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Evacuation from Guernsey

by Betty_Hervey

Contributed by 
People in story: 
My parents and myself
Location of story: 
Isleworth, Middlesex.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
28 July 2004

I was born in Jersey, 69 years ago, and around 1938 or so my parents and myself moved to Guernsey in search of work. This was the 30's and my father was unskilled so had to find work where he could. I still have very strong memories of the evacuation from St Peter Port in June 1940. We lived in Petit Bot and had a bungalow over looking the cliffs and the sea. For me as a child it was idyllic. Lots of wild flowers in the hedgerows and on the cliffs, and the sun seemed to be always shining. I went to school at Foret. I am sure there must have been many discussions between my parents about the war and the impending invasion and as my parents were mainlanders they feared the possibility of being deported to Germany. It was decided that we would leave. My mother's parents lived in Isleworth on the outskirts of London, but she had not been home for several years so we were not sure what kind of a welcome we would receive. On the day of leaving we were driven by bus to St Peterport, taking only the bearest minimum in possessions and the clothes we stood up in. All our animals had been turned loose to fend for themselves - my black lab, some cats, chickens and rabbits. At the harbour everyone was weeping, mothers and fathers were being separated as the most of the men stayed behind to defend the island. Older children were leaving without their parents. We crossed the channel in a cargo boat, and there were cattle in the hold. The crossing was very rough and many people were seasick. I think there must have been about a dozen of us crammed into a small crewmans cabin. My mother was six months pregnant and I can remember a nurse popping in to check her several times during the crossing. Although I was not aware of it at the time I believe we had an escort of planes checking for U boats. We arrived at Weymouth and were met by my mother's youngest brother George. At Weynouth my mother was approached by a radio reporter who referred to us as "refugees" which my mother did not like at all. "We are not refugees, we are evacuees, and we shall be going back as soon as we can" Sadly this did not happen, my mother died when I was thirteen and it was to be 60 years before I was able to make the trip back. My father came over a day or two later because by that time it had been decided to de-militarise the island to avoid bloodshed.
We were not particularly welcome at my grandparent's house but stayed there until after my sister was born in September during an air raid. It was the begining of the London blitz. I have been back to Guernsey twice in the last couple of years with my son and his partner who encouraged me to check the public records for more about the evacuation and I hope to go back many more times while I am able. I still regard Guernsey as my true home.

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