Friday, 8 May 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 17

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 some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 17

February, 1945

I am obliged to stay in bed all day, as it is the only way of keeping warm. Father feels the cold very much, and is not at all well. He never goes out, except to play the organ at Church. There, are no buses now, and the roads are so quiet; and besides he has no boots but what let in the water, and his shirts are in rags.

The Commandant has issued an order that no-one must cut down any trees or branches, or pick up bits of wood anywhere, not even on their own property, on pain of imprisonment. The prisons are full of people, for one thing and another.

Arthur Harrison is the latest. The Germans were searching the houses for food at Samares, and found a bag of flour, and because he would not tell the name of the farmer from whom he had bought it, he is to have seven weeks imprisonment. They think nothing of stopping one on the road and taking anything from one's basket. We think they must be getting very short of food, as they are stealing right and left, and will soon be getting out of hand.

A woman living alone on the Portelet Road heard someone trying to get in and opened the window as it was dark, saw a German and tried to shut it again, but he shot her and went off. She was very badly wounded, and could not get help till someone found her next morning; she was taken to hospital where she died soon after.

The electricity is all finished now, and we have no oil or candles, and few matches, so we have to go to bed at seven o'clock. The telephone is also finished, and we feel very cut off, especially as there is no means of getting to town, and most people's cycles are finished, and no repairs to be done.

We are all delighted with our Red Cross parcels, and are to have one every fortnight. I only wish we could get letters from you - it is such a long time since we had any, and are longing for news of you all, and hope you are all safe and well. I hardly dare mention John and Eric, and feel so anxious about them and long for news of their safety.

February 14

All the laundries closed down three months ago, and as there is no soap, no-one will take any washing, and so we have to wash what we can at home without soap, and you can imagine the colour of the clothes, and the state everything is in, no cleaning materials of any sort. Most people's hands are ingrained with dirt and look awful, especially if they have chilblains. We hear the Red Cross ship came in yesterday with parcels, but no flour, which we had hoped for, the. Germans had taken all ours, and as our ration of bread was cut from four lbs. each per week to two lbs. and it will all be finished the end of this week, we certainly should starve if it were not for our parcels.

The Farmers are usually so busy at this time of the year, planting potatoes, but those who have any are afraid to, as .the Germans dig them up to boil and eat, as they are half-starved, look awful, dirty and ragged. We think they will be obliged to surrender soon, as their food must be almost finished, and they cannot steal any more from us.

February 20

Such a lovely day, quite like Spring, and the daffodils are coming out in the garden, and the shrubs are budding. I am sitting in the sun parlour with the door open.

I have not told you about all the young fellows who have tried to escape from the Island. It started last Autumn, and several got away in a boat intending to make for France, and eventually England, but we have never heard if they arrived safely. A great many were wrecked and drowned and their bodies washed up round the coast.

Some were rescued and brought back and put in prison for the duration. Young Killer managed to escape from prison and got away by boat. Another got away and is hiding somewhere in Jersey, and as the Germans cannot find him they have arrested his Mother and put her in prison, hoping by so doing he would give himself up.

March 15

It is our dear John's birthday to-day, and he is twenty-five. It does not seem possible that it is so long since his dear little Mother died, and I brought John. a baby of three weeks old, back to Jersey, and have brought him up and loved him as my own boy, and he has been so good and sweet tome always.

We had a Red Cross letter from him last week and were delighted to hear he was well, but it was sent off a year ago, and so does not relieve my present anxiety, for so much has happened in the last twelve months.

Oh, how we long for this terrible war to be cheerful. over. The news is good and we are trying to keep cheerful.

Our monthly parcels are a Godsend to us, and we are living quite well now we have them. The last ship brought flour, as we had been quite it. without bread for three weeks and how we missed We are enjoying the white bread after five years of brown.

Nothing very exciting has happened, except that the "Palace Hotel" was blown up the other day, by the sailors who are at enmity with the Army. A lot of Germans were killed, and many wounded are in Hospital. The Palace was burnt to the ground. We even felt the shock here, and many houses had windows and doors blown in.

We had to put our clocks on an hour two weeks ago, so are an hour ahead of you, but we are glad of the extra hour of daylight, and so do not have to go to bed quite so early.

I quite forgot to mention an interesting little episode which happened during the fuel shortage. Jennifer heard her Mother say how we were almost without fuel, and without saying anything about it, she went out into the fields and hedgerows, and picked up about a sack full of bits of kindling wood - in spite of the German order that it was a punishable offence to do so.

When she got it home she was told that there was no transport to get it here. However, the next day Jennifer appeared here and said, "Oh, I have just brought, you a sack of wood, Grannie". On enquiry how she had come, she calmly said "I walked". It appears that she started from here with the sack tied to her cycle and got as far as West Park, where she had a puncture, and then trudged along that long dreary St Aubin's road and up St Aubin's hill pushing bike and wood all the way:

I was simply horrified, and told her how I appreciated what she had done, but she must never attempt such a thing again, for apart from knocking herself up, she might have been stopped by the Germans, and got into trouble over it. She said on leaving that she would get the puncture mended when she got to town, but found the shops already closed, and actually had to walk all the way home from here.

I think Dulcie kept her in bed the next day, and she was none the worse for her long trail. But what an example of endurance and determination she showed!

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