The German occupation of the Channel Islands still haunts Britain's image of itself at war. The Jerrybags who slept with German soldiers are a reminder that the bulldog breed collaborated too. But Colin Smith argues that we should not jump to conclusions-the Islands were unlike any other part of occupied Europeby Colin Smith / April 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
On one of those rocky islands that came to the English crown with William the Conqueror lives a certain lady-I will call her Mrs Bovary. She has been called much worse.
Every Sunday Mrs Bovary is driven to church by her husband in their large estate car with automatic gears. They are a handsome old couple, the sort whom it is easy to imagine in their prime. She petite with shapely legs giving no clue to the arthritic hip. He lean, silver topped, just slightly stooped.
They enter the church together, she leaning gently on his left forearm. They nod to their friends who nod back and return their mouthed, “good mornings.” They are what their generation call “comfortable” and their clothes are of the kind you find in the long established upmarket department stores in English provincial towns. After the service they linger for a while outside the porch of the church, chatting to other members of the congregation.
Later, she takes his arm and he leads her along a winding path through the overcrowded graveyard, the lichen covered headstones of some of their French speaking ancestors on either side, down to the expensive imported car. He holds the door open for her, takes his place at the wheel, and either drives them sedately home or, during the winter months, to the hotel which gives good off-season luncheon rates where they sometimes invite friends to join them for a Sunday roast. Most of these friends know the couple’s story. There are probably few people of their age group who were born on that island who do not.
By the end of the war, when the Nazi fanatic who commanded the Channel Islands reluctantly abided by the terms of Germany’s unconditional surrender, Mrs Bovary had had a son by a German soldier. She was by no means alone in this. But unlike the other women, who were mostly single or whose husbands were in British uniform somewhere off the island, Mrs Bovary had quite recently married and her husband had not been one of those young men who had flocked to the colours in September 1939. There was a family business to run and he had elderly parents.
Mrs Bovary’s lover went away. Some say he meant to return but was killed by the British somewhere near Caen in the summer of 1944. Mrs Bovary remained with her husband…