HISTORIQUE













 

Jersey
under the Swastika!

Page 40 - Philip Frederick Le Sauteur

CHAPTER TWELVE (SECTION 1)

1944

1944 opened with a serious fracas between a German soldier and one of his officers. This was at Fauvic, and at some time over the New Year holidays there was an argument between the two men, whereupon the soldier put several revolver shots into his officer. The soldier immediately went into hiding. A number of the civilian population who were suspected of having helped the absconding fellow with civilian clothing, food, etc., were closely questioned, but the faith of the soldier himself remained a mystery at least to the population. Most probably the man was ultimately caught.

During the first week of the year many of the Allied planes passed very high up, leaving vapour trails, and on one of these occasions as many as eight planes were counted. A heavy barrage was put up on the forenoon of the 6th, against planes which were too high to be seen.

During the course of an artillery practice — the first to be held during the night — the curious phenomenon of a complete, though faint, rainbow around the searchlight beam was noticed, surely a most unusual occurence with artificial light.

Considerable air activity continued. On January l4th, for instance, flak bursts could be seen and bombing heard from the direction of Cherbourg all the afternoon, and twice during that night the R.A.F were around, being greeted with heavy flak from the west of the Island on the first occasion, whilst on the second the gunners must have been making up lost sleep.

A disastrous fire on the night of the 16th wiped out the entire new portion — as well as some of the old — of the Gruchy's shop. The Germans had been using the bakehouse for their supplies, and the restaurant as a general store, and they must have lost a very considerable quantity of clothing, small arms and food. Usually some "explanation" is forthcoming to account for theses serious occurrences! Few people probably would speak of a pure "accident", even though accidents are possible anywhere and at any time. Still, tongues "wag", and it was believed locally that this particular fire had been "engineered" to cover shortages in the stoks, it being understood that there had been a considerable leakage of Wermacht stores!

The "Jersey Democratic Party" busied themselves with issuing underground leaflets, their general policy being anti-States.

Having just about cleaned up the usable motor vehicles in the Island, the German-buying commission were now engaged in "buying" most of the cars, lorries and motorcycles on the road for civil purposes, as well as those held on civil reserve.

Before the end of the month, the R.A.F. sank one, and left another patrol vessel badly damaged and on fire, when they attacked a convoy in St. Aubin's Bay on the afternoon of  the 29th. On Februry 8th,  heavy flak was directed against a solitary U.S. fighter. As far as could be ascertained, this particular plane had previously developed engine trouble, and was preparing to make a forced landing when it was fired on. There was some doubt as to whether the usually ineffective A.A. guns could claim a share in its destruction, but the machine caught fire and crashed on the sand dunes on the Five Mile Road. The pilot baled out and landed with slight injuries. The Germans in the vicinity were a good deal smarter than when the previous forced landing was made, and some thirty were on the spot with tommy-guns, within a minute of the airman's landing.

A further cut in the gas hours was made early in February, the hours when it was available now being 7.0 to 8.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m., and 6.0 to 8.0 p.m., a decided inconvenience for both cooking and lighting.

A spate of activity followed. On the 11th of February a single R.A.F. machine crossed the Island, and received a full share of A.A. fire — result? Nil! A German patrol boat blew up on a mine off Corbiere two days later, and for a number of days no shipping was out, with the exception of minesweepers, these operating during the night. Two days later again, for hour after hour, adjacent districts in France were subjected to some of the heaviest bombing yet felt in the Island.

Prior to these few events, on the 11th, the body of another naval rating was washed ashore and buried. Many things were standing jokes with the Islanders. One supposes this is possible in all walks of life, particularly when there is an absence of genuine friendliness amongst those concerned. Even where the actual matters concerned are far from being trivial or humorous in character, there may be a touch of the humorous about them when viewed from outside. No one in his right mind can seriously view prisons as humorous in character, yet, amongst the Islanders during the German occupation, the German prison sentences were a standing joke, and they certainly would provide capital material for a comic opera. This did not, of course, apply to the longer sentences, which were served in France under what seem to have been pretty bad conditions, but the shorter terms served locally provided many a hearty laugh.

One man put in was a member of the Fire Brigade, and he was allowed out whenever there was a fire! Another applied for, and got, leave to help his wife to move, and later on had a day off in order to attend a funeral! There were several cases of sentences being deferred until after the war! In other instances the offender was consulted as to when it would be convenient for him to carry out his sentence! Quite often the supposed "gaol-bird" would do a few days of his time, and then be released to finish his sentence after the war! It was usually arranged for schoolteachers to serve their sentence during school holidays, and for those of the farming fraternity to do their time during the slack periods! Even when actually in prison, the overcrowded state prevented the loneliness of solitary confinement, and a good time seems to have been enjoyed by all concerned.

Watchers from Corbiere had a view of the naval engagement of February 24th, in which a patrol boat blew up, and another reached the harbour with a heavy list. Several scuttlers were taken to hospital, and it was understood that many of the crew had perished.

Almost the entire garrison was busily engaged during this period on manoeuvres, and after a shell had done some material damage — but nothing else — in Gorey Village, it became the practice to evacuate the whole district where the fighting was to be for a few hours.

In the early days of March there was a slight improvement in the hours when gas was available — 6.30 a.m. instead of 7.0 a.m.

R.A.F. activity on adjacent coast was intense during March and the German A.A. guns put up a heavy, but ineffective, barrage against what must have been a considerable number of high-flying aircraft on the afternoon of the 24th. On countless other occasions planes passed unmolested, and detected only by sound and vapour trails. The night of the 27th was unpleasantly like the "bad old days" — quite a few German planes passed on the way to their objectives in S. W. England and S. Wales.

Probably arranged to coincide with this particular flight, and thus to mate it appear that they were dropped by Allied planes, hundreds of leaflets were strewn all over the roads, purporting to be a Yankee soldier's protest at the Allied under-valuation of the German fighting qualities. No doubt calculated to instil into the minds of the Island's population the impossibility of invasion in face of such German military valour as caused this pseudo-American soldier to have this filthy and disgusting leaflet printed, it failed miserably in its object. The method of distribution — if nothing else — made it all too obvious that the leaflets were strewn from road vehicles and not from the air, and therefore must have come from a local German source. Also, with the defence of the Island to a large extent in the hands of the White Russian volunteers, ltalians and very C.3 Germans, the fulsome praise of the German fighting machine misfired rather badly. There were matters which were obvious to even the most irresponsible brains.

The clocks reverted to a Double Summer Time on April 1st, the curfew remaining at 10.0 p.m. The electricity ration was reduced to 3½ units per household per week, and gas hours suffered a further curtailment, being now 6.30 to 8.0 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1.0 p.m., and 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m., only 4½ hours a day. The gas-works were working from hand to mouth all the time with coal, and it was constantly being stated that, unless supplies arrived, there would be none in a short while.

Mention must be made of the valuable contribution to the well-being of the population by local entertainers during these difficult years. Their efforts ranged from the plays, operas, comic operas and revues put on by the Green Room and other Clubs, through the rather low semi-professional variety shows, to the genuinely amateur shows put on by various country concert parties. Apart from the cinemas, which perforce put on the same films time after time, varied only with German pictures, these were allmost the only entertainements available, and they certainly served an exceeidingly useful purpose in keeping up the spirits of the people.

On the night of April 9th, a Dornier failed to give the recognition signal in time, and the flak gunners — more accurate than usual — succeeded in shooting it down in flames. It landed in an orchard near Five Oaks, only one of the crew suviving for a short while. In view of the possibility that the local gunners might have had a hand in the destruction of the American fighter in February, this incident of the Dornier was regarded by the Islanders as a "balancing of accounts".

On the evening of the 13th, several Allied machines skirted the South Coast, skimming just above the water, and on the following morning there was bombing on the French coast of such intensity and violence as to make one wonder whether the invasion had not actually started.

In preparation for the invasion which, so said the German propagandist, could never be brought off, stout iron girders and wooden poles were being erected in fields all over the Island as a precaution against glider landings. Some of the beaches were also similarly treated, and a little later fox-holes for snipers were prepared along the roadsides, and covering most corners. It was very interesting, however, to notice that the anti-glider devices were not used at all on some of the beaches and ground for such a landing, whilst some of the smallest fields were well-decorated with them.

Curfew was extended until midnight for the night of April 19th only, owing to a big procession, culminating in a torchlight display in  order that the civil population might be able to attend. This event, presumably, was in honour of Hitler's birthday. It rained that day, but, unfortunately, not unil just after the termination of the supposed "festivities".

One of the O.T. camps on Grouville Marsh was burn out about this time, and there were insistent rumours of riots, amongst the troops at Portelet over a cut in the men's rations. This latter was partly confirmed by the removal of wounded men from Merton Hotel to a hospital ship under a strong armed guard a few days later.

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