A German's view of the Liberation

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The Liberation of Jersey from German Occupation in May 1945 is most often viewed through the eyes of the resident community. But many of the ordinary German soldiers, who had themselves endured supreme hardship in the months before, also looked upon it as a form of Liberation.

Engelbert Hoppe

The following is recorded by the late Engelbert Hoppe, who served as the commander of the M19 mortar bunker at La Corbière, which is now restored by the Channel Island Occupation Society.

He was strongly Roman Catholic and had become good friends with the Le Brocq family who lived in the lighthouse keepers’ cottages located by the causeway to the lighthouse.

"We had given up sentry duties and other useless tasks by the end of April. Young George Le Brocq had informed me that it would only be a few days before the war would be finished. George would also flash me with a small V-sign badge that he wore on the inside lapel of his jacket so that it could not be seen.

On 8 May I sent some men from the bunkers at La Corbière to La Moye Golf Hotel to ask for all the supplies we were entitled to. They came back with iron rations packs, various tins of food and some bottles of alcoholic stuff, mainly Calvados. The amount of food was little compared with the alcohol. There was no outrage against good taste, but in the morning some were paralysed from the waist down; the result of too much Calvados for weak bodies.

I spent the last night in the company of Oberfeldwebel Werner Hentrich, and we chatted until overcome by sleep in the small hours.

‘What would become of Germany? Would we ever be able to return to the community of peoples in the world?’ We agreed that all that was left was to pray.

Also on 8 May the first orders arrived regarding the procedures after capitulation. Rifles and small arms were collected at Company Headquarters, and from there forwarded to St Aubin. The various bunker crews were ordered to march north to be gathered there.

Farewells

I stayed at La Corbière to say farewell to the Le Brocqs and the schoolmaster,who lived at Petit Port. The last song I shared with him was ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Coming down the hill I saw Mr Le Brocq hoisting the Union Jack. On seeing me he hesitated for a moment, but I said, ‘Don’t you stop. I like that flag much better than the bloody Swastika.’

I left some books and photos with them and collected some items from the M19 bunker as a kind of souvenir. Mrs. Le Brocq gave me a hug and Mr Le Brocq patted me on the shoulder, and, saying I would be back someday, I was off, tears in my eyes, waving until I was over the hill.

Then I went to La Moye Golf Hotel to receive further orders regarding the bunkers at La Corbière, which were to be surrendered the following day.

I remember taking a British Officer, a Captain or First Lieutenant, on a tour of the bunkers at La Corbière and he was especially interested in the M19 bunker and asked a few questions about the mortar. He always insisted that I enter the bunkers first in case there were any booby traps waiting to blow him up.

As German officers were still free to roam in certain zones I alternated between Company Headquarters and Action Post Height 201, located above La Carriere Point. After two days I went to the internment region to join my platoon.

The Germans had been given supplies by the British and, unluckily, quite a few soldiers had opened tins of corned beef, digging in with their spoons. Their stomachs didn’t agree with the rich, fatty food and they became sick for some days.

As the weather was alright we didn’t mind sleeping under the sky. Liberation had come at long last for the Islanders, but I felt liberated too; being liberated from a terrible regime despising human dignity and being guilty of starting and waging the cruellest war of all time. I recalled my dear father saying ‘That Austrian Lance Corporal, he will drive Germany over the precipice.’

On 16 or 18 May we were marched to the beach at St. Aubin to be taken aboard the carrier Pembroke and to be shipped off to England as prisoners of war.

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