Channel Islanders imprisoned in Châlons-sur-Marne Prison:
Gordon Brehaut, Arthur Dimery, John Draper, Harry Featherstone, Frank Jolliffe, Edwin John Lawrence, Francis John Le Flock, Thomas William Le Prevost, Philip James McCallen, John Birkmyre Neilson, Archibald Lloyd Tardif
By Roderick Miller
At least 11 Channel Islanders were incarcerated in Châlons-sur-Marne Prison (Arrêt de Châlons-sur-Marne; La Maison d’Arrêt de Châlons-en-Champagne) in Châlons-en-Champagne (formerly Châlons-sur-Marne, renamed in 1998) in the Marnes department of France. The prison was originally built in 1854. It was taken over by German forces soon after the June 1940 occupation of France.
Archibald Tardif spent a brief period imprisoned in Châlons in late 1943 or early 1944, having transferred there from Troyes Hauts-Clos Prison. Philip McCallen transferred to Châlons from Clairvaux Prison on 30 September 1943, as was Gordon Brehaut on 22 December 1943. All of the rest of the Channel Islanders were transferred to Châlons from Troyes Hauts-Clos Prison: Thomas Le Prevost on 10 May 1943, Arthur Dimery on 19 July 1943, Harry Featherstone on 31 August 1943, Frank Jolliffe and John Neilson on 15 November 1943, Edwin Lawrence on 1 January 1944, Francis Le Flock on 14 January 1944, and John Draper on 10 February 1944.
Janine Bollack-Lesnard, a French communist, was imprisoned in Châlons-sur-Marne Prison in March 1944 and left a detailed account of it as a
…place of horror, dirty laundry and rancid soup.’ The prison was unheated in winter. Up to seven prisoners were kept in cells 3.5 metres long by 2 metres wide with an overflowing toilet bucket. The semi-starvation diet consisted of broth at 7am, a bit of bread at 10am and rutabaga soup for dinner. Red Cross packages were reaching the prison, but not being distributed to the prisoners. The sole luxury was that of a weekly shower. —Janine Bollack-Lesnard, from her memoir ‘Evadée de Zwodau, 11 Novembre 1944’
American journalist Jay Allen, best known for his 1930s reports on the Spanish Civil War, was incarcerated in Châlons Prison by the Nazis in 1941:
I had spent something more than three months of my life in Châlons prison before I learned that it was far too good for us. They told us what we were in for — no smoking, no talking, only an hour a day in the courtyard, no food at all from outside. Guards on duty were to carry rifles. Gestapo agents were to be among us constantly. —Jay Allen, 1941
These experiences are probably similar to those experienced by the Channel Islanders imprisoned there. Tardif went on from Châlons to Compiègne Internment Camp and Saint-Denis Internment Camp in Paris. John Draper and Edwin Lawrence were transferred on 14 June 1944 from Châlons to Saint-Denis Internment Camp, from whence they were liberated in August 1944. Arthur Dimery was briefly in Saint-Denis before transferring to Laufen Internment Camp, where he died of a heart attack on 4 April 1944. Gordon Brehaut arrived in Châlons from Clairvaux Prison on 22 December 1943, but it is uncertain how long he was imprisoned there. Like many of the Channel Islanders who survived, these men would probably suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
The prison, called Châlons-en-Champagne Prison since the town changed its name in 1998, continues to operate (as of 2016) with space for 301 prisoners. There is a memorial plaque to the right of the main entry door on Boulevard Anatole France commemorating the suffering of those who resisted the Nazis from 1940 to 1944.
Bollack-Lesnard, Janine: Evadée de Zwodau, 11 Novembre 1944. Books on Demand, 2011 (in French).
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Allen, Jay: ‘Dreary Routine in Dijon Prison’, in The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, USA, 15-17 August 1941, p. 2.
Archives départementales de l’Aube in Troyes, France:
1039W, Prison Registry for Troyes Haut-Clos Prison, showing transfers to Châlons (Brehaut, Featherstone, Joliffe)
1360W363, Prison Registry for Clairvaux Prison, showing transfer to Châlons (McCallen)
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO HNP/2165 (Tardif)