Charles Benjamin Ullmo, redeemed on Devil’s Island.
The dreaded ‘Penal Administration, French Guiana’ is far more associated with cruelty, inhumanity and death than with survival and redemption. That said, there were exceptions to the rule and disgraced French naval officer Charles Benjamin Ullmo is one of them. Condemned to Guiana for life after trying to ransom stolen military secrets, Ullmo didn’t look…
On This Day in 1909 – The Santa Clara Valley Bank Robbery, the world’s first using a getaway car.
To this day many people, including crime buffs, believe the world’s first bank robbery involving a getaway car was performed in France. The quasi-Anarchist Bonnot Gang are often credited with being first, escaping in a stolen Delauney-Belleville after robbing the Societe Generale bank in Chantilly, France on 21 December 1911. This isn’t accurate, although the…
Les Bourreaux, France’s ‘Executors of High Works.’
I recently had a brief Twitter conversation with a fellow scribe at Crime Traveller and these gentlemen came up therein, so I thought their story might be interesting to look at in more detail. ‘The Executor of High Works’ was a grandiose title for so unrelentingly grim a profession, especially one traditionally inherited by people…
On This Day in 1977 – Hamida Djandoubi, last man to face a French guillotine.
September 10, 1977 dawned damp and grey for the citizens of Marseilles, especially those residing in Les Baumettes Prison. All the inmates (and some of the staff) were in a dark mood contemplating the rising of the sun and the fall of executioner Marcel Chevalier’s blade. Inmates of what the French called ‘Death Alley’ were…
On This Day in 1909, Vere Thomas ‘St. Leger’ Goold: A long way from Tipperary.
A long, long way as it turned out. When Vere Goold took his own life on this day in 1909 he was far from Tipperary (his ancestral home) and everything else he’d ever known. Once the son of a prominent Irish family, a talented boxer and Wimbledon tennis star, he died a convict, murderer and…
On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.
“The Bagne is a charnel house, a mass grave, running from syphilis to tuberculosis, with all the tropical diseases one can imagine (carrying malaria, ankylosis, amoebic dysentery, leprosy, etc.), all destined to work hand in hand with an Administration whose task it is to diminish the number of prisoners consigned to its care. The fiercest…
On This Day in 1949; Germaine Leloy-Godefroy, last French woman to face the guillotine.
She was the last woman in France to face the dreaded ‘Timbers of Justice.’
I wrote a book.
It’s been quite some time since I last posted ere, but I have been extremely busy with paid work and earning a living. Part of that has been writing my first book. Criminal Curiosities is a collection of crooks, all with something about their crime, trial or punishment that is singular to them. The…
Papillon – The Butterfly Pinned..?
Meet Henri Charriere. Frenchman, Venezuelan, career criminal, transportee to Devil’s Island, denier of the murder that sent him there, happy to claim to have committed a murder while he was there and general storyteller and writer. Also known as ‘Papillon (due to a butterfly tattoo on his chest) and writer of the eponymous book turned…
The Brits Who Fought For Hitler.
The SS motto – ‘My honour is loyalty.’ As a freelance scribbler and long-time student of military history I love finding the more overlooked or forgotten aspects of the subject. For instance, the popular narrative of the Second World War holds that the British people pulled together, fighting as one for a common cause.…