Tony’s musings a letter for liberation day electricity quiz and answers

“A small collection of Balleine’s personal correspondence has recently come to light in the family archives of his grandson, John W . Hanson. It consists of fifteen letters from Balleine to his daughter, Dorothy May Balleine, later Hanson (1908-1968), mostly from June 1940 giving a day-by-day account of life in Jersey immediately before the German invasion.”

I’d recommend reading them all (anyone can access the online archive), but for Liberation Day, here’s a letter penned just a few days after Liberation Day (May 9th 1945), which gives both a snapshot of the Occupation, but also how cut off the Islanders were still from mainstream news. We take news for granted, even complain of how much there is, so it is perhaps worth reflecting when news was precious and the penalty for spreading news (as with Canon Cohu), who died in the Zöschen camp from the brutal treatment he received.

We know that it was a crime to listen to the wireless, but who would have thought the Germans would even be listening for evidence of illegal news telling during prayers? This was not, despite the efforts of propaganda, a “Model Occupation”; scratch the surface, and the penalties for careless speech could be severe.

Our wireless was a great loss. A few daring people managed to hide theirs, but the penalty, if discovered, was very heavy. Quite a number of my friends have been in prison. Canon Cohu, who was in charge of St Saviour’s, was sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour, not for having a wireless, but for repeating to someone a bit of news that had been told him by the gardener of an old lady who had kept her set. He served the first part of his sentence in France, and then was removed to a German prison, and has not been heard of since.

The Gestapo were up to all sorts of dodges to discover secret listeners. If two people stopped to talk in the street, after they had parted, they would be stopped, and politely asked, ‘I have to get you to tell me what you and your friend were talking about. ’ Meanwhile the friend was being asked the same question fifty yards away. If your answers did not agree, you were taken to Headquarters to be questioned. The point was that, as likely as not, you had asked, ‘Have you heard any news? ’

One day at St Aubin’s I noticed a very obvious Teuton in Church, though dressed in broad check plus-fours to look like an English gentleman in his Sunday-go-to-meeting suit. When I got back to the Vestry, I said, ‘I wonder what brought that Gestapo fellow to Church this morning’, and a choirman said, ‘Didn’t you know that the King had appointed today as a National Day of Prayer? He had come to see if you made any reference to it’.

I knew nothing of the Day of Prayer, and had preached a quite inoffensive sermon. So he went away disappointed. But, if I had shown any knowledge of it, I should have been carried off to College House, which was the German Headquarters, and put through the third degree to find out how I had heard of it.

My narrowest escape of going into the cage was over the compulsory teaching of German in all the schools. I expressed myself rather unguardedly about that in a crowded bus, and was evidently reported. So, when the St Aubin’s children went on strike, and made themselves out as stupid as they could over German lessons, I was suspected of having organized this.

As a matter of fact I had not even heard of it, till a German car drew up at the door, and two German officers marched in without knocking, and said that they wished to question me ‘on a very serious matter’. They eventually retired with the threat that I should hear more later, but I never did.

Till my operation I was doing some teaching at the Girls’ College. Since leaving the nursing home I have been busy launching a Junior Section of the Société Jersiaise, in which we have already several hundred members studying Jersey history, Jersey birds, Jersey geology, Jersey- sea life, etc.

Then I took up broadcasting. The local telephone people linked up all the Hospitals, Institutions, etc, with loud speakers, and private subscribers could listen in on their telephones. From a room in the telephone department I gave talks twice a week (which meant a jolly lot of preparation), I played gramophone records, and for a time ran quite an amusing Brains Trust with myself as question master. But alas, at one meeting one of our members made an indiscreet reply, and: the Brains Trust was promptly suppressed.

But one by one all our amenities became impossible. Petrol ran out; so there was no means of getting into Town. Electricity ran out; so there were no telephones. I don’t think that I missed anything more than the electric light. Gas had gone long before. Oil and candles were unobtainable.

More of our grumbles you shall hear, when we meet. When will that be? I’m eagerly looking forward to paying you a visit, but cannot leave my two churches, till someone can be found to take the services. So I hope you’ll be able to get over here first. Do try your best. You’ll be interested to see what the interior of a German fortress looks like, for the Germans boasted that they had made Jersey the strongest fortress in Europe.