Soon after they had been interned, the prisoners from l’Île Longue were requested to work outside the camp. At first, only the requests from local communities were taken into account, but, as the needs for workers increased, requests from private individuals were also satisfied, as long as the requested skills could be found among the volunteers.
Detailed rules about the use of the civilian internees were established, which both the employers and the employees had to accept, concerning :
the workers’ equipment
mail (1 postcard a week, 2 letters a month)
health and sickness
reports about behaviour and work
withdrawal of the squad
For example, in agricultural communities, the employer had to provide each civilian internee worker with :
blue cotton jacket and trousers, marked with the indelible white letters IC (interné civil)
a standard cap
a pair of clogs
the straw for the mattress (which he will have to replace at regular intervals)
wages : 1.25 francs a day or 0.10 francs an hour
The guard service is composed of :
1 non-commissioned officer and 6 men for a team of 20 prisoners
or 1 non- commissioned officer and 9 men for a team of 30.
Each team had to work for renewable periods of 6 months.
These rules were soon adapted for private employers.
As early as 1915, because of labor shortage, more and more workers were requested from private employers, from Finistère and the neighbouring departments or from distant departments, practising intensive farming (especially in beet and cereal growing aeras).
Various specialities are required and some of them cannot be found among the prisoners :
farmers or farm workers
bricklayers, labourers, carpenters, joiners, painters, architects, to construct buildings
metalworkers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, ironmongers, for mechanical engineering
foresters, miners, clog-makers, cobblers, glassworkers, tanners, furriers ...
also highly specialized skills like orthopedic shoemakers, glassworkers for artificial eyes or laboratory equipment making, accurate mechanics to make needles for knitting-machines.
The administrator of the « Société des Verreries » in Laignelet (Ille-et-Vilaine), Mr. Chupin, offers the following conditions to the internees :
wages : 5 francs for the bricklayers - 4.5 francs for the stokers - 3 francs for the labourers
daily food :
bread : 450 g
meat : 300 g
fresh vegetables : 1.4kg
dry vegetables : 80 g
fat, sugar, spices, coffee
cider : 2 litres
horse saussage : 150g
Internees from l’Île Longue were assigned to various public or private companies in Brittany :
- in the department of Finistère :
Saint-Renan, then in Ploudalmézeau and Portsall : at the beginning of 1916, a group of 21 internees were sent to build barracks
Guervénan, Plougonven (Arrondissement of Morlaix) : from March 1917 till August 13, 1919, 46 internees from Île Longue were posted to the construction of a sanatorium for military TB patients
Morlaix, December 1917 : a few prisoners were provided to Mr. Lajat, printer
the gas factory, Morlaix
the chemical plant « L’iode et ses dérivés », Penmarch (iodine and its by-products)
the Bodelec tanneries, Quimper (tanners and furriers)
- Un groupe de prisonniers civils sur la place du Vieux-Marché de Saint-Renan (Finistère), probablement en 1916 - Marine nationale - archives île Longue
(A group of civilian prisoners entering Old Market Square, Saint-Renan (Finistère) - Dated probably 1916)
- in the department of Côtes du Nord :
the plant « Kaolins de Bretagne », Plémet (miners)
the sawmill, Plédéliac
- in the department of Morbihan :
the construction of the sanatorium of Kerpape, Lorient
- in the department of Loire - Inférieure :
construction of the new piers on vaults in Pirmil
repairs of local electric tramways in Nantes
- in the department of Ille-et -Vilaine :
glass making in Laignelet (the « Société des Verreries de Laignelet »)
Outside Brittany, several departments asked for prisoners, mostly for agriculture : Allier, Calvados, Cher, Eure, Indre-et-Loire (Genillé and Cigogné), Seine-et-Oise (Leroux threshing equipment, Garancière), Vendée.
Some departments needed painters (Avranches, Manche), railway and train repairers (Périgueux, Dordogne), miners ( Faymoreau, Vendée).
The prisoners were transferred by train. On February 28, 1917, at the request of the Préfet of Allier, a team of 70 internees from L’Île Longue, escorted by 4 gendarmes from Moulins, took the 8.08 pm train in Quimper to Moulins via Nantes, Tours and Saincaize. They arrived in Moulins on March 3, at 5.49 am.
Sometimes, on their way, the prisoners had to deal with the hostility of the local population or from American soldiers for instance, as it happened in Bourbon-Archambault, August 31, 1918.
Back to the camp
The detached civilian internees were sent back to the camp of l’Île Longue for different reasons : end of the contract or dismissal for illness (in those situations, the employer had to pay for the return to the camp), sacking for misbehaviour, indiscipline, work refusal or attempt to escape (in that case, the internee had to pay for the transport and the guards). The most insubordinate ones could be sent to prison on arrival.
From : « Les travaux à l’extérieur du camp », by Michel Sénéchal : http://www.ilelongue14-18.eu/?Les-t...
Sources : Archives départementales du Finistère – 9 R 74, 9 R 75, 9 R 76, 9 R 77, 9 R 78, 9 R 79,9 R 80.
Translated by Monique