Anniversary collection of Islanders’ Occupation memories is published

Book follows call by funeral directors for Jersey residents to share their stories. Gill Kay reports

The team at the Jersey War Tunnels
The team at the Jersey War Tunnels

EARLIER this year Maillards Funeral Directors invited Jersey residents to help put together a book of memories from Islanders who lived through the Occupation.

With Liberation Day celebrations much reduced because of Covid, the project aimed to mark this year’s 76th anniversary. The funeral firm hoped to collect Islanders’ personal stories, poems, anecdotes and memories from the early 1940s for inclusion in the book, titled Voices from the Occupation: Recollections of Daily Life Under the Reich, created by local author Penny Byrne and illustrator Liz Wackett.

The book, which was sponsored by Maillards and supported by Alpha Print, has now been published.

It contains a compilation of over 80 Islanders’ memories, including those from an Austrian-born interpreter whose cunning and bravery managed to save 40 families from deportation, and a teacher who ingeniously taught each of his pupils a single German word so that he could, apparently randomly, call out names and have them answer correctly when the annual inspection for compulsory German came around.

‘Maillards Funeral Directors was a local business which traded through the war and which has been a part of the fabric of Island life for almost a century,’ said Julian de la Cour, the company’s managing director.

‘We hear of such wonderful stories as we meet families, so we all felt a strong need for these stories to be shared more widely. The book, which forms part of our Celebrating Life initiative, is a way to preserve them in a way that will educate and inform future generations and keep these stories alive.’

Ms Byrne, the creator of the book, said: ‘I was so excited when Maillards approached me to ask if I’d be interested in working on this project. It has been such an immense privilege to get to read so many extraordinary stories, quite a number of which had never been shared before. I hope people find it as fascinating to read as it has been to create.’

Throughout this month 1,000 copies are being distributed free of charge to Occupation veterans, contributors, local schools and historical organisations. The remaining 500 copies are currently available for the public to buy at £9.99 from the Grand Marché Co-ops, in St Helier and St Peter; Market Cards, in the Central Market; Jersey War Tunnels; and online at pennybyrneauthor.com.

Further locations will be updated via the Maillards Facebook page (@MaillardsJersey) and online at maillardsfunerals.co.uk/celebrating-life.

Proceeds from the sale of the 500 remaining copies will be put towards the Maillards Make A Wish Fund, a local community initiative that pays for special wishes for local people that have a positive impact their social, emotional or mental wellbeing.

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