A diary for Mrs Dupre's family - part 4
This is the fourth section of Mrs G Luce Dupre's diary, kept during the Occupation for her absent children. It covers 1943 and we have illustrated it with drawings by celebrated Jersey artist Edmund Blampied of the war years.
1 January 1943
We have had a party today. Father invited all his young choir boys and girls to come and sing their Christmas carols to me, just a dozen of them, and we gave them tea. I managed to make a cake, and Father made a lot of chocolate biscuits, and we gave them bread and butter, jam and potted meat, which they seemed to enjoy very much. We used three pounds of bread and a quart of milk, and so had to economise the rest of the week. They sang beautifully and I did enjoy it all, but feel very tired now.
We heard today that a boat was sunk last night, just off Portelet; there were 350 Germans on board, and only 70 saved. It was a very dark night, and they struck a rock and sank in a few minutes, as they had a cargo of cement on board. They are using the Star Hotel as a mortuary - I suppose they will all be buried at St Brelade's churchyard.
We spent yesterday at Les Vagues. Frank sent a lovely comfy car for me, and Father came on his cycle, as he wanted it for getting back home today. I broke my journey at Samares to see Auntie Flo, who I am sorry to say has been ill with bladder trouble, and had to stay in bed and keep warm, and you may be sure that she has had the best attention from Dr and Dorothy. I quite envy Flo having a daughter at home. We all hope she will soon be quite well again, but she will have to be very careful. She and I are getting to be quite old ladies, but I don't feel like one.
We had a very warm welcome from all at Les Vagues, and the dinner was simply lovely, just like pre-war. We had roast chicken with all the etceteras except hang and sausages, then a wonderful mock plum pudding which Nancy had made, and a room. rich trifle, and coffee afterwards in the sitting room.
Nancy gave me a pair of mitten gloves which she had made, the backs were rabbit skin and the inner part was knitted. They are just what I wanted, as I cannot get proper gloves on, my hands being so crippled. Jennifer gave me a bottle of lavender water, which I am very fond of, and Dulcie gave me a lovely silk scarf and hankie.
We were a big party for tea, as Dulcie had invited Gertrude and Wilfrid and Jim and Harold. We had a very fine tea.
Jim had very kindly asked me to spend a long weekend with them, and I am now at The Little White House. I am being thoroughly spoilt here, a fire in my bedroom, and waited on hand and foot, I don't like giving so much trouble, but Jim insists on doing it, and I must say I can stand a lot of spoiling.
Father spent the night at Uncle Wilfrid's and expect they sat up talking nearly all night. He was going home today and fears he will be very quiet and lonely. It is such a nice change for me, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I am home again after a very pleasant little holiday. Jim and Harold were so good to me, and I was sorry to leave them. Wilfrid came to take me to Maryland in the chair, and it poured with rain all the way. I was well protected with rugs, mackintosh cover, and another over my head, and did not get at all wet, but Wilfrid did, and had to change everything. It's the second time he has had such a wetting through taking me in the chair.
Gertrude gave me a very warm welcome, and a fine lunch of sausages and mashed potatoes, with a steamed pudding and custard to follow. The afternoon passed all too quickly, and the car came for me at five o'clock. I stopped to see Auntie Flo, who was up for a few hours, not looking too well and feeling very weak. Mrs Pearce had come in to see me, too, and they thought I was so brave to come in such bad weather, but I am none the worse for it.
Father was very pleased to have me home again as he had not been feeling at all well. He has gone to town today, and always brings me some library books and plenty of news, mostly rumours, but yesterday there was very disquieting news.
All the senior officers, Regular Army, have been called up to be taken to Germany, and probably all Freemasons. I am afraid there is a bad time ahead of us, as they seem to be tightening things up, now that the war is going against them. There has been a great number of letters received from the deportees, which are very pitiful to read - many are ill and all almost starving - in fact they seem to be no better off than the Russian prisoners here. It has cast a terrible gloom all over the island, especially as they say the rest of the English-born people will be taken next.
Yesterday an American bomber flew right over the town, and all the big guns let go at it, but did not hit it. I will wait now and see what news Father brings back from town.
The American bomber that came over strewed mines all round the Harbour, so now no boats can get out till they are all cleared away, and they will not be able to send away any deportees.
Nothing much has happened lately until last week.
When we got up on Friday morning we found that thieves had visited us, not in the house fortunately, but in the sheds which were locked. But they managed to get in, and simply ransacked the place. We had a lot of trunks packed with pictures, china and curtains, also a lot of dried beans, which form a great part of our diet, as there is so little else.
All our seeds for sowing had gone, which we had so carefully saved. My velvet curtains had gone, and lots of china and pictures broken. They seem to look mostly for food and clothing and tip everything out on the floor; you never saw such a mess. There isn't a house round here that hasn't been burgled; all the evacuated houses have been stripped, and this house would have been the same if we had not been here. It has made me feel very nervous, as I fear they may get into the house, and if Father heard them and got up, they would probably attack him. One cannot get help, and no one is allowed out after curfew, which is nine o'clock now.
We hear that about 50 men are being sent to Germany this week, mostly people who are in the Germans' bad books. As the news gets better, the more they retaliate on us. Lots of farmers take their seed potatoes up to their bedrooms at night, also their food and valuables, and lock themselves in.
Last week Dulcie and Ada came to see us and told us about a German ill-treating a Russian who was using a spade at the time, and he turned and hit the German such a blow that it cut off his head - another German guard came up and he, too, got his head cut off. Then the Germans arrested 40 Russians, hung them up and shot them.
Several people still have their wireless sets and listen into the news, and some are caught, but only when someone gives them away. Jennifer's form mistress has been arrested and imprisoned for spreading the news, but I do not know for how long. Anyway she will now be on the black list.
It was Nigel's birthday last week, and I am sure he is a fine little fellow. Violet Beep has had a message from Kathleen giving the date of baby's birth, and his name. We are very amused that she has called him Eric Houguet as that makes three Erics and three Kathleens. There has been such a lot of letters come in, but we haven't had any, and I am now anxious to hear from Peggy, and if her baby has arrived yet. I do hope it's not a false report, as we have not heard of it from any of the family.
Dear Emmie's birthday today, and I am wishing her many more happier days - how I miss her and long for her return.
It is also Doreen's Philip's birthday, and our loving thoughts go out to them all, hoping it will not be long before we see them.
I do hope they are getting on well in their new home, but perhaps Ray has had to join up. Dulcie has had a letter from Olive who says Dick has not to go abroad again, which we are very glad to hear, and that the children are still with Essie. I should like to hear from Essie.
Last week Major Ogier's son Dick was arrested by the Germans. It appears he got talking to someone and showed them a map of the Island on which he had marked all the big gun emplacements. It was reported and he was arrested as a spy and is liable to be shot. His Father went to the Commandant and told him the boy was "mentally deficient ". The reply to that was, the father was responsible, and he also was arrested, and now they have both been sent to Paris for trial.
Jennifer's form mistress and Mother have got ten months imprisonment, and the father 12 months.
Quite a number of people have lately been sent to Germany, and I'm sorry to say Harold Poole is one of them. It makes one very anxious, as one never knows who will be the next to go.
Jim and Harold came out to lunch today, and we had such a nice time together. Harold sang to us and it was a treat to hear him. Father had killed a rabbit and cooked it beautifully - and I made a queen of puddings, which was also much appreciated.
This is my dear John's 23rd birthday, and how I have thought of him all day, with very loving wishes and anxious thoughts for his safety. It is almost a year since we heard from him, and I am longing to have a message from him again, and to know he is still in England, for I dread the thought of him being sent overseas.
It has been such a lovely spring day, and I have been out in my wheel chair, and called to see Miss Nicholson, who is ill. She has been so sweet in visiting me, although she is 83, and it's quite a long walk for one of that age.
Auntie Annie is coming to lunch tomorrow. She has not been here since before Christmas, as it has been such a wet winter, and she has had to keep in a lot.
My 72nd birthday, and such a lovely day. I have had lots of telephone wishes and several nice presents. Dulcie and the children came this afternoon and brought no end of presents, flowers, eggs, asparagus, cake, pudding and fudge, all most acceptable. Father gave me a bottle of cordial, and I had one from Percy and Queenie. Jim gave me a pretty sleeping cap, and Gertrude a gold flexible bracelet. Our maid also brought me some eggs.
Auntie Flo was not able to come, as she sprained her ankle, but hopes to come at Easter, as they are all going to stay at Holmhurst for Easter. Gertrude came to lunch today.
I am so pleased to hear from Emmie today with a message from Kathleen and Peggy to say they each have a son, Eric Houguet Poole and Thomas Christopher Beales. We had heard from Kathleen about her baby, and were so sorry to hear he was delicate.
We had also heard a rumour of Peggy's expecting, but thought it must be false as she had said nothing about it, and I was so very disappointed, so you can imagine how delighted I am that she has at last got a son, and I am so pleased with the name. She has kept it very quiet, as I have not heard from her since last October.
Such a lovely day, just like summer. I have been to St Brelade's Church this evening, as Father had taken his choir there for an Easter festival; it was very lovely, and I did enjoy it all. Beryl took me in my chair as Father had to cycle to be early - the church was packed and the singing was lovely.
Sitting there in the old church brought back memories and made me sad; Laddie and Dilys were married there, also my dear Babbo.
The German Cemetery is quite a feature of St Brelade's, and is most beautifully laid out, and such a number of graves there, all planted with pansies. Several more ships have been sunk round the coast lately, three yesterday, so I expect there will by many bodies washed up.
On Easter Monday Father and I were invited to a van picnic by Percy and Queenie, at Brown's Cafe, St Brelade. Unfortunately Father was not well enough to go; he had a bad gastric attack which got worse, so sent for doctor on Tuesday morning, and now he has to stay in bed several days and take nothing but milk and water, and we are allowed a pint of extra milk a day, also a little rice.
Dulcie as usual came to the rescue and brought half a dozen eggs and other things, so I am able to carry on for myself for a time, and Jim is coming on Friday. It was a lovely picnic, and we had a fine lunch when we got there, and a good tea later on.
Lorna Macintosh was there with her mother; she has just become engaged to John Dupre (Percy's boy). He proposed by Red Cross message, to which she replied and accepted. John also wrote to his father asking him to buy a ring, which he did, and what a beauty it is. They are all very pleased and like her very much. We have just heard that Miss Elsie Morley died yesterday, also Arthur Balleine. The old Rector died last year, so now the Rectory is empty.
There has been nothing much to relate recently, except that Father's illness lasted quite a long time, and though he is better, he still feels very weak and gets terribly tired. He was able to resume his duties at church last Sunday, but the walk back up the hill tires him very much. The trouble is, one cannot get enough food to strengthen him; we have to be so careful with the bread and there are no vegetables until the new ones come in.
We were so pleased to receive a message from Peggy last week, telling us about her little son. I am longing to hear from John; it seems so strange we have heard nothing from him for over a year.
It is the anniversary of our darling Babbo's death today, and brings back all the sadness of a year ago. She is always in my thoughts, and I am wondering what happened to take her off so suddenly, for she could not have been too bad to be able to take the journey with the intention of taking the baths. I was glad to hear from Essie that Babbo did not know she was going to die, for I know how it would have distressed her to know she was leaving her children.
I have not felt like writing in my diary all this time, but must try and remember what has happened in the interval.
At last we know where Kathleen is with her little family. Violet Beer had a letter from her brother Harold, who was deported to Germany, and he had a letter from Kathleen, giving her address, which was in Hereford. We always thought she was in Scotland. Now I know, I shall be able to write to her. How she must miss Eric, who is in India and soon getting his third pip.
Major Ogier was released some time ago and allowed to return home, but his son was detained and is under observation as an interesting case. But last week a dozen people were arrested and sent to Germany. Major Ogier was one of them.
I had a letter from Daisy Coy last week in reply to one from me. She said it was a lovely place they were in, and that her health was much better. She is in a large room with 30 other women, and she spends most of her time sewing for herself and others. Their food is very little and poor, but they get good parcels from the Red Cross. What an awful life it must be, with no comforts, and herded together like that.
Some time ago we were told that the Germans had done a lot of damage to Moorings, so I went there to see, and was appalled at what had been done.
We had an oil container in the shed, and it had been taken into the kitchen and filled with explosive and set alight. The cook-and-heat stove was smashed to atoms, the chimney hanging into the lounge, all the windows blown out, huge holes in the floor and ceiling, and debris all over the place. All the doors have been taken away, and also every bit of woodwork in the place. The bath is gone and everything taken from the bathroom. You can imagine how awful I felt to see our poor little Moorings in such a state, and we don't know if we shall get any compensation or not when the war is over.
It's terrible to see all the houses that have been wrecked, and what the people will do when they come back and find their homes gone, I really cannot think. There is nothing but the chimney left at Hedges' bungalow.
The Misses Staniforth have had to leave their house, which was their own property, as the Germans said it was in their way, and they have knocked it down. In fact, there is no end to the destruction done. Black market prices continue to soar; tea is now £20 per pound, meat 15s, butter 25 to 30s. Vegetables are very scarce, and what the Germans don't take, people keep for themselves, and by ten o' clock the shops are empty. We are fortunate in having Emmie's garden, and are growing a lot of beans and onions for the winter. Sugar is 16s per pound.
We have made some new friends this spring; Major and Mrs Tennant, who called to see us and brought some nice books for us to read. We returned the call, and now we are quite neighbourly. We were also invited to Dr Stapleton's house to tea, and they came here the following week.
Also, through Jim, we have been to a Miss Arm, who has a very nice house at the top of St Aubin's Hill, overlooking the bay. I told you about Mrs Deverell Walker being turned out of her house on the Park Estate - well she took another at First Tower, and after a few weeks she was turned out of that, and now she is living at the Wesleyan Parsonage.
I came here a week ago, and am staying another week. I have every day taken up for lunch and tea, until I leave here. Last Thursday I spent the day at Maryland with Gertrude and Wilfrid, and had such a nice time with them. Friday, Auntie Flo was to have come to tea, but the weather was bad, so Nancy and Jennifer invited me to tea in the nursery, and we had quite a merry time. In the evening Jennifer took me out in my chair through the lanes. The fields look so lovely with all the oats and wheat which is grown now in place of the tomatoes we used to see.
On Saturday I went to Cape House to tea, but it does not look as nice as when we lived there. Sunday we all went to Percy Maine's to tea, and had a lot of community singing. On Monday I went to Mrs Le Quesne's for lunch, in the afternoon Nancy took me to La Rocque for tea at Doris de Faye's.
The weather has been rather bad so far, and this morning it poured. I was going to Auntie Flo's for lunch, so Dulcie packed me up well in mackintosh, capes, rugs and umbrella, and I arrived perfectly dry.
I have been out so much that there seemed no time for writing my diary. I spent a very happy day at The Little White House last Wednesday. Flo was there as well, but unfortunately she missed the last bus and was obliged to walk home. Harold brought me back. On Thursday Dulcie took me to Mrs Bailhache's. It was a perfect day and we had tea in the garden, and what a tea; I haven't seen the like since the Occupation. It was Mrs Bailhache's birthday and she had quite a party. Mr Blampied and Auntie Rose were there, and several other old friends.
On Friday I went to Les Genets to tea, but it was very wet, so could not go round the garden. Eileen is expecting a little one in October, and everyone is so anxious that everything should be all right this time, and she is being very careful and not building on it too much.
I have not mentioned the railway which the Germans have remade all along the coast, and in many places crossing the main roads. They actually ran it through the Willcox's garden, and cut down trees to make way for it.
Dulcie is taking me to see Elsie Le Blancq this afternoon. She is living at Grouville now, having sold her house in town, and has just become engaged to a Mr Herbert Labey. I will tell you all about it on our return.
Later: We have had a lovely afternoon with Elsie, and congratulated her on her engagement, but did not see Mr Labey. Elsie lives in a charming old-fashioned house which is furnished with beautiful things from her old home.
This evening I have been sitting outside watching a lovely high tide and a lot of children bathing. Then we saw a convoy of ships, escorted by balloon barrage, crossing the bay and taking away troops from here to Russia.
I am returning home tomorrow, and so ends a delightful little holiday.
I have been home a week now, and quite settled down to our usual quiet life. Father was very glad to have me back again, as I think he had been bored and lonely.
News has been received in the Island that Major Ogier died in Germany. He had been taken there for the second time a short while ago, and put into a concentration camp, and there he died.
Previous to that he had been in prison for some months, and altogether had a ghastly time. Dick, his son, is still in German hands under observation, and there is some talk of performing an operation on his brain.
Violet Beer rang up the other day to say she had just received a letter from her brother Harold in Germany, who had received one from Kathleen. She was in Exeter with the four children and staying with Auntie Emmie. I was so pleased and thought how good of Auntie to have so many but it's just like her, always giving and helping others.
I loved hearing about the children, too, and that baby Eric has got over his infant delicacy and is such a lovely, perfect baby. We were thankful to hear Eric had recovered from his bad attack of fever.
Yesterday we had the joy of receiving a Red Cross Letter from Doreen; it had taken seven months to come, and she said she had not heard from us at all. I sent her a letter a year ago, and hope she has received it by now.
We are all cheered with the good news from the front, and hope the end is in sight, for we are getting very weary and faint for lack of good food. People who can afford to buy in the black market and so keep up their strength, but we cannot afford it.
Butter is now 30 to 35s a pound, pork 20s, eggs 2s each. Dulcie has been so good in giving us some every week, it is such a help. Our tea was finished ages ago, so now we drink weak coffee substitute as we do not like the tea substitute. The Germans took all our silver money soon after they came, and. gave us German Reichmarks, all paper notes.
I found them such a nuisance at first, and used to get terribly tied up with them, but now I'm quite used to them. Fortunately we had a little money in the bank, as of course we are not getting our usual supply.
I am feeling so worried about John, as we have had only one letter from him. It seems so strange that no one says where he is, and that he does not write.
It's a long time too since we heard from Peggy, and I'm longing to hear news of little Christopher.
We had three Red Cross letters, one from Auntie Emmie telling us of all the visiting she has done. I feel very envious of her seeing all my children, but glad for her sake that she is so well and able to get about. I also had one from Kathleen Dickens, with a good report of you all, and a specially nice one from Peggy saying she had spent a week with Kathleen, also a week in London, and that Christopher weighs 20 lb at eight months. We have also heard through Harold Poole that Eric has been ill again, and that my poor Kathleen is very homesick, I am sure she must be very anxious about Eric.
From the same source we hear that our John is in the thick of it, probably Italy. I have felt for some time that he must be abroad, and I feel terribly anxious. If only the war would stop and you could all come home again.
Yesterday was a real Red Letter day, as at long last we had a letter from John; the relief was so great that I shed floods of tears, but they were tears of joy, and I soon recovered.
Auntie Flo was here for the day, and we had been talking of John just before the Red Cross letter came, and we were wondering why we did not hear from him. My constant prayer has been these beautiful lines from a hymn:
Holy Father in thy mercy Hear our anxious prayer, For our loved ones, now far distant 'Neath thy care. Bless them, Save them, Guide them, Keep them Near to thee.