A letter written after the Liberation - 2
- Nevada 2
- St Brelade
- Jersey CI
- 18 June 1945
Dear Mrs Thompson
We were more than pleased to hear from you, and very glad to know you are all OK in spite of so much bombing. What an awful war this has been. We here were always wondering if anyone would be alive after so much bombing.
We often thought of you too. We used to get Red Cross messages from our people, but they were often a year coming, so we knew anything could have happened in that time.
The Germans dropped their terms of surrender from a plane. If it was not answered within 24 hours they would bombard the islands by sea and air. There was not a soldier, a gun or even a shelter here.
The terms were: if complete surrender a white flag was to be shown on every high building and every house, and big white crosses to be painted in the main roads of St Helier. It nearly broke our hearts to put out the white flag.
We all wondered what would happen to us when they arrived. Then they came. They couldn’t make enough fuss of the children, they were so darned polite to everyone. As soon as a lady entered a bus they nearly fell over themselves to give her their seat.
Girls started going out with them and a lot of civilians entertained them. It was amazing. Of course they were going to win. At the same time they were buying up everything they could from the shops.
No one was allowed to listen to the wireless unless it was a German station. We used to keep ours down low. Vera kept guard at the back door, me at the front, while Mr Baddick heard the English news. If the Gestapo found anyone listening to other than German they came in and put a bayonet straight through the set.
Then they called all sets in for military reasons. The next thing we saw was Germans going home on leave with our sets on their backs. A few brave people kept their sets hidden and so we always got some news. Many people have been sent to German camps fo keeping a set. Some have died there.
Gradually they made their laws. No one allowed on the beaches, all dogs to be muzzled for three months, a curfew, all traffic to drive on the other side of the road (as in Germany), the clock to be put on another hour (as in Germany).
One evening in the local paper there was a notice – All English men and their families to be ready to catch a boat at 4 o’clock the following day, to be taken to German camps. There was a list of what you would be allowed to take. Very little clothing, no jewellery or valuables, and 10 Reichmarks in money. We didn’t know how to start. It was such a shock.
About 10 o’clock that night a police constable came to tell us men working at the Waterworks, Electric Co and Gas Co could appeal, and gave us a paper to that effect. This gave us a little hope, but next day all this was cancelled, so there was nothing to do but pack up.
Mr Caddick went to the Gas Co and his boss told him to carry on work as usual. In the meantime he went to the German Commandant and explained Mr C was a key man and that if he went, their military hospital would be without gas. So we were allowed to stay. Mr Caddick phoned me up and said “You can unpack”. What a relief for us, but we were very sad to see our friends and neighbours going.
It was absolutely marvellous the way they kept up. As the boat went out they were singing ‘There’ll always be an England’. After that I vowed that whatever came, as long as we could stay in our own home together, I would be satisfied.
At one time we were very short of food and clothing. Towards the end we were without gas, electric light, coal, very little wood. No buses. The Red Cross came just in time with food parcels. We had been without bread for a fortnight. They gave us the parcels then Vega, the Red Cross ship, went straight back to Lisbon and returned with lovely white flour. We shall be grateful all our lives to the Red Cross.
After D-Day the Germans couldn’t leave the Island themselves, so could not send anyone else. Then we got quite cheeky. The worst punishment they could give was imprisonment here, which was nothing compared with going to Germany. Soon the prison was full with four in a cell and all thoroughly enjoying the diversion. It became quite an honour to be in jail.
When the electricity finished up, everyone started making crystal sets. The Gestapo were always trying to find them. The sets were very small, so easily hidden, and we could get one French station which gave the news in English which was all we wanted. The Gestapo arrivbed at one house where there was a set. They saw him coming up the garden path so they quickly put the set and the baby in the pram. The lady innocently took the baby out while the Gestapo ransacked the house and satisfied themselves there was no set there.. Another woman saw them coming and had a large saucepan of porridge boiling, and dropped the set into the saucepan. There was the porridge and set boiling away while the Gestapo searched the house.
At the end the Germans were worse off than us for food. We did have our Red Cross parcels. They were eating raw swedes and we used to see them digging in fields where potatoes had been grown to find the few that may have been left in the ground. They were making soup with the nettles and potatoes. Some of them looked starved and ill. Their uniforms were a perfect disgrace. There were still a few Nazis, but most of them were sick of the name of Hitler and said they would rather the British then the Nazi win.
We nearly all want mad with excitement when the British arrived. Right up until the last the Nazi officers said they would fight, but the soldiers said they wouldn’t, so we didn’t know until the very end what would happen here. Anyway, we had the pleasure of seeing them put up the white flag.
After the British came we were at liberty to go where we couldn’t go under the Swastika. The first place we went to was Noirmont Point. I wonder if you remember this. It was beyond where Ray was lost. The whole Point is bristling with guns and defences. They have dug outs between 60-70 feed underground.
The officers’ quarters are fitted up and furnished beautifully. Lovely bedroom and drawing room suites, even a grand piano. Bathrooms fitted with hot and cold water. Electric light and every luxury. If you come to Jersey I do hope you will be able to see it.
They built a cement wall right round St Brelade’s Bay. About 10 feet high and a yard thick. (To keep the enemy from landing, ha ha) They used to have foreign workers, mostly Russians, doing all this heavy cement working and blasting tunnels through the rocks. Poor devils, how they must have worked. We used to see them going to and coming from work under the German guard. They were half starved and their clothes just rags. Some wore wooden clogs but most were bare footed.
At St Aubin there are underground tunnels packed with ammunition. Enough to blow all Europe up I should think. There are nine roads each 70 feet long with railway lines to take a small engine and trucks. Built very much like London underground tubes. At St Peter there is an underground hospital with 500 beds, operating theatre, etc. This is half a mile long.
There were 21,000 land mines over Jersey land and beaches. These are being exploded by the British. A lot of Jerries are still here clearing up their mess.
Most of the hotels and houses where they lived are filthy. In some cases there is just the roof and four walls left. They are in camps now at St Ouen. They say they have never been fed so well in their lives and they all look much better than they did before they were PoW.
Ray was an absolute traitor. He made friends with the enemy right away. The second day they were here he was outside having his photo taken with them. He found his way to the cook house and was as much there as he was here. While we were living on potatoes he was living on the fat of the land. At that time the Germans had plenty.
They all seemed very fond of animals. Then Ray was ill. We had two vets but they couldn’t make out what was the matter with him. He couldn’t eat and got thinner and weaker until he couldn’t walk. After five weeks he died. We were all terribly upset. He was so faithful to the end. Long after we were glad he had died that way because if he hadn’t have been blown up by a mine we could never have fed him.
Soon after the Germans were short of food themselves. They certainly did no one good turn by feeding our dog when they had it. We used to see him curled up at the Gerry’s feet fast asleep after a good feed. Vera and I used to walk quietly past and not own him. What a scream!
Now we have plenty of food. There is plenty of clothing and other things in the shops and we are all very happy. The British soldiers have told us about the blitz and the rockets and I am sure we have been better off here than you in England. Thank you very much for your kind offer to send us anything we are without but we are quite alright now. What we haven’t got is in the shops ready to be unpacked., We should love to see Pat. I hope you will all be able to come to Jersey again some time. It would be a great pleasure to see you all.
Vera is 16 now and wants to be a school teacher. She simply adores children and is a junior Sunday school teacher. She is in St Brelade’s Church choir. She had to lose a lot of schooling during the occupation. For a long time the first bus to town was very late so that Vera lost an hour every day. Then the buses stopped altogether so she missed for a whole term. Now she hopes to sit for a school cert exam, next July. If she gets this she can go on. She would have to go to an English college for two years. Most probably at Salisbury. Mr Caddick is still at the Gas Co.
I hope I haven’t bored you with this composition on The Occupation but I thought you would like to hear how we did live during t6hat time. Taking it on the whole we consider ourselves extremely lucky to come through such a terrible war as we are. I am sorry to have kepy you waiting so long for an answer but I have such a lote of letters to answer.
- Yours sincerely
- Anne Caddick
It is raining today after having weeks of real Jersey sunshine. Do write again if you have time.