ANOTHER FILM OF FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS OF THE OCCUPATION

Whilst busy writing another blog post I stumbled across a great film by Nicola White. I have followed her for some time on Twitter @tidelineart and had no idea that Nicola had a connection to the Island.

Nicola has featured on a number of programmes on the BBC on both radio and film. This film made in February 2022 is well worth a watch and features many people I know. Click the video below to watch it. Also do take a look at her website for some great mud larking finds in London.

ACCOUNTS OF DEPORTATION AND EVACUATION FROM GUERNSEY

Following my blog post recommending the film “Nazi Britain – Life in the Channel Islands 1940-1945” I was delighted to receive an email from Martin Morgan who was one of the producers. Martin also happens to be a subscriber to this blog.

Martin was pleased that I had highlighted the film that he produced with his sister Jane Morgan and Chris Denton. This film was part of a trilogy of films that they made which were originally shown on the History Channel.

Over a million people have watched these films. This helped them to achieve their promise to the interviewees that they would share their stories as far and wide as possible.

They produced these films as a response to what they felt were the overly sensationalised and unfair versions of the story in other films. They set out to tell the story of everyday life in Occupied Guernsey.

If you follow my personal Twitter account (@Nickleh) or the Twitter account for this blog (@fortress_island) you will know that the misleading films they made these to counter are also a pet hate of mine!

The format they chose is in my opinion an excellent format. They took the decision to only use first hand testimony, designing the production so it required no script , voice over or third party explanation – just the voices of Islanders who lived through the war.

“Fleeing the Reich – the story of the Evacuees” tells the first hand accounts of people that were evacuated as school children to England in June 1940. It turned out they got away just in time. Many of them had never left the Islands before and were sent to live with strangers who picked them from the groups of children that arrived. Siblings sometimes found themselves in different parts of the country.

Stolen by Hitler – the story of the Deportees” tells the story of those that were forcibly deported to internment camps in Germany for allied civilians, mainly from the Channel Islands. A fascinating story of their experiences.

They have also produced another great documentary in a more conventional format. I will share that in another blog post.

Thanks once again to Martin for getting in touch and sharing these fantastic films.

At the time of writing in April 2022 this of course resonates with current world events.

LIFE FOR THE CIVILIAN POPULATION OF GUERNSEY

Whilst I am busy researching and writing a couple of articles which are not quite complete I thought it might be worth sharing this video that I found yesterday.

It is an interesting selection of interviews with Islanders that lived through the Occupation. Some of whom I had the privilege to know.

GERMAN RAID ON GRANVILLE LAUNCHED FROM CHANNEL ISLANDS – 9 March 1945

On the night of 8/9th of March 1945 the German occupying forces in the Channel Islands launched a raid on the French port at Granville. The port was in the hands of the Allies and is situated in the Manche department of Normandy.

There is an excellent article with maps and photographs which is linked further down this blog post which I recommend reading for a detailed understanding of the raid. Before you do I thought I would share a few bits of information that may be of interest.

Whilst the raid was initially planned by Rudolf Graf von Schmettow it was his successor as the islands Kommandant, Vice-Admiral Huffmeier who took the credit. Huffmeier is notable for having previously commanded the battle cruiser Scharnhorst.

The raid took place just two months before the end of the war. There are many reasons suggested for why they mounted the raid. A morale boost for the garrison in the Channel Islands and an attempt to steal much needed supplies are just two of the suggestions. They also succeeded in taking a large number of prisoners back to Jersey.

They liberated some German POWs although some decided that they would rather stay put and promptly did a runner to surrender again rather than end up on the Channel Islands.

Below is the report on the raid that the German forces made the Guernsey Evening Press publish.

Report on the raid – Guernsey Evening Press 12 March 1945 – Important to remember that the German forces controlled the output of the paper and used it for propaganda

The detailed article about the raid produced by Jersey Bunker Tours is here and is well worth a read. It includes period photographs as well as modern photographs, maps, documents and in depth analysis.

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GUERNSEY’S ENTIRE POLICE FORCE ARRESTED – 5 MARCH 1942

Guernsey Policeman with a German Soldier – German propaganda photograph

Today is the 80th anniversary of the day that the German occupying forces arrested all of the Island’s police force. Their crime was stealing food from German stores and giving it to civilians. At this point in the occupation the Germans had plentiful supplies of food but Islanders did not.

The thefts of food were initially started by Constables Kingston Bailey and Frank Tuck. Bailey notes in his memoir that it started to get out of hand and practically the entire police force was involved.

Eventually Bailey and Tuck were apprehended on 3 March 1942 by German soldiers who were laying in wait. Subsequent to this the entire police force was arrested on 5 March 1942.

Accounts indicate that they were tortured and forced to sign confessions or be shot.

In May and June 1942 seventeen police officers were brought to trial. The sentences were severe and they were deported to Prisons and camps in mainland Europe. Many suffered life changing health issues from their time in the camps and sadly one officer Herbert Smith died whilst in detention.

Islanders were of course keen to know what was happening in the trial and were largely reliant on the Guernsey Press and The Star newspapers which was subject to censorship by the Germans. The editor Frank Falla managed to get approximately 1,500 copies of the newspaper printed with an uncensored version before the censor had redacted a large part of the article. Unfortunately for Falla one of the unauthorised copies was purchased by a German who was sitting on the bench for the trial.

Frank Falla – Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War
Frank Falla – The Silent War

The case had further impact on the local community as in late January 1943 former police officers and some of the family members of the imprisoned officers were deported to camps on mainland Europe for “military reasons”.

You can read more about the individual officers at the Frank Falla Archive by following these links to those that I have mentioned by name here Kingston Bailey, Frank Tuck and Herbert Smith. Thanks to Jenna Holloway who also pointed me in the direction of her great grandfather William Quin who was one of the Policeman and Adelaide Laine who lives in the house previously owned by Thomas Gaudion.

Recent attempts to clear the names of those involved have unfortunately been unsuccessful at the time of writing. The campaign to get an apology continues and well known historian Dr Gilly Carr is actively involved in this. You can read about this in a recent BBC article and an article from the Daily Mail.

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Death of an Occupation Resister -Salvation Army Major Marie Ozanne

The 25th of February is the anniversary of the death of Salvation Army Major Marie Ozanne in 1943.

Marie was incredibly brave and didn’t hesitate to challenge the occupying forces. Unfortunately this led to her paying the ultimate price.

The Island Archives acquired her diaries and this link gives a brief explanation.

There is also an excellent article about her here.

Below is a short video recorded by Dr Gilly Carr explaining more about Marie Ozanne.

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Guernsey Underground News Service

There were many acts of resistance during the occupation of the Channel Islands. Not armed resistance, that was just not possible as the Islands were too small for any opposition group to be able to evade capture. Indeed most men of military age had left the Islands to join the British forces in their battles across Europe and the empire.

Equally, at the height of the German garrison numbers, there was one German for every three Islanders, and many of those soldiers were billeted in local households.

Following the confiscation of all radios in 1942, the Islanders were of course desperate for news from the BBC rather than the German-controlled local newspapers. However, if they had an illicit radio and were caught, the penalty ranged from a fine of 30,000 Reichsmarks to six months in prison or indeed deportation to a prison/concentration camp in Europe.

The Guernsey Underground News Service, GUNS for short, fulfilled this desire for information for those that did not have access to crystal radios, or we able to dodge the risks associated with them.

GUNS also had the ability to be passed covertly amongst islanders, however that carried its own risks.

GUNS

This blog post is intended to point the reader in the direction of the many excellent articles about GUNS and everything leading up to its last issue on 11th February 1944. Oh, and if you are in the Independent Company I will be mentioning a book that may be of interest to add to your pile of shame!

The people who were behind GUNS were ultimately betrayed and paid the price, one of them Joseph Gillingham made the ultimate sacrifice, as he died in prison.

The people that were involved are listed below and if you click the links on their names it will take you to detailed accounts of their activities, interviews and videos on the Frank Falla Archive website.

Joseph Gillingham & Henrietta Gillingham
Charles Machon
Frank Falla
Ernest Legg
Cecil Duquemin

Henrietta Gillingham doesn’t have her own entry on the Frank Falla Archive website as her husband Joseph and brother Ernest Legg covered for her and she was not arrested.

Links to other articles on the subject are below. You may also be interested in Frank Falla’s memoirs which allude to the fact that he knew who betrayed them.

Below is a video of Dr Gilly Carr reading a letter from Frank.

There was at least one other news sheet that was in circulation during the occupation; Guernsey Active Secret Press and there is an excellent blog about it here which is compiled by a local guide. Well worth a read.

GASP seems less well known, but just as significant because they weren’t caught by the Germans. As a result of being caught, GUNS always seems to grab the headlines.

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The last issue of GUNS was distributed
GUNS writer Joseph John Gillingham was deported
Guernsey’s Occupation : Resistance & Punishment – Frank Falla’s Story


RAF RAID ON TURIN & GENOA FROM GUERNSEY & JERSEY – JUNE 1940

Whilst RAF aircraft operated from both Guernsey & Jersey prior to the Occupation of the Channel Islands by the Germans on 30 June 1940 their role was primarily reconnaissance and some fighter patrols. The night of 11/12 June 1940 saw the only air raid on mainland Europe that took place by the RAF from the Islands.

As part of Operation Haddock the raid was an attempt by the British to support France when Italy was about to enter the war. It was not well received by some of the French as they were concerned about retaliatory attacks on poorly defended areas due to a lack of fighter aircraft in the south of France, however, the British Air Ministry paid little heed to this and ordered that the raids go ahead.

In addition to the aircraft that operated from the Channel Islands for this raid there were also Vickers Wellington bombers which flew from England but refuelled at Salon-de-Provence  outside of Marseille. These aircraft did not conduct their raid until the 15/16 June as the French blocked the runway.

No. 4 Group dispatched Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers to Guernsey and Jersey to launch a raid on Turin with a secondary target of Genoa. At the start of the war No.4 Group were the only trained night bomber force in the world.1

Aircraft from 10, 51, 58, 77 and 102 Squadrons carried out the raids from Guernsey and Jersey. In total 36 aircraft took part in the raid. 13 found the target and two failed to return. The fact that all but two came back is amazing given the weather conditions on the night, they encountered severe thunderstorms and suffered lightening strikes and severe icing. Both of which prevented them from flying above the storms.

One aircraft that was lost was from No 77 Squadron was lost on the homeward route,Sgt M N Songest and his crew were killed when N1362 crashed at Lignieres-Orgeres,Le Mans in the Mayenne Department.

Several of the bombers accidentally bombed neutral Switzerland hitting Geneva and Lausanne killing four people and injuring another eighty.2

Eric Gaba – MAP

they encountered severe thunderstorms and suffered lightening strikes and severe icing. Both of which prevented them from flying above the storms.

The accounts from the various Squadron records are below and well worth a read to see what the crews endured. One aircraft flew over the target for sixty-five minutes dropping flares to illuminate the target!

Whitley Bomber of 102 Squadron by Royal Air Force official photographer – This is photograph CH 2052 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum.
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141

Squadron Number: 51 Records of Events: Y National Archive AIR 27/491/18
Squadron Number: 51 Records of Events: Y National Archive AIR 27/491/18
Squadron Number: 58 Appendices: Y
Squadron Number: 77 Appendices: Y National Archives AIR 27/659B/1
Squadron Number: 102 Appendices: Y National Archives AIR 27/812

Thanks to Nick Beale who advised that the Italian Commando Supremo war diary is online and records that 45 bombers raided Turin between 01.30 and 02.00. Flares were dropped and damage was done to the Fiat Mirafiori plant as well as to railways. The commercial district of Porta Palazzo was hit and a gasometer set on fire in the via Clemente Damiano Priocca. 15 people were killed and 30 injured.

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Footnotes

  1. Moyes, Philip J. R. The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications, 1967 Page 11.
  2. Richards, Denis (1974) [1953]. Royal Air Force 1939–1945: The Fight At Odds. Vol. I (pbk. ed.). London: HMSOISBN978-0-11-771592-9

The English Doctor’s Occupation Story. Dr Richard Sutcliffe.

This is the story of Richard Brook Sutcliffe a doctor and surgeon who lived through the occupation of Guernsey in the Channel Islands 1940 to 1945. He was known as Brook to his friends. The interview conducted by Conrad Wood for the Imperial War Museum provides a great insight into many aspects of the occupation of Guernsey 1940-45. If you want to listen to the interview it is here

This post comes with a warning that some of what he describes may be upsetting to some as he details some unpleasant things he witnessed. No individuals are named in the more unpleasant parts for obvious reasons.

He came to visit the Island in 1937 and was so taken with the place that he accepted the offer of becoming a partner in a local doctors practice.

A friend of mine, who was a surgeon, Simpson Smith, who was also a great friend of Dr. Montague, who was also in practice in Guernsey and he was looking for a partner.

He came to ask me whether I would consider coming over as they wanted somebody over here to join him. I came over here to have a look round and I was so much taken with it that I came over here and settled in practice with my wife and then three small children, which being in 1937, was just two years before we were occupied. 

He recalls little of the evacuation of the Island other than his wife and three children travelling to England. His other recollection is interesting is the quandary that doctors living in the Islands faced at the time of evacuation.

It was difficult then to decide how many doctors we would need in the island, because that would depend upon entirely upon the number of people we had left in the island.  

So we formed a committee, which consisted of Dr. Kerry, who was at that time a very highly respected one of our practitioners in Guernsey, Dr. Montague who was my senior partner and myself, and when anybody wish to leave the island, then they had to appear in front of that committee.

We would decide whether or not they could leave the island. Unfortunately, I’m not going to mention any names here, but unfortunately, despite the wishes of the committee, with regard to certain doctors, three of them left without our permission.

Newspaper announcing evacuation of Children

Unlike the doctors he doesn’t recall any of the nurses leaving the Island. I will be blogging about a nurses experience at a later date.

All the the people in charge of the nursing home and the hospital they all congregated into the country hospital which we then converted into what was known as emergency hospital and remained there of course.

During the height of the war they did a wonderful job of work. The person in charge of it was matron Hall who was the person in charge of the Victoria Hospital and of course we had the sisters who were in charge of the maternity hospital they ran that and I can’t speak too highly of the word they did. Absolutely wonderful. 

When recalling the bombing of St Peter Port on 28th June 1940 he doesn’t recall much of the raid itself more the aftermath.

The only thing I remember is the noise that went on and the fact that we were at the hospital to receive the casualties. 

We had people with abdominal wounds. We had people with legs, badly injured. We had every type of injury that you would expect. Somewhere between 30 and 35 of them.

Dr. Gibson, who was in the other surgeon in the Island and myself ran a theatre there and we did the majority of the operations during that night.  We started the 10 o’clock at night and we finished at 10 o’clock the next morning, but we did have a small break for breakfast.

The burnt out weighbridge in St Peter Port following the bombing of the harbour on the evening of 28th June 1940. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
Smoke rises from burning vehicles shortly after a bombing raid on the White Rock in St Peter Port. The raid on the evening of 28th June 1940 resulted in 33 civilian dead. The parked tomato trucks were mistaken for military vehicles. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
The aftermath of the bombing raid on 28th June 1940 with the burnt out tomato trucks littering the White Rock pier. Images © The Priaulx Library via Occupation Archive
Memorial at St Peter Port Harbour to those that lost their lives in the raid. Photo © Nick Le Huray

Two days after the raid he saw the Germans for the first time. They drove down the Grange as he was talking to his neighbour and friend outside of his house.

Jack Martel who was a lawyer over here a great friend of mine lived nearly opposite me.  I lived in the Grange then in house which is now Kleinwort Benson and we were standing outside when the Germans drove past.

They’d just landed and they drove past in the police car, an old Wolseley.  Jack said to me “Well Brook, they are here at last now” and I said “they are here at last Jack” and later on he said to me, do you know after we were liberated, he said to me “Brook do you remember the occasion when we were standing outside your house and the Germans came down and I said to you “well they are here at last and you said to me something. Do you remember what it was?” I said no.
“You said to me well, I suppose Jack there’ll be here for anything up to five years. Which was exactly the time they were here.”  I mean they weren’t here for a short time. We knew that I mean to take that length of time to get rid of them. 

The house that he lived in and referred to as now being Kleinwort Benson has subsequently become the headquarters for Healthspan. The building has been extended to make office space and is on the Grange which is the main road into St Peter Port.

The house where Dr Sutcliffe lived at the start of the occupation. © Nick Le Huray

During the occupation he witnessed some awful things. One of his first interactions with them, other than seeing in the street, was being called to a patient who had been robbed and raped.

Well, the first impression I had of them was went in my meeting with the Major Müller who was then in charge of the the German forces when they arrived and I think I was one of the very few civilians who ever came in contact with him.

That was due to the fact that there was a patient of mine there were two sisters who run ran a sort of preparatory school in the island. They were both around about the age of 70. I had an emergency call to go to see them because one of them had been raped. They’d both been robbed and one of them been raped by a German soldier.

When I arrived, Mr. Sherwill was there, who was I think the Procureur. He later became the Bailiff Sir Ambrose Sherwill, who was sent away during the war to one of the camps in in Germany. Wonderful Bailiff, he was a wonderful man. When they knew that this person had been raped, of course a Major Müller was sent for and when he was told that this woman had been raped, he was absolutely livid. I’ve never seen a man so angry in my life. And he immediately summoned the whole of the forces to parade, he discovered the man with the missing revolver.

The following morning, I was sent for by the Germans, they collected me at my house, under armed escort with Mr. Sherwill, we were driven to the airport, where we were placed in a cottage on the perimeter of the airport to await the court martial.

We were then taken into the court martial and we gave our evidence.  We were told that they would then return to tell us the verdict and we were then taken back to the cottage.

We were then taken back to the the court martial and we were told that he had been found guilty and he would be shot and would we like to see him shot. We told them we’d no desire to see anybody shot and to the best of my knowledge, he was then taken out onto the airport and shot. 

Photo of from the Axis History Forum of Generalmajor Erich Müller

Müller was feared by his men and eventually shipped off to the eastern front, captured by the Russians and held in a POW camp until 19552.

It would seem that the doctor is correct that his sort of attack wasn’t that common as recalled in a post war report on policing.

It was very unusual to hear a soldier whistle after a woman in the street and during the whole period we only had two cases of rape – one occurred within the first week of the Occupation, and he was sentenced to death, the other some years later. We reported the facts to the German Police. The man was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment. He appealed and the sentence was changed to 8 years.

Policing During The Occupation – Albert Peter Lamy

He notes that initially that health was pretty good and explains it as being because of the lack of alcohol and cigarettes. His reference to lack of alcohol and cigarettes is taken to be a reference to a restricted availability rather than none being available at all. Islanders improvised when tobacco became scare and either started growing it themselves or drying other leaves to use a substitute.

Whilst many accounts focus on what some called the ‘Hunger Winter’ of 1944/45 after the Normandy landings in June 1944 it is important to note that the lack of food had a serious impact some two years before this.

The interviewer asks about a picture he has been shown of a patient.

I have in front of me one of your photographs from the occupation of a patient’s lying in hospital and the patient really looks like somebody from the Belsen concentration camp and you’ve put on the back that this person was admitted on the 13th of May 1942.

So the starvation started as early as that,  there were starvation cases well before the islands were cut off by the Normandy invasions? 

Conrad Wood

He responds that they were very short of food and that it was the elderly that suffered the most. They were dropping like flies. The patient referred to in the photograph weighed just six stone five. In kilos that is just 40.5!

There’s nothing to do nothing at all. We had no food to give them. They were beyond doing anything.

I suppose under modern conditions where you had everything that you could give them that’s a very different kettle of fish. But then don’t forget we were we were isolated with nothing at all. We no antibiotics we had nothing.

We had to improvise, as I said, the present medical profession would think we were prehistoric. We managed it’s surprising what you can do you know what you got to do it.  

He goes on to explain that this was an Island wide problem and that the lack of food was enough for a patient to die.

Particularly the old people, those people who couldn’t get anything on the black market or anything like that you see. They’re very independent  you know. The Guernseyman is a very independent sort of person. 

I have mentioned the fiercely independent nature and stubbornness and hence why to this day we are still known as “Guernsey Donkeys”.

It wasn’t just the Islanders that were suffering malnutrition during the occupation. Especially during the later stages the Germans were also suffering.

If you had a dog or a cat and you let it out at night it never came back in the morning because the Germans got hold of it killed it and ate it.

That’s the stage they were at. People had to put their cattle in at night for the fear of the Germans would go out and kill them and slaughter them. They were in a pretty poor state as well. 

It got to the stage where the Germans were having to send out soldiers to guard locals crops and livestock. You can read more about the impact of the ‘Hunger Winter’ on my previous blog post of A German Soldier’s experience here.

Dr Sutcliffe wrote in April 1944 about the need to balance meat production, milk production, the health of the population, and future sales of cattle post war.

To sacrifice the general public in order to maintain a high standard of Island cattle for presumed post-war sale is nothing short of criminal …

Desirable as it may be to maintain a good Island stock, I consider it more desirable to maintain the population, and I am sure that this view would be shared by the many people who have been evacuated. They would rather come back to be greeted by a healthy relative than by a large and healthy herd of Guernsey cows.

Charles Cruickshank notes in his book that Admiral Hüffmeier, who succeeded von Schmettow as Commander-in-Chief of the Islands in February 1945, saw the dairy herds as the saviours of the Wehrmacht. Hüffmeier was determined to hold out for the Führer. He famously said to the Bailiff of Jersey Coutanche that he would hold out until “You and I are eating grass”.

He had no doubt that the garrison could hold out longer if the production of milk, butter, and cheese was kept up; and he was therefore against the slaughter of cattle to provide even the troops with a meat ration.

He proposed in the interests of the garrison that the civilian milk ration in Jersey should be converted from full to skimmed milk; but Coutanche5 successfully resisted this move. 

The German Occupation of the Channel Islands

When asked to explain the impact of the International Red Cross ship SS Vega delivering food during the last six months of the occupation he provides a very good explanation of how important it was.

Terrific. Terrific. It saved the island there’s no doubt about it.  The Red Cross saved the island and I’ve got it on my film.

You’ve got film at the war museum of the Vega arriving and I remember that that time writing a letter to the to the local press saying how grateful we must be to the to the Vega for coming in at that stage and saving literally saving the island. I suggested at that time that every time that the Vega came in or whatever Red Cross ship it was that came in that the island should give, the Islanders who got a parcel,  should give 10 pounds for every parcel.

They gave to the Red Cross and that would have given an enormous amount of money to the Red Cross people for literally coming and saving the lives of the islanders. I don’t know what they collected. I have no idea. 

He recalls that he tried to limit his interactions with the Germans but he like many Islanders had Germans billeted in his house. One day they told him to get out of the house as they were taking it over. Now normally they would have official papers for this but these two didn’t. He therefore took matters into his own hands to get one up on them!

I had two officers put into my house and they behaved reasonably well, I suppose. One morning they came to me and said you must get out we are taking your house over. Now. At that time we had a billeting officer I’m trying to think of his name now major.

Anyway, it was usual. If the Germans took over a house, they would present you with official documents. They were very keen on official documents. You probably know the Germans were and when they came to me and said you must get out of the house. They didn’t present me with any official documents and I said well this is being done by themselves. They’re not doing this officially.

So I rang up a great friend of mine who was in removal man, Mr. Gould and I told him what was happening and he said, ‘right I will be around first thing in the morning’ and he turned up with his truck and we took everything out of the house.

I had an Aga cooker. and I rang up Huelins who were then the agents and I told Huelins and they said ‘We’ll be around doctor”. They came and they dismantled my Aga took the whole thing out and they put it in, down in my surgery in New Street, the house which was vacant and had been occupied by Dr. Montague.

So I moved in there and when the Germans got back that night they found nothing in the house. I had a very irate telephone call from them saying ‘you were removed the cooker and the curtains and everything else’.  I said well, I understand you have a billeting officer Major Langer. If you get in touch with him, if he gives me orders to return things I will do so. I heard nothing more after that. I concluded they had done it off their own bat and I got away with it. 

New Street where he moved and where he had his surgery.The actual building may have been replaced by a more modern one. © Nick Le Huray

This type of behaviour by the Germans was not uncommon and there are many references to this behaviour.

We were surrounded by Germans and if they decided they wanted to they would come in and look around the house in case there was anything they wanted, because there were days when if they decided for example they wanted  blankets,  they would roll up to your house with a van, ring the bell and say right we are confiscating blankets and they’d strip your house of blankets.

Dorothy Hurrel-Langlois

When it comes to the impossibility of armed resistance he sums it up nicely. Although in respect of his thoughts on the Guernsey Underground News Service and Frank Falla I don’t agree with but that is his view point.

There’s no point in it actually and I mean, as I said, in France, you could blow a bridge up and be 50 miles away within an hour or two, but there really was no point. 

I think people did silly things in a way we had I think a fellow called Falla who ran an underground newsreader thing, which I think was really quite unnecessary because so many people had crystal sets and sets they’re listened into and he was eventually caught doing this and then he was sent away to Germany to one of the one of the camps.

But news got round and then of course, we had the RAF drop leaflets here. I got the whole lot of them and I think they’re now in possession of the Imperial War Museum. News got round fairly quickly you know. 

His views on propaganda produced is in line with all of the other sources that I have read. Very little impact.

When asked about collaboration he at first speaks about it but then says he doesn’t want to bring it up further.

Well, you’re bound to get a certain amount I think, personally, I think the amount of collaboration that went on in Guernsey was minimal. I know a lot of it has been made in this film they’ve had ‘The Swastika over the Channel Islands’, particularly in Jersey. I don’t think it’s done Jersey any good.

I can’t speak for Jersey. I know there were a number of babies, German babies born. It is more than likely I delivered some of them. But you’re bound to get that I mean what would it have been like?

Dammit look at the Americans in England. You’re bound to get that going on in an occupied territory. Look at France look at the whole of the occupied territories in Europe and compare them with the Channel Islands. This is bound to happen and I think to bring it up now is, I’ve no time for it, I’m sorry. 

When asked about the experience as a whole he provides an interesting and thought provoking explanation.

I don’t know I suppose. A period of experience I think. In wartime one has to put up with many things that one doesn’t want. 

My dear wife who’s now left me (she died before he was interviewed) was over in England with my three young children and I when I look back on it, she was bombed from here to there.

I think that apart from starvation, she’s probably had over a much worse time than I had. In wartime one’s got to put up with the certain things you’ve got to put up with and consider yourself lucky if you get through them. Fortunately, my wife and three children they got through them I got through it but that is war. 

His take on the behaviour on the Germans and the occupation as a whole is in my opinion a fair statement given the lack of the more extreme aspects of the occupied European countries.

Could have been a lot worse. They suffered at the end you know, they (the Germans) were starving in the end. 

Upon Liberation he used a Ciné-Kodak camera and colour film he had hidden to film the liberation which is above or you can watch the whole film here and the colour footage starts at 5:29.

After the war he continued to serve the Island for many years in a variety of roles. In particular he was instrumental in the development and extensions to the Hospital that still serves the Island today. You can read about this in his Obituary below.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Feel free to follow on Twitter @Fortress_Island or sign up on the right of this post for email updates.

A massive thank you to those that also pointed me in the direction of information for this blog.

Footnotes

  1. Obituary
  2. The Channel Islands at War: A German Perspective  – George Forty page 51
  3. Hurrell-Langlois, Dorothy Catherine (Oral history) IWM Archive reel 2
  4. The German Occupation of the Channel Islands – Dr Cruickshank
  5. https://www.theislandwiki.org/index.php/Lord_Coutanche
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