Channel Islanders Imprisoned in Saint-Malo Prison:
Julia Barry née Brichta, Clement Wilfred Bourgaize, Alfred Henry James Connor, Gerald Charles Domaille, John Draper, John Max Finkelstein, Louisa Mary Gould née Le Druillenec, Walter Henry Lainé, Emma Constance Marshall née Gander, Percy William Miller, James Tardivel
By Roderick Miller
At least eleven Channel Islanders were imprisoned in 1943–1944 in Saint-Malo Prison (Etablissement pénitentiaire – Maison d’arrêt de Saint-Malo) in the town of the same name in the Ille-et-Vilaine department of the Brittany region in France. The prison has the local nickname prison de l’espérance, or ‘prison of hope’. Construction on the prison began in 1929 and the first prisoners were incarcerated there in December 1931. By 1940, like most prisons in German-occupied France, the prison was supervised by the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD).
Most of the Channel Islanders appear to have been jailed for a very short term in Saint-Malo Prison, it being primarily a transfer point to other prisons and camps where the full prison sentences were served. Emma Marshall, Clement Bourgaize, and Gerald Domaille each spent only one night there, and the longest recorded stays there by any islanders were for one week. The only testimonial left specifically about Saint-Malo Prison in the restitution documents is from John Draper, who stated it was ‘very violent’ there, but with no details as to what he experienced.
It is very probable that more Channel Islanders were imprisoned in Saint-Malo than are currently known, but the count is unlikely to change unless new testimonials are found, as most of the prison records appear to have been destroyed.
Percy Miller died terribly in Frankfurt am Main-Preungesheim Prison in July 1944. Clement Bourgaize, John Draper, and James Tardivel were transferred through several other prisons before being liberated in Paris in August 1944, Draper and Bourgaize in the relatively mild conditions of Saint-Denis Internment Camp and Tardivel in Fort de Villeneuve. Emma Marshall survived a series of forced labour camps and was freed by US troops in April 1945. In late April 1945, Walter Lainé was placed a forced march from Straubing Prison in the direction of Dachau Concentration Camp but was lucky enough to be liberated by US troops prior to reaching the intended destination. John Finkelstein survived to see liberation in Theresienstadt Ghetto. Julia Barry survived Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, but Louisa Gould was sent to her death in the gas chambers there.
The town of Saint-Malo suffered widespread destruction from allied bombardment after D-Day and during the fighting between the US Army and the Wehrmacht. After a battle lasting more than a week, the German forces surrendered the city on 17 August 1944 to American forces.
Saint-Malo Prison is still currently in operation with a capacity for 94 prisoners. There is no known memorial there for those political prisoners unjustly incarcerated from 1940 to 1944.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014
Archives départementales du Val-de-Marne, 500W 8-9
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO):
TNA FO 950/999 (Barry [Chapman])
TNA FO 950/1372 (Draper)
TNA FO 950/1563 (Finkelstein)
TNA FO 950/2700 (Gould)
TNA FO 950/1185 (Marshall)