Memories of an Occupier
Werner Rang was part of the German forces which occupied the Channel Islands in the Second World War and told us his story.
In March 2009 Jim Cathcart was joined in the studio by local historian Bill Bell and Sark Resident Werner Rang, who having serviced with the German Army during the Occupation later came back to the Bailiwick to live.
Werner Rang joined the German Army in 1939 and trained as a medical orderly. Having arrived in the islands in October 1941 he spent three and a half years in Guernsey and Sark during the Occupation.
He was among the 13,000 German servicemen and many thousands of Organisation Todt and foreign workers who lived alongside more than 23,000 locals between 1940 and 1945.
Werner's description of his trip to Guernsey from Granville is one of arriving on "a holiday island" after the journey on a calm sea, on a sunny day with porpoises playing in the ship's wake.
One of his friends was serving in Sark and was enamoured by the island. He wanted Werner to visit so arranged for a request for a medical orderly to do an inventory which was granted and Werner was sent to the island for three days in April 1942.
Werner said the soldiers had dubbed Sark the "little paradise" which he whole-heartedly agreed with as he said, "It was lovely, everything was just right."
Werner Rang in uniform in 1944
In 1943 his unit was transferred to the island for six months and Werner ran the small hospital which had been set up in the schoolroom. First thing every morning he tended to the soldiers' needs and then looked after the local populace.
One elderly gentleman came once a week to have an eye infection dealt with and brought two or three eggs for the orderlies to thank them for their efforts. After Werner's tour of duty in Sark ended he returned to the island twice a week to provide healthcare.
He and a doctor from the tank regiment attended the Dame of Sark who had toothache and after the two of them extracted the tooth that was causing the pain she gave a bottle of wine which Werner described as "very acceptable".
Follow your father's advice
Throughout the Occupation Werner followed his father's advice: "You are not there by choice, they do not have you by choice so treat the people correctly and properly and you will benefit from it no end."
Werner said that he gave food to Harold Blondel, a young man with a wife and baby, who worked for the Germans in one of their kitchens and after the islands were cut off from mainland Europe, there were no food deliveries for the soldiers but Red Cross parcels for the islanders, the Blondel's returned the favour by providing him with food.
When he returned to Guernsey after having spent time in a prisoner of war camp he was met by Harold Blondel and his family who held a party to welcome him back. He had a similar welcome in Sark: "I wasn't a German enemy coming back, it appeared to me - a lost son."
On use of the word Nazis to describe members of the German Forces Werner said, "We were no more Nazis than anyone else we were ordinary people. We had to go and do our duty... if you hadn't done it your would have been put down... there was no other way out."
Werner has said many times: "The only appreciation I can express to Hitler is to thank him for sending me here."
A happy ending
During his time in Sark he met Phyllis and during his three years in the prisoner of war camp they corresponded with Werner sending letters in English and getting one in German in return.
When he left the camp Werner would have repatriated to Germany but he feel ill when he was in Portsmouth, Phyllis visited him and they married. If not for the marriage he would have been sent back to West Germany which was controlled by the Russians which Werner said "would have been absolutely disastrous".
last updated: 06/03/2009 at 13:28
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