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A Dark Day in History

Today I'm turning back the hands of time 81 years to June 28th 1940. 

It's not a date that you may know as important in history but for the people of the Channel Islands, and for Jersey and Guernsey in particular, it's a significant day.

It was a Friday and since September 1939 Great Britain, including the British Crown Dependencies - the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - were at war with Germany.

The first months of what is now known as the Second World War (1939-1945) is known as the 'Phoney War'. Relatively little happened in the way of conflict but it was in that time that Hitler began working seriously on his plans for world domination. Nazi influence grew in the homeland, and  troops began to flood across Europe, gradually encroaching on France. On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

Allied troops based in Europe were moved back by the advancing enemy and by the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium. Between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque) an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

With the defences now virtually non-existent, on June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces which came into effect after midnight on June 25th. As far as Hitler was concerned, next it would be Great Britain.

If you know where the Channel Islands are and the history of the time, you'll know what comes next. 

The Channel Islands are actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

By the end of June 1940, after months of anticipation, it had become clear that occupation of the islands was inevitable. The Germans were just across the water!

In summer of 1940 Hitler seemed unstoppable as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. Invading and occupying Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.  It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way! Soon he would be marching through London in victory!

It was on July 1st 1940 that the Germans DID invade the Channel Islands - actually the only place in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - and so began five long years of Occupation.

In the final weeks of 'freedom' confusion reigned. Many people with means and/or family in the UK had already left but now many thousands decided to evacuate, not wanting to hang around for the Nazis. The British government had made the decision that, to save lives, it would be best not to engage in military conflict with the Germans when they eventually came. There had been some British forces based in the islands, but by June 20th, any remaining military personnel had been withdrawn, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

Unfortunately no one told the German High Command.

Viscount's Inquest BookOn June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. There was a desperate scuffle to inform the enemy of the situation, including a belated message on the BBC that the islands had been declared "open towns". Later in the day the BBC reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands. on June 30th the deaths of the islanders killed in Jersey were reported at an inquest and recorded in the Viscount's (the senior law officer) Inquest Book, which is now part of the Jersey Archive.

The islands would be occupied until May 9th 1945 and it was in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of that Liberation (Liberation75), while working at BBC Radio Jersey. that I recorded a fascinating project which would run for a whole year right though to May 9th 2020 and beyond.

I worked in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, with the experts there selecting 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey. The series ran from May 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history. 

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. We ran the first on Liberation Day (May 9th) in 2019 and then we picked up the series on June 21st and ran a feature every day until Libertion75 and beyond.

Object Number 3 in the series happened to land on Friday June 28th 2019 ... exactly 79 years on from the bombing raids on Guernsey and Jersey which heralded the start of Occupation.

And so it was on that morning we heard from Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  who brought out the object which tells that story ... that Inquest Book.

And so, as I said, let's turn back the clock 81 years to June 28th 1940 ...

50 Objects - No.3 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 3 - 28 June 2019.

 

 


The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


A Voice from the Past

Happy Liberation Day!

If you live in or hail from the Channel Islands you'll know why I'm greeting you like this today.

Here in the islands, May 9th is a day for celebration and commemoration every year and has been since 1945, the day that Jersey and the other Channel Islands gained their freedom after nearly five long years of Occupation by German Nazi forces during what we now call 'the Second World War'.

Usually, when we aren't living under Covid19 pandemic restrictions, it's a day packed full of events including luncheons for people who lived through the war years, parades and fun, as well as commemorations and thanksgiving including special church services.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of the Liberation - Liberation75 - and all the commemorations had to be online or virtual.

Object 50 - Welcome Home JsyHeritage copyrightThis year it's a little more relaxed, although there are none of the usual large gatherings planned. For instance, there will be no re-enactment of the Liberation of Jersey on May 9th 1945, that moment when British troops came ashore at the harbour in St Helier, marched the short distance to what is now called 'Liberation Square' and were welcomed by thousands of islanders who saw the British Union Jack raised on the Pomme d'Or Hotel. After five years of the Nazi Swastika flag on local flagpoles, that must have been an incredible moment.

For the residents of Jersey who had lived through nearly five years of Occupation, since German Nazi forces invaded the island on July 1st 1940, this was a moment to be not just celebrated but cherished and remembered. Annual events keep the Occupation in the mind of Jersey residents, children learn about the period not just through their families but also at school. As those who lived through the era gradually leave us, their legacy is ensured by the annual commemorations and the guardians of our history.

In 2019 and 2020 I worked with the experts at Jersey Heritage to create a radio series which would tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey through 50 Objects which are held in the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum. The series was broadcast on BBC Radio Jersey on the Friday morning Breakfast Show on May 9th 2019 and then every week from the end of June that year up to and beyond Liberation75 on May 9th in 2020. This was part of our contribution to Liberation75, and I was privileged to learn that it became part of the official online commemorations.

During the making of the series we looked at documents, official and personal, diaries, posters, registration cards, items which told how the islanders lived under increasingly difficult conditions, made do with what they could lay their hands on to put food on the table and survived the deprivations of Occupation. We heard how children grew up in that period, how they played and how adults kept themselves busy, including having fun in local amateur dramatic productions. We explored transport and medicine and all the shortages which gradually began to show themselves as the war progressed, as Germany began to lose ground and headed towards ultimate defeat.

Our 50 stories included Jews who lived in fear and secret and we heard about those individuals who resisted the enemy forces and those, including families of English origin, who were sent to work and internment camps in Europe, some never to return. We also heard about those who collaborated with the enemy, and we heard the harrowing stories of slave workers who built massive fortifications as the Nazis under Hitler desperately hung on to the islands. We even heard the tales of some of the Germans who were based here and how they lived.

SO many stories, all wrapped up in objects and documents held in trust by Jersey Heritage. It was fascinating and I learned so much about that period of history in my home island. I developed a new appreciation for the resilience of the Jersey people, including members of my own family who lived through the Occupation years. 

As I said, our 50 Objects series didn't end on May 9th 2020 because, actually, Liberation wasn't done and dusted on that day. It was just the start of a period of readjustment for those who had lived through the days when they were imprisoned and controlled by the enemy within the confines of this small island.

And for some 'liberation' would come later. Guernsey was also liberated on May 9th 1945, Sark on May 10th but in Alderney, the most northern of  the Channel Islands from where pretty much the whole population had been evacuated in June/July 1940, their 'Homecoming' would not be until December 1945. Alderney residents had to wait until the end of the year before they could return, mostly because their whole island had become one big German defence base and after May 9th 35,000 mines had to be removed, with some casualties, before the population could safely return. Homecoming in Alderney is now annually celebrated every December 15th!

For many thousands of Channel Islanders who had left their homes before the Germans invaded in 1940, there was a gradual return after May 1945. 

The evacuation of civilians from the Channel Islands in 1940 had, as I just said, seen the evacuation of virtually the entire population of Alderney ( 1,500 people). In Guernsey around one third of the population left the island in the run up to July 1st 1940 when the Occupation began. That was around 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of the resident population at the time of 42,000. In Jersey, although 23,000 civilians registered to leave, the majority of islanders followed the advice of their island government and remained. Only 6,600 Jersey residents out of 50,000 left on the evacuation ships in summer 1940, just before Occupation.

For some islanders, of course, the move away would be permanent. Although they were 'evacuees' many settled well in various locations in England and other parts of the UK. Some got jobs, got married, had children. And they would not return. 

But once the war was over - VE (Victory in Europe) Day was May 8th and Liberation was the following day - islanders scattered across Great Britain started to think about and plan their homecoming.

This week in my blog I decided to dip into my 50 Objects series ... I hope you've enjoyed listening to some of the stories. Just seven, and there are 43 more if you feel you'd like to go to the Jersey Heritage pages on Vimeo.

And so today I turn to the final feature in the series - Object 50 - which isn't actually an 'object' at all.  

It's a voice, a voice from the past, the voice of one of those returning evacuees.

Nelley Lebredonchel (née Hotton) was a child when she was evacuated and when she returned with her family. By all accounts she was quite a character, as Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive Stuart Nicolle discovered when he interviewed her for the 60th anniversary of Liberation. She and her parents and siblings spent the war years in the north of England, as many islanders did, and they returned to Jersey and the family here in September 1945 just a few months after the original 'Liberation Day'.

Her story and her voice is now part of the Archives ... and it was to Nelley that Stuart turned for our final feature...

50 Objects - No50 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to this audio feature on the BBC Jersey website click on the link below

Breakfast on BBC Radio Jersey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 50 - May 22nd 2020

*image copyright Jersey Heritage


The Ralph Mollet Diaries

On the eve of Liberation Day in the Channel Islands I'm continuing to dip into a radio series I recorded in 2019/2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this momentous historic day last year.

It was a brilliant experience for me, as I worked closely with the experts at Jersey Heritage who selected 50 Objects from the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

Objects selected told us so much about living life under German Nazi occupation. How the population kept food on the table, made do and mended, resisted the enemy, lived day to day life. We heard how life was for German soldiers based in Jersey, and how islanders entertained themselves and there were documents that showed the plight of islanders' health and food supplies, and official documents showing how the German forces kept control over the islanders - registration cards, posters warning against sedition.

If you read this blog yesterday, you'll know that we heard the tales of slave workers brought to the island as forced labour on numerous fortifications which Hitler ordered to ensure the British and their Allies were unable to win back the islands, if they had invaded. There were stories about people who were sent off the island to work and internment camps, some of whom never returned. And we learned about the lives of groups like Jewish people who lived in fear throughout the occupation.

I learned so much about that period of Jersey's history including some of the 'big events' during the era starting with the German bombing raids on June 28th 1940 which killed islanders just before the enemy invaded the island on July 1st that year.  Jumping forward more than four and half years we re-lived the arrival of the Red Cross ship 'Vega' with vital food parcels and supplies for an island that had been cut off from the rest of the world since D-Day in June 1944. By the end of that final year of the war, Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands were in a desperate situation and the Red Cross parcels really were a life-saver.

Our 50 Objects included official letters and private documents and even diaries and, for this penultimate 'dip' into my series, which ran weekly on BBC Radio Jersey for a whole year in the run up to and as part of our contribution to Liberation75 on May 9th 2020, I'm turning to a diary.

Object 47 - RALPH MOLLETT DIARIESAnd not just any ordinary diary. This was the personal journal written across the Occupation by one Ralph Mollet, who was the Bailiff's secretary during the period.

The Bailiff in both Jersey and Guernsey is the chief justice and also the president of the legislature or States Assembly of elected representatives. The role goes back to the 13th century, Bailiffs are appointed by the British monarch and they undertake official and ceremonial duties.

Before the invasion by the German Nazi forces in July 1940 there would also have been a Lieutenant-Governor in both jurisdictions, but as the official representative of the British monarch it was thought best for them to leave the islands before occupation. So the Bailiff role became even more important. He was the main point of civilian contact for the German Commandant and the occupying authorities. The Bailiff also represented the interests of islanders to those authorities and got involved in diplomacy and negotiation, pleading causes, including the supply of food and medicines. In fact, it was the Bailiff of Jersey who intervened in winter of 1944 and eventually managed to persuade the Nazi German forces of the need for the Red Cross to sail into Jersey on Dec 31st of that year with those vital supplies.

From 1935 to 1961 the post of Bailiff in Jersey was held by Alexander (later Lord) Coutanche, and working alongside him was Ralph Mollet, attending many of those official meetings and engagements. Throughout the 1940-45 period Mr Mollet kept journals and they really are a window on his world, as he stood on the sidelines of history. 

Linda Romeril, Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage, opened Ralph Mollet's diaries for us ....

50 Objects - No47 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

Ralph Mollet also documented his experiences just after occupation in Jersey Under The Swastika.  But his original diaries are held in the Jersey Archive. They are a phenomenal documentation of the era and an important and fascinating record of the time that Ralph and his fellow islanders spent under enemy occupation.

If you want to listen to the feature on the Ralph Mollet diaries via the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below.

BBC Radio Jersey - Breakfast on BBC Radio Jersey, 01/05/2020, 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - Object 47 - 01 May 2020


A Slave worker's Shoe

All this week I'm looking ahead to Liberation Day in the Channel Islands with a dip into a radio series I made in the past couple of years which tells the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

It was in early 2019 that I met with the archivists and experts at the Jersey Archive and explained that I had this idea for a series which would take objects from their collections through which we could tell the story of that period of our island's history.

I have to admit it wasn't entirely an 'original' idea, but fortunately the guys at the Archive were aware of another series which was on BBC Radio 4 some years ago - 'A History of the World in 100 Objects' made in partnership with the British Museum - so they knew exactly what I was after.

The Archive experts selected 50 Objects from the Jersey Heritage collections held in the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum, and then we recorded in batches across more than a year. The features ran every Friday morning on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show starting on May 9th 2019 and then picking up at the end of June and running right through to and beyond the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation on May 9th 2020.

Liberation75 could not be publicly celebrated because of the Covid19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions which were in place at the time, but I'm pleased to say our '50 Objects' series was included in the 'official' commemorations.

Although I know a lot about the Occupation, recording the series taught me so much more and one of the subjects we featured was heart-breaking and also served to uncover the brutality of life for many under the Nazis.

When you visit Jersey, and indeed the rest of the Channel Islands, you will notice that there are lots of concrete structures which were built during the Occupation in the years 1940 to 1945.

If you've been reading this blog over the past few days you'll be aware that the German Nazi forces invaded and occupied the islands on July 1st 1940. Hitler was cock-a-hoop that he had invaded a part of the British Isles and in fact, he saw it as a first step into the invasion of mainland Britain. 

That didn't happen, the British fought hard against it, including during the period known as the Battle of Britain  (this included the German night time bombing raids which became known as The Blitz) from July 1940 to June 1941.

But as the tide of war turned against them, the Nazis were determined that the Channel Islands would not be taken back so they set about building fortifications - look out points, gun emplacements, tunnels and bunkers where German soldiers could defend the islands against British and Allied invasion.

What many people might not know is that the Germans didn't build those concrete defences and walls and bunkers themselves, rather they were largely built by forced labour and what we now recognise as 'slaves'. This was part of what the Germans called 'The Atlantic Wall', and in the Channel Islands it resulted in the construction of fortifications, roads and more between 1940 and 1945. This was overseen by the Organisation Todt. which was a civil and military engineering organisation in Nazi Germany that operated between 1933 to 1945. It was named after its founder, Fritz Todt, who was an engineer and a senior Nazi.

Object 23 - slaveworker's shoeOrganisation Todt was actually responsible for a huge range of engineering projects both in Nazi Germany and in their occupied territories during World War II - from France to the Soviet Union and, of course, in the Channel Islands.

Although some people were 'employed' to work on the projects, Organisation Todt increasingly used forced labour and, especially from 1943 until 1945 as the Third Reich came under pressure, this effectively meant that slaves were brought in to construct their defences. In the Channel Islands this included many hundreds of prisoners of Russian, Polish and other European heritage for whom life was just appalling.

And so to today's 'object' from the 50 Objects series. A few of the objects we looked at highlighted the plight and lives of those poor men who were brought to the islands to work on the fortifications, who were often treated brutally, with little food and shelter, no clothes and dreadful working conditions. Some were worked to their death. 

When Val Nelson, Senior Registrar at Jersey Heritage, pulled out today's object ... it made my skin crawl and my heart break...

50 Objects - No23 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

This was Object Number 23 and if you want to listen to Val talking about a couple of other objects which document the lives of the Operation Todt slave workers in Jersey you can also listen to Object 21 - a Russian Toy and Object 22 - Bill's cap.

If you want to listen to today's clip on the BBC Radio Jersey website click on the link below.

BBC Radio Jersey - Ashlea Tracey, 15/11/2019, 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - Object 23 - 15 November 2019


A Registration Card

All this week I'm turning back the hands of time more than 75 years to the days of Jersey's Occupation.

On Sunday (May 9th) the Channel Islands will celebrate 'Liberation Day' ... that May day in 1945 when five long years of occupation by the enemy finally ended.

If you've followed my blog especially this week, you'll know that the Channel Islands - Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark - were the only places in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by enemy forces. Increasingly over the years, as we heard yesterday, food and other supplies began to run out, especially after D-Day in June 1944 when the British and their Allies invaded northern France and began the push back against the German enemy.

Although it was a turning point in the war, the Channel Islands were not taken back so that meant they became cut off. That affected not just the residents but also the German forces who were still stationed here.

It was on May 8th 1945 that the Germans finally surrendered and the Second World War came to an end, at least in Europe ... the day is known as Victory in Europe - VE Day  And the next day the Channel Islands was liberated, marking the end of a particularly traumatic period in history.

A year ago, across 2019 and 2020, while I was working for BBC Radio Jersey, I recorded a very special series in partnership with the experts at the Jersey Archive. They selected 50 Objects from the Jersey Heritage collections held at the Archive and the Jersey Museum which tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation years in Jersey. This was not just an interesting exercise for me, but also a great way to help the island celebrate 'Liberation75' in May 2020.

If you listened to the audio yesterday you'll have heard a bit about the way islanders managed to keep their food cupboards stocked through desperate times. It's just one of the objects in the '50 Objects' series which tell the story of the resilience of the population, making do and mending, coping under intense pressure.

Object 27 - Registration CardThe series also included stories of slave workers, transport, children, those who resisted the occupying forces and official and personal letters, diaries and documents. 

Between July 1940, when the Occupation began, and May 9th 1945 - the original Liberation Day - the German occupying forces had to find a way of keeping track of and controlling the island population, and so they implemented a Registration Card system. All adults had to be registered, carry their card and produce it on demand. Not to do so had dire consequences.

But as we discovered when we looked at 'Object 27' in the 50 Objects series, although they had to comply, some islanders managed to use their registration card as a form of passive resistance.

And when Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive, Stuart Nicolle, picked out a registration card for us to look at, it was personal...

 

50 Objects - No27 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to the feature on the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below. The features were broadcast every week on a Friday morning on the Breakfast Show just after 0830, with repeats. 

Ashlea Tracey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 27 - Dec 13 2019

 

 


A Sugar Beet Press

On Sunday (May 9th) here in the Channel Islands  we will celebrate 'Liberation Day'.

It's the day back in 1945 when the islands were liberated after five years of enemy Occupation.

If you know your history, you'll be aware that between 1939 and 1945 the world was at war with the 'Axis' powers headed by Nazi Germany.

By summer 1940 Germany had managed to take large parts of mainland Europe including France, and just a hop across the water Hitler had the Channel Islands in his sights. On July 1st 1940, with no resistance from British forces because the islands had been 'demilitarised', German troops landed in the islands and so began five years of occupation. The islands were the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by enemy forces during the Second World War.

The Occupation of the Channel Islands meant islanders were largely separated from the rest of the world, and certainly England and Great Britain. Under Nazi occupation, islanders were forced to conform, although not all did. Some, including those who resisted the enemy, were sent to internment and work camps in Europe never to return. 

Life was never easy for the islanders but when the Allies re-took France in June 1944 in what has become known as 'D-Day' - landing just across the water from the Channel Islands in Normandy - Jersey and the other islands, and the remaining German troops, were cut off from the main German army and supply routes. 

The final year of Occupation, especially, was dire. But even before food and medical and other supplies became sparse after the connections with the French mainland were cut, islanders had experienced years of rationing and restrictions.

Object 15 sugar beet pressAll this week in my blog I'm dipping into a series I recorded for BBC Radio Jersey and Jersey Heritage. I started recording in spring of 2019 and we ran a feature every week from May/June 2019 right through to and beyond May 9th 2020 when we celebrated Liberation75.  Our focus was 50 Objects held in the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum which tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

There were documents, official and personal, posters warning people against opposition, toys created for children out of nothingness, tales of how the population entertained themselves, stories of bravery and of day-to-day survival and ingenuity as people made use of anything they could lay their hands on to just keep themselves fed.

And so we come to today's 'object' ... just one of the stories we heard about how islanders found ingenious ways of feeding themselves and their families.

The story is told by Val Nelson, Senior Registrar at Jersey Heritage ... 

50 Objects - No.15 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you wish to listen to the audio feature on the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below

Ashlea Tracey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 15 - 20 September 2019


An Unused Ticket

This week, in the run up to the celebration of Liberation Day in the Channel Islands I'm dipping into a fascinating series I recorded for radio which ran across 2019 into 2020 and told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey through 50 Objects held in the Jersey Heritage collections.

The series culminated around May 9th 2020 when we marked the 75th anniversary of the Liberation ... it was part of BBC Radio Jersey's contribution to Liberation75.

Yesterday I explained that on July1st 1940 Jersey and the other Channel Islands including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark were invaded by the German Nazi forces - Hitler thought it would be the next step to invading Great Britain.

The invasion came at the end of a turbulent few weeks when, by June 20th,  any remaining British forces were withdrawn from the islands, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

On June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. The BBC broadcast a belated message that the islands had been declared "open towns" and later in the day reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands.

Some islanders, especially those with means and those with family members living in mainland Great Britain had already decided to leave but during those last weeks of freedom, as occupation became inevitable, many decided that they could not stay in their island home.

By June 21st it had become clear to the government of Guernsey that it would be impossible to evacuate everyone who wanted to leave, so priority was given to special categories in the time remaining. In total, 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of the resident population of 42,000 were evacuated - a third of the islanders left. In Jersey, 23,000 civilians registered to leave but consistently the government encouraged people to stay and in the end only 6,600 out of the 50,000 population left on evacuation ships ahead of the invasion and the start of the five year long Occupation.

And so to today's story from my series '50 Objects' recorded for BBC Radio Jersey in 2019/2020.

Object 5 - an unused ticketEach of the objects, from the collections at the Jersey Archive and Jersey Museum, were selected by the archivists and experts at the Archive. It was a real joy to work with them over the year and to learn so much about this crucial period of Jersey's history.

The most interesting thing is that many of the items selected to tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation appear on the surface completely inconsequential.

Like Object Number 5 - a boat ticket ....

Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  picks up the story of the Unused Ticket

50 Objects - No.5 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 5 - 12 July 2019


A Little Brown Envelope

This is a lovely time of year in Jersey in the Channel Islands - it's where I call home.

It's a time when colours are bright and the sunshine is beginning to warm us all up.

And it's also an important time, historically.

So much so that I'm going to do something a little different this week for my 'One Day at a Time' blog.

Let me explain.

On Sunday this coming weekend it's May 9th, a very important day in the calendar for Jersey, Guernsey and a couple of the other Channel Islands.

It's 'Liberation Day'!

If you're not already aware, during the Second World War (1939-1945) the islands were invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - the Channel Islands were actually the only parts of the British Isles to be occupied by the enemy. 

The Occupation began on July 1st 1940 but it was the culmination of months of anticipation.

If you know your history you'll know that war in Europe broke out on September 1st 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany two days later. The conflict would, of course, ultimately become global, but first Hitler was intent on taking over the whole of Europe.

After a period known as the 'Phoney War', eight months at the start of the war when relatively little happened in the way of conflict but during which Germany laid its plans, Nazi troops began to flood across the continent and gradually encroached on France. On May 10, 1940, they  invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

By the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium, and between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque)  an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

On June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces and that came into effect after midnight on June 25th.

Now, if you're not aware, Jersey and the Channel Islands is actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. First, it was really close to France and now his army had the mainland, it wasn't much of a stretch to get to the Channel Islands.

But second, taking Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.

Remember, this was all when Hitler was in the ascendant, he seemed 'unstoppable' as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way!

Certainly when the islands were occupied on July 1st 1940 the Nazis took advantage of the situation, releasing film and photographs of the Nazi flag flying from government buildings, pictures of a British policeman opening a car door for a German officer.

The truth is, the Occupation of the Channel Islands was not the step into mainland Britain, and there was no battle because the islands had been demilitarised. 

In May 2019 while working at BBC Radio Jersey I began a fascinating project in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, in which the experts there selected 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

The series ran from May/June 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history.

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

So, all this week I'm going to bring you one of the objects as we make our way towards Liberation Day on Sunday May 9th. Yes, we received our freedom from occupation the day AFTER Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8th.

This year we celebrate 76 years of Liberation ... the series was made to mark the landmark Liberation75!

So let's begin with Object Number 1 ... and an inconsequential note on the back of a little brown envelope.

Object 1 ... little brown envelopeLet's go back to the spring and early summer of 1940, and for weeks there had been rumours and fears that the Germans were on their way. Jersey's government and the islanders looked across the water, listened intently to the BBC news and were aware of Hitler's surge across Europe. 

There were questions here and in London -  would the island be defended, or left to it's own devices? What would happen if the Nazis did make it across the stretch of water from France? Would there be street battles? Bombings? 

Some people had already decided to leave their island home, but others waited to see whether occupation could be avoided.

There was much speculation and uncertainty, but on June 19th 1940 the States of Jersey, the island's government, was eventually made aware of what the British Government were planning.

The information which sealed the island's fate is contained in a simple note on the back of an envelope, scribbled down by the Lieutenant Governor of the time (the Queen's representative in the island) during a telephone conversation with London.

It confirmed that the British Government had decided NOT to keep troops based in the Channel Islands. The islands were to be 'demilitarised' ... effectively opening the door for the German Nazi troops to invade in their own time.

As Stuart Nicolle, Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive explains, it's a little note which changed the course of Jersey history ...

50 Objects - No.1 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.


If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds- Object 1 - May 9th 2019


Celebrating Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

Every year since 1970 this has been annual event designed for us all to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It's grown over the decades and lots of important environmental events have happened on Earth Day.

This year on Earth Day, today, there will be a Global Climate Summit, convened by the US President Joe Biden and held virtually I'm guessing because of coronavirus. Among other things it is designed to be a 'critical stepping stone for the U.S. to re-join the world in combating the climate crisis', having agreed to re-sign the Paris Agreement.  It's just one of the events being planned today and just one example of how Earth Day continues to be a momentous and unifying day every year.  These days it's reckoned that 1 billion people in more than 193 countries will mark Earth Day in some way.

And so to MY contribution.

A couple of years ago, I recorded a series for BBC Radio Jersey with the Jersey artist and iconographer Karen Blampied.

She has created something called The Earthday Icon ... inspired by the ancient nature embedded in the Eastern Orthodox Church Calendar, which each September celebrates Creation and which has a three year cycle, ending every year with the feast of St Francis of Assisi and the Blessing of the Animals. During this liturgical time of Creation, each Sunday is dedicated to a specific aspect of creation and the Earthday icons depicts forests, land, wilderness, rivers, skies, mountains, the universe, animals, storms, oceans and more, all with spiritual significance.

Karen's inspiration is to 'highlight the need of all people to be stewards of the Earth' and this really inspires ME.

I loved working with Karen on this series and the audio we produced is still on the BBC Radio Jersey website.

So today, to mark Earth Day, I'm including the links to the programme features.

You will have to click on each link to listen ... hope you don't mind doing that. But it's really interesting!

Enjoy! And be inspired and blessed!


Earthday icon KBlampiedEarthday Icon #1 - Ocean - Karen chats to me about the role of the sea in the Creation story

Earthday Icon #2 - Flora & Fauna - Karen in conversation with me about her icon

Earthday Icon #3 Storm - Karen chats to me about depicting weather & climate in her icon

Earthday Icon #4 Cosmos - Karen talks to me about depicting God and the heavens in her icon

Earthday Icon #5 Blessing of the Animals - Discovering Karen's inspiration for the animals in her icon

 

*Earthday icon image copyright - Karen Blampied