Thursday, 15 October 2015

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church - Part 3

German Ossuary at Huisnes-sur-Mer in Normandy

From the pages of "The Pilot", in 1991, comes the final article about the German cemetery in St Brelade's Church.

Parts 1 and 2 can be read here...

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church during the Second World War  - Part 3
By Michael Halliwell and David Ling

The third and final part of a serialisation of the booklet compiled by David Ling and the Rev Michael Halliwell on the Occupation and how it affected the Church of St Brelade.

During the First World War Jersey was host to a number of prisoners-of-war captured on the Continent. Those that died in captivity were buried in the cemetery at St Brelade's Church so it was natural in a way that, following the invasion of the Island by forces of the Third Reich in 1940, that St Brelade's Cemetery should be chosen as the burial ground for those who should fall in the line of duty.

Following the cessation of hostilities and the Liberation, administration of the German burial ground passed to the Imperial War Graves Commission. in the late 1950's agreement was reached between the War Grave Commissions of all affected nations to the repatriation or reburial in dedicated war graves of those currently interred on foreign soil. The Bailiff, Lord Coutanche, gave his permission for the exhumations to take place in July 1961 which prompted a reply from the German Commission a month later:


The German War Graves Commission wrote on 14th August 1961 to the Bailiff, Lord Coutanche:

"Dear Sir,

You were kind enough to agree to our beginning the removal of German war dead from the Isle of Jersey during the second half of October this year and, as you will note from our letter of 8th August 1961, the number of German war dead to be exhumed in the Isle of Jersey was increased to 347. Owing to the increase of the exhumations it will be necessary to increase the number of the service-personnel accordingly.

Your kind granting a permit of residence and employment for the exhumers would be appreciated very much."

German Charnel House at Mont de Huisnes, Manche, Normandy

This marked the construction of the first German tomb of its kind ever to have been built in France. It holds the remains of 11,931 German dead from the Second World War and it includes 347 from Jersey.

Exhumations to France

The exhumations, in the autumn of 1961, took place after a considerable amount of paper-work. The seven members of the Volksbund staff were given permission to supervise the work helped by "twelve navvies," provided by Jersey, for two to three weeks.

In 1971 the Rev'd Michael Halliwell became Rector of St Brelade's parish, having been exiled from Jersey during the Occupation, and having subsequently held the appointment of Chaplain to the British. Embassy in Bonn, Western Germany.

It seemed to him entirely appropriate that this place, a holy site respected by people of many different nationalities over the centuries, and a crossroads of many different cultures, should continue to be remembered as a place where the power of God is strong to save and to reconcile man with his fellow man, beyond the divisions of history and across the boundaries of nationality.

In 1985 the Islands celebrated the 40th anniversary of their liberation, and on Sunday 12th May, in the Parish Church, a Eucharist for Peace and Reconciliation was celebrated and attended by former members of the Allied and German armed forces and members of the Channel Islands Occupation Society.

The preacher was Dr Avrill Darling who served on the medical staff of the Jersey General Hospital throughout the Occupation. After the service, wreaths were laid at the parish war memorial in memory of the war dead of all nations.

It is the earnest hope of the authors of this article that this place, where British and Germans once lay buried within the confines of one parochial churchyard, will remain in the future a place where men and women of all nations can find peace with God and with each other.

"God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them; and He has committed to us the message of Reconciliation. " 2 Cor. 5:19,20

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