Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Liberation Day


It's Liberation Day here in Jersey. Yesterday it was Guernsey's day to celebrate, tomorrow it'll be Sarks and on 16th Alderley. Liberation Day means different things to the different generations. For the children, or those not connected to the past of the island it's a day off school or work, but for those who have been brought up here listening to the stories from the occupation it means something far more personal.

For my father's generation it means remembering the years of austerity, fear at the hands of the German army and lack of food, but never a lack of hope. It meant fighting back in their own inimitable way. You can still see the 'V' signs embedded in granite around the island. The Royal Square is one place you'll find this sign of resistance. People still remember those that helped and those that 'talked' and some remember the horrible retaliation against 'Jerry-bags', the women who fraternised with the Germans.

My father was very small when they had to pack up and leave on one of the last boats out of the island. He was taken by his mother, with his older brother and cousin to live, firstly in London from where he was evacuated twice and in various other places in England. He returned to the island soon after the occupation with a different accent and had to learn to fit in once again. When I asked recently why my grandmother never kept any photos from before the war, he reminded me that when you're evacuated you can only take a few, vital belongings, you don't have much time to think and maybe her photos were not the most important things for her to take when she had three boys to contend with.

For my generation, it's remembering teachers, Mrs Du Feu was one much loved teacher, telling us how her mother was frightened one day when she was baking bread in her kitchen and a German officer walked in. It's hearing older locals telling us about their memories and the ever-present reminder of the fortification dotted all around our island on the coast and in fields and some gardens.

Every year we celebrate by hoisting flags, holding a commemorative service and a ceremony in Liberation Square as well as enjoying parties, but however we remember this date we are aware of the importance of it and know that those years of occupation can never be forgotten, nor should they be.

22 comments:

B.E. Sanderson said...

What a beautiful post about a horrible time, Debs. I'm so glad your family made it through.

Faye said...

Excellent post, Debs. Those of us who have lived our lives without having a war fought in our own backyards can never understand what people felt and went through during these times. Very important that the older generation share their stories.

I've watched an excellent series on TV and and dvd about the Occupation--maybe on Masterpiece Theater? The title escapes me now. Do you know?

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

B E Sanderson - thank you. My family were very lucky althugh hated having to leave, but were lucky to be able to do so.

faye - It was Masterpiece Theatre, Island At War.

There are so many constant reminders over here of the Occupation and most of them are large, stark bunkers that you can't miss.

Mama J said...

Great post. Those of us who have never lived through such hard times are very lucky.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

mama j - we certainly are.

Anna Scott Graham said...

Such a vital connection to history; so many important moments are swept aside but this is one to celebrate, and share with younger generations. Thanks for this wonderful post! And Happy Liberation Day to you and yours...

Rosemary Gemmell said...

You have such a terrible and fascinating history of the war years in Jersey, Debs, and it's great that younger people are reminded of it.

Talli Roland said...

Happy Liberation Day, Debs. I love hearing about the history of the island.

Jacula said...

Ditto what Talli said, Deborah.

Teresa Ashby said...

Great post - it must be awful to have to up and leave everything behind the way your dad's family did. Happy Liberation Day - it is so right that it is celebrated x

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Thanks ladies. My dad was only four but can remember leaving the island quite clearly, as can my mother-in-law who had to hurriedly leave Guernsey with her mother.

Suzanne Jones said...

A great post, Debs. Happy Liberation Day.

XX

Biddy Fraser said...

A really interesting post. People should remember. As Mama J. said - we are very lucky to live at this time (in the UK, at least). It's so sad that there's always a war going on somewhere.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Thanks Suzanne and Biddy.

Shirley Wells said...

Great post, Debs. We should all be reminded now and again of how lucky we are not to have to live through such times.

Troy said...

Alderley? (free proof-reading service).

D.J. Kirkby said...

This was really interesting Debs. I am ashamed to admit I knew none of it!

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Shirley - so true.

Troy - or Alderney maybe?

Dj - Glad you found this so interesting.

Annieye said...

Fabulous post, Debs. I love the term 'Jerrybags'. It must have been very hard for islanders to leave their home and go to England, not knowing where the future was going to take them.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Loved this. I must read more about the occupation in Jersey as I find all of it so fascinating... thanks for your insight and family history. xx

Flowerpot said...

Great post, Debs - you're so right we mustn'#t forget about those years.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

Annieye - it's hard to imagine that this happened in my parent's lifetime and that my grandparents had to simply pack one small bag and leave everything behind.

LWM - thank you. This island does have a fascinating history.

flowerpot - thank you. It's easy to remember with so many landmarks reminding us of the Occupation.