THE last remaining member of a group of teenagers responsible for a wartime act of resistance against the German occupying forces has died in New Zealand at the age of 99.
John Dunmore, who went on to became a distinguished professor of French and head of the department of modern languages at Massey University, Palmerston North, was identified in 2020 by former States Deputy Maurice Dubras as one of the unlikely perpetrators of an attack on a German hay store in St Helier in November 1941.
It was a story that remained untold for almost 80 years until Mr Dubras’ elder brother, the late Bernard, spoke to the JEP in February 2020. The five members of his group had agreed, while any remained alive, not to mention the episode publicly but Bernard Dubras, believing himself to be the only surviving conspirator, gave details for the first time in an interview.
He described how, having listened to broadcasts on the BBC, the five teenagers gained the knowledge to assemble an incendiary device which they left among the store of animal fodder at a warehouse that made the junction between Cannon Street and Aquila Road.
‘We knew if we succeeded that it would achieve maximum damage for the local German war economy, because at that stage they had a lot of horse-drawn vehicles. The horses had to be fed and hay is the main source of nourishment. We knew where it was – not far from my father’s store in Devonshire Place – so we could be in and out without it being obvious. It was sabotage – it was defiance,’ Bernard Dubras told the JEP three years ago.
But while Bernard was revealing those details, it transpired that another member of the group, John Dunmore, was still alive in New Zealand, having left Jersey and emigrated in 1950. Holding degrees from the universities of London and Wellington, he enjoyed a distinguished academic career, receiving awards including the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal and the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and historical research, recognition he received in the 2001 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
In 2020, Mr Dunmore told the JEP that he had had very limited recent contact with the Island. He said: ‘I left after the war when offered a job at the London Credit Lyonnais as I am bilingual, and worked at Barclays for some years, including naturally the Occupation. I do not recall or celebrate Liberation Day.’
By coincidence, having established Mr Dunmore’s part in the plot, Maurice Dubras – who returned recently from a visit to New Zealand with his wife Lynne – was to be the last person outside the family to speak to Mr Dunmore before his death. Less than four months short of his 100th birthday, Mr Dunmore passed away on 30 April.
‘One of the highlights of the trip was to get to meet John Dunmore and his family. We had gone to Wellington to visit my wife Lynne’s grandson and we had a car so that we could drive up to visit him. We were with him for just under an hour.
‘Before my brother Bernard died, I was able to exchange emails with John and, between the three of us, we eliminated several names and got down to the five involved in the incident,’ Mr Dubras said. A private history of the family business identifies Hugh Gordon and Kenneth Webb as the remaining members with a third Dubras brother, Henri – like Maurice, a former States Deputy.
‘In the presence of John’s son and daughter, it was a question of thanking him for having communicated with me while Bernard was still alive to complete the story.
‘He didn’t say very much, though he observed that there was a similarity between Bernard and myself. He wouldn’t have seen Bernard for a long time, of course.
‘It was a pilgrimage in a way. It was my way of trying to bring closure to the story,’ Mr Dubras said.