When, with the expected takeover of the German troops during the beginning of the Second World War, much of the population of the Channels Islands was evacuated to mainland Britain, Channel Island Societies were established here to serve the needs of the exiles. In time, the Channel Island Monthly Review was established, making it possible for both the exiled and the stay-at-home Islanders to communicate with each other.
Published by the Stockport and District Channel Islands Society from 1940, this A5 sized digest of news proved a godsend, especially to the evacuees. It reported events in the Islands, the activities (whist drives, outings, and talks) of all the various Channel Island Societies in the UK, letters from those who stayed behind, and lists of those Islanders who had been deported to German internment camps. The magazine also carried Births, Marriages and Death notices, adverts and personal enquiries.
For instance, the issue for May 1943 carried a feature describing the still unresolved difficulties faced by the exiles, who were:
‘…struggling under financial or domestic anxieties; the husband without the wife; the wife without the husband ; the mothers with their young children, just existing on the Unemployed Assistance Board allowance; the billeted relying entirely on the goodwill of their billetors; the children, now over school age, who are seeking employment; and the school children themselves…’
As for the privations faced by the Islanders under German occupation, one evacuee, who had received a letter from his niece reporting that their ration of sugar had been converted into sweets, doubted that life back home was particularly irksome:
‘I cannot conceive that a downtrodden, ill-treated, starving people would trouble to have their meagre supply of sugar converted into sweets…I do not doubt Lord Portsea’s concern about the conditions in our beloved islands, but it is so possible to paint to oneself an exaggerated view of the hardships which our people have to bear. Reading between the lines, I have yet to receive a single message which denotes any condition even approaching the sufferings which the people in other occupied countries have to undergo…’
Nor, it seems, was life too onerous for those Islanders in German internment camps. Regular Red Cross parcels provided the little luxuries, and in one camp there were ‘ concerts, dances, lectures and study groups ‘. Two letters from two different internees make their camps appear like Youth Hostels:
‘This is an ex-Bishop’s Palace in the Bavarian Alps. We rise at 7-30, parade at 9-30, soup at noon and five. Lights out 10-30. No forced labour. Daturn: this is a nice healthy camp. 2,000 feet above sea level. Food not too bad, but too much soup. Have meals in own rooms. Husbands and wives in separate barracks, but visit from 10 to 7pm. Single men are in different camps. All busy organising recreations…’ [R.M.Healey. ]