14th May 1941
British papers reported Dame of Sark’s deportation
It’s a measure of how completely the Channel Islands were cut off during the second world war that even erroneous news took almost a year to leak out.
On 14 May 1941, mainland papers reported that a letter smuggled across the Atlantic the previous August described how Sibyl Hathaway, the Dame of Sark had been sent to a concentration camp in Germany. According to various regional papers, all of which carried the same Press Association story, her deportation had been a reprisal for “offences by youthful islanders who had been ‘harassing’ the Germans in Guernsey“.
In reality, the Dame spent the whole of the war on Sark. She only left the island once. Her clandestine mission had been to take supplies to Guernsey for two British airmen who were hiding in her daughter’s house.
Dame Sibyl’s son had been killed five days before the “news” of her deportation became public. Flight Lieutenant “Buster” Beaumont had been caught in the Liverpool Blitz while on leave. Although he never found out that his mother had supposedly been punished, she did hear from German authorities about the death of her son.
Her supposed incarceration was even reported in America, six days after the UK. In her autobiography, Dame of Sark, Sibyl quotes the North American edition of Radio Newsreel:
In removing her to a concentration camp in the Reich the Germans have done an extremely foolish thing. La Dame has an authority recognised and respected by the islanders through ties of long custom. To seize her as a hostage for their good behaviour is likely only to stiffen the resistance of a population who have both spirit and esprit, who have stubborn genius for cold-shouldering interlopers, and who have long been accustomed to taking their cue as to hospitality from the attitude of the Seigneurie.
The Seigneur’s deportation
While the Dame was not deported, her husband was. It happened in February 1943 – almost two years after the Sibyl’s supposed deportation. During that month, all men who had previously served an army were transported to prisons in Germany. He had been an officer in the Royal Flying Corps during the first world war.