Hedley's Liberation Diary
13 - 25 August 1945
- The end of the war in the Far East is good news – or is it? We read in the national papers that the imminent demobilisation of our troops who have been fighting the Japs is only going to add to the shortage of clothing and household fabrics. Sir Stafford Cripps, the president of the Board of Trade, is worried that the production of cotton goods has fallen so low that it cannot keep up with replacing our outworn clothes. I can see that our next ration can only go down. But ration or not, how many of these clothes are actually going to reach us?
- We went to the Harbour last week to welcome Doris' friend Eva Cartwright and her travelling companion Winnie Camp, who evacuated in 1940 and have been living in Ottery St Mary in Devon. They clearly immersed themselves in community life and made a good impression on their hosts, who held a social evening to wish them bon voyage. Eva was given an electric clock and leather writing case and Winnie a silver necklet. During their long stay in Devon both worked very hard on behalf of various good causes and established many friendships, as was shown when each was also given a framed scroll bearing the names of innumerable subscribers to the gifts. Eva helped collect over £380 for different charities, including more than £80 for the Channel Islands Refugees Fund. She is the widow of Sergeant Henry Cartwright, a former Jersey Wanderers footballer, who was killed in May 1918. Winnie is the wife of Commander W D Camp, RN, both of whom are well known in Jersey.
- I hear that Stan Marett, of St Peter, moved back to Seymour Tower on Saturday and at once hoisted the Union Jack.
- The Department of Agriculture requires the services of a milk tester, full-time at £3 per week.
- Any excuse for a day off. It has been announced that on the occasion of the VJ celebrations, all States employees will be granted two days holiday with pay. Skeleton staff will be maintained in the essential services and the States Treasury and the banks will open for a short time each day for the convenience of the public. No official announcement will be given locally, the holidays will automatically follow the announcement made over the wireless from London.
- We all got used to their being here, and any soldier not wearing a Bosch uniform was bound to be welcome, but I wonder how many folk are aware of the tremendous amount of work which was undertaken by Task Force 135 since the wonderful day when the Occupation ended and the Liberating Troops arrived? There were over 151 different minefields in this Island alone, and, although some of these were dummies, all had to be tested and the mines everywhere lifted and destroyed. 400 guns had to be dismantled and collected, big and small.
- Another big job, and one which will be going on for some time, is the collection and disposal of the tremendous amount of ammunition which the Hun stored here - 30,000 tons - a colossal amount for a small place like this. There was also thousands of anti-air-landing stakes to be removed, slipways to be cleared, concrete gun positions to be demolished and fortifications removed.
- A very considerable amount of other work has been undertaken, one of the most important being putting into habitable order the many dwelling houses, hotels, schools and institutions which were used to accommodate German troops and Todt men. The work undertaken was the making of these placed wind and water tight, fit to live in from the sanitary point of view, and the provision of some means of cooking, even if only an open grate. There is no question of painting or decorating, it is simply a matter of making the buildings habitable for the first wave of evacuees returning from the mainland.
- Is it not time something was done about cyclists riding without lights at night? It was understandable at one time when lamps and batteries were hard to come by, but that excuse does not exist now – there are cycle lamps and batteries to be obtained in the shops. Many motorists, too, seem to dispense with their rear lights and several have been seen driving with only one light, and then on the wrong side for approaching traffic, so that the oncoming cyclist or pedestrian is never really sure whether it is a car or a motor cycle approaching. It is time the police took a hand in the game – the Occupation is over.
- Evacuees returning here seem to be finding somewhere to live, even if conditions are far from perfect and their furniture and other belongings have vanished. In Guernsey, however, the housing shortage is so acute that it has become necessary to billet returning evacuees on various households capable of housing them temporarily. The States are to be asked to approve the charges of five shillings a week for adults and three shillings for children under 14. If meals are provided the going rate will be a guinea (21s) a week, rising to 25s for expectant mothers.
- Japan has surrendered. The War is over. As the last stroke of midnight sounded, Mr Attlee broadcast the dramatic news that Japan had surrendered unconditionally. ‘The last of our enemies is laid low,’ he declared. The news, flashed to the four corners of the tense-expectant world, stated that Emperor Hirohito had accepted the Potsdam declaration and was ready to order his forces to cease resistance at once and lay down their arms. General MacArthur has been appointed to accept the surrender; the formal signing will take place at the earliest possible moment.
- It has been announced that the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers will start to leave the Island on Saturday next. They will depart in batches of 150, the troops on the Hantonia and the baggage on the other craft.
- During the Occupation a number of Spaniards were brought here for defence work. Since the Liberation these men have been unemployed and it was thought they would leave for France en route for their homes yesterday. These arrangements were cancelled and it is now expected that they will leave by the mailboat tomorrow for London.
- St John Ambulance Brigade is distributing Red Cross parcels today and tomorrow as arranged.
- The Fire Brigade was called out this morning at 1.40 to put out a hayrick which had caught fire in a field near the Airport. When the Brigade, under Chief Office Remphry, arrived on the scene, they found an RAF firefighting squad, stationed at the Airport and led by Sergeant Burnett, getting the outbreak under control. Fortunately there was a plentiful supply of water in the vicinity and with the combined efforts of the two squads, the outbreak was extinguished, but not before the men received a soaking from the rain which fell heavily through the night. The Brigade returned to headquarters at 7.15 this morning.
- There will be no distribution of milk tomorrow, the roundsmen being given a holiday. For that day only producers are authorised to supply milk to consumers living out of town. Consumers with children, living in town, may obtain milk this evening by calling at their dairies.
- A combined civil and military service of thanksgiving conducted on the Weighbridge by the Bishop of Southampton, the President of the Free Church Council and the Rev T M Floyd, Vicar of the Garrison Church of St James, followed by a victory march of troops representing the liberation Force, was the way Jersey marked VJ Day, the official end of World War II. A large number of people assembled on the Weighbridge to take part in the thanksgiving service. There were many on the ground around the gardens, and others occupied places of vantage such as neighbouring windows and roofs of houses overlooking the place of assembly, the balcony of the Pomme d’Or Hotel being reserved for special invitees.
- The troops were formed up with their backs to the Weighbridge Gardens and facing the dais which had been erected on the island site facing the Pomme d’Or Hotel, and which was draped with red, white and blue muslin. The band of St James’s Boys’ Brigade with Mr J D Le Breton in charge and headed by Mr T Donovan, drum major, together with the band of the Salvation Army, occupied a position opposite the Weighbridge. The choir of St James’s Church was in attendance to lead the singing.
- While the public assembled, official business was being transacted by the States in the lounge of the Pomme d’Or where members agreed to a telegram being forwarded in their name and on behalf of the island, to the King. As the clergy and States emerged from the Pomme d’Or the parade, numbering some 1,000 men, under the command of Major H M Pumfrey, RA, sprang to attention and the National Anthem was played. The service was conducted by the Rev T N Floyd, Vicar of St James.
- We did not go to the service, and nor to the parade through the town afterwards. And nor did many people, it seems. The EP sent a hack along and his report bemoaned the size of the crowd and the lack of enthusiasm. He wrote: ' The people were very sparse in Parade Place and watched the troops with what struck me as apathetic silence, though at the junction with Gloucester Street some few attempted some spasmodic applause, but soon gave it up as none followed their example. On the Esplanade the throng was larger but no more enthusiastic; they might just as well have been watching a parade of German troops for all the enthusiasm they worked up. True, there was a certain amount of clapping and a few cheers but nothing like what there should have been. Is it that the people exhausted all their emotions on VE Day and the subsequent hectic week or so or is it that the people here are so thankful that it is all over that their hearts are too full to cheer?' I don't think it's that at all. Where has he been for the last five years? We did not celebrate VE Day at all. Our war did not end until the day after. And much as I am sure that we are all pleased that the war in the Far East is over, particularly those with sons who have been fighting there, we hardly knew that the conflict had spread that far until our own Liberation. It was not our war. Our's ended when the Germans were kicked out. And I suspect that we will not be celebrating anything on 8 May and 15 August in years to come.
- There have been other more enthusiastic celebrations, however. When the mail steamer Hantonia entered harbour yesterday she was flying the following signals: on the port side ‘Victory’ and on the starboard side ‘Peace 1945’.
- The official end to the war was celebrated yesterday in various parts of the Island with bonfires and fireworks during the hours of darkness. Soon after the Prime Minister’s historic address announcing the end of hostilities, the military in St Helier celebrated in right royal fashion with Verey lights, rockets etc while the local population were not slow to follow suit particularly in the western and northers parishes. Last night saw a repetition but on a somewhat bigger scale with miniature, medium and larger size bonfires. There were rockets, flares, roman candles and squibs to be seen almost on every side. In fact it was difficult to realise where they had all come from. The younger generation were certainly in their element and made the most of their opportunity.
- One of the biggest bonfires was to be seen at La Pouquelaye last night. During the day the neighbours of the district contributed towards this and it was certainly well built. The great moment to light the beacon arrived when dusk fell and the 50 or so children who had been looking forward to the event, were soon cheering, singing and dancing around. Music was provided by means of a radio and fireworks were let off. Tea and sandwiches were provided for the children by Mr C Hope and friends, while the proceedings were also enlivened by Mr Reg Perchard with selections on the mandolin. Midnight sounded the end of the celebrations, which were thoroughly enjoyed by young and old.
- Four Navy motor torpedo boats arrived in St Helier Harbour yesterday afternoon. This morning, at the invitation of the Naval Officer in charge, Jersey, Lieut-Commander H F Breuilly, the Bailiff, HM Solicitor-General, members of the States and their ladies, officials of the Royal Court and the Bishop of Southampton visited the ships and were shown over by officers. The fours ships, which are moored at the Victoria Pier, were thrown open to the public this afternoon from 2 to 6pm, and are due to leave at 10am tomorrow. Four others are expected to arrive tomorrow and they will be open for inspection by the general public from 2 to 6pm and on Sunday also from 2 to 6 pm. They are due to leave on Monday.
- The committee appointed by the States to administer the monetary gifts received from overseas, which fund amounts to just under £6,000, have decided to allocate the money to the following.
- School children who are in need and who have not received help from any other source.
- Invalids and old people recommended by the medical progression as in need of special diet.
- The death of Flying Officer William John Wright, son of John Wright of Charles Street, whose death was reported some time ago, has been something of a mystery. I have now learned from my pal John that his son was killed while flying on active service in Ireland on 7 January 1943. The plane caught fire while in the air and the pilot made a forced landing, but hit a wall. All the occupants of the plane were killed. The funeral took place with full military honours. William was born in St Helier in 1904. He was educated at Victoria College and served in the OTC during the last war.
- We are not the only ones to have suffered during the war. Bert Ouwehand, from the Hague, who left for home some three weeks ago, has written to let his friends in the island know that he has arrived safely after a 17-day trip through France and Belgium. He is full of praise for all those who helped him through difficult times in the island and understandably quite shocked to discover what happened to his homeland during his absence. 'Holland is badly smashed', he writes. 'Nearly 90,000 houses are heavily damaged; in Rotterdam 37,000; in The Hague 8,000; 12,000 in the north and 13,000 in the south of Holland. In Amsterdam 2,122 people died between January and May 1945, through starving and cold. Only in Amsterdam 2,000 people are waiting to be taken to the hospital and 1,300 are very urgent. The British Red Cross did marvellous work with food supplies. Conditions are slowly improving. Clothes and shoes are not yet able to buy, and still no cigarette or tobacco ration, but the food position is getting better every week, thanks to the Allied Forces. We didn't exactly have an easy time here, but it is sobering to hear that for those in the active war zone, life was appalling.
- People who have not driven for over five years, and perhaps have never had any proper training, are turning our roads into death traps with irresponsible and dangerous driving. The worst offenders are youths who would not have been old enough to have a licence before the war and so in consequence have no knowledge of road decency. They are rapidly becoming road hogs of the worst type. One of our neighbours was injured and detained in hospital last night having been knocked down when cycling past the Grand by a motorist zigzagging on the wrong side of the road and impossible to avoid. He knocked Alex down and drove away still on the wrong side, leaving him bleeding profusely. Fortunately this was witnessed by two soldiers, who took him to hospital His bicycle was badly damaged and his clothes ruined with blood and tearing (no small item in these days of coupons). While returning from town I myself saw three young men in three cars on Victoria Avenue, racing to overtake each other. Had there been anything in the way there would, inevitably been an accident. There has already been one little girl killed and innumerable accidents. Couldn’t we have a couple of mobile police solely for road work as in England, for as soon as cars and petrol get easier to obtain, if road behaviour goes on as it has started, God help all pedestrians and we shall assuredly need to enlarge the casualty ward of the hospital.
- Our neighbour Elsie was bemoaning the news that agricultural workers are to have ten extra clothing coupons. Not that she begrudges them this opportunity, but 'what about growing boys?' she asks. She told Doris that she has just bought her son Eric a suit, two pairs of shoes and a raincoat: Where on earth did she find all of these? But says that leaves him six coupons for underwear, shirts, pyjamas and socks, which he badly needs.
- It is being said that there is a likelihood of Liberation stamps being issued in some, if not all, of the countries occupied by Germany. What about Jersey? Surely a few values with different designs could be issued to commemorate this historic event. As regards the benefits to be derived by such an issue, there would be many, First they would bring in revenue by virtue of sales; they would give the Island increased publicity, as these stamps would be sent all over the world and philatelists would want to acquire them for their collections. I trust this opportunity will not be allowed to slip away, and that in the near future we will have the privilege of using our own Liberation stamps.
- Spanish workers in Jersey, exiles from Franco’s country, have not forggotten the men who gave up their lives to free the world from oppression. Yesterday afternoon a contingent of 60, carrying Spanish Republican flags and a banner inscribed ‘Mussolini- - Hitler – Hirohito are finished – Franco when?’ marched from the Burlington to the Cenotaph to place a wreath in memory of fallen anti-Fascists. Accompanying the wreath, which was in Spanish Republican colours, was a board bearing the inscription ‘Ethiopia, 1935; Spain 1936-1939; Czechoslovakia, 1938. World War 1939-1945. In memory of those who fell as victims of the Nazi-Fascist terror.’ The wreath was deposited by Senores Julio and Equissabal, as the exiles stood to attention. The brief little ceremony closed with cries of Viva Espana (Long Live Spain) and Aba Franco (Down with Franco). The contingent then marched to Mont a L’Abbe Strangers’ Cemetery, where a similar service took place at the graves of compatriots who died in the island during the Occupation.
- If they are successful in filling the staff vacancies currently being advertised, I expect that the Income Tax department will soon be hounding anyone, who has been lucky enough to have an income, for their share. They want a technical assistant with accountancy qualifications and income tax experience; a clerk educated to School Certificate standard; a shorthand typist (must be a woman) educated to School Certificate standard and able to write 100 wpm (shorthand) and 40 wpm (typing), and a junior clerk, aged from 15 to 17. Ex-servicemen are to be given preferential consideration for the posts of technical assistant and clerk.
- Doris was more than a little surprised to encounter her friend Olive Amy in King Street this morning. Olive is on a short visit to her native island, taking a break from her very important job as Regional Director of the British Red Cross in Cairo, Egypt. She holds the military rank of colonel, nursed throughout the African campaign and holds the Africa Star. Her husband works at Cairo University. Olive, who arrived on Thursday, is staying with Keith and Eunice Carter, of Farsley, Green Street.
- They are after our best Jersey cows again, and my mate Ernie Alexander, from Beaumont, will be helping. He tells me that Thomas Talbott, of Leighton Buzzard, has acquired the cattle business of the late Walter Wilkins, of Central Farm, Long Marston, Tring, and he has appointed Ernie as his agent. Mr Talbott hopes to pay a visit to the Island as soon as circumstances permit, and no doubt Ernie will have lined up some suitable heifers for export.
- Some people live in hope. The Forte brothers who have a restaurant in Colomberie are trying to recover the wireless part of a Pye Radiogram, which they say was in a packing case which is known to be in the Island two days before the Liberation. They are offering a reward for its return. They are also advertising for the two young men who, during the Occupation, borrowed two telephone receivers, to return them to the restaurant.
- Not everyone shares my view about the relative unimportance of VJ Day, as evidenced by this letter in the paper: Dear Sir, ‘The war is over’ – our hearts were glad when we heard these words spoken by the King on Wednesday evening. With haste and expectancy we went to the Weighbridge the following morning to join in the service of thanksgiving to Almighty God for such a wonderful victory. What was the result? A formal service lasting about 15 minutes, very poor singing, and not a word to be heard from the vast crowd that had gathered. This is not a mere grumble, for surely upon the first day of world peace for ten years our thanksgiving would have been more enthusiastic having with it a ring of sincerity. Would it be possible to hold a great united service of thanksgiving for the Island with representatives of all the churches taking part? This would reveal our gratitude to God and help us to be ready to do our bit in reconstructing the moral order and spiritual life of our people.
- And, perhaps its because there were none for so long, but there are some most unusual letters in the EP this week:
- 'Mr E Bisson, of 5 Vincent Villas, Gloucester Street, is vainly seeking work. With a disabled arm, he is unable to find employment and it trying to live on 24 shillings a week. Can anyone offer him work? He is very anxious that he should be doing something. '
- "‘Woman who is thankful’ pleads with Jersey folk to do their bit to help the cause of peace throughout the world by offering help wherever they can to their fellow Islanders – a room for a returned evacuee or deportee, work for a man willing to work, help a harassed mother with her children. Many little ways in which we could make the world better. "
- Although the weather was anything but favourable – a thick drizzle falling – a large crowd stood on the upper promenade of the Albert Pier on Saturday afternoon to witness the departure of the mail steamer Hantonia for Guernsey and Southampton to wish goodbye to relatives and friends. It was quite a busy scene until after the boat left at 5 o’clock. Besides the civilians travelling there were Lt-Colonel Robinson and over a hundred officers and other ranks of the 620th Regiment, Royal Artillery, a detachment of the Royal Engineers, a party of 48 Spaniards who had been brought here by the Germans for defence work, 25 recruits for the Royal Air Force, besides many Service personnel returning to their respective units of leave.
- Col Robinson, his officers and men were seen off by the Bailiff, Mrs Coutanche, Cecil Harrison, HM Solicitor-General and the Rev T M Floyd, Chaplain to the Forces. Several of the Spanish workers carried traditional mandolins, and one member was the proud possessor of the red, yellow and purple Spanish Republican flag. The following were the recruits for the RAF: R W Parker, C B de la Haye, D Garnier, F E Auffret, S W Quenault, D J Dupays, R O Wood, B S Ahier, R H Picot, C Pitman, R Clements, - Le Monnier, A M Baudains, J A Allo, P J Le Corre, J R Hogan, E Langeard, A W Noel, E G Bewhay, T Vibert, K Kent, F J Coutanche, L Tanguy, K Frain and J J Frain.
- If you believe this, you'll believe anything: Jersey hairdressers have been asked by their hairdressing panel to save all cuttings and sweepings of hair to help a British protein food scheme. The circular states that F (Famine) Food used in Holland and for the starving victims of the Nazi concentration camps is a ‘pre-digested’ protein food which consists essentially of a mixture of amino-acids. An important amino-acid is cystine, derived from human hair. It is if great therapeutic value, especially to victims of certain typed of dermatitis and to nursing mothers to ensure plentiful breast milk to their babies.
- Probably the most callous crime committed by the Germans during the Occupation was the shooting of young Francois Marie Scornet, a native of Ploujean, Finisterre, his only ‘crime’ being that of ardent loyalty to his beloved France and to the cause of the Allies. Sometime in January 1941 Francois Scornet and a party of fellow countrymen decided to leave France in an attempt to reach the English coast, with a view to joining the Free French Forces. Arriving off the coast of Guernsey and mistaking it for the Isle of Wight, they fervently sang the Marseillaise, but were astounded to find that a number of German soldiers awaited their landing. They were arrested and lodged in the Guernsey gaol. They were eventually brought to Jersey and appeared befoe a Military Tribunal. Young Scornet accepted full responsibility for the plot and was treated as the principal offender. He was sentenced to be shot and his companions were condemned to various periods of imprisonment.
- Scornet was taken to St Ouen’s Manor grounds where he courageously faced the firing squad. The Germans declined to allow the body to be taken to a church, so it lay in state in the Cemetery Chalep at Almorah. The interment was attended by five Roman Catholic priests. The body is to be exhumed in the next few days when a special Requiem Mass will be conducted at St Thomas’ Church to which the members of the French colony are being invited, as well as representatives of the civil authorities. A French naval vessel is being sent to convey the remains to Morlaix where the interment will take place in Ploujean Cemetery.
- Progress is being made in the endeavour to obtain better pay and conditions for workers in Jersey through the good offices of the local representative of the Transport and General Workers Union. I hear that as a result of meetings with the Jersey Produce Merchants Association, men working in the merchants’ stores are to obtain substantially better rates of pay. The new rates are a minimum wage of £3 10s weekly for a 48-hour week and a fortnight’s holiday every year with pay. I hear that these rates will come into force in the very near future. They represent a very substantial increase over the old rates and as such will no doubt be welcomed by the men concerned. It is very probable that there will be other increases for other classes of work, for the Union representative is losing no time in getting down to work.
- During the five years of the Occupation a very extensive defensive system was built up and many of the strongpoints, battery sites, etc have more than a passing interest, not only for the resident but for the visitors who we hope to welcome to our shores during the next few years. A number of these will of course become public property, including those built on slipways and other coastal locations, but many of the most interesting have been constructed on private property. Surely it should be possible to acquire some of these, whether by purchase or not, through the generosity of the owners, by a deed of gift. In one particular instance I feel it would be a shame to see the grand coastline involved revert to private ownership. I refer to Noirmont, where a complete coastal battery is located almost on the point itself. The headland is a glorious spot, with a grand view, whether one looks sealand or inland, and it is obviously one part of the Island which should never again be barred to the public. This property should be acquired by the public, perhaps with the assistance of the National Trust for Jersey
- Soon after the Island was liberated, many young men wanting to join the forces registered with the Bailiff’s Office. They were told that as soon as possible a recruiting office would be opened. About five weeks ago this became an accomplished fact and Falles in Beresford Street became the local recruiting office for the Army, ATS, RAF and WAAF. Col Gourlie has revealed to the EP that 95 recruits have passed the medical exam, 40 being attested and sent to England. Of the 55 girls who have come forward so far, 15 had filled up papers for the ATS, ten turned up for examinations and four were finally accepted. The Colonel explained that on passing the medical exam here, men had to undergo two tests in a Selection Group Test. The results of this, together with the medical, enabled him to judge what Corps the volunteer was most suited to join. On arrival in Southampton the recruits are sent to Bodmin in Cornwall, where more tests are undergone and the final placing of the recruit is made. A member of the selection team, Sergeant Smith, says that he was struck by the very high physical standard of the young men presenting themselves for medical examination.
- It's not only us islanders who have noticed that nearly four months after the Liberation we are still so terribly sort of most essential articles. A recent visitor from the mainland has written to the Southern Daily Echo saying that 'it is a crying shame that children are still without a bag of sweets. Also unobtainable are vinegar, pepper, mustard, tinned beans, sardines, herrings and cakes. There is no jam. With regard to the parcels of clothing which we have sent to the Islands, these have had to be purchased. My relatives have paid as much as £1 for a lady’s coat and 25 shillings for a man’s jacket. We were under the impression that these clothes were sent free. Now that the Japanese war is ended, is it too much to ask that the restrictions on travel to the Channel Islands should be lifted and that the holiday season should reopen next spring? At the time of my visit, the Channel Islanders had just tasted their first bacon for five years. Surely it is time better conditions were available to British subjects who have suffered such hardship, and whose loyalty to this country has never wavered, and who are looking to Britain for final restoration?' Well said Madam, and let's hope that somebody in authority will read your letter and take action.
- We have a new Lieut-Governor, so perhaps communications with the British Government will improve and those with the power to do something about our plight will take notice. Sir Arthur Edward Grasett and Lady Grasett, arrived in the Island this morning. They travelled in a Hunt class destroyer, HMS Cattistock as, owing to the weather, it was decided yesterday that flying might not be possible today. An EP reporter and photographer went out in a naval launch which was ordered to pilot the destroyer to her anchorage and to bring the new Lieut-Governor and his party ashore. ‘What a charming Island,’ were the first words Sir Arthur spoke. ‘I have never been here before, but I have heard a lot about it and its people and I am very pleased to be here. There is a great admiration for the people of the Island in England and His Majesty, whom I was with a couple of days ago, expressed to me his interest in Jersey and its people following his visit here, and his admiration at the way they had stood up to the five years of enemy occupation.’
- The small boat in which Denis Vibert escaped from the Island has been brought back and attracted some interest on the pier this morning.
- The railway lines laid by the Germans along Plat Douet and Havre des Pas are a constant danger to cyclists and I hope the authorities will remove them before a serious accident has to be recorded.