Bernadette Meech’s story begins in around 1967 when she asked her parents if she could cross the English Channel and head to the island of Guernsey for a school trip.
Her father happened to mention that he was on Guernsey during the island’s liberation from occupying German forces during WWII. That was all she knew at the time.
After more in-depth research with her husband Graham, Bernadette discovered that her father performed with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry Band at the reading of the proclamation and official raising of The Union Jack at Elizabeth College on 12th May 1945, as part of the celebrations to mark Guernsey’s liberation. The island rejoiced in their freedom for a number of weeks, and Edward and his bandmates were part of the excitement.
“Guernsey is our spiritual home.”- Bernadette Meech
Edward played the cornet and bugle, and Bernadette recalls him having a keen interest in music. He was meant to attend the Royal Military School of Music in Twickenham but when the war broke out those plans were scuppered. He served in many areas of Africa, before returning to the UK in early 1945. He was married in April of that year, and 5 weeks later he was landing on Guernsey as part of Liberation Force 135.
“We’ve always been really interested in finding out more, it’s like being able to walk in her dad’s footsteps, which is lovely.” – Graham Meech
The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry Band (abbreviated as the ‘DCLI’) sailed from Plymouth and performed at many places across the island including Candie Gardens, Government House, and St Stephen’s Church where Edward played the Last Post at the end of Evensong on Whitsunday 1945. Local archives show that the island’s newspaper (formerly known as ‘The Star’) mentions that the band were given a ‘tumultuous welcome’ in its 14th May 1945 report. The newspaper named the band on multiple occasions right up until their last performance in Candie Gardens on 28th June 1945.
“To come back next year for the 75th anniversary after finding all of this out would round things off for us.”
From her first visit until today, Guernsey continues to hold a special place in Edward’s daughter’s heart as Bernadette and Graham honeymooned in Guernsey in 1972. During the 1960s, Graham also visited Guernsey with his parents so it is likely that the pair were enjoying their island experience at the same time. Fate evidently brought the two together and, over the years, the couple have continued to plan trips back to their ‘spiritual home’. All of the couple’s children have been to Guernsey, and many fond memories have been made.
Over the years Bernadette and Graham have dug deeper and newspaper clippings, old photos and other resources from the Priaulx Library and the Guernsey Museum at Candie Gardens has allowed Bernadette to piece that key period of time together.
The Priaulx Library is Guernsey’s foremost centre for family history and genealogical research and often surprises many of those who decide to take a step back in time.
75 heritage-themed events will be taking place in the Bailiwick of Guernsey from April until September/October 2020, some of which will be themed around occupation and liberation to mark 75 years since Liberation Day. See here for the events announced so far, and don’t forget to sign up for updates!