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15 October 2014
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Memoirs of the Occupationicon for Recommended story

by guillealles

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People in story: 
R. Gavet (known as Bob)
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05 February 2005

It started with the bombing of the harbour. My parents were farmers and at the time of the bombing my father had come into St Peter Port which he did every evening with the milk for the shop in Trinity Square.

My mother and the rest of the family (4 of us) were at the farm when we heard the bombing and mother became very emotional, knowing that dad was in Town. The moment he heard the bombing he went around Trinity Square and headed for home. When he got to the Mount Row side of the Vauquiedor he stopped because two men who he employed were cutting grass for hay to feed the horses, but they were underneath some trees for shelter and were holding the horses at the head to keep them quiet. Then he headed straight for home which was the Friquet de Haut. We heard the van pass and rushed out to see if he was alright. Everything was well.

The following day, dad had a milk delivery in Town and I went with him and he had given me strict orders if a German plane came over and the sirens went to return to the van immediately. One did come over but only reconnaissance, but we still headed for home.
On the Sunday of Occupation from the Friquet Farm we saw the German Junker 52 aircraft coming in to land at the airport. We realised the Germans were here. The first German I saw was the following morning in the Arcade. He must have been a senior officer because to me he looked posh.

Orders were given that from the first week of October no more petrol would be available for milk deliveries. So as dad was renting the farm from the States and had animals there, he asked if he could make a depot at the farm and they said yes. At about 8.30 in the morning my elder brother and I set off with a horse and van to the people that had registered, mostly within the Bailiff's Cross area. It was about 5 in the afternoon before we finished. From that day onwards I used my bike as well so I could use the lanes and cut down on the time, so we were back at about 1pm on the following day.

Near to the end of the Occupation, the horse died so I had to use a bike and trailer to deliver the milk. I saw some very hard cases of people being hungry and I had complained to my mother "not boiled potatoes again, mother". I remember going to two elderly pensioners and I used to walk straight inside. They were sitting at the table having dinner and all they had was potato peelings boiled, which they were tucking into. When I got home I said to mum what I'd seen and that I deserved to be punished for always complaining.

Out on the farm. Dad had a large farm and as the Occupation went by animals were taken for slaughter by both Germans and locals. He also had animals at the Vauquiedor Farm and when the Germans took over the mental hospital (which is now the PEH) horses and horse-drawn ambulances etc were brought to the farm for stabling and were there until the Liberation.

The old gentleman who ran the farm lived in the big house at the Vauquiedor, and I remember going into the kitchen when he was cooking his dinner. All you could hear was the hum of flies. He had a small portion of food on the table which was literally covered in flies. He just swatted them away and then ate his meal.

Back at the Friquet, near the Vauxbelet schools, a camp was built by the Germans for forced labour. I think I saw most nationalities of the world come there as slave labour. They very often came to the farm to try to get some food, but we had none to give them. We know for a fact they used to steal the potatoes and parsnips but there was nothing we could do about it. As time went by we had 2, perhaps 3 calves stolen. Who took them we don't know, but they were slaughtered, as we found the skin.

We were the only farm in the neighbourhood who had no Germans billeted with us. They had come several times to inspect the house and we were lucky that they didn't think we had enough room. My dad kept the odd calf which we slaughtered for our use and distributed to very close friends, some small joints. On one occasion a friend of dad's had a calf but he killed it on his farm but the farm was searched and they found the head. So dad ended up in court. Fined #30 and warned if caught again would be sent to prison.

We never knew when the milk inspectors would come to the farm to see the cows milked. They were checking to know if all the milk was being sent to the dairy. The dairy lorry used to pick up cans at the gate of the farm and the lorries were driven by charcoal. A very well known farmer from Torteval asked dad if he could buy a cow for slaughter, which he did but the day the animal went from the Friquet the milk inspectors arrived the following morning and as they had a mini-sketch of all the animals they wanted to know where the missing animal had gone. So we phoned Mr Sarre. He said don't worry, just tell them that I bought it and you won't hear another word. He said "I supply some States members and others in the Police with meat". We never heard another word about it. I must be honest, we did have a nice joint out of it ourselves.

Back to the camp at the Vauxbelet. The Organisation Todt were brutal but they built a de-licing unit which even today part of it still stands. We saw many of the workers stripped in the fields and their clothes were put onto a wagon and put into a big oven and baked. And they themselves went to have showers. We had seen many before on a fine day take their clothes off and delouse themselves. Part of the camp was burnt down, the fire engine arrived but a worker was seen with a pickaxe to puncture the hose so it all burnt to the ground. We had one young Polish man who came to the farm, begging for milk or food. My mother felt very sorry for him and occasionally was given a drop of milk in a bottle or an egg. He left Guernsey about a year before Liberation and we wondered what had happened to him. Early 1950s there was a notice in the Press sent by this Polish man to say thank you for the help he had received during the Occupation. He had given us his name and address on a scrap of paper and as he was my age, mum said I should have it. When I read the thank you letter I said to my wife, "I'm sure that's Teo that used to come". So I wrote to the address on the letter and he replied by return of post. It was him. We have kept in touch, about once a year, ever since.

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