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My Life by Reg Langlois


I was 23 years old when this picture was taken 


My Family

Reginald Saunders Langlois, born 21/8/1910, my father.

Kathleen Mary Phyllis Langlois, née Hodgetts, born 20/10/1910 my mother

Children: Reginald Charles Edward (myself) born 24/1/1936, Annette Mary,

Elizabeth Ann Rosemary.

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Percy Le Hardy Hodgetts, born 27/04/1882 my grand father, my mother’s father.

Gladys Pinel Hodgetts, née Anley, born 22/10/1884, my grand mother, my mother’s mother.

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James Ferdinand Charles Langlois, of Sion Hall, Longueville, St Saviour, born 23/04/1884 my grand father

Desiree Langlois (nee Saunders) born 26/8/1882, my grand mother.

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Auguste Louis Philippe Saunders, my great-grand father on my grand-mother’s side.

Desiree Saunders, my great-grand mother on my grand-mother’s side.

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Charles Edward Langlois, of Les Cosnieres, Swiss Valley, St Saviour,

born 31/01/1886 my father’s uncle.

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Dorothy Ena Kennedy, née Langlois, born 02/08/1906 my father’s sister.

Brendan Bartholomew Kennedy, born 02/01/1901, my father’s brother-in-law.

Children: Patricia Margaret Barbe, Finbarr Brendan David, Angela May,

Michael Dermot, Teresa Bernardette, Kevin Patrick Helier and Brendon Francis Paul,

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Desiree Fardon (nee Langlois) my father’s sister.

Reginald Fardon, my father's brother-in-law.

Children: Charles A, Desiree, James, Robert.

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James Ferdinand Saunders Langlois, of Val Poucin, Grouville, born 13/04/1909, my father’s brother.

Dorothy Ada Edith Langlois, née Campbell, born 10/08/1911 my father’s sister.

Children: Dorothy Jean born 16/05/1935, James Philip born 19/02/1940

and Valerie born 01/02/44

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Edward George Langlois, born 18/12/1915, my father’s brother.

Iris Joan Langlois, née McKee, born 22/04/1918 my father’s sister-in-law.

Children: Peter, Colin, Pamela, Susan.

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Douglas Thurston Langlois, born 14/07/1914 my father’s brother Mary MacKinnon Langlois, née Fletcher, 
born 13/10/1909 my father’s sister-in-law.

Children: Cynthia Mary, Fay Mary,


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Percy Osmont Hodgetts, , born 26/10/1908 my father’s brother-in-law. my mother’s brother. Melba Hodgetts, 
née Langley, born 13/04/1910, my mother’s sister-in-law.

Children: Colin William John, David, Vivian.

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I arrived

I was born in 1936 in the family home known as Sion Hall (presently called Hotel L'Emeraude ) in the parish 
of St Saviour in the Island of Jersey, Channel Islands, British Isles.
                      

                      


  

And now with my cousin




My Ancestors 


My great grand father and his brothers came over from France in 1845. Two of them were farmers, one was a cobbler and the other a furniture maker. 

They lived in a cottage in the Parish of St Clements along the South coast of the island. I know very little about my great grandparents on 
my grandmothers side except to say that my great grandfather’s surname name was Saunders, that he came from Scotland and that 
he was a fisherman. I remember him as being a very kind, gentle man and a great storyteller. He was quite small, maybe five foot tall, with a huge silver-white beard and was very strong. He had fished most of his life and was capable of catching dangerous conger eels longer then he was tall. He used to make his own wicker fishing baskets, as did most fishermen in those days. 

Most of his fishing was among the rocks at St Clements. The waters around Jersey on a spring tide rise forty feet from low to high. On a low tide great grand father Saunders would walk over the rocks and climb across the gullies to his favourite fishing grounds. Although sandy beaches surround most of the coast of Jersey, this area of coastline is completely covered by rocks. The rocky area along the coast is over three miles long and the tide goes out for over a mile. 




Great grandpa Saunders, my Grandmother Langlois's father.
My sister Annette and myself


Great grandpa and Great grandma Saunders


    
Great grandfather would have fished for Spider Crabs, Lobsters, Conger eels and a lot of different types of shellfish
 including Ormers (Abalones). My last memory of my great grandfather Saunders was of his coffin covered with flowers 
being placed on a glass sided hearse pulled by two black horses and of some of the family getting into horse drawn 
carriages. I can remember waving as they moved down the road. I must have been about three years old. 
  

Great grand mother's family, Les Cosnier 



My father and mother having a night out 




Another outing

 




My mother ......

 


My grandfather and grandmother Hodgetts my mother's parents, Richard Enraght Hale Fletcher, grandfather of my 
cousins Cynthia and Fay Langlois, the tall one is my uncle Eddie then my mother and father. 





My sister and I

 


Looks fun 
My first memories were when my baby sister appeared on the scene. I was eighteen months old. It was not too bad 
because, as she grew older she would only play with dolls. She always did girlie things while I played with toy tractors, 
my tricycle and other boy’s things. However, when I was a little older, I borrowed the wheels from her pram to make my 
first soapbox. She only discovered this when she tried to push her dolls pram and found that the wheels were buckled. 
That was when war started between us and thereafter I could do nothing right. Sixty years on we are the best of friends. 


Started moving 

A year after I was born my father, mother and myself moved to a farm called Gros Puit at Bagot in the parish of St Saviour,
 only some two miles away from Sion Hall. I think we moved because my father wanted his independence. We spent 
three years there . My father grew tomatoes, potatoes and loads of green vegetables. We also had cows and pigs 
but it was hard work for my father as he was just starting out to farm by himself. In 1939 he suffered a big setback 
when he discovered that he had arthritis at the top of his spine which confined him to bed where he spent most of 
the next eighteen months on his back. 

Our next-door neighbours, the Pallot family, and work people from Sion Hall came every day to keep the farm going. 
They were a great help, as we could not have continued without them. At the farm my sister learnt to drive at a very 
early age. She cannot have been more than two and a half when she got onto a Fordson tractor that was parked 
on a slope and somehow managed to take the brake off. The tractor took off with her sitting on it but she kept it in a 
straight line and parked it half in and half out of an asbestos garage. Considering her age, she had done pretty well. 
Unfortunately, she had taken the gable end with her. We had to forgive her for asbestos is not very tough, is it?


Growing up



Growing up 

In 1940 I was four years old and beginning to understand a lot of what was going on around me. My father was in bed, 
my mother was very worried and friends and family were calling at all hours. I remember a lot of shouting and arguing from 
which all I could make out was that we were going to move away somewhere. I later discovered that the friends and family
 were trying to persuade us to leave the island because the Germans were coming and my father would not have been 
able to work for them, had he been made to. However Dad had the final word. He said, " We are staying". Mum had started
 packing and crying all at once. She just wanted to do what was best for everybody and did not want to go either. 

I have no memory of the Germans arriving in the island but I do recall them being here very well. One afternoon we were 
looking out over the fields from my father's room watching the German soldiers going around doing their exercises. They 
were running, jumping and crawling about on the muddy ground, leaping over low walls and climbing over high ones, 
when one of the German soldiers had the bright idea of using a wooden barrel he had found nearby to help them over a 
very high wall. It worked well until some twenty odd soldiers had passed over the wall with the help of the barrel but, with
only two or three men to go, the barrel started to collapse, the bottom gave way and the next man trying to get over 
disappeared inside. We were too far away to see if they were laughing but fortunately they could not see us doubled 
up with laughter. 

Unusual transport. 

Transport was something to remember. My father's back problem had been improving when he managed to find a very 
heavy bicycle somewhere. As before the occupation he had always used a car, he must have found this kind of transport 
very hard work. As we were only permitted to use our tractor for farm work, he made a luxury trailer for my sister and 
myself to tow us behind his bicycle. The body of the trailer was made from a heavy cabin trunk and the big fat wheels and 
tyres came off a couple of large wheelbarrows. One fine day, my father, very proud of his invention, took us in the new
 trailer for its maiden journey. Only a couple of miles on its test run we were on the way home when he must have lost 
concentration for a split second and hit the curb pretty hard. We bounced around like a ball because of the big balloon
 tyres and turned right over tipping us out onto the hard pavement. Strangely enough I can remember that incident as if it 
was yesterday. 

In 1941, when I was five and my sister three and a half, we were on the move again. We moved to another farm where, 
this time, the soil was very good. It was well drained and had better shelter from the cold Easterly winds. This was 
Stirling Castle Farm whose buildings dated from c.1590 - a wonderful place where everything was small, even the only 
toilet around the corner behind the house. Compared to Sion Hall this was a dolls house and I have many good memories 
of this farm. The farmhouse is situated halfway up the side of a valley and the land branches away from it. Near the 
house we had glass frames to bring on young plants and on the larger fields we grew wheat and oats for the cattle and 
for making bread. We also kept cows for milking. 

Germans everywhere

There were German soldiers everywhere, probably because it was a valley and it gave them plenty of shelter 
from RAF or USA aircraft flying overhead. Although it was forbidden to collect leaflets off the ground, my mother 
used to find it satisfying to get them before the Germans did and collect arms full of paper and silver foil. Every time we 
harvested our crops we had by law to hand over a large amount to the Germans, at least half I think. One day the Germans 
turned up in the yard with a very heavy wagon drawn by two very large shire-type horses to collect the straw that was due to them. 
They set about in a very business like way loading the wagon and the load got higher and higher with a man working by 
stacking the straw squarely on the top, when suddenly the horses who had been standing very still took fright and moved, 
dislodging the man on the top of the load. He must have fallen at least fifteen feet onto the cobbled yard on his head, from 
which blood was pouring. Without hesitation, my mother dashed indoors for a bowl of water with Dettol and offered to clean
 the wound but the officer in charge pushed her out of the way, tipping the bowl at the same time, and proceeded to clean 
the mans head with a news paper. My mother was even more upset when she saw the damage on the man's head yet she
 was not allowed to help in any way. He was taken onto the road and had to wait until thesoldiers had finished loading before 
being taken off for treatment. Throughout the occupation she never forgave the Germans for the treatment they gave to that man. 

Being a youngster during the occupation was not as bad as it was for adults, who were always looking around for things on 
which to survive. It was even harder for people living in the town who had to come out to the farms to glean in the fields after the
 corn had been cut. They had to pick the grains by hand off the ground to make bread and I would try to help them but my 
fingers soon became sore as the dry stalks cut into them. 

A German …my friend 

I was playing in the fields one day when a German soldier turned up with a spade to do some digging. I remember that he
 gave me a grin and offered me the spade and, when I shook my head, he grinned again. I thought that I had made a friend.
 He looked about the garden for a while and started walking towards the farmhouse. I followed my new friend and stayed
 nearby when he started digging on high ground near a pathway close to the house. He must have been there a long time
 because he had dug a hole as big as a table. It was so deep that, from where I was standing, I could not see the bottom. 
When I think about it now, he had done a fine job of making a neat hole with straight sides and he had even cleaned up the 
soil that he had taken from the hole. As my new friend could not speak my language, when I asked him why he had dug the 
hole he just smiled and, when he had finished, he shook my hand and went. I never saw him again although I sat near the 
hole for several days waiting for him to come back. Fed up I went in doors and told my mother about him. She said that he 
seemed a nice man. I asked her how she knew and she said that she had been looking through the window all the time while 
he had been digging that hole. (She called it a" dug out"). Nobody came near it for weeks so, bit by bit, I took it over. 
I dug steps into the sides and put bamboo canes close together on the top to make a roof out of bits and pieces, door knobs, 
nails, tin cans and so on, I could turn that hole into anything I wanted - a plane, a tank or even a submarine. My new friend
 had given me the best present I had ever had. I heard my father telling someone once that he reckoned the German had 
dug that hole near the pathway and close to the house just for me. 



The windmill. 

As I said before, living at this farm brought back many memories. A short distance from the
house, just over the brow of the hill, there was a windmill used for pumping water up to a
large water tank for the cattle. The windmill was constructed of steel and was quite tall as it 
was erected in a draughty valley. It had four giant legs and a wooden shaft that came down 
from the vane into the ground, the idea being that the shaft goes up and down about 
twenty inches and pumps water from a well. What a great plaything for someone like me.
 I used to go over the hill and down the valley to play on this windmill. I would climb up the 
shaft to about ten feet and wrap my legs around it, going up and down for what seemed like
 hours. Well, that was until my father caught me. My mother and father had been looking for 
me for ages. Dad would always shout at me when he was angry but Mum would always 
give me a piece of her mind and then smack me. I remember this time she smacked me 
across her ironing table in the kitchen. Talking about that kitchen, the doctor turned up to 
give my sister and myself our vaccination injections and I ran away to hide. I did not wait
 to see where my sister went, nor did I care. I hid in my dugout but my father knew that I 
would be there and was all right about it. Once I was with him in the top field near a water 
storage tank while he was milking the cows by hand, when there was gunfire nearby. They 
were firing at a large aircraft passing over the island when, suddenly, there was a loud crash. 
A chunk of an aircraft had fallen in the field and a lot of small fires appeared. They turned out
 to be pieces of hot shrapnel. My father suddenly scooped me up and we dived under the 
water tank, just in time as another piece of the aircraft dropped onto the field very close to us. 



The Chateau. Stirling Castle

Across the road from our farm was a brick built, three-storey house that could be called a chateau. It was set in its own 
grounds but my memory of the house and land is a little blurred. It was empty during the occupation and was looked after 
by caretakers. One was called Bob and he, his sister and brother used to take it in turns to come from town every day. 
I would walk around the house with them and was fascinated with the beehive they had up on the top floor. They let me 
travel by the dumb waiter (a mini lift just large enough to hold me). Outside in the garden they had a petrol motor that 
powered a water pump and, because they were not too good on mechanical maintenance, their pump took a lot of patience
 to get started. They always took the spark plug out, laid it on an oily rag soaked in petrol and lit it to heat it up. It worked 
most times but, if not, it would grow cold and they would have to go through the whole process again. What I remember 
most is the huge sunken rose garden. I wonder if it is still there. At the top of the hill the Germans had taken up residence
 in a large property called Oaklands where they had a fuel tank dump. 

My father thought it was very convenient that he had someone who worked for him on the farm that knew how to siphon 
petrol for the tractor and, at night, he would take a little from the German's fuel tanks and put it into smaller tanks on the 
other side of the hedge. He would only siphon a small amount from one or two of the hundreds that were there. Thank 
goodness they never caught him as he was good with engines. He got a BSA three wheel motor vehicle running. It had a
 flat platform on the back and helped a great deal when my father needed to carry light weights around. As the platform 
extended well over the rear axel, the driver had to remember to load up the front first. We lived on a very steep hill and, if 
the BSA had been badly loaded, the little vehicle would have lifted up in the air and there was every chance the load would
 have come off. One day my father and I with the little BSA were climbing up this hill empty when we passed some German 
soldiers. They laughed at us and tried to hitch a lift. My father said he would take a couple of them but that we might tip up 
if we took more. Two jumped on and off we went, steadily, but some of the others we passed thought that they would take 
a lift as well and, although the first two told them to get off, it was too late. The little three wheeler reared up and discharged
 its load, landing the soldiers on the roadway. My father thought there would be trouble, but the soldiers sitting on the 
road laughed and waved to us in a friendly way. 

First school 

In the last year at Stirling Castle Farm I started junior school with my eldest sister (by the way, at this time I had another 
sister who was born in a nursing home in St Helier). It was principally a girls' school called the Convent FCJ. A few young 
men were accepted if they had sisters at the same school and also a few non-catholics like myself. Perhaps the war made 
them bend the rules a little. At assembly in the mornings the non-catholic boys had to sit at the back of the hall, whereas 
non-catholic girls could sit with all the others. I was quite happy as I had two or three other non-catholic boys for company. 

That school was dear to my heart. I learnt how to make jewellery boxes out of used post cards. You have to make holes all 
around the cards then place the cards back to back. Using blanket stitch you then joined them all together and they even had 
a hinged lid. I have never forgotten those boxes. I also learnt to tie up my laces. When I kicked off my shoes one day in front 
of the teacher, she suggested that I might like to learn how to untie and tie them up properly. It took a week to learn and she 
made me do it twenty times. I cannot remember learning anything else. Oh yes! We learnt how to be kind to others. Each of 
us in the class had to collect money for our own adopted boy or girl from another country. I chose a black boy from Africa 
because I liked the kind look in his eyes and I think that I managed to collect five pennies for him. One more thing - you were 
not allowed to carry matches. 

One day the teacher asked us all to empty our pockets to play a game of something or other and, to the class's horror, I took 
a match box out of my pocket. It was spotted by the teacher who was very angry with me, even when I told her that there was
 nothing in it. She picked up the box, shook it and it rattled. She was fuming and was even more upset when a little, curled up
 woodlouse fell out. We had never seen her so angry. Saying that she would have to smack me, she turned around and picked
 up a piece of stick. She had tears in her eyes when she turned back and told me to hold out my hand. At seven years old you 
can fake being brave but, when I held out my hand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did not hurt-in fact that the piece of
 wood she was using was elderberry which is quite soft. Within half an hour the whole school knew that Mother Carmel had 
beaten me. Twenty years or more after I left that school Mother Carmel still had my photograph up on the wall. She always
 kept her favourite pupils on that wall. 

Grandpa hiding 

I asked my father one day what the noise was coming from in the loft and he said that it was probably a mouse or perhaps 
a bird that had got caught up there. He went up to take a look and came down saying that he could not see anything and he 
was sure that it was not a bird. A few days later when I heard the noise again, I thought it was a mouse but I said nothing 
that time or on other occasions when I heard it. We had a lot of mice around the farm and they did not appear to do any harm. 
It was only at the end of the occupation that I discovered that Grandpa Hodgetts had spent three weeks up in our loft in the 
dark. He had been born in Birmingham in England and, had he been found, would have been deported to Germany as were
 the other English people here. 

I remember Grandpa Hodgetts cultivating a patch of about thirty perch of land at the farm and spending many hours there, 
as he wanted to be self- sufficient, which was a credit to him. He grew five perch of potatoes and twenty-five perch of tobacco. 
The family considered he had his priorities right. When Grandpa cultivated the tobacco crop, he bundled the giant leave together
 and hung them up in the rafters around the farm buildings to dry. He then placed them in a homemade press which was 
only about eighteen inches long and five inches wide. It had a lump of wood on the top of it to squeeze the juice out of the leaves 
and I can just see him now tightening the screw down bolts every day with loving care. During the occupation, lighter fuel was 
non-existent and matches were hard to find so you either had to do without or think up means of igniting your home-grown 
cigarettes or pipes. Grandpa had a friend in the motor trade who came up with the idea of using a four-cylinder impulse 
magneto which, by joining all the leads, produced a longer spark that worked well. Grandpa had the idea of using a tin with a 
hole in the lid with a piece of window sash cord through it as a wick. The oil in the tin came from many sources such as used 
engine oil, fish oil, and chicken fat and sometimes all three. I shall never forget the horrible smells of the burning oil and of 
grandpa's pipe. 

Back we go. 

I have good memories of Stirling Castle Farm which we left at the end of 1943 when I was seven years old. My father had 
spread his wings and it was then time to return to Sion Hall to work with his father again. What a change it was for my father.
 Instead of a thriving tomato growing industry, the packing sheds and the land looked more like a ghost town with only a
few potatoes planted and a mere five people working there instead of the fifty or so there had been before the war. Every 
year during the occupation Grandpa Langlois made sure that the tomato seed had been sown, the seedlings pricked 
out and that thousands of plants were ready for planting. He said throughout that the war could not last for ever and that, 
when it was over, everyone would want tomatoes. He was right and he was ready. When Jersey was liberated on the 9th of 
May 1945 my father and grandfather immediately organised the planting of all the tomato plants they had prepared months 
ahead. My grandfather's foresight had paid off. 

Next school 

It was at that time that I changed schools and I was given an interview at Victoria College Preparatory by Miss Cassimere. 
Fortunately I passed and started straight away. I remember little of my days there. Our first classroom was a wooden building 
raised off the ground with concrete blocks. I was no academic and my poor results brought me many Saturday mornings in 
detention. Three detentions in a row brought a caning from the head master, Mr. Thorne. I enjoyed art and woodwork but not
 reading and writing on which I found it difficult to concentrate. I spent three years in the Prep before going up to Victoria College.

 

I

I enjoyed being at college though I did not care for some of the teachers.  
I can remember some of the friends I made: 

Troy, Norman, Palmer, Foott, Stent, Brooker, Wakeham, Lane, Smith, Rumfitt. Allo, Syvret, Touzel, Vibert, Dorey, Farnham, 
Baudains, Labey, Voisin, Allen, Le Brocq, Godel, Pallot, Stead, Colley, Titterington, Abel, Copp, Picot, Talbot, Sarre, Carter,
Barette, Beckford-Smith, Egglishaw, Bower, Blackwell, Grady, Burton, Cabot, Carter, Cavey, De Carteret, De Gruchy, Miller, 
Drelaud, Le Riche, La Marquand, Clyde, Hucker, Le Cheminant, Verriers, Pittard, Clark, Hamon, Renouf, Horsfall, Vibert, 
Stride, Alcock, Gwyther, Lewis, Miles, Harris, Ferbrache, Jones. 

I thought the prefects were a bit heavy handed at times - especially as they had the power to use a shoe on your 
backside if you misbehaved. The prefects I remember were Haden, Gould, Green, Gaudian, Tiffin, Christin. 

The teachers I remember at college and prep. were Postill, Thorne Salt, Horn, Marshall, Hamon, Nicoll, Green, Blomfield, 
Col. Finch, Coats, Black. Douglas, art master at prep.. Mr. Harris and the caretaker, Mr. Lewis were helpful to me. 

I left college as soon as I was fifteen years old and it was not a minute too soon. 

Only in the last ten years have I realised that my backwardness at school was due to being dyslexic and not to being lazy. 
(that is my story and I am keeping to it)



Sion Hall.

   

             



       

Grandpa and Grandma  Langlois and family                                                                                                 


Marble statures in the background before grandma's boys painted them

     


Grandma Langlois was a bit of a dare devil in those days

 

    

My great grandmother, my grandmother, my aunt and my cousin, 

    are all called Desiree.

 

  

 

Grandma Langlois's coffee morning

 

  



Grandma and Grandpa with friends sunbathing on the dunes

 

  



I should explain a little about Sion Hall.  My Grandfather Langlois bought it in the 1920's.

It was a very large house with many bedrooms, probably fifteen or more, and all the 

rooms were very large with large windows looking out over the countryside.  

Approaching it from the front, you would first notice the enormous pillars supporting the 

balcony which ran its full length.   I was told that, had you visited the house in the early 

1930's,  you would have seen four  or five full size white marble statues of beautiful, 

scantily dressed ladies near the main doors. My grandmother had them removed 

because her four sons would not stop painting them.  The building was divided into two 

homes with us living on the left side and my Grandfather on the other.  There were many 

more  rooms on my grandfather's side of which the most memorable was about fifty feet 

long and twenty feet wide with a large open fireplace at one end surrounded by giant sized 

arm chairs and huge sofas.  In the centre there was a heavy, ornate black  oak table that 

opened out to nearly fourteen feet with matching chairs and sideboards and, at the other 

end of the room, there was a full-sized billiard table with all its accessories,  including

boxed-in overhead lamps.   Against the wall,  there was a rack holding many cues as 

everyone in the family had their own.   I remember that there were huge pictures and heavy

curtains.  Grandma Langlois' favourite party trick, which greatly annoyed Grandpa Langlois,

was to persuade Buddy,   the large St Bernard who weighed in at over two hundred

pounds,  to jump up on the billiard table, lay on his back and have his tummy tickled.  The

grandchildren  loved that game.  It is strange the memories that come back to you as you 

grow older.  As I write this,  I remember the large, D-shaped fish pond filled with large,

white water lilies.  Behind this there was a dark tunnel of rough stones.   Inside it was 

spooky, with the strange sound of water always dripping on to the stones, which I now

realize were lava rocks filtering the water before it returned to the pond.  We none of us

ever dared go through it.  

War Time Dances

Can you imagine a house with its own ballroom?   At Sion Hall that was to be expected.

The huge room with a proper dance floor also had a long conservatory leading off it 

which was filled with geraniums.   During the occupation, not only those who lived nearby,

but people from all over the island came to the dances, which were held every two weeks.

The music came from either a wind-up gramophone or, better still, a live band, led by 

Eric Harrison. The dances started fairly early in the evening as the dancers would have 

to be back home before curfew at about nine o'clock Those people living a fair distance 

from Sion Hall must have had difficulty dodging the German patrols if they left  the dances 

too late.   I would sit on the window ledge three stories up, with my legs overhanging the 

sill, waving to the people going home. It was some time before my parents found out what 

I was doing, while my sisters were asleep in their beds.  We were supposed to have had 

a young woman looking after us while the dance was on but she must have joined them. 

New tyres

I remember the time I painted my bicycle with old paint that I had found in a shed. I mixed

together a little out of each tin I found and  it came out a sort of grey-pink. A couple of 

weeks later I asked Grandpa Hodgetts, my sign writer  grandfather,  why the paint on my

newly-painted bicycle was still soft and sticky.   He said that I should have mixed the paint

in the cans before using it and that I must have only used the top of the paint with the 

linseed oil.  He offered to repaint  it but I said, "No thank you.  I will wait for it to dry."

Grandpa smiled.  He knew better. On another occasion, I remember my father putting new

tyres on my bicycle.  They were made of rubber hose pipe which he wrapped around the 

wheels, threading a length of thick wire through the hose and tightening it with a pair of 

pliers to keep the tyres on. When I was on my it, I could count the number of times the 

wheel turned because, each time, there was a  small bump where there was a join in the hose.

 

Sion Hall had its own electricity plant-110 volts and the family had to be careful not to turn

on too many lights at one time to avoid burning out the complete system. The Lister single

cylinder engine had a large and very heavy flywheel and took two men to start it  They

would crank up the starting handle into the right position, take a deep breath, shout GO 

and swing that handle as fast as they could. It did not always start but, when it did, all the 

lights that had been left on would come on as if it was daylight. No one was allowed in that 

engine room and no one was allowed to smoke anywhere nearby. 

 

When I peeped through the doorway one  day, I saw rows of glass tanks with wires 

going from one  to the other.  They made strange, fizzing sounds that puzzled me as I

could not understand what was going on.  Even the clocks on the walls bore no 

resemblance to those I saw in our house.  What a mad world when you are young!

The fire.

One night we were over at grandpa's house with a few cousins, aunts and uncles having

a noisy party, as was usual  when we were all together,  when there was a loud banging

and shouting at the back door.   Dad and Grandpa rushed outside, calling over their

shoulders: "Get out of the house!  The shed is on fire.” Without any hesitation, Grandma 

Langlois took charge as she did in any emergency, though not usually as worrying as this.

We were herded out of the house through the front door and into the garden, where she

made sure that we were all together. We could not stay there as huge lumps of burning

straw were blowing over the house and over our heads.   We had to run across  the road 

and up into the field to get out of danger. The noise coming from the direction of the fire 

was horrendous and it was difficult to hear anyone speaking. 

 

The smell from the fire was unforgettable and indescribable.   We must have sat for some

considerable time in that field by its light, when my father came across to tell us we 

would not be able to go back into the house as there was a danger the sparks could set 

it alight.   We had to go up to Uncle Jim's farm at Val Poucin,  about half a mile away 

over the brow of the hill. 

  

We spent two or three days with Uncle Jim and Aunt Dorrie who let us do whatever we

wanted.   We had almost forgotten about the fire at Sion Hall until Dad came up to take 

us back home. Although it was close to home, we had not been able to see or smell it

from Uncle Jim's farm.   It was only as we walked along the yard behind Sion Hall that 

the smell of the smoke and the heat of the fire made me feel ill but this was forgotten 

when we were confronted by a German soldier standing about fifty yards from it,  

warming himself with the heat of the dying embers.   My father said that he had been 

there since the day before because he had had instructions  from his commander to keep 

everyone away,  and he was not going to move for anyone. He saluted my father as we  

passed him.  There were water pipes everywhere and, when I was told that the fire engine 

was coming back to collect them,  I realised what I had missed.  "That would have been 

even more exciting than the fire!" 

  

Suddenly an enormous explosion from the centre of the damped down fire shook the 

whole area.  It erupted like a volcano with straw, bamboo canes, timber, steam being

hurled up into the air.  As Dad and I hurried away,  someone called out, "the fire engine

is on its way back". The fire ignited itself many times over the following three weeks

and I would only have to throw a stone into the ashes for it to ignite again. The 

German guards only stayed for a week.   

 

On one occasion when the German guard had left,  I was on my own near the fire, 

fascinated by its bluish colour as it spread across the top of the hard, crusty, charcoal 

embers, when suddenly a blue flame shot out like a tongue.   It began to lick the bottom

of one of the railway lines that had been used for supporting the roof of the shed. I 

watched it for a few minutes and could not believe my eyes. The upright was falling

down and that tongue of fire had cut through the metal. For weeks after the fire had 

dampened down, family and friends dug large deep holes and buried the burnt out 

electric motors and tools and anything else that the Germans might have seen. Luckily

the German guard had stayed at his post at all times and had not seen what was  

lying in the ashes.  Had he seen the burnt out motors or the charred carcasses of pigs, 

he would have reported us and the Langlois family would have been on their way to  

Germany. 

 

Ours was the biggest farm fire during the occupation.  For years after the occupation, 

my grandfather Langlois would tell his friends how  he had lost one million new bamboo

canes, hundreds of bales of hay, boats, a car and two lorries, some owned by others, 

that were hidden behind the straw and the stacks of bamboos. There were a couple 

of dozen large electric motors that the Germans would have liked to get their hands on, 

as well as  a load of tools and tons of nails that were to be used for making tomato

packing boxes.   Hidden in the shed from the Germans was a complete mill for grinding

wheat and corn.  Thankfully, I was not told about the sixty pigs that had perished in the

fire while they were hidden from the Germans in soundproofed pens well-screened 

from prying eyes.   

Another fire

The fire at the Palace Hotel at Mont Millais in 1945 was thought to  have been started 

deliberately by  anti-Nazis causing an explosion in the cordite store.   It was the worst 

fire that Jersey saw during the occupation.   I understand German naval students used 

the hotel.   As I returned to school the following afternoon, I heard small explosions and 

saw soldiers picking up things in the surrounding fields and gardens and putting them in 

sacks.  There were craters all over the area as if there had been an earthquake.  To this 

day I do not know what they were collecting with such urgency.

Oasis

Sion Hall was a wonderful home.   It was a fun place, always open to family and friends 

with people dropping in all the time.  Thinking about it now, it seemed to be an oasis in

another world.   Germans were everywhere on the island but I do not remember them

coming around our home.  Every half mile or so they had built look-out posts, some up

trees, some built into walls. There were ammunition dumps and fuel dumps and just 

about everything you could imagine. The German soldiers used fields as if they owned

them, they drove about in tanks, they rode and pulled wagons with horses, they did their 

manoeuvres but the only time they ever came on to our land was to erect tall steel or 

concrete posts with thick wire on the tops to prevent enemy aircraft from landing.

Grandpa Langlois and my father considered them a hazard when they ploughed the

fields so they removed them.   They cut the wires, pulled the ten feet or so long posts 

down and dragged them into deep trenches that they had made earlier.   Sion Hall was

a very large building, the type the Germans might well have requisitioned for their own

 use so I could never understand why they did not. 

 

Our farm was not very active during the last two years of the occupation. I think that 

we must have just been ticking over, growing small amounts of produce such as wheat,

green crops,  root crops and sugar beet.   Sugar beet was a new crop to the farm. It 

had many uses and I remember Grandma Langlois drying it in the AGA cooker for

making tea as well as bottling it as a sweet syrup for just about anything that needed 

sweetening.   I did not much care for  the sugar beet syrup but preferred her dried 

carrot tea. Grandma was always busy in the house for  she had a large family to look

after as well as people calling in all the time.   Although her children, two daughters and

four sons,  were married, the boys would often go along to Sion Hall to have a meal.   

One morning I remember the men were sitting around the huge kitchen table finishing 

their second breakfast of the day and putting the world to rights, when there was a loud 

crash.   Grandpa had gone over backwards in his chair, banging his head on the wall

behind him.   Fortunately he had only dented his pride and  his sons were all falling

about laughing. It was his habit to lean backwards in his chair to relax and talk after

his meal and he was a heavily built man, six feet tall and weighing about two hundred

and thirty pounds. Grandma had called out to him not to lean back, but it was too late.

The day before, without telling him,  she had moved the large dresser he used to lean 

against to do some decorating!

Collected Uncle Ed from prison   

I cannot remember the date but I do remember going to the town prison where Uncle

Ed was being held because he had broken the law.   He had sold or given an outboard 

motor to a group of young men so that they could escape from the island.   They were

only a short distance from the shore, when the German soldiers had fired on them and

they were captured and questioned. Under pressure, they told the Germans where

they had obtained the motor. Whilst in prison the family was allowed to take in food. 

Grandma Langlois considered that her son needed fattening,  so she made sure that he

had plenty.   She made enough pies to feed Uncle Ed and  half the prisoners.  

There were no half measures with Grandma.  The horse cart was full to bursting with the

Langlois family when we set off to fetch Uncle Ed.   It had a wagon style cover over it 

and Duke and Pineau, our two farm horses, pulled it with ease along the flat road, although

they were not too happy when we reached the cobbled road inside the prison.   They 

jumped around a bit but soon settled down when we stopped.   With Uncle Ed on

board and everyone cheering, the horses decided that they had had enough of the

cobbled roadway between high granite walls and took off at the gallop for home. To

onlookers it must have looked like a scene from the gold rush days.

Red Cross-parcels

 

Towards the end of the occupation the Red Cross sent parcels to Jersey on a ship 

called the Vega.   My father used to take me along with him with Duke the horse 

and cart to collect the Red Cross parcels for the local shops.  They arrived just in

time for the population, many of whom were suffering from malnutrition.   The

parcels contained  mostly tinned goods such as Klim, which was a powdered milk,

Maple butter, syrup, prunes and chocolate - food no one had seen for years.

 

The Radio, 8th May 1945. 

    

   

Studebaker below is similar to my father's

                                                                                                                                                             

I will never forget the day the adults started acting strangely, dancing and calling out to

each other.   I was playing in the back yard when my father called me indoors to listen

to the wireless.   "What's a wireless?"  I asked.  He was indoors by then so I hurried

in to join the family.   In all the excitement I remember there was a lot of laughing and

crying and everyone was hugging each other.   My father stood over by the fire place

with a strange piece of equipment in his hand that I had never seen before.  It was

attached to a dark coloured box-shaped thing on the floor and had wires attached to

something I recognized as a battery.   Sounds and voices came from it and my father 

told everyone to be quiet because Winston Churchill was going to speak.   You could

have heard a pin drop as Dad said softly "we have waited a long time for this moment ". 

We heard the British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, say " our dear Channel 

Islands are also to be freed today."    There was silence in the room.  It was hard to 

believe that the long war and the occupation of our islands were over.  When I asked 

my father where the wireless had come from he explained that it had been in the 

sitting room all the time, in a cupboard under the floor next to the fireplace.  He went

on to tell me that, when the Germans arrived in Jersey at the beginning of the

occupation, they requisitioned his brand new Studebaker car but, before they took it

away,  he had very carefully removed the radio so that it did not look as if there had

ever been one.   If they had caught him with a radio he would have been punished or,

worse still, sent to Germany. Many detainees were sent to Germany from Jersey 

and never returned.  They died over there. My father's car was never returned to him  

but I have a memento - that radio is in my loft.  

Infill

Over 67,000 mines were laid around the island,  The Organization Todt used  up to 

6,000 slave workers, mainly Russians and Spanish Republicans. British Intelligence 

estimated the death rate amongst slave workers to be 40%. 1,200 people, British-born 

islanders, were deported to Germany. There were more than 140 attempts by islanders

to escape - but it was extremely dangerous. Nine people drowned, 24 were imprisoned,

 and one was shot on the beach.  The Germans insisted that it was not their responsibility

 to feed the islanders, whilst Churchill was determined to let the Germans starve - even

 if this meant that the islanders starved too.

What a day!   Liberation Day,    9th May.

The British troops liberated us the day after our neighbouring island Guernsey. It was 

well worth the wait. We were up very early and went out into the yard,  where my 

father was already  cleaning the BSA three-wheeler and my mother was busy 

tying red, white and blue material all around it. They told us to be ready quickly as we 

were all going on the three-wheeler to see the British troops landing in the island. This 

was going to be exciting as we had never been on the truck together.   My father had 

always insisted that the three-wheeler could only be used for farm  work as we only 

had a small amount of petrol.   He had bolted a wooden rail around the back of the 

truck to keep us from falling off and must  have worked all night to get ready.   It was 

a fine, sunny day when Grandpa and Grandma Langlois waved us off as we drove out 

of the yard.   We were so proud  to have transport to take us to see the arrival of the 

British troops.   To be  honest, I could not imagine what all the excitement was about 

until we reached the Longueville road where dozens of people were rushing towards 

the town and  waving to us as we passed.  We waved back and would have liked to 

have given them a lift, but the small three-wheeler could not carry any more. My father 

passed  me the horn with the rubber balloon on the end of it.   It made a lovely raspberry

sound and we all took turns to blow it. 

 

I hate this picture of my mother taken soon after we 

were liberated after the occupation, she must have 

lost four or five stone through strain and stress.

 

 

 

As we approached the town, we had to slow right down because of the huge crowd 

going towards the Harbour.   It was very noisy with people calling out to each other,

 the music of gramophones coming from the houses, the blowing of our horn and the

 noises made by our exhaust silencer which had begun to split open. 

 

I do not know how we managed to get through to the area by the Victoria Harbour,

but I do remember looking on, fascinated, at the sight of the boats coming out of the

water on wheels and driving up the slipway by the life boat station.   We spent many

hours cheering and watching the soldiers bringing equipment ashore.  I had never 

heard such a cacophony of sound as I did that day from the crowds of people and 

the vehicles.   We moved to the front of the Pomme d' Or Hotel on the Esplanade

where the crowds were at their noisiest.   They were calling out to the British troops

"throw more sweets" and every so often, as a shower of sweets was thrown  into the

air and over the crowds,  there would be more cheering. The people had not seen 

sweets for over four years.   We had stayed on the  front for some time, making as 

much noise as everyone else,  when my father said that we would go down towards

First Tower to see the Landing Craft on the beach.   As he had left the three-wheeler 

at the Victoria Harbour, because we would not have been able to drive through  

the crowds,  we walked everywhere.  We were almost carried by the crowds going 

in the same direction.

What a sight

As we walked along the Esplanade in the front of the Grand Hotel,   we saw three

enormous Landing Craft like whales about half way down the beach. 

There were huge trucks and jeeps parked up on the top of the beach and vehicles,

 small and large, going to and fro to the Landing Craft.   Soldiers and sailors were

everywhere. Right down at the water's edge, hundreds of men in uniform were lining 

up to go onto the Landing Craft.  These  were German prisoners who were to be

transported to England.   By contrast with the cheering crowds we had just left behind

on the Esplanade, everyone here was quiet.   You could have heard a pin drop as

the people lined up along the sea wall to watch, with only the distant sound of the 

trucks breaking the silence  

 

Reflection

The people sitting along that sea wall might have been thinking about the nightmare

they had just experienced for the last four years,  about their loved ones, family and

friends, from whom they had been separated for those four years or about the

member of their family who died at home because he or she was diabetic and unable

to receive treatment for it during the occupation. They might have been thinking of

seeing again the sons, the daughters or the husbands who had been called up or who

had volunteered to join the services before the war.   Some people just sat 

wondering what was going to happen next.

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