Saint-Denis Internment Camp

Country France
GPS 48° 56' 21.9768" N, 2° 21' 11.64924" E
Address 93206 Saint-Denis, France (buildings no longer exist)
Dates Active 1940 – ca. 1948

Channel Islanders imprisoned in Saint-Denis Internment Camp:

Robert Henry Bell-Baker, Clement Wilfred Bourgaize, Arthur Edward Clarke, Arthur Dimery, John Draper, ‘Anthony’ Charles Chevalier Faramus, Harry Featherstone, Gordon Montague Green, Robert Charles Green, Edgar John Guille, Patrick Christopher Healy, William Patrick Healy, Edwin John Lawrence, George John Frederick Morcel, Walter John Nicolle, William Edward Smith, Archibald Lloyd Tardif, William John Windebank, John Ernest Frederick Woods


By Roderick Miller

At least 19 Channel Islanders were incarcerated between 1942 and 1944 in Saint-Denis Internment Camp (Frontstalag 122, Stalag 220, La Grande Caserne Saint-Denis, Caserne des Suisses à Saint Denis), just north of Paris in the Seine-Saint-Denis department of France. The caserne was originally built in 1756 as a barracks for a regiment of the Swiss Guard and were taken over by German forces soon after the June 1940 occupation of France. The barracks were soon put to use as an internment camp for civilian enemies of the Reich. A section of the camp may have originally been designated Frontstalag 122 in 1940, primarily for American citizens detained by the Nazis, but by June 1941 this section and the internees imprisoned there had been moved to Compiègne.

Prisoners in Saint-Denis wore their own civilian clothes with a white armband indicating their prisoner number. Men, women, and children — entire families — were allowed to live together in the camp, though it is uncertain if this continued until the end of the war, as photographs from the camp taken in May 1944 show only men. The following account of the camp was written after a visit to the camp in December 1943 by a Red Cross delegation. It was published in the April 1944 Red Cross Newspaper The Prisoner of War:

This civilian internment camp, where there are 1,903 British men, women and children, including Canadian, Australians, South Africans and one New Zealander, is situated at La Grande Caserne, Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

The internees are living in large barrack buildings and some huts; all these buildings are well arranged and heated. Each internee has at least three blankets and two sheets, a pillow-case and a sleeping bag. The straw in the pallets is renewed at regular intervals. The internees can take hot shower baths three times a week. The accommodation is at present overcrowded, but will soon he easier, as 200 elderly internees will shortly be sent to buildings attached to the municipal hospital at Saint-Denis, where they will be very comfortable.

Around the barrack buildings are gardens with flower beds and trees, with spaces for playing games such as football and clock-golf. Indoor games are also organised and there is a library, theatre, orchestra, art class and a school which was started in 1941 and at present has two hundred pupils who study under the direction of an English schoolmaster. A camp committee of British internees directs all branches of the work and studies.

The health of the internees is good and they are well cared for. There is good medical and dental attention. A very up-to-date dental laboratory has been installed, where there are six British dentists and four dental mechanics.

The internees receive the same rations as German civilians. They also receive Red Cross food parcels every week. In 1942 a restaurant was opened in one of the huts and there is a very fine kitchen attached to it.

The religious needs of the internees are attended to by a Protestant chaplain and two Roman Catholic chaplains; of the latter, one is English speaking and the other a French Canadian.

Visits to the internees are allowed once a fortnight, but to those who work, once a week. The internees may write four letters and three cards a month, business letters not being included in these numbers. There is not limit to the number of letters internees may receive. In December 1943, for the first time, internees were allowed to take exercise outside the camp, once a fortnight. This is considered to be a very good camp.

The brothers William and Patrick Healy claimed they were neutral Irish nationals, but apparently the Germans paid little attention to the claims, as they were nevertheless interned as enemy aliens. Edgar Guille and Walter Nicolle left Saint-Denis on 29 December 1942 and returned to Guernsey via Granville Prison, but were later transported to Laufen Internment Camp. Anthony Faramus was only briefly in a cell in the lodge at the main entrance of Saint-Denis in January 1942 before being transferred to Fort de Romainville Transit Camp. Edwin Lawrence transferred from Châlons-sur-Marne Prison to St. Denis on 14 June 1944. George Morcel and William Windebank had the relative good fortune to be transferred from Fresnes Prison to the milder conditions of Saint-Denis on 11 August 1944, where along with Bourgaize, Draper, Lawrence and Tardif, they were liberated by the Allies on 24 August 1944. Arthur Dimery was briefly in Saint-Denis before transferring out to Laufen Internment Camp, where he died from a heart attack – likely a direct result of the conditions of his previous imprisonment – on 4 April 1944. The rest of the Channel Islanders imprisoned in Saint-Denis survived the war, but many of them would suffer from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.

La Grande Caserne, where Saint-Denis Internment Camp was located, continued to operate for several years after the war as a camp for German prisoners of war. In 1969 the Caserne was torn down and replaced by the Institute University of Technology (IUT) Saint-Denis, the Lycée ENNA school and a public square, Place du 8 Mai 1945.


NOTE: The Frank Falla Archive has thus far been unable to locate the Saint-Denis prisoner records. If you happen to know the location of these documents – in an archive or elsewhere – we would be grateful if you would please contact us with this information!

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.

Sources

The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/1767 (Bell-Baker)
TNA FO HNP/1367 (Bourgaize)
TNA FO 950/1372 (Draper)
TNA FO HNP/3507 (Green, Gordon)
TNA FO HNP/423 (Guille)
TNA FO HNP/4335 (Nicolle)
TNA FO HNP/2165 (Tardif)

Jersey War Tunnels, Joe Mière Collection (William and Patrick Healy)

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

War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St. John of Jerusalem: The Prisoner of War, London, April 1944.

Glass, Charles: Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation, Penguin Press, New York 2010.

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