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  • As the dark and ominous spectre of Nazi invasion hung over the island like a black storm cloud the weather tried its hardest to bring a little joy and relief to the population. After a long hard day in the greenhouses, Frank took a little well earned break and let the early evening sun wash over his face and sooth his aching limbs, as he leant against the harbour wall and enjoyed the easy banter of his friends.

    Just over a week ago, the last allied troops had fled the island and the Governor had officially declared Guernsey demilitarised after the disbanding of the militia. Churchill had decided that the Channel Islands were undefendable without significant loss of civilian and military life for a few square miles of strategically unimportant land. The people of Guernsey were on their own, but when would the hammer fall? The long line of tomato lorries slowly snaked down the quay towards the dock where they were due to be unloaded on to the waiting boat sending maybe the last cargo of fresh fruit to the mainland. Two things happened almost simultaneously, firstly a warning scream from one of the dockers and then the mournful wail of the air raid siren started. In the distance approaching fast and low from over Sark were black specks. War had arrived in this peaceful haven.

    Frank had heard the advice and read the propaganda, find cover, put on your gas mask, don't leave until the all clear sounds, but that thought didn't register, even though others were scrambling under their trucks. He had one thought and one only, get home, home to his wife and beloved daughter. Even as the specks became distinguishable as not one but a formation of three aircraft did his determination waver, he was already leaving the quay and approaching the weighbridge. Across the road was the Royal Hotel, and leant against the black and gold iron railings was a bicycle, not his but at this point that did not matter.

    He was already on the bicycle and pedalling for his life as the drone of the aircraft turned into the percussion of strafing machine guns and the concussion of explosions. The quay he had just left was alight and the bombers were turning for a second run. He kept up his frantic escape along the sea front even as the formation split and one of the bombers seemed to wheel in his pursuit, although he was already far past them as the lone bomber unleashed its final destruction on the Fruit Export sheds. Within minutes he was home in the arms of his family, but now the realisation of what he had left behind started to register.

    The all clear had sounded and he had to return to the scene he had fled. Even as he carefully leant the borrowed bicycle back against the railing outside the Royal, amid a sea of broken glass from blown out windows, the last of the ambulances were removing the living casualties. Survivors milled around, the majority he recognised from this small community, although many looked shocked and confused about what they should do next. The fire service were still extinguishing the blazes many of which were the lorries that he helped to drive. The smell of burnt tomatoes mingled with that of hot and burning metal and fuel and others smells which would long last in his memory. His friends, his co-workers, had taken cover under those lorries, lorries that were no longer there. The jumbled wreckage littered the quay, not military trucks as they were mistaken for, but innocent, civilian fruit transports. Thirty three dead, sixty seven injured. Frank looked at the clock on the weighbridge, it had stopped at a few minutes to seven.

    As the dark and ominous spectre of Nazi invasion hung over the island like a black storm cloud the weather tried its hardest to bring a little joy and relief to the population. After a long hard day in the greenhouses, Frank took a little well earned break and let the early evening sun wash over his face and sooth his aching limbs, as he leant against the harbour wall and enjoyed the easy banter of his friends.

    Just over a week ago, the last allied troops had fled the island and the Governor had officially declared Guernsey demilitarised after the disbanding of the militia. Churchill had decided that the Channel Islands were undefendable without significant loss of civilian and military life for a few square miles of strategically unimportant land. The people of Guernsey were on their own, but when would the hammer fall? The long line of tomato lorries slowly snaked down the quay towards the dock where they were due to be unloaded on to the waiting boat sending maybe the last cargo of fresh fruit to the mainland. Two things happened almost simultaneously, firstly a warning scream from one of the dockers and then the mournful wail of the air raid siren started. In the distance approaching fast and low from over Sark were black specks. War had arrived in this peaceful haven.

    Frank had heard the advice and read the propaganda, find cover, put on your gas mask, don't leave until the all clear sounds, but that thought didn't register, even though others were scrambling under their trucks. He had one thought and one only, get home, home to his wife and beloved daughter. Even as the specks became distinguishable as not one but a formation of three aircraft did his determination waver, he was already leaving the quay and approaching the weighbridge. Across the road was the Royal Hotel, and leant against the black and gold iron railings was a bicycle, not his but at this point that did not matter.

    He was already on the bicycle and pedalling for his life as the drone of the aircraft turned into the percussion of strafing machine guns and the concussion of explosions. The quay he had just left was alight and the bombers were turning for a second run. He kept up his frantic escape along the sea front even as the formation split and one of the bombers seemed to wheel in his pursuit, although he was already far past them as the lone bomber unleashed its final destruction on the Fruit Export sheds. Within minutes he was home in the arms of his family, but now the realisation of what he had left behind started to register.

    The all clear had sounded and he had to return to the scene he had fled. Even as he carefully leant the borrowed bicycle back against the railing outside the Royal, amid a sea of broken glass from blown out windows, the last of the ambulances were removing the living casualties. Survivors milled around, the majority he recognised from this small community, although many looked shocked and confused about what they should do next. The fire service were still extinguishing the blazes many of which were the lorries that he helped to drive. The smell of burnt tomatoes mingled with that of hot and burning metal and fuel and others smells which would long last in his memory. His friends, his co-workers, had taken cover under those lorries, lorries that were no longer there. The jumbled wreckage littered the quay, not military trucks as they were mistaken for, but innocent, civilian fruit transports. Thirty three dead, sixty seven injured. Frank looked at the clock on the weighbridge, it had stopped at a few minutes to seven.

    As the dark and ominous spectre of Nazi invasion hung over the island like a black storm cloud the weather tried its hardest to bring a little joy and relief to the population. After a long hard day in the greenhouses, Frank took a little well earned break and let the early evening sun wash over his face and sooth his aching limbs, as he leant against the harbour wall and enjoyed the easy banter of his friends.

    Just over a week ago, the last allied troops had fled the island and the Governor had officially declared Guernsey demilitarised after the disbanding of the militia. Churchill had decided that the Channel Islands were undefendable without significant loss of civilian and military life for a few square miles of strategically unimportant land. The people of Guernsey were on their own, but when would the hammer fall? The long line of tomato lorries slowly snaked down the quay towards the dock where they were due to be unloaded on to the waiting boat sending maybe the last cargo of fresh fruit to the mainland. Two things happened almost simultaneously, firstly a warning scream from one of the dockers and then the mournful wail of the air raid siren started. In the distance approaching fast and low from over Sark were black specks. War had arrived in this peaceful haven.

    Frank had heard the advice and read the propaganda, find cover, put on your gas mask, don't leave until the all clear sounds, but that thought didn't register, even though others were scrambling under their trucks. He had one thought and one only, get home, home to his wife and beloved daughter. Even as the specks became distinguishable as not one but a formation of three aircraft did his determination waver, he was already leaving the quay and approaching the weighbridge. Across the road was the Royal Hotel, and leant against the black and gold iron railings was a bicycle, not his but at this point that did not matter.

    He was already on the bicycle and pedalling for his life as the drone of the aircraft turned into the percussion of strafing machine guns and the concussion of explosions. The quay he had just left was alight and the bombers were turning for a second run. He kept up his frantic escape along the sea front even as the formation split and one of the bombers seemed to wheel in his pursuit, although he was already far past them as the lone bomber unleashed its final destruction on the Fruit Export sheds. Within minutes he was home in the arms of his family, but now the realisation of what he had left behind started to register.

    The all clear had sounded and he had to return to the scene he had fled. Even as he carefully leant the borrowed bicycle back against the railing outside the Royal, amid a sea of broken glass from blown out windows, the last of the ambulances were removing the living casualties. Survivors milled around, the majority he recognised from this small community, although many looked shocked and confused about what they should do next. The fire service were still extinguishing the blazes many of which were the lorries that he helped to drive. The smell of burnt tomatoes mingled with that of hot and burning metal and fuel and others smells which would long last in his memory. His friends, his co-workers, had taken cover under those lorries, lorries that were no longer there. The jumbled wreckage littered the quay, not military trucks as they were mistaken for, but innocent, civilian fruit transports. Thirty three dead, sixty seven injured. Frank looked at the clock on the weighbridge, it had stopped at a few minutes to seven.

    'Images courtesy of VisitGuernsey'.
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