Wednesday, 9 May 2012
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.