Monday, 20 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 10

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.

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 10

December 22, 1943

I have not told you that we have a "baby grand" piano. It belongs to the Parsonage at St Aubin's, and, as the Vicar evacuated, Mr Balleine said we might borrow it. You can. imagine what a pleasure it is to have some music especially since we had to give up our wireless. Both Nancy and Jennifer play and sing so nicely,

We were to have gone to Les Vagues on Boxing Day, and Frank was going to hire a car for us, but the Commandant would not allow any cars out for the holidays,, so we are going in the New Year.

One afternoon a little while ago, we heard some very. sharp and heavy shooting quite close, but we did not know till afterwards what had happened.

If we had only -one across the road, and got on the bank, we should have had a front seat view of a wonderful sight, There was a convoy of ships passing St Brelade's Bay, and a flight of eight RAF planes came over, dropped bombs and machine gunned tlne ships, sunk two and set another on fire. It was all over in a few minutes and hundreds of Germans were drowned.

Last week Gertrude and Wilfrid came to spend a day with us. Father made some lovely bean rissoles and we had quite a nice lunch. Wilfrid brought his flute and the two men spent most of the afternoon at the piano playing and singing.

Last Saturday, Jim came and brought a few pounds of white flour, which one cannot get except by black market, and it is such a treat to have some.

Dorothy came after lunch in pouring rain, to bring me a present from Mrs Pearce, such a beautiful foot muff, which she had made, in ruby velvet lined with fur, and trimmed with skunk. I don't know why she should give me such a lovely present, and I feel quite overwhelmed with it. Dorothy also brought a pudding and some jam from Auntie Flo.

December 23

This morning a German came to the door and asked to see Mr Dupre. I was rather nervous, as, generally when they came like that, it is to arrest someone, or to look at the house, but he was quite harmless and wanted Father to play the organ for them at St Aubin's Church on Christmas Day, an hour before our own service. He was quite a young clergyman, and Father consented. It would not be prudent to refuse, as one would very likely be on their Black List at once.

December 27

Christmas is over once more, and I would hardly believe it was Christmas Day until Father played some carols before he went to Church. We were quite alone, and had a small piece of pork for dinner in the evening, which was a bit of black market, and cost a pretty penny. Mrs Le Neveu sent us a fowl as usual, and we are having that next Tuesday, as we are expecting Percy for the day. Flo was to have come as well, but is not well enough to do so - we are very disappointed, for it had been a long-standing engagement.

They are all spending Christmas at Holmhurst with Harold and Jim as well, and I hear they are having a lovely one.

New Year's Day, January 1, 1943

We have had a party today, Father invited all his young choir boys and girls to come and sing their Christmas carols to me, just a dozen of them, and we gave them tea. I managed to make a cake, and Father made a lot of chocolate biscuits, and we gave them bread and butter. jam and potted meat, which they seemed to enjoy very much. We used three pounds of bread and a quart of milk, and so had to economise the rest of the week. They sang beautifully and I did enjoy it all, but feel very tired now. January 6

We heard today that a boat was sunk last night, just off Portelet; there were three hundred and fifty Germans on board, and only seventy saved. It was a very dark night, and they struck a rock and sank in a few minutes, as they had a cargo of cement on board. They are using the Star Hotel as a mortuary - I suppose they will all be buried at St Brelade's churchyard.

January 8

We spent yesterday at Les Vagues; Frank sent a lovely comfy car for me, and Father came on his cycle, as he wanted it for getting back home today. I broke my journey at Samares to see Auntie Flo, who I am sorry to say has been ill with bladder trouble, and had to stay in bed and keep warm, and you may be sure that she has had the best attention from Dr and Dorothy. I quite envy Flo having a daughter at home. We all hope she will soon be quite well again, but she will have to be very careful. She and I are getting to be quite old ladies, but I don't feel like one.

We had a very warm welcome from all at Les Vagues, and the dinner was simply lovely, just like pre-war. We had roast chicken with all the etceteras except hang and sausages, then a wonderful mock plum pudding which Nancy had made, and a room. rich trifle, and coffee afterwards in the sitting room.

Nancy gave me a pair of mitten gloves which she had made, the backs were rabbit skin and the inner part was knitted. They are just what I wanted, as I cannot get proper gloves on. my hands being so crippled. Jennifer gave me a bottle of lavender water, which I am very fond of, and Dulcie gave me a lovely silk scarf and hankie.

We were a big party for tea, as Dulcie had invited Gertrude and Wilfrid and Jim and Harold. We had a very fine tea.

Jim had very kindly asked me to spend a long weekend with them, and I am now at " The Little White House ". I am being thoroughly spoilt here, a fire in my bedroom, and waited on hand and foot, I don't like giving so much trouble, but Jim insists on doing it, and I must say I can stand a lot of spoiling.

Father spent the night at Uncle Wilfrid's and expect they sat up talking nearly all night. He was going home today and fears he will be very quiet and lonely. It is such a nice change for me, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

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