27th December 1944

The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation

As the Second World War approached its climax, Guernsey’s locals and the occupying forces alike started to run dangerously low on food. Tales of locals going to bed at lunchtime in an effort to sleep off the pangs of hunger were common, and things only worsened until, eventually, the Germans declared that they would no longer be responsible for feeding the population they had forcibly taken over.

The situation had been worsening since the Allied invasion of mainland Europe had got underway and Germany had started to suffer serious losses. As the German forces had retreated, their lines of supply to the Channel Islands had been cut, which left anyone on Guernsey, Jersey and Sark to fend for themselves as best they could. Herm had been evacuated for the duration of the war and Alderney was being run as a prison.

But in the middle of winter, and after four years of occupation, none of the islands had the resources they needed to grow sufficient crops and raise animals for meat and eggs. Therefore, at the start of November 1944, the Bailiff, Victor Carey, had been allowed to send a message to London, explaining the situation.

London understands

Combined with information transported via liberated France by Guernsey escapee Fred Noyon, this had finally convinced Churchill to authorise the International Red Cross to step in. Previously, where the Channel Islands were concerned, Churchill had apparently been prepared to “let ’em starve”.

The Red Cross loaded its supply ship, SS Vega, with almost 120,000 food parcels from Canada and New Zealand, and set sail from Lisbon, on 20 December. The ship reached Guernsey on 27 December 1944 and started giving out food parcels right away. Each one had been carefully put together to last a single person a whole month – if eaten in moderation. Its work in Guernsey done, SS Vega moved on to Jersey, where it arrived on New Year’s Eve.

Most of the occupying forces are said to have behaved in an extremely fair manner, refusing to take the parcels themselves, or to steal the parcels of any islanders. As a result of the trust that this behaviour engendered, the Vega made five more visits between December 1944 and liberation the following summer, to deliver more than 450,000 parcels in total.

 

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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st