Youth betrayed by evidence of mother and her daughter: Cal McCrystal investigates the case of a young man who fell victim to collaboration in Guernsey

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The Independent Online
John Ingrouille, aged 17, was betrayed by two Guernsey women, arrested on New Year's eve 1940, tried in February 1941 for organising underground resistance and sent to prison camps in Germany and occupied France and Belgium.

In December 1942, an appeal court in Berlin decided the women had lied, but the youth was not released until 1945. By then he was dying of tuberculosis. He never made it home alive.

While the issue of 'personal sensitivity' of those still alive may prevent full disclosure of the Ingrouille affair, sources other than the Public Record Office provide some disquieting details.

The women who betrayed the youth were a Nelly Brewster and her daughter Frances Louise. It is known that they left Guernsey when the Germans departed, and went to the south of England. Frances Louise married a Polish sailor she met in Brighton in 1946. According to the Guernsey Evening Press of 30 May 1947, both women tried to return but were advised by 'police and the Government Office' to stay away.

The women's evidence against John Ingrouille was that he had a gun and was planning armed resistance against the occupation forces. No gun was found. His denials of the charges, backed by his parents, were ignored. He was tried in Jersey and given five years for treason and espionage. His father, now dead, kept a journal: ' . . .At about 5 o'clock on 31 December 1940, an officer and private of the German Military Police came (to my) home and searched my house for a gun and took away my boy.

'1 Jan, 1941. I went to Grange Lodge and tried to get some information regarding my boy's whereabouts and why they had taken him away, but all I could learn was that he was in prison.

'2 Jan, 1941. Two German officers of the Military Police came and searched my house . . . taking with them a knife which they said my boy had stolen. However, they came on several occasions and carried on their work of searching my house and turning everything upside down . . . But the climax came when one day these same officers brought with them a woman by the name of Mrs Nelly Brewster . . . That same woman told one under-officer that my boy had 200 men ready to revolt in the island of Guernsey . . . I can clearly state that it was a lie.'

John Ingrouille was sent first to a prison in Caen, France. In November 1941, he wrote to his mother and father, saying he was 'keeping my spirit up as much as I can. It will be everybody's birthday when I come back home, and I hope it will be soon.'

Some of his letters are in French, but most are in English, the work of an affectionate son whose sense of the injustice of his plight is conveyed strongly.

The Berlin authorities must have had doubts about John Ingrouille's guilt because he was given a retrial in the German capital. The Brewster women again repeated their testimony but on 6 August 1942, according to the father's journal: 'I received a letter from Berlin, signed Army Justice Inspector, stating that my boy's sentence had been revoked.'

Two weeks later, however, John wrote from Berlin: 'I am not free as you thought; so that is why I do not come back home. But you can be sure that when I am set free, I will come back home . . .'

His last letter home was dated 10 October 1944, from Winterfeldallee, Brandenburg. The following year, his family collected his coffin in Belgium.

Nelly Brewster is dead; the whereabouts of her daughter is unknown.

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