Neville Renouf's Occupation memories

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Neville Renouf's
Occupation memories


After much discussion the Renoufs decided not to join
the evacuees and to all remain on their farm

This story of life during the Occupation was written by Neville Renouf, who was nine years old when the Germans arrived. It is now in the Jersey Archive collection

German advance

The German Army advancing rapidly through France and the British Government declaring Jersey an open town, most of Jerseys population were anxious and in a dilemma not knowing whether to evacuate or stay.

My grandmother received a telegram from her eldest son Sam de La Haye in Canada to send us children to him for the duration of the war. I can remember my parents having discussions as to whether we should be sent or not. Had we gone we may well have been with a boat load of evacuees which was torpedoed by German U-boats.

Air raid

My father built an air-raid shelter in the avenue at Sinclair Farm, behind the garage facing the farm house. This shelter was used when the Germans bombed the Island a few days before the start of the Occupation.

At this time we had a Mr and Mrs de La Haye working for us and I distinctly remember Mrs de La Haye being terrified and becoming ill after the experience and dying some months later. My mother always thought that her death was a result of her worry.

I remember my mother going to town and all the conversation was about whether people should evacuate or stay. On her return home we went to find my Father, who was working in the big field at the top of the avenue at Sinclair.

My mother being in a very emotional state after having heard rumours of how barbaric the German Forces were, was of the opinion that we should leave. My father, having just bought Sinclair Farm in 1936, was very hesitant about leaving and did not wish to leave the property he had bought, along with the stock and equipment he had worked so hard to establish. He suggested that my Mother and we three children should go.

Due to much indecision and long queues waiting to get away, my mother not wanting to leave my father alone in Jersey, we eventually all stayed.

Panic and worry before the Germans arrived

After a couple of days seeing German Aircraft flying low over the island, a message was received that the Germans would be occupying the island and we had to fly white flags on all buildings as a sign of surrender. Again much panic and worry set in and a Mrs Dimmock, the sewing lady who came to the farm once a week, being terrified, left her house at St Ouen and came with her husband to live in an outhouse at Sinclair, feeling it to be safer to have close neighbours. They returned to their house after two months of the Occupation.

Much activity and many German troops were in Jersey during the Occupation. In our area may houses were requisitioned and billeted troops.


Homes requisitioned

Our neighbour, Garnet Baudains, of Gibraltar Farm, was moved to Beaumont and troops occupied his house. However, he was allowed to work his land. They also constructed gun emplacements and placed some wooden imitation guns in his big field under the trees on the north bank.

Francis Fleury, of the Elms, (now called Tamarind), had two rooms requisitioned in the main house and had the uncomfortable experience of having to live with occupying forces in close proximity.

Stanley Hamon, of Newlands, a little further up the road, was ordered to leave his premises and these were also occupied by German troops. He was moved to a property called Villa Mont Des Vignes, quite close to Sydney Court Netherby Court Flats, which were also occupied with German troops.

Most of these families were given 24 hours to vacate their houses and it was left to the parish authorities to find alternative accommodation, often in houses which had been left empty as the owners had evacuated.

Philip Chevalier, of Le Coin Farm. St Brelade was moved out of his farm to Beau Coin at the top of Mont Au Roux. Fields overlooking St Aubins Bay became the site of some fairly large guns protecting the bay. There was underground living accommodation with a network of passages connecting the whole battery. There were also some anti-aircraft guns. One was sited near the corner of the big field of Sinclair Farm, on which the Germans had barbed wired off a large strip of my fathers land. They used this site to grow vegetables for themselves.

The property opposite Le Coin Farm, called Le Coin, and the cottages opposite, were also full of German troops. Quite a lot of properties along Route Du Coin were occupied by Germans. A very large garrison was present in this area.

Mr Bosdet, of Boscobel Farm, had six German horses stabled in the shed to the east of his house.

We at Sinclair Farm were ordered to empty a shed to house gun carriages. My father told them that they would have to move stacks of tomato canes themselves as he had no labour. Fortunately they never came with their gun carriages.

Car requisitioned

Within three weeks of the start of the Occupation my father's car (an American Cheverolet) was requisitioned. He had to drive it down to the harbour and was paid £100 in Deutsch Marks.

We were at St Brelades Central School, St Aubin, for the first two years of the occupation and then moved on to the Beeches (De la Salle College) in St Helier.

The Germans would often march on the roads singing patriotic songs. One was I Eh I Oh and I remember us school children soon tagging on to the tune and singing as they went past I Eh I Oh. Old Hitler's on the po, he wipes his bum with chewing gum I Eh . Oh. It may have been a little lucky they did not understand.

They also often passed up St Aubins Hill with horse-drawn wagons, usually drawn by two horses. On the back of the wagons was a small protruding ledge which children often used to hitch a ride. On some occasions the wagon was full of German bread and it was not difficult to steal one or two loaves from under the canvas cover; thieving from the Germans was not considered a crime by locals.

Farms were regularly inspected by the Germans

Crops inspected by Germans

Cereals were grown on every farm and at harvest time large stacks of corn were made. Sometimes two or three neighbours would stack in the same field. In the autumn Mr Le Cappelain would come with his steam rngine and thrashing machine, Farmers would come from the neighbourhood to help, sometimes taking two or three days. A German inspector would always be present to count the bags of corn each farmer had.

Cider was always present and the German inspector would be invited to have a drink at the rear of the machine out of sight of where the corn was bagged. Four or five bags would quickly disappear into a load of straw or in the pile of husk from where it was retrieved later that night.

German inspectors were regular visitors on the farms. They would turn up at milking time and measure the milk from each cow. At Sinclair Farm my father would milk a little out of each cow at midday, which reduced the quota he was obliged to send monthly, and by doing this was able to supply local people with a bottle of milk on a fairly regular basis. This did have repercussions as my father's herd was considered to be poor milk producers, his cows were commandeered for meat and at the end of the Occupation he was left with only three.

The German inspectors would also count pigs and all other livestock on the farms. On one occasion my parents had hidden some hens in the attic on top of the house. The inspector arriving and filling his forms at the kitchen table, my mother having fed the hens some minutes earlier, was asking my father how many hens he had. My father being anxious to get him out the house suggested that they go out and count them, as the hens could be heard pecking heartily away at the corn on the floor boards above. The German inspector declined the offer and said he would take my father's word. No comment or inquiry was made into the pecking noise.

Another way of making it difficult for the German inspectors was to keep many pigs in the same sty, so that when the inspector tried to count them, we made sure the pigs kept moving around.

There were occasions when a farmer had managed to conceal an extra pig from the authorities and having had the animal killed on the farm, mostly under the cover of darkness, when there were few troops about, on occasions these pigs being surplus to the farmer were sold to a friend.

This dead pig then had to be removed from the farm to the buyer, which was most difficult with many troops about. There were many methods used, but two of the most ingenious were using an undertaker and transporting the carcass in a coffin; another method was to load the horse van with household furniture and hang the pig in a wardrobe.

The penalty for these infractions would have resulted in many years in prison or deportation to a Prisoner of War Camp in Germany.

Not all German soldiers stationed in Jersey approved of their government's policies

German soldier's disapproval

When the occupation had ended we eventually found out that this German Inspector had been a School Teacher in England and made visits to Harold Le Marquand at La Fosse, St Peter, to listen to the BBC News. At the very end of the occupation he asked my father if the rumours of concentration camps weere correct and statcd that if it were true he was ashamed to be called a German.

Towards the end of the Occupation, when food was really scarce, the Germans ordered that each farm had to produce two chickens, which had to be delivered to the parish halls. The farmers picked the most scraggy chickens they could find, some chickens just making it before keeling over.

School days were also difficult, as time went on, with paper and other equipment being in short supply. We often had to use jotters twice, first in pencil and then over-written in ink. I must say this did not happen often, as supplies occasionally came from France.

Footballs were more of a problem and we often played with an old ball stuffed with hay during the breaks. It was a delight to play in the inter-house games, where a proper, although patched up, football was like a lump of gold.

Cycles were also in short supply and would sell for four or five times their original value. Tyres were the biggest problem and were substituted with hose pipe or car tyres, which were cut and folded, then bolted on to the wheel. Cycle shops were very busy and, if your cycle broke down there was no alternative but to walk the five miles to and from school at the top of Wellington Road.

Walking home from school

One day, returning from school and walking up Mont es Ruelles, just past the Besco Laundry, my eldest brother, who was normally of a quiet nature, crossed the road and spat at a girl shouting Jerry Bag. Fortunately for him she ignored the offence and no action was taken.

Lunch was sugar beet syrup sandwich and, if on a farm, a small bottle of milk. Often the sugar beet syrup would soak through the sandwiches on to the school books and create a horrible mess. On occasions we would give our small bottle of milk to a school friend which he took home to his parents.

During one part of the Occupation we would take about 5 or 6 lb of potatoes to Birds the baker in New Street, which would be roasted in water after the daily bread bake. We would then go down to Birds on the lunch hour and eat our baked potato.


At Birds there was a notorious Jersey lady (Mrs Baudains, an informer to the Germans) who was a known quisling, who would eat there and listen to people's conversations. As she was known to people who attended this restaurant, most were very cautious. This lady would also listen to people's conversations in the street. On Liberation Day she went to the police station asking for police protection. She was placed in a cell and left the Island as soon as possible. It was rumoured that a rope had been placed in a tree in the Royal Square by some of her victims who were looking for her. Whether this is true or not is difficult to establish but will reflect the feelings of the Islanders at that time.

Sugar beet syrup was made on the farm from a beet which was cooked and made into a pulp. The juice was then squeezed out, often by hand, and the liquid would then be boiled in a copper, or some other large pan, until it turned into a dark brown thick sweet syrup. Fuel was often a problem when making this syrup as it had to be boiled for hours.

The sawdust pot

One method was what was known as a sawdust pot or drum. This consisted of an old round five gallon oil drum, A horizontal hole about 2in in diameter would be made at the bottom of the drum, into which a stick or pole about the same size would be inserted. Then another pole about 4in in diameter would be placed vertically, the top of the drum having previously been removed,. After packing the saw-dust firmly around these two sticks and withdrawing them, there would be an air channel from the bottom through to the top. With a piece of paper the sawdust would be ignited at the bottom and this sawdust drum would burn happily for hours.

Crystal radios were rapidly hidden when Germans were in the neighbourhood

Nothing was wasted during the Occupation. A simple thing like tea was a luxury and if you were lucky to have any it would be used two or three times, often dried and used again. Coffee was made from roasted parsnips or acorns. Flour was made from potatoes, which was a long laborious job. Potatoes had to be pulped: the pulp washed through several times and the liquid dried in the sun until there was nothing left except the starch from the potato.

Carrot tea was made by roasting carrots in an oven until almost burnt. This should be tried. I can assure you it will not taste anything like tea.

Gestapo visit

On one occasion we had a visit from the German Gestapo. A Mr Cottilard, who worked on the threshing machine, and as part of his job had to clean out the drum and various other parts of the machine, had collected a few hundredweight of corn, which he had stored at his home. Having had a tip off that he had been reported, he decided that it was best to remove the corn and hide it, He approached my father for the loan of his horse and van and the corn was duly removed. However, the informant must have then informed the Germans that my father's horse and van had been used.

The Gestapo then arrived to question my father, who told them he had no idea what this man had used the horse and van for. The Germans then inspected the van had a look round the buildings and then left. The corn had been buried in a corrugated iron shed in a corner of the big field at Boscobel Farm, where Mr Cottillard's father worked. The farm owner was a Mr Bosdet.

As can be gathered from this sort of information, many people took risks of being sent to prison or deported to protect one another.

Just before the Gestapo visit a Mr Boshart came hurtling down on his bicycle to warn my father that the Germans were searching Mr Cottillard's house. A Mr Falle, who was collecting a bottle of milk and a few eggs, got on his bicycle and left immediately. The milk, eggs and a crystal set were taken out of the house and thrown among the brambles and nettles in a cotil at the back of the house.

As a boy of about 12 years I stayed for a short while with an aunt and uncle Renouard at La Huterie. La Longue Rue, St Martin. There are two incidents I clearly remember. The first was when my cousin Arthur (Bunny) was stopped by the Germans as he was taking a small quantity of corn to be milled into flour. A message was received by bush telephone at La Huterie that the Germans would probably be coming to search.

A certain amount of panic set in. My cousin Beryl having a crystal set, and not knowing what to do with it, decided to put on a overcoat, pleaded she found it cold, and consequently showed the Germans around the house with the set in her pocket. Wireless sets were confiscated by the Germans, hence the use of crystal sets.

The other incident involved fishing off the rocks at St Catherine's Bay, curfew being at 9pm. In military zones, and German guards being present when a large shoal of mackerel appeared, fishing lines were put aside as the mackerel were jumping on the rocks and were being caught by hand. The German guards were also tempted to fish and in their excitement all curfews were forgotten.

Slave labourers

Organisation Todt labourers

Slave labour was extensively used by the occupying forces. These poor people were mostly Russian prisoners of war and were supervised by the OT (Organisation Todt ) The OT were dressed in a khaki uniform with the letters OT worn on the arm in bright red. It is believed that most of these guards were German convicts.

I have witnessed an OT guard break a two-inch diameter stick on the back of one of these unfortunate prisoners.

Below Sinclair Farm there is a meadow where tunnels were being constructed by these prisoners who were dishevelled and starving. Many would daily make their way up to the farm seeking food. On one amusing occasion one Russian prisoner at the front door asked my mother for food, while a colleague of his entered the back door and stole the whole family dinner, saucepans and all.

During the last year of occupation, after the D-Day landings on the North of France, the Germans were unable to get supplies to the Channel Islands, either for themselves or the local population, due to the presence of British Troops in northern France.

Rations of bread and meat were almost nil, electricity gas and most essentials were impossible to get. Even vegetables became in short supply due to the demand caused by the absence of other foods, most town dwellers living on Swedes.

The arrival of the Red Cross ship Vega during the last six months of occupation was the saviour of the local population, bringing supplies of flour, boxes of mixed food, including chocolate and other luxuries which we had not seen for almost four years. Most food parcels had been prepared in Switzerland and Canada.

The German troops were less fortunate, as being an occupying force they were not allowed to receive any aid from the Red Cross. They were reduced to having to collect stinging nettles for making nettle soup. They also collected the stumps of cauliflowers in order to feed themselves. The ordinary German Soldiers were pleased when the war ended and they were allowed to return home after having to clear up the minefields on the beaches and coastal areas.

There have been many books written about the Occupation and I would advise readers that many written by people who were not in the island at the time make many assumptions, which bear little resemblance to actually what went on, I would generally recommend books written by writers who lived through the Occupation.

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