Three friends row to France

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Three friends row to France


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Eric Hamon


This article by Toby Chiang was first published in the Jersey Evening Post in 2014


Eric Hamon rowed away from Jersey from Rozel Harbour to the French coast in a stolen fishing boat on 8 October 1944.

Seventy years later he recalled that the escape ended with a Jersey pronunciation test administered by a British army officer to determine whether the then 18-year-old was a German spy.

Guard avoided

Describing the night he and friends John Langley and Barbara Hutchings, who were later to marry, Mr Hamon said:

"Everybody knew I could handle a boat. We got down to the bay and I swam out with John to this boat we had seen a few weeks earlier. I let the ropes go and could see the form of a guard who must have been about 50 yards away, and we pushed the boat to the opposite side of the bay."

The trio readied themselves for the journey, but Mr Langley fainted - possibly due to the cold - and later became seasick during the crossing. After Mr Hamon had rowed out from the harbour, they attached an outboard motor and made their way steadily towards France.

At the French coast he guided the boat to a small harbour when an American soldier took the islanders to British authorities, who ordered that they be taken to London the next day for debriefing.

Mr Hamon recalled:

"We got taken to a secure place and were debriefed to make sure we weren't spies. I was left in a room and other two were spoken to for about half an hour. I was just sitting there with this man who had a revolver.
"I was taken into a room on my own where there was a man who said 'I will only ask you a few questions'.

Pronounce 'Le Quesne'

"There was a name written on a piece of paper on his desk and he said 'What's that name?'.
"I said 'Le Quesne' and he said 'OK, you'll do, sport', and that was my debrief."
Princess Marina of Kent meets John Langley, in Army uniform, his wife Barbara, and Eric Hamon during a visit to Jersey in 1948

Mr Hamon was passed on to the Canadian Red Cross, as he sounded French, and the organisation gave him a bed and £3.

He later met his sister in Southampton before finishing his engineering apprenticeship aboard repair ships that serviced convoys towards the end of the war.

After helping to repair several damaged boats that entered port at Southampton, the young Jerseyman joined an American ship, serving as a junior fourth engineer.

"I was treaded like a lord, really", he said. "We would go with convoys and if they were mined we would go aboard and repair them."

Once back in Jersey in 1946 he joined the Merchant Navy and later worked at the island's power station. He married Celine and retired in 1988 as Condor's chief engineer.

Every year on 8 October he thinks back to the night he escaped from the occupied island with the help of the name 'Le Quesne'.

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