My voice caught a couple of times but I got through my reading OK yesterday. The occasion was a musical event held in the renovated German Command Bunker at Noirmont overlooking Jersey’s south coast. It was certainly a poignant affair marking the 68th anniversary of the Liberation.
But the star and absolute hero of the day was Eric Walker B.E.M. Eric was 90 three days ago. He was one of the British liberating forces on 9th May 1945. He went on to help clear many thousands of mines from the Channel Islands, then further afield, before settling down in Jersey as its Bomb Disposal Officer for many years.
The northernmost of the Channel Islands is Alderney. Unlike the other islands Alderney was totally evacuated before the German invasion. It was heavily fortified using slave and forced labour. There were many recorded atrocities visited on the forced workers in Jersey and Guernsey. In Alderney there was no one to record what must have gone on there.
Before the Alderney folk could return to their homes after the war, Eric Walker and his sapper comrades spent many months making it safe for them. In the course of their work one GE Onions of the Royal Engineers was blown to pieces. (Not an unusual occurrence – there is much that Eric Walker will not speak of). One of his comrades wrote this epitaph for the people of Alderney to read.
When you return to claim your island home
Let your rejoicing hearts restrain their joy
And meditate, you who have English blood
Or owe allegiance to the English throne
Seek English justice, and claim your English rights
Look on this little mound of fresh-cut turf
And read his epitaph; here buried lies
The shattered corpse of but a boy
Who gave his life to make your land safe
Returned his English dust to cleanse our soil
That this grim corner of the Commonwealth
Might once again be England’s; her fields
Her air, and all the azure sea around
All her flowers, birds and every tree
Because this Tommy died for Alderney.
I was only in Alderney once, on a cricket/drinking weekend. I left the boys go on the lash and meandered around the small island. As if to attempt to cover up those awful years nature has granted Alderney the best display of wild colours, sea birds and spectacular views along its cliffs that you are ever likely to see. You should visit.