A MAN from the Channel Islands who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp after he went joyriding on a German officer’s motorbike has finally returned home — more than 70 years after his death.
Earlier this month, more than 100 well-wishers attended a memorial service at St Saviour’s, Jersey, close to where Frank Le Villio grew up. His remains were buried at nearby Surville Cemetery the next day.
Mr Le Villio was 19 when he took the motorbike for a spin during the Nazi occupation in 1944. He was caught, charged with military larceny, and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in France. Once there, however, he was sent to the death camp at Bergen-Belsen.
MAN VYI/WIKI/COMMONSSt Saviour’s, Jersey
He was eventually liberated, and went to live with his aunt in Nottingham. But ill treatment in the camp had weakened him, and, within a year of his release, aged 21, he died of tuberculosis, and was buried with six others in a pauper’s grave.
Over time, details of where he was buried were lost, but, in 2016, Stanley Keiller, a Jersey-born man who was living in Devon, came across Mr Le Villio’s story as he was preparing a talk on the German occupation. He contacted a priest and an undertaker in Nottingham, and, last year, Mr Le Villio’s grave was found in a cemetery at Wilford Hill in the city.
Speaking at the service, Mr Keiller said that it was “closure” for Mr Le Villio’s surviving family. “He was a young teenager who was taken away from us in those occupation years, and there’s a satisfaction in having found him. He would have lived a short and sad life, but now he could rest in peace.”
Mr Le Villio’s cousin, Stan Hockley, told the congregation that he was “delighted” to have him home. “It’s been a long, long journey,” he said. “The main problem was financial: it cost a lot of money.” He recalled happy childhood memories together. “I remember kicking a ball around with him in the street. He was a bit of a Jack the lad, running about and doing all these things. He was mad on motorbikes, he had his own Matchless motorbike and he adored it.”
He said that Mr Le Villio was first held at Fresnes Prison, near Paris, but, at the same time, the Normandy invasion was launched, and the Channel Islands were cut off from German-occupied France; so he was moved through a series of camps before arriving at Belsen.
His name has been added to the memorial to those who were taken from Jersey during the Occupation, and in the island’s Garden of Remembrance. Mr Hockley said: “The emphasis these days is on ‘Forgive and forget,’ but those who say that — do they have relatives who were tortured and murdered, just for having an illicit ride on a bike?”