A diary for Mrs Dupre's family - part 6
This is the sixth and final section of Mrs G Luce Dupre's diary, kept during the Occupation for her absent children. It covers 1945 and the weeks leading up to Liberation. We have illustrated it with drawings by celebrated Jersey artist Edmund Blampied of the war years.
14 January 1945
I have neglected my diary for a long time, and will start again for the New Year, hoping this is the last year of the war.
This last Christmas has been quite different from the four previous ones. Percy and Queenie very kindly invited us to Holmhurst for five days, and we were delighted to accept, as Flo and Dorothy were to be there, also Harold and Jim, and Wilfred and Gertrude.
We were 12 for meals every day, and what lovely ones they were, and how we did enjoy them after the poor food we had been having for so long. The rooms were so warm, too, and everything was perfect. We had been going through a bad time, as all our food was exhausted owing to the Germans taking so much. They have taken all our flour, most of the potatoes and corn, and now we only get a weekly ration of 3 oz of meal and a few potatoes; we used to get 3 oz of butter, but they have taken that and half our milk.
We were just on the verge of starvation when the Red Cross ship arrived, loaded with food for us and Guernsey, done up in parcels like the prisoners of war get, and we get one each every month. What a joy it was opening them! We were just like a lot of children with their Christmas stockings! We have only had the first one, and are expecting the next in a week.
The fuel question is very serious as there is no coal or coke; we are allowed 1 cwt of wood a month, but cannot get it, as there is no transport, the Germans having taken all the lorries and most of the horses, and all the petrol. Having so little wood, we are only able to have a little fire to cook our dinner and boil a kettle for tea, and it's only four points above freezing in the lounge.
I am obliged to stay in bed all day, as it is the only way of keeping warm. Father feels the cold very much, and is not at all well. He never goes out, except to play the organ at church. There are no buses now and the roads are so quiet; and besides he has no boots but what let in the water, and his shirts are in rags.
The Commandant has issued an order that no one must cut down any trees or branches, or pick up bits of wood anywhere, not even on their own property, on pain of imprisonment. The prisons are full of people, for one thing and another.
Arthur Harrison is the latest. The Germans were searching the houses for food at Samares, and found a bag of flour, and because he would not tell the name of the farmer from whom he had bought it, he is to have seven weeks imprisonment. They think nothing of stopping one on the road and taking anything from one's basket. We think they must be getting very short of food, as they are stealing right and left, and will soon be getting out of hand.
A woman living alone on the Portelet Road heard someone trying to get in and opened the window as it was dark, saw a German and tried to shut it again, but he shot her and went off. She was very badly wounded, and could not get help till someone found her next morning; she was taken to hospital where she died soon after.
The electricity is all finished now, and we have no oil or candles, and few matches, so we have to go to bed at seven o'clock. The telephone is also finished, and we feel very cut off, especially as there is no means of getting to town, and most people's cycles are finished, and no repairs to be done.
We are all delighted with our Red Cross parcels, and are to have one every fortnight. I only wish we could get letters from you - it is such a long time since we had any, and are longing for news of you all, and hope you are all safe and well. I hardly dare mention John and Eric, and feel so anxious about them and long for news of their safety.
All the laundries closed down three months ago, and as there is no soap, no one will take any washing, and so we have to wash what we can at home without soap, and you can imagine the colour of the clothes, and the state everything is in, no cleaning materials of any sort. Most people's hands are ingrained with dirt and look awful, especially if they have chilblains. We hear the Red Cross ship came in yesterday with parcels, but no flour, which we had hoped for. The Germans had taken all ours, and as our ration of bread was cut from four pound each per week to two pound, and it will all be finished the end of this week, we certainly should starve if it were not for our parcels.
The farmers are usually so busy at this time of the year, planting potatoes, but those who have any are afraid to, as the Germans dig them up to boil and eat, as they are half-starved, look awful, dirty and ragged. We think they will be obliged to surrender soon, as their food must be almost finished, and they cannot steal any more from us.
Such a lovely day, quite like spring, and the daffodils are coming out in the garden, and the shrubs are budding. I am sitting in the sun parlour with the door open.
I have not told you about all the young fellows who have tried to escape from the Island. It started last autumn, and several got away in a boat intending to make for France, and eventually England, but we have never heard if they arrived safely. A great many were wrecked and drowned and their bodies washed up round the coast.
Some were rescued and brought back and put in prison for the duration. Young Killer managed to escape from prison and got away by boat. Another got away and is hiding somewhere in Jersey, and as the Germans cannot find him they have arrested his mother and put her in prison, hoping by so doing he would give himself up.
It is our dear John's birthday today, and he is 25. It does not seem possible that it is so long since his dear little mother died, and I brought John, a baby of three weeks old, back to Jersey, and have brought him up and loved him as my own boy, and he has been so good and sweet to me always.
We had a Red Cross letter from him last week and were delighted to hear he was well, but it was sent off a year ago, and so does not relieve my present anxiety, for so much has happened in the last 12 months.
Oh, how we long for this terrible war to be over. The news is good and we are trying to keep cheerful.
Our monthly parcels are a Godsend to us, and we are living quite well now we have them. The last ship brought flour, as we had been quite without bread for three weeks and how we missed it. We are enjoying the white bread after five years of brown.
Nothing very exciting has happened, except that the Palace Hotel was blown up the other day, by the sailors who are at enmity with the Army. A lot of Germans were killed, and many wounded are in Hospital. The Palace was burnt to the ground. We even felt the shock here, and many houses had windows and doors blown in.
We had to put our clocks on an hour two weeks ago, so are an hour ahead of you, but we are glad of the extra hour of daylight, and so do not have to go to bed quite so early.
I quite forgot to mention an interesting little episode which happened during the fuel shortage. Jennifer heard her mother say how we were almost without fuel, and without saying anything about it, she went out into the fields and hedgerows, and picked up about a sack full of bits of kindling wood - in spite of the German order that it was a punishable offence to do so.
When she got it home she was told that there was no transport to get it here. However, the next day Jennifer appeared here and said, "Oh, I have just brought, you a sack of wood, Grannie". On enquiry how she had come, she calmly said "I walked". It appears that she started from here with the sack tied to her cycle and got as far as West Park, where she had a puncture, and then trudged along that long dreary St Aubin's road and up St Aubin's hill pushing bike and wood all the way.
I was simply horrified, and told her how I appreciated what she had done, but she must never attempt such a thing again, for apart from knocking herself up, she might have been stopped by the Germans, and got into trouble over it. She said on leaving that she would get the puncture mended when she got to town, but found the shops already closed, and actually had to walk all the way home from here.
I think Dulcie kept her in bed the next day, and she was none the worse for her long trail. But what an example of endurance and determination she showed!
The news is so good today that Father acted so excited, and played and sang all the old war songs with the window open, and didn't care if the Germans heard or not!
There are all sorts of rumours going round today; one is that all cycles must be off the road by six o'clock, and that curfew is at eight. The man at present in command is very unpleasant, and says he will soon take the smile off the Jersey people's faces, which makes the Jerseyman smile more than ever.
Some time ago I was sitting in the sun parlour by the window reading, when someone knocked on the window, and I saw it was a very unpleasant German, who beckoned to me to come out. I just shook my head and said "No, go away", and he tried to open the door, but fortunately it was locked. He shook it and pushed, but it held. I was so afraid he would try the front or back doors, but he went off at last. I was simply petrified with fear, as I was quite alone and not a soul about, and I could not have moved to call anyone. I do not think he would have done any harm, and only wanted some bread or something to eat. Anyhow, I do not like to be alone in the house, but have to be when Father goes to church or practice.
There has been so much excitement lately that I have neglected my diary, and the news was so promising.
We expected the end any day, and so it went on, our hopes rising and falling, till at long last the welcome news came that we were FREE! Father rushed outside and put up the flag, while I stayed indoors and had a good cry, much to my disgust, and soon recovered, and would like to have gone out and shouted the news to passers-by.
However, I managed to contain myself, and in the evening several neighbours came in to hear the news, as we were the only ones to have a set round here. It was a very happy gathering, although we had nothing to celebrate with.
There was great excitement in town, but we did not see anything, as there were still no buses, and most people either walked or got lifts in vans, which suddenly appeared, and the excitement and noise seemed to go on all night.
Since then we have had the joy of receiving letters from all our dear ones, and have just had the second airmail from John, full of joy at our release.
I have been answering letters every day, but they appear to take such a long time to get there, and I have had several telegrams, asking for news and "why don't you write?" I have also had one from Daisy Coy today. She was deported to Germany with her husband nearly three years ago, and got back to England last September. She hopes to get back to Jersey as soon as permitted, and shall then hear all her experiences.
Father has just brought me a punnet of most lovely strawberries which he saw for sale, and so I had a fine treat, as those in the garden have done nothing.
We have heard on the wireless that the King and Queen are visiting the Channel Islands on 6 June. We have only just taken down the flags of Victory, and shall have to put them up again. What excitement there will be!
Well, the excitement is over, the King and Queen have come and gone, and I did not see anything but the planes. We were hoping they would pass here on their drive round the Island, but they went by the inner road. I was so disappointed, and was not well enough to go out in my chair.
Frank is using Auntie Emmie's car for his work, and they all came out to see us during the evening, and told us all about the Royal visit.
They had the pleasure of entertaining Howard Marshall to dinner the previous evening, and we listened to his broadcast at noon today.
Letters have been pouring in every day, and I had 13 on Monday, and now have a great deal of writing to do. So now there is no need for me to continue this journal, as you are getting regular letters from me and other relatives, It has given me comfort and pleasure to be talking to you on paper, and I hope you will enjoy reading it. Always your very loving Father and Mother.
Well, the Occupation is over at last! We had been hoping for Liberation for many months, but had made up our minds that we should have the Germans here till September - at least, Frank said September - I said June. However, all of a sudden it seemed that things were being speeded up - as we say in Jersey "The news were good"! In very truth the news were good - too good to be true. It all seems like a dream now - the King's speech, Mr Churchill's speech, the arrival of the British troops, and the surrender of the Nazis . Oh! Happy Day! The crying and laughing, the bonfires and the fireworks! Then seeing some of our own boys back home.
Dear old Derek! Looking so well. I was very proud to be kissed in the Royal Square by a Captain of the Coldstream Guards! We shall never forget the thrill of seeing British troops march into our town, as they poured out of the Ducks. Did we shout and yell that day! It was almost too much to bear, and we felt the reaction for weeks.
After months of privation our plight was soon relieved by stores unloaded from those wonderful Ducks and other landing craft. Then, after several days, we were allowed to send special postcards to England, and soon we were in touch again with most of our dear ones. We kept hard at it for many weeks, writing to our many friends and relatives, all of whom showered us with so many kindnesses. Then the phone services were renewed, and later, trunk calls, the telegraph service, bus services, laundries, electricity and gas. What a boon to so many women! And all the time food and soap pouring in.
All our own special boys, nephews, brothers-in law and cousins, have survived the war, but we were sad to hear that dear old Bill - Hilda Walker - has been drowned last year. Now we are all longing to meet again - "to renew the fellowship of sight and hand" as the Rev Labey used to say in his prayer for absent friends, a prayer which included the beautiful words "and may no shadow come between them and us to divide our hearts".
Finally, we long for the end of the war in the Far East, where Eric Bennett, Michael Simon, and probably other relations are serving; and the end which we hope for, for the release of all prisoners of-War and internees.
Margaret Major's son, Patrick, is a prisoner in Japanese hands.
I started the Occupation by putting up a white flag and singing "God Save the King"!
Let us hope that the Union Jack will soon be flying and everyone will be singing GOD SAVE THE KING!