4th June 1944

GUNS writer Joseph John Gillingham was deported

Joseph John Gillingham was deported from Guernsey less than a year before the island’s eventual liberation. Within 10 months, he had died, without ever seeing his island home set free.

Gillingham had been helping to write and distribute GUNS, the Guernsey Underground News Sheet. Comprising news copied down after listening to the BBC – an activity that was strictly forbidden by the German occupiers – the sheet told Guernsey residents the truth about the war, rather than the propaganda-laden version the Germans wanted to put about.

Gillingham passed the news to Charles Machon, who worked at The Star, where it would be reproduced in very small number. A hand-to-hand and mouth-to-mouth network then saw it distributed around the island – and even as far as Sark.

Betrayal and discovery

The team behind GUNS, which also included Frank Falla, who writes in detail about its production in his book, The Silent War, was informed upon and arrested by the German authorities. They each received various sentences for what they had done, with Gillingham committed to 10 months’ imprisonment.

The official notification of the sentence listed his crime as “failing to deliver a wireless set and contiannly (sic) listening in common to prohibited broadcasts under Par. 22, 12 of the Order of the Mil. Bef. Frankenfeich dated 18.12.44”. A little over a month after receiving his sentence, he was deported to Germany.

He survived his time in prison and was theoretically “released” at the end of his sentence in February 1945. Those who had been imprisoned with him were told he was going to an internment camp, but a subsequent investigation discovered that he was actually taken to another prison in Halle. He died there on 11 March 1945 and was buried in Halle cemetery.


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