17th March 1941
Francois Scornet is shot by occupying forces
Although living in occupied France, Francois Scornet was so inspired by the radio broadcasts of exiled French leader Charles de Gaulle that he set out to escape so he could join the Free French Forces and fight for his country’s liberation.
He and several others took a boat from Dourdoff on 13 December 1940 and headed for the south coast of Britain, but landed on occupied Guernsey, where they were arrested and shipped across to Jersey for trial. Had they not set out in such bad weather, more of their navigation equipment may have survived and they may even have made it to the Isle of Wight, on which they originally believed they had landed.
Aiding England’s fight
Following the trial in Jersey, Scornet and three companions were sentenced to death. In the end, however, while the other three were lucky to have their sentences reduced to imprisonment, Scornet’s was upheld as he was considered the ring-leader of the group.
A Catholic priest was called to administer the last rites as the sun rose on 17 March 1941, and it was explained to him that Scornet had been sentenced because he’d been aiding England in its fight against the German Empire. The fact that neither Scornet nor any of his fellow sailors had made it to England, so had been unable to render any assistance, was seemingly irrelevant.
Scornet was allowed to write a letter of farewell to his parents, in which he told them he was dying for France and bravely confronting the enemy, then he was driven to the grounds of St Ouen’s Manor, along with the men who would shoot him and the coffin he would be buried in. Once there, he was tied to a tree and shot by a dozen soldiers. The place where he died is now marked by an engraved stone and the event is marked annually in remembrance of his sacrifice.
Francois Scornet was initially buried in Jersey but, in September 1945, he was exhumed and taken back to France where he was buried with full military honours.
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