Hedley's diary - 3

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Hedley's Liberation Diary

5 – 15 June 1945


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

June 1945

Tuesday 5th

I did try keeping a diary during the war. It was illegal, of course, but that's not why I gave up. There just never seemed to be anything happening that was worth recording. No doubt others led more adventurous lives while the Hun were here to tell us what not to do, and their journals will see the light of day in due course. Now hardly a moment seems to go by without getting more news of what is happening here, and to our loved ones and friends who are still far away.

  • There is news every day of the courageous exploits of our boys and girls in the forces, but few families can surely match the tales the Carters will have to tell when they eventually arrive back home. We hear from Emily Carter, who lives with her daughter Dorothy at 18 Windsor Road, that Emily's brother-in-law, who was the foreman at the Fire Station before the war has been in the Home Guard since evacuating in 1940. His daughter and three sons have all been in the Forces, and two of the boys have been decorated for bravery. The two oldest, Eric and Donald, have both been commissioned in the Field, Eric after winning the DCM, and Donald, after winning the MM. They served in the North African campaign and then in Italy, where Eric was severely wounded in the left arm and Donald received wounds in the head and back. In Italy they met their younger brother Dennis, who was only 14 when he left Jersey. He is in the RAF, in Yugoslavia. The daughter of the family, Betty, is in the ATS. Donald gained the MM in the initial landing in Salerno. Eric is the more seriously wounded of the two and is now in an English hospital where doctors are striving to save his left arm.
  • Word soon spread last year when young men and women started attempting to escape from the east coast in small boats. Sadly some perished in the attempt, but what of those who made it safely to France and then on to England? Of course, there was no news at the time, but we know that Kenneth Jesty and Basil Machon, of whom nothing more was heard, did make it safely to Bricqueville-Sur-Mer on 22 October. They are in Southampton and have written a letter just published in the EP thanking everybody who helped to make their escape possible. Cyril Tanner carted their boat from St Helier Harbour to Sion, Mr P Phillippe took it from Sion to Pontac, Cyril Horsfall somehow got petrol for them, and Mons Franks, the hairdresser in Halkett Street, let them use his garage at Pontac for the last few days they were in the island. We know of many more who so courageously helped the young people escape. Heaven knows what would have happened to them if the Germans had found out.
  • It comes as no surprise that those who evacuated from here in 1940 have made favourable impressions wherever they went. Many ended up in towns in Lancashire and other northern parts, but some got no further than the south coast ports, where they disembarked from the boats which took them away. Tonight's paper carries a fine tribute from the Lord Mayor of Plymouth: Dear Sir, In June, 1940, in common with other South Coast ports, we had the sad experience of welcoming to our shores, men women and children from the Channel Islands seeking refuge from German aggression. Since then just over 300 of them have settled in this city and its immediate surroundings, and it is my privilege as Lord Mayor to pay tribute to them. I have met them frequently and have always been conscious that their anxiety and chief concern was for their folk at home. They kept alive this spirit of the Islands by forming the Plymouth Channel Islands Society, and at their meetings messages and information were freely exchanged. When Plymouth was heavily bombed they shared our ordeal and took their place in Civil Defence, and in all the wartime activities of our city. It was a pleasure to associate with them. They have not been a liability, and leave us with happy memories of our fellow citizens in the Channel Islands. Yours faithfully, Henry G Mason, Lord Mayor.
  • We are soon to enjoy fresh milk again, but it's down to the cows and their owners how quickly this happens. We are told that milk distribution will take place as soon as supplies are available. An appeal has been made to all suppliers to send in their milk. The quantity for distribution is therefore dependent on their co-operation.
  • I'm not sure that it is what Helier has in mind for his future, because he keeps talking of wanting to get away and join up, but we would obviously like him to stay and are trying to persuade him to apply for the vacancies which have been advertised for two male clerks at the Aliens Office. School Certificate standard and a sound working knowledge of French essential. But why do they have to be male? Are there not going to be opportunities for our young women who have had nothing to do for so long and would just love to go out to work.

Friday 8th

  • It's only a month since it all ended, but already we have been able to welcome the King and Queen, who have been at pains to arrange a visit as quickly as possible to the only home territory in their Empire which was occupied. Islanders have obviously been pleased at the opportunity this has presented to renew their allegiance to the Crown, and were thrilled to hear His Majesty say: ‘Our thoughts have often been with you’.
We were all there In the Royal Square, such a colourful setting for a historic occasion. There was hardly room to move, let alone a chance to gather one's thoughts, but it did occur to me after that the most memorable scenes in Island history during the past two centuries have been enacted in that little chestnut-shaded rectangle. In 1781, when it was still our Vier Marchi, the gallant Major Peirson fought and won the Battle of Jersey against the French invaders. In this century it has witnessed the enthusiastic and loyal reception given to his late Majesty King George V when he visited Jersey with his gracious consort, Queen Mary, and the Princess Royal, and as recently as 1935 crowds assembled there to give an equally enthusiastic greeting to the then Prince of Wales. These latter scenes were joyous events in Island history, but they were followed by a period when dark clouds hung o’er the Square for, from the fateful day when the white cross of surrender was painted on the flagstones, the shadow of the swastika fell across it. For nearly five years the jackboots of the Hun marched to and fro until that glad day dawned when our liberating force arrived and a Royal Proclamation read from the base of the statue reunited the Island to the Realm of England. And yesterday came the greatest day of all, for we welcomed His Majesty King George VI and His Most Gracious Consort, Queen Elizabeth.
From every window all around the Square, from the States offices, lawyers' chambers, and the Public Library balcony showed the heads of interested spectators. Behind the railings a large number of us ordinary folk determined to obtain a first-class view of the Royal party. So the stage was set for the great moment. And while we waited, thanks to the most excellent descriptions by commentators on the route, we were given a graphic word picture of Their Majesties’ journey from the Pier.
Slowly from Hill Street, past the entrance to the new States offices, came the Royal car. The cheering was now louder than ever, but would have been louder still had it not been for the obvious determination of everybody to see their King and Queen. I honestly believe that most attention was focused on Her Majesty. And weren’t we repaid? As gracious as we had ever imagined, a bow and a smile for everyone, each one of us felt we had been singled out for special attention.Soon the sound of sustained clapping from the loud speakers told us of the entrance of Their Majesties into the States Chamber. Then came the clear voice of the Bailiff, Mr Coutanche reading the Loyal Address of the States and the People of Jersey. Every word was distinctly heard and the substance was such that we all felt proud as in our hearts we endorsed every word. An interval, only a moment or so, and the King’s voice was heard. Slowly, and very distinctly, we heard His Majesty. And we felt prouder than ever.
This is what the Bailiff said: ‘May it please your Majesty. On 14 May 1945 this Assembly of your Majesty’s faithful States of Jersey, meeting for the first time in nearly five years, unfettered by the domination of Your Majesty’s enemies, had the honour to adopt for submission to your Majesty an Address in reply to your Majesty’s gracious message of greeting brought to the people of Jersey by the Officer Commanding of your Majesty’s Armed Forces in those Islands. Today it is the proud privilege and inestimable honour of the Assembly to welcome Your Majesty and Your Majesty’s Most Gracious Consort within this small but ancient appanage of the Crown so recently freed from Your Majesty’s enemies, here to renew to your Majesties in person the unshaken loyalty and devotion of the People of Jersey.
Replying to the address of welcome, the King said: ‘It is a great pleasure to the Queen and myself to visit the Island of Jersey on its liberation from the enemy and to receive in person the touching expressions of your loyalty and devotion. It gives me great joy that you are again restored to freedom and your ancestral relationship with the Crown after such a long period of suffering under enemy occupation. There is much to be done before your Island can regain its former prosperity, but I am confident that, by your endeavours, which will have the fullest support of my government, the destruction wrought by the enemy will soon be repaired and your fields restored to the abundance for which they have so long been famous. Our thoughts have often been with you in your years of trial, and we join with you in the hope that the war against the remaining enemy may be brought to a victorious end and that, under God’s good providence, the nations of the world may enjoy lasting peace.
  • Children are finding it difficult to come to terms with the traffic on our roads since the liberating soldiers arrived. For so long they have been all but empty. For four-year-old Christine Rose Woodman, of 56 St Saviour’s Road, traffic has had no meaning during the whole of her life, and she was so lucky to escape relatively uninjured when she ran across the roadway yesterday in the Parade and was struck by a Royal Corps of Signals motor cycle despatch rider. He did his utmost to avoid the child, but was unable to and finally crashed himself. They were both taken to the General Hospital where it was found that the soldier had a suspected fracture of the arm. The child was thankfully only slightly hurt.
  • Despite several warnings about the dangers, children will play with ammunition which is to be found all over the place. 12-year-old Colin Mason, of Egypt, Manor Park, found some cartridges and, with a number of his playmates, made a bonfire on to which they threw some of them. Mason is now receiving treatment for his wounds at the General Hospital. He was a silly boy, and very lucky not to be more seriously hurt, but it's easy to understand the temptations which currently confront our youngsters.
  • The Russion PoWs have been a sorry sight ever since the first were shipped here and forced to help the Germans build their fortifications. Many friendships have been made and their was some sadness when the last departed for Guernsey today before being repatriated. One of them, Michael Krokeen, has had a letter published in the paper.
He wrote: I do not wish to enlarge on my sufferings in the hands of Hitler’s bandits, for they would fill a book. Every prisoner-of-war, especially a Russian, suffered as much and even more, than was described in previous letters. I only wish to express my heartfelt thanks to those valiant people, who, at great personal risk, helped me and those others who were tortured and starved by the Nazis. Foremost my thanks must go to two Russian ladies here, Mrs Metcalfe and her sister, who have given us English lessons and helped us in every way possible and who, although closely watched by the dreaded German police, sheltered me in their home for four months till the Gestapo came to search their house. It was a very narrow escape. I am very grateful to Mr Le Cuirot of Boulivot House, Grouville, Mr Renouf, of Rozel, Mr and Miss Blight of St Saviour and Dr McKinstry who gave us medical attention and helped to solve our food problems, Lesliey Portlock, who gave me an identity card and sheltered me for another four months, Mr Maurice Baker, Mr Gladden of St Martin, who sheltered me for about four months, Mr G Townend, Leonard Perkins and family, Mr L Robson, Les Huelin, Mr Le Marquand and some local bakers. Lastly, on behalf of all Russians, those who escaped and those who to the last had to endure the indescribable hardships of the German camp, I thank everyone who came to our assistance during our stay in Jersey. Their kind words and willing help will remain in our memory always.
I think many who saw the obvious suffering of the Russians took the view that it was nothing to do with them. Perhaps it wasn't, but all praise to those who took the opposite view and did so much to help, at great risk to themselves.
  • A good sign of life getting back to normal was the reopening of the Jersey Sports Stadium in Victoria Road earlier in the week. Several hundred of our young, and not so young friends, had to be turned away when doors opened for a dance evening, and a most enjoyable time was had by those fortunate to get in. The band was directed by Eric Harrison. The stadium has suffered comparatively little during the Occupation, when it was used as a storeroom, and the ballroom was quite undamaged except for some if its lights. The proprietor, William Ryan, is now busily engaged in cleaning up the skating rink and it is hoped to have this functioning before long. One of the squash courts is completely undamaged. The room which suffered the most is the one on the left of the entrance which was used as a guard room and which was left in a very dirty state. William's son Denis, a market gardener, fell foul of the Germans recently and was sentenced to nine months in prison for illegal construction of a wireless, spreading anti-German propaganda and black market activities. I'm not sure about the black market bit, but doubtless he will be treated as a hero for his other activities
  • It seems that we were not alone in wondering why the lifeboat was not launched to rescue the Allied airman who was shot down off St Brelade in January. Stories which could not be told at the time are now starting to circulate and the RNLI have let it be known that the lifeboat crew were assembled and ready to put to sea but the Germans would not allow them to leave harbour. It has also emerged that last November the three local people who drowned in La Saline Bay could have been saved if the Germans had allow the lifeboat to rescue them. I could express myself much more strongly, but they really were a nasty lot and we are so pleased to be ride of them for ever.

Saturday 9th

  • Dairy farmers will no doubt be pleased to learn that Clarry Le Brun, of Beauchamp, Sion, has received news from two farmers who were buyers of Jersey cattle over many years and have numerous friends here. Edmund Butler, of Brook Farm, Chester, NY, is well and sends regards to all friends. Mr Le Brun also heard from Mr W Wilkins, of Central Farm, Long Marston, Tring, who visited the Island several times a year over a long period, and probably exported more cattle to England than any other buyer. He is still in the trade, and hopes to soon be doing business again with Jersey breeders. This will be music to their ears, because the sale of a prize bull or heifer could bring in more than the rest of a farmer's income over a year.
  • Does anyone want to claim a Vauxhall, J2112, taxed in Jersey, £3 in January 1940. It was commandeered and shipped out of the island, apparently reaching the Russian front. Recently brought back to Germany for repairs, it was unloaded by British prisoners of war, and one of them took off the disc and passed it on to a Jerseyman who was with them. He was Sapper Byrne, RE, a son of the late Bobby Byrne, of the District Office, Pier Road, and Mrs Byrne. Sapper Byrne has now returned to England but has lost the disc. Was this your car?
  • Red Cross letters did a marvellous job of keeping those who were deported to Germany in touch with relatives and friends here. Now news is filtering through that those interned at Wurzach are on their way home. Mr and Mrs Saunders, with their daughter, Dorothy, and son, Cliff, are safe in England and well. Dorothy was formerly employed at Mr Berthelot’s shop in Bath Street, Harry Forward and his wife, formerly caretakers at the EP premises, and family have also arrived safely. And islanders gratitude to the Red Cross continues with a collection at Gouray Church on Whit Sunday raising £55.

Monday 11th

  • I had not fully realised, until a few days ago, how well our late lords and masters had fortified the Island. Transport was difficult, the forts themselves were unapproachable and one could only get a comparatively vague picture of the whole system. Now that we can walk more or less where we please, I have had an opportunity of getting a ‘close-up’ of some of the defences and I can appreciate what it would have meant if the British forces had had to take the place by force of arms. The west seems to be the most heavily defended. The bunkers at First Tower, Millbrook and Bel Royal are familiar in outward appearance to most people, but further out there are batteries and forts which the majority of the Islanders have never seen. Back in 1941 and 1942 it was obvious that big works were going on there, lorry after lorry of sand and gravel rattled and rumbled along the roads all the way from Grouville; thousands of tons of cement and steel were imported, all for those fortification works around the island. Hundreds of Russians, Spaniards, Poles, Frenchmen and others were engaged on the work under conditions which, for the Russians at any rate, were appalling, hundreds of thousands of marks were spent, all to no purpose except to leave the Island a legacy which it could very well have done without.
It was obvious in '41 and '42 that big works were going on at Noirmont, but we were allowed nowhere near, and even now visitors are not encouraged. I had the pleasure (if that's the right word) of going on a tour with a friend who is a reporter at the EP, so let me try and give some idea of what is there, although we did not have the time to see half of it. The whole point is a fortress bristling with heavy guns and honeycombed with underground chambers which formed the living quarters and storerooms for the garrison. Those chambers go deep down into solid rock, no wonder we used to hear and see constant explosions as they blasted their way deeper and deeper into the good Jersey granite. Great steel girders and thick concrete walls hold up the caves, and electric light and water are laid on everywhere; air conditioning keeps the air sweet, and massive steel doors to each dug-out make sure that any attack would be a slow and costly process. At the extreme end of the point the control room, here deep in the rock, protected by concrete and steel, is the nerve centre of the battery, with range-finders and all paraphernalia for fighting – all now so much junk. Everything I saw was strictly utilitarian, although there are rumours of a very elaborately fitted underground ‘palace’ at Portelet with carpets on the floors and luxury furniture looted from island houses. We did not see it.
I wonder what is going to happen to all these bunkers and other defences. Surely it would be just too much work to have them removed, much as we would like all evidence of the Germans' presence in our island to disappear. Perhaps one day they will be as much a tourist attraction as our Castles and coastal forts were before. Even these, it is becoming apparent, did not escape the Germans' concrete addiction.
I doubt very much that anyone would want the sea walls, ugly concrete structures that they are, to be removed. They may not have been built for that purpose, but they go give long stretches of our coastline the protection from stormy seas which it never had.
  • If we thought that the end of the war would bring rationing to an end, we must think again. By tomorrow everyone should have obtained the new Clothing and Footwear Ration Books. We have ours, but anyone who has failed to apply must do so tomorrow at Burtons, which will be open for the purpose until the end of the week. We are told that until further notice, the current Textile Ration Book should be kept carefully. It will be needed to obtain Red Cross clothing and for other requirements. The new clothing book is to be used for the purchase of footwear and clothing brought to the Island by the British military authorities and for subsequent importations of rationed clothing and footwear.

Tuesday 12th

  • I bumped into my old mate Reg Barnet's mother, who told me that he came up with a novel way of letting their relatives in England know what has been going on here for the past five years. He posted a number of EPs to them and has learnt that they were taken to a meeting of Channel Islanders in Worcester for distribution at the meeting. She said that everyone was delighted and thrilled to see the old EP again, and they were much in demand.
  • It's all very well opening the cinemas again, but the last bus leaves town at 5.15, which means that those of us out in the sticks who are dependent on them must leave the cinema at least half an hour before the picture is ended. Would it not be possible for matinees to start at 2.30, thus ensuring everyone the full programme?
  • As I wrote earlier, it's not many months since those who 'liberated' small boats and set out to escape from the island were treated as heroes. Yesterday 18-year-old Geoffrey Derouet found himself before Police Court Acting Magistrate Jurat Luxon, for doing much the same. He wants to join the Navy, but his mother told the court that she would not let him. So early in the morning of Sunday 3 June, he stole Cygnet, a fishing boat owned by Charles Le Couteur, of Northdale, St John, and got as far as Herm before being arrested by the Guernsey police, who brought him back home. He is at the Remand Home awaiting Jurat Luxon's decision.
  • Graeme Le Maistre the popular captain of St Paul's, considered by many to be the best centre-forward seen in Jersey for years and a real personality in the past few years, is about to be lost to us. He has signed professional forms for West Bromwich Albion.

Wednesday 13th

  • It seems that the Russian PoWs who left for Guernsey last week were not the last to leave. About 30, soldiers and civilians, who escaped from captivity and have been sheltered by local people, left the Island yesterday afternoon on the first stage of their journey back to their own country. In Jersey to superintend the repatriation was a Russian officer Major Gruzdev, of the Soviet Military Mission in London, and he was accompanied as Liaison Officer by Capt B A Wallis, Royal Canadian Artillery, who speaks fluent Russian. Smartly dressed in a khaki Russian blouse, breeches and high boots with gold epaulettes and a peaked cap with red band and the Soviet Star with the hammer and sickle badge, Major Gruzdev attracted a great deal of attention as he stood outside the British Hotel and smilingly acknowledged the greetings of many local people who besieged him for autographs. Major Gruzdev spent a great part of yesterday touring the island and visiting as many of the families who have sheltered Russians during the past few years as he could. To each he conveyed the thanks of his government for the help they had afforded these men.

Friday 15th

  • Evacuees will soon be on their way home. The first party will leave Southampton on Monday week on the Southern Railway boat, Isle of Guernsey. We don't know how many will be returning and whether any will continue their journey to Jersey, but more will become known soon, I expect.
  • Although most German troops have been sent away in the past six weeks, some remain to form working parties to help the liberating troops. There was a shocking accident at the Dicq yesterday when a RASC lorry taking 30 of the prisoners back to their camp overturned after failing to make the corner and hitting the side of 24 St Clement's Road. We hear from Mrs Mauger who lives nearby that there we scenes of absolute carnage, with blood everywhere and several men screaming in agony. Along with Mrs Averty, Mrs Wilden and others she did what she could to help with sheets and bandages before the injured men were taken off in ambulances. Apparently five were seriously injured and one has since died.

Hedley's diary
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