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Liberation Day like no other puts party on hold

News | Published:

ON A Liberation Day like never before, islanders were able to reflect on the true meaning of freedom.

Decorate to Liberate was the request from the States when the normal celebrations were cancelled due to the coronavirus. Geoff Le Gallez took the government at its word with bunting and memorabilia all over his front garden, including Guernsey Press pages from 1945. Then he added his suit and cane and hat to complete the picture. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28248999)

When the island went into lockdown, Guernsey’s senior politician, Deputy Gavin St Pier, said the measures would be even more restrictive on public life than they were during the Occupation.

With islanders asked to stay at home by Public Health to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the community, this year’s Liberation Day traditions were filmed ahead of time and posted on social media for islanders to tune in to throughout the day.

In place of the biggest military vehicle cavalcade that was planned, islanders could watch a virtual tour of Government House and learn about its history during the war.

Instead of sampling delicious foods along the piers and playing Crown and Anchor, islanders could tune into an interview with TV historian Dan Snow and the Lt-Governor, Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder, during which they spoke about how lockdown was a small glimpse into what the wartime generation suffered under enemy occupation.

The Liberation parade was substituted with a reading of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by co-author Annie Barrows.

And instead of a crowded Smith Street with islanders watching the wreath-laying ceremony, the retiring Bailiff, Sir Richard Collas, stood alone and said a silent prayer.

In his message to islanders, he said it was not the way he had dreamed of retiring from the role but that this would be a Liberation Day he would never forget.

This year, it seemed more than ever islanders wanted to talk and share, checking in with one another and finding new ways to celebrate the day.

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Evacuation, Occupation and Liberation stories were told by historians and the wartime generation and shared by the local media.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Guernsey, islanders have been reminded to be physically distant from one another, but maintain contact through the use of technology.

Over the weekend, community spirit was taken to a whole other level.

The island was festooned with bunting and flags to celebrate the 75th anniversary, street parties turned into garden parties where whole roads sung wartime song and dined outside in the sunshine, together but safely apart.

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Her Majesty The Queen wrote a personal message to islanders expressing her delight that the Bailiwick had managed to find innovative ways to mark and commemorate the significant day.

There seemed, all over the island, to be a general feeling of positivity, despite being gripped by a global pandemic.

And islanders spoke with excitement and hope about how this year has taught us that next year’s Liberation celebrations must be even bigger, even greater, even more significant.

Zoe Fitch

By Zoe Fitch
News reporter

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