Pierre Joseph Bihet
12 January 1928 - 18 November
for booklet about
created for his funeral service at St Joseph's Church, Guernsey
Molly's Story is told in A Child's War - a little of
André's Story is told in Reflections of Guernsey. I have extracted the following
from 3 different places in the book. I have paraphrased parts of it.
André was 12 years old, and a pupil of St Joseph's Roman Catholic
School in 1940. He remembers meeting very early in the morning at the school with a
small carrier bag containing a little lunch, a change of under clothing and a few coppers.
Children were to be evacuated together as a school with some teachers willing to go
and travel with them. André arrived in Weymouth after a long weary journey.
They got on a train and eventually arrived in Scotland. He remembers very well being
lined up at Dixon Hall with the others, and being looked over by prospective foster
parents. André did not enjoy this inspection and was not chosen, so was taken with
other boys from the school and looked after in a Catholic Church Hall on Paisley Road
where he waited for news - hoping his parents, brothers and sisters would be able to find
It was at the Church Hall that one day, after 4 months or so, he was
most surprised and couldn't believe if he was seeing right, as the gentleman talking to
his teacher, Mr Cooper, looked very much like his dad! He looked again and sure
enough it was.
The family were all re-united and settled in Wolverhampton (3
Melbourne Street). André was not happy at school - he was slightly built, rather
quiet and shy, and his name "André Bihet" made him a target for bullies.
He also had spoken much more French at home, than English, so to the older boys he was
definitely a "froggie". Everyday there were incidents and children can be
very cruel. André could not take his tales home either as his mother (although a
good mum) would have given him another bashing! It must have been very trying time,
as there were 4 families living in the terraced cottage, 11 people in all.
After 18 months at St Joseph's School (co-incidentally the same name
as his Guernsey school), André left at the age of 14, to work in Gibbons factory,
assembling munitions. He stayed there for just over a year, then moved to Midland
Metal Spinning Company where he stayed for another 15 months.
5 years later, when the family returned home to Guernsey - it was
only André and his parents that did so. His older brothers were in the forces, and
his sister had married in Wolverhampton (Therese and Les Salter). They
returned to their old home at 5 Contree Mansell - to find it empty of all furniture.
The neighbouring families who had "borrowed" the furniture did return it
Many years later (mid 1960s)
We were still at Rosedale (a Guest House) when we
had a coincidence which André and I will never forget. A Mr and Mrs Dodd from
Wolverhampton booked a holiday and duly arrived. A couple in their sixties whom
again we got into conversation easily. In chatting to Mrs Dodd, she told me the main
reason for their visit to Guernsey, was to try and find out what happened to a
"French" refugee boy who had worked in her workshop where she was the supervisor
at the Midland Metal Spinning Company from 1942 to 1945. He had become quite ill and
had left work before the war ended. I picked up the "Midland Metal Spinning
Company" as André had worked there and I remembered him saying he had been very ill
with jaundice! André as always was washing up dishes, but when I called and he got
speaking to Mrs Dodd, they easily realised he was the boy she was looking for! There
was great excitement and many tears by Mrs Dodd who had worried so much about this little
refugee, who was pale and thin, and who just never was able to return to work.
Another coincidence came to light more recently.
One day I was signing my books at a table at "Oatlands Craft Centre" -
seeing me writing, a lady nearby got talking and said she came from Wolverhampton.
She said she had made friends with a Guernsey refugee (again with a French name) and that
she had lived next door to the family in Melbourne Street. Yes, you've guessed - the
teenager was André's sister - Marie Thérèse.
More about the
Bihets at Bihet.com
The Imperial War Museum recorded André talking about his wartime experience