Hedley's Liberation Diary
24 May - 4 June 1945
- Winifred next door is desperate to go to the mainland having heard that her only son, Alex, is seriously ill in Carshalton Hospital after being wounded in Normandy and repatriated with other members of his regiment. Winifred's husband Bert sadly passed away a year ago and Alex is her only remaining close relative. She came round to see us this morning to say that she has had to make an application to the Chief Immigration Officer to go to the UK on compassionate grounds and is waiting to hear if it has been approved. But that won't be the end of it. You can't just jump on the morning mailboat at the moment. Her application will have to be passed to the Military Authorities and then sent to the Immigration people in the UK. If they agree it will all be passed back to the Military here and they will arrange with the Chief Immigration Officer for her to be allocated a passage on the next available ship. Winnie doesn't know how long all this is going to take. We pray that it won't take too long and that there will soon be better news about young Alex.
- At long last the price of vegetables is coming down. Apparently there is now a Vegetable Pricing Committee, which met last Saturday, and as a result prices have been drastically reduced, This is good news for housewives who have had to pay far too much for green vegetables for some time. Probably equally bad news for the farmers who must have been raking in the money with the prices that have been charging of late.
- Everybody wants their wirelesses back, but where are they? We can't go on using our crystal set for ever, even though we don't have to hide it in the loft any longer. We were promised that our confiscated sets would be kept safe and returned to us eventually . Now we are told by the Attorney-General, no less, that they can't find them all. Apparently the appropriate Civil Authorities are consulting with the Custodian Officer of Civil Affairs, to sort out and list all the sets which were removed by the Jerries from their original place of deposit and are now being found in numerous places, in many cases in a parish other than that from which they originally came. Heaven preserve us from Custodian Officers of Civil Affairs!
- The banks are appealing to the public to find their hidden coins and put copper into circulation again. They say that 'it is to their knowledge' that there are people who, quite senselessly, have hoarded copper. I wouldn't say it was at all senseless. Anything of value which wasn't hidden for the last five years was liable to disappear - and it wasn't just the Jerry troops who were light-fingered. And what were we supposed to do with our copper coins while we were forced to use Reichmarks? If only we could remember where we hid everything.
- It's all very well starting to sell food which has been unavailable for months and years, but how are we supposed to afford it? Helier's better at sums than me (he ought to be after all I've spent on his education at the big place on top of Mont Millais) and he has been looking through the ration schedule published in the EP on Saturday. He reckons that ignoring the more expensive items, the cost of our rations would be about 15s 6d. Bread and milk takes a further eight shillings, and vegetables, insurance, lighting, fuel and cooking expenses can add another 11s 6d. We are lucky to own our own house, but those who are renting pay at least another 12s 6d. Add on a few odds and ends and a family's outgoings are in the region of 50 shillings a week. That's two pounds ten shillings for those who can't remember the days before Reichmarks.
- We are probably a bit more fortunate than many who have earned the right to the good things of life and expect to receive them now that the war is over. Les Huelin, who is the acting secretary of the TGWU, is starting to make a big noise. He says that present wage rates are totally inadequate, and that a great proportion of workers will be unable to purchase all the foodstuffs which are so urgently needed to restore them to normal health and strength. And how are ordinary workers supposed to afford clothing to replace the rags they have been forced to wear for so long, tobacco, and all the other items which will workers and their families are just itching to get their hands on? He says that it's up to employers to realise that immediate large-scale increases in pay are now the order of the day.
- We would have forgotten most of the things we are now told we can buy with our ration coupons if hadn't been for the Red Cross, and all sorts of fund-raising activities are under way to show our appreciation. A watercolour painting has been given by the artist Clifford Blampied, for the Constable of St Helier’s Red Cross Fund and was raffled, raising the sum of £52 9s 1d. The winning ticket was bought by my cousin Viv Marett. The painting should go well in their flat at First Tower Maisonettes. We'll have to pop in to have a look. I don't know this Clifford Blampied - not the Edmund who designed the stamps we have been using for the past few years, and apparently not even a cousin.
- Young children have understandably been kept at home for the past fortnight and have not been able to join in the Liberation celebrations. William, the lovely little lad down the road, has been asking his mother what British soldiers look like. His dad is an officer, still away in the Army, and he left just before William was born. So it was a special day yesterday for William and so many other youngsters to go with their parents to West Park so see the Empire Day celebrations, and to see what British soldiers really look like, as a parade of the Tommies marched through the town. What a thrill it was for those children, of school age and under, who lined Victoria Avenue, Peirson Road, the Parade, New Street and Val Plaisant in their hundreds, and cheered and cheered again as the troops swung by. It was a real children’s day and on Victoria Avenue the schools, every one of them, had pride of place. In the brilliant sunshine and under a blue sky, the first Empire Day to be celebrated in freedom for five years, became a memory, a memory which will live in the minds of us all, for surely freedom is as yet too new for us to forget it easily.
- Jack Noel, who used to run Bird's bakery on the corner of New Street, is now living in Bolton, Lancashire. We have learned through a mutual friend that all five of his sons have been serving in the forces and that brothers George and Edward, both now sergeants, have achieved a notable ‘double’, both having been mentioned in despatches for gallantry in the North African campaign and in Libya.
- A minor sensation was caused in King Street this morning by the display in the window of Maine's, the jewellers, of a dish of old gold which the firm bought during the Occupation and carefully hid from the Germans. The gold is surmounted by a card bearing this inscription: ‘This was not sold to the Germans. This gold was purchased during the five years of Occupation. It is now being sent to England'.
- Further to what I wrote earlier about Winnie wanting to visit her wounded son, we hear that Phyllis Le Druillenec, whose husband Harold was deported by the Germans for aiding his sister, Louisa Gould, when she befriended an escaped Russian prisoner, has been told that she should visit him urgently. He was flown to England from Belsen Horror Camp on 20 April and is now in Horton Emergency Hospital at Epsom. Harold, who was a much respected schoolmaster before his arrest and what passed for a trial, was apparently first taken to Wilhelmshaven, where he was wounded when the camp was bombed. He was then taken to Belsen, which, from what little news is filtering through from the Continent, was as close as you can get to hell on earth. I think we are going to hear a lot more about that place, and I wonder what horrors were suffered by others sent away to German prisons before last June. The Aliens Office is said to be making arrangements for Mrs Le Druillenec's early departure. We hope Winnie can go on the same boat.
- It has been announced by the BBC that the King and Queen are going to pay brief visits to the Channel Islands the week after next, and the EP has told us what an honour that is. Now I don't wish to sound the least bit ungrateful and everyone who knows me will tell you that I am a supporter of the Royal Family, but surely this is an obligation, not an honour for us. After those letters the King wrote apologising for his Government deserting us - well, he didn't exactly put it that way, but you know what I mean - I think it's the least we could expect. I'll bet Winston Churchill, the nation's hero, is not so quick to visit his 'dear Channel Islands' which he was quite happy to desert back in the summer of 1940.
- I've no doubt that we islanders will turn out in our thousands to welcome the King and Queen, and so we should do, my wife Mary keeps telling me, but I wonder how many of those who have been getting news in recent days of the deaths of their sons while serving in the Forces will feel able to take up the Bailiff's offer of a reserved place of honour. The Bailiff's intentions are obviously very laudable, and some will no doubt take their places with pride, but, perhaps for others it will come a little too soon.
- I've never been one of them myself, but I can appreciate that the smokers of the Island are delighted today. They gathered in their hundreds at the tobacconists from early this morning to obtain their supplies of the ‘weed’ for which they have waited so long. The queues were lengthy, but were dealt with expeditiously and there was little grousing – as several smokers remarked, it was worth waiting for.
- For the first time since the Germans arrived in 1940, the Union Jack was hoisted today on the Minquiers reef by a British Royal Marines detachment from the British Force in Jersey. They accompanied the official party which consisted of the Bailiff, Alexander Coutanche, the Channel Islands Force Commander, Brigadier Snow, and the Attorney-General Charles Duret Aubin. They were less than pleased to discover that while none of our fishermen has been allowed out of harbour for so long, the French have been helping themselves to our fish. A few of them were still living on Maître Ile. They claimed to have been taken there by the Germans, but after the surrender they made the bosch sail over to Jersey to give themselves up. Who do they think they are kidding?
- The news of his sons has been bitter-sweet for our friend Mr Marsh of St John's Road. He has learned that his eldest son Cyril, a sergeant in the Royal Tank Corps, was severely wounded in Italy and his second son James, of the RASC, is in hospital and has had four operations as doctors try to save his sight. And now news has arrived that their young brother Clarence was killed in Italy.
- What people really want is to see our brave boys returning home. No doubt many bring with them some amazing tales of their war, and some unusual battlefield souvenirs to go with them, but few will beat the story which Captain Peter Baker, Gordon's son, of Bellozanne Road, told in the CI Monthly Review, a publication which was doing the rounds among evacuees in England, last November. He was involved in the invasion of Southern France and wrote that 'a number of the Boche whom we either killed or captured, had been, up till quite recently, serving in Jersey'. In the kit of one of them he found a German menu from our Grand Hotel, a plate from the hotel, a German guide to the Channel Islands and a shell from Plemont (presumably the seashell variety, not the boom-boom type). 'I was thrilled to find these interesting items. Needless to say I have kept them and have them with me now.'
- I begin to wonder whether the EP is not stretching its freedom from German censors, who have been telling us what to do and not to do for five years, a little too far. Now they are telling us to take our flags indoors and then put them out again fresh and clean for the Royal Visit.
- We had a good night out at West's yesterday. We did not know quite what to expect from a programme called 'Stars of the Army', but it turned out to be really good entertainment by members of the Liberation Forces, led by Sapper Ted Taylor, a comedian by birth and training.
- He kept us roaring with laughter for two hours, ably supported by the Royal Artillery band, who played a selection of the latest dance numbers, which, of course, are entirely new to us islanders.
- The distribution of clothing, badly needed by so many, does not appear to be going entirely to plan. There are mutterings about clothes labelled 'the gift of the American people' being charged for. And many mothers who are still awaiting the return of their husbands and have been struggling to survive for so long are desperate for boots and shoes for their children.
- Young Frank Le Sueur became one of the first servicemen to return to the island this morning, and although his dad Francis, of Halkett Place, was no doubt thrilled to greet him, his visit was all to brief. Frank is a Flt-Lieut and was only here for a couple of hours after landing at the Airport.
- Many of our children will never have seen an orange, so yesterday's promise by the Minister of Food, Col Llewellin, to send 2,000 boxes to the islands is very welcome. Before the end of next week we are promised 3,000 boxes of apples and 6,000 of onions. There may also be sweets for the children. Is it these oranges, or some others, which are to be available later this week to all ration book holders - 1½ lb at the price of 8 ½d per lb?
- The YMCA club in New Street is doing a grand job entertaining members of the liberating forces. They have appealed for a supply of cups and saucers and also a piano.
- It's amazing how some aspects of normal life were sustained during the Occupation. Collectors could not resist adding first day covers of the stamps, issued to keep the postal service running, to their albums. But how many of them noticed, or even wondered about, the reason for the letters in the corners of the penny and halfpenny stamps?
- It has now been revealed by the EP that the A A A A in the corner of the penny stamp stands for Ad Avernum Adolph Atrox - to hell with you Atrocious Adolf - and the A A B B on the halfpenny stamp stand for Atrocious Adolf - Bloody Benito. This joke - I suppose that is what we should call it - was the brainchild of the stamps' designer Norman Rybot. I doubt that he shared it with the EP when they printed the stamps. One must assume that he had some other explanation up his sleeve should the design ever have been queried.
- Please let us not start calling these people, including those who painted V-signs at the roadside just to get up the Germans's noses, brave or heroic. To my mind the heroes were those who sheltered escaped slave labourers and, others like Arthur Shales of la Motte Street, who is now rightly receiving praise because 'his house was always open to us at any time day or night to listen to the wireless from the start of the Occupation to the finish'.
- Now that we are all getting out more the risk of spreading diseases which were kept at bay for so long has increased. We are being reminded that there is an increasing chance of diphtheria spreading and that a free inocculation is available for children and adults at the General Hospital.
- They're coming home! - new has reached us that 1,822 Channel Islanders who have spent 33 months in German internment camps have been flown back to England. Press reports suggest that their time incarcerated by the enemy was not a happy one, confined in long concrete huts behind barbed wire at Biberach. They were as relieved as we were to get life-saving Red Cross parcels.
- The recriminations are starting, and I expect that they will go on for a long time. My friend Arthur Carter has written to the EP, stating what most of us think in deploring the suggestion by Laurens Brown that there is a 'lack of tolerance' towards those who have worked for the Germans.
- "Disraeli, I think it was, once remarked that ‘every man has his price’ and the Hun certainly didn’t have a heavy price to pay to find over 2,500 ‘British workmen’ – not forgetting Mr Laurens S Brown,as clerk in charge - who were quite ready to accept extra food rations and a hundred marks or so a week in order to forget that everyone who lifted a spade or even a pen was fighting for the enemy just as much as the factory workers in Britain were fighting against him. Perhaps Mr Laurens S Brown is one of the many who had consciences which forbade them to fight for Britain, but which ceased to be consciences when it meant fighting for the Hun.
- Well said Arthur, who went on to comment: He asks – rather anxiously I suppose – if all these men are to be barred from local employment. If only it were possible. No, Mr Brown, I don’t think you need worry, no doubt there will be employment for you amongst the ‘heroes’ who drove the German ammunition lorries, built gun emplacements, fixed the tank traps and barricades on the Esplanade, and in many other ways protected the Hun, who must have regarded them as every Englishman does, with the greatest contempt. Let us face it squarely, those who in any way helped the Germans who were in occupation here were indirectly fighting against Britain, whether they like it or not. Compulsion there might have been, and I question that strongly, because I feel there were quite sufficient who needed no compelling."
- Are we about to witness a flow of evacuees and deportees back to Jersey, while others are force to travel in the opposite direction to find work at a living wage?
- On the one hand, the military authorities want to assist in every possible way the return to normality of the trade and general business of the Island, and are anxious to give priority of return to those evacuees who are key men and women in the various businesses and professions. Employers requiring the early return of previous employees, vital to the needs of their business, are being asked to contact the President of the Department of Labour, who will explain the procedure to be adopted in order that this special priority may be obtained. Jurat Dorey, Jurat Le Masurier and the Attorney-General have been to London to discuss with the authorities the best way to effect the return of our people who left the Island five years ago, and the deportees of 2½ years ago. They found there were great difficulties to be overcome; but they could rest assured that everything possible was being done for the return of our people as quickly as possible.
- On the other hand, Deputy Ed Le Quesne, who has responsibility for all this, has told the States that the present level of pay in the Island is far below what iss necessary to keep families going. He suggested that the States might subsidise imported foodstuffs in order to enable the working man to purchase the necessaries of life. He added thatunless employers were prepared to pay a sufficient wage, they would lose the best mechanics, who would prefer to go to the mainland for employment. He had it on the highest authority that no man would be without a job if he went to England. Unless the States decided to do something they would lose many of these men.
- So when the mailboats start running again, will they be full of islanders rushing to return home, or others heading in the opposite direction? I suspect the former, but even our Helier is making noises about where his future, and those of other young men, lies.
- Who would have thought that the arrival of a cheque for £600 from Tanganyika, for immediate use in the relief of the people of the Island, could cause such controversy in the States? Jurat Dorey thought the best way of proceeding was to appoint a committee to deal with gifts. (If you don't know what to do, appoint a committee) But Deputy Ed Le Quesne waded in with the suggestion that there was, all over the world, an exaggerated idea of what we had actually suffered. He thought it should be made known that we were not in need of financial help. Was it not infra dig for us to accept these monetary gifts when we knew there were others more in need than we were?
- Jurat Dorey said that, although our bodily needs had been met through the generosity of the Home Government, to suggest that we could not accept other gifts was not quite right. As a matter of fact we would only be able to exist, in the near future, on the charity of the Mother Country. Deputy Richardson said that there were many instances where a kindly gift would be welcomed if it was properly administered. After all this was not a charity. He thought all these gifts could be grouped together and each case investigated and the gifts handed out under proper control.
- I am usually inclined to agree with some of what others would call the outlandish suggestions of Ed Le Quesne, but perhaps he has not suffered in quite the same way as so many of those who elected him to his current position.
- I end this edition of my diary with the news that it has been suggested by the Chamber of Commerce that 9 May should in future become an annual holiday. To use a phrase which I have just invented, surely that's a 'no brainer'?