A diary for Mrs Dupre's family
Among the many inhuman restrictions imposed on the population of Jersey by the Germans during their Occupation of the island from 1940 to 1945 was a prohibition on the keeping of diaries. This ban was ignored by many, and a number of the more substantial journals have since been published in book form.
Mrs G Luce Dupre and her husband were left behind in Jersey when their children evacuated to England and, unable to communicate with them in the normal way, Mrs Dupre kept a diary in the form of letters, with the intention that they would be read when the war ended. Little did she realise when she embarked on the exercise, how long it would be before the opportunity for others to read what she had written would arise.
The diary was made public in 1972 when it was serialised by The Pilot Magazine, and it is reproduced here in Jerripedia illustrated by a number of drawings by celebrated local artist Edmund Blampied of wartime scenes and activities.
9 July 1940
My darling children,
As I cannot write an ordinary letter to each one of you I am sending this to you all in the form of a diary, hoping it will reach you one day.
So much has happened since I last saw any of you and my heart feels very full and sad at times -wondering where you all are and praying you are all well and safe.
I received Babbo's last letter of June 26 which was a great comfort to me and Father. I answered it the same day - but fear it never arrived, for that was the day of the air raid and the last boat to leave Jersey left the same day.
It was about 7 o'clock when Father and I were sitting in the garden and suddenly saw that Guernsey was being bombed - great volumes of smoke pouring out and sounds of gunfire. A few minutes later two German planes swooped over our headland and right over our house, machine gun firing all the time and making an awful row. Three bombers came close behind but did not drop any bombs. We hadn't time to get inside, and fortunately no bullets fell on us and they were soon out of sight.
In a few minutes we heard bombs dropping on St Helier Harbour and saw smoke rising from the hotels and warehouses which had been set on fire - there was a lot of damage done and several people killed. After that they bombed La Rocque harbour and Harold's Little White House was wrecked; fortunately the people were out, but four neighbours were killed. Dulcie and the children were on their way to see us but did not get any further than Samares. When the planes appeared firing all the time they got out of the car and sheltered under a hedge until they passed, and thought it wiser to turn round and go home.
The last mailboat to leave was in Guernsey harbour when the raid started, but she got away safely - M and Vi were on board and lots of people we know, and am sure they must have been very alarmed.
All this happened on the Friday. Saturday and Sunday were quiet, except for occasional air raid warnings - but on Monday week the Germans arrived and we began to wonder what was going to happen to us all.
At noon there was a proclamation in the Square from the German Commandent, giving out orders, which we thought quite reasonable - the worst being that we are not allowed to listen to any British news, and of course that is very hard, as we do not know what is happening in England. Another order was to put all clocks forward on one hour to make it the same time as in Germany - so now we are two hours ahead of the sun and l go to bed by daylight at 11 o'clock.
I hear that the town is full of people shopping - especially boot and shoe shops - the crowds are so great that they have to keep shutting the doors - also that the Germans are buying great quantities of goods, especially silk stockings and dress materials - they have also commandeered great quantities of food and so now we are severely rationed, only three-quarters of a pound of meat each person per week, 4oz of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter and 2 oz of margarine, 4 oz of tea.
All private cars have been stopped and no public cars to be hired - the trades people cannot deliver outside the town, and we have to get our goods from La Moie - paraffin is very scarce and we are only allowed ½ gallon a week.
Another order was that all public buildings, shops and houses, should display a white flag and you may imagine we did not relish doing that, but hoped we should soon be able to put up the Union Jack.
I had not seen any German soldiers about until yesterday, as I do not go further than the garden and was quite anxious to see one, but not in the way I did eventually.
Father had gone out and I was having a nap in the lounge, when there came a knock at the front door, which was open. I called out "come in", thinking it was the Chadwicks, and to my horror, in walked a German soldier. I felt very frightened and wished Father were here - he had a dog with him like Nick and on a lead and began talking and waving his hands about. I kept saying "What do you want?", till at last he pointed to one of the pictures and I found he wanted a bit of string to tie up the dog's collar. He was so pleased to have made me understand and was very profuse in his thanks and saluted very smartly, so now when he passes he waves his hand to me.
There are a lot of them staying at the Chalet and the Pavilion, and they have anti-aircraft guns all over the place. Of course they have taken possession of the Airport and we see 30 or 40 planes at a time coming over our headland, always flying low and such wicked looking machines. I wish they wouldn't fly right over our house, though.
The Germans are occupying lots of houses which have been abandoned, Samares Manor and Lady Trent's, and lots of smaller ones. They have also commandeered all private cars up to 20 hp and painted them grey.
We were told on the "Evening Post" last night that we may now listen to anything on the wireless, and of course we are very pleased and shall feel more in touch with the world and know how things are going.
The last letter I wrote to Babbo came back to me yesterday, opened of course, but there was nothing dangerous in it, only I am so sorry it was too late for the last boat.
Since writing the above I have had a little change. I was anxious to go to town, but there were no buses came down here, except 8.05 am and 7.05 pm, so I took the 7.05 to town on Thursday and slept two nights at Dulcie's. There was no bus out to Pontac at that hour, so she ordered a one-horse chaise to meet me at the Post Office. I wish you could have seen me - it was a shabby little Victoria with an old crock of a horse, and a coachman about 90, with a green coat and top hat. I felt just like Queen Victoria and caused much amusement to all we met on the road, and it took 40 minutes to get to Pontac, and was there greeted with more laughter and fun.
My dear Babbo's birthday today. Father and I send our loving thoughts across the sea to you dear and best wishes for many happy returns of the day.
We had quite a bit of excitement the other day. Several planes suddenly appeared over the house and a real fight was going on just in front of us on the sea and quite close. The firing was terrific for a short time until they chased each other out of sight. The Germans said they were only practising - but we think some were RAF, and there are some over here, at night especially.
One of the laws is that no one must be out after ten at night, or before 5 am, and the blackout is strictly kept.
We are having perfect weather and everything looks so lovely that one cannot realise there is a war on, and we wish so much that you had all been able to stay here. We hear of air raids over England every night, and wonder if you have to be dodging in and out of shelters. I do hope not, for it must be trying for the nerves.
When the Germans came it so happened that there were a lot of servicemen here on leave, and they couldn't get away - they were all rounded up and put into the concentration camp, where the Germans and Italians had been - then last week they were all sent to France or Germany. Two of the men resisted and were shot, but not killed.
Last Sunday was a perfect summer's day, but Monday, August Bank Holiday, was very disappointing - a thick fog all the morning and very little sunshine all day. There were extra buses that day, so Flo and Percy came out to tea. We were so glad to see them again and hear all the news. They told us that no one was allowed on the beach or any low water fishing or fishing boats. You can imagine what a disappointment that must have been to so many who had planned differently.
There were all sorts or rumours going round, one that the Germans were expecting an attack from the RAF; another, that they were afraid people might escape in the fog by boat. We know now it was because a fisherman was taking up his net and found the bodies of two dead Germans in it. It seems there have been several planes brought down and lots of dead bodies washed up. Planes have been flying very low on the beach today looking for them, and I hope none will be washed up about here.
There was a continual stream of planes arriving yesterday and are supposed to have brought a thousand troops over. It is quite thrilling to sit in the garden and watch them.
This afternoon Dulcie and Dorothy cycled out and we sat on the terrace and had tea, during which a great lot of planes passed over us, about 45. The next. day we were sitting there again and for a couple of hours we heard bombs dropping the other side of Guernsey and thought that something must be happening over there. The next day we heard that Guernsey Airport had been wiped out by the RAF and a lot of Germans killed. So now we are expecting any day for ours to suffer the same fate and wonder if we shall feel anything of it here.
The Germans here seem to be very nervous, expecting an attack any day, and are keeping their planes on the move a great deal. They circle round and round here, 40 or more at a time, and we spend most of our time watching them. At night, too, I lie in bed and see them darting about in the sky like a lot of falling stars and the searchlights are very pretty to watch.
Nothing much has happened since I last wrote but the weather remains lovely, very hot, but not too hot for me. I sit in the sun most of the day and am feeling much better for it.
The buses are getting fewer and fewer, and it’s also getting more difficult for us to continue living out here and will be worse in the winter, and so we have decided to go and live at Auntie Emmie’s house, for the winter at least.
Father would not be able to get to church, as now no lights are allowed on cycles, and from Emmie's he will be able to walk. It also will easier be for our supplies, and I hope, too, that we shall get a few more visitors, as I think there will still be a few buses to St Aubin.
I shall be very sorry to leave here, for many things, and shall miss the view very much. Also I feel rather anxious about shutting up the house - there have been such a lot of robberies in houses that are shut up - but Mr Weeks has promised to keep an eye on it.
I am feeling very down today, after hearing on the wireless of the awful air raid on London last night, and am so afraid that some of you may still be in or near London, and I hope and pray that you are all safe. I think constantly of how awful if must be, having to get up in the night so often to go into the shelters, especially with the children, and my poor Babbo too. Your nerves must be shattered with it all.
Everything is very quiet here and life goes on much the same - but of course business is very bad and the shops will soon have sold all their stocks. We may be able to get supplies from France later on, but everything will be very tight
I hear there are over 1,000 German troops in Jersey, but we seldom see any about here, though something unpleasant happened a week ago at the Lighthouse during the night. Soldiers went there and took away the two keepers, who were on duty, and left two there who ransacked the place and took all their papers and lamps etc. as they suspected there had been some signalling going on. The keepers were taken to the Airport and questioned for hours, and they did not let them go till the following night, and no one knew where they were.
Nearly every night we hear an RAF plane go over and immediately the searchlight sweeps the sky and the bay - I see it all from my bed and Father sits outside till all hours watching it all. It is very exciting as they are expecting the Airport to be bombed any night now. All the people living within 1½ miles of the Airport have been ordered to evacuate at once. I think we are just outside that radius.
This morning we saw a convoy of 12 large boats - French liners, Father says, and this afternoon there has been a similar lot - all on their way to try and invade England. We heard Mr Churchill's speech last night and my heart sinks to think of the awful ordeal which our country will soon have to face. It does not seem possible that we are living in such times and when I think of so many of our dear ones in the midst of it all, I feel frantic with anxiety. If only I knew you were all in some safe place.
The weather has turned quite cold and we have a fire today, as my pains have been very bad all the week. I am trying to do a little bit of sorting out and packing, ready for our move on the 28th, and shall be quite glad to get to Emmie's sunny house for the winter. Still busy packing and the lounge is beginning to look very bare as I am putting away all china, pictures and brasses, etc, and taking all the clothes we possess. The Germans come into empty houses and take anything they like, especially clothes, blankets and linen.
We got here yesterday leaving our Moorings desolate. We had a horse and van to bring all our big luggage and I came in a car and brought Sandy (the cat) in a basket. He cried all the way but settled down soon after we got here. It was such a lovely day and the garden looked so lovely - full of flowers and the houses flooded with sunshine.
Captain and Mrs Cradwick were here to help and soon got the beds made up and luggage unpacked and put away. Father found it very nice to be able to walk down to church this morning, and this afternoon Dorothy cycled out to see us and stayed to tea, then helped me with a few things.
We have a new Commandant now and he is a Prussian and much stricter than the first one. The latest is he has commandeered all cars and lorries, which are being sent to France. They are taken according to their year, so when the war is over, no one will have a car and many unable to buy again.
I have not said anything about all those poor children being torpedoed, for it upset me terrible and for days I thought perhaps Babbo's children were there - but one and another have assured me that it was not very likely, as they were mostly drawn from the Council schools, but it is all too sad to talk about and I hope all ours are safe somewhere in England.
We are now allowed to send letters through the Red Cross, which will take several weeks and can only say "We are quite well".
Since my last entry, I have been to town and had my hair shampooed and set. I had an offer of being taken in by car and came back by bus. I was not able to do any shopping as all the shops close at four o'clock. The time has not been altered and we are still two hours ahead of the sun. It's so dark in the morning and so the schools do not start till ten, and the shops do not open till then.
For some time there has been a rumour that everyone living on the coast road would have to clear out - but that has been given up and a new order for all those people to get an identity card and must not be outside their house after eight and not before eight am.
We are just outside here - but Father will have to get a pass to enable him to go to Moorings at any time, which he does about three times a week to get limpets for Sandy, as that is all we can feed him on now. There is no salmon or cat food to be had. The shops are getting very empty and there are so many things one cannot get.
But it is wonderful how cheerful everyone keeps. Almost everyone rides a bike, but there are none to be had now.
The Germans seem to be very active at night and we hear cars and lorries rushing about all night and a lot of coming and going of troops - a large company of storm troopers have lately come and are a fine looking lot of men. They seem to send men here on leave, instead of going to Germany, and many have not been home for three years.
Last Friday a plane crashed on the beach at La Pulente and the crew of five were killed. We were very thrilled the other day to hear Charles Le Quesne speaking about the Channel Islands and how I wished some of ours could have put a message through.
Christmas has come and gone once more and it as rather a sad one, thinking of you all and wondering where you all were. Father and I were quite alone - he had to go to church in the morning.
After lunch we listened to the wireless and heard the King's speech and the Christmas carols. We had a lovely dinner at eight o'clock - Father cooked it all beautifully and we did enjoy it all. The week before Dulcie brought us one of her tame rabbits, all ready dressed, it was lovely - lasted several dinners.
Now she is going to give us a live baby one which we shall feed and fatten up.
On Xmas Eve, Auntie Flo came out in bitter cold weather and brought us a little Xmas pudding and several little dainties. Captain and Mrs Cradwick also came and brought jam and chutney, and we had quite a little tea party.
It's terribly dark in the mornings now, as the sun doesn't rise till after ten, owing to our being two hours ahead of the sun - but we always have tea by daylight and don't light up till after seven..
The weather has been bitterly cold since Christmas, snow, frost and a high east wind all the time.
The curfew has been changed again and now everyone has to be indoors by nine o'clock -which doesn't please a good many people.
Some time ago Harold Giffard was arrested for saying things against the Germans and sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour, and was going to be sent either to France or Germany, but the doctors said he would not live through it, and so put him in prison here and he is still there.
One has to be careful what one says and mind one's own business and keep to the orders, and life goes on pretty much the same, except that the shops are getting very empty and there is very little one can buy.