Thursday, 16 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 9

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 some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 9

August 30, 1942

As you see, I am now staying at Holmhurst. Queenie very kindly invited me, as Flo, Percy and Dorothy are here for a week. It's so lovely to be all together again, and we are such a happy party. Percy sent his van for me yesterday, and today being Sunday, Father came to lunch.

We have been able to borrow a chair, and so I have been able to get about a little. I went to have tea with Auntie Annie one day, and twice to town, which really looks awful; all the big shop windows are boarded up, and nothing to buy except a few second-hand goods: I tried to get a cigarette lighter for Father's birthday, but there wasn't one to be had anywhere, nor even a watch.

September 9

This is the 47th anniversary of our wedding-day, so Father and I have celebrated by going out to lunch at the Marina Cafe at Portelet; not much of a lunch, but we enjoyed the outing and the little change.

September 16

This is a very sad day for Jersey, and indeed for all the Channel Islands. Yesterday an order came direct from Berlin that all English people between 16 and 70 not born in the Channel Islands would be taken to Germany, and we think this is a reprisal for all the bombing done by the R.A.F. in Germany; and that all who are taken from here will be placed in a district likely to be badly bombed. I cannot tell you of the sorrow and indignation of the whole Island, for there has been nothing here to warrant such an action.

The worst of it is, an Englishman has to take all his family with him, and there are so many who have little children. They only had twenty-four hours' notice, and were only allowed to take. a small suitcase and one blanket, a knife and fork, spoon and small bowl for food, and not more than £1. A great many English girls were married today to Jersey boys in order to remain here.

Father went to town this afternoon, and said it was a pitiful sight to see little families walking to town and to the boat. No one was allowed on the Pier to see them off, and the whole place was alive with German guards. They even had machine-guns on the route in case of a rebellion, but what would have been the use ? Nothing could be done -- one simply has to obey. Six hundred left today and it is estimated there will be three thousand more. So many of our friends have to go; we are very thankful that many evacuated before this.

September 23

A great many more have gone since the first lot, and our friends the Cradwicks were supposed to go and had packed up and left their home and gone to the Pier, when fortunately for them the two boats were full up, and quite a number of people were left and told they could go home as no more were wanted.

You can imagine the joy they felt to be free again - even though so many had broken up their homes, and came back to empty houses late at night, but the neighbours were very kind and helped all they could.

We were delighted that the Cradwicks did not go, and they came to see us the next day, but our poor little Daisy Cracknell had to go with her husband, and I hear she was so wonderfully brave over it.

October 19

In the midst of all this terrible business we have had our share of trouble and trial. The death of our darling Babbo has been a shattering blow to us all, and I cannot realize that it is true. Father feels it terribly, too, and has been so sweet and comforting to me. I don't know what I should have done without him. We have had heaps of letters of sympathy, which have also helped, but I feel heart-broken, and longing so for you all to come home again, but my darling Babbo will never come again. I am not at all brave, but cry and cry.

The day before this news came, I was so happy, as we had had three Red Cross letters, one from Emmie, one from Doreen and one from Babbo, in which she said her health was poor and that she had received no news from home.

Since then I have felt it so that she never received my letter after she left Jersey, and I fear that she fretted over it. It is so awful not to know any details, and we are just longing for the next batch of letters to come. Poor Dick ! What a blow for him ! for I know how he loved her, and how awful he will feel that she was taken when he was not with her, and the children too my heart aches for them, and am wondering what has been done about them. To think all this happened over four months before we heard of it. When will this dreadful war be over, and when shall we be able to get proper letters from you ?

November 28

I have not had the heart to write lately, but must try and remember all that has happened. Everything is very quiet here, and a lot of soldiers have gone away -- but the Russians are a trial - poor things; they are half starved and very badly treated by the Germans, and so they come round begging and stealing when they get a chance. We are not allowed to give them food, and it's so distressing to have to refuse them.

There have been such a lot of robberies lately, and the other night a Russian got into a house, and the owner attacked him and was killed by the Russian, and the man's sister also badly hurt. We have to keep all the doors locked, and if I am alone I don't open to any Russians. There is still a lot of Black Market, and people are paying terrific prices; for instance, £6 for one pound of tea,£1for a pound of sugar, 15/- a lb.for pork,3/- a lb. for beans, £1 for lb. of butter, and so on.

December 9

We have had two Red Cross letters today, one from Emmie saying Ivan and Douglas both have a son. Also one from Melville sympathizing about Babbo. Dorothy rang up today, they had one from Olive, and that Kathleen has a son. We are so pleased that all is over and well, and wonder what they will call him.

We still do not know where Kathleen is living -- Dulcie has put the announcement of the birth as "Somewhere in Great Britain !". 

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