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28 October 2014

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You are in Jersey > Entertainment > The Long Wait
Sign showing aircraft  which reads: The Long Wait Jerey and D-Day
Jersey War Tunnels' temporary exhibition about Jersey and D-Day opens on 29 May.

Jersey War Tunnels have opened an exhibition commemorating D-Day. Michelle Moffat went along to see just how Jersey was affected by the allied invasion.

Even as a child, walking into the War Tunnels was enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, but despite the chill inside the tunnels, it was 'The Long Wait' that provoked this response today.

Map showing the Normandy peninsular with routes of the D-Day invasion from Britain
The Long Wait tells the story of
D-Day's impact on Jersey.

'The Long Wait' puts Jersey's story into context with the progress of WWII as a whole; something that will be of great use to visitors and history amateurs alike.

In mainstream examinations of the final year of WWII, the difficulties that were faced by islanders and the occupying forces between D-Day and Liberation Day are often forgotten or presented as slight footnotes. This exhibition provides a necessary local angle on the impact of
D-Day as the 60th anniversary is commemorated this year.

The exhibition requires rather more than just passive glances at video screens and archive documents. The heart of 'The Long Wait' centres on a collection of audio recordings which can be accessed from points around the room. To listen I had to pick up a single headphone and hold it to my ear. The act of listening like this; concentrating on really engaging with the memories and reflections, enhanced the experience no end.

Of all the exhibits from the Occupation period, it was the letters and diaries that stole my attention. In one I read of the private anticipation felt by a local man for news that the allied invasion had finally begun. Being able to nose-up to someone's handwriting from so many years ago is an astonishing privilege. You can't help but get a sense of a whole island collectively holding its breath.


Watching the visitors move through the exhibition, many of whom were of the age to have been war veterans or children during the conflict, there is a palpable sense of something precious happening which I'm not able to access. In some eyes I see a quiet pride to be freely walking around a former stronghold of the enemy; in others there is sadness as they read about the island's plight for perhaps the first time.

Everywhere there were shoulders hunched over the panels whilst fingers pointed at images and artefacts; the exhibition does its work and tells a powerful story. If you make an effort to see 'The Long Wait' this year I believe you won't be disappointed.

'The Long Wait' runs from May 29 to December 19 this year. A programme of talks from staff and veterans will be on offer at Jersey War Tunnels during the month of June.

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