Stuck in the Siberia of France: Charles De Havilland
These letters form the basis of two very interesting articles by André Métayer of the Société Philatélique de Rennes. Charles (1786-1844), Captain in the 20th Regiment of Foot, was captured by the French at Capri in late 1808, and was unfortunate not to be ransomed or swapped. He remained in that miserable limbo, 'the Siberia of France,' as he called it, that was the lot of an officer POW; free to wander about, but not free to go, always short of money to pay for his board and lodging, but able, for example, to travel to the next town to play his viola—until the general return of prisoners in 1814.
André Métayer has very kindly sent us copies of the material upon which his articles are based, in the form of transcriptions and scans of the original letters and other documents. Copies of the articles and the author's source material can be seen in the Library. An expert in postal history, he is also author of Les relations de St-Malo avec les Iles Anglo-normandes.
The Library has original material concerning Guernsey prisoners-of-war, the majority of whom were sailors, from this period in its collection. For the treatment of such prisoners and the manner in which they might be released see, for example, F. Robidou's excellent Les derniers corsaires malouins: la course sous la République et l'Empire 1793-1814, published in 1919, in the Library. Ships' captains and other officers, too useful to both sides, were often ransomed, after having undertaken never to sail against France or Britain again (a promise more often than not immediately broken), whereas ordinary seamen were left to languish in detention camps, where they struggled to fund their own board and lodging. See also: Fund for the Relief of Guernsey Prisoners-of-War, 1806, and Guernsey POWs, 1812.