Letter from Liberation boat commander
Lieutenant Charles Arthur Sanders was in charge of the LCI (L) 130, which was the first vessel of the Liberating Forces to enter St Helier Harbour on 9 May 1945.
Within the Jersey Archive collection is a letter to his wife Winifred about the scenes he experienced on Liberation Day.
- My Darling
After leaving you under such dramatic circumstances on Monday morning, we have had our fill of excitement and all of us have had an experience we shall never forget.
We had a good trip across and as anticipated had to leave harbour at night with Dick following close on our heels.
On reaching St Helier having left Dick at St Peter Port, I visited the Admiral aboard HMS Beagle in company with the CO of the Frigate. Richie was aboard too and it was decided we should enter the harbour in a small launch. The surrender had just been accepted and at least 15,000 people on the jetties mobbed us when we came ashore.
The police were completely helpless but we eventually after an hour got to the Pomme d’Or, our future headquarters. The colonel in charge ordered me to bring my ship over the controlled minefield with a German pilot. This I refused. I was saved the embarassment by Richy obtaining a local pilot.
The pilot and I returned aboud and amidst tremendous cheers we safely came alongside and were immediately inundated by the crowds who more or less stripped the ship and only by a miracle were prevented from firing the guns. It took an hour to bring the ship in position as no one would move to get the ropes ashore. Meanwhile all the German flackships and minesweepers in the harbour with guns still loaded looked on in rather a pathetic fashion.
The kissing and handshaking went on till about 2 o’clock in the morning until we eventually cleared the ship and having posted sentries we just slept in our clothes. It was an amazing situation; our small LCI and 200 troops surrounded by German warships and 15,000 German troops.
No one will forget that I was the first ship in St Helier flying the White Ensign for five years and the following days the whole place went crazy and I have never had so much entertaining in my life. People ranging from the Bailiff of the Island to Destroyer’s CO came aboard and the whole day was taken up by receiving people.
We did so many interesting things, such as boarding with an armed party all the German ships and being piped aboard with German ratings giving an arm to assist you down the ladder. I made many friends and we’ll have to go there after the war dear.
When the main force arrived all the people still came to us and I feel proud and grateful that my ship should have become such a symbol.
The people themselves were thin but fit, such things as tea, tobacco and sugar were unobtainable but there were few cases of definite cruelty by the Germans, although many had served fine or six weeks imprisonment.
We had an influential player aboard who completely joined in the fun and helped me considerably in the entertaining line.
Theres so much to tell dear and I’ve rather put in the background how our weekend was spoiled by the panic. I loved you coming aboard dear and it was a great pleasure to introduce you to some of the members of the ship’s company.
- With all my love dear
- Your Arthur