Fates of two British Channel Island resistance fighters solved:

In the summer of 1940, the Nazi’s occupied the British Channel Islands. At first, the Germans were relatively lenient in their rule, but alienated the population over time with increased bans on liberties and freedom.

During the occupation, one of the most dangerous things to do was to listen to the radio. When the Germans discovered people were tuning in to BBC broadcasts, they banned radios and confiscated them from the civil population. The Germans made it a crime to listen to British radio programs and spread their information.


Joe Gillingham (left) and Joe Tierney (right) were two of over 1000 Channel Islander’s arrested by the Nazi’s


A British Policeman talks with a German Officer in the Channel Islands

Joe Gillingham, part of a group called GUNS, short for: Guernsey Underground Resistance Service was arrested for spreading British information as was another Channel Islander named Joe Tierney, part of the Saint Savior Wireless Network. The men were just two of over 1000 Channel Islanders arrested during the war and sent to Continental Europe. Neither man returned home after the war and no word was every received by their families as to their fate. Their story would still remain a mystery if not for a researcher named Dr. Gilly Carr.

Carr’s research discovered that both men eventually ended up in the same prison  called Naumburg (Saale) in Germany in July 1944. Prisoners at Naumburg suffered from neglect, malnutrition and disease with 18 men dying a week. Inmates subsisted on six ounces of bread and a liter of soup a day. A former inmate named Frank Falla remembers that he and other inmates were forbidden to smoke, sing, talk or even smile. Gillingham left the prison in February 1945, where he died at another prison in the town of Halle from heart failure on March 11, 1945. His body was cremated and buried in a section of the cemetery reserved for Nazi prisoners.

Joe Tierney was sent to a concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. He escaped from the camp only to be captured a few days later. He died on May 4, 1945, a few days before the end of the war and was buried with other prisoners in a mass grave.


Naumburg prison

The stories of the two men and their daughter’s search for them are part of a BBC Documentary called

Finding Our Fathers – Lost Heroes of World War Two

Photos via the BBC

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