War hero's home burial, 53 years after dying at hands of the Gestapo

Philip Jeune
Wednesday 29 January 1997 01:02

Fifty-three years after he died in a Nazi prison camp, the body of a Channel Island resistance hero who attempted a daring escape from the occupied islands in an open boat is finally to be brought back home.

The Jersey authorities have agreed to allow the body of Maurice Gould, who died aged 18 in a German prison, to be placed in a St Helier war cemetery. They will also pay pounds 6,000 to bring the young hero's body home.

Maurice Gould and his friend Peter Hassall were captured in May 1942 after failing to escape from occupied Jersey in a small boat. They were just two miles out when the boat sank and a third teenager, Denis Audrain, who could not swim, drowned. The other two managed to swim back to shore where they were arrested by German troops.

Found to be carrying military information about the occupying forces, they were taken to Paris where they were questioned by the Gestapo and SS at Fresnes prison. They were then moved to a concentration camp, SS Sonderlager Hinzert.

The harshness of further interrogations took its toll on Mr Gould, who shortly after being transferred to Wittlich prison, died on 1 October 1943.

Mr Hassall had meanwhile been moved to a Polish coal mine. "I stayed there for four months, coming up to the surface once a week, and then I went to a salt mine for two months and did not come up once," he said.

When he did emerge from the mine he was transferred to Wittlich where he attended Mr Gould's funeral, near to the graves of SS soldiers.

After his repatriation, Mr Hassall began his long battle with the German, British and Jersey authorities to bring his friend's body home.

"The German government said it was up to Britain, the British government said it was Jersey's responsibility and successive Attorney-Generals in Jersey told me it was up to the War Graves Commission," said Mr Hassall.

Eventually he tracked down Mr Gould's relatives, enabling him to bring a successful conclusion to his long quest.The dead man's half brother, Bill Smith, is in no doubt that the island should be the young hero's final resting place. "He should not be buried in a German military cemetery surrounded by Germans, some of whom were SS and Nazis," he said.

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