Letter 1940 June (2) Evacuation of Guernsey – Eda Le Messurier – Margot Stringer


Dear Margot

Here is a link to the wikipedia article about the Guernsey evacuation.

The latest news is that 2000 Germans (two thousand) landed in Guernsey alone.  This comes from the Waymouths.  Father was away during the whole of Sunday – 9 am to 7 pm – dealing with the children.  Someone, he forgets who, had had news of the Waymouths.  They have a very big bakery at L’Islet, in the Vale Parish, & Daddy knows them well.  While not extremely wealthy, they have money.  They left Guernsey on Sunday, after the Germans had landed, in a small motor boat, & took 16 hrs to reach Plymouth!  I imagine the motor boat was theres; probably someone at s. Peter Port phoned through to them & they just managed to get away.  L’Islet is on the coast, so it would be easy.  They must have been the very last people to escape, as the Germans would have immediately taken over boats & petrol.

Mr Jackson, director of Crewe, went over to Middlesboro’ last week to fetch his mother.  She was very tired & weak from want of sleep, they had had 10 successive night raids, & mothers were putting their children to bed in the trenches at 7 p.m. to ensure that they would have some hours’ sleep before the sirens started.  On Saturday Mr Jones – Hawarden – had a man on his doorstep from Middlesboro’ saying that conditions there were intolerable.  He had his wife & two children.  Jones took in the boy, but was compelled to refuse the girl as she had not passed the/a scholarship exam; so the father went on to Buckley with the wife & daughter where they have some relations.  He was returning to Middlesboro’ himself afterwards to carry on his business, whatever it was.


Father returned from Heswall on Monday evening where he had visited St. Andrews School.  The Head told him that some farmers had come down to the jetty on Thursday with their cattle, to take beasts themselves, & their families, to England.  Sherwill persuaded them to go back, saying that there was no danger whatever, the measures taken were merely precautionary.  I hope those were not the cows bombed!

A letter from Mrs Falla, & Blanche Mauger – please send on to D, after Arthur has looked through them, as quickly as possible.

I am in bed today, went to Bowdon yesterday (on outskirts of Altrincham) with Father to see Mabel.  I knew I ought not to go, the journey was too long as I was not well, but I wanted to see her badly.  She says the panic was indescribable.  Some schools had less than 48 hrs to get away.  This is how things went:-

Monday June 24th.  Everything quite normal everywhere.  At noon, a telephone message from Education Office calling all Heads to an urgent secret meeting at 2 p.m.  There the Heads were told that immediate evacuation was probable, they were told to prepare what they could, but ordered to maintain absolute secrecy till further notice.  Their cheques were handed to them, for themselves & their staff, & they were ordered to cash them at once.

Tuesday June 25th.  Another telephone message for a second conference at 2 p.m. At the office they were told that the English cabinet was sitting, that a final decision was expected any moment, & that they must wait at the office for orders.  At 5 p.m. the message came from England for immediate evacuation : the teachers were sent back to school, told to warn everyone possible then large, i.e. many, copies of the Press would be sent out at 6 o’clock with notices ordering parents to register at once, that very evening at the various schools.  At 3 o’clock that night, i.e. on

Wednesday June 26th, 3 a.m.    Amherst schools & two or three others were the first to leave the island.

Thursday June 27th, 4 a.m.        Mabel & other remaining schools went.  She said she can’t imagine how those first schools to leave managed to have everything done.  The other schools at least had a day to breathe – the Wednesday – & even that was terrible.  She just managed to put a few things in a suitcase for herself & her mother, and get her mother prepared in mind for the necessity of going.  It was each for himself, no one had time to advise or warn any of those who might had decided to remain.  I spoke to an assistant Mabel had with her.  On the Wed. afternoon this girl (her parents are left behind, she never expects to see them now) had had the sense, with one of her friends, to transfer all the money she had in the Gu. Savings Bank!  She too said the panic, the hurry, & the din, & the contrary opinions expressed, were overwhelming.  No one could think even, all was mechanically done.  From the Tuesday June 25th, to the day they arrived in Bowdon on Sunday July 7th, none of them had had their clothes off.  They were sleeping in Stockport Town Hall, 2-7!! Children & teachers, in camp beds with only a military blanket apiece.  No privacy at all.  The only privacy was for Mabel, because of her mother she managed to get a screen to put around her mother’s bed & her own till she could get Cousin Becky into Stockport Hospital.  The mother is all right, but was overcome by the shock & the intolerable conditions of the journey, she about Daddy’s age.

Mabel finds herself in clover.  She is billeted with the Head of the Altrincham Girls’ Country School, who she says is most kind.  The children are in even better homes than those from which they come! But all the kids are nicely dressed, clean & attractive they impressed me very much.  And after the filthy Irish specimens from Liverpool etc. that were dumped everywhere in Sept., and then gradually returned to their dung heaps, I can understand good class people taking these children in.

There seems to have been a perfect stampede at home.  I imagine that the real truth is that there were not enough boats, & that any lies were used to prevent people (this bit doesn’t make sense, but that’s what she wrote.  Maybe it’s ‘many lies’) boarding the boats.  The Gu. Authorities must have known it was vital when it was a Cabinet matter.  Evidently it was a case of “women & children.” first.  Many husbands & fathers are left behind, wives & children are penniless.

Now for yesterday’s letter from you.

Ah, I forgot.  Do you remember the Northwich house that you told Father was a house?  I agree.  He pointed it out to me yesterday.  He said his only reason for not having it was because it was so near Northwich.  I admitted Northwich was a drab hole, but the house is some distance from the town, has a lovely sheltered garden, & I would have loved it, fell in love with it on the spot.  Father said it was BPnds1,100 (cheap I think, considering size of house & garden & apparently well built too), & fish, fruit etc. would have been much cheaper , &  more easily attainable than here.   I’m sorry the town set him against the house, it was most unfortunate.

I like the way you say you “did” the baby & the flowers, it must feel injured to be regarded as a thing to be “done”.

Poor Cathie.  That was the one thing I dreaded about Father, that he should be posted as missing or as a prisoner of war.  I’m afraid the treatment in Guernsey will be on a level with that given to the hospitals in France; Mabel is terrified about those behind for that reason alone.

I don’t think sirens should be sounded unless an actual attack is developing.  Otherwise no one would have any sleep, we must all take a chance; the wardens get the Yellow signal, & that is quite enough disturbance.  Father thinks so too.  But he seems determined to consider Hawarden as safe as anywhere!  He was right about the S. & S.W.; & coming back from Bowdon I remarked : What a pity we didn’t go to N.Z. in I921, when you got all those pamphlets about the country, because “you were afraid the Inter. Sch. was going to be merged with the Eliz. College.”  Daddy would have loved the journey, & we would all have “been safe”.  “Don’t you be too sure”, replied Father, “Japan has got her eye on N.Z., & they might be just as easily raided by the Japs as England is by the Germans, the Japs are getting awkward already.”

Your information about the French boat was most interesting, those sailors are between the devil & the deep sea.  Mabel agrees with me that the French peasantry is sound, & hates the Germans like poison  It is Petain & his crew who have stabbed the Fr. Peasantry in the back.  They never forgot Alsace-Lorraine & 1870, they will not forgive this either.

Then Arthur’s employers are dafter than I thought.  Even the fighting man gets 10 days leave of absence every 6 months, how on earth can Arthur carry on indefinitely under those conditions; from the point of view of safety alone a tired man is useless; the treatment he gets is criminal.  He had better go sick, & be ordered away on sick leave.  Can’t he have a nervous breakdown?! Or drop in a faint?


E.A. Stringer

Hope you enjoy reading all the information I can dig up – I’m tired of writing!  Both eyes & hand, eyes especially, but I was sure you would want to know about Gu.


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