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Jersey war hero honoured in France

The family of a man shot by the Nazis after joining the Resistance were invited to honour him in a remembrance service.

THE family of a Jersey man shot by the Nazis after joining the French Resistance were invited to honour him in a remembrance ceremony.

The descendants of John Soyer were invited to Brehel in Normandy, where he is buried. They were tracked down after local estate agent Pippa Weitz heard about Mr Soyer’s story through an elderly friend, Julienne Masson.

The 92-year-old told her how she once knew a Jersey man who had been arrested by the occupying Germans for owning a radio. He was sent to the French prison of Villeneuve Saint Georges where he met Mrs Masson’s husband, imprisoned for resistance activities.

Mr Soyer told his fellow prisoner he planned to escape and offered to help the Resistance if he did.

His plan successful, he made his way to his friend's hometown where he met Mrs Masson and joined the Resistance.

Ms Weitz said: “On the day before the Liberation, John came into Brehal to buy explosives to blow up the bridge of Pont de la Roué. While he was there he heard the Liberation was imminent so he pinched a German soldier's bike - and got shot for it.”

Mrs Masson told Mrs Weitz she would love to meet up with Mr Soyer's family - so Mrs Weitz offered to track them down and helped organise a special remembrance event. She found his son Albert who came to the ceremony with his daughter Karen and son David.

Ms Weitz said: “When I started looking I didn't even know if there was any family. I looked in the phonebook and there were three Soyers in Jersey and so I called the first one. When I explained, there was a long silence on the phone and then he said that he was Mr Soyer's son.

“We arranged for them to come over to Brehal and it was a really big day for the whole town.”

The family were presented with the Brehal Town Medal and Mrs Masson also presented Mr Soyer with his father's false identity card.

Ms Weitz said: “We went to the cemetery and laid a Jersey flag made from flowers on John’s grave.”

She added: “On the day of John Soyer's funeral a young man called Roger Laubel climbed the Brehal church tower to ring the bell and was shot by the allied forces who were very jumpy and thought it was a German sniper.

“We also visited Roger Laubel's grave to lay flowers and the whole event was very emotional for everyone.

“John Soyer's son did know a lot of his father's history but in Jersey there had been various different stories and reports of what happened.

“I think Albert really appreciated hearing the account of Mrs Masson and speaking to one of the few remaining people who knew John Soyer, Monsieur Lebreton. It put to rest lots of ghosts.

“I don't think anybody quite expected it all to be as emotional as it actually was.”

An apartment block in the town is to be renamed Residence John Soyer in honour of the hero. Ms Weitz said: “It is nice to know that this will allow his name to live on.”

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