Fresnes Prison

Country France
GPS 48° 45' 48.996" N, 2° 19' 18.984" E
Address 1 Allée des Thuyas, 94260 Fresnes, France
Dates Active 1898 – current

Channel Islanders imprisoned in Fresnes Prison:

Sidney Ashcroft, Gerald Beaumont Bird, Clement Wilfred Bourgaize, William Stanley Canute Cordrey, Frederick Peter Duquemin, Albert Raymond Durand, Maurice Jay Gould, Paul Desiré Gourdan, Gordon Montague Green, Stanley George Green, Peter Hassall, James Edward Houillebecq, Francois (Frank) Rene Julien Le Villio, Emma Constance Marshall née Gander, George John Frederick Morcel, Leonce L’Hermitte Ogier, Richard Lermitte Ogier, Emile John Paisnel, James Thomas William Quick, William George Quin, June Mary Sinclair, William Henry Symes, Frank William Whare, William John Windebank

By Roderick Miller

At least 24 Channel Islanders were incarcerated between late 1941 and 1944 in Fresnes Prison (Maison d’arrêt de Fresnes, Centre pénitentiaire de Fresnes), in the southern suburbs of Paris in the Val-de-Marne department of France. The prison was originally built between 1895 and 1898 and remains the second-largest penitentiary in France. It was taken over by German forces soon after the June 1940 occupation of France to use as ‘central holding place for French Resistants and enemies of the Reich.’ (Peter Hassall) Most of the Channel Islanders were only imprisoned here on a short term basis, ranging from a day to several months at longest. It appears that the primary purpose of their detention at Fresnes was for Gestapo interrogation prior to being transferred to other prison and camp destinations, mostly in Germany.

Jan. ’44. Various charges – sentenced to Hard Labour. Sent to Fresnes Prison, Paris. Beaten up, kicked, toes broken, all the usual treatment. —William Cordrey, 24 July 1965

Went to Fresnes Prison just outside Paris, I was there 9 days, never went out of the cell. There were 4 Frenchwomen in the same cell, had to sleep on the stone floor. —Emma Marshall, 23 May 1965

Much better than the [prison] at Lyons. At least there were washing facilities in the cell. Whilst there I was questioned twice by the Gestapo, Avenue Foch, Paris. We were six, then eight in the one cell. —Rev. Albert Durand, 14 July 1965

I stood in the centre of the cell… which was about fourteen by eight feet. There was an iron bed on the left wall… On the other wall was a collapsed, hinged table… a toilet in one corner… a cold water tap, under which was a small sink. There was also a central heating pipe in the cell. Sparse, but practical given the circumstances. I listened as French prisoners called for news about the war, mothers, wives, sweethearts and comrades, while others cursed every German from Hitler downwards. Guards pounded on doors, and shouted at the occupants to keep quiet, but their yelling did not quell the shouting — Fresnes came alive at night. —Peter Hassall, from ‘Night and Fog Prisoners’

The treatment at Fresnes was bad, but Buchenwald was much worse… Stanley Green, 29 April 1965

Frederick Duquemin was transferred from Fort de Villeneuve Prison, also in Paris, to the infirmary at Fresnes Prison on 21 July 1942, and then returned to Fort de Villeneuve on 12 October 1942. Frank Whare was taken out of Villeneuve on 15 August 1942 and also sent to Fresnes infirmary for about eight weeks.

William Windebank and George Morcel had the relative good fortune to be transferred to Saint-Denis Internment Camp on 11 August 1944, where far better conditions prevailed for the internees.

Fresnes Prison was liberated on 24 August 1944 by the French 2nd Armoured Division under General Philippe Leclerc, after a day of heavy fighting with many casualties on both sides. Of the 24 Channel Islanders imprisoned in Fresnes, six of them, Sidney Ashcroft, Maurice Gould, James Houillebecq, Leonce Ogier, Emile Paisnel, and June Sinclair, would not survive to see end of the war. Frank Le Villio died as a direct result of the conditions of his imprisonment shortly after the war in a hospital in Nottingham. Many of those who survived would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.

Fresnes Prison continues to operate as the second largest penitentiary in France. There is a memorial plaque at the prison commemorating the suffering of those who resisted the Nazis from 1940 to 1944.

Further Reading

Burney, Christopher: Solitary Confinement, Macmillan Books, 1952.

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

French National Archives, Paris:
FNA F-7-15150 (Morcel, Windebank)

Hassall, Peter: Night and Fog Prisoners, Ontario, Canada 1997. This book may be downloaded as a PDF here


The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO), Kew, UK
TNA FO HNP/1696 (Bird)
TNA FO HNP/1367 (Bourgaize)
TNA FO HNP/1463 (Cordrey)
TNA FO 950/1698 (Durand)
TNA FO HNP/3507 (Green, Gordon)
TNA FO HNP 2085 (Green, Stanley)
TNA FO HNP/802 (Houillebecq)
TNA FO 950/1185 (Marshall)
TNA FO HNP 2766 (Quick)
TNA FO HNP/3608 (Quin)
TNA FO HNP/1193 (Symes)
TNA FO HNP/1005 (Windebank)

Archives départementales du Val-da-Marne, Creteil, France
Prisoner records for Fresnes Prison, 2742W 102

Archives nationales, Pierrefitee-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Dossier F/7/15150
Microfilm 737/MI/3

Ministère de la défense, bureau des archives des victimes des conflits contemporains, Caen, France
Chemise 73