Thursday, August 09, 2018

John Riminton.

The European winter of 1944/5 was harsh, Icy N.E winds blew down from Eurasia bringing freezing conditions, even two rare blizzards to the German-occupied Channel Islands; boys riding heavily to school on bicycles with hose-pipe tyres faced the risk of having their red ears finger-flicked on arrival if they failed to notice the bully-boy behind them.

This 16 year old boy lived with his widowed mother in quite a large house a couple of miles west of St. Helier, Jersey. Until D-Day precious supplies had continued to come in from France including some that had enabled the Island authorities (the States) to maintain gas for cooking. However, as the Allies occupied the neighbouring Contentin Peninsula all supplies from France had stopped. In an "Unposted Letter dated Jan.1945", subsequently included in a book, "Jersey in Jail", the author, Horace Wyatt, wrote:
"The last few months of 1944.....have been a period of gathering gloom. To begin with the weather broke up early and it rained more or less every day for three months.
Since early September most of us have been hungry, increasingly cold, generally wet and never clean.... The gas mains were emptied as long ago as September. The water mains function for only two or three hour a day. The supply of current from the electric power stations has just ceased and the telephone service is to stop in a few day's time......There is no longer any ration of wood fuel. The steam laundries are closed down and hand laundries cannot work for want of soap and fuel. Personal cleanliness is out of the question".

In the boy's home his mother had brought all activity into one room, previously known as the Morning Room. Now it held both their beds and such cooking as was possible, depending on the availability of black market wood, was done on a trivet fixed to the grate of the small open fire. Fortunately the house had quite a large garden that was now dedicated to growing the staples of potatoes, onions, haricot beans and brassicas. Such wood as was publicly available was all taken by the States and allocated to district bake-houses to which households could take a dish of vegetables in the morning. There they would share the oven with many other dishes to be collected some 3-4 hours later. The problem was then to get it home while it still retained some warmth.

Our Spring dawned early in 1945 at a time when the weekly rations were:

Flour: 7 oz;(198gms) Butter: nil; Suger: Nil; Salt: nil; Meat: (adults and juveniles): 2oz; (56gms) Children: 1 oz.

The relief came in the form of Red Cross parcels, issued at about six weekly intervals to every civilian. Our summer, of course, came in May that year when we were liberated and the war ended.

Post-D-Day the German garrison, some 16,000 troops consisting now mainly of old men, broken men (back from the Russian front) and boys my age, was also cut off from all support and, as combatants, not eligible for the Red Cross parcels. Shabby, starving, disillusioned, knowing that Hitler had let them down, they could only look forward to detention camps and eventual return to their bomb-ravaged homeland.

There is no doubt that some winters are worse than others. 

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