Hedley's diary - 1

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Hedley's Liberation Diary

9 - 22 May 1945

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Hedley Clement's post-war diary is a work of fiction, based on reports in the pages of the Evening Post in the days, weeks and months following Jersey's liberation from German Occupation on 9 Mary 1945. Researched by Marion Falle and written by Mike Bisson, this diary will gradually build into the most detailed history ever produced of the time. It will chart the island's return to normality after the dark days of occupation

May 1945

9 May

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  • The Telephone Department are quick off the mark. The Acting Engineer Mr Luxon has announced that the town service is being restored gradually. We might have to wait a while out here in the country because the Huns pinched the batteries from the exchanges. If they can't be found it may be a few weeks before we can get replacements from the mainland. At least we have an excuse not to contact aunt Gertrude in St Martin. We'll have to send her a postcard if they start the mail soon.
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10 May

  • Children being children, they are out and about again, but there is so much that is dangerous. They really should not be playing around German fortifications and arms dumps are not a good place to look for souvenirs. Hopefully the troops will set about clearing them all away. And are they going to get rid of all those horrible bunkers? No doubt someone will say that they are part of our heritage and should be left where they are as reminders of the last few years. Lizzie says they are ugly and she can't wait to see them gone.

11 May

  • Everybody is waiting to hear who sheltered two US officers who escaped from German custody some weeks back. The Evening Post will let us know.
  • Helier and Lizzie are just back from town and have recounted amazing scenes at the Weighbridge. Crowds of men, some young, but others we know who are older and should know better, formed a mob, intent on doing serious harm to known 'Jerrybags'. We all know that there were many young women who were 'friends' with Germans, but did they deserve this treatment? It would surely have amounted to much worse than cutting hair and tearing clothes if someone had not intervened.
Helier told us that one young woman ran screaming from mob to mob along the Weighbridge and on to the harbour side of the North Quay, pursued with screams of ‘Throw her in the harbour’. Dishevelled, torn and bleeding she was cornered like a mad beast against the barbed wire entrance of the pier.
A well-known man forced his way to the girl’s side and, thrusting the foremost of the mob back, appealed to them to be men and Britishers. But he was just threatened with being thrown over the pier with the victim. Fortunately one or two saner men came to his assistance and with extreme difficulty the screaming and madly frightened young woman was escorted some distance away. Unfortunately, when released, she began to run again and the crowd immediately recommenced the chase.
Into Conway Street fled the hunted girl with the pack of wolves, not men, at her heels, tearing at her clothes, her hair and her face. Fortunately for everyone concerned British soldiers were at hand, men from the Pomme d’Or, and they rescued and took charge of the young woman.
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  • We are told that we have to keep driving on the right side of the road (the wrong side as far as we are concerned) until further notice. That's no great problem for us, because our car was taken from us in the early days of the Occupation, and nobody has any petrol left.
Just as well, because we are being told to keep off the roads so that the liberating troops can move around going about their business. Movement of troops and transport are, we are told, highly necessary if we are all to be adequately fed and the troops are able to do their task in the shortest possible time. The Transport Officer of the British Forces has asked us to keep to the pavement and leave the roadway clear when the troops and transport are passing along our roads. As Col Robinson said yesterday, ‘Please let the dog see the rabbit’.
Apparently petrol is to be made available soon, but we have to apply in writing to the Petrol Controller, and our road tax has to be paid first. Difficult when we don't know where our car is. All sorts of other requirements are subject to unknown delays. Batteries are in very short supply, fuel might be available for domestic water pumps and for heating our greenhouse, district nurse Mavis next door is trying to get fuel so that she can go about her essential work, and failing all else, there may be a chance of calling a taxi.
How ironic. We kept our wireless in secret for all that time and last week it went on the blink. We could call Radio Service and ask them if they can come out and fix it ... if only our phone was working
Streamline Taxis are advertising that they are ready, with the same colours – cream and black – the same phone number – 52 – but starting date and fares will be advertised. That's reassuring.
  • News is starting to filter through from outside the island and it is not all good. Our friend PC Berry had a double blow when he heard that his mother had died in Sweden on her way back to England from internment, and his brother, an instructor on the Army Physical Training Staff, had also died in England. A Muratti footballer before all this started, he is said to have burst a blood vessel while on duty in his unit's gym.

14 May

  • We are to start using Sterling again. We can take our Reichsmarks to the bank on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, after which they will no longer be legal tender. If only we had some money of any sort. Perhaps uncle Francis at Barclays will come to our assistance.
  • Anyone need a horse? Heaven knows where they have found them, but apparently the Department of Transport and Communications has some for hire. Our neighbouring farmers are invited to go to the Arsenal next Tuesday morning to discover what is on offer.

15 May

  • Several Russian prisoners of war were released at the same time as the Americans and French colonials and they have been made much of around the town in the past few days. They are distinctive in a dark green uniform.
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  • We are pleased to hear that some of our neighbours who were always suspected of passing on information about illicit radios and other misedmeanours to the Hun are getting their come-uppance. One home in St Ouen had nearly all its windows smashed last night and two at St John suffered a similar fate. I'd better not name them, but I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this.
  • Better news is that only a week after it all ended the Boy Scouts are coming out from hiding, and helping out wherever a friendly uniform is valued. On duty at the Pomme d’Or are members of the 11th Jersey (Victoria College) Troop and the 10th Jersey (De La Salle College), which have functioned underground for four years.

16 May

  • We hear that the great and the good will be at our cinemas in the next few days to mark the release of new English films. The dates and times will be announced soon and Brigadier Snow, who is commanding the liberating forces, will be there with our Bailiff, Mr Coutanche. I'm not sure that we'll be rushing to see the full length documentaries Coastal Command and Close Quarters, even though admission will be free, but no doubt we will have to look forward to a diet of movies which show what happened in the war elsewhere. It will be a long time before there are any new cinema blockbusters.
  • All children are to get a block of chocolates sent by the King and eleven of the sweet and confectionary shops which have been closed for nearly five years will reopen on Friday next and hope to remain open. Apart from those who had a bite from the Vega parcels, I suspect that most young islanders have no real idea what chocolate is.
  • The Evening Post, unleashed from the control of Bosch censors, has started to blow its trumpet as only our much-loved daily journal can. A thundering leader today welcomes the Tommies who have arrived to help us recover from our long incarceration. They are certainly welcome and we must ensure that they are made to feel so and, when their presence is no longer needed they will, as the EP puts it, "carry away with them the most fragrant memory of the people". Can ever troops have been more welcome? The sight of the familiar khaki of our own boys was one we had waited for during nearly five long and anxious years, while the grey-green enemy strode through the streets of town.
Cigarettes and sweets from the Tommies
  • Today we are greeted by lads using our own tongue, with our way of living, our customs and our manners. The cars and lorries driving along the Island roads are driven by British officers and men, the signs and notices are written in a language we can understand. And the good humour and generosity of the troops, of every branch of the Services, is something to which a special tribute must be made. To see those lads giving up their own rations; their sweets and chocolate to the children and their cigarettes to the men, and to watch them keep on doing this when even they must have been sorely tried by the importuning youngsters, has been a touching sight. They are nice lads, every one of them, and make us proud to share the common heritage of being British. Big hearted, courteous and helpful, we thank them all, from the highest officer to the humblest other rank. God bless them.
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17 May

  • I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with another EP leader, praising the role our womenfolk have played through the Occupation. The housewives of Jersey have struggled as nobody could ever have imagined was possible. The "women at home" have endured a lack of food, precious little fuel, the gradual disappearance of all cleaning materials, the task of finding, mending and repairing clothing which, in normal times, would have found its way to the dust-bin. Somehow they have managed time after time to make up a dish for the communal oven out of potatoes which should, in many cases, have gone to the pigs, one or two vegetables and the memory of the previous week’s tiny ration of meat.
Yes, without a doubt, the most sincere thanks of all Islanders, and particularly of the menfolk, must go out to the brave little women at home who ‘stuck it’ for five long years. We know they are not asking for thanks, all they want is to see the Island stocked again with the little comforts which make life worth living, and they’ll carry on their job with a good heart and a cheery smile.
  • Many of our young men who are now of an age that they can do what was not possible at the outbreak of war, have expressed a wish to join the forces. A number of them were apparently addressed by Colonel Taylor yesterday in the States Chamber. They were warned that they might not be able to join a unit of their choice, but he welcomed the numbers coming forwards and a said that a recruiting office would be established as soon as possible.
  • It has been announced that everyone not of British nationality, whether male or female, who has come to the Island since 10 May 1940 must report to Fort Regent on Monday and Tuesday. Arrangements will be made for their feeding and accommodation. Presumably this relates to forced workers and others brought in by the Germans, because there can be few who came voluntarily in the last few weeks before the Germans arrived who still remain.
  • We know that there are many people who were forced from their homes by the enemy over the past five years who can't wait to go back. They have been told that they have to make a formal application to Capt F Le Sueur in Mulcaster Street and provide proof that they own their properties.
But what about those who are still away and cannot do this in person? We have the keys for Eric and Ethel's bungalow down the road and managed to rescue their furniture and other possessions after they left. Thankfully there was nothing inside when it was taken over by the Hun. We have not dared to go inside this week to discover what state it is in, but would like to be able to prepare it for their return, whenever that will be. I think I shall have to go to see Capt Le Sueur to find out what we should do.
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  • There have been many complaints about the queues of people waiting their turn to change marks at the banks during the past few days. Apparently in some cases there was little, if any, attempt at control and people who had been waiting for hours were displaced by others who joined the line later. Getting rid of those Reichsmarks is just one way of celebrating getting rid of those who issued them, but we can't just replace their controls with a free-for-all.
Another sign that everyone is not behaving as they damn well should is the stern warning which has been issued about what anybody caught looting can expect. There are mutterings of death sentences or penal servitude for life coming from the Attorney-General's office. We must hope this is designed to dissuade any light-fingered individuals from taking advantage of the inevitable hiatus between the controls we have suffered for five years and a return to the normal rule of law we used to respect. Surely they won't be turning the clock back to investigate the rapid disappearance of the personal effects of so many who evacuated, and will be shocked at what they find when they are eventually allowed to return.
'Goodbye and good riddance'
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  • Apparently all is not what it might be in the farming community. Freed from the rules which dictated who they could sell or give their produce to – rules which we know were often ignored – some are not being as generous as they might to the liberating troops. An appeal has been made by a correspondent to the EP for every loyal farmer to retain for himself and his family only one pint of milk per head daily besides that required for his calves, so that the British troops here in the Island shall have fresh milk while they are here with us. When the Tommies came ashore, did they not give freely of their rations – biscuits, cigarettes, chocolate etc? Let us show the same good feeling and comradeship towards them by sending them all our available fresh, clean milk. I am sure they will appreciate it.
  • God knows how many of us would not be alive today were it not for the visits of the Vega, bringing our Red Cross parcels. Some figures have been released which show that 435,032 of those food parcels, weighing 4,344 tons, as well as 22,200 special invalid diet parcels, 500 cases of medical supplies, 23 tons of soap and half a million cigarettes, were brought to the Channel Islands. The total cost to the Red Cross was about £500,000.
  • There were large crowds on the sea wall and the heights of Westmount last night when another large batch of prisoners of war, officers and men of the German army of Occupation, left for England, but I doubt that anyone 'wished them luck and waved them goodbye'. Under military escort they lined up in the pool enclosure and boarded 25 ‘ducks’ which, taking the water beautifully, proceeded in line ahead and their progress being watched until they disappeared behind Elizabeth Castle on their way to the waiting steamer which was sat at anchor in the offing. Goodbye and good riddance is all I can say.
  • It became more apparent this morning that the locusts have gone. Market stalls were laden with cabbages, lettuce, spring onions, etc, things which a week or so ago it was impossible to obtain, except by favour, in many cases. ‘Most of this stuff went to the Germans,’ a stallholder told me when I went to see what I could find. ‘Now they have gone and the farmers are glad to come and ask us if we want it.’ That's all well and good, but the prices being asked suggest that the farmers (perhaps not all of them) have not been doing that badly of late. Surely it is now time that some of the official prices of these things were revised.
The cost of fresh produce more than its availability means that houshold meals are not going to be what we were once used to for many people for some considerable time. It's sobering to hear that soup is still available to the public at St Helier House and at the communal kitchens in Phillips Street.
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  • We're not sure who is organising it, but several gifts to Islanders are to be issued this week, and then a number of rationed articles will go on sale. We won't know ourselves when we find that we can buy tea, chocolate, lard, margarine, cheese, sugar, biscuits and cereals at the grocers. This week all adults and juveniles are entitled to four free ounces of tea. There will be three ounces of chocolate for juveniles and children and eight ounces of soap for us adults. When somebody reads my diary in years to come they won't be able to believe this, but we can, having had none of these things for so long.
Next week more tea, chocolate and soap powder, strictly rationed, will go on sale, together with lard and margarine, cheese, biscuits and cereals, including, would you believe it, large packets of Shredded Wheat.
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18 May

'So much is starting to happen, I can't believe it was only the middle of last week that it all ended. We enter our second weekend of freedom tomorrow and I wouldn't mind betting that the whole island will be out enjoying it. It's such a shame that Howard Davis Park is closing its gates at 8pm. On these long evenings surely it could stay open until 10 o'clock. The Tommies as well as locals enjoy the amenities of this delightful spot, and with the loud-speaker system giving news and music it does seem ridiculous to keep folk outside.

  • My good friend Charles Spranklen is itching to open the Hotel Melbourne in King Street but he says that he is waiting for supplies of liquor 'fit for human consumption'. He made a big point of refusing to remain open to serve the enemy and I am sure that his regulars from before the war will be just as keen to return to Charlie's Bodega.
  • News is starting to arrive of our boys in the forces. I was surprised to hear that Arthur and Maurice Richomme are in India. We just don't appreciate what has been going on. Maurice has been there three years and Arthur for six months. Ronnie Le Sueur, known to all as the EP photographer, is a Sergeant in the RAF and safe and well in Manchester. His sister and her husband Morton Fish, who was at the Midland, who were deported in 1942, are on their way back from Germany to England. Young Louis Le Long (not so young any longer, but we remember him from Grouville School) will return home a hero. His mother and father, Pierre, have had a letter to say that he was awarded the Military Medal at Anzio.

19 May

  • I don't think many people are going to be in a hurry to forget what went on over the past five years, and already there are loud mutterings about States departments continuing to employ traitors, Jerrybags and conchies, while businesses have been quick to kick them out. The Bailiff has asked us not to take the law into our own hands but the employment of traitors by official departments does not help towards peace in the Island.
Graeme Le Maistre
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  • We must not get too excited at the prospect of getting our Shredded Wheat and chocolate on Monday. Today's EP says that the Food Controller has said that there might be a 'slight delay' in delivering rations to all shops and some may not be in a position to supply us until the following week. I bet the townies get theirs before us country folk.
  • Can you believe that there's already been a dance at St Lawrence Parish Hall. Cyril and Violet Pain put it on for their pupils and friends, including a number of Tommies - officers and men. Our Lizzie went and told us that the Tommies introduced the gathering to a new dance, the Hokey Pokey. Great fun, apparently. And in the interval, as if by magic, the Tommies produced coffee for all. No wonder £12 14s and 7d was raised for the Red Cross.
  • And speaking of the Red Cross, they are bringing much needed clothing over and it is to be distributed on Tuesday. There was talk of a permit system, but that has been dropped and we will be able to buy what we need with our vouchers. There won't be enough to go round, of course, but there's no point in joining long queues because there's more on the way. The clothes shops are going to open from 9.30 to 12.30 and 2 to 5 every weekday except Thursday, when they will close all day. I suppose eventually we'll be back to half day closing on Thursdays.

22 May

  • We were at the FB fields last evening along with thousands of others to watch an island eleven play a Forces team. It must have been an even bigger crowd than they had in town on the 9th. We were so proud because Helier was in the island side. I don't know who recognised his talent, because he was obviously only old enough for school soccer before the war. The tommies had six former professionals but they just couldn't cope with our enthusiastic lads, for whom this game meant so much. Graeme Le Maistre opened the scoring after five minutes and he got two more before half time, one from a brilliant cross from our Helier. The final score was Jersey 5 - Forces 2. A bit embarrassing perhaps, considering how much those lads are doing to help us get back to normal.
  • I did think of starting a diary in the early days of the Occupation, but so little happened from day to day, and week to week, that I didn't think there would be much to write about. Now just two weeks have passed since the Liberation, and I feel it's time to close the first page of my diary. I'll be carrying on, though.
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