Spanish Republican Juan Taule

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Juan Taule

Juan Taule was a Spanish Republican forced worker. One of his tasks was to help build the underground military hospital at St Lawrence.

"We started excavating in the middle of 1942 and thought it was a quarry at first but then we started the first tunnel and realised it wass something else. About 75 to 100 metres in it started going wrong.

Everything started collapsing and there was rubble and water everywhere," he recalled.

The Spanish labourers were worked to exhaustion, 12 hours a day, every day, in dangerous conditions.

"I don't know if people were left in there. There were a lot of accidents from the start and people disappeared, but every time there was an accident, the Germans and everybody did their best to help and tried

to save them. Some just didn't have a chance."

Mr Taule spent even longer than most people facing upheaval and uncertainty.

For him the fighting started in 1936, when he took up arms in the Spanish Civil War to fight against Franco's fascist regime. In 1939 he fled to exile in France and did not return home for 20 years. He was handed over to the advancing German army and in the middle of 1941, he was put aboard a ship in St Malo. Two hours later, he found himself in St Helier harbour where he became a tool of FaKehlo Co., a subsidiary of the Organisation Todt, which was the civil engineering branch of the Occupying forces...

While in Jersey, he remained under the command of one German foreman, Herman Schlicker, an Organisation Todt officer.

Mr Taule was billeted in Camp Lidet on Route Orange, St Brelade, with his work gang of about 40 other Spanish exiles and prisoners of 16 differnet nationalities, including Ukranians and Poles. It was later in the war that large gorups of Russian prisoners began arriving in the island, having been force-marched across Europe to get there. Mr Taule remembers them vividly.

"When they landed here the Russian boys were just like skeletons. Some were just 16 or 17 years old. I was in a bad way myself but nothing compared to them. Looking back I realise the Germans were losing the war then and took it out on the Russians."

He remembers a ward in the camp of ill and emaciated Russian prisoners near to death, and he recalls the sudden disappearance of many fellow prisoners.

"You lived day by day. You lost your confidence because you didn't know what was happening tomorrow. We used to work together in gangs but people would be moved overnight and we would never see them again. You had to live for yourself...

Despite the defeat of the Germans, Mr Taule's problems were not over immediately at the end of the war. He was then treated as a prisoner of war by the British and was taken to a camp in the north of England as a temporary measure. Locals used to bring supplies for the exiled Spanish men and this was how he met Alice, who was then just 16. They married and settled in Lancashire. He spent his life working for the same building firm until he retired.

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