Sorry about the long silence. The fact is I havent had anything new to
contribute to the List and, on top of that, my computer has been down for a
while. However, I now have a copy of a wartime diary written by my
great-aunt, Lillie Gosselin, née Sackett.
The diary, written in the form of a letter to her older sister, Lavinia,
runs to 186 pages of careful copperplate. Itll therefore take me some time
to type it up, so I intend to send it in manageable chunks.
Lillie and Lavinia were sisters of my grandfather, Alfred James Sackett, the
one who dropped dead in 1942 when confronted by a German sentry - but Lillie
will come to that in her diary. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Lavinia was
living in England, while Lillie lived in Guernsey with her husband, Thomas
Arthur Gosselin (Arthur), who was manager of the local flour mill.
It would appear that the sisters were regular correspondents (no Internet
then! - indeed, they did not even have a telephone). And Lillie maintained
her letters, even though she knew they could not be sent or received until
after the war was over and, of course, she had no idea that the German
Occupation of Guernsey was to last five years.
Some background is necessary. People mentioned in the first letter are:
Lillie - Lillie Sackett, b 1874, d of Jabez Sackett and Sarah Anne (née Young).
Lavvie - Lavinia Sackett, b 1868, d of Jabez Sackett and Sarah Anne (née Young).
Mollie - Mollie Gosselin, b 1911, adopted d of Thomas Arthur Gosselin and
Lillie (née Sackett), m Len de la Fosse.
Arthur - Thomas Arthur Gosselin, b 1872, m Lillie Sackett.
Ruth - Ruth Keyho, b 1907, d of Lillies younger sister, Laura (née Sackett)
and Thomas John Keyho (Tom); m James Alexandre (Jim).
Anne - Anne Alexandre, b 1930, d of James Alexandre and Ruth (née Keyho).
Dulcie - Dulcie Keyho, b 1911, d of Lillies younger sister, Laura (née
Sackett) and Thomas John Keyho (Tom); m Leslie Sackett, s of Alfred James
Sackett and Lydia (née Hatfield), her 1st cousin.
Michael - Michael Sackett, b 1938, s of Leslie Sackett and Dulcie (née Keyho).
Laura - Laura Sackett, b 1882, d of Jabez Sackett and Sarah Anne (née Young).
David - David William Keyho, b 1928, s of Thomas John Keyho and Laura (née
Will - William Smith Sackett, b 1880, s of Jabez Sackett and Sarah Anne (née
Young); m Gladys Jane de la Mothe (Glad).
Arthur - Arthur Sackett, b 1925, s of Doris Ada Sackett (Doris Ada was d of
William Smith Sackett and his 1st w, Laura McKenna).
Note: there are TWO Arthurs in the letters, Arthur Gosselin, husband of
Lillie, and Arthur Sackett, grandson of Lillies brother Will. The context
usually makes clear who is who, the second Arthur nearly always being
mentioned in association with Will.
The Occupation began on 30 June 1940 after air raids in which 23 Islanders
were killed and 36 wounded (Lillies numbers are not quite right on this).
The raids were the result of what we would now call a cock-up on the part of
the British Government. The Islands had been demilitarized as, with solely a
civilian population, they were clearly defenceless. But, for some
extraordinary reason, Britain kept the demilitarization secret, thus
exposing the Islands to attack by the enemy.
Lillies diary, or budget as she later refers to it, should be seen in
context; she was not an historian, but an ordinary member of the public
living in and experiencing extraordinary events. She relates some of these
exciting events - then at once we have a taste of the mundane. To her, it
was every bit as important to consider where todays meal was coming from
(and to record the recipe) as it was to describe the terror of yet more air
raids or the capture of a British agent.
Lillie used an unusual style in capitalising many nouns and I have kept
faith with that in this typescript. It may have been that she treated
certain such words thus because they were so new to her - Wireless,
Planes, Air Raid, Aerodrome. I keep faith, too, with her sometimes
eccentric spellings - "dropt" rather than dropped.
To jump ahead to the eventual liberation of the Islands, here is how the
local newspaper, the Guernsey Evening Press, (of which I am now the managing
director) reported the event:
"PEACE AND LIBERATION
"How the German Capitulation was Signed
"Five years, eight months and four days after it began, at 11 o'clock on the
morning of Sunday, September 3rd, 1939, the war in Europe was ended at 2.41
(normal Greenwich time) on Monday morning, May 7th, 1945, by the
unconditional surrender of Germany to Great Britain, the United States of
America and Soviet Russia.
"For the Island of Guernsey this historic moment meant more than the
cessation of hostilities. It meant, too, that the 23,000 Islanders who
remained here after the evacuation are freed from the captivity imposed upon
them by the German armed forces which invaded this, a part of the only mere
fragment of British territory they could ever capture and possess, on the
night of Sunday, 30th June, 1940. With the submission of Germany to the
Allies, the Occupation is over.
The newspaper report continued with a message from the King:
"The King calls Nation to "The final Task"
"His Majesty King George VI broadcast from London at 9 p.m. Tuesday to all
the peoples of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations. This is the
full text of his address:-
"Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance. Speaking from
the Empire's oldest capital city, war-battered, but never for one moment
daunted or dismayed, speaking from London, I ask you to join with me in that
act of thanksgiving. Germany the enemy who drove all Europe into war, has
been finally overcome. In the Far East we have yet to deal with the
Japanese, a determined and cruel foe. To this we shall turn with the utmost
resolve and with all our resources. But, at this hour, when the dreadful
shadow of war has passed far from our hearths and homes in these islands, we
may at least make one pause for thanksgiving, and then turn our thoughts to
the tasks peace in Europe brings with it.
The diary starts here:
My dear Lavvie,
Im writing you an account of all the strange happenings which have come
upon us since last you heard from me.
On Wednesday, June 19th, Mollie came to see me in a very excited state. She
had heard that all the children of school age had to be registered for
evacuation by 8 p.m. that evening, also mothers with children under school
age. We were just discussing the matter when in came Arthur all excited. He
told us it was true & that he had to go round his area as A. R. P. Warden
and tell all his people about it. The Evening Press then arrived & the
following notice was in it, signed by the Bailiff.
I am instructed to inform the people of Guernsey that the Government of the
United Kingdom has decided that the Bailiwick is to be entirely
demilitarised. Accordingly, the Royal Court hereby gives instructions for
the immediate demobilisation of the Royal Guernsey Militia and of the
Guernsey Defence Volunteers. Arms, uniforms and equipment are forthwith to
be handed in at the Town Arsenal under arrangements to to be made by the
Officer Commanding the Royal Guernsey Militia and the Guernsey Defence
Volunteers, to be disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the
Officer Commanding Troops Guernsey and Alderney District.
All ranks of the Militia and all members of the Guernsey Defence Volunteers
will then proceed quietly to their homes.
All other persons in possession of firearms must forthwith hand them to the
Constable of their Parish who will take immediate steps to have them
transported to the Town Arsenal.
In the same paper were arrangements which had to be made for registering the
children etc. by 9 p.m. that evening & all other than school children &
their parents were strongly urged to do so. You can just imagine what a
panic all this caused. It was indescribable.
Mollie & her children went on the Friday. They were supposed to have started
on the Thursday evening but the boats did not arrive to time so they were
all sent home again. That, of course, upset them more than ever.
I saw Ruth on Thursday evening bringing Anne back. They had to be on the
White Rock at 4 a.m. Friday next morning. However, all the children were
gone by Friday noon. It was a tremendous undertaking. Poor old Tom Keyho was
assisting the Education Secretary. They were working day & night from
Wednesday until Saturday.
I did not know until the Sunday that Laura had gone or Ruth & Jim with his
father & Dulcie & Michael. Tom came round & told us all about it. He was in
a very poor way, almost all in. He was left alone with the lodger who
has stayed with him up to now. Laura went off as a helper in Davids school.
When she got to England it was to learn that this school was going to
Glasgow. She managed to get out of going up there because she could go to
Jacks at Netheravon, so she & David went there.
I went into Town on the Friday afternoon. Gladys was with me as she was too
nervous to go alone. When we got down to the end of St. Julians Avenue
there was a queue of people right across from the White Rock & a long way up
the Avenue. Everyone in Town seemed frightened & did not know what to do.
Id no idea that Ruth etc. were down there then, but they were. Len did not
go that day. He decided to stay a while & finish some work. He was with us a
week & had arranged to go the night on which the Air Raid occurred. Arthur
decided we should stay. He was responsible for the Mill etc. & some 50 to 60
men there. I didnt like the idea of throwing away all our home etc. so we
decided to stay & hope for the best.
Of course, the Air Raid came as a tremendous shock. Len & I had just had
tea. He was all ready to go. Arthur, too, was home, Im glad to say. The
Raid lasted about an hour.
We had Gladys and Arthur with us. Will was at work so stayed there until it
was over. Len was able to get away on a lorry that was going down to the
White Rock. I was very thankful he did go then. It would have been too
dreadful if he had been left here & Mollie & the children the other side. We
had a wire telling us of his safe arrival on the Saturday.
The White Rock was very severely damaged by the Raid & it is now certain
that 40 were killed & about 25 wounded.
Saturday was a day we shall never forget & then, on the Sunday as we were
having dinner, the Siren went off & we had another hours suspense. They
went off without any bombs being dropt. We felt safe once more. Then just as
we were coming home from service in the evening there were three planes
again & once more the Siren went & did not send out the All Clear until an
hour & a half. Then we learnt that the Germans had landed at the Aerodrome.
We had to wait until the next morning to know what had happened & then we
learnt that all communication had been cut & we were under the ruling of the
end of Lillie.01
Notes by Chris:
A.R.P. = Air Raid Patrol
Bailiff = Guernsey's no. 1 citizen: head of both the judiciary and the
Bailiwick = area under the jurisdiction of the Bailiff, comprising Guernsey,
together with the smaller islands of Alderney, Sark, Herm, and Jethou
Tom Keyho was Schools Attendance Officer, responsible for dealing with truants
White Rock = passenger pier at St Peter Port Harbour
St Peter Port = capital town of Guernsey
La Tourelle, Icart Road, St Martin's, Guernsey GY4 6JB
Home tel: 01481 38302
SACKETT Family Home Page: http://www.nmmi.cc.nm.us/~nancy/sackett
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