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Engelbert Hoppe


Interview by Malcolm Amy

The M19 automatic fortress mortar bunker (a Type 633) and the interconnected Sechsschartenturm heavy machine gun turret bunker (a Type 634) at La Corbiere on Jersey's South-west coast have been in the care of the C.I.O.S. (Jersey) since 1984. In 1994 the author, with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, commenced restoration of the M19 bunker, and more recently the Sechsschartenturm bunker. On the 18th of June 2006 the President of the C.I.O.S. (Jersey), Paul Burnal and his wife Glynis, decided to open the M19 bunker in the hope of catching some passing trade. Meanwhile an elderly gentleman and his companion were walking along the Railway Walk towards La Corbiere and had stopped to chat with a lady walking her dog, the lady was a Mrs Sue Taylor who works with Glynis at La Moye School Nursery. When the gentleman mentioned that he had been in command of a bunker at La Corbiere during the war Sue pointed him in the direction of La Corbiere adding that the bunkers are open and that he should ask for Paul Burnal by name on his arrival! Upon entering the M19 Bunker and making contact with Paul the Gentleman stated "I wanted to return to the Island and see the bunker that saved my life in June 1944!" And so our story starts...      

Engelbert Hoppe was born on the 18th of August, 1924 in the town of Eschweiler situated 6 miles west of the city of Aachen. His parents ran a popular local tea house and confectionary shop in the town and the family were strongly Roman Catholic with his father being a member of the Catholic “Centrist” political party. Engelbert was only nine when he felt the terror of the Nazi regime, “I wasn’t a member of Hitler Youth and I was “arrested” along with some friends for wearing the blue shirt of the Catholic Boy Scouts while camping in the Eifel woods. Even here the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) had traced us. We were locked up in a barn for the day and our two leaders were taken to Aachen Gestapo Headquarters for questioning which lasted for two days. “This was all terrifying”. Engelbert was very well educated and awaiting his call for university when, while still studying at boarding school, on the 31st of March 1943 his conscription papers arrived and he was ordered to report to Aachen the following day. Having duly reported as ordered at Aachen he was then ordered to report to his designated unit where he would commence infantry training. The unit was Stamm-Komp./G.E.B. 464 (Regulars Company/Grenadier Replacement Battalion 464)with its barracks in Eschweiler. So Engelbert returned to his home town having to march past his parents house (they didn‘t know that he had been drafted yet!) and his old grammar school on his way to G.E.B 464.

Having settled into military life, it wasn’t long before news arrived that his battalion was being posted to the Eastern Front. Engelbert, despite only being a Grenadier (Private) had many contacts in the outside world and organized a big party for his company, an “evening of farewell” drinking, dancing and singing for there would only be death and destruction waiting for them on the “Ostfront”. As the battalion prepared for its move east Engelbert was summoned by his commanding officer. “Grenadier Hoppe, I have a statement to make. You know your company is going to the Eastern Front. You will remain here. I know about your education and you are a very good athlete. I know you organized the farewell party, so we need you here to help organize things in the garrison and to help train new recruits”. Engelbert’s reply was “But Sir, wouldn’t it be better for me to stay with my company” knowing full well that the Eastern Front meant almost certain death. His commander wouldn’t relent so Engelbert stayed and helped to train the new recruits, while quietly thanking his guardian angle. 

The weeks went by until he was posted to a NCO school “Fahnenjunkerlehrgang Wahner Heide” but with officer potential for three months training. Before he left Engelbert visited his parish chaplain of St. Mary's and said to him “Like you I hate the Nazis and now they want to promote me!” The Chaplin replied “Better they have Catholic officers to lead the troops than Nazis. Times will change”. Engelbert describes the NCO school as “the most terrible time of my life. We worked from 5am to 8/9pm. One of the officers running the school was right swine who worked us hard all the time. If it were not for me being an athlete and sportsman (I was a well known sportsman in Aachen area), I would have died. We had to march for miles wearing our gasmasks”. Amongst the pupils at the NCO school were several veterans from the Eastern Front including a Obergefreiter Ellinghoven, decorated with the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class and the silver wound medal, who while undertaking live firing on the range commented to Engelbert “If that officer comes by on his horse again and gets me to run, I’ll shoot him out of his saddle!” Ogef. Ellinghoven had no interest in becoming an officer and was posted to another battalion before he carried out his threat.

The harsh training continued throughout the bitter winter of 1943 and “Gaining entry” into certain barracks cellars and stealing coal was often the unwritten order of the day, just so the troops could keep their barracks warm. Then one day Grenadier Hoppe had to report to Hauptmann Holtmann. Fearing the worst for being found guilty of “pinching” Hoppe stood rigidly at attention in front of his Captain. “Grenadier Hoppe you are not the best soldier, but you are a good sportsman and you have done much for the company and for that we are grateful to you. So because of that you will be the first to be promoted to Gefreiter (Lance corporal)”. Hauptmann Holtmann, a former headmaster at a renowned grammar school, had also been impressed when he discovered Herr Hoppe reading “Goethe’s Faust’’ while off duty. After four months and now gaining promotion to Unteroffizier (Sergeant), Hoppe was returned to his own garrison in Eschweiler and then onto the city of Aachen. Here in early 1944 Hoppe found himself assigned to “Night-watches’’ stationed in the “Luetzow-Kaserne’’. After the air-raid sirens sounded the all-clear Hoppe and his comrades would go round the burning streets rescuing the injured and looking for corpses.

Even after the passing of sixty years Engelbert is moved to tears as he describes how, one night, after a particularly heavy bombing raid he found the bodies of a mother, father and three children, “their bodies burned down to little bundles’’. A woman’s finger, complete with rings, lying amongst the rubble. What Engelbert thought was a blond wig hanging in the shattered branches of a tree, was in fact a woman’s scalp with no trace of the rest of her body. Accompanied by one of his comrades, Engelbert entered a cellar and saw a ten year old girl “asleep’’ under a blanket. He gently scooped up her fragile form only to find that she was already dead, asphyxiated by the dust and smoke that had entered the cellar, “and even when we found such terrible remains, I could still hear the working parties with their salute of Heil Hitler”. The scenes of the horrors of war started to play on Engelbert's mind and he was starting to loose his nerve so he waited eagerly for a transfer to another duty or unit. “I had a guardian angel looking over me!” Eight junior NCOs were required for various posting. Four for the Eastern Front and four for the Channel Island of Jersey. Engelbert’s luck held and he with three of his comrades found themselves heading for Jersey...

“On the 23rd of May 1944 I left my rescue team of air-raided Aachen and its remains, ruins and shattered houses to travel by train, according to my marching orders, to St. Malo and from there by boat to Jersey. With me were three other officer cadets (Keuken, Mueller (?) and Schneider). We spent one night in Paris (Hotel Henry VIII) and then a night in Rennes (Station mission). In the morning we arrived at St. Malo and went to report to Oberst Andreas von Aulock the commander of Festung St. Malo. However a officer commanded the four of us to go to a nearby bunker for the time being. We felt uneasy and I left the bunker as our orders were to proceed to Jersey. I went to the harbor office where I met a naval officer and asked him whether my comrades and me had a opportunity to get to Machine Gun Battalion 16 in Jersey. He proved to be a officer of Vorpostenboot M2?? and on producing my marching orders I learnt that his ship would leave at midnight bound for Jersey and of course he would take us over, embarking one hour before sailing. 

Returning to the bunker I told my companions to get their luggage ready and walk to the St. Malo headquarters. Unfortunately or fortunately we bumped into Oberst von Aulock himself. I produced our orders to proceed to Jersey and Oberst von Aulock stated “No you will stay here in St. Malo. I need you here to help man the defenses. My orders are to defend St. Malo to the last man and the last round”. “And our orders Herr Oberst are to report to the Battalion Headquarters of Machine-gun Battalion 16 on the island of Jersey. And if we do not report as ordered we will be Fahnenfluechtig” (Dishonouring the Flag). “You will swim there I suppose!?” he said in a harsh voice. “There is a Vorpostenboot sailing tonight and the captain will take us over, Herr Oberst”. In disgust and anger he ordered us to “Get out” and threw us out of his office. What a wonderful relief to be thrown out! Had we gone straight to the harbor office on arriving we would have avoided all this trouble. It was a sunny afternoon and without hesitation we went to the harbor at St. Malo. Having a look around we found our ship riding at anchor (and “waiting for us !”). It was too early for us to embark as there was still loading going on. We noticed that there was a rather big balloon flying high up in the air fastened with strong ropes to the boat. The balloon was meant to prevent the ship from being attacked by low-level fighter planes. Two hours before sailing we boarded after our marching orders and pay books had been checked by the naval officer I had previously met. He was very kind to us, provided some rations, showed us where to stow our bags and to rest on the planks.

Punctually at midnight the crossing began and the four of us were very excited in awaiting the arrival and our first day in Jersey. Two of my comrade's were seasick despite the sea being rather smooth and without interference the boat reached St. Helier Harbour at 5am. After reporting on arrival a car took us to The Alexandria Hotel in St. Peter where the headquarters of MG. Battalion 16 was stationed. Before we handed over our papers for registration, the only soldier in the offices was a Feldwebel still on night duty. He asked us for our names and native towns. On saying “Engelbert HOPPE, Eschweiler, near Aachen”. He shouted “Tell me also that your parents own a cafe and a confectionery in Eschweiler”. I nodded dumbfounded, the next thing I felt was a strong hand clapping on my shoulder and at the same time he said “Well kiss my arse! I am from Eschweiler too, and occasionally my wife and myself were guests at your cafe, and we know your parents quite well”. This came as a real surprise in the early morning hours! He told us his name “Hein Hoff, Englerthstrasse, Eschweiler”. All of us smiled, this first encounter seemed to me to be something like a miracle, or at least a good start far from home.

Feldwebel Hoff made us sit down, ordered some coffee and sandwiches and gave us our first information regarding the Battalion. He pointed out to me that I had to march to the La Moye Golf Hotel, company command post of the 2nd company. He warned me that I had to behave in a proper military manner when reporting to Oberstabsfeldwebel (O.Stb.Fw.) Sonntag. He was called the “24 Antlers” (deriving from the hunters language - one tine for every military year). I tried my very best when reporting, but it seemed to me that my very best was not good enough for him. He gave me some orders in a harsh voice, I had a feeling he didn't like me from the start and of course, the feeling was mutual. I had to wait for the arrival of the company commander who lived in a house across the road (at La Moye Manor). Hauptmann Schellenberg turned out to be rather friendly superior, he asked me a few questions and told me to march to La Corbiere and take command of the M19 mortar bunker, Feldwebel Werner Hentrich would be around to look after me.

I got given a small map and was off on my way to the “Kraehennest”, I liked the surroundings, some cows were peacefully grazing tied to pegs. I had never seen this before. When approaching the coast I first saw the Sechsschartenturm (a mistake in the landscape like so many others I saw later). When walking on all of a sudden I was fascinated by a wonderful seascape, “Corbiere Lighthouse”. This wonderful sight made me stop for a while to take a deep breath, smelling and tasting the sea air. Heading down the hill I saw the “Corbiere Teahouse” and a bunker on the left spoiling the view of the lighthouse. Then there were two bunkers on my right, the lower one being my destination. There were two or three soldiers around who seemed to know that I was coming and I was shown in to the M19 mortar bunker. When entering there was a gas lock on the right and further down the stairs was a standby room. There were nine bunk beds suspended by chains in tiers of three, a locker, a round stove, a chest of draws, a rifle rack and some shelves. 

The Type 633 M19 Automatic Fortress Mortar Bunker at Strongpoint Corbiere as it appeared in May 1944. (Damien Horn).

Meanwhile Feldwebel Hentrich had arrived and my new crew was assembled. Feldwebel Hentrich went on with me to explain the bunker. We entered the ventilation room with, on the left, stairs leading to an entrance defense and then on to a connecting tunnel leading to the upper machine gun turret bunker. Adjoining the ventilation room we entered the ammunition room with the M19 fortress mortar position. Having never seen such a “masterpiece” of stratagem in the theatre of war, I felt a bit stunned and overtaxed. Wondering, I asked the crew (apart from one fellow they all could have been my father) whether they knew how to handle such a device. I told them frankly that I was an absolute greenhorn and I had never seen such a bunker from the inside before. They smiled and pointed out that I would learn from them and Feldwebel Hentrich who proved to be in command of the 10,5cm coastal defense gun casemate and at the same time supervised the M19 mortar and heavy machine gun turret bunkers.1

The Type 633 M19 Automatic Fortress Mortar Bunker at Strongpoint Corbiere as it appears today (C.I.O.S)

During my first week at the M19 bunker I found out that three of the crew of six were real characters. I remember by name Gustav Plaidt, the man from Cologne (The “travelling entertainer”), Karl Heinen from the Nether-Rhineland (The “poacher”) and Joszef Proehna, a west-Prussian and former Polish citizen (The “fisherman”). I also remember an Unteroffizier M.... who liked the local ladies! He had two on the go at once and would meet them, alternately, at an old house opposite Petit Port. Our daily job was to do maintenance and cleaning of the weapons and the bunker, sentry duty and now and then looking for the latrine! (a ditch with a plank over it, covered and surrounded by a shrubbery down by the “Feuerleitstand”). The “Feuerleitstand” (Fire control post) was the M19 bunker’s observers open position. I remember that I was ordered up into it by the Battalion Commander during a live firing exercise to give firing commands for the 10.5cm coastal defense gun casemate (Kasemate 2). Feldwebel Hentrich was crouching next to me and whispering the correct commands while firing at rocks in the sea to the north of La Rocco Tower. This was the only time I remember shooting with live ammunition, apart from rifle and machine gun firing. I never saw the M19 mortar fired, only exercises and drill. There was leisure time for reading, writing and having a look around. Gustav Plaidt sometimes put on special performances for us. He knew a lot of conjuring tricks and above all he was a very able juggler. A chair on his chin, a shell on the tip of his nose and a bayonet on his forehead were most welcome little amusements. Sometimes soldiers from the neighboring bunkers would come around for a change of scenery and to have a good laugh at Gustav's performances. 

Once I heard Gustav singing “Wir sind die Moorsolaten und ziehen mit dem Sparen ins Moor......” Asking him what this song meant, he told me that I didn’t know anything about it. I told him that he could trust me, so I learned that Gustav had been imprisoned in a labor camp at Esterwegen/Nether Saxonia for his left wing political conviction and for refusing to do “proper work”. He had been held at this camp for a year in 1935/36 draining the moors. After telling him that I had been arrested for a day as a Catholic boy scout when I was eleven, we only looked at each other without saying a further word. This happened within the first ten days of my stay at La Corbiere as well as meeting Mr Philip and Mrs Marie Louise Le Brocq of the Corbiere tearoom down by the causeway to the lighthouse. It was a sunny afternoon and while strolling about I saw a man standing near the tearoom. He answered my greeting and soon, starting with the nice weather, I told him that I had arrived a couple of days ago. In the meantime Mrs Le Brocq had come out and I asked them not to look at me as a German occupant but as a human being and a strange and unusual neighbor. I parted proud of having spoken English to the native people. Two days later I met up with them again and they asked me in for a cup of tea, this was the beginning of a true friendship, I had to tell them the story of my home, my family and so on. I felt that they liked me and I liked them, they could have been my grandparents, it was all right for me.

On June 6th, 1944 came the great blow! The Allies had landed in France. During the next few days we saw hundreds of planes high up in the sky, they looked like swarms of bees crossing the island towards France. Suspense and excitement befell us. Orders came to be on the alert 24 hours a day with exercises of all kinds being undertaken. It was a matter of watch, sleep and eat for some weeks, “always on duty”, but I still found time to see the Le Brocqs. They were convinced that the island would not be attacked and that the British were by no means willing to waste this beautiful island and do harm to their own people. Deep in my heart I agreed with them and their son, George, who would from time to time, with his cheerful wife, come to visit their parents. There was also a lady from St. Helier, Miss Amy, who spent weekends at the tearoom. Her main occupation was reading while sitting on the veranda a few yards from the sea. She ignored me, not even returning my greetings, but in the course of time (and I think influenced by the Le Brocqs) she answered my questions regarding English literature which broke the ice. I found her to be very well educated with a great knowledge of literature.

The military situation was quiet apart from the night of the 8th/9th of August when shortly after midnight a sentry rushed in shouting “Alarm”. We rushed outside, but the only thing I could see with my field glasses were flashes of gunfire out at sea. We later learnt that a sea battle between German and British/American ships happened not far from Guernsey.2 After about three months at La Corbiere I was posted to the Company “Gefechtsstand” (Battle H.Q.) at Einsatzstellung Hoehe 201 (Action Post Height 201), which is situated on the hill above the old quarry at La Carriere, for some weeks before returning to La Corbiere. As I passed the bunkers of Wn. L’Oeilliere when going between the M19 and Action Post Height 201 I would sometimes chat to the commanding NCO there, an Unteroffizier by the name of Theodor Denis. One night during a sentry duty between Petit Port and La Pulente, I found an old man (40 to 45) from Cologne in tears. His home city had been heavily bombed but, thankfully, his family was safe and hadn‘t been injured. The whole situation eased after St. Malo had fallen and the Allies held all of the French coastline and were now on their hard fighting way to Paris. Now there was reason enough to believe, or to be sure, that the war had actually finished for the Channel Island Occupation Forces.

Unteroffizier Engelbert Hoppe on the La Corbiere headland in June/July 1944. The barbed wire stake marks the entrance to a sandbagged close defence position situated above the north facing coastal defence gun casemate “K2”.

“What now?” was the topic of many discussions, together with the futile attempt of respected German officers to kill Hitler. The situation became uneasy in many respects apart from the main question “FOOD” (!??). How will we be able to answer the real bread and butter question? Rations had already been cut down noticeably and it was every bunker crew for themselves (and God for all of us). We talked things over in the beginning of July or even earlier . The three “Characters” were the spokesmen when I started the discussion on how to improve the situation. Karl, the poacher, who had already taken me with him a few times on hunting tours around the cliffs to La Rosiere and further south-east and also the region underneath the Sechsschartenturm. We had to be very careful regarding the water (tide) below and the minefield beyond the barbed wire fence above us. It required time to wait and watch until we could use our rifles to shoot a rabbit. But Karl also knew of other ways and means to catch them, so we agreed that the “hunting sector” had to be intensified. Karl would go on his own or, sometimes, could be accompanied by myself. Then Proena, the West-Prussian fisherman made some suggestions to obtain more food. In his more or less broken German he proposed making a fish-trap. He needed wires, iron bars, rods, wire netting and some other things. We left the organization to him and promised to help. Now it was Gustav's turn, he took the part of the “vegetarian” telling us that there is plenty in nature to be used for nourishment e.g. parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, dandelions, wild potatoes (?), stinging nettles (only the very young leaves), the remnants of harvested fields and one could even try clover.

As we had a rowing boat down by the bunker, it proved to be of great benefit but not only for fishing! Joszef Proena had organized the collecting of mussels from St. Ouen’s Bay. One day he had taken his mate, the West-Prussian, and another fellow of the crew to the rocks opposite La Pulente and not far from La Rocco Tower. He had given them pails and showed them what and how to collect, but the good man had forgotten to point out that the tide had to be watched. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we were resting on the bunker roof enjoying the sun, of course being on duty, when all of a sudden we heard a terrible cry from the sea! Looking in the seaward direction where the repeated bloodcurdling cry came from we saw Joszef’s mate standing on a high rock with the sea all around him, waving his uniform jacket in terror. In a flash three of us ran down the hill, jumped into the boat, and started rowing towards him. The sea was as flat as a pancake, I had ordered someone from the neighboring bunker to wave with a towel and to shout that help was coming. Even when the poor creature on the rock saw us getting closer, he still went on shouting in despair. Approaching the rock I jumped into the water, being trained as a rescue swimmer, and I got to him and we maneuvered him into the boat. Then I swam for his jacket which had fallen into the sea and his Soldbuch (pay book) that had slipped out of the jacket pocket, rolling on the smooth waves. We rowed to shore near the La Pulente Hotel. There we found out that half a pail of mussels had been lost and the fellow wasn’t able to swim, he stammered something like “never again, I'd rather starve....”. Despite the fact that the situation had been quite serious, we couldn’t help making fun of it and recalled it ever so often.

I shouldn’t have laughed so loud about it because some days later the “poacher” and myself were cut off from the cliff path near the “Smuggler’s Cave” by the incoming tide. We had to scramble quite a few yards to get to the path where it was above the incoming tide. On our right the dangerous minefield, on our left the roaring sea! I felt like being between “Scylla and Charybdis”. But we managed to bring home two rabbits safely. The “fisherman” had completed his trap and with the help of three men it was carried out between the cliffs not far from the lighthouse. It was put into a deep gully where even at the lowest ebb it was covered with water. The trap was fastened with strong iron wires to the rocks. These wires were also for lifting it up for inspection. Some days later I was called to help with lifting the big catch! There was a Conger eel in the trap, I had never seen such a big living fish before, it was rather difficult to get it out but after awhile Joszef had managed to free it. We had to hold it up to be photographed. It was a yard and ten inches long and weighed at least twenty pound. The fish was divided among the bunker crew after some had been cut off for the Le Brocqs and a extra piece for Joszef, the constructor of the trap. For want of fat we cooked the fish which lasted for a couple of days. Joszef had smoked his extra piece and had, with out anybody knowing, put it in his draw of the chest. Then one evening we noticed an odd and strange smell in our bunker, nobody had any idea where it was coming from. The following morning it was so strong and disgusting that we started sniffing in all the corners and we found out it was the chest! On opening the drawers we discovered the so-called “Smoked fish” full of maggots. Joszef was terribly disappointed and frightened he would loose his reputation as an expert fisherman. We got some fun even out of that disaster when it was suggested that Joszef should be tried and court-martialed for wasting food and “destroying defensive power”

Anyway, our “idyll” compared with the fact that there was a terrible war on (which we demanded not to be guilty of) was not to bad. Meanwhile I had been invited by a retired schoolmaster to listen to his music and sing with him. He lived in a house opposite Petit Port and while strolling about I heard piano playing and stopped at the house to listen. This happened two or three times then the gentlemen waved to me and appeared at his front door asking whether I liked music, “very much so, sir” I answered and he invited me in to have a cup of tea and a biscuit. He was such a amiable and kind man that I forgot the war and recalled that “music embraces all”. Now and again I knocked at his door to listen to his piano playing and to sing with him. Nearly all the people in the surrounding area were kind to me and had time for small talk. But this “idyll” was interrupted when I was ordered back to La Moye Golf Hotel. They gave me some military papers and a huge map to prepare a lecture on “The situation and progress of the war in France”. The lecture was to be held at the Soldatenheim at St. Brelade's Bay for NCOs of the battalion. This was supervised by NS-Fuehrungsoffizier Leutnant Maassen, so I had to be careful with what I said and stuck to the papers they had given me, using the large map and explaining the North of France. This procedure had to be done twice, once in July and once in August. I was glad to return to the bunker after the two days of absence. The real situation was given to me by young Mr Le Brocq, who listened to the BBC news on a crystal set radio, after assuring him I would keep it to myself and “forget everything”. I wouldn’t even have told Gustav a single word.

My religious life was mostly private except for once a month when there was a Catholic Sunday Service at the Soldatenheim St. Brelade's, either held by Division Chaplain Quecke or by Father Martin Clar and Father Richard Gruenewald who also did Red Cross medical duties as corporals. They were part of the Oblate Order, OMI and both were 32 years of age and had been leaders of the Catholic Youth. To me they were men of the highest regard and exemplary in their belief and attitude. Father Richard was also a wonderful musician playing the piano, organ and trumpet. Occasionally we would meet in groups as Catholics at the Soldatenheim with one of the Red Cross nurses calling us the “black corner”. I once overheard a nurse saying to her colleague while pointing at Fathers Richard and Martin, “Look at these two handsome and good looking corporals. Would you imagine them being in a monastery”. I thought her to be rather keen on them. It was always a highlight walking or riding by bike to St. Brelade's Bay and the Soldatenheim, but it didn’t happen too often.

It was on a sunny day in the second week of August while I was watching the sea with my field glasses as I usually did several times a day that I had sometimes noticed naval vessels off to the South-West of the lighthouse but this time they were clearer than ever before and were hardly moving. In my opinion they were British or American naval forces because they never came close and kept their distance. I recall the day after my birthday, on the 19th, firing started in the afternoon (what a great salute it would have been the day before!) and then we suddenly heard a loud bang from the La Moye direction.3 I thought this shooting to be silly as even the heavy 22cm French field guns could not shoot that far. Sometime later there were rumors that the “22” had an explosion in the gun barrel, so being nosy and curious about the matter I went up there to have a look. I couldn’t get near as the “Chain Dogs” (Kettenhunde=Military Police, called so because of the chain hanging around their necks with a plaque on it) had blocked the surrounding area and ordered me to get back to my platoon. Later we were informed that one of the gunners had been killed and two or three others had been injured. We thought it was a great tragedy and felt for the gunners, but on the other hand it was a petty, tiny little bit of a bloody war we had experienced.

Soon daily life returned to normal with trying to solve the “food question” which as a consequence of the further reduced rations became more and more difficult. Of course compared with the situation on the whole there was little reason to complain. The washing of clothes, cleaning of the bunker and its surroundings, occasional alarms and for myself writing and reading and now and then my visits to see the Le Brocq’s and the gentle piano player. One night two of the crew returned with two buckets full of potatoes and a big bag full of tomatoes. Nobody asked where they got them from, the main thing was to make them disappear because the "Chain Dogs" were often around. Karl suggested empting an ammunition box of 5cm mortars, one of those that were sealed and only to be opened with the express orders of higher command. Karl manipulated the lead seal and emptied out the mortars and then filled the box with the potatoes and replaced the seal. However an inspection took place not long after and the Oberst in charge pointed to me and demanded to know, “You, what is in those crates?”. I immediately replied “Ammunition for the Automatic Mortar Herr Oberst”, “Open them!”, “No Herr Oberst, not without an express order”, “Your lucky! That's the answer I wanted to hear” and the potatoes were peacefully sleeping!

Some days later Joszef “the fisherman” came up to me and tried to explain in his broken German that there were “fish around for fine people”. I didn’t quite understand and asked him how did he know. He took me outside the bunker and pointed out that there were baskets attached to floating markers about 150 yards away to the South-West of the lighthouse. These baskets were meant to catch “them fine fish”. I rushed down to Mr Le Brocq and explained the situation. He told me that the catch in the baskets would be lobsters, a kind of shellfish with eight legs and two claws, a delicacy when prepared. Looking it up in my dictionary, that I always had at hand, I found the German word “Hummer” for it. But I had never seen or eaten it. I promised to present one to Mr Le Brocq should we be able to catch any. But there was nothing to catch, only taking them out of the basket. I told Joszef to take the rowing boat whenever he needed it with one or two of the crew. I would tell the lighthouse crew that he was fishing (I knew “in troubled waters”). A day later in the early morning hours Joszef came back from his “fishing tour” with two lobsters of blue/black color in a pail. As soon as possible I went down to the tearoom bringing the promised lobster. They invited me over for lunch and to show me how to prepare the lobster. Joszef, of course, knew how to handle them and two or three of the crew didn’t want to try them at first but after Joszef had poured boiling water over them and cracked the shells they had a desire for them. I went down to have my lunch and found that Mrs Le Brocq didn’t have the rough way of dealing with lobsters like Joszef. She opened the shells for me and I was enthusiastic about the wonderful meat. During the week four or five more lobsters were landed but then the “lobster-season” suddenly ended! The reason was simple. We later learnt that lobsters were meant for the “Higher Headquarters” so we lost that wonderful new source and never saw a basket again.

Then by the end of September came the time of rumors;
 
Rumor 1: Lieutenant general Graf von Schmettow had had secret negotiation with the British regarding the surrender of the German garrison and that Von Schmettow had insisted on being given safe conduct and escort to Portugal.
Rumor 2: The British negotiators representing parliament had refused the safe conduct and escort and insisted on unconditional surrender.
Rumor 3: The negotiations are to be continued in order to find ways and means to provide the hungry-going Islanders with food and that the occupiers might also, in some way or other, benefit (the last part was more wishful thinking on our part).
Rumor 4: The Islanders would in due time be provided with the urgently needed food via The International Red Cross which of course would not work for the occupiers still being at a state of war.


The rumors spread for weeks and nothing happened. But something happened to me! On the 8th of October I was ordered to report the next day to Schiffsstammkompanie Jersey at the Pomme d’or Hotel in St. Helier. My task would be to act as an Infantry trainer for the stranded and shipwrecked sailors and marines. It struck me like lightning! I reasoned “would I be able to live on the rations that grew less and less?”. I would be torn away from that familiar atmosphere with the Le Brocq family, away from the gentle schoolmaster and away from the camaraderie of the M19 bunker crew. Under the given circumstances I had to agree to the situation as it was. I felt there was someone behind the scenes who thought of mixing us up and I was sure it was O.Stb.Fw. Sonntag, the “24 antlers”. Arriving back at La Corbiere I saw through my field glasses a small boat in distress. For about three to four hours it stayed near to La Rocco Tower and was unable to get away from the coast. The boat eventually foundered near to the lighthouse, so we went to rescue the stranded crew who turned out to be a Irishman and a Dutchwoman who were very weak. As I helped the woman from the boat she rammed her elbows into my ribs. We took them up into the lighthouse and gave them some food and water and they were kept there until the “Chain Dogs” arrived and took them to St. Helier for questioning. On the 9th of October I was picked up early in the morning and taken to La Moye Golf Hotel for a short check and then on to the Pomme d’or Hotel. When we arrived I was rather surprised to see such a fine looking hotel facing the harbor. The guards on the door in naval uniform checked my papers and I was shown in. After a while a naval officer appeared, a senior lieutenant with quite a few decorations, and it seemed to me that he was not very convinced of my task but kindly told me that I would get timetables for different groups in due time. They gave me a nice hotel room to myself with white linen on the bed. Something I hadn’t seen for months! So I settled in and made myself comfortable. There was a shelf with books on which were the wrong ones for me. Compared to the bunker at La Corbiere it was the utmost comfort. I was extremely eager when a bell rang for lunch, the lunchroom was very neat and I shared a table with some Petty and Warrant Officers. “Tomato soup again” they groaned and it was clear to me that I had to face hunger. 

During the first two days nothing happened and I was free to have a look around the town. On the third day I received my timetables for giving three to four lectures a day. Topics were, Infantry weapons, how to use a hand grenade, digging foxholes, behavior in the open field and wooded surroundings and similar stuff. “If you are easy with me, I am easy with you” was the most welcome agreement, and so I plodded on for the next three weeks. The sailors didn’t mind when I asked them to sing a shanty and I often joined in. Despite being hungry all of the time with the little food we had a kind of gallows humor which kept us going. Once I had a opportunity to attend a service at a Catholic church which made a nice change. I had been given a special job from the start at the hotel which was controlling all the bedrooms after 10pm (except those of the senior NCOs and Commissioned Officers). On certain nights, but not regularly, bedroom doors were not allowed to be locked so I just knocked and entered. I often had a chat with the fellows in their beds. Sometimes it was a very sad conversation taking place, bad news from home, families being evacuated because of the constant Allied bombing, relatives and friends being killed, anxiety about home and fear of the Russians invading Germany. Despite of common apathy there were still some fellows around believing in Hitler and the “Endsieg”. The retreat of the German Army from different occupied countries was looked at by some stout Nazis as a great strategy. One had to be careful to give a flat contradiction. But hunger and food had become topic number one. Yet one night entering the single bedroom of a petty officer I saw someone moving in his bed. “How did you smuggle her in?” I asked him, “Iron stairs!” he said putting a finger to his lips. I gave him a warning, next time I would report it and he should get her out before dawn, “via iron staircase” he added. Then I saw her face, pretty and dark haired, about twenty-five.

A few days before my time at the Pomme d’or was up I did my last bedroom round. Knocking on doors as I went and having the usual small talk I finally came to the bedroom of the blond curly haired petty officer. On entering I found him with his arm around the shoulder of the pretty girl, a good looking pair. “Cheeky, Impudent” I said. He only replied “I love her, she is my fiancé”. Turning my back and wishing them all the best I left the room. I was fed up with the whole situation. Why should I bother as I would soon be off to La Moye, looking forward to seeing the Le Brocqs, the crew of the M19, to listen to the piano player and enjoy the surroundings and at the same time hoping that someone would have a little additional food for me. But on arriving at the La Moye Golf Hotel I was immediately informed that a “Kriegsschule” (War School) for all infantry officer cadets had been instigated. The course which lasted for three months would commence on the 20 of November 1944 at Elizabeth Castle. This struck me again like lightning! It was a small relief to learn that Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Gebhardt, our former Battalion Commander, would be in charge and the main lecturer of the War School. Dr. Gebhardt was highly respected for his most humane and Christian character. There was once a rumor that he sympathized with the resistance movement round Colonel Von Stauffenberg who had tried to kill Hitler.

I had five days to prepare for the change so I went to the M19 bunker first and found my crew who were a bit dejected and hungry. But they were still better off than many others. Gustav started a song I had often sung with him in Cologne dialect, but instead of singing the verse of homesickness properly he had changed it to “I would love to give away my rifle and walk away to dear Cologne, seeing the cathedral right in front of me”. That exactly hit the change of atmosphere. They gave me some boiled tomatoes and turnips for a meal and wished me well. I went down to the Le Brocqs who gave me a hearty welcome. I had a cup of tea and some biscuits. I told them what was going on and that, sadly, I had to leave again. They wanted me to come back whenever I had a chance, but certainly for Christmas. Early on the 20th of November after a cold night I walked to the La Moye Golf Hotel, via La Pulente, and was taken to Elizabeth Castle to report for the War School. About twenty to twenty-four officer cadets had arrived during the morning and were welcomed by Dr. Gebhardt, saying that according to the food situation we would remain at our billets with all lectures and exercises being held at Elizabeth Castle. The few things I remember were lectures on Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), Prussian General and theorist on war who also commanded the Military Academy in Berlin. Friedrich the Great, Napoleon, the Schlieffen Plans and military history. I can’t remember any lectures on weapon systems. But I do recall lectures on “Menschenfuehrung” (leadership of men).

Quite often Dr. Gebhardt had “lunch” with us. Behavior at the table had to be taught from time to time. But it was utmost difficult to behave when the orderlies brought in some thin soup and the bowls were emptied faster than a blizzard. I recall a “lunch” when potatoes and vegetables were served after a thin tomato soup. The potatoes had been counted, one for each cadet, and a spoonful of vegetables. When the bowl was passed one could firmly see how everybody was fishing for the biggest one, so the last cadet to be served ended up with the smallest one. Hungry, that’s what we were and not having the slightest chance of “organizing” some food. Twenty-four young men, aged 20-25, thinking of nothing else than food. In December came the cold in addition to the lack of food. Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Gebhardt even allowed us to sit in the lecture rooms with our coats on. One night I was so hungry that I did what I never thought I would do. Beg. So I went to Father Richard who had a room to himself at the far corner of the castle. On knocking at his door he opened it and looking at my face ha asked straight away “What are your worries Engelbert?”. I answered “Richard, forgive me, but I want something to eat”. Father Richard replied “Go over to that little cupboard, there is a small loaf of bread and a glass of sugar beet syrup, take it, you need it more than I do”. I took it and ate the bread and gobbled the sugar beet syrup with a teaspoon until I had finished it. Not a crumb of bread nor a drop of the syrup was left. I felt (and still feel) ashamed. Father Richard didn’t care, “If you are hungry and I can help, come and see me”.

Some days before Christmas I got a letter from Lemgo/Westfalia. My parents and my sister had been evacuated there. Eschweiler had been bombed and our house had been partly destroyed. My brother who was a pilot flying a Me 109 fighter had lost his plane on the ground near Paris and had been posted to a parachutists unit. Nothing else was known of him. (After the war it proved that he had gone through many hardships, he was released in 1947 as a POW by the Americans in France for being hopelessly ill. He died in May 1949 in the arms of my mother at the age of 23. What a bold and fine fellow he was!). Christmas came and we were free to go to our units or stay at the castle. On Christmas Day I went to attend a service at the St. Brelade's Soldatenheim. On the whole we were not in the mood of hope in spite of hearing the lesson of love and peace. Still we believed that love and peace would never die away. Sitting together after the service we talked of Christmas and what it had been in years past by. Would we experience Christmas in better years to come? In the afternoon I went to La Corbiere to see my crew at the M19 bunker. They had collected some dry wood and seaweed to get the cold out of the bunker, however they had their blankets round their shoulders. But they were not in a very bad mood, comparing their situation with that of Germany lying in ruins. Bad news or no news at all was the story of Christmas beside hope and glory from above. By the way, Karl had been prohibited to use his rifle for hunting anymore. My old bed was a bit hard and the cold crept in. In the morning, on Boxing Day, I went to the Le Brocqs. The good people had a wonderful surprise for me, because the International Red Cross Ship “Vega” (brightest star in the Northern hemisphere) had arrived and parcels had been distributed among the Islanders, one parcel with high quality food for each of them. After a wonderful meal I was presented with a small parcel containing chocolate, biscuits and some butter. Of course I was moved to tears and didn’t know how to thank them. In the afternoon their son arrived with his wife and I was quite happy to see them too. He told me the latest news that gave hope for the war to end in a couple of months. Churchill having mentioned regarding the Channel Islands, “and there are 28,000 prisoners of war in the Channel Islands that feed themselves!” Very sarcastic, he forgot to say on what, but he certainly knew that we were starving.

Back at War School (the school for under nourishment) we were told that all of the officer cadets would be promoted to “Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel” (Officer candidate) and with a handshake from Dr. Gebhardt, we plodded on towards the end of our course, losing weight with hunger. With finishing War School on the 24th of February I was then promoted to “Oberfaehnrich d.R.” (1st junior Officer candidate of the Reserve or Sub-lieutenant). That promotion strengthened my position regarding O.Stb.Fw. Sonntag and so Hauptmann Schellenberg ordered me to take command of the mortar bunker, the adjacent Schartenturm bunker and the Company Battle Headquarters bunker at Action Post Height 201 above La Carriere. My crew at the M19 bunker welcomed me back. I told them that I had to command three bunkers now, but this wouldn’t end our friendship. It was a bitterly cold February, the sea was very rough and Joszef Proehna told us that there wasn’t a chance to catch any fish. Then something like a miracle happened! After a terribly stormy night, and when the tide had dropped, we saw the beach of St. Ouen’s bay covered with strange black objects in the heaps of seaweed. The sea had opened its sources and there were octopuses all over the bay. I regarded it, as others did, as a godsend. All of the bunker crews, with a single sentry left behind, rushed to the beach with pails, bags and sacks to collect this feast. There was a unique fantastic harvest of octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Quite a few Islanders were just as eager as the German Soldiers to bring home as much as they could carry. First of all big portions were cut up and cooked, but the problem was how to preserve all that fish. As the temperature was low Mr and Mrs Le Brocq told me that they would keep when salted. We had so much fish that it lasted for more than a week Cooked in salty water and nothing added the fish was not a delicacy, but it served us wonderfully. The bread ration had become a mixture of very fine sawdust and little flour and it could hardly be cut as it just fell apart! To make it more appetizing we would mix the “bread” with small pieces of the fish.

A popular spot for a souviner photo! Outside the St. Brelade’s Bay Soldatenheim on a sunny day in the winter of 1944/45. The extra bar on Engelbert’s shoulder boards indicate that he is a Officer Candidate.

The crew of Action Post Height 201 on the edge of the dunes, above La Carriere, stayed in a primitive bunker to the west of the La Moye Golf Course facing the sea. It was a machine gun nest with six beds in tiers of three wooden racks, two machine guns, a locker and a shelf. The emplacement was surrounded, widely, by barbed wire and to enter you had to move the so-called “Spanish rider”, a heavy gate on rollers integrated into the wire perimeter fence, on the far side of the bunker near to the golf course. I was posted there for several weeks back in August and the first night I slept there I started suffering from agoraphobia. So I went outside to sleep on the sand. Next morning I asked the crew to build me a shelter in one of the two ditches that existed. During March the crew down at Resistance Nest Les Brayes managed to smuggle a live pig down to their bunker from a local farm. After slaughtering the animal, all of the unwanted bits were disposed of in the sea and all the meat was chopped up, salted and placed in ammunition boxes which were then buried in a nearby minefield! The next morning the “Chain Dogs” with a bloodhound which had followed the sent from the farm and stopped by the barbed wire fence that surrounded the minefield. They turned the bunkers inside out and interrogated the crew about the pig. The crew, who had sworn themselves to secrecy, stated “What are you looking for? What pig we know nothing about a pig” and “We heard a big bang in the night from the direction of the minefield, but we dared not go in!”. So the “chain Dogs” found nothing and gave up.

One day in April I reported to the Company Headquarters at La Mote Golf Hotel for several things regarding food. This being done O.Stb.Fw. Sonntag told me that he had a soldier in custody, one of the West-Prussians. As he didn’t know whether he would be court-martialed I should take him with me to Action Post Height 201 as there was a spare bed and he could be easily used as a sentry under the supervision of someone else. I didn’t mind and we both marched to the Action Post. I asked him what he had done wrong but I couldn’t get a clue. He was very intimidated and anxious. I told the Obergefreiter in charge to put him on the 12-4am night watch with Janosch, the “sleepy fool” from Berlin. I would be around in the small hours for inspection from La Corbiere. At dawn I walked up to the Action Post on the path that went around the barbed wire fence. When I arrived at the “Spanish rider” I couldn’t believe my eyes, peacefully hanging on it were a uniform jacket, helmet, rifle and a belt with a bayonet attached! Looking for Janosch I found him asleep leaning against a post inside the wire perimeter fence. I allowed myself a bad joke. I pushed him from behind and as he fell he lost his rifle and tumbling over he started crying “Their coming, Their coming....”. I said “Who’s coming you fool! Janosch, stop it, its me. Where is your mate?”. “Other side” he stammered. I felt like I was playing “Red Indians” as I often did in my childhood. My thoughts were with the “West-Prussian” fellow. I called the crew to search the surrounding area in case he had done harm to himself. We found no sign of him. He had left the German Army and had vanished. I quietly hoped that he had found a hiding place with one of the Islanders. After an hour or so I went, easy-going, to the La Moye Golf Hotel to report. I had plenty of time to reason and to think about the situation. The war was over and lost, but there were still some idiots like the red hot and deep brown Nazi Admiral (“The Nazi-sw...!”) who meant to sacrifice men, even now. On arrival at the Company Headquarters I bumped into O.Stb.Fw. Sonntag and told him what had happened (of course I didn’t tell him of “playing Red Indians”). “How could you put him together with that prize idiot Janosch?” he stated. “Isn’t he a soldier too” I answered ironically. Without another word I went over to report to Hauptmann Schellenberg. I found him outside La Moye Manor where he lived. As I explained the situation he looked at me meaningfully and shrugged his shoulders, “You have scoured the surroundings and that is it”. The matter was settled for him. We never saw the “West-Prussian” fellow again nor heard of him.

The last weeks of the war were a time of apathy and simply waiting for the end. I had suggested to the bunker crews that they open their “Iron Rations” which they had already done, hunger being stronger than order. I had a few highlights during the last couple of months in announcing to the Le Brocq’s that the “Vega” was on her way and had been seen by the crew at the lighthouse. The Le Brocq’s always invited me to visit when the Red Cross parcels were opened, and “Bertie” as they called me was sometimes there. The mood among the soldiers in the bunkers and everywhere else became more and more apathetic and desperate. The La Corbiere “idyll” had vanished. Even the little additional supplies had come to an end. The fields had been cleaned of rotting potatoes, carrots and other vegetables. Fishing came to a standstill, the weather being so cold and the sea too rough, and the men to weak. We heard of soldiers having died in the military hospitals or sick bays because their bodies were to weak to fight their illnesses; it was another way of starving.... And yet in March we heard of a commando raid on the liberated port of Granville in France. Some American soldiers were taken prisoner and some German POW’s were “freed” during the raid. Despite of the dangers it seemed to me like playing “Red Indians” at sea. This absurd and useless operation for Admiral Hueffmeier at least, must have been “A glorious and great victory”.01,01,45 Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel d.R. (Office Candidate-Staff Sergeant of the reserve).

I was promoted to Leutnant d.R. (Lieutenant of the Reserve) on April the 20th. My Battalion Commander made the remark that it would be useful on my becoming a prisoner of war (and it was!). We had given up sentry duties and other useless tasks by the end of April. Young Mr Le Brocq had informed me that it would only be a few days before the war would be finished. On the day before the capitulation I sent some men from the bunkers at La Corbiere to the La Moye Golf Hotel to ask for all the supplies we were entitled to. They came back with Iron Rations packs, various tins of food and some bottles of alcoholic stuff, mainly Calvados. The amount of food was little compared with the alcohol. There was no outrage against good taste, but in the morning some were paralyzed from their hips down! Their brains were alright, a result of too much Calvados for weak bodies. I spent the last night together with (now) Oberfeldwebel Werner Hentrich. We discussed all night until overcome by sleep in the small hours, “What would become of Germany? Would we ever be able to return to the community of peoples in the world?”. We agreed that all was left was to pray. On that day the first orders arrived regarding the procedures after capitulation. Rifles and small arms were collected at Company Headquarters, and from there forwarded to St. Aubin’s (?). The various bunker crews were ordered to march north to be gathered there. I stayed at the La Corbiere bunkers with two of the crew to do some little jobs, then I went to Action Post Height 201 and my shed in the ditch to rest. The next morning I made my way back to La Corbiere to say farewell to the Le Brocqs and the schoolmaster. The last song I shared with him was “Auld Lang Syne!”. Coming down the hill I saw Mr Le Brocq hoisting the Union Jack. On seeing me he hesitated for a moment, but I said “Don’t you stop. I like that flag much better than the bloody swastika”. I left some books and photos with them and collected some items from the M19 bunker as a kind of souvenir (where are those photos now?). Mrs Le Brocq gave me a hug and Mr Le Brocq patted me on my shoulder, and saying I would be back someday I was off, tears in my eyes, waving until I was over the hill. On that day I went to the La Moye Golf Hotel to receive further orders regarding the bunkers at La Corbiere which were to be surrendered the following day. I remember a British Officer, a captain or first Lieutenant, was especially interested in the M19 bunker and asked a few questions about the mortar.

Engelbert Hoppe's promotional record
(As recorded in his Soldbuch)

01,04,43    Grenadier (Private)
01,12,43    Gefreiter (Lance Corporal).
22,12,43    Obergefreiter (Corporal).
01,05,44    Unteroffizier (Sergeant).
10,11,44    Fahnenjunker d.R. (Officer Candidate of the reserve).
01,01,45    Fahnenjunker-Feldwebel d.R. (Office Candidate-Staff Sergeant of the reserve).
01,03,45    Oberfaehnrick d.R. (Sub-Lieutenant Candidate of the reserve).
20,04,45    Leutnant d.R. (Lieutenant of the reserve).

 

Engelbert Hoppe's weapons training record
(As recorded in his Wehrpass)

Gewehr 98k - (Rifle Kar98)
Le. M.G. 34 - (Light Machine Gun 34)
Handgranate 24 - (Stick Grenade 24)
Eihandgranate 39 - (Egg Grenade 39)
Pistole 08 - (Luger Pistol 08)
Masch. Pistole 40 - (Machine Pistol 40)
M.G. 42 - (Machine Gun 42)
10.5cm Kanone(f) - (10.5cm Coastal Defence Gun - French)
8cm Gr. W. 34 - (8cm Mortar 34)
12cm Gr. W. (r) - (12cm Mortar - Russian)
M. Gr. W. 19 - (Automatic Fortress Mortar M19)
5cm Pak - (5cm Anti-Tank Gun)
7.5cm Pak - (7.5cm Anti-Tank Gun)
 
Note: Engelbert trained on all the weapons except the rifle and MG 34 while stationed in Jersey. The inclusion of the 12cm Russian mortar is interesting as official German records do not show these weapons being deployed in Jersey. The 12cm Gr. W. (r) was transported on a wheeled carriage. The weight of the projectile and a range of 6,600 metres gave it the same power as a field howitzer.  Some German records also list for Stp. Corbiere a 8.8cm R.PzB. 54 (Panzerschreck) rocket launcher, however non of the former German Soldiers who served at La Corbiere can recall one.

As German officers were still free to roam in certain zones I alternated between La Moye and Action Post Height 201. After two days I went to the internment region to join my platoon. The Germans had been given supplies by the British and, unluckily, quite a few soldiers had opened tins of corned beef, digging in with their spoons. Their stomachs didn’t agree with the rich fatty food and they became sick for some days. As the weather was alright we didn’t mind sleeping under the sky. Liberation had come at long last for the Islanders, but I felt liberated too; being liberated from a terrible regime despising human dignity and being guilty of starting and waging the cruelest war of all time. I recalled my dear father, “That Austrian lance corporal, he will drive Germany over the precipice!” On the 16th (or 18th?) of May we were marched to the beach at St. Aubin’s to be taken aboard the carrier PEMBROKE and to be shipped off to England as Prisoners of War”.

Engelbert’s destination was a POW camp near Hexham in Northumberland where he found it to be a “relaxed and humane regime” and he was able to study towards taking a teachers qualification. Although we were prisoners of war “we called ourselves prisoners of peace”. Engelbert made friends locally and even house-sat for his friends when they enjoyed a short holiday! During this time the books left in safe keeping with the Le Brocq’s were forwarded to Engelbert along with some chocolate. In 1948 Engelbert returned to his home town of Eschweiler and he begun his new career in teaching. The last 35 years of which, until his retirement, as a headmaster. Engelbert also instigated a twinning between Chiswick and Brentford with Eschweiler in 1952. Engelbert’s contact with Mr and Mrs Le Brocq ended in 1954 when his letters were not answered anymore. “I thought they might have passed away as they could have easily have been my grandparents during my time at La Corbiere. Their son and his wife had moved to London sometime previously”.

“My intention of coming back to Jersey and especially La Corbiere after all these years had been to “Pay tribute to friends passed away long ago”, at least finding their graves and to be as near to them as I was when they accepted me as a human being that had become an occupant not of his own making. Coming back had always been on my mind after my time as a POW (better “POP” = prisoner of peace) in England. More than a surprise to me was the M19! I never had expected to find my former M19 bunker in such wonderful shape and condition as if it had not suffered the ravages of time. I had expected only ruins. I do not know what to praise first! But altogether a great and historical job has been done. The accuracy and the splendid skill things are fitted together with the real and true restoration that made me feel as if I had left the bunker only yesterday. It still seems like a miracle to me! On entering the bunker with Paul Burnal at my side I found my emotions were so strong that I had to be on my own for sometime in the ammunition room to recall so many memories, the funny and happy ones, but much more the sad, desperate, depressed and suffering. I have to be grateful to Jersey Tourism (Leonie Smith) for their help and Jersey Archive (Judie Foster and colleagues) for their wonderful and successful work in tracing old friends”.

 


1. After being a POW Werner Hentrich, who was a Catholic, returned to his home town in East Germany and became a priest. With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 he returned to Jersey on several occasions and would stay at the onetime Le Chalet Hotel overlooking his former command at La Corbiere. Engelbert describes him as “such a nice, kind and humble man and I would imagine him becoming a good Catholic Priest”. Sadly, Werner passed away in 1993 before coming into contact with the C.I.O.S. (Jersey).

2. A running battle took place between a German convoy and American PT boats. See the 1988 Occupation Review pages 80-95 for a full description of these events.

3. On the 19th of August the German minesweepers M412, M432, M442 and M452 escorting the coasters Spinel and Tourane were bound for Jersey from Guernsey carrying a cargo of 15cm K18 guns and shells with two companies of artillery soldiers (each about 60 men). This operation was part of the transfer of two coastal artillery batteries from Guernsey to Jersey to help bolster Jersey’s eastern defenses. At 1526 hours four of Jersey’s coastal defense batteries (Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Moltke and Roon) were put on full alert as a hostile warship (HMS Onslaught) was observed approaching the convoy. At 1531 the four batteries opened fire on HMS Onslaught who was now exchanging fierce gunfire with the German convoy. Under the weight of the shelling from the coastal batteries HMS Onslaught was forced to retire having been successful in inflicting some damage to the German convoy. It was during this engagement that one of the 22cm K532(f)’s of Battery Roon had a shell detonate prematurely in the barrel during firing.
 

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