9th April 1943

The St Saviour wireless case show trial

By 1943, the war was starting to turn against Germany, and its forces realised they needed to control the flow of information. It was possibile that the Allies would stage an invasion to recapture the Channel Islands and use them as a staging point for further attacks on mainland Europe. If so, the population might be pre-warned by BBC broadcasts – thus requiring the confiscation of all radios on each of the Channel Islands.

Not all residents willingly gave up their sets. John Nicolle kept his, listened to the news and passed it on to Joseph Tierney so it could be written down and distributed around the island. News was also passed to Canon Cohu who shared it at the hospital.

Radio listeners arrested

Unfortunately, so many people received the news that it was almost inevitable Nicolle and the rest of his group would be exposed. In early March the Germans made 18 arrests, and the prisoners faced court martial on 9 April 1943. The outcome of that trial was likely already settled, so it was little more than a show trial. They were each found guilty and received a variety of sentences, with several being sent to prisons in mainland Europe.

Four of the prisoners – Clifford Cohu, Joseph Tierney, Arthur Dimery and John Nicolle – died in captivity.

Tierney was the first member of the group arrested, and was sentenced to two years for his involvement in the dissemination of BBC news. Tierney died of an illness contracted in the concentration camps, while Cohu, who was sentenced to 18 months, was beaten to death. Nicolle died from a combination of overwork and starvation, and Dimery died of a heart attack. Although it could be said that he was the only one of the four to die of natural causes, it is possible that it was brought on by the strain of his captivity.


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