Friday, 9 October 2015

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church - Part 2

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

After part 1, a correspondent of mine, Maureen Smith Ponting, said that:

"This was particularly interesting to me Tony, My father, the late James R Smith, was a plumber for Le Quesne the plumbing and heating firm in New St. He worked for them for 54 years, and he obviously worked a lot with lead. ( no plastic pipes etc, then! ) he was told to report to the Hospital Mortuary one day, and found that he was to line all the coffins in lead, and then seal them after the bodies were put inside, as they were going to be repatriated to their home country when hostilities ceased."

"All those weeks he worked doing this sad duty, he had an armed German guard watching over him! One of his many stories of the different jobs he performed during his working life, and used to recount to my brother and I during The Occupation. "

Thanks to her for permission to share this most interesting memory, especially as the second part deals with the repatriation of the German dead. It is something I have never read anywhere else.

The German Cemetery at St Brelade's Church during the Second World War - Part 2
By Michael Halliwell and David Ling

The second 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.

Last month we heard how the Occupation forces chose St Brelade's for their burial ground, the Strangers' Cemetery and how it was used for interment of foreign nationals and also disgraced German military personnel. Now David Ling and the Rev Michael Halliwell continue their story of St Brelade's Cemetery.


The sinking of ships, shooting down of planes etc occasionally resulted in a British, American or French body being washed ashore and subsequently buried in the new cemetery at Mont-a-l'Abbe. The authorities decided to prepare a proper military cemetery for the British and Allied dead. The choice of place fell on Howard Davis Park, and a plot near St Luke's Church was chosen. It was dedicated on 26th November 1943 by the Dean, the Very Rev'd Matthew Le Marinel. After the War the bodies of all but the British were exhumed and returned to their countries.

The Liberation

With the ending of hostilities control of the German military cemetery passed from the Standortkommandantur to the Imperial War Graves Commission. One of their first acts was to transfer the sixteen German coffins buried in the Rectory garden across the road, to the main cemetery. These were re-buried where space could be found - along the walls and paths.

The Rectory garden had been prepared for a further 245 burials providing for a total of 449 in the whole cemetery. At the same time the swastika, which formed the central part of the Iron Cross design of the memorials, was painted out, but only on these sixteen re-interments.

The normal German practice for erecting their memorial crosses is to do so at the foot of the burial plot and not at the head. When these crosses were later removed by the War Graves Commission, they were replaced by the standard white cross of the British military, at the head. An extract from the Jersey Evening Post of 16th January 1948:

“Work is in progress at the German War Cemetery at St Brelade for the purpose of bringing it into line with all war cemeteries under the care of the imperial War Graves Commission, whether at home, on the Continent, or abroad. The wooden crosses have been removed and the ground levelled prior to fresh grass being sown. When the grass has grown, the crosses will be replaced on the graves but at the head, and not at the foot of each grave as is the German custom.”

Transferral to France

In 1960 all the Channel Islands' authorities were approached by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgraber-fiirsorge - the German equivalent of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They wrote, on 23rd September of that year, of the previous year's agreement between the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany to grant all possible facilities to the War Grave Commissions of each in respect of the dead:

"In the course of creating a final and dignified place of rest for all German war dead in Great Britain we intend to have those German war dead buried in the Channel Islands, exhumed and re-buried in the Military Cemetery, Mont de Huisnes, Manche, France ... (and there being no objections) ... we hereby approach the Royal Court of Jersey to give their consent to the exhumation of the German war dead, and to their transfer to the German Military Cemetery, Mont de Huisnes... “

It was decided that, apart from those at Fort George, Guernsey, all German Military war dead should be transferred to this new charnel house at Mont de Huisnes, Manche, in Normandy and close to Mont St Michel.

Lord Coutanche, Bailiff of Jersey, wrote to the German War Graves Commission, on 14th July 1961, as follows:

“PERMISSION is hereby granted to the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegs-graberfitrsorge'), of Kassel, Germany.--“

“TO EXHUME two hundred and twenty-one (221) bodies which are now buried in the Church Yard of the Parish of St Brelade in the Island of Jersey, and particulars whereof are set out in the Schedule hereto. “

“AND TO REMOVE them out of the Island for re-burial in a Military Cemetery in France.”

“The said exhumation shall be carried out in the presence of the Constable or one of the Centeniers of the said Parish of St Brelade, under such conditions and with such precautions as the Parochial and Sanitary Authorities shall deem necessary, and appropriate from the points of view of good order and public health, and subject to the making of previous arrangements with the Ecclesiastical Authorities concerned. “

“The said removal shall be carried out under such conditions, and with such precautions as the Constable of St Helier and the Harbour Authorities shall deem necessary and appropriate from the points of view of good order and public health.”

Given at Jersey this fourteenth day of July one thousand nine hundred and sixty-one.


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