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Saturday, 12 May 2018

Tragedy on Guernsey - the Island of Dreams.



A Red Cross message belonging to my late grandmother, similar to the one that was to bring the devastating news


One day in the summer of 1943, 42-year -old Edith Emily Brown (nee Ruaux) received a Red Cross message that would change her life forever. Her son had died of meningitis, a very long way from home. Edith and her husband, James, were trapped in the Channel Island of Guernsey, occupied by the Nazis who had  already stolen their freedom and requisitioned their home.

Three years earlier in June 1940 the couple, my late grandparents, had waved  goodbye to  David, aged ten,  and fourteen-year-old Harold as they took  the last boat to Britain, along with hundreds of other schoolchildren evacuated to Britain for their  own safety. 'Look after your little brother' were the last words  my granny uttered, too overcome to say anything else.

That fateful Red Cross message revealed  that  one of their children had died of meningitis, but tragically gave no name. Edith collapsed  in shock, but it was another six months before my grandparents knew that they had lost their younger son. My father, Harold, was billeted in Oldham with distant relatives,  unable to share the grief for his 13-year-old brother with his heartbroken mum and dad.

When Harold arrived back on the island he was  a grown man, an RAF navigator recently married to my mother, an  18-year-old Lancashire girl who worked in the wages department of a  local munitions factory. I was one of their three daughters born  over the next seven years.  My childhood was idyllic, which is why I call Guernsey my Island of Dreams, and I hope that the love given and received helped, in some small way, to ease the pain of the family's loss.

Sadly, my family were just some of many Guernsey residents who lost loved ones during the Second World War. More than thirty islander were killed outright when the Germans bombed the tomato lorries on the White Rock (the local name for the quayside) on June 28 1940. Other  extraordinarily brave dissenters died in German concentration camps  simply for breaking the Occupiers' rules. They, along with David,  will never be forgotten.

This week Guernsey celebrated the 73rd anniversary of the island's liberation on May 9 1945. The celebrations, as always, held a  note of defiance and tinge of sadness for  those who never returned.

NB  My second  novel, Occupying Love, is based on the memories of  Edith and James along with others those who lived through the Occupation of Guernsey. To find out more follow the link here





7 comments:

WILLIE........! =^..^= said...

And..Of course Jersey was liberated on the same day..
Wens 9th May..!
When l first went to Jersey, l found lodgings with
a Mrs Poona, in Stopford Rd St Helier. She was 83yrs
old..she had lost a son at sea, as he was a fisherman,
and, the same age as me..in her own way she adopted..
so much so, that a couple times a week, she would get
up at 4 in the morning and walk to the beach with her
bucket and trowel, digging for clams, for my breakfast!
She would sit with me at meal times, and tell me ALL about
the occupation..the good~bad~ugly..she was an amazing lady,
four foot nothing, but amazing...in fact, l'd sit in with
her most evenings, rather than go to the pub..!
I was only there for 10 months, till l got a place of my own,
but, l would got back and have tea with her many times! :).

I do find reading about different aspects of the war,
interesting, not into war films as such, and l do
watch a lot of documentaries on the Sky channels, with
real live footage!
And..Just last year l watch a three week series on 'The
Occupation Of The Channel Isles'. Amazing stories!

Thanks for this Marilyn..I'll be thinking of Mrs Poona
all day now..Bless her! And her clams! :).

Guernsey Girl said...

What a moving story about Mrs Poona, Willie. You must have brought her great comfort. I think it's important that families pass their stories from one generation to the other, for how else can we really know what made us who we are? Thanks for taking the trouble to reply in such detail. I look forward to hearing from you again.

another guernsey girl said...

What an awful time for our grandparents and friends and family to hear such dreadful news and how do you ever get over something like that? our grandmother had a strong christian faith and that is what kept her going through those difficult years and i am sure many other Guernsey islanders did the same thing and especially when they have lost someone close to them.

Guernsey Girl said...

Yes, I do often think how strong the islanders were, and wonder how people would cope today in the same situation. We've passed the story on to our children and grandchildren in the hope they will never forget. Thanks for your thoughts.

Share my Garden said...

We visited the occupation museum last summer while holidaying in Guernsey and found it very moving. The man in charge of the museum was, like us, a baby during the war. He told us that his parents farmed the area where the airfield was sited and it was often targeted by the RAF. If bombs were dropping when he was outside in his pram then his mother would just put up the hood!
What a tragic way to lose a child, far from the comfort of home. It saddens me greatly.

Guernsey Girl said...

What an amazing story! Thanks for your heartfelt comments... These days we would be doing a bit more than putting the hood up on our babies prams when they were in danger. What a different world we live in.

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