Wednesday, 1 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 1

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

The Pilot at that time was facing major financial problems, and printing this diary helped to win back readers.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 1
By Mrs G Luce de Pre

July 9, 1940

My darling children,

As I cannot write an ordinary letter to each one of you - I am sending this to you all in the form of a diary, hoping it will reach you one day.

So much has happened since I last saw any of you and my heart feels very full and sad at times -wondering where you all are and praying you are all well and safe.

I received Babbo's last letter of June 26 which was a great comfort to me and Father. I answered it the same day - but fear it never arrived, for that was the day of the "Air Raid" and the last boat to leave Jersey left the same day.

It was about seven o'clock when Father and I were sitting in the garden and suddenly saw that Guernsey was being bombed - great volumes of smoke pouring out and sounds of gun fire. A few minutes later two German planes swooped over our headland and right over our house, machine gun firing all the time and making an awful row. Three bombers came close behind but did not drop any bombs. We hadn't time to get inside and fortunately no bullets fell on us and they were soon out of sight;

In a few minutes we heard bombs dropping on St Helier harbour and saw smoke rising from the hotels and warehouses which had been set on fire - there was a lot of damage done and several people killed. After that they bombed La Rocque harbour and Harold's "Little White House" was wrecked, fortunately the people were out - but four neighbours were killed. Dulcie and the children were on their way to see us but did not get any further than Samares, when the planes appeared firing all the time they got out of the car and sheltered under a hedge until they passed, and thought it wiser to turn round and go home.

The last mail boat to leave was in Guernsey harbour when the raid started, but she got away safely - M. and Vi. were on board and lots of people we know, and am sure they must have been very alarmed.

All this happened on the Friday Saturday and Sunday were quiet, except for occasional air raid warnings - but on Monday week the Germans arrived and we began to wonder what was going to happen to us all.

At noon there was a proclamation in the Square from the German Commandent,. giving out orders, which we thought quite reasonable - the worst being that we are not allowed to listen-in to any British news and of course that is very hard, as we do not know what is happening in England. Another order was to put all clocks back on one hour to make it the same time as in Germany - so now we are two hours ahead of the sun and l go to bed by day-light at eleven o'clock-

I hear that the town is full of people shopping - especially boot and shoe shops - the crowds are so great that they have to keep shutting the doors - also that the Germans are buying great quantities of goods, especially silk stockings and dress materials - they have also commandeered great quantities of food and so now we are severely rationed, only three-quarters of a pound of meat each person per week, 4-oz. of sugar, quarter of a pound of butter and 2-oz. of margarine, 4-oz. of tea.

All private cars have been stopped and no public cars to be hired - the trades people cannot deliver outside the town, and we have to get our goods from La Moie - paraffin is very scarce and we are only allowed ½ gal. a week.

Another order was that all public buildings, shops and houses, should display a white flag and you may imagine we did not relish doing that, but hoped we should soon be able to put up the Union Jack.

July 12

I had not seen any German soldiers about until yesterday, as I do not go further than the garden and was quite anxious to see one, but not in the way I did eventually.

Father had gone out and I was having a nap in the lounge, when there came a knock at the front door, which was open I called out "Come in", thinking it was the Chadwicks, and to my horror, in walked a German soldier I felt very frightened and wished Father were here - he had a dog with him like Nick and on a lead and began talking and waving his hands about. I kept saying "What do you want?", till at last he pointed to one of the pictures and I found he wanted a bit of string to tie up the dog's collar. He was so pleased to have made me understand and was very profuse in his thanks and saluted very smartly, so now when he passes he waves his hand to me!

There are a lot of them staying at the Chalet and the Pavilion and they have anti-aircraft guns all over the place. Of course they have taken possession of the Air Port and we see thirty or forty planes at a time coming over our headland, always flying low and such wicked looking machines -- I wish they wouldn't fly right over our house though.

The Germans are occupying lots of houses which have been abandoned, Samares Manor and ady Trent's and lots of smaller ones. They have also commandeered all private cars up to 20 H.P. and painted them grey.

July 16

We were told on the "Evening Post" last night that we may now listen to anything on the Wireless and of course we are very pleased and shall feel more in touch with the world and know how things are going.

The last letter I wrote to Babbo came back to me yesterday, opened of course, but there was nothing dangerous in it, only I am so sorry it was too late for the last boat.

July 29

Since writing the above, I have had a little change - I was anxious to go to town, but there were no buses came down here, except 8.5 a.m. and 7.5 p.m.- so I took the 7.5 to town on Thursday and slept two nights at Dulcie's. There was no bus out to Pontac at that hour, so she ordered a one horse chaise to meet me at the Post Office - I wish you could have seen me - it was a shabby little Victoria with an old crock of a horse, and a coachman about ninety, with a green coat and top hat. I felt just like Queen Victoria and caused much amusement to all we met on the road, and it took forty minutes to get to Pontac, and was there greeted with more laughter and fun.

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