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Editor’s comment: On keeping memories alive

PUBLISHED: 08:30 27 February 2020

Young London residents celebrate VE Day, marking the end of the war in Europe. Picture: PA ARCHIVE

Young London residents celebrate VE Day, marking the end of the war in Europe. Picture: PA ARCHIVE

PA Archive/PA Images

I was born in 1977 – the year of punk, Star Wars and the death of Elvis (among many other things) – and as young child in the early 80s, the war seemed ancient history.

Yet it wasn't, it was well within the memories of many people around me. In particular, my Nan in later decades would tell stories of the Occupation. Guernsey, where I grew up, was occupied by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945.

Nan, Dorothy Hurrell, was a dancer and ran her dance school throughout the war. Many years ago I acted as a researcher for a documentary a friend made about the occupation, and as I looked through copies of the Guernsey Press, I came across adverts for productions she and my grandfather, Norman Langlois, helped stage.

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She would later talk about the negotiations to keep the dance school going; the stir she unwittingly caused when she took to the stage in a red, white and blue outfit; the changing personnel from the polite 'gentleman' Germans to tougher faces as the war wore on and food ran short.

Many places suffered more during the war, but Guernsey certainly suffered. Dorothy told me of an occasion when, severely malnourished, she accompanied Norman, an insurance man, on a boat to Sark and despite the rough seas leapt for the dock, knowing it was the best chance of finding food. How accurate that story is, who knows? My memory is hazy and her memory at the time may not have been perfect, and she is no longer with us.

If you're interested, Dorothy gave an interview to the Imperial War Museum's audio archive: iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80012020

Memories have faded and some will be lost forever. Ready for May 8, we would like to play a small part by publishing and preserving some of our readers' VE Day stories and memories. Get in touch with reporter Jon King at jonathan.king@archant.co.uk or on 020 8477 3893.

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