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Can you solve the mystery of the islander whose bike ride led to Belsen?

Can you solve the mystery of the islander whose bike ride led to Belsen?

Monday 10 April 2017

Can you solve the mystery of the islander whose bike ride led to Belsen?


A Nottingham-born man who lived through Jersey’s Occupation is seeking information about an extraordinary islander who survived the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Stanley Keiller – the son of a vicar who moved his family to Jersey shortly before the Second World War – is hoping to shed light on the short but dramatic life of Frank Le Villio, who was one of just two British people to leave the hellish camp alive, in addition to providing a fitting tribute in the UK.

Mr Le Villio, who was born on Le Geyt Road in 1925 and just 15 when the Island was taken over by German forces, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment in France after stealing and driving off with a Nazi soldier’s motorbike in 1944.

Sentenced for “military larceny”, he travelled to Fresnes Prison on the outskirts of Paris, then Belfort and Neuengamme camps, before reaching the nightmarish Belsen.

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Pictured: A memorial at the site of the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Frank Le Villio was sent.

Despite managing to exit the notorious camp, Mr Le Villio had passed away by September 1946 due to Tuberculosis thought to be contracted as a result of his poor physical state. The 21-year-old was but months into a new job as a railway porter in Nottingham, where he had started living with his aunt.

For a long time, many had thought that well-known Jerseyman Harold Le Druillenec, who later became head teacher of St John’s School, was the only one to survive Belsen. After Mr Le Villio’s story emerged, he has since been commemorated on the memorial to those taken from Jersey during the Occupation and the War Tunnels’ Garden of Remembrance.

But now Mr Keiller is on a mission to ensure he gets recognition in the UK too.

He would like to locate Mr Le Villio’s grave – believed to be in Wilford Hill Cemetary – and gather together living relatives to lay a wreath representing the Jersey flag there.

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Pictured: Frank Le Villio's name is featured on a monument outside the Maritime Museum (above), but Mr Keiller wants to ensure his UK grave is appropriately decorated too.

“I would like to know if there is a headstone, the name and address of the aunt, and if there are any living relatives at that address or in the area… And, unaware of the circumstances at the time of his death, I am interested to know what inscription is on his headstone, if indeed he had one. I suspect the legend of his life to be but his name and dates of birth and death,” Mr Keiller commented.

Mr Keiller himself is very familiar with the Occupation years, with his own father and brother arrested by the German authorities for attempting to escape the Island.

He will present a talk and display Occupation memorabilia – including his father’s arrest and sentence document – at St Cyprian’s Church in June.

In the meantime, he’s asking for anyone with any information regarding Frank Le Villio or his aunt in Nottingham, as well as members of his family, to call 07951 247906.

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