A letter written after the Liberation - 1

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Mont Cochon
9 May 1945
Dearest Patricia

We did not think so many years would pass without seeing each other but it is nearly five years since we were cut off and nearly six since you left us. I do not know when we will be able to meet now as our deliverance is only one day old and we can hardly realise we are really free and not bound by hated Nazi orders any longer.

We all had to ride on the right side of road to oblige them! Of course, personally I think it is very silly for us not to conform with the rest of the world but that is the stubborn English way and for winning wars it is a good way.

As I write British planes are roaring overhead and it is good to see them. The Navy representative came in to day and it was a joy to see her. Several smaller ships came later but we were free from 3.15 yesterday and everyone made whoopee as best they could. None of us feel very energetic after five years privations and very little food. I would love a box of chocolates to nibble at.

You would not know yhour Auntie. I am quite slim now but may have put on weight by the time we eat as I fatten easily. All my clothes got so loose they went down to my ankles like a dressing gown and I could wear your bathing costume. At the same time I did not like it too much as I got to feel so weak. However, since we got Red Cross parcels we have been much better.

You will be surprised to hear all cats have survived. Like us, they got to eat any old thing except carrots; those they would not touch. I do not like them myself except when of the baby variety.

Are you still in Bristol. Martha and Wilson are still with us. Wilson is like a skeleton, juist skin and bone. Martha thin but looks better in face. Some people look awful, it is pitiful to see them. Very few have stockings or shoes. I luckily laid in a good stock and took great care of them.

You have no idea how awful it is not to be able to buy a single thing and everything wearing out and into holes.

We have one kettle left. We have had no gas or electricity for months. Gerrys have oil so now we have been given electricity since yesterday but gas was finished last Sept. We got a little stove and burned wood in it, but there is hardly any wood now. We cut down two trees but that is gone. It takes a lot of wood to feed a stove.

We were so cold last winter I wore two of everything. Some people paid as much as 30s for a candle as when electricity stopped it was in January and very dark, it was miserable. I had some candles and nightlights.

It would fill a book all we have gone through. I did jot down all I coulod but was afraid to put all as sometimes the houses were searched and one girl of 18 was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for having extracts from a speech of Mr Churchill in her diary. She was taken to a French prison but she got back here. They put people in prison for the most trivial things. We fully expected they’d get us before the end but we estaped.

We had our wireless sets until June 1942 then they took the whole lot and our cameras and made it an offence to listen in. But people kept sets and we always got the news lately as news was so exciting. I think the most disappointing time was after the invasion last year when France was freed and we were not. It was awful. They said over and over they would never give up these islands and they have turned them into fortresses. You never saw such a place with guns and forts. They found it a garden; they have left it a barren rock.

They rooted up the roads and made a rotten little railway all through people’s gardens, and then did not use a lot of it.

Well I hope to tell you some funny bits one day. The Palace is burned to the ground and lots of other places. All our money went and we had worthless marks and no coppers or silver. Prices soared. We would never have stayed had we known how long it would be. Families had house taken and ruined, concrete gun emplacements in front of their lounge. They took Forum and it is a filthy sight. We are longing to see some papers and newsreels again.

Well, we are glad to be free. Have just heard on wireless there is no news let of liberation of Channel Isles but we know all is well. Gs are still lhere but disarmed. A few people have old cars not good enough for the Germans to take and are allowed to use them today as there is also a large stock of German petrol left behind. They always had plenty of everything.

The vilest thing they did lately was to steal cats and dogs, kill and eat them. Numbers of people were heartbroken at losing their pets as we were so shut in, we value them and it is utterly repulsive to British people to eat dogs or cats. Hungry as we have been we could never do that. I felt like taping a label round our cats with ‘very old and tough’ on to save them.

I think they realised there was danger as they got into coming in about 7 every evening. There were robberies nightly and I had to carry everything upstairs. Clothes and any food we had.

I will address this letter to 92 Coldharbour and you can let your mother see it and give her my warm love, also to Desmond.

We hope to get over as soon as we can, I suppose by plane as shipping will be scarce for a long time. It is a funny thing to think we have never flown. Your Uncle E is well but much thinner and his hair very thin, too. He has had a very worrying time. The Gs took Oaklands and have spoiled it. We saved some of the furniture and pictures. Theyu ruined O’Henry’s house too. We coulkd not save it. If you protested they put you in prison.

We escaped heavy bombing but we had some planes down here and bombs dropped in error and many explosions and guns firing at passing planes.

We had a wonderful thrill last autumn. We saw 2000 planes (ours) returning from France. Oh, it was marvellous and the Gs were so surprised they never fired until the very end. Write soon and tell me all about yourself and how you are. I am longing to hear. Much love from both

Your loving Auntie E

(Elina Hellyer)

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