Denis Vibert was determined to get away from Jersey after the Germans arrived, and made his first attempt in November 1940. He failed on this occasion, which in some respects was a good thing, because by the time he eventually made it to the English coast the following autumn, he was able to produce a much more detailed account of life in the occupied islands.
He was desperate that his reports should not be traced back to him and his family in Jersey, and they were marked with clear warnings:
- THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS DOCUMENT IS FOR PRIVATE INTEREST ONLY AND MUST NOT BE USED FOR PUBLICATION IN ANY FORM WHATSOEVER.
- IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL THAT NO MENTION SHOULD BE MADE IN MESSAGES TO JERSEY OF THE NAME OF DENIS VIBERT OR OF HIS ESCAPE
The unsuccessful attempt
In November 1940 the first attempt was made to escape. It was an effort by rowing, and in view of the necessity of being out of sight of Guernsey in daylight he had planned to row from Jersey to certain rocks south of Guernsey on the first night, with the intention of hiding there during the succeeding day. This first part of the adventure was successful, but unfortunately the wind changed the next day and it was impossible to continue the journey the following night. He waited four days but the conditions did not change. During this time he developed influenza, and finally he decided to abandon the attempt and return to Jersey.
The return was not uneventful as his boat was wrecked and he had to swim a quarter of a mile to shore. His absence had not been discovered by the Germans.
The successful effort
Early in 1941 the Germans gave a week's notice ordering all boats to be brought to certain harbours in order to have them under control. It was necessary, therefore, to obtain some craft at that time. He managed to obtain a small 8-foot boat which he hid at his house. Two outboard motors were obtained and the necessary petrol was procured by siphoning it from a German lorry. The boat and equipment were duly smuggled to a prepared place on the beach.
The attempt was made on a night in the autumn of this year. Conditions were satisfactory and a successful getaway was made. The first bit of bad luck occurred just after leaving; two German E- boats passed about 100 yards away and although he was not seen, the wash half filled his boat making his little store of food uneatable. He rowed some four miles out to sea before making use of the outboard motor. He drank all his water supply that night.
By day-break he was some 15 miles west of Guernsey and he proceeded to replenish the petrol tank. At this stage the sea was rather choppy and water got into the engine making it unserviceable. He then proceeded to fit the spare engine but had the misfortune to let it fall into the sea.
He rowed for three days, sleeping part of the nights. He had no food or water. On the evening of the third day he had reached within two miles of Portland Bill when a British Destroyer picked him up.