A Sentimental Journey to Historic Guernsey Island
By Patricia Arrigoni
My dear friend Mary Ann Shaffer wrote a book about the German Nazi invasion and occupation of Guernsey Island during World War II titled "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." It was a huge hit and reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The manuscript was sold in a worldwide auction that reached almost $1 million. A British film had showings in Europe and was finally sold to Netflix for American audiences.
Mary Ann passed away from cancer before the film based on her book was released. Her niece, Annie Barrows, a successful writer of children's books, was called in to help when Mary Ann became ill, and the publisher wanted her to expand upon the manuscript. Annie added a major character and did a wonderful job of enlarging the book.
While Mary Ann had visited Guernsey, I had never been there, so I jumped at the chance when I learned of a cruise that would call at St. Peter Port. I booked the cruise and arrived on Guernsey Island with my friend Rosemary Taylor from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Upon arrival we stopped to view the harbor with its array of boats from elegant yachts to pleasure crafts and fishing boats. A busy street circled the harbor and ran up into the surrounding hills. The city is filled with handsome granite buildings, occasional cobblestone streets and boxes of flowers hanging everywhere that provide beauty and splashes of bright colors.
We had breakfast at the Terrace Garden Cafe, a restaurant with a picturesque patio covered with grape arbors plus some interesting sculptures. Here we met two local gentlemen, one of whom was Mike Prince. Along with other Guernsey children, Prince's mother was evacuated to England in World War II just ahead of the Nazi occupation that lasted from 1940 to1945. Once in England she was relocated to Manchester, where she later met her husband while working in a munitions factory.
Guernsey Island is 6 miles long and 4 miles wide (24 square miles), with a population of 64,000. The residents have their own government, and their monetary system is independent. Fishing -- especially for scallops, lobster, sea bass and crabs -- is a big industry.
Guernsey is noted for its 14th-century Castle Cornet, where concerts are held in the summers. Visitors may also visit the Guernsey Aquarium, Fort Saumarez, the Occupation Museum and the Little Chapel, which is decorated with pieces of broken china, pebbles and seashells.
Other places of interest include the facilities of the German Underground Hospital, Fort Grey (1804), Shipwreck Museum, Saumarez Manor, the Headquarters of the German Feld Kommandant (Grange Lodge Hotel), Vazon Bay, Fort Hommet and the Guernsey Folk and Costume Museum.From April to October 2020 Guernsey will be marking the 75th anniversary of its liberation from German occupying forces with "Heritage75," a major program of events and festivities. For more information, go to www.visitguernsey.com/heritage75.