Sydney Lawrence MALLETT

Sydney Lawrence MALLETT

Male 1892 - 1993  (100 years)

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  • Name Sydney Lawrence MALLETT  [1, 2
    Born 25 Jun 1892  St Sampson, Guernsey, Channel Islands Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Alternate Name Sidney Lawrence  [3
    Occupation 02 Apr 1911  [2
    Reference 1657 
    Died 1993  [1
    • Mallett Family Recollections of the German Occupation of Guernsey

      England declared war on Germany on September the 3rd 1939. Guernsey was invaded and occupied by the Germans on June 30th, 1940 and the Island was liberated on May 9th 1945.

      In May 1940, as Germany invaded France, fears arose in Guernsey that a German invasion might take place. Because Guernsey was only 30 miles from occupied France, the fear of invasion was very real. On June 19th Guernsey parents were told that they must register their children for evacuation that very evening. Teachers and education officials had met the day before and decided on an evacuation of the children. Children had a letter to take home to their parents, who had to decide whether to send them away or let them stay through the anticipated German Occupation. They only had hours to decide and many changed their minds backwards and forwards several times. Between 20 and 28 June, 17,000 people, (almost 50% of the population), were evacuated from St Peter Port’s harbour, but first to leave were 5,000 children with their teachers and 500 adult helpers.

      The evacuees began to leave Guernsey on 20 June 1940. On 28 June three German aircraft attacked Guernsey, dropping bombs on the town and machine-gunning the harbour, apparently assuming that the tomato lorries contained ammunition. The island was occupied two days later.
      Not all of the children were evacuated. Three times the children of the Catholic school attended by two of Sydney and Ellen's children were lined up on the wharf with gas masks around their necks and each time they were directed to come back later. Sydney had sold his car as petrol was in short supply, so the family had to take the bus down to the harbor each time an evacuation was planned. The bigger schools were loaded on the ships first and then children from the smaller schools were loaded on afterwards. Sydney asked the nuns where his children might be evacuated to and they told him that they didn’t know, but it would either be to a home in England or in Canada. Sydney was not keen about the idea of his children potentially going to Canada.

      After the third time of going down to the wharf, first in the morning, then the afternoon and the next afternoon – and also when they couldn’t get Ellen on the boat, Sydney got fed up and told them they would all leave later together as a family but that never happened. Sydney could never make up his mind as to when to go and left it too late. It was hard to leave the island and leave everything behind - although he hadn’t bought the house at that time. After the German’s bombed Guernsey, the first time on June 28th, my father said they were definitely going to evacuate now but no boats arrived after that.

      There was a sense there was a lot of danger around. A six-year-old girl and her younger brother and her parents managed to escape. Two or three families went together and loaded into two or three boats and got away in time. The children were told to be very, very quiet. They got away just as the Germans were arriving and hadn’t yet got organized. They slipped out at night in their boat. They returned to Guernsey after the war.

      At the start of the occupation it was quite scary, as everyone still had cars but the English drove on the left hand side of road and the Germans drove on the right, so the Germans dictated that everyone needed to drive on the right hand side of the road.
      All the radios on the island were confiscated by the Germans. The Mallett family had a crystal Radio throughout the war and listened to the news from England. They had to keep it hidden and no one talked about it. If the family had been caught Sydney would have been arrested and sent to jail or a labour camp.

      A Jewish doctor and another family the Cohens changed their names. Sydney said he was glad they got away and went to Canada. He had said that the Germans don’t like Jewish people. The family knew two girls who had been staying with other people as their house made was taken away. There is a record that indicates in 1943 three Jewish residents were sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau and never returned.

      It was not uncommon to see German planes, filling the sky with black - heading to bomb Portsmouth and Plymouth. Sydney once watched a Hurricane trying to catch a V1 rocket when they first started to come across; but they were much too fast and the Hurricane kept falling further behind.


      After the evacuations, there were not many kids left on Guernsey, and many schools closed. The school that the Mallett children attended moved into the church hall which became a church school. The church held fund raisers with events such as whisk drives to make money. The Germans forced the school to move to the church rectory dining room. The class was divided into three and the teacher had to teach three groups. There were about 20 children and there was a cottage next door for the kindergarten children. If one was aged 11-12 and passed an exam and had a bicycle, one could cycle to the intermediate school in St. Peter’s Port, and the Mallett children eventually went there. There were only a small number of teachers left on the island as most had left with the evacuated children and they used some girls and boys who had just finished school to help teach.


      Before the war, Sydney worked as the manager of a quarry and had a private job selling insurance but the Germans took over the quarry and he went to work for the local government. The Germans had war prisoners working in the quarry and they did not treat the prisoners they brought in very well. Largely Poles, Slovacs, Norwegians, Danish, French or anyone who offended the Germans. The Germans had tried to run a railway across some fields but they were always sodden and they had to take them up. Sydney offered the OT in charge of the prisoners some cigarettes for some of the wooden ties (which they could use for firewood). He also slipped some cigarettes to the prisoners. A neighbour who lived on the same street tried to divert some of the wood Sydney had “bought” into his yard by holding open his gate and gesturing for the men to put some of it into his yard. Sydney was very angry at him.

      Sydney's brother Frank was jailed by Germans for six months towards the end of the war. Frank had his own business mending things. A German soldier had tried to push in front of another customer who was in line and Frank told him to wait his turn in line. He lost a lot of weight while in jail. His brothers helped to look out for his family while he was incarcerated.


      Only a few doctors were allowed cars. The district nurses had to use bicycles to visit patients in their homes. January and February were cold and damp and there were more deaths of old people. The St. John ambulance personnel were not allowed to wear their uniforms and had to wear short white jackets instead. No more gas for the ambulances so the front part was removed and converted so two horses could pull it. One of the Mallett children was taken to hospital this way, when they had to have their appendix taken out. Anesthetic was chloroform soaked cotton wool. Food (in the hospital) was scarce and not very palatable. Main meal at midday consisted of 1 potato, 1 swede and 1 onion. In the 8 days the child was in hospital they only had a small piece of meat once.


      Ration books came in right at the beginning of the occupation. Queuing for food was a big part of life, and was a family affair, with everyone taking turns to share the wait time. It was necessary to queue for everything, with only prescribed amounts in the ration book available of flour, salt, butter, etc. There were five different sections in the book, but some things were not in it. One had to be very careful with sugar, and not many people were keeping bees at that time. Bread was only available at certain times. The family drank bramble and nettle tea as regular tea was not available and used seaweed in cooking. Milk was not generally available but the children got 5-6 oz. of milk which was issued at the schools. Ellen made potato peeling pudding – nothing was wasted.

      In the summer the family also queued for fish. At certain times of the year fishing was possible, but the boats had to be very careful as the water was mined around the island and they were only allowed out a certain distance from shore, accompanied by a German soldier – so there were only certain routes the boats could take, and they were only allowed to go out at certain times.

      People would line up early in the day before the boats came in. At the beginning of the war one could collect shellfish on the beaches but then the Germans mined the beaches. For most of the war there was only one small portion of a beach on the east coast one could access. It was about a 20-30 minute walk from the Mallett house. In season and with a very low tide one could get lobster and crab. There were specific areas for ormering (collecting the local abalone) as well as the harvesting of other mollusks, including limpets and winkles. Ellen did this. Ellen also gathered sea water at certain times of year when there was not too much bracken in the water to be evaporated for salt. She would go down when the tide was just right. She boiled off the water and used all sorts of stuff to heat the water as there was no coal or gas and electricity was not on all the time. There were shortages of everything. By the end of the war we all wore wooden shoes as there was no leather available.

      Sydney didn’t like gardening and wasn’t a very practical person. He literally couldn’t change a light bulb, so Ellen used to do it. The family did have a garden to grow things during the war but they weren’t very good gardeners and the Germans and the prisoners used to raid the gardens at night.

      At home Ellen could only cook at certain times, then the gas ran out for last five months of the occupation and electricity was only on for certain hours. The house was in the middle of a row of three houses. The lady next door was a music teacher for the Mallett children, but she didn’t have any electricity and asked Sydney to run a cable through to their house so they could cook. On the other side of us, the neighbour agreed to run a cable across the road to Auntie Dot. I am not sure how the couple at the end managed. It being pretty cold most of the time and the family burned whatever we could to make heat in the house.

      After the invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1944) food became increasingly scarce and things were getting pretty bad. Supply ships from German occupied France were cut off. There were more deaths amongst single people or older people who had decided not to evacuate but to stay on Guernsey to look after their houses. Food was scarce even in the hospitals. The slave labourers would also gather whatever they could as there was no food. Even the cats weren’t safe. The cat population dropped dramatically during the war. The Mallett family cat was smart and survived.

      The German authorities allowed the bailiff of Guernsey to send a report to the International Red Cross on November 5th urgently requesting supplies:

      “Conditions rapidly deteriorating here. Will soon become impossible. We appreciate difficulties, but civilian population need urgent supplies of essentials. We urge immediate visit of Red Cross Representatives.
      All rations drastically reduced. Bread finishes December 15th. Sugar finishes January 6th. Fat production much below subsistence levels. Ration of milk reduced to one third of a point per head by the end of the year. Soap and other cleaners, stocks completely exhausted. Vegetables generally inadequate to supply civilian population, through the winter.
      German consumption heavy. Salt exhausted. Clothing and footwear stock almost exhausted. Fuel, gas and electricity finish end of year. Coal stocks exhausted. Wood fuel inadequate. Many essential medical supplies finished.
      (Signed) Victor G. Carey, Bailiff of Guernsey”

      On 9 November, the UK Home Office suggested the Joint War Organization (JWO) of the British Red Cross and Order of St John take action to help islanders. The Vega left Lisbon on 20 December, carrying food parcels and diet supplements for the sick. The ship arrived in Guernsey on 27 December and in Jersey on 31 December. The SS Vega made seven trips to the islands from December 1944 to June 1945.

      On its first visit SS Vega delivered to the islands:

      · 119,792 standard food parcels
      · 4,200 diet supplement parcels for the ill
      · 5.2 tons of salt
      · Four tons of soap
      · 96,000 cigarettes
      · 37 cwt medical and surgical supplies (equivalent to 1,850kg or 3,700lb)
      · A small quantity of clothing for children and babies

      Those Red Cross parcels saved lives. Everyone was starving. A Red Cross boat emblazoned with a big red cross and lots of lights came once a month in the end. One box per person, but perhaps not for the babies. Everyonel got the same and were glad for whatever they could get. Some of the things the boxes contained: Nestle's chocolate; cubes of jelly powder, Spam meat; also some tinned butter or some sort of margarine. if the parcels came from Canada they were better than those that came from Australia. They were much better packed and didn’t waste any space.

      The family kept up the tradition of hanging a stocking at Christmas. One used to start looking around for anything to give for Christmas, starting to keep an eye out at the beginning of the year. Neighbors came in on Christmas day, even though one couldn’t afford to give food to guests.
    Person ID I1657  Central
    Last Modified 31 Oct 2019 

    Father Arthur Charles MALLETT,   b. Abt 1861, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Mother Helen LAW,   b. Abt 1864, Dundee, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Abt 1885 
    Family ID F456  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Ellen WAKEFORD,   b. Est 1892 
    Married Abt 1916  [1
     1. Rex Arthur Law MALLETT,   b. 23 Jun 1918, Guernsey, Channel Islands Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Jul 1988, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 70 years)
    Last Modified 1 Nov 2019 
    Family ID F459  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 25 Jun 1892 - St Sampson, Guernsey, Channel Islands Link to Google Earth
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  • Photos
    Sydney and Ellen Mallett
    Sydney and Ellen Mallett
    Photo Courtesy Susan Gloster.
    Sydney & Ellen Mallett Family
    Sydney & Ellen Mallett Family
    Photo Courtesy Susan Gloster.
    Sydney and Susan
    Sydney and Susan
    Photo Courtesy Susan Gloster.

  • Sources 
    1. [S339] Family Mallett/Wakeford, Gloster, Susan, (Feb 9, 2018), M31S339.

    2. [S230] 1911 Census England, Wales & Scotland, (The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), Nov 26, 2017).

    3. [S342] Gloster Family, Gloster, Susan, (Oct 31, 2019), M31S342.