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IN FULL: The Chief Minister's Liberation Day speech

IN FULL: The Chief Minister's Liberation Day speech

Friday 10 May 2024

IN FULL: The Chief Minister's Liberation Day speech

Friday 10 May 2024

Today, as we gather to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the Liberation of Jersey, many islanders will be taking the time to reflect on memories and family stories of the Occupation, and the experiences of those in our community who endured five long years of strict oppression under Nazi rule.

It is also a day when many will contemplate the meaning of freedom not least because, even in today’s world, the flame of freedom faces constant threats.

On this day we also pay tribute to the bravery of those who fought for liberty, the allied forces who spearheaded the liberation effort, those who risked everything to defy the oppressors and often paid the ultimate price and the islanders who bore hardship with unwavering resolve refusing to surrender their dignity and values. 

As with many other local families I grew up with stories of the occupation. 

My grandparents Bill and Violet Farnham, had two children. 

My uncle Alan born in 1931, and four years later in 1935 the family was completed with the arrival of my father Colin.

They had an idyllic childhood, spending their holidays at the family's summer house at Long-beach, Gorey, often with their cousin Graham Carpenter who went on to become our Fire Chief.

It was here on June 28th 1940 that they remember the three of them on the beach looking for sand eels when German bombers flew over at low level – so low that they could clearly see the pilots in the cockpit: they ran up the beach to the safety of the summer house and heard the bombs falling on La Rocque and then St Helier. 

They remembered secretly listening to radio broadcasts from London.

They remembered being hungry.  

They remembered their parents going without so they could eat.

For the rest of his days my father always ate everything on his plate  which impressed me as a child. I watched with slight bewilderment as he ate plate after plate of unappetising looking greens – we would have been glad of these during the war he always said - this was because he remembered what it was like to go without and he deplored waste, but he confided in me later in life that it was his way of respecting the sacrifices made, for him, by the many facing extreme hardship towards the end of the occupation. 

When I once asked him what, as a boy of 10, he remembered most about Liberation Day 1945 

He thought about it for a while and said "TEETH" and recalled that everybody was smiling and laughing and he could see their teeth – lots of teeth, something he had not seen for almost five long years!

The family remained in Jersey throughout the occupation and memories of those years remained with them, and all of their generation for the rest of their lives. 

The stories they shared with my generation served to sometimes shock and sadden but more often to inspire and to teach us.

Stories that must remain with us and must be passed down to our children and our grandchildren because it is important that we remember that time.

Year by year, as we sadly lose more islanders who lived through the Occupation, we run the risk of diluting our collective memory of their experiences, and of the sacrifices made by the millions of servicemen and women, including many from Jersey, during the liberation of Europe. 

In the seventy-nine years since the day that Winston Churchill announced that ‘our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today’ Jersey has changed immeasurably.

The States Assembly, of which I am, and I’m sure that every member here, is immensely proud to be a part, has its own origins in the reforms made shortly after the Occupation.

Since those days we have evolved to become a much more diverse and representative group.

But we must remember that the freedom we enjoy every day, to live, to express ourselves, to make our own laws and to worship without fear or repression, is rooted in that day.

It is also an important lesson for us to remember that freedom is hard earned, but easily lost. 

There are members of our local community who have escaped oppression and some islanders with families and friends in warzones around the world right now, or who are at risk from terrorist attacks. 

For them, liberation is still to come. 

This is a reminder that we should act not only in our own interests, but also in the interests of others, and for those in our Island community who need our help the most. 

In the best lesson from those who endured the Occupation, we should protect those who are vulnerable, speak up for those without a voice, and act with more kindness towards each other

And in a world where we see freedom and rights are being taken away, ensure that we remain tolerant and respectful in our words and deeds. 

While we may not always agree, or share every opinion, or like how others chose to live or express themselves, we should value the freedom to speak out, to disagree, and we should value the freedom that enables us to act with respect and compassion.  

As we look back on the events of May 9th, 1945, let us draw inspiration from the past to guide us in the present and in the future. 

Let us honour the sacrifices of those who came before us by upholding the values of democracy, justice, and equality.

As we celebrate Liberation Day, whether as part of the public festivities, with family and friends, or just quietly in private, I hope you will join me in taking a moment to reflect that the freedoms we enjoy today did not come about by accident they were fought for and paid for by a generation that preceded us and for that they deserve our love, our respect and our heartfelt thanks.

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