Friday, 9 May 2014

Occupation Address by Canon Kenneth Preston

This is from "The Pilot" of 1985, when the liberation services were not held by the Liberation sculpture, but in the Howard Davis Park. While I like the amphitheatre effect of Liberation square, and the sculpture, I can't help feeling that the Howard Davis Park probably meant a more directly accessible commemoration for everyone.

By the way, if anyone remembers Canon Preston, I would very much like to hear your memories of him. Born 11 May 1916, in 1940, he was a 24 year old living at  Ronceville, St Clement's Road, St Saviour. His full name is  Percival Kenneth Preston.

Wishing all my readers a very peaceful and joyful Liberation day.
 
Occupation Address by Canon Kenneth Preston
 
Canon Kenneth Preston was in Jersey as a Curate during the Occupation, returned to give the Address at the Liberation Service in Howard Davis Park on Thursday, May 9th, 1985.
 
First I must borrow some words from Shakespeare to express what I am feeling at this moment: "I can no other answer make but thanks and thanks and ever thanks" to those responsible for inviting my wife and myself to come and share in this Festival of liberation: "Mercie bein des.fais de nous ave invite a chulte celebration": I hope that has said something similar in good Jersey Norman French, the Jersey language. If it hasn't then my friends, Dr Osmont and Mr Frank Le Maitre have conspired to have me on!
 
Liberated
 
On May 9th, 1945 we were 'liberated, and I think it is worth recalling for a moment, some of the things we were liberated from: from hunger certainly. We were very hungry, weren't we? Although by the time of the liberation that hunger had been a little alleviated by the arrival of the Red Cross ship Vega. I remember that arrival so well. I remember, too, baptising in the Town Church a baby called Vega. I've often wondered what happened to Vega. I don't suppose by any chance Vega is in the Park this afternoon, is she? If she is will she wave a hand? Is that Vega? Someone waved a hand. Is that Vega? If that's Vega I would very much like to meet you afterwards, if for no other reason than to apologise for letting everyone in the Island know exactly how old you are!
 
We were liberated from hunger. We were also liberated from the cruel pain of separation and no communication with those we loved outside the Island. - nothing at all for the first year and_ afterwards twenty-five words, I believe, including name and address, in a. Red Cross Message once every three months.
 
We were liberated from all the restrictions imposed by the Occupying Power - having to be in at Curfew - was that eight o'clock in the winter? We were liberated from the misery of living with the distrust of neighbour for neighbour. But above all we were liberated from the fear, from the terror of the Gestapo. Those were the days when you didn't know which of your friends would be picked up next or whether it would be yourself.
 
Those were the days when to listen to the radio - wireless in those days - to pass on views, the penalty for that was death in a concentration camp. I know that Harold Le Druillenec came back, but his sister, Mrs Gould didn't. That very brave woman who also sheltered an escaped prisoner of war and saved his life at the cost of her own in the gas chambers of Ravensbruck. Not did Canon Cohn come back and those arrested with him at St Saviour. Nor, I believe, did any of the others. But enough! I began with a quotation from Twelfth Night. Now one from the Tempest: "Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that's gone".
 
And now I think, it is time for me to take a text. I suppose you are thinking Oh Dear! Is he really only just beginning? I was taught in Jersey always to choose a good text, because if the rest of what I had to say was rubbish people would have at least one thing worth remembering. So here is the text, from Ephesians:
 
In Christ our Release is Secured
 
When I look back at our liberation one thing strikes me above all, apart from the relief of it, and that is that we were unable to liberate ourselves. Yes, I know that some brave and adventurous young men did liberate themselves by escaping by boat, but that was only possible because the French coast had already been liberated. No, if we were to be freed, that had to be achieved from the outside.
 
That seems to me to figure exactly the human condition. To begin to know ourselves at all is to realise that we are in bondage within, in bondage to all kinds of evils: to fears, anxieties, envies, hatreds, jealousies, self importance, obsessions, the dread of dying - I think the modem word for all this is "hang-ups". Our island within is occupied by tormentors and we cannot free ourselves. We are powerless of ourselves to help ourselves. If we are to be liberated it can only be by the grace of Christ reaching right down to the bottom of our souls and setting us free. Thank God, that the experience of Christians throughout the ages and today is that the Spirit of Christ descends to the deepest parts within us and liberates us from the bondage within.
 
Our liberation on May 9th, 1945 was a one-off, once-for-all event. But like many one-off events, getting married, for example, it. is just the beginning of a continual process. For many of us, for all of us, I expect, there has been the need and maybe still. is, to be liberated from the effects of the Occupation on our minds: memories that are very painful, anger, resentment, bitterness, wounds that just will not heal, inability to forgive and to be reconciled- it is in Christ that our release is secured. He will, if we will but let him, descend into any hell inside which the Occupation has left and there heal the memories, calm the anger, bind the wounds and free us to forgive and to be reconciled.
 
Blessed is that man who is so liberated within that he can give and accept forgiveness and be truly reconciled. If today we are released into true forgiveness and reconciliation, our joy in this Festival of Liberation will be of a wholly different order.
 
We who now rejoice and give thanks for our liberation forty years ago, surely can see clearly one thing, that we have the responsibility to do whatever we can in our turn to liberate others. What others? Now I don't know anything about Jersey nowadays.
 
But unless Jersey is quite different from, I suppose, every other part of the world, there will be even here some who need to be liberated from poverty, from loneliness and isolation, from a sense of failure and rejection, from social injustice.
 
And there are those millions in all parts of the world who are waiting to be liberated from terrifying hunger or from an iron tyranny. They are as likely to be as powerless to help themselves and to liberate themselves as we were. If they are to be liberated, their liberations must be effected by others. Those who effected our liberation did not do so without cost to themselves, and a very high cost too. And it is right that we should remember that on this day. But that means that if we are, in our turn, to do anything towards the liberation of others, be it by regular prayer, by regular giving, by any act that is right and possible for us, then we must be ready for it to cost us dear too.
 
I would like to end -- No, don't yet heave a sigh of relief; I haven't quite got there but I'm coming on - I would like to end by speaking about the Occupation quite differently. I quoted from Shakespeare "Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that's gone". But it wasn't all heaviness, was it? There were good things in it too: the heroism of those who listened to the radio and kept our spirits up by letting us know what was going on; the support people gave to one another; the warmth in the community; the closeness; the friendship; the sharing of things that were scarce; and all the trust -yes, I know that earlier I spoke of distrust, but there was a great deal of trust too, and in the circumstances that trust was little short of miraculous. Sometimes I find myself saying "If only things could be like that now!"
 
And now may I for a brief moment use this opportunity to express a personal note of gratitude. I came here as a young curate - a pale young curate? - but I was imbued with. the high ideal of ministering to others. I assure you that the ministering was all in the other direction. So many Jersey people - I thank God for them - so many Jersey people ministered to me with their support,. their friend-ship, their loving care and they shared with me the little they had. Without such ministering I doubt if I should have survived in body, I probably shouldn't have survived in mind, and God alone knows whether I should have survived in spirit. I should like to take this opportunity not only of expressing publicly my gratitude to so many in Jersey but also to set on record the kind of ministering one to another that was so evident during the time of the Occupation.
 
Yes, there were many good things in living in those days and in the end the good things outweigh the bad. For the things of which I have spoken, befriending, neighbourliness, support, loving care, they are more important than anything else in life. So I thank God for all the good things in the Occupation; I thank God for our liberation; and I thank God that there is still some time left to us to do what we can towards the liberation of others.

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