Liberation Day in Guernsey 2016
Recently, Jess and I were lucky enough to experience the 71st anniversary of Guernsey’s Liberation. And boy, did we experience it!
Guernsey was the only part of Great Britain that was occupied by the Nazis during World War 2, having been captured in 1940. Shortly before the invasion, many islanders travelled to the mainland or stayed and evacuated their children instead, not knowing if they would ever return. By the time the island was liberated on 9 May 1945, the island was running dangerously low food and other supplies. As HMS Bulldog pulled in to St Peter Port flying the British flag, the waterside was packed with people. The papers the next day read:
‘There were indescribable scenes of intense joy and excitement. Never to be forgotten. After 5 weary years Guernsey was really free. The Tommies arrived and for the first time since June 1940 carefree and gay laughter was heard. The whole town was painted red white and blue. Church bells pealed forth their joyous tidings.’
To this day, 9 May is celebrated as a national holiday and an occasion for the islanders to give thanks for their freedom and remember the sacrifices made to secure this.
As part of the celebrations, Specsavers (which was founded in Guernsey as a family business) host a Hangar Ball and Tea Dance. We were lucky enough to perform at the Tea Dance and also both Friday and Saturday nights at the Hangar Balls.
When we arrived on Thursday night for our sound check, we were taken to the venue and as we walked through the entrance, we were absolutely taken back by the effort and skill that had gone into decorating the room. The stage looked fantastic with screens either side and posters hanging from the walls; it was a credit to the organisers and everyone involved!
Our sound check went well and we managed to squeeze in a quick drink at the OGH and then some dinner at Christies on the lovely, sunny evening.
Friday was a full on day! We arrived around 11am for further sound checks and blocking on the stage. We met all the other performers and got ready for the Tea Dance. As people started to arrive the excitement built and when they called The Twin Swing to come on stage I felt honoured to be dancing to so many that had lived through what we were there to celebrate. At the end of our 20 minute set, we waited and encouraged people to come and tell us their stories and to take photos. One lady touched my heart when she said it reminded her of when she danced with her sister in Guernsey during the war, we both ended up in tears, but I was glad to have bought back such fond memories.
The evening crept in and the crowd were a completely different cup of tea! An array of 1940s costumes filled the entrance hall. There were sailors, paratroopers, cadets, school boys, you name it! It was as if we had stepped back in time and we were in our absolute element.
The performances went down a storm and we thoroughly enjoyed having people dance along to our music. We were to do it all again the following night, what a thrill! When not performing, we were soaking up the sun (lucky us) and even managed a trip over to Herm Island; getting the infamous - Herm Burn!
The weekend was nearly over and we still had Liberation Day to prepare for. For this, we opted to walk around in our new Poppy dresses from the British Legion but unfortunately the weather was against us. We performed in the tent at 1.30 and 3.10pm and managed to squeeze in a quick sing-a-long live on Guernsey BBC radio which hopefully brightened things up somewhat! About 1 hour before we were about to perform the whole island experienced a power cut which put mine and Jessica’s hair routine on hold (minor panic) but the positivity and commitment from everyone who was there pulled the sun back out and it turned into a fabulous evening for the fireworks. It certainly ended our Liberation weekend with a fantastic and spectacular BANG!