Monday, 11 August 2014

Eternal Silence all around me

Eternal Silence all around me
Like a dream I hear the water’s rush
Sitting by the ocean
I listen to the waves

Clear is this night of sparkling stars
The golden moon is playing with the rising tide
Come get me, distant loneliness
The world of me around me is at rest

The water murmurs at my homeland
Leads me to my parents’ house
Images of childhood come to shore
Rising from the darkest depths

Silent night, now you have gone
I thank you for your divine power
You engulfed my thoughts
And brought a piece of home to Jersey

Engelbert Hoppe, 1944

Engelbert Hoppe was stationed in Jersey during the German Occupation in charge of the bunker at Corbiere point – this is the M19 automatic fortress mortar bunker (a Type 633) and the interconnected Sechsschartenturm heavy machine gun turret bunker (a Type 634).

He describes when he was posted to Jersey, first seeing the lighthouse, in an interview with Malcolm Amy:

(for the full interview, well worth readying, see

“I got given a small map and was off on my way to the “Kraehennest”, I liked the surroundings, some cows were peacefully grazing tied to pegs. I had never seen this before. When approaching the coast I first saw the Sechsschartenturm (a mistake in the landscape like so many others I saw later). When walking on all of a sudden I was fascinated by a wonderful seascape, “Corbiere Lighthouse”. This wonderful sight made me stop for a while to take a deep breath, smelling and tasting the sea air. Heading down the hill I saw the “Corbiere Teahouse” and a bunker on the left spoiling the view of the lighthouse. Then there were two bunkers on my right, the lower one being my destination. There were two or three soldiers around who seemed to know that I was coming and I was shown in to the M19 mortar bunker. When entering there was a gas lock on the right and further down the stairs was a standby room. There were nine bunk beds suspended by chains in tiers of three, a locker, a round stove, a chest of draws, a rifle rack and some shelves. “

There’s a wonderful story about how they decided food was more important than the weapons in the days after the Normandy invasion:

“One night two of the crew returned with two buckets full of potatoes and a big bag full of tomatoes. Nobody asked where they got them from, the main thing was to make them disappear because the "Chain Dogs" were often around. Karl suggested empting an ammunition box of 5cm mortars, one of those that were sealed and only to be opened with the express orders of higher command. Karl manipulated the lead seal and emptied out the mortars and then filled the box with the potatoes and replaced the seal. However an inspection took place not long after and the Oberst in charge pointed to me and demanded to know, “You, what is in those crates?”. I immediately replied “Ammunition for the Automatic Mortar Herr Oberst”, “Open them!”, “No Herr Oberst, not without an express order”, “Your lucky! That's the answer I wanted to hear” and the potatoes were peacefully sleeping!”

And there is another wonderful story about the end of the war

“I stayed at the La Corbiere bunkers with two of the crew to do some little jobs, then I went to Action Post Height 201 and my shed in the ditch to rest. The next morning I made my way back to La Corbiere to say farewell to the Le Brocqs and the schoolmaster. The last song I shared with him was “Auld Lang Syne!”. Coming down the hill I saw Mr Le Brocq hoisting the Union Jack. On seeing me he hesitated for a moment, but I said “Don’t you stop. I like that flag much better than the bloody swastika”. I left some books and photos with them and collected some items from the M19 bunker as a kind of souvenir (where are those photos now?). Mrs Le Brocq gave me a hug and Mr Le Brocq patted me on my shoulder, and saying I would be back someday I was off, tears in my eyes, waving until I was over the hill.”

The BBC has a report of when Mr Hoppe returned in 2008:

“A former member of the German occupying forces has been speaking to school children about his experiences. Engelbert Hoppe says returning to the island has been a moving experience. He'll be taking part in the Channel Islands Occupation Society's open day at Noirmont. During his visit, he gave a talk at La Moye school. He told us "It was so great and moving and at the end of my talk and giving all the answers the kids ask was that we must strive for peace and understanding.

"They gave me a big hand these kids and I was moved to tears. I'm not ashamed of it." Engelbert told us that Liberation Day means a lot to him. He says he felt he was being Liberated at the same time as Jersey.

Explaining that "because this feeling of being liberated too is still great and overwhelming and this is a decisive experience of my life.

"Having been here during the war, having gone through hardship and sufferings, having seen these Jersey people, innocent people suffering because a tyrant tried to rule the world."

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