Tag Archives: occupation

Guernsey Day 2 – The Occupation Museum

After a late start due to the arrival of my sister and her Spawn, because Louise was “bored” and therefore we had to have coffee with her… and the the arrival of my aunt and her grandson, The Mister and I finally got out of the house. We went to The Occupation Museum for a wander. I have been around this museum many times, but it still fascinates me. Even the fact that it smells like great-gran’s house is interesting. I have blogged about this museum before so I am not going to do it again, but if you are interested you can read it here. I did take some pictures though which are below.

After the museum we went for a yummy baguette and coffee before driving around the coast in my Mum’s poser car and we went to L’Ancresse beach and had a little walk and counted the number of fortifications around that one beach (at least 10) before having a little cuppa.

Now, we are off to the pub for a pint. Marvellous!



Picture 294This was Gran Nora’s book shelves before the family stripped it of the books we all wanted. Whilst I was at her house a couple of weeks ago I found a rather strange little book called The Alderney Story: 1939-1949 on the bare shelves and decided to take it home and read it.

Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands and is about 3 ½ miles long by 1 mile wide. It is glorious in the summer sunshine and utterly bleak when it is windy and rainy. Like the other Channel Islands Alderney was occupied by the Nazis during the second world-war and it accommodated three German labour camps, Lager Noordeney, Lager Heligolond, Lager Borkum and the notorious SS Concentration camp Lager Sylt. All but a handful of the 1400 islanders were evacuated to the mainland and the work and concentration camps housed Eastern European, mainly Russian prisoners, hundreds of whom died during the occupation.

This little book is a curious mix of personal stories and as it was written in 1971 I should think that some of the information is incorrect, but it was still interesting. It made me realise how hard life was, both for the locals who were evacuated and the environment to which they had to return, but also for the prisoners who suffered in the camps.

However, there was one bit of the book that really made me laugh. In 1946, the year after Liberation, getting to and from the island was pretty difficult due to restrictions on the amount of boats going to and from the island. At one time there was a limit of 12 passengers and it was hard to get a place. Of course this did not stop the determined.

”Major ‘Peapod’ Palmer, finding himself stuck in Guernsey, devised an ingenious way out of the difficulty. He went to the Post Office, had himself weighed and stamped, and demanded to be posted with the mails. He was found to be within his rights; moreover, as postal livestock had to be accompanied in transit, the ship on that occasion sailed with fourteen passengers instead of the twelve allowed. On arrival in Alderney, the postman sent as his herdsman on the voyage retaliated by taking him to the Post office to be cleared in the proper manner, before delivering him, as addressed, to his wife.”

I love the image of the Major Palmer standing on the scales and attaching the stamps to his jacket. Let it never be said that the islanders were not resourceful folk. Maybe that’s why so many of them made it through the toughest period in Channel Island history.

The Dame of Sark – April 27th 1944

April 27th 1944

Dear Nurse,

Congratulations on the birth of your son! I am so glad it is a son and how you have a perfectly arranged family, as I think a boy is all the better for having an older sister – even 2! I hope you are flourishing and all the babies and that you had as good time as last? Without all the worry.

Various changes here and the G. [German] Dr dealt with the last 3 confinements. Old Ibb’s latest was to tell a woman who came here from Guernsey that she has cancer of uterus and to go at once to hospital for immediate operation or it would be too late. The wretched woman had hysterics! And then Mrs Ibb arrived and asked her if she believed in God which made her worse! She went to Guernsey and was examined by Dr. Dick who told her there was no growth at all, and she was quite healthy!! So she is back here – His next was to tell old Mr Baird that he was “standing on an eggshell and might step off into eternity at any moment”! The old man rushed off to Dr. Collings and found there was nothing but slightly high blood pressure! I feel this will all amuse you knowing the old Ibb.

The present G. Dr. takes Phyllis round to all his cases, even to a confinement!! So she now thinks herself quite a C.M.B.

Food is sketchy here now as we have had no meat for 4 weeks and no fish – (am so tired of lobster) and lots are without potatoes. Thank goodness for my rabbits. Everything is growing well and such hundreds of planes go over every few says that our hearts are light with expectation.

With all good wishes to you and blessings on the son.

Yrs sincerely,

Sibyl Hathaway

The Dame of Sark – December 25th [1943]

December 25th [1943]

Dear Nurse,

Thank you so much for sending me the photos. They are so good and a souvenir of you all – I do wish you the best of things for 1944. Those are luck figures and I feel sure the year will bring re-union – though I must say the new ration books are a bit pessimistic. Up to 1946. I have been here so long I feel just like Mrs Noah in the Ark. Water all round and lots of queer animals inside and complete isolation, and food problems!!! We have a nice old German Dr now – he has just attended Mr Gerald Hamons confinement. They all say he is very kind – not a word of English! Much perturbed at the amount of rickets in all the children under 3. So I am wondering what Guernsey can be like.

I hope you are all now “settled in” and feeling fit yourself and “the Girls” flourishing.

Yrs sincerely, Sibyl Hathaway

The Dame of Sark – Undated


My Dear Nurse,

The twins are 1 year today and very flourishing! I did not write before because every mail day we expected your husband – we were all delighted to get news of you as I had heard from Nick of the serious op and all so very thankful you got there in time. They always say “Good comes out of Evil” so we must admit that the Evil of the evacuees having to go that particular day brought Good in the shape of a boat to take you over! Thank heaven for that. The twins have been very good, they “grizzled” a bit at the strange bedroom, otherwise they settled down at once. Mrs Bishops has been marvellous and Margaret has too, and I got her to sleep with them, so they were quite happy whenever they awoke, but they mostly sleep all night though.

I do hope you are comfortable now the first 11 days are past, I will go on fine.

I am finding life very lonesome now, but am always busy.

Yours with every good wish.

Sibyl Hathaway

The Dame of Sark – Oct 28 1941

Oct 28 1941

Dear Mrs Le Tissier

I have managed to get for you allowed from the States, a cask of T.V.O oil – about 40 galls. It costs £3-0-11

It can be burnt in Tilly Lamps, or others but is not safe in a glass container so I have borrowed lamps for you.

Our telephones have all been taken now.

I have arranged for you both to go to Mrs de Carterets, Espedase, The Avenue, Sark before the house if got ready – on your arrival I will send my horse and van down to bring up your belongings! When you get the bill for your transport, you can let me have it. I have written about your coal and coming over with you. I don’t think you will have any trouble – if any difficulty, get in touch with Mr R.O Falla at Hurzel House, as he will know, and it is by his kind efforts we are having the oil allowed for you.

I think it would be best to bring your rations with you for the current week and then our Food Controller will deal with the new registrations for you here. Kind regards.

Yrs sincerely,

Sibyl Hathaway

The Dame of Sark – September 11th [1941]

September 11th [1941]

Dear Mrs Le Tissier

Thank you for your letter – The House is the M.O.H’s house usually. It is quite comfortably furnished – It has a petrol gas plaut, with cooker, geyser and light but we are not now able to get the quality petrol for this, it also has a good coal range and bath water boiler. The allowance of coal here is ½ CWT a month as in Guernsey. There are paraffin lamps. We do not yet know what the paraffin ration is to be from October.

There is everything in the House including plate and linen. The garden is just a lawn and a few flower beds and a few perches of Kitchen garden at the back. Water is both main water tanks and also a well for drinking water.


The salary is £150.

I could see that your husband has more garden if he wishes. There is an unoccupied House (Le Manoir) which has a good garden free. There is a very ready sale here for vegetables as there is no market garden in Sark.

The 2 sitting room fireplaces are modern Devon type grates and burn wood or anything.

We should be glad to do all we could for you, as it is anxious work having so many people without trained help in illness.

Yours sincerely

Sibyl Hathaway

The Dame

I have had a blissful week in Guernsey with Peterson although it has been quite strange to be staying in my Gran’s house without her being here. It still feels like her place and the memories are so strongly connected with her that it almost feels disloyal to be having such a lovely time.

However, one of things I have been able to do is to take a sneaky look at some of Gran’s letters. When my Mum and my aunts were clearing out the house they found a couple of suitcases stuffed full of old letters, receipts and other paperwork. I found Gran’s love letters to Grandpa which she sent in 1939 whilst she was completing her nursing training at Birmingham General Infirmary. They made me cry, partly because her writing had hardly changed and she wrote such beautiful, gossipy letters about general nursing and the things she had been up to. I always knew she adored Grandpa, but these letters make it clear just how much she loved him and is saddens me that after he died in 1984 she had to spend another 24 years without him before she was reunited with him in heaven.

In these treasure-trove suitcases there were loads of newspapers, ‘Thought for the Day’ cuttings, photos etc. but the things that really interested me were from the German Occupation of Guernsey. From June 1940 – May 1945 the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi’s. Many of the children from the island were evacuated to mainland England and the adults and children that stayed lived under unbelievable hardship. This week I took Peterson to the Occupation Museum. It’s an unbelievable little place and would appear to be to life-work of one man who seems to run it single-handedly. The museum is stuffed full of information, memorabilia, German uniforms, guns, cooking equipment, photos and basic equipment that was developed by the local islanders to try and keep their lives running as normally as possible. There are cooking pans fashioned from tin-cans and recipes for delicacies such as Parsnip Coffee as the islanders were on such limited food rations they had to be creative. This period of history fascinates me as I know my grandparents lived through the Occupation years and somehow I feel drawn to try and understand their experiences.

My Gran was dually qualified (midwifery and general nursing trained) and as a result she was asked to go and live in Sark as they did not have any medical personnel over there. So, sometime at the end of 1941, despite the fact that she was in the early stages of pregnancy, she and my Grandpa travelled over to live on Sark.

So, back to Gran’s suitcases of goodies. The suitcases contained some letters from the Dame of Sark, Sybil Hathaway who, by all accounts was a real character and did not take too kindly to being bossed around by the Germans. Over the next few days I will try to share some of these letters, as they are fascinating, the early ones have a distinctly business-like feel to them, but these clearly develop into a fondness for my Gran, or “Nurse” as the Dame likes to call her. I found them to be an interesting perspective on what was a truly horrifying time.

Anyway, here are some pics from the week away.