8th January 1945
American POWs escape from a Jersey camp
American soldiers Captain Ed Clark and Lieutenant George Haas escaped from a prisoner of war camp at St Helier on 8 January 1945. They hid out for 11 days, until finally fleeing Jersey, on a boat from Gorey Harbour, on 19 January. They made it safely to France by rowing for 15 hours across treacherous seas, in high winds and a snowstorm. By that point, France had been liberated by Allied forces, and they were safe.
The territory wouldn’t have been entirely unfamiliar: Haas and Clark, both members of the 6th Armoured Division, had been captured during the Normandy landings and taken to St Malo, before being moved to Jersey in autumn 1944. They wasted no time in planning their escape and tried tunnelling out of the camp, but this was unsuccessful. They finally got out by climbing over the barbed wire fence during a guard shift change.
Warning to locals
Their disappearance was noted, and German administrators put up notices warning the local population that anyone caught harbouring or helping them would be executed in accordance with paragraph 9 of the Order for the Protection of the Occupying Forces. This didn’t stop several islanders helping them, though.
George Haas had been confined for ten days after the unsuccessful tunnelling effort and met local resistance fighters who gave him addresses of others who would help him and Clark if and when they escaped. Among these were the Laurens family, who fed the men while they hid in a trench. After several days, the men moved on and called at the house of Deputy Wilfred Bertram.
Bertram set them up in an empty house while trying to find a way to get them off the island. He’d not had any luck before Haas and Clark moved on again, this time to Gorey, where they took a rowing boat under cover of darkness and made their perilous crossing to France.
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