Vega Trophy (Mounted Wooden Life Ring)
Donor: Graham Noel
During World War II when the Germans occupied the Channel Islands the local people went through very severe food rationing and were on the verge of starvation.
Near the end of the war, the Swedish ship Vega was allowed by the Germans to deliver several shipments of food to the civilian population, easing the critical shortages of food on the islands. Further background detail can be found below.
Graham Noel was born on the Islands and lived there during this harsh period.
The trophy is awarded to the winner of the Combined Division AMS Aggregate Series.
First Winner: Under Capricorn, P. Bedlington 2005/06
Vega – Further historical background
Early in the Second World War Jersey was declared “unarmed” and the German military took over, taking quite a few lives in the process, through strafing the main harbour and a few other places which they needlessly considered threatening.
A considerable number of locals evacuated to England before the Germans arrived, but more than 60% of the population remained and endured 5 years of very strict and difficult conditions. Not only was the population unable to contact relatives in the UK or elsewhere, but very quickly they found themselves subject to harsh curfews, strictly rationed foodstuffs, no fuel for vehicles, radios confiscated, and homes and hotels commandeered by the military. The military demanded first pick of all foodstuffs and kept meticulous records of all livestock forcing farmers even to show newborn calves and piglets to them, then claiming the new arrivals for their dinner tables. However there are many stories of farmers outwitting their masters when twin calves or suchlike arrived!
Lawbreakers were quickly dealt with, mostly with lengthy prison terms in Jersey, but the more serious crimes were punished by being sent to some horrible French prisons, or even some of the notorious German concentration camps. All local Jews were dispatched to concentration camps, and even English born families were similarly shipped through France and on to Germany. Sadly, a considerable number of those deported did not make it back safely to Jersey.
In June 1944 the locals were delighted to hear that the Allies had invaded Normandy and very soon they could hear the battles as the Allies worked their way along the French coast. Little did they know they would still have to wait another 11 months for freedom, having to put up with a very demanding German occupation force which was still determined to obey Hitler’s order to “Defend the Channel Islands to the death”.
Now that France was in Allied Hands the local military commanders were unable to supplement their food supplies from France and even harsher demands were made on the local population to ensure that all branches of their still very substantial military force were reasonably well fed. As well as the military, Jersey farmers had to provide food for the Allied POWs and the many “forced labourers”, mainly of Russian, Polish and Italian backgrounds who had been directed to the island to build all the concrete bunkers. This included an underground hospital, all this complying with Hitler’s orders to ensure that the Channel Islands would never again be part of Britain.
Many requests by the Jersey authorities for Red Cross assistance were rejected, but finally in December 1944 they agreed and on 30th December the Red Cross vessel “Vega” (Swedish Registry) arrived and delivered parcels to the civilian population. These parcels contained a variety of foodstuffs supplied mainly by Canadian authorities, desperately needed medical supplies, flour, oils and soaps, as well as tobacco from New Zealand.
Vega made a further 3 or 4 trips and most certainly eased the desperate situation being faced by the locals. In fact, it resulted in the locals having slightly better food supplies than the military and many local farmers tell stories of having to protect their stock from marauding soldiers.
Understandably Churchill was reluctant to send in an invading force to retake the Channel Islands, but by May 1945 it was clear that the Third Reich was finished and on May 9th the German Military surrendered, without a fight, to a large British landing force.
On a slightly lighter note … in January 1945 Jersey stonemasons were seen in the main town square repairing flagstones … the Germans had never noticed that the name “Vega” had been formed in those flagstones! As a side note Vega is the name of the brightest star in the universe.
Furthermore, throughout the occupation, despite German law that demanded confiscation of all radio sets, punishable by long prison terms or deportation to Germany, there were still many sets being listened to. The locals had a well refined news system for the dissemination of news of what was happening in the outside world.