Channel Islander Imprisoned in Caserne Vandamme:
Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Edwards (later Joanknecht)
By Roderick Miller
Only one Channel Islander is known to have been incarcerated in Caserne Vandamme in the northern French city of Lille. The site of Caserne Vandamme was occupied by French artillery troops in the late 17th century, and a military hospital was established there by King Louis XIV in 1687, remnants of which still remain. The main front buildings of the Caserne were built in 1849.
Lille was occupied by Nazi troops on 31 May 1940, and became part of the German military zone in Northern France under control of the German command in Brussels. As a former French military installation, Caserne Vandamme was presumably occupied by the German military. In May 1941, the Germans commandeered a section of nearby Loos-lès-Lille Prison as one of their main prisons in Northern France for political prisoners. When Loos-lès-Lille Prison became overcrowded at the end of 1942, the Germans began transferring its female prisoners to security facilities in Caserne Vandamme.
Channel Islander Dorothy Edwards was among the first female prisoners transferred from Loos-lès-Lille Prison to Caserne Vandamme on 4 December 1942. Just a few weeks later, on 26 December, she was sent to the Hospital de la Charité in Lille, and returned to Vandamme on 11 February 1943. She was released from Loos-lés-Lille Prison just a few days later, on 15 February.
Lille was liberated from the Nazis by British troops on 3 September 1944. Caserne Vandamme became a center of incarceration for suspected French collaborators being tried by a military tribunal. The Caserne operates today as a centre for military conscription registration, to which all young French men and women are required to submit, despite the phasing out of compulsory service in 2001. There is a memorial plaque on the front of the Caserne dedicated to the French 16th Infantry Battalion, stationed here from 1877 until 1913. There is no known memorial on the site for the women incarcerated there from 1942 until 1944 as political prisoners of the Nazi regime.
Dorothy Edwards survived the war and eventually married a German soldier, with whom she had fallen in love during the occupation.
Archives départementales du Nord, Lille:
2025 W 1-11, 14-16, Quartier allemand de la prison de Loos
2025 W 12-13, Registre de dépôt des femmes détenues et transférées à la caserne Vandamme., 4 décembre 1942 – 7 févier 1944
Bouysse, Grégory: Encyclopédie de l’Ordre Nouveau – Histoire du SOL, de la Milice Française & des mouvements de la Collaboration volume 1 (in French), Lulu Books, 2016. Link
Musée de la Résistance de Bondues: Guide de visite de l’exposition ‘Défense de Résister!’ PDF (2.2mb)