Saturday, 9 May 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 18

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.

James Maclaren has dug out some records on Mrs Luce, and her family has also been in touch, so there will be a few further instalments about her, filling in some background next week. I may even have some photos of her.

Liberation day was a day to rejoice, but unlike every other diary I have read from people who were here, there is a bitterweet coda - Mrs Luce has relations still serving in the forces - in the Far East. The war against Japan was still to be won.

I suspect this diary 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. This is the final instalment - including Liberation Day!

An Occupation Diary – Part 18

March 24,1945

The news is so good to-day that Father act so excited, and played and sang all the old "War Songs" with the window open too, and didn't care if the Germans heard or not!

There are all sorts of rumours going round today; one is that all cycles must be off the road by six o'clock, and that "Curfew" is at eight. The man at present in command is very unpleasant, and says he will soon take the smile off the Jersey people's faces, which makes the Jersey Man smile more than ever.

Some time ago I was sitting in the Sun Parlour by the window reading, when someone knocked on the window, and I saw it was a very unpleasant German, who beckoned to me to come out - but I just shook my head and said "No, go away", and he tried to open the door, but fortunately it was locked. He shook it and pushed, but it held. I was so afraid he would try the front or back doors, but he went off at last. I was simply petrified with fear, as I was quite alone and not a soul about, and I could not have moved to call anyone. I do not think he would have done any harm, and only wanted some bread or something to eat. Anyhow I do not like to be alone in the house, but have to be when Father goes to Church or Practice.

There has been so much excitement lately that I have neglected my diary, and the news was so promising.

May 8

We expected the end any day, and so it went on, our hopes rising and falling, till at long last the welcome news came that we were FREE! Father rushed outside and put up the Flag, while I stayed indoors and had a good cry, much to my disgust, and soon recovered, and would like to have gone out and shouted the news to passers-by!

However, I managed to contain myself, and in the evening several neighbours came in to hear the news, as we were the only ones to have a set round here. It was a very happy gathering, although we had nothing to celebrate with.

There was great excitement in town, but we did not see anything, as there were still no buses, and most people either walked or got lifts in vans, which suddenly appeared, and the excitement and noise seemed to go on all night.

Since then we have had the joy of receiving letters from all our dear ones, and have just had the second Air Mail from John, full of joy at our release.

I have been answering letters every day, but they appear to take such a long time to get there, and I have had several telegrams, asking for news and "why don't you write?" I have also had one from Daisy Coy to-day. She was deported to Germany with her husband nearly three years ago, and got back to England last September. She hopes to get back to Jersey as soon as permitted, and shall then hear all her experiences.

Father has just brought me a punnet of most lovely strawberries which he saw for sale, and so I had a fine treat, as those in the garden have done nothing.

We have heard on the wireless that the King and Queen are visiting the Channel Islands on June 6th. We have only just taken down the flags of Victory, and shall have to put them up again. What excitement there will be!

June 9

Well, the excitement is over, the King and Queen have come and gone, and i did not see anything but the planes. We were hoping they would pass here on their drive round the Island, but they went by the inner road. I was so disappointed, and was not well enough to go out in my chair.

Frank is using Auntie Emmie's car for his work, and they all came out to see us during the evening, and told us all about the Royal visit.

They had the pleasure of entertaining Howard Marshall to dinner the previous evening, and we listened to his broadcast at noon to-day.

Letters have been pouring in every day, and I had thirteen on Monday, and now have a great deal of writing to do. So now there is no need for me to continue this Journal, as you are getting regular letters from me and other relatives, It has given me comfort and pleasure to be talking to you on paper, and I hope you will enjoy reading it. Always your very loving Father and Mother.

Conclusion - May 9

Well, the Occupation is over at last! We had been hoping for Liberation for many months, but had made up our minds that we should have the Germans here till September - at least, Frank said September - I said June. However, all of a sudden it seemed that things were being speeded up - as we say in Jersey "The news were good"! In very truth the news were good - too good to be true. It all seems like a dream now - the King's speech, Mr Churchill's speech, the arrival of the British Troops, and the surrender of the Nazis . Oh! Happy Day! The crying and laughing, the bonfires and the fireworks! Then seeing some of our own boys back home.

Dear old Derek! Looking so well. I was very proud to be kissed in the Royal Square by a Captain of the Coldstream Guards! We shall never forget the thrill of seeing British troops march into our town, as they poured out of the 'Ducks". Did we shout and yell that day! It was almost too much to bear, and we felt the reaction for weeks.

After months of privation., our plight was soon relieved by stores unloaded from those wonderful Ducks and other landing craft. Then, after several days, we were allowed to send special postcards to England, and soon we were in touch again with most of our dear ones. We kept hard at it for many weeks, writing to our many friends and relatives, all of whom showered us with so many kindnesses. Then the 'phone services were renewed, and later, trunk calls, the telegraph service, bus services, laundries, electricity and GAS. What a boon to so many women! And all the time food and soap pouring in!

All our own special boys - nephews, brothers-in law and cousins, have survived the war, but we were sad to hear that dear old Bill - Hilda Walker - has been drowned last year. Now we are all longing to meet again - "to renew the fellowship of sight and hand" as the Rev Labey used to say in his prayer for absent friends, a prayer which included the beautiful words "and may no shadow come between them and us to divide our hearts".

Finally, we long for the end of the War in the Far East, where Eric Bennett, Michael Simon, and probably other relations are serving; and the end which we hope for, for the release of all Prisoners of-War and internees.

Margaret Major's son, Patrick, is a prisoner in Japanese hands.

I started the Occupation by putting up a white flag and singing "God Save the King"!

Let us hope that the Union Jack will soon be flying and everyone will be singing GOD SAVE THE KING!

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