Homecoming Day is hit by the effect of Covid

THE effect of the Covid pandemic played heavily on this year’s traditional ceremonies in Alderney to celebrate the 76th anniversary of the return of the evacuees after the liberation in 1945.

States of Alderney President William Tate laid a wreath under the plaque containing the words of the plea for the island to be evacuated in 1940. He was accompanied by his wife, Gabrielle. (Picture by David Nash)
States of Alderney President William Tate laid a wreath under the plaque containing the words of the plea for the island to be evacuated in 1940. He was accompanied by his wife, Gabrielle. (Picture by David Nash)

Homecoming Day started with the traditional peal of bells at 9am from the parish church of St Anne in much the same way as they did when the first boat was sighted in December 1945, and this was followed by an ecumenical service.

Leaders from all the various denominations took part and States President William Tate addressed the much-reduced congregation, and explained how the normal day-long holiday celebration had to be curtailed by popular demand from everyone involved to protect the island’s older population during these trying times.

Pauline Redhead, of the Salvation Army, vividly painted the picture of the day the ship Autocarrier docked alongside the jetty with a reading from the The Alderney Story, describing how the band played, the soldiers from the Royal Artillery regiment paraded, and the first 110 refugees climbed the gangplank only to see their island laid out in ruins in front of them.

Charlie Greenslade gave a heart-rending rendition of No Place Like Home on the original cornet which had been played as they landed, and the service was followed by a small dedication ceremony in front of the Courthouse in QEII Street led by Alderney vicar the Rev. Jan Fowler.

Mr Tate placed a wreath under the plaque which contained the words of Judge French to the residents of the island in June 1940, where he wrote he had appealed to the Admiralty for a ship to evacuate them.

Normally there would have been a big party and vin d’honneur in the Island Hall for the resident ‘homecomers’ and their families, but that too was postponed because under Covid rules the doors and windows would have all needed to be open and many elderly residents involved wisely declined the invitation.

In true Alderney style, the president and his wife, Gabrielle, took large boxes of mince pies prepared for the occasion and donated them to the Connaught Care Home.

The States took a late decision to postpone the tea party having had a number of withdrawals from elderly islanders.

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