringing the orders prohibiting traffic in rationed foodstuffs. In the case of non-payment of fine, 28 days’ additional imprisonment will be served.’
Walter Nicolle was kept in prison in Jersey until 24 March 1942, on which date he was deported to France. He was sent first to Caen Prison, where he arrived the following day, on 25 March. On 15 July 1942 he was transferred to Fort d’Hauteville Prison in Dijon. We can assume that, like Stanley Lihou, he was transferred between the prisons ‘in handcuffs and chains’. Nicolle later described the French prisons in which he spent time as ‘disgusting, sanitation simply filthy and very little food, barely enough to exist.’
The records of Fort d’Hauteville Prison showed that he arrived the following day, on 16 July 1942. He was supposed to be held at this prison until 12 August 1942, but on 20 September 1942 he was transferred to Dijon Prison for – it was intended – 19 days. We do not know how long he actually spent there. Nicolle was then sent to Saint-Denis Internment Camp. We do not know when he arrived there, but on 29 December 1942 he was released. He was accompanied by the Feldgendarmerie of Saint-Denis as far as Granville, from where he was accompanied back to Guernsey, arriving home on 3 January 1943.
However, because Walter Nicolle had been imprisoned, once he returned home, he was deported on 16 February 1943 to Laufen Internment Camp for the rest of the war.
Although Walter Nicolle applied for compensation in the mid-1960s, he was turned down, as were all Islanders who had been imprisoned only in French prisons or internment camps.
Walter Nicolle’s Occupation registration form, Island Archives, Guernsey.
Walter Nicolle’s charge sheet, copyright Island Archives, Guernsey, ref. CC14-05/119.
Correspondence surrounding the case against Walter Nicolle and his court charge sheets, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/3/23.
Walter Nicolle’s entry, political prisoner log book, Jersey Archives ref. D/AG/B7/7
Walter Nicolle’s prison record, Caen Prison, Calvados Archives ref. 1664 w 34.
Walter Nicolle’s record for Fort d’Hauteville Prison, Dijon, Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or, 1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville.
Compensation claim for Nazi persecution, Walter Nicolle, TNA ref. FO 950/5164.
Walter Nicolle’s pass for his return from St Denis to Guernsey, Guernsey Archives ref. FK 4-7.