Clifford Cohu’s watch

The story behind a pocket watch which belonged to Canon Clifford Cohu

Jersey Heritage recently received a donation of this beautiful pocket watch which belonged to Canon Clifford Cohu, one of 21 Islanders who died in German camps and prisons during the Occupation.

Clifford Cohu was born in Guernsey in 1883 but moved to Jersey in 1937 with his wife Harriette Haverstock, where he became rector of St Saviour’s Church. He is remembered by Islanders as an eccentric, but popular man. On 12 March 1943, Cohu was arrested by German authorities for acts of defiance, which included the spreading of BBC news to patients at the General Hospital where he was chaplain, and on another occasion, disseminating news whilst cycling down the Parade. Cohu received his news reports from Joseph Tierney, a sexton at St Saviour’s Church, who in turn received the news from John Nicolle and his father who had access to a wireless set.

Cohu was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, of which he served 3 months in prison in Jersey before being deported to a German camp in July 1943. Tierney and Nicolle were also arrested and deported for their involvement.

Canon Cohu’s 18-month sentence officially ended in September 1944, but at this point he was moved to Zöschen Forced Labour Re-Education Camp which was run by the SS. Conditions at this camp were extremely poor and prisoners were treated brutally. Cohu died there on 20 September 1944.

After his death, Cohu’s wife, Harriette, donated his pocket watch to Francis de Lisle Bois, the States Greffier at the time, as a gift of gratitude for his efforts to protect Cohu. Following his arrest, de Lisle Bois had intercepted Cohu’s curate, Canon Preston, telling him the news of Cohu’s arrest and urging him to get rid of any incriminating evidence. Preston returned to St Saviour’s Rectory and made sure nothing of value to the Germans would be found. De Lisle Bois made great efforts to prevent Cohu’s deportation but sadly without success.

In 2023, the pocket watch was donated to the museum’s collection in order that the story behind it would be preserved.  The watch can be found on the Archive and Collection Online here.

A silver pocket watch and chain