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German soldier helped toddler find his feet

German soldier helped toddler find his feet

Thursday 26 September 2019

German soldier helped toddler find his feet

Historians have shared the story of a German soldier who defied expectations during the Occupation by helping a toddler find his feet at a time when shoes and clothes were in very short supply.

Without the help of the soldier, the young Jersey boy would have had to walk barefoot, as Jersey War Tunnels explained...

"Whilst he was playing barefoot outside his house, a German soldier approached his mother and asked her why he wasn't wearing no shoes.

The mother explained that the little boy's shoes had worn out and that she hadn't been able to find any replacement.

The soldier asked her for any suitable material she had and took away an old leather handbag. He returned a few days later having cut and stitched the soft old leather to make a smart pair of little shoes for the toddler.

Leather bag

Pictured: The soldier turned an old leather bag into a pair of shoes.

As any parent knows, children go through clothes and shoes quickly as they grow. During the Occupation in Jersey this posed a real problem, as both were in short supply and quickly rationed as shops sold out. 

Shoes were a particular issue as leather was nearly impossible to obtain. The Summerland Factory in Jersey employed 250 people to make and repair clothes and shoes.

The shoes - known as Summerland Clogs - were made from shaped wooden or rubber soles with knitted fabric 'uppers' nailed on.

Whilst having clogs was better than nothing, they were far from ideal for lively children. The soles were inflexible, causing pain and injury to the tiny feet, while the lightweight material made them unsuitable for winter.

Unable to find a better pair of shoes for her son, one mother insisted wore his old shoes all winter despite them cramping his toes.

Years later as an adult, this man always had problems with his feet, which had been unable to develop properly."

This wartime story was kindly provided by Jersey War Tunnels. To learn more about life in occupied Jersey, visit their website...

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