22nd July 1969

Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died

The Reverend Sir John Leale was the second president of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee during the Second World War. He took over after Ambrose Sherwill was removed from the post by the occupying forces.

Born in St Sampson in 1892, he died in St Peter Port, aged 77, on 22 July 1969. As well as leading the Controlling Committee, Leale had served as a Jurat of the Royal Court of Guernsey. He had also been a Methodist minister, in which capacity he served in Manchester following his graduation from Cambridge University. He was knighted in 1945.

Finding a balance

In his position as head of the Controlling Committee, Leale would have faced some difficult decisions when demands were made of him by the occupying forces. When the States of Guernsey released some of its wartime archives in 1993, they revealed that Leale had handed over a list of Jews living on Guernsey in November 1940. The list had been drawn up by the police on the orders of the Bailiff, Victor Carey.

“Mr Carey passed the inspector’s report to the Rev John Leale, president of the Controlling Committee of the States of Guernsey, the civilian body administering the island under the occupation,” reported The Times in 1993. “The names were forwarded to field command headquarters the same day.”

Three Jewish women were deported from Guernsey and died at Auschwitz.

“John Leale was regarded on the island as highly competent and business-like,” reported The Guardian, also in 1993. “He took absolute integrity as his watch-word, according to a local biographer.”

Lasting respect

Leale’s approach to the occupation was one of passive compliance in the interest of not making things more difficult for the island’s residents. He was highly regarded by many by the time the war drew to a close.

Leale even makes an appearance in The Book of Ebenezer Le Page:

He wasn’t warm and loveable as Ambrose [Sherwill] was, nor as reckless, but he was a truly honourable man… [He] wasn’t a man who liked wars, or wanted wars; and he didn’t want us to hate anybody, not even the Germans: but he was like steel in his quiet way to get out of them all he thought was fair for them to let us have. When I think of those who was the heads of Guernsey during the Occupation, I am proud to be a Guernseyman…

Sir John Leale Avenue in St Sampson is named after him. Sir John Leale House was once the headquarters of Guernsey Post.


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