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Saturday, 28 April 2018

Britain under occupation

For some reason this is the season in which the German occupation of the Channel Islands is a topic for discussion. I suppose it was twenty years ago when I first visited the museum of the occupation in Jersey, telling a story much as we have all been told it. A brave uncowed population barely tolerating their boorish occupiers, small acts of sabotage and resistance that never escalated into anything for which a dozen hostages could be put up against a wall. In Jersey our maquis had no train tracks to blow up, so sneaked 'V' patterns into the new town centre paving instead. From crude memory, around a third of the exhibition I saw related to the post-June 1944 finale, when German supplies to the islands were curtailed and there was widespread hunger. For Jersey, the end of the war came when a Red Cross freighter was allowed to dock, with food parcels for the desperate islanders. 

That was of course long before Alanbrooke's uncensored diaries became available and as grown-ups we learned our superheroes were just human. Churchill raw, without the editing, revising and veto of his closest subordinates, was close to a dangerous despot. His jealous fury when he declared that Montgomery, newly elevated to Field Marshal, was to be prevented from processing down the Mall to the palace for his baton was pure jejune petulance. The adulation of the public was not to be wasted on a subordinate. He is also recorded as having responded to pleas to allow a Red Cross vessel to sail for the Islands 'Let them starve!'. Of course, it is explained, he was talking about the German garrison. But others are not so sure; Churchill, they say, blamed the islanders for quiescence under occupation; they fought neither on the beaches nor in the hills, they did not set occupied Britain ablaze, but rather won a few extra eggs with forged ration coupons and copulated with the invaders. 

We cannot today know the truth of those years or say with any certainty how we ourselves would have responded to occupation. Undoubtedly there were individual acts of defiance of great bravery, and islanders who died neglected and forgotten in Nazi concentration camps. One cannot today make moral judgements on those from the past, one can only compare the incidents in the islands under occupation to those in other places under German invasion. It was largely orderly. Grudgingly co-operative. 

The Geneva convention of 1949 made illegal two of perhaps the most unjustly-felt but previously lawful lethal measures taken by combatants during that war. The first was the indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian towns and cities - the offensive that AM Harris was convinced could win the war. After 1949 Dresden and all the rest would be war crimes. The second was the lawful execution of civilians in reprisal for acts of violence and sabotage towards the invading forces. All those boys and farmers and priests machine-gunned against French walls in reprisal for the the acts of Francs-tireurs were killed quite lawfully; not one German officer ever faced prosecution. In the massacre of the Ardeatine Caves, in which 335 were executed, the German high command ordered ten Italian civilians to be shot for every German soldier killed in a partisan ambush. 33 Germans were killed, so the machine-gunning of 330 Italian hostages was therefore quite legal. The executioner, Erich Priebke, was only prosecuted after the war for the additional five victims he added on his own initiative. 

They were different times. Monochrome, not colour. Different laws. But do human characters really ever change that much?      


Anonymous said...

That convention doesn't seem to apply in Syria.

Don Cox

right-writes said...

I reckon that occupation by Germans takes a different form these days.

Unfortunately our government behaves much like the administration of Chamberlain and Halifax abject surrender being the name of the game.

Not a bit like that of Churchill, or I suspect one that had anything to do with Farage.

john cheshire said...

I'm afraid the reporting of the goings on at Haute de la Garenne has jaundiced my view of the Channel Isles, Jersey in particular.

Anonymous said...

I feel, fear it and greatly, that, Britain is an occupied country certainly and most particularly since mother shariza took over (punishment for vote OUT?) we are run by an authoritarian administration who will not brook any dissent and as we see the 'thought police' are abroad. Indeed, as the occupation increases via a birth rate ironically paid for by white Britons and all the time being vastly augmented by new mass immigration (million p/a?). Thus, I cannot see a happy prospect, even if I reach into my furthest imaginations, its subconscious.

During WWII, the Government of Britain ran the country almost like the Germans wished to, In the aftermath of the war and Attlee nigh turned us into Socialist 'Nirvana', even when Churchill was returned, the goverment never let go (of their hold and sway over the people).
But by God, the relative freedoms the nation enjoyed during the 50s, 60s, 70s are almost as distant as are the memories of the WWII, many veterans of that terrible war who lived to see what has been done in the name of 'freedom' were askance. Furthermore, and some say what the Germans couldn't quite do during 39-45, they completed in 1973 onwards.

Sense it, can you not feel the tug of the Gestapo's hand on your lapel, they (UK authoritarians) still call them the police, paramilitary uniformed, they are no longer what was once a civilian force now, are they?

jack ketch said...

Same question I asked someone else here yesterday; "Where is Raewald and what have you done with him?".

That was a surprisingly well balanced and fair piece-no doubt doomed to sink below the weight of half a dozen comments :(

I suspect most here had their views about the German Occupation of the Channel Islands formed by that TV series 'Enemy At The Door'

and of course Bergerac :)

Budgie said...

Jack Ketch, You are so full of bigotry it is a wonder you don't implode.

TrT said...

Churchill very much remind me of Napoleon.

After being utterly thrashed he went away to write his memoirs and explain why he was the best person ever.

anon 2 said...

Dear Raedwald: "But do human characters really ever change that much?" --- sadly one recognizes how hard it is for them to do so. We need only read our own dear Chaucer to see the truth of it in our later times - especially through the Pardoner and his Tale. That bozo is so like the ones who surround us nowadays!!!

I'm sure there was never a more arrogant misnomer than "Homo Sapiens."

However, they also serve who record and recount the situation. Continuing awareness does help us to appreciate the Grace of our Redeemer; not to mention His patience.


Absolutley, right-writes, and also anonymous @ 13:38. We stand invaded and subverted on all fronts.

Agree with Budgie too: that blodger troll is indeed a flakey symptom of the above. Easy to starve, though!

Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist said...

When I saw the title "Britain under occupation" I thought it was going to be about modern Britain...

Smoking Scot said...

Spent time in the Channel Islands some years back and ended with a few days in Alderney. There I saw the remains of the POW camps the Germans constructed and there's a plaque to commemorate what went on during the war.

Seems the entire population of Alderney was shipped to the UK mainland.

Then they filled the camps with prisoners, with a reasonable explanation on Wiki.

One thing about these islands, they know what's going on and I have to say that learning what can happen if it suits the occupier may be one reason why "resistance" seemed relatively tame.

(Of course I could rabbit on about why the EU is using Brexit as a means to stop any other nation state from trying to get out from under but I shan't. This one time, I shan't.)

Cascadian said...

I don't usually have any problem discerning what Raedwald means to convey, but I confess that although this is interesting I struggle to understand the point being made.

Nevertheless maybe he was being prescient, this article defies logic, unless the Austrian police intend to challenge metplod in the stupidity premier league.

James Higham said...

I've sometimes wondered what it would be like to live in a monochrome world. Then I put it out of mind.

Dioclese said...

Unfortunately such niceties are only useful if both sides observe them. Not sure that Hitler would have worried to much about bombing cities.

And a modern example is the Islamic terrorism we are experiencing where they use the civilised rule of law against us whenever we bring them to book and at the same time go around indiscriminately bombing innocent civilians, driving what has become known as the 'truck of peace', chopping the heads off infidels and burning people alive.

Perhaps someone should have informed Bin Laden about these things then maybe he wouldn't have flown an airplane into the World Trade Centre? Ha ha.

There is no such thing as the rules of war. Hitler and Churchill understood that. War is not a game of cricket and there are no rules - just winners and losers.

It would be more sensible to declare all wars illegal, but then people being people would still do it anyway. After all, murder is a crime, but people still get murdered. Of course, if we reintroduced the death penalty, they'd only do it once...

Anonymous said...

@ Cascadian (0049)

The time is arriving when we must learn to read between the lines, just like Russians & East Europeans during the Soviet era. Together with that great British wartime approach: "Never believe anything until it has been officially denied".

Anonymous said...

"I've sometimes wondered what it would be like to live in a monochrome world. Then I put it out of mind."

Give it a few generations.. its on the way...

Cascadian said...

Long past that time anon, I doubt you can believe 5% of govt messaging, some due to idiocy, most due to outright lies and a propensity to ignore the bleeding obvious. (see Raedwalds latest)
When the HoC contains pipefitters, windrush arrivees, No177 bus riders, housewives and the like who have had to scrape by on inadequate wages you will be making progress. That is not an advertisement for liebour govt, they despise the working class as much as Amber Rudd and Maybe.