Slave worker memorial service ‘is as relevant today’ as ever

Gary Font speaking at the slave workers memorial ceremony at Westmount on Liberation Day 2022 Picture: James Jeune (35716525)

YOUNG children – the descendants of forced workers who were taken from their homes and made to build German fortifications in the Occupation – will gather with their families at Westmount on Liberation Day.

Four generations of the families of workers who made Jersey their home after the Second World War will lay floral tributes at a simple memorial bearing plaques to represent the nationalities of those who died and suffered terrible cruelty at the hands of the German occupying forces.

Slave and forced workers comprised PoWs and civilians. They included Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Spanish Republicans, Algerians, Tunisians, Moroccans, Poles, French, Jews and Belgians.

They were forced to work in turning the Channel Islands into fortresses as part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall network of fortifications that stretched from the coast of Norway to the French border with Spain.

The ceremony is open to anyone who wishes to attend, to remember and pay respects to the thousands who were forced to work or enslaved in all the Channel Islands during the Occupation. It has been held on Liberation Day since the mid-1960s. The organiser of the ceremony is Gary Font, son of Spanish Republican forced worker Francisco Font, who helped found the commemoration and went on to organise it for many years.

Gary Font said: ‘The ceremony is as relevant today as in the early years, even though the last forced worker, Belgian Emile Boydens, passed away in 2015. I hope that Islanders will join us in the grounds of the crematorium to stand together with community and religious leaders, organisations and individuals to acknowledge their suffering and honour the memory of all slave and forced workers who never made it home.’

Almost 40 wreaths are due to be laid during the simple ceremony and Mr Font will address the gathering. He says anyone who wishes to lay a floral tribute may do so once the official wreath laying is complete and before the observance of the traditional one-minute silence. The Lieutenant-Governor, Admiral Jerry Kyd, will lead the commemoration by laying a wreath on behalf of the Crown.

The Bailiff, Sir Timothy Le Cocq, will also lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Jersey.

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