Fort d’Hauteville Prison

Country France
GPS 47° 22' 2.91" N, 4° 58' 47.55" E
Address D107, 21121 Hauteville-lès-Dijon, France
Dates Active 1941 – 1948

Channel Islanders imprisoned in Fort d’Hauteville Prison:

Flavien Emile Barbier, Ronald Beer, Robert Henry Bell-Baker, Clifford John Cohu, Alfred James Connor, Thomas Edwin De La Mare, Norman Leslie Dexter, George Ernest Du Pre, George Albert Ferbrache, George James Fox, George Gallichan, Herbert Gallichan, Harold Ira Gallienne, Robert Charles Green, Edgar John Guille, Cyril Hockey, Arthur James Laffoley, Walter Henry Lainé, John Joseph Le Caer, Alfred Désiré Victor Le Calvez, Alfred Thomas Hilary Le Gallez, Eugene Henri Le Lievre, John Henry Le Maistre, Ernest Le Prevost, Dennis John Alfred Leister, Stanley Du Frocq Lihou, Theodore Lawrence Lowe, Albert Reginald Marie, Percy William Miller, John Whitley Nicolle, Walter John Nicolle, Frederick William Page, Harold Edward Piesing, John De Carteret Pinwell, Reginald Eric Pleasants, Clifford Bond Querée, Henry Rabet, Richard George Riches, William Edward Smith, Joseph James Murray Tierney, Clifford James Tostevin

By Roderick Miller

At least 41 Channel Islanders were incarcerated between 1941 and 1943 in Fort d’Hauteville (also known as Fort Carnot) in Hauteville-lés-Dijon, just outside the city of Dijon in the Côte-d’Or department of France. The fort was built between 1877 and 1880 as part of the Séré de Rivières military fortifications system. As of 1941 the fort was taken over by the Gestapo to house political prisoners who could no longer fit into the already overcrowded Dijon Prison.  The first wave of prisoners incarcerated in the fort were Jews who had been apprehended trying to escape from German-occupied France into the so-called “free zone” of Vichy France. Most of the Jewish prisoners were eventually transferred to Drancy and Pithiviers Transit Camps, from whence they were deported to their deaths in concentration camps, primarily Auschwitz-Birkenau. The prisoners entering and leaving Fort d’Hauteville were usually incarcerated on a very short-term basis in Dijon Prison, which appears to have administrated Fort d’Hauteville Prison.

Of Channel Islanders whose length of sentences in Fort d’Hauteville are known, Alfred Connor, Norman Dexter, Frederick Page, and Joseph Tierney were imprisoned there for 3 months; Flavien Barbier, Clifford Cohu, George Fox, Walter Lainé and Clifford Querée for 5 months; Alfred Le Gallez, Eugene Le Lievre, Ernest Le Prevost and John Nicolle for 7 months; Edgar Guille was incarcerated in the fort for one year. Eugene Le Lievre was the first islander to arrive in July 1941. The impression left on those who were there was uniformly one of filth and hunger; John Guille described his room in the Fort as follows:

We were herded into large underground barrack rooms with 80 other men already imprisoned there. There was no lighting, no beds & no bedding. We just all huddled together on the floor, which was a concrete one. Many of our inmates were Jews & many of them had very little clothing or footwear. The food and conditions were of the worst possible order. What little water available had to be brought in by watercart, & with no washing facilities we were even more verminous than at Caen. Bugs were cooked in the soup we received once daily. This was fought for, as was the bread ration thrown through a hole in the door at 11am daily, the weaker having to put up with the smaller portion. I did on one occasion count 55 flies in a cellmate’s soup, which he was most reluctant to remove, as this left him with a considerable waste & he was, as we all, most ravenous. Most of us could not walk as we were so weak, and at no time did we receive any Red + [Cross] parcels. –John Guille, 20 March 1966

It is unclear why John Guille was in this part of the fort; the description does not match the sketch made by Norman Dexter one year later (see image). John Guille’s offense was not especially serious and his sentence was not especially long. He was not Jewish. We cannot account for his particular treatment.
However bad the conditions at Fort d’Hauteville may have been, for many of the Channel Islanders things would get much worse as they were transferred to German prisons and concentration camps. Some of the luckier ones were able, after serving their sentences, to be reunited with their families in internment camps in Germany, where they received relatively good treatment. Harold Piesing left Hauteville on 29 January 1943 and returned to Guernsey via Granville Prison. Clifford Cohu, Alfred Connor, Norman Dexter, George Fox, Walter Lainé, John Nicolle, Frederick Page, Clifford Querée and Joseph Tierney were the last Channel Islanders to leave Fort d’ Hauteville in December 1943.

Fort d’Hauteville prisoners Eric Pleasants and Dennis Leister, Englishmen who had been stranded on the Channel Islands when the Germans invaded in 1940, managed to escape from Fort d’Hauteville in early 1943 with a Belgian named Edmond Vandievoet and another French prisoner. The two Englishmen made it as far as Saint-Malo before being taken back to Jersey in German custody. They were then deported a second time, this time to Kreuzburg Internment Camp. Pleasants and Leister later joined the British Free Corps of the Waffen SS and are widely regarded today as traitors.

As of this date (2016), little is known about the Nazi staff of Fort d’Hauteville. A German Army officer named Joseph Grumbir was in charge of Dijon Prison in the Rue d’Auxonne in Dijon until 1944, and his administration was responsible for Fort d’Hauteville. Certainly Fort d’Hauteville was also staffed by the Gestapo, but the details of their identities have not yet been published.

Fort d’Hauteville was used to intern German POWs from 1945 until 1948, then reverted to use by the French army. On 17 March 2006 it was declared an historic monument and in 2008 the army ceased to use the facility. No future plans for the fort have yet been announced and it is currently (2016) closed to the public. There are no on-site memorials for the many political prisoners who suffered in Fort d’Hauteville from 1941 until 1944.

None of the Channel Islanders imprisoned in Fort d’Hauteville died there, but seven of them, Clifford Cohu, Arthur Dimery, George Fox, John Nicolle, Frederick Page, Clifford Querée, and Joseph Tierney, died from poor living conditions or were killed later in other camps and prisons. Many of the Channel Islanders who survived would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.

Further Reading

Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.

Pleasants, Eric: Hitler’s Bastards: Through Hell and Back in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Mainstream Digital, 2012.

Vandievoet, Edmond: I Escaped from a Nazi Death Camp: The incredible story of a war survivor. Jourdan Publishing, 2015.


Archives départementales de la Côte-d’Or:
1409 W 1-13, Régistre d’écrou Prison d’Hauteville
1568 W 36-40, Régistre d’écrou des autorités allemandes
1568 W 58, 60, Répertoires de la prison de Dijon

Guernsey Archives FK 4-7 (Piesing)

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1744 (Barbier)
TNA FO 950/1767 (Beer)
TNA FO HNP/1235 (Dexter)
TNA FO 950/1773 (Ferbrache)
TNA FO HNP/1402 (Fox)
TNA FO 950/1262 (Gallichan, George)
TNA FO HNP/423 (Guille)
TNA FO 950/4889 (Hockey)
TNA FO HNP/1195 (Lainé)
TNA FO HNP/3156 (Le Gallez)
TNA FO HNP/2163 (Le Lievre)
TNA FO HNP/3209 (Le Prevost)
TNA FO HNP/4324 (Lihou)
TNA FO HNP/1237 (Miller)
TNA FO 950/1220 (Nicolle, John)
TNA FO HNP/4335 (Nicolle, Walter)
TNA  FO 950/1400 (Page)
TNA FO HNP/1407 (Querée)
TNA FO 950/1161 (Smith)
TNA FO 950/1254 (Tierney)