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13 November 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > History > Occupation > Food during the Occupation


Purchasing rationed meat

Food during the Occupation

Agriculture, horticulture and barter shops came up in a discussion of food during the Occupation.

Historian Bill Bell said that interest in the Occupation has risen in recent years: "At one time people just wanted to forget the Occupation, now they are very happy to remember it and there are a lot of books on it and several museums.

"People are very willing to talk about their reminiscences and as fewer and fewer survive from the period I think we've become more interested in those individuals."

Bill explained how barter shops had developed: "As the German Occupation progressed shopkeepers found they were unable to replace stock to carry on their normal business, instead they provide an exchange service.

"The owners of the goods deposited them with the shop with an indication of what they wanted in exchange. The shopkeeper was paid in cash a percentage of the value of the goods."

At first rationed goods, especially cigarettes, formed the majority of this bartering until 1942 when at the insistence of the Germans the Controlling Committee introduced licensing for barter shops and banned rationed goods from the exchanges.

Ten licences for the shops were issued in October and November 1942 and as Bill Bell explained a wide range of goods passed through their doors: "It was anything anyone really wanted to a certain extent, as not only did you have the barter shops but you also had auctions where a lot of stuff got horrendously high prices, especially rationed goods like tea and butter."

There was also an exchange service via the newspaper where "they would say they had so many potatoes and then they'd suggest certain things they would exchange them for".

One of the side effects of bartering according to Bill Bell was "to prevent the Germans from getting involved, although they did get involved to an extent if you just put something on sale they came in and bought it".

Before the Second World War agriculture, horticulture and tourism were the lifeblood of the island. A lot of the agricultural produce was exported and they had to adapt to growing for the island.

Peter Hocart was a farmer during the Occupation and when he milked his cows he could see into the headquarters of the German Commander in Chief of the Channel Islands, Major General Erich Mueller, by Corbiere.

On one occasion Peter was milking his cows in the morning when as usual the staff car drew up in front of the house and the batman (an officer's personal servant) came out to open the car door, the General entered the car and drove off.

Peter described what happened next: "Usually the car was coming back so I assumed they had forgotten something. They normally came in and went out at a moderate speed but on this occasion they were accelerating like mad and as they approached the house they cut the engine or declutched and the General stood up in the back and was peering through the windows of house.

"I could see figures scattering in all directions from the sitting room and then the batman appeared on the steps. The old General got out and he shouted at him, he bellowed at him, he kicked him, he punched him and he just had to stand there and take it."

Peter explained the General's anger: "In the corner of the sitting room by the window was a drink's cabinet and they were helping themselves to his supplies. With all these figures scattering through the garden it was very comical, but he was not forgiving at all, he was really angry and knocking hell out of the poor little batman who had to stand there and take it."

He also spoke about the relations between the growers and the Germans who were "ruthless with their regulations demanding a certain number of animals be slaughtered on a percentage basis from each farm".

"There was strict control on everything," said Peter. "They brought a lot of horses for transports over with them, at one time they had 600, those had to be fed."

last updated: 10/02/2009 at 11:31
created: 10/02/2009

You are in: Guernsey > History > Occupation > Food during the Occupation

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