“For us on VE Day there were no celebrations” - Lincolnshire veteran recalls liberation mission 70 years ago today
Gunfire and hardship as victory came
Jack, now 90, was part of the Royal Marines task force sent to liberate the Channel Islands and bring back the surrendering German Occupation Forces.
As the milestone 70th anniversary of VE Day approaches this Friday, May 8, Jack, can still vividly remember the events.
“We set sail from Southampton at 23.00 and we arrived at 6am,” Jack explained.
“We were brought in very quietly as not to alert the German SS that we were coming and we didn’t know what to expect. It was quite mad to start with as they were firing and shouting at us, but we managed to get through and we spread out.
“But one of the first things I can remember from arriving in Jersey was seeing a Woolworths store and I couldn’t believe it.
“We immediately ran into trouble, some of the German SS had young women tied up to chairs at the keyside and were shaving their hair off, so we had to get in there and try to stop them. At the time, the SS were manic and didn’t believe that it was all over.”
Jack also remembers the hardship of the civilians who were left to starve on the island and what they had to deal with.
“Throughout Jersey and Guernsey, the civilians were very pleased to see us when we got there as Churchill had cut the island off. Nothing had been allowed in or out for the last six years and everyone was literally starving,” Jack said.
“The German soldiers held back all the food, including tomatoes and potatoes, and left nothing to the civilians but the peelings. When we arrived, they offered us some potato peel pie which they had learned to make and it tasted disgusting.
“No-one was even allowed out at night after 7pm either. Apart from the SS, everyone was on curfew, even the normal German soldiers were not seen out.
“We managed to round up the prisoners and get them on the boat so that could be taken back to Southampton.
“For us on VE and the day that followed there were no celebrations for us, far from it.”
And with events taking place nationally and locally, now’s a good time to top up your VE Day history:
Following Hitler’s suicide on 30 April 1945, Germany surrendered unconditionally to allied forces at 2.41pm on 7 May 1945.
Active operations by the German forces ceased at 11.01pm on 8 May.
At 3pm on May 8 , British Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast to the nation, declaring the war to be over.
The Second World War lasted 6 years and 1 day in total, from 1 September 1939 – 2 September 1945.
The Second World War in Europe saw approximately 382,700 British service personnel and 67,100 civilians killed.
Effects of the war remained in Britain as rationing continued until July 1954 with bacon and meat being the last to go.
After the war, Germany was divided into 4 zones: British, French, American (western zone) and Russian.
British and Commonwealth Armed Forces continued fighting in Burma, Singapore and Thailand for a further three months until Japan’s surrender.